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Iran's Nukes

The Case Act: A Lesson from History

January 20th 2015

A movement is afoot on Capitol Hill to force President Obama to submit any agreement between the United States and Iran to lawmakers, even if it isn’t a treaty requiring ratification. The administration, not surprisingly, says there is no reason to do so. It is not terribly surprising that the president is not conversant with the 1972 Case Act (1 U.S. Code § 112b – United States international agreements; transmission to Congress). It is more surprising that those who disagree with the president don’t appear to have looked it up.

In 1969 and 1970, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee learned that significant covert agreements had been arranged between the U.S. government and South Korea, Laos, Thailand, Ethiopia, Spain, and more.

The Democrats at the time controlled both Houses of Congress, but it was Republican Senator Clifford Case (NJ) who authored the legislation that bears his name. The language is simple; the implications vast:

a) The Secretary of State shall transmit to the Congress the text of any international agreement (including the text of any oral international agreement, which agreement shall be reduced to writing), other than a treaty, to which the United States is a party as soon as practicable after such agreement has entered into force with respect to the United States but in no event later than sixty days thereafter.

However, any such agreement the immediate public disclosure of which would, in the opinion of the President, be prejudicial to the national security of the United States shall not be so transmitted to the Congress but shall be transmitted to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on International Relations of the House of Representatives under an appropriate injunction of secrecy to be removed only upon due notice from the President. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

True Insensitivity is Making Excuses for Murderers

January 15th 2015

French antiterror police squad

Last week terrorist attacked the offices of French satire magazine and murdered 12 people. Most of the Western World showed solidarity with France and thousands of millions declared “Je Suis Charlie.”

And then the inevitable backlash came. Naïve elements of the left joined with conservative dinosaurs like Pat Buchanan to say Charlie Hebdo was a racist magazine that should never have existed. The implication was clear: Charlie Hebdo had it coming. In fact, an Al Jezeera reporter said, “I guess if you insult 1.5 billion people chances are one or two of them will kill you.”

Too many, the issue becomes one not of freedom of speech and press, but freedom from ever hearing an offensive world or utterance. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

The Keystone Pipeline Project is Long Overdue

January 6th 2015

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Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would ferry crude oil from Canada and North Dakota to the Gulf Coast, conveniently point to current lower oil prices as justification for President Obama's continued rejection of the project's permits. While it's true that oil prices have tumbled in recent weeks, there is much more to this saga that goes well beyond the price of a barrel of oil. For starters, there's the global oil market to consider. As well, policymakers must be vigilant about the nation's energy security interests and the needs of American consumers.

Let's begin with the global oil market. Prices are dropping because the OPEC has decided to continue pumping crude out of the ground despite oversupply in the marketplace. One reason for the oversupply is U.S. oil shale production, which has added 3 million barrels of oil a day and reduced the need for OPEC imports to the U.S. Not surprisingly, Saudi Arabia is not happy about this situation and is responding as it did in the 1980s when domestic production was on the rise: by blatantly trying to eliminate U.S. competition (see here).

Recently, The Wall Street Journal quoted the Saudi Arabian oil minister, who was asked whether OPEC would soon act to cut exports: "Why should we cut production?" In the meantime, U.S. producers are asking why the Obama administration is putting them at a competitive disadvantage by blocking pipeline infrastructure. To be clear, this is not an issue for export competitiveness; it also impacts U.S. producers' capacity to compete here at home.

Which moves us to the energy security issue. For 40 years, we have sought to limit our dependency on imported oil. Yet, every time we experience positive momentum at home, OPEC wages a price war and we see a collapse in our domestic production. In 1985, on the eve of the last induced price collapse, the U.S. was importing 300,000 barrels per day (bpd). A mere five years later, we were importing almost 2 million barrels daily. At the same time, domestic production dropped 20 percent and continued to fall for another decade. Read more ..


Palestinians on Edge

After U.N. Defeat, Palestinian Unilateralism 'Losing its Luster'

January 1st 2015

Abbas UN statehood vote

Several months of campaigning for unilateral Palestinian statehood recognition culminated in a diplomatic blitz by the Palestinian Authority during the last few days of 2014. But the campaign ground to a halt on Dec. 30, when the United Nations Security Council rejected a Palestinian resolution that called for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank by 2017 and the establishment of a Palestinian state with borders based on the pre-1967 lines. 

It was the second such defeat for the Palestinians at the Security Council, the first coming in 2011.

“[The resolution’s failure] is no great surprise, since the United States has a veto [at the Security Council],” Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told JNS.org. “However, it was somewhat surprising that the Palestinians failed to garner the nine ‘yes’ votes to force a U.S. veto. This seems to suggest that the Palestinians failed to do enough diplomatic legwork before pushing for a last-minute vote at the Security Council.” Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Waiting for the Caliph in Jerusalem

December 29th 2014

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In Israel the preaching of many imams close to the Muslim movement spreads hatred towards the West and those who are associated with it, such as Christians and Jews. Whilst they appear to be condemning the violence of Isis, in fact they await the arrival of the Caliphate to their home as well.

The so-called ‘Palestinian question’ has always had a predominantly political nature rather than a religious one. It is a question of the unresolved tension between the two nations, if one can call them as such. However in Israel in 1971 a political and religious party called ‘Muslim movement’ was founded by Shaykh ‘Abd Allah Nimr Darwîsh. Since 1989 it has been able to have some representatives in some Arab villages and cities, and from 1996 to elect representatives to the Knesset of Israel. Although there are different streams within the same party, causing divisions (today there are three streams with three different leaders), this movement gives the Palestinian issue a religious character. Read more ..


After the Holocaust

Is it Time to Reconsider the Observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day?

December 27th 2014

Since some of you may be incredulous that I even asked that question, let me first explain why I am doing so.

Over the last week, a scandal has erupted in Ireland regarding whether or not Israel can be mentioned at the forthcoming official Holocaust commemoration on Sunday, Jan. 25. (The official international remembrance day follows two days later.)

It was Yanky Fachler, the avuncular Irish-Jewish broadcaster who has been master of ceremonies of the event for several years now, who alerted the outside world to this development when he released a letter from Peter Cassells, the chair of Holocaust Educational Trust Ireland (HETI), informing him that he could not say the words “Israel” or “Jewish state” in any of his remarks. Read more ..


The Catholic Edge

Make Ready for Pope Francis

December 24th 2014

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What better time than Christmas to turn our thoughts to Pope Francis, a voice for our generation and all generations who teaches, as all great faiths teach, that those who have the most should extend their hands to those who have the least and that those who have power should serve those who do not.

Francis is the people’s pope. He is most popular public figure in the world because the people know it! Citizens in America and across the globe are ready for the people’s pope who embodies modesty over arrogance, justice over inequity, kindness over selfishness, love over hatred and faith in the teaching of Jesus over the cruelty of communism and poverty created by the excesses of capitalism in an economy he has called a “dictatorship” grounded in a “cult of money.” Read more ..


The Race for Natural Gas

Israel's Gas Dream -- the End May Be Near

December 23rd 2014

Tamar-gas-drill-ocean

In the five years since the discovery of the Tamar and Leviathan natural gas fields off the coast of Israel, the Israeli energy discourse has focused on questions like what to do with the gas, how much of it to export and to whom, and what the fairest distribution of profits would be among the gas partners, headed by Noble Energy and Delek Energy, and the Israeli public.

But after years of delays and billions of dollars spent, a new and increasingly likely scenario should be considered – the premature – and tragic – death of the Israeli gas dream. I alluded to this option in an August 2013 article titled “Israel’s Zero Gas Game” in which I warned that Israel has become so busy dividing the pie that its leaders forgot it must first be baked and that due to the failure of the  government to present a clear vision for the country’s energy sector, articulate the rights and responsibilities of foreign investors and most importantly set rules and stick to them, “the gas will be left in the ground and the startup nation will be more worthy of the title ‘shutdown nation’.” Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Obama and Castro: Who Doesn't Want Cuban Cigars?

December 22nd 2014

When the president of the United States moved to normalize relations with the communist nation, many on the right cried foul. One critic charged that the president was a terrible negotiator who acted "as though [c]ommunist intransigence could be overcome through concessions." Another said that the president had "undermined our national security."

These criticisms refer not to President Obama's new Cuba policy, but to President Nixon's opening to China in 1971. Nixon's critics were on the wrong side of history then, just as Obama's critics are now.

Few if any Americans today think that Nixon made the wrong move on China in 1971. His opening up of China drove a wedge between China and the Soviet Union. It impelled the Soviets to pursue arms control agreements with the United States. It helped the U.S. deal with China on the world stage and it opened up trade and commercial relations. Read more ..


The 2016 Vote

Are You Ready for Elizabeth?

December 20th 2014

After listening to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on NPR refuse four times to directly say that she will not run for president in 2016, I now believe the odds are 40 percent that she ultimately throws her hat into the presidential ring, which I do not advocate here.

After learning that Hillary Clinton will apparently continue her paid speaking tour through March 2015, I now believe Clinton is more ambivalent about whether to run than most commentators suspect.

After watching the sad performance of President Obama and Democrats in Congress as they orchestrated a stunning retreat from the limited Dodd-Frank financial reforms, endorsed losses from highly speculative Wall Street trading as being eligible for future bailouts, and legalized far more lavish spending by wealthy donors seeking to buy influence with both political parties, it is clear there is now a battle for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party.

If Warren were a tech company, she would be called a disruptor. She is like the iPad, which did not exist five years ago but has revolutionized personal computing. Last week, Warren, as a member of the Senate Democratic leadership, denounced what other Democratic leaders and the Democratic president were doing. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Democrats are Sick of Obamacare

December 14th 2014

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Watching Jonathan Gruber testify before the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee on Tuesday was likely too much for most Democrats to take, as he characterized his remarks describing Congress as tricking Americans into approving a new tax as “thoughtless,” as well as “mean,” “glib,” “uncalled for” and “embarrassing.”

It’s the very definition of the door hitting them on the way out. Four years after the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed by only Democrats, the law has contributed to giving Republicans their strongest hold on Congress in more than a century and a half.

What’s even more frightening than the law’s unpopularity is the prospect of ObamaCare being dismantled by a coming Supreme Court review. Read more ..


Oman on Edge

Will Even Oman Now Face Turmoil?

December 11th 2014

Arab Oil Derick

Will Oman survive the end of Sultan Qaboos? The 74-year-old ruler, who modernized the country and kept it safe from most Middle East turmoil for almost half a century, is said to be terminally ill. His birthday — the sultanate's national holiday — was not celebrated last month. And Qaboos is childless.

He has selected three of his closest relatives as potential heirs. The final choice will be made by the Royal Family Council. Should any problem arise, the matter will be settled by the National Defense Council.

Upon landing in Muscat, the capital city, visitors immediately realize that Oman is very different from other Gulf countries. Forget the skyscraper extravaganzas of Kuwait City, Manama, Doha, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi. By law, buildings in Muscat must be built in stone or similar traditional materials, and must follow a low-rise, castle-like architectural pattern. Forget also the other states' apartheid-style system of Bedouin minorities lording over majorities of immigrant workers: in Oman, 70% of the 3.2 million inhabitants are native citizens. Read more ..


America Doesn't Have a Race Problem: America is the Problem

December 8th 2014

One week after a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson came word Wednesday that a grand jury in New York would not be indicting NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner; that’s despite the fact that Garner’s death was: 1. Ruled a homicide; 2. Due to a chokehold maneuver that has been banned by the NYPD; 3. Captured on video.

Garner’s haunting last words, “I can’t breathe,” have become a rallying cry for the many demonstrating in New York and elsewhere—just as “Hands Up” did in the wake of Michael Brown’s death.

I can feel that same discomfort in my throat that I know he must have felt.

But since last week’s decision in St. Louis County, another set of words have stayed planted in my mind. Four of them, to be exact. They were uttered by Michael Brown’s stepfather, Louis Head, shortly after last week’s grand jury decision. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Even When Necessary, Violence Defiles Us All

December 7th 2014

From beginning to end, Genesis 34 tells a terrifying story. Dina, Jacob’s daughter – the only Jewish daughter mentioned in the entire patriarchal narratives – leaves the safety of home to go out to “look at the daughters of the land.” She is raped and abducted by a local prince, Shechem, son of the king of the town known as Shechem.

Jacob learns of this fact but does nothing until his sons return. Shimon and Levi, Dina’s brothers, immediately realize that they must act to rescue her. It is an almost impossible assignment. The hostage-taker is no ordinary individual. As the son of the king, he cannot be confronted directly. The king is unlikely to order his son to release her. The other townspeople, if challenged, will come to the prince’s defense. It is Shimon and Levi against the town: two against many. Even were all of Jacob’s sons to be enlisted, they would still be outnumbered. Read more ..


The 2016 Vote

Jeb Bush is Stuck in Neutral

December 7th 2014

Guess who isn’t running for president? Jeb Bush. Just listen to him.

The GOP presidential race is frozen until the former Florida governor makes his decision, and he sounds like a man ready to run for the hills. Asked about his thinking this week, Bush was blunt: “It’s a big sacrifice because it’s a pretty ugly business right now,” he said.

In addition, Bush has not abandoned or amended his support for immigration reform and Common Core education standards, and both are deal-breakers with the far right. Though he said he knows how a Republican can win — a candidate must be more “uplifting” and “positive,” and willing to “lose the primary to win the general” without violating your principles” — Bush conceded, “It’s not an easy task, to be honest with you.” He wondered aloud if he could “lift people’s spirits and not get sucked into the vortex.”
Read more ..


Israel on Edge

A New "Goldstone" Report Fueled by Groups Within Israel Itself

December 1st 2014

Richard Goldstone

After Operation Cast Lead in 2008, the United Nations issued what is now known as the "Goldstone Report". An investigative committee led by Judge Richard Goldstone produced a report alleging that Israeli soldiers had not only intentionally targeted civilians, but that it was official Israeli policy to do so.

Israel strenuously objected to this biased report, and in 2011, Judge Goldstone repudiated the report, writing that "... had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document" and "I regret that our fact-finding mission did not have ... evidence explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians in Gaza were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes.”

Judge Goldstone bemoaned the fact that the government of Israel chose not to participate in the investigation initiated by some of the most heinous human rights violators on the planet.  

However, the Goldstone report was full of information provided directly from sources within Israel. More than 90% of the information accusing Israel of war crimes was provided by Israel based NGO's, such as B'Tselem and Shovrim Shtika (Breaking the Silence). Both of these organizations receive a significant portion of their funding from the New Israel Foundation. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Oil Prices Plunging--OPEC and Russia On Their Knees

November 29th 2014

Arab Oil Derick

In a way, the message of OPEC’s inaction today—deciding not to cut supply—is analogous to the challenge that confronted GM and Microsoft in recent years: if it wants to remain relevant in a world it once dominated, and at times made tremble, it needs to change its game.

For much of the rest of the world, including great power-consuming nations like the US and China, the message is very different—that of an ill-defined but temporary window in which to solve big strategic problems until very recently thought to be intractable.

The trigger for this new state of affairs is dual—the US shale-oil boom, which has wholly muffled the geopolitical disruptions behind previously skyrocketing oil prices, and soft demand from a transforming Chinese economy. Read more ..


The Way We Are

The Challenge Presented to America by the Ferguson Tragedy

November 27th 2014

With federal investigations into the killing of black American teenager Michael Brown in train, it may be some time before the rage over police officer Darren Wilson’s actions and his exoneration by a grand jury dies down. But when it does, the soul-searching over root causes of this and similar fatalities will need to continue.

Looking beyond the burning issue of whether the United States justice system is inherently racist, many commentaries have already pointed to persistent and growing disparities between blacks and whites (and Hispanics and Asians…) in health, education and employment as one of the deeper causes of friction between the law and black communities. The increasing segregation of black and white America thanks to white flight, and the latter’s consequent lack of understanding of black problems is another. Read more ..


The Way We Are

An Odd Reason to Advocate Same-Sex Marriage

November 26th 2014

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A Mississippi woman wants the state Supreme Court to recognise gay marriage – so that she can divorce a partner she married in San Francisco.

Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham, a 52-year-old credit analyst, who already had two children from a failed heterosexual marriage, moved to California in 2008 so that she could marry Dana Ann Melancon. But the relationship soured and they separated in 2010.

When Ms Czekala-Chatham, who now has a new girlfriend, applied for a divorce, citing adultery and habitual cruel and inhuman treatment, she failed. The state predictably argued that Mississippi could not grant a divorce for a marriage which it did not recognise. It was a result that she found devastating. In her eyes, divorce was an important dimension of the social recognition of marriage. Read more ..


America and Israel

American Jews Fund Anti-Israel Activities

November 24th 2014

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On the Israeli political spectrum, there are positions that are out of the realm of acceptable values on both the extreme right and the extreme left.

As Israel has seen a new string of violent and deadly terror attacks, a Knesset Member from the extreme left-wing Meretz party, Tamar Zandberg, went to Kafr Kanna to show her solidarity with the terrorist who was killed while trying to stab Israeli police officers – Khair al-Din Hamdan. She proclaimed that the officers who defended themselves were “part of the policy of racist discrimination directed against the Arab minority in Israel, a policy directed and implemented from on high by the Prime Minister and his cabinet.” Read more ..


The Way We Are

Who Will Stop Wal-Mart's 'Wreaking Havoc' on the American Dream?

November 24th 2014

For the third consecutive year, Wal-Mart workers and thousands of their community allies will participate in strikes and protests nationwide on Black Friday to demand higher wages, better working conditions, consistent scheduling and full-time work. In recent weeks, labor actions at the world's largest retailer have escalated. Wal-Mart workers at more than 2,100 stores nationwide signed a petition requesting that the company commit to paying its workers $15 an hour and provide them with "consistent, full-time hours." Wal-Mart workers in the Los Angeles area participated in the company's first-ever sit-down strikes. Outside the stores, their actions attracted the support of many community organizations, including teachers, environmental groups, clergy members and civil rights leaders. Read more ..


Mexico on Edge

The Iguala Dissappearances: A Historical Watershed for Mexico and a Vital American Issue

November 21st 2014

Mexico memorial

The disappearance and presumed death of 43 students from Iguala, Mexico is symptomatic of a much more serious problem.
 
According to the government, the students, who have been missing since late September in the State of Guerrero, were killed and burned by members of the gang, Guerreros Unidos (United Warriors). It was the police, themselves, in the town of Iguala who handed over the students to the gang. The Guerreros Unidos are among the major traffickers of poppy and marihuana in Mexico.
 
The young students aspired to become teachers in rural areas in the State of Guerrero. They traveled to Iguala in order to raise funds for their schools. According to Mexican Attorney General, Jesus Murillo Karam, the Mayor of Iguala and his wife instructed the local police to attack the students to prevent disruption of an event organized by the wife. These same students had come to Iguala before to protest   the assassination of the leader of the Farmers’ Union, presumably at the hands of the Mayor, himself. Read more ..

The Human Family

Redeeming the Darkness in the World through Love

November 20th 2014

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I want this morning to begin our conversation by one way of telling the story of the most beautiful idea in the history of civilization: the idea of the love that brings new life into the world. There are of course many ways of telling the story, and this is just one. But to me it is a story of seven key moments, each of them surprising and unexpected. The first, according to a report in the press on 20th October of this year, took place in a lake in Scotland 385 million years ago.

It was then, according to this new discovery, that two fish came together to perform the first instance of sexual reproduction known to science. Until then all life had propagated itself asexually, by cell division, budding, fragmentation or parthenogenesis, all of which are far simpler and more economical than the division of life into male and female, each with a different role in creating and sustaining life. Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

The Fall Of The Would-Be Emperor

November 19th 2014

Turkey students

President Erdogan has recently come under intense criticism for his unwillingness to come to the aid of the beleaguered Syrian Kurds in the city of Kobani just across the Turkish border. Sadly, Erdogan’s behavior is not surprising as he has always pursued policies consistent with the image of himself as a great leader and his country as a regional hegemon and a global power.

To his credit, Erdogan served his country with distinction, especially during much of his first and second term as Prime Minister. He put Turkey on the map as a progressive and prosperous nation, one that struck a healthy balance between religion and democracy, admired by friends, envied by foes, and recognized as a major regional power.

Since coming to power in 2002, however, his achievements have been eclipsed by three themes which have dominated his political career: a) his distorted account of the Ottoman Empire and his vision of Turkey’s future “greatness’, b) his religious fervor and support of Islamists, and c) his insatiable hunger for power domestically, regionally, and globally. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

New Israel Fund Supports Groups that Hurt the Jewish State

November 18th 2014

Boycott Israel
BDS is Supported by New Israel Fund Grantees

This summer saw a war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza that has had a ripple effect beyond the Jewish state. Since then, anti-Semitism has risen worldwide and incitement against Jews throughout Europe has grown considerably. People who were looking for a reason to be hateful toward Jews, found public cover in Israel’s struggle to defend itself from terrorist neighbors. That struggle has brought forth a danger to Jews and Israel that has always been latent but is now becoming more brazenly public and seems well on its way toward a third intifada with today’s meat cleaver attack on a synagogue that killed four Jews.

Along with the anti-Semites come self-hating Jews who work alongside Israel’s enemies to harm Israel. Vladimir Lenin called those who work against their own people’s best interests in support of their enemies “helpful idiots” and throughout history there has never been a shortage of people or groups from within the Jewish community who harm Jews. The most effective stick for beating Israel over the head is often a Jewish stick. Read more ..


The Edge of Tolerance

The Palestinian Rampage in Israel

November 18th 2014

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The scene of the synagogue attack in Jerusalem where four rabbis were killed on Nov. 18. Photo: Twitter.

Anyone who has lived in Israel during the last forty years is likely to have witnessed the horrific consequences of a Palestinian terrorist attack on innocent civilians. July 4th 1976 was the final day of my year-long sabbatical in Jerusalem. On a normal Friday I walked downtown to Zion Square to buy challah and flowers for Shabbat. That morning I went instead to the Western Wall to leave a brief farewell note wedged between my favorite stones.

Exiting the Old City through Jaffa Gate I witnessed a stream of police cars, ambulances and military jeeps – with sirens screaming – racing toward downtown Jerusalem. Minutes earlier the thunderous explosion of a bomb concealed in a refrigerator had devastated Zion Square, killing 14 Israelis and wounding more than 60. Fatah, founded by Yasser Arafat, proudly claimed responsibility. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Will the Obama Nation Survive?

November 17th 2014

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The coalition of voters that twice elected President Obama to the White House might not be there for the Democratic nominee in 2016, party strategists are warning.

Following their disastrous showing at the polls this month, many Democrats have consoled themselves with talk of how the groups that fueled Obama’s resounding victories — namely minorities and young people — will make up a bigger slice of the electorate in two years’ time. But some fear the party is placing far too much trust in demographics, while ignoring the unique circumstances that led to Obama’s rise.

“I don’t think the Democratic Party should take anyone for granted, or should just assume that these voters are just going to back our nominee, and more importantly, going to turn out for the same level as President Obama,” said Democratic strategist Doug Thornell.

“They’re going to need a reason and they’re going to need a message.” Read more ..


The 2016 Vote

All Eyes Right to Jeb Bush

November 12th 2014

The 2016 GOP presidential nominating contest, which began after last week’s midterm elections wrapped up, already includes 17 potential candidates and their families, hundreds of would-be staff and several dozen top Republican donors. Though they aren’t saying it out loud, all of them are waiting for the decision of one person: former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

In the weeks to come, Bush is expected to declare himself a candidate for president or to officially bow out. Money men need to know, as do candidates crafting messages against one another and, of course, those who influence Mitt Romney. Aides close to the 2012 GOP presidential nominee have already said Romney is not yet confident about the field and could run if Bush decides not to. Read more ..


The 2014 Vote

Where the Conventional Wisdom about GOP Victory is Wrong

November 10th 2014

A trouncing! A tsunami! A shellacking!

That’s the conventional wisdom about last week’s midterm elections. But it’s wrong.

Yes, the GOP picked up 12 seats in the House and gained at least 7 seats in the Senate. But calling that a shellacking requires closing your eyes to some really big numbers.
First, the average pick-up for the opposition party in midterm elections that take place in the sixth year of a presidency is 29 seats in the House and 6 seats in the Senate. The GOP had an undisputed victory and was able to claim the Senate majority in emphatic fashion. But a tsunami? It did not come close to that.

Second, 60 percent of voters told exit polls they were either “dissatisfied” with Republican leaders in Congress (37 percent) or “angry” with them (23 percent).

Yet the lesson drawn by Republicans on Capitol Hill is that last week’s vote was a repudiation of President Obama.

Admittedly, the president’s approval rating is on the low side, at 44 percent among last week’s voters. But nearly half of the voters, 46 percent, said President Obama “was not a factor” in their vote. Read more ..


Brazil on Edge

Rousseff’s Call for Dialogue and Change: The Contradiction of Promise and Reality

November 7th 2014

Brazil children soccer football Rio de Janeiro

The recent elections in Brazil were very close with the incumbent president Dilma Rousseff from the Workers Party (PT) winning the election by a small margin of 3% against the pro-business candidate Aecio Neves from the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB). .

Although the result did not bring about a change of government, it definitely shook up politics as usual in Brazil.

The vote shows a deep division in the country between the richer South and the poorer North. The North has been the largest recipient of social welfare programs from the Federal government. It is precisely because of these welfare policies that a large majority of people in the North voted for Rousseff, giving her a narrow margin of victory. . The business sector, unhappy with high taxes and other obstacles imposed on them definitely voted against Rousseff. The middle class, that was the key to the protests over the poor quality of health and educational services last year, also voted against Rousseff. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Oil Prices Are Dropping. So What?

November 6th 2014

Oil Barrels

Ten years ago, when oil prices were under $40 a barrel, the idea of $80 oil considered “cheap” would have sounded inconceivable. But let’s not be mistaken: Oil is not cheap even at its new level. It costs the Saudis and their OPEC partners under $5 to produce a barrel so their profit margins are orders of magnitude higher than in any other commodity. In fact, on an energy-equivalent basis the new “cheap” oil is still four times more expensive than coal and natural gas.

While the other fossils compete with each other—as well as with nuclear, solar, hydro and wind power—over market share in the electricity generation sector, oil faces no competition in the sector that matters most for the global economy: transportation. This monopolistic position has allowed OPEC, a cartel that today produces fewer barrels than it did 40 years ago despite controlling more than three-quarters of the world’s conventional reserves, to hike the price gradually in order to meet its member regimes’ budgetary needs. And those needs are only going to rise. Read more ..


The 2014 Vote

Democrats Spin Electoral Defeat as Anything but What It Is

November 5th 2014

When it became obvious, Democratic pundits did everything to spin it as anything but what it was.

By election day itself, the New York Times reported that ‘Washington was the biggest loser.’ As in, ‘everyone is disenchanted with the whole crowd in government. We don’t trust anyone. Throw all the bums out.’ That way, it wasn’t a referendum on the president, or any favored candidates, as much as a disgruntled public unhappy with the whole lot of them. Trouble is, it wasn’t exactly true.

Even as results started coming in to newsrooms doing live coverage on election night, some in-house Democratic strategists claimed that there was an ‘anti-incumbent’ sentiment among voters across the US on election day. But the results pouring in showed that GOP incumbents mostly held on to their seats, while Democratic incumbents lost theirs. Read more ..


The 2014 Vote

Who Made the Biggest Mistakes in this Mid-Term Election?

November 1st 2014

Ah, the midterm elections of 2014, thanks for the memories. There were certainly some keepers: a supporter of Sen. Thad Cochran's opponent snuck into Cochran's wife’s nursing home to take pictures of her, Rep. Bruce Braley, a Democrat hoping to become a senator from Iowa, got caught describing the most senior member of his delegation (Sen. Chuck Grassley) as “just a farmer who doesn’t have a law degree,” and of course Florida Gov. Rick Scott was so offended by the idea of air flow he was willing to embarrass himself by delaying a televised debate against with Charlie Crist when Crist brought a fan to place at his feet.

But there were also errors numerous candidates made that could easily be avoided in the future, like having no residence in the state he or she represents and skipping hearings. The basic elementary school lesson some candidates clearly forgot is this: be where you are supposed to be and do what you are supposed to do. Read more ..


Iran on Edge

Iran's Senseless Hanging of a Woman who Defended Herself from Rape

October 30th 2014

The hanging last Saturday of a young Iranian woman convicted of murdering her alleged rapist has caused an international outcry, including condemnation by the US Department of State and the British Foreign Office. Amnesty International, which had led a campaign to save the 26-year-old, said the execution was “deeply disappointing in the extreme”.

Amnesty says Reyhaneh Jabbari was convicted after a “deeply flawed investigation”, and the United Nations office of human rights says her conviction was based on confessions made under threat of torture. Since Iran is a country where Islamic law, with its notable bias against women’s testimony, holds sway one is inclined to believe that. Read more ..


The Way We Are

The Language of Deception

October 29th 2014

Perhaps the glory of the English language is that it is so expressive. Its remarkable heterogeneous origins have given it an almost limitless vocabulary. And American English, particularly, has used that tool with an enormous flexibility to make it the international means of communication. One is able with a minimum of linguistic dexterity to capture every meaning, or almost every nuance.

That’s why it is so depressing to note that of late there is a growing tendency to do the opposite, that is, to camouflage real meanings with obfuscation.

It has become the fashion – and interestingly enough the tendency swells as one moves up the educational ladder – to mask real meanings with words or phrases that tell less than one could easily relate. At the moment my favorite bete noir in this regard is the phrase “to reach out to” which has become omnipresent. Read more ..


Broken Government

Govenment Regulatory Accumulation Hinders Growth of Productivity

October 29th 2014

Click to select Image

Governments worldwide have long recognized that new regulations can create benefits, but always at a cost. More than 30 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have institutionalized the process of evaluating this tradeoff by assessing new rules' prospective impact — that is, its anticipated costs and benefits — prior to their promulgation. Formal processes for retrospective analysis of specific rules — where a rule's costs and benefits are assessed in hindsight — are much rarer. A third aspect of the regulatory process deserves attention: cumulative impact of regulation.

Over time, as regulations accumulate, an increasing proportion of companies' resources are devoted to compliance. This necessarily diverts resources away from things like the development of new technology or better training for workers. This diversion of resources may be further affected by the interaction of rules. The overlap of rules could potentially increase or decrease the regulatory burden faced by businesses. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Principle, Rigor and Execution Matter in Foreign Policy

October 28th 2014

Obama bummed out

U.S. President Barack Obama has come under intense criticism for his foreign policy, along with many other things. This is not unprecedented. Former President George W. Bush was similarly attacked. Stratfor has always maintained that the behavior of nations has much to do with the impersonal forces driving it, and little to do with the leaders who are currently passing through office. To what extent should American presidents be held accountable for events in the world, and what should they be held accountable for?

Expectations and Reality

I have always been amazed when presidents take credit for creating jobs or are blamed for high interest rates. Under our Constitution, and in practice, presidents have precious little influence on either. They cannot act without Congress or the Federal Reserve concurring, and both are outside presidential control. Nor can presidents overcome the realities of the market. They are prisoners of institutional constraints and the realities of the world. Read more ..


The 2014 Vote

The Shiny Object Election

October 26th 2014

Vote Buttons

The short-attention span generation has birthed the shiny-object election.

The theme of the 2014 midterms — to whatever extent one is discernable — has been an explosion of one crisis after another, each of which demands an enormous amount of media attention before fading for the next one.

From the Secret Service to ISIS, Ebola to immigration, mistreated veterans to Ferguson and race relations, candidates and the president have been forced to react to the controversy du jour.

Strategists and experts say the result has been bad news for Democrats, who have had a tougher time underscoring their preferred campaign messages on their party’s support for women and the middle class. Instead, each shiny object captivating a media that craves the hottest story has helped Republicans making the elections for the House and Senate all about President Obama. Read more ..


The 2014 Vote

Twenty Days to Save the World

October 26th 2014

David Webb

When there are no policies to run on, a President Obama to run away from, Democrats go on the attack. I find it interesting and a bit disturbing how easily the left runs successfully for election as centrists for the most part. Many of their policies are not acceptable for the average American.

The mindset of so many Democrats is that they know what’s good for you (but it’s not necessary for them to abide by their rules). In an odd way I have more respect for an outright progressive than the political wolf in sheep’s clothing. We should all be concerned about the level of apathy and disconnect from the political system and knowledge — or lack of knowledge — of Americans who fall for this approach.

Republicans are accused by Erica Payne, founder of The Agenda Project and the Tesseract Group, of being responsible for the spread of Ebola. This is the same organization that did the infamous “Paul Ryan throwing grandma off the cliff” ad in the last election cycle, and is reminiscent of Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) stating during the ObamaCare debate that Republicans want you to die quickly. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

No One is at the Helm as America Enters Dangerous Ebola Waters

October 22nd 2014

The spread of Ebola in America, once described in repeated reassurances as only a remote possibility, has caught our health system flat-footed. Sadly, that doesn’t come as a big surprise.

But now, weeks after the disease was first diagnosed in our country and began spreading thanks to simple mistakes, it is staggering that there is still no one in charge. Citizens and lawmakers alike are asking if there is a czar or a national doctor, someone who could truthfully articulate the threat and the extent of the errors made so far as well as be held responsible for stopping the outbreak in its tracks. Nope.

Pressed several times about who is in charge Wednesday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest conceded that though Lisa Monaco, homeland security adviser, has been tasked with “coordinating” the response to the outbreak, she is not in charge. This means no one is accountable for solving this problem; not being in charge makes Monaco free of potential blame should things go fatally wrong. Read more ..



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