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Obama's Second Term

Obama's Empty Foreign Policy Vision

May 30th 2014

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It was billed as President Obama's comeback speech on foreign policy, a response to mounting criticism — both foreign and domestic — that his international leadership has been a failure. A "big picture" address, it would outline the president's foreign policy vision as it stands five-and-a-half years since he entered the White House.

Yet the commencement address yesterday at West Point failed to deliver on either count. Instead, it reinforced the impression of a lackluster commander-in-chief with an empty foreign policy vision.
In many respects this was a highly defensive speech, one that will do little to allay growing fears, both at home and abroad, that American leadership is in decline on the world stage. It was delivered by a president seemingly obsessed with image and public perception, rather than the long-term strength of America's foreign and security policy. Read more ..

The Way We Are

The Symbolism of Cliven Bundy, States' Rights and Slavery

May 29th 2014

America is a land of stories. We love to use stories about individuals to extract general principals about society as a whole. The story of Cliven Bundy is no exception. His story about an armed standoff versus the Federal Government this past April was illustrative to many of the principles that we are a government of the people, that individual rights are sacrosanct, and that states have the right to decide how to govern the lands and people within their territories. But the story didn’t end there unfortunately.

Given the bully pulpit for the first time in his life, Mr. Bundy foolishly squandered his opportunity to have America hear his story. Instead, he launched into a misguided and racist diatribe about African Americans, stating that he believed the fact that “they never learned to pick cotton,” accounted for the social ills of single motherhood and high black male incarceration rates. He went on to speculate, “I’ve wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family…?” The entirety of his rant has been relentlessly reported, and the real principles undergirding his story have been lost in the ensuing media feeding frenzy. Read more ..

The Cyber Edge

Cybersecurity: America’s Achilles’ Heel

May 28th 2014


The Cybersecurity Framework, which was announced on February 12, 2014, by President Obama, has very little new to offer to the private sector. It’s only a guide to how everyone should be conceptualizing and communicating about cybersecurity concerns.

The report comes a year after the president first announced his Executive Order on “Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity” in his 2013 State of the Union address.

This framework is said to increase the cooperation between the government and the private sector. However, it fails to take the overall responsibility for addressing the vulnerabilities of the U.S. national security and economy to cybercrime, cybermanipulation of markets, denials of service, and theft of intellectual property. Read more ..

The Race for Alt Energy

Hard Truths, Difficult Choices: Recommendations to the G-7 on Bolstering Energy Security

May 28th 2014

Better Place EV charging

In advance of next week's G-7 meeting in Brussels aimed at seeking ways to strengthen Europe's energy security, Dr. Gal Luft, co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS), and a member of ACD's Board of Advisors, "calls on Europe to strike a better balance between environmental and energy security strategies, adopting a more positive sentiment toward currently rejected sources of base load electricity like coal, nuclear power and unconventional gas," said IAGS' press release. 


"Dr. Luft also argues that while diversifying the European electricity sector away from Russian natural gas is a worthy goal, diversification of transit routes, especially lessening the dependence on Ukraine, which has proven to be an unreliable transit country, should be of higher priority. He also calls for a grand bargain with Turkey, one which on the one hand supports Turkey's aspirations to become a land bridge for Caspian and East Mediterranean energy while on the other persuades Turkey to facilitate the transit of LNG tankers through the Bosporus.


Romania on Edge

The Stakes for the United States in Romania's Borderlands

May 27th 2014

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I arrived in Bucharest, Romania, the day after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will be here in a few weeks. The talk in Bucharest, not only among the leadership but also among the public, is about Ukraine. Concerns are palpable, and they are not only about the Russians. They are also about NATO, the European Union, the United States and whether they will all support Romania if it resists Russia. The other side of the equation, of course, is whether Romania will do the things it must do in order to make outside support effective. Biden left Romania with a sense that the United States is in the game. But this is not a region that trusts easily. The first step was easy. The rest become harder. Read more ..

Inside Politics

The Hillary-Industrial Complex

May 26th 2014

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton is in a pickle. She’s a shoo-in for her party’s presidential nomination because of Barack Obama’s failures. But those failures might keep her from getting the job. Her husband’s “law of politics” is that elections are always about the future, but she’s stuck in the past.

In 2008, Obama pandered to liberal hopes while Clinton appealed to their good sense. Obama promised miracles and magic. Clinton promised more homework.

“Cynicism” was Obama’s real opponent, he explained. And he used Clinton as a stand-in for it. She played her part, pointing out that the Civil Rights Act got through Congress because of LBJ’s hard work, not Martin Luther King’s speeches. She insisted that politics was toil, not performance art.

And, as we have learned from a president who so often thinks giving a speech is a substitute for solving a problem, she had the better argument. One need only look at the reaction from Democrats to President Obama’s handling of the VA scandal to see that even they would trade some inspirational claptrap for a bit more old-fashioned competence. That attitude helps Clinton immensely. Burned by disappointment, many liberals want to vote with their heads, not their hearts, this time around. Read more ..

Broken Bookselling

Amazon Has Gone too Far in its Extortion of Book Industry

May 25th 2014

Amazon box

Because it was Apple (AAPL) that got sued for violating the Sherman Antitrust Act, not Amazon (AMZN), the federal judge who decided the case last July was able to ignore the facts on the ground: Namely, that: Amazon had monopoly control of the e-book market; Amazon kept competitors at bay by pricing publishers' bestselling e-books below cost; Amazon ruthlessly enforced its control. When challenged in 2010 by Macmillan, one of the bigfive publishers, Amazon simply pulled the "buy" button off Macmillan's books.

Apple tried to raise these facts in its defense, but U.S. District Judge Denise Cote, in the ruling that found that Apple had conspired with five publishers to raise the price of e-books, dismissed them in two sentences: "If Apple is suggesting that Amazon was engaging in illegal, monopolistic practices, and that Apple's combination with the Publisher Defendants to deprive a monopolist of some of its market power is pro-competitive and healthy for our economy, it is wrong. Another company's alleged violation of antitrust laws is not an excuse for engaging in your own violations of law." (U.S.A. v. Apple: Opinion and Order) Read more ..

The Defense Edge

Military Cuts Send the Wrong Signal to America’s Enemies

May 24th 2014

US Attack Helicopters

Carl von Clausewitz, the imposing German general whose theories about war remain influential nearly 200 years after his death, observed that “public opinion is won through great victories and the occupation of the enemy’s capital.” Not anymore. For one thing, it’s hard to determine what “great victories” look like these days. We may have gotten rid of Osama Bin Laden in 2011, but three years later, Jeh Johnson, the secretary of homeland security, is telling us that the profusion of jihadi fighters in Syria means that “Syria has become a matter of homeland security.” In other words, what happens in the killing fields of the Middle East has consequences at home.

Meanwhile, military planners, with one eye on the experiences of Afghanistan and Iraq, are increasingly wary of the political costs of putting boots on the ground. After 9/11, military spending surged from 3.5 percent of GDP in 2001 to 5.7 percent in 2011. Many Americans now believe that it’s time to rein in such profligacy and to spend our money on domestic concerns. The palpable sense of “war fatigue” stretches all the way from the left of the Democratic Party to the Senator Rand Paul wing of the GOP. Read more ..

Venezuela After Chavez

Venezuelan Sanctions: A Response To Assistant Secretary Of State Roberta Jacobson

May 23rd 2014

Nicolas Maduro

On May 8, while Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Roberta Jacobson was testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Nicolas Maduro, the president of Venezuela was arresting 240 student protestors.
In fact, since the beginning of the dialogue, the government has arrested more than 500 protestors. Protests in Venezuela have been going on for the last four months due to shortage of basic goods, a spectacularly high crime rate, a 57% inflation rate and an increasing oppressive government.  Since the protests began in February, both houses of Congress have sponsored bi-partisan legislation to promote human rights in Venezuela and to sanction specific individuals in the Venezuelan government responsible for repression and violation of human rights in Venezuela as well as the torture and murder of at least forty one protestors. The irony here is that while members of the Foreign Affairs Committees in both houses of the United States Congress see a need for sanctions Ms. Jacobson continues to advocate for a dialogue between the two sides (the government and the opposition).

The US and India

Narendra Modi & Barack Obama Should Make Counterterrorism Their Top Joint Security Endeavor

May 22nd 2014

Boston marathon bomb

At the top of the project should be the defeat of Lashkare-Taiba and related groups based in Pakistan before they can launch another major attack.

Almost six years ago, the city of Mumbai was attacked by 10 Pakistani terrorists in the most important terror strike since 9/11. The men who masterminded the attack are still free in Pakistan and are plotting more attacks. India and America remain at risk from them.

Years of good police work and investigation have established clearly that the plot was the joint work of LeT and the Pakistani intelligence service, ISI. In the last five years some good work has been done by India and America to bring to justice some of those involved like David Headley, the American who did the reconnaissance for the attack, and Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal who was in the Karachi control room in 2008 overseeing the massacre. Read more ..

Inside Politics

Bush's Brain Blunders

May 21st 2014

Karl Rove

As they say, politics ain’t beanbag. But there are still times when political rhetoric goes way over the line. Witness Karl Rove, the new Lee Atwater.

On May 8, appearing onstage in Los Angeles with former press secretary to President Obama Robert Gibbs, Rove suggested that Hillary Clinton might be hiding a serious health problem. As first reported by Emily Smith on the New York Post’s Page Six, Rove told his audience: “Thirty days in the hospital? And when she reappears, she’s wearing glasses that are only for people who have traumatic brain injury? We need to know what’s up with that.”

Now, let’s first agree: This was no accidental, off-the-cuff remark by Rove. He did have his facts wrong: She was hospitalized for only three days, not 30. But his statement was a deliberate, well-rehearsed and carefully timed attempt to undermine Clinton’s credibility and perhaps even scare her out of running for president in 2016. Read more ..

The Edge of Healthcare

A Different Way of Thinking About Health Care

May 20th 2014


A Charleston, South Carolina man who thought he had pretty good health insurance may miss work today, as he has several times already this year, because of a hernia. He’s in constant pain and needs surgery, but he has been postponing it. It’s not because he’s afraid of hospitals or going under the knife. It’s because he can’t afford the deductible.

I heard this story last week from a relative of his, Elizabeth May, who because she lives a few miles north of the U.S.-Canadian border has never faced such a dilemma. May was astonished to learn that many Americans, her cousin included, regularly postpone needed care because their insurance plans require paying several thousand dollars out of their own pockets before their coverage kicks in.

Of course, Elizabeth May is not just some ordinary Canadian. She is a Member of Parliament representing Vancouver Island in British Columbia and leader of the Green Party. I met with her and several other so-called MPs last Wednesday in Ottawa at the request of the Canadian Health Coalition, a group that wants to maintain and expand the country’s publicly funded, universal access health care system. Read more ..

Inside Politics

Six Steps to Midterm Victory

May 19th 2014

No Obamacare

It’s now the conventional wisdom that Republicans will keep control of the House of Representatives and win the Senate in this year’s elections, but as Dick Motta once said, it ain’t over until the fat lady sings.

Midterm elections are tricky, especially in a president’s second term. Republicans got swept in 2006, and they’d felt they were likely to keep the House as late as September of that year. In 1998, most pundits thought that Bill Clinton’s Oval Office escapades would be enough to insure a victory for the GOP, but they actually lost seats, forcing Newt Gingrich’s resignation as Speaker.

The key to winning a midterm election is making sure that your base is energized and that your opponent’s base isn’t. Here are six steps that Republicans should take to keep the focus on President Obama — and off them. Read more ..

The Internet on Edge

Don't Delay Spectrum Auctions

May 18th 2014

Walking-Cell phone

America’s smartphone users have a simple request of the FCC: Don’t delay the spectrum auctions that will enable us to get faster, smoother, and more reliable service. The spectrum auction needs to have top priority at Thursday’s FCC Open Meeting because it’s urgently important and eminently resolvable, unlike some other issues.

The Commission is caught in a particularly intense tug-of-war among commercial interests with stakes in Internet regulation at the moment, many of whom are feverishly excited about proposed “net neutrality” rules they have yet to see.

It’s apparent that casting chum in shark-infested waters seems to the media to be a better strategy for attracting eyeballs at the moment than boring meditations on serious policy matters can ever be, but let’s deal with a grown-up issue just for a moment; the net neutrality debate has been going on for fifteen years without discernable progress, so it can wait. Read more ..

African-Americans on Edge

Redeeming the Image of Black Men in the Media

May 15th 2014


High school graduation rates are at a historic all-time high. African American students are helping drive this historic trend with a 69% graduation rate—the highest graduation rate seen in years. But you wouldn’t know this by watching mainstream media outlets. Time and time again the media has painted black men in a negative light. Almost every night you can turn on the television and watch a news story about a black man shooting or robbing someone.
This was the subject of DCTV’s 25th Anniversary panel: “Changing Coverage of Black Males in the Media” coordinated by DCTV's President Nantz Rickard and ExecuitveVice President Bob Thomas, alongside their outstanding production crew.  Bringing together such an impressive and highly accomplished panel, DCTV ignited a firestorm of new thinking about the neglected recognizable achievements of many black Americans across our nation.  
Last week, I had the privilege of moderating this panel that included filmmaker, producer and director of “What Black Men Think” Janks Morton, New York Times and CNN contributor Jamal Simmons, and EZ Street of 93.9WKYS.
“If it bleeds it leads” remarked Janks Morton during our discussion. The media has an obsession with reporting on violent, specifically black, crime. Instead of focusing on the positive developments of the black community, the media loves to tell stories that grab viewer’s attention using a shock factor. The kinds of stories highlighting inner-city black crime possess this shock factor and, according to Jamal Simmons, demonstrate the prejudice that exists among many media outlets.

Inside Politics

Rove, Benghazi lift Dems

May 14th 2014

Karl Rove

With the Republican brand mired in vast public disapproval, Democrats hungry to inspire voter turnout in November, and Americans yearning for a higher standard of politics, Karl Rove suggesting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suffers from brain damage was a Christmas gift to Democrats in May. Let me count the ways.

When Rove threw his spittoon at Clinton, his saliva landed on former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), whom I predict will not subject his family to the toxic politics of Republicans today.

Perhaps Republicans believe Americans want to return to the politics of George W. Bush in 2000, masterminded by Rove, whose organization spread stories that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was mentally unstable because he was imprisoned as a Vietnam POW and returned home to father an illegitimate black child. Read more ..

The Race for LNG

Can America Stop Russia's Energy "Pivot" To Asia?

May 13th 2014

Natural Gas Terminal

For centuries, European royal families forged marital alliances with friends and adversaries in order to ensure security and influence. Prominent among them was Russia. In the 300 years prior to Czar Nicholas II’s 1894 marriage with Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Alexandra, almost at any point Russia was tied by marriage to its European neighbors. Today, it is no longer royal blood that solidifies Russia’s foreign relations but the energy pipelines that run the lifeblood of national economies.

Vladimir Putin’s coercion of Europe through his control over its energy supply is widely known. But post-Crimea, his energy leverage over Europe may have reached its apex. By the end of this decade, North American liquefied natural gas (LNG) will land in Europe from the West. From the east, the Trans-Anatolian and Trans Adriatic Pipelines will open a new energy corridor from the Caspian to Europe, crowding out Russia’s gas even further. To sustain Russia’s economy and to maintain its position as an energy power, Putin must extend Russia’s energy tentacles into Asia, where the thirst for oil and gas is insatiable. Read more ..

The 2016 Campaign

The Tea Party Seizes Victory from the Jaws of Defeat

May 13th 2014

What’s all the crowing about regarding North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis’ victory in the North Carolina Republican Senate primary this week? I’m talking about the crowing that this is some kind of defeat for the Tea Party.

Sure, Greg Brannon was the Tea Party candidate and endorsed by Rand Paul. And, yes, the Republican establishment big names – including, of course, Mr. Establishment, Karl Rove - came out and backed Tillis with endorsements and lots of money. Read more ..

Financing the Flames

A Wake-up Call in the Middle East

May 12th 2014

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After Israel was recently forced to suspend peace talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA), American credibility in the Middle East took another devastating blow. The Obama administration's insistence that the PA was a legitimate peace partner crumbled following Fatah's proposed unity government with Hamas.

Now, U.S. Special Envoy Martin Indyk has doubled down on our failed policy and claims that Palestinian statehood must happen, either through violence or a usurping of long-standing policy by seeking recognition from the United Nations. This stance represents a monumental shift in U.S. policy and will force Israel to both withdraw to indefensible lines and accept a Palestinian state bent on Israel's destruction.

During the peace talks, the Obama administration's messaging campaign was a coordinated attempt to paint Israel as obstinate and highlighted settlements that put Israel on the defensive. Meanwhile, the impression was given that the PA acted as a sympathetic partner despite its long-standing history of anti-Semitic and violent rhetoric and actions.

The Palestinians assisted the Nazis during World War II, sided with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, joined the Muslim Brotherhood in fighting proxy wars within Israel and abroad, purchased illegal weapons from Iran, and now has officially joined with the designated terrorist organization Hamas. Yet, the Obama administration continues to argue that the PA is the only party interested in a peaceful Palestinian state that stands side-by-side with Israel. Read more ..

America on Edge

The Wider Implications of Donald Sterling and His Racist Rants

May 11th 2014

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As the sad and distressing saga of Donald Sterling and his racial rants continues to unfold, the impact of his abhorrent misconduct on Jewish communities in Los Angeles, Israel and around the world mandates close examination.

Relations between American Jews and their African American counterparts should be probed with even more delicate precision.

There is little which can be added to the volumes of articles, columns, broadcasts and other media releases which have berated Sterling’s comments incessantly since the story first broke.

However, there is a noteworthy excerpt in Sterling’s conversation with his alleged mistress which sets it apart from other remarks which were, in and of themselves, brazenly demeaning towards blacks. Read more ..

America and Israel

Obama Revives the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory

May 9th 2014

When a man or woman is mugged on the street or afflicted by disease, the right response is never to pretend everything is fine and nothing has happened.

But if you’re a really cool guy like the president of the United States or one of his top advisors or the Secretary of State who wants to become president of the U.S., then it is perfectly okay to act cool and go into pretend-and-deny mode. It also helps if the media clean up after you.

If Jimmy Carter were as cool as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, he would have pretended that Iranian militants had not attacked a U.S. embassy to kidnap its staff. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Getting to the Truth about Benghazi: Find those Responsible

May 9th 2014

What a contrast between events on two different dates of Sept. 11.

On Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists killed 3,000 people, Republicans and Democrats together cried out: “Let’s get the bastards who did this to us.” On Sept. 11, 2012, when terrorists killed four Americans, Republicans immediately cried out: “Let’s find a way to blame President Obama.”

Indeed, on that night in 2012 when the attack on our diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, was still underway — before we even knew Ambassador Christopher Stevens was one of the four victims — GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney accused Obama of sympathizing with those who carried out the attack. And Republicans, with full-time support of Fox News, have disgracefully made a cheap, partisan political football out of Benghazi ever since. Read more ..

The Way We Are

You Might be a Racist

May 7th 2014

Times Square-Crowd

Last week’s column delved into the challenges that pollsters face when defining and measuring racism. It’s not easy. So we are staying on task. The principal problem is that racism lies so deep in some Americans’ psyches that even they don’t know it’s there and most certainly won’t admit it. They may recognize that social mores reject racism and therefore tell inquiring researchers they aren’t racist, even as it lurks below the surface.

Some say that every single American is racist, depending on how you define it. We certainly aren’t color and race blind. So if your definition of racism implies racial consciousness, it probably afflicts all. Yet a more practical definition of racism, for the political pollster, probably includes some sort of overt negativity or malevolence for people of a different race. But even that is hard to measure. Retired NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ruminated on this in a column for Time magazine this week. He even offered some practical and novel advice for those who want to identify racists. Read more ..

Philippines on Edge

Journalists Give their Lives as Witnesses to the Truth in The Phillipines

May 6th 2014

The Philippines is quickly becoming the killing fields for journalists, reporters, and writers with 14 killed in 2013; ten of them by suspected assassination squads. According to the International News Safety Institute (INSI) based in the UK, this makes the Philippines the third most dangerous place in the world for news reporters after Syria and Iraq.

Four died on the job during the Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) that hit Tacloban with full force last November 8, 2013. I write this on International Day for Press Freedom on May 3 and can say that the Philippines is becoming one of the most dangerous places for writers and journalists in the world. It's frightening to learn that 1054 journalists have been killed worldwide since 1992, and 76 of them were cut down by gunfire or stabbed to death in the Philippines. Read more ..

Vote 2016

Nervous Democrats are on Thin Ice

May 5th 2014

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Amid a torrent of fresh and frightening polling, Democrats are clinging to some comforting silver linings: flush war chests, a few strong individual polls, a robust gender gap. But it will be months before we know if they are kittens balancing on branches or cats with nine lives.

In recent weeks, as Republicans have increased their list of targets to win back the six seats they need to control the U.S. Senate, Democrats have cheered the fact that two polls show Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas well ahead of their competitors in the midterm races. Republicans questioned the credibility of the polls, but the Democrats were just thrilled not to be trailing their likely opponents. Read more ..

America on Edge

The Dividends of Racial Politics

May 3rd 2014

Star Parker right crop

Suddenly we can’t seem to get race out of the news.

Congressman Paul Ryan’s tour around America’s cities, trying to get a handle on America’s persistent problems with poverty, turns into a racial incident, as a member of the Congressional Black Caucus calls remarks he made in a radio interview “a thinly veiled racial attack that cannot be tolerated.”

A simpleton law-breaking rancher in Nevada, egged on by reporters, says stupid things about black Americans, and suddenly he becomes a national figure with serious views about race.

And then a sleazy billionaire octogenarian, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, with a long history of racially charged remarks, some of which having resulted in lawsuits, becomes front page news when his equally sleazy young black Latina mistress surreptitiously records a private spat between them in which he makes tasteless comments about blacks. Read more ..

American Jewry on Edge

Conference of Presidents Had Good Reasons to Reject the Extremist Group J-Street’s Bid

May 2nd 2014

There were very good reasons why the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (the Conference) clearly voted against the membership application of J-Street, an extremist group whose activities are hostile to Israel.

The key stated missions of the Conference are “mobilizing support to halt Iran’s nuclear program,” “counter[ing] the global campaign to delegitimize Israel and the Jewish people,” “bolster[ing] Israel’s security” and combating terrorism and anti-Semitism.  J-Street’s actions are clearly at odds with these policies.

J-Street lobbies against sanctions and against military action to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program.  J-Street works closely with NIAC (National Iranian American Council), a notorious apparent agent of the Iranian regime.  NIAC board member Genevieve Lynch is a significant J-Street donor.  J-Street brings to its conferences and college campuses leading NIAC pro-Iranian regime speakers, including NIAC head and leading Iran apologist Trita Parsi, and Hillary Mann Leverett, who, during a J-Street event condemned as “fundamentally racist” anyone who did not “trust” the Iranian regime.  J-Street likewise urges U.S. Congresspersons to simply “believe in Iran.” Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Can Barack Obama Get Back into the Groove?

May 2nd 2014

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It’s been more than a year since President Obama saw his approval rating hit 50 percent, and his still-souring numbers have Democrats fretting about his toxic effect in November.

Party strategists say the solution is for the White House to shake up a messaging campaign that’s grown stagnant if he hopes to rebuild his flagging approval rating before the midterm elections.

One year and one week ago was last time the RealClearPolitics polling average put the president at 50 percent, and it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing for Obama since then. The botched rollout of ObamaCare, the government shutdown, an ongoing crisis in Ukraine and the fading glow of his reelection have each taken their toll on the president’s ratings, leaving Obama mired in the low 40s. Read more ..

Israelis and Palestinians

The Zero-Sum Game for Palestinians' Suffering and Sympathy for Suffering

May 1st 2014

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For Palestinians, suffering -- and sympathy for suffering -- is a zero-sum game. Sympathy used up on the Holocaust means less for Palestinians in the territories. Even among Palestinian groups, while thousands suffer and die in Syria -- most heinously starved in the Yarmouk refugee camp -- Israelis joined relief efforts while Abu Mazen and Ismail Haniya have said hardly a word, lest it detract from the sympathy needed to support Fatah and Hamas.

What accounts for Abu Mazen's denunciation of the Holocaust as "the most heinous crime to have occurred against humanity in the modern era"? First, it was designed to keep the sympathies of Secretary Kerry. It worked; although Abbas has done everything he could think of to scuttle the "peace talks," Kerry still sees hope -- and money -- in the pipeline. Second, it was to continue to appropriate Jewish history and Jewish suffering for the purpose of increasing sympathy for the Palestinians. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Imagining a World Without America

April 30th 2014

"You’ve been given a great gift, George. A chance to see what the world would be like without you.”

So said George Bailey’s guardian angel, Clarence, in the 1946 classic Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life. Bailey, contemplating suicide, wishes he’d never been born. To demonstrate the value of the life he would so quickly trade away, the angel lets him see what the world would be like if he’d never existed.

Of course, without the influence of one good and virtuous man, George Bailey’s flawed but lovely little town full of oddballs turns into a nightmarish Babylon called “Pottersville,” run by a sadistic miser and populated by drunks, hookers, and toughs. At the end (spoiler alert, as if you’ve never seen it), George realizes that his problems are trivial and his life is indeed wonderful. He returns to face his responsibilities, come what may.

It’s not a “great gift,” but we’re now getting a chance to see what the world would be like without America. Read more ..

The Edge of Intolerance

Rancher Bundy is No Patriot

April 28th 2014

Tea Party demonstator at Supreme Court

Nothing demonstrates the ignorance and danger of the Tea Party movement more than its leaders’ immediate, knee-jerk embrace of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.

No sooner had armed vigilantes around the country rushed to Bundy’s side than Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) defended him. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) called him and his armed thugs “patriots.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) praised his resistance to federal authority. Sean Hannity and other Fox News hosts extolled him as a “folk hero” and the poster boy of standing up to a “government gone wild.” At which point, all this praise having obviously gone to his head, Bundy compared himself to Rosa Parks. Read more ..

Broken Government

Fannie, Freddie Overhaul Must Eliminate Conflicts of Interest

April 27th 2014

Home Foreclosure

There is a glaring problem with proposals to dismantle Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and “bring private capital back” to the mortgage market: Investors got mugged once and are not likely to walk down the same alley again.

From 2002 to 2006, Wall Street banks overtook Fannie and Freddie and issued the majority of mortgage-backed securities. The market for “private-label” mortgage-backed securities, the securities issued by Wall Street banks, collapsed in 2007 and remains comatose. In 2013, Fannie and Freddie issued 99 percent of new mortgage-backed securities.

The unchallenged assumption in Washington is that the overhaul of the housing finance system should drastically reduce the role of government and revive the private-label mortgage-backed securities market. Investors are not likely to buy new mortgage-backed securities from Wall Street banks if the new securities are like the old ones. Read more ..

The Battle for Venezuela

Standing Up for Human Rights and Democracy in Venezuela

April 26th 2014

Venezuela protests

Many events have occurred since protests broke out in Venezuela several weeks ago, including the killing of 25 people by the government’s paramilitary. In addition, more than 1,000 people were arrested and others simply disappeared.

Contrary to the Venezuelan president’s pronouncements, this protest movement is composed mostly of  young people, not of  fascists or the old “oligarchy”. They are not rich and they are not spoiled. These are young people who see no future in a Venezuela that is turning more totalitarian and more repressive as time goes by. 

These street mobilizations represent a social movement that could not find in the political system any expression. They are not demanding more food, salary increases, or personal advantage. They are fighting for their freedom and for their dignity. The slogan “Give me liberty or give me death” becomes very much a reality as these protestors find the status –quo in Venezuela increasingly unbearable. Read more ..

After the Mideast Peace Process

The Trap of Even-Handedness in the Mideast

April 25th 2014

It is clear that by the end of the month the Obama-Kerry peace initiative will be declared a failure. While the efforts may have been sincere, the lack of historical understanding and reading of the signs doomed these efforts from the beginning.

Historically, what is prevalent among American foreign policy makers is the view that both parties in the negotiations, Israelis and Palestinians, are equal; ergo, they are equally responsible and equally to blame. In itself this is a flawed reading of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Instead, one must start with the fact that the majority of the Arab-Muslim world has always seen the Jewish state as an abomination. Read more ..

After the Holocaust

Anti-Semitism from Ukraine to the U.S.

April 24th 2014

Holocaust survivor

Few recent news articles captured more attention than reports that Jews in Ukraine were being ordered to register. Then it turned out that the pamphlets ordering Jews to register might be something of a hoax or a political stunt.Either

way, it appears that Ukrainian Jews are being treated as pawns. Moreover, the story would not have gotten such play if it hadn’t hit a nerve.

Ukraine has lately seen a string of anti-Semitic vandalism. The Holocaust Memorial in Sevastopol, which had previously been vandalized by neo-Nazis, was recently spray-painted with a hammer and sickle. In Dnepropetrovsk, swastikas were sprayed on the tomb of the late Lubavicher Rebbe Menahem Mendel Schneerson’s brother, Dov Ber Schneerson.  There has also been a recent stabbing and the attempted arson of two synagogues, one last week in Nikolayev. But the problem is not limited to Ukraine. Read more ..

Broken Government

Detroit Should Sell Some Paintings and Balance its Books

April 23rd 2014

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As the prospect draws closer of a state bailout of Detroit at the expense of other critical needs, voters might want to examine more closely politicians’ skittishness toward selling off city assets. In particular, artwork owned by the city’s museum, an institution sustained by tax dollars (including a regional property tax favored by many of those same politicians in 2010).

Lawmakers should reject a bailout and instead insist that Detroit — whose problems are the product of its own fiscal malpractice — take responsibility for cleaning itself up. It is fundamentally unfair to make other Michigan residents pay for such infamous mismanagement. If avoiding this inequity requires the city to sell some assets, including paintings from the museum, so be it. Read more ..

The Battle for Ukraine

Don’t Send America’s Natural Gas to Ukraine

April 22nd 2014

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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has given a boost to those calling for the United States to expedite natural gas exports to help allies overseas. In this thinking, American gas exports — in the form of liquefied natural gas, or LNG — are not only a boon to the domestic economy but also a potent geopolitical tool to be wielded against the Kremlin.
Never mind that the United States won’t have its first LNG export terminal in operation until late 2015 at the very earliest; that all of its approved gas exports are already committed to long-term contracts; and that Ukraine does not even have a single terminal for receiving LNG.

Even without the newly concocted geopolitical rationale for exports, though, Washington seems favorably disposed to permitting much of America’s surplus gas to migrate overseas. Since the beginning of the shale gas revolution, which kicked off in 2005, the U.S. Department of Energy has approved six LNG export terminals with a combined export capacity of 8.5 billion cubic feet a day, and more projects are in the works. Read more ..

Vote 2014

There's Still Hope for Democrats in 2014

April 22nd 2014

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Is there anyway Democrats can win the 17 seats they need to capture the House majority this November?

In one word: Yes.

Democrats picked up 8 seats two years ago despite widespread predictions of losses. They lost 12 seats in 2012 by less than five percentage points and another 18 seats by less than 10 percentage points.

Also keep in mind that every poll shows the public agrees with Democrats on the big issues – gay marriage, pay equity for women, immigration, gun control and budget cuts.

Meanwhile, the GOP brand remains unpopular. The biggest advantage for House Democrats is that they are running against Republicans. That party’s good name suffered from last fall’s government shutdown, a strategy of obstruction that has paralyzed the Congress, and the recent vote in support of a budget that privatizes Medicare. Read more ..

Israel on Edge

Obama's Unfulfilled Wishes for Peace in the Mideast

April 21st 2014

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Early on March 4, the Israeli Defense Forces intercepted a shipment of Syrian-made M-302 rockets with a range of up to 200 kilometers (125 miles). The missiles, which apparently went through Iraqi airspace to Iran and then by ship to the Red Sea, were likely headed to Sudan. From there, they would have gone by truck through the (mostly unguarded) Sinai to Gaza, from which they would have been capable of reaching nearly all of Israel.

That makes this a very bad week for the annual "Obama slashes Israeli missile defense programs and Congress puts the money back" dance. For years, the Obama Administration has sent a budget to Capitol Hill that included steep reductions in prior year spending for cooperative U.S.-Israel missile defense programs. Congress complains loudly then puts in the money it believes the programs merit. With the release of the budget figures two years ago, Defense News noted: Read more ..

Broken Economy

How to Get Americans to Save More at Tax Time

April 20th 2014


The worst of the recent economic crisis seems to be behind us, and although slow, the recovery is underway and Americans are feeling more optimistic about the future. For most, the lesson learned during the crisis was that they didn't have enough savings to weather a financial storm without sacrifice, worry, and sleepless nights. Saving money is a difficult challenge for people at all income levels, and especially for those with the least. With little disposable income, even the small amounts these households try to put into savings are often diverted by unexpected needs and routine price increases in goods and services.

For many households, the biggest lump sum of money they receive all year comes in the form of their income tax refund check. While savvy economists and accountants caution any refund indicates a person's withholding rate should be adjusted, for many households getting a refund is preferable to getting hit with a big bill at tax time. More importantly, these tax refunds can provide a unique opportunity for tax filers to save money and build financial security. Read more ..

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