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Obama's Second Term

State of The Union: Refocus Economic Policy and Full Employment

February 8th 2013

Obama

Much of Washington’s punditry class has already issued a collective yawn over the prospects of the State of the Union, arguing (probably correctly) that the President’s inaugural was far more inspiring and interesting than anything we are likely to hear on Tuesday night. Yet the upcoming speech provides an important and rare opportunity for the newly re-elected president. While the proximity to last month’s inaugural festivities will probably depress viewership, it is still reasonable to expect that more than 30 million Americans will tune in on February 12 to hear what their commander-in-chief has to say. The State of the Union represents one of few moments of collective popular engagement in American politics. It is all too easy for those in Washington who spend their days following the political debates to forget this critical fact.

With so many Americans tuning in to hear what he has to say, what should President Obama offer? A renewed focus on equitable economic growth and full employment as his top economic policy priority, above and beyond the deficit. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Just Calm Down About that DOJ White Paper

February 7th 2013

MQ-1 Predator Drone

Okay, everyone, take a deep breath. Chill out. The DOJ’s “White Paper” on targeted killing is no big deal. Really. You wouldn’t know this from reading the somewhat breathless press coverage of the document, much of which offers a reasonable reader some confusion as to what the White Paper actually is.

The more responsible reporters have been reasonably careful. Michael Isikoff’s original story for NBC News calls the document a “confidential Justice Department memo,” and a “confidential Justice Department ‘white paper.’” Isikoff goes one to say that, “Although not an official legal memo, the white paper was represented by administration officials as a policy document that closely mirrors the arguments of classified memos on targeted killings by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.” Isikoff then says, rather more tendentiously, that the document authorizes the killing of U.S. citizens who are top operational Al Qaeda figures “even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.” This latter point is, to put it mildly, a stretch. Read more ..


Broken Borders

How the Politics of Immigration Reform Have Changed

February 7th 2013

Border Patrol-Arizona

Last Fall, it would have been hard to imagine Republicans and Democrats working together to fix our broken immigration system. The country was locked in highly polarized discussions about a number of major issues and political dysfunction in Washington created little hope of action on this contentious subject.

But now we have leading Democrats and Republicans who have announced their support of a bipartisan reform package. With the Senate moving towards action, House Republicans indicating we should be open to immigrants, and President Barack Obama making immigration reform a top priority, the country appears close to taking meaningful action on this important issue. While there are many hurdles yet to overcome, it is important to note the dramatic changes in the politics of immigration reform that have unfolded in the past few months. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Dereliction of Duty

February 6th 2013

Syria fighting injured baby

One of the stories obscured by recent revelations about the breadth of devastation in the two-year-old Syrian civil war is that of the Palestinian refugees of the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus. Yarmouk, the largest of nine official Palestinian refugee camps in Syria, has been targeted by both the Assad regime and rebel forces - killing many and forcing the reported exodus of at least half of its 150,000 residents (according to UN estimates). As recently as January 8, fighting in and around the camp killed 5,000 of the over 60,000 people killed over the past few months.

Complicating events further, many Palestinians have allied themselves with either the Assad regime's supporters, or rebel supporters, intensifying the internecine violence within the camp itself. Divisions have tended to reflect religious and secular fault lines within the Palestinian ideological spectrum. Secular/socialist groups like the PFLP-GC align with the Assad regime (as longstanding supporters) while Ikhwan/Hamas supporters side with the rebel militias. Yet, in a telling warning, the Assad regime cautioned the Palestinians not to aid the insurgency in its fighting against the regime with the hope of maintaining their historical support. Read more ..


Broken Tax System

The Downside of States as Laboratories for Tax Reform

February 6th 2013

Tax Protest

With state finances gradually improving, some Republican governors are turning their attention to fundamental tax reform. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has proposed replacing his state’s personal and corporate income taxes with higher sales taxes. Nebraska’s Dave Heineman and North Carolina’s Pat McCrory would do the same, broadening the sales tax base and perhaps including some previously tax-exempt services.

With Washington apparently stuck in gear on taxes among other issues, it may be tempting to see the states as leading a way to reform. Unfortunately, some of the proposals currently circulating—and the idea of states as laboratories for a fundamental federal tax reform—are fundamentally flawed.

First, as my Tax Policy Center colleague Ben Harris has noted, income-sales tax swaps would be regressive—or hit low income household the hardest. This is because low income households must dedicate a greater share of their income to consumption to achieve a basic standard of living and more of their consumption tends to go toward goods (which are taxed) versus services (which are typically not). These households also often benefit from income tax rebates which presumably would be wiped out along with the tax. Read more ..


The United States and Cuba

Now is the Time to End the United States' Isolation of Cuba

February 5th 2013

Cuba and heavy Chevy

The Obama Administration should be prepared to take, in quick progression, three important initial steps to trigger a speedy rapprochement with Cuba: immediately phase out the embargo, free the Cuban five, and remove Havana from the spurious State Department roster of nations purportedly sponsoring terrorism. These measures should be seen as indispensable if Washington is to ever mount a credible regional policy of mutual respect among nations and adjust to the increased ideological diversity and independence of the Latin American and Caribbean regions.

Washington’s path towards an urgently needed rehabilitation of its hemispheric policy ought to also include consideration of Cuba’s own pressing national interests. A thaw in US—Cuba relations would enhance existing security cooperation between the countries, amplify trade and commercial ties, and guarantee new opportunities for citizens of both nations to build bridges of friendship and cooperation. Read more ..


Broken Government

The Empire Strikes Back on Groundhog Day

February 5th 2013

Star Wars Darth Vader

The Groundhog Day New York Times headline screamed, “Top Donors to Republicans Seek More Say in Senate Races.”

Now there’s a man bites dog. Big money wants more power. Who’da thunk it?

Steven J. Law, president of American Crossroads, the super-PAC creating the new project explained, “We don’t view ourselves as being in the incumbent protection business, but we want to pick the most conservative candidate who can win.” American Crossroads, which spent nearly $400 million in the past election cycle without much effect, has given the group the Orwellian name of the Conservative Victory Project (CVP).

The purpose of the CVP is to ensure that Republicans nominate approved candidates like Denny Rehberg, Tommy Thompson and Rick Berg, rather than unapproved candidates like Christine O’Donnell, Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

United Nations: Convergence of Hypocrisy, Deceit, and Evil

February 4th 2013

Isi Leibler headshot

Israel was the first country to boycott the annual human rights review presented at the bogus United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Despite being tacitly rebuked by the US, Israel was justified in doing so. For years, whilst ignoring the rampant denial of human rights and the butchering of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians throughout the world, the proceedings of this despicably biased body were concentrated on relentlessly condemning, demonizing and delegitimizing the Jewish state.

Recent examples include the defamatory 2009 Goldstone Report – subsequently recanted by Goldstone himself – accusing Israel of willfully engaging in war crimes, despite having a track record of minimizing civilian casualties in war unmatched by any other country. A year later it again condemned Israel for “attacking” Turkish terrorist “humanitarians” on board the Mavi Marmari of the Gaza ”peace” flotilla.

Israel’s decision to boycott the hearings was vindicated on January 31 when, based on largely fabricated Arab and hostile NGO sources, the UNHRC proclaimed that Israel’s settlements over the green line were in breach of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and accused it of indulging in gross “violations of human rights law”. The review made no reference to the deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians by Palestinian terrorists.

It warned that if Israel failed – with no preconditions – to dismantle construction and withdraw from these areas, charges of war crimes at the International Criminal Court could ensue. This amounted to a UN body purporting to promote human rights, demanding the ethnic cleansing of disputed territories.

The Council also called on governments and multinational corporations to withdraw investments and sever all dealings with settlements – effectively providing notice of intent to impose sanctions. Had Israel submitted its case in advance to such a kangaroo court, it would merely have legitimized the procedure. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Managing State: Some Advice for John Kerry

February 3rd 2013

John Kerry

The back-to-back Senate testimonies of secretary of state nominee John Kerry and sitting Secretary Hillary Clinton served up quite a contrast: the former outlining the big policy ideas he intends to pursue; the latter delving into the details of bureaucratic information-dissemination and decision-making. There is an important lesson in this disparity: a secretary of state's legacy can depend just as much on management of the State Department as on foreign policy acumen.

America's foreign policy agenda has ballooned to encompass countless issues, many of which are little noticed domestically yet can consume enormous diplomatic effort for the U.S. government. The secretary of state is responsible for around 60,000 employees, hundreds of U.S. diplomatic missions, and a multi-billion dollar budget. It is inevitable that he will succeed or fail not merely on the strength of his personality or individual effort, but through the decisions and actions of those subordinate to him and often working at a vast distance from Washington. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Secretary of State Kerry Shows He Doesn’t Have a Clue About How Foreign Policy Works

February 3rd 2013

Morsi

During his confirmation hearings, Secretary of State-designate John Kerry was only given a tough time by one questioner, Senator Rand Paul. The exchange between them is interesting not just because of the specific topic, but also because of what it shows about basic foreign policy philosophy — and ignorance — on Kerry’s part.

It is a genuine problem. The leader of a “friendly” nation has been exposed for making anti-Semitic remarks. The United States wants to continue aid to avoid instability in that country that would contribute to even further radicalization, and to use U.S. leverage to produce the best possible outcome.

Unfortunately, Kerry subscribes — as is so fashionable today in the Obama administration and academia — to what I’ll call the “abusive relationship approach” to foreign policy.

If another country supports you and is good for your interests, you take that country’s good will for granted and mistreat it. If another regime — say, Turkey, Pakistan, Venezuela, Egypt, and, at times in the recent past, Syria and Iran — walks all over you, then you chase after it all the more passionately and shower it with presents. Read more ..


Israel's New Northern War

Does Iran Have Another War in Mind?

February 2nd 2013

Iranian Revolutionary Guard

Iraeli jets struck something Tuesday night; Wednesday's guessing game was, "What was it?"

First reports from Western news services said the Israeli Air Force hit a convoy of weapons moving west from Syria toward, or even in Lebanon. A Lebanese army source said nothing was hit there and a sometimes-but-not-always-reliable source said it wasn't a convoy at all, but an arms depot near the Jamaraya institute, which some people think works on non-conventional weapons. A Syrian military statement said Israel had hit Jamaraya. U.S. officials said it was a convoy. At least one Western report said there was uranium involved.

In any event, Israel quickly dispatched high-level government and military officials to Russia and the United States to provide additional information and, perhaps, to alert those governments to additional threats. Read more ..


The New Egypt

Egypt: A Crisis of Confidence

February 2nd 2013

Egyptian

January 25 marked the two-year anniversary of the revolution that overthrew Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. This charged event alone would have been enough to cause tensions in the streets; the same-day release of court verdicts on the soccer clashes in Port Said Stadium last February made a flare-up inevitable. The chaos that has spread since that poorly-timed decision however is being driven by something more fundamental: a deep crisis of confidence.

Egypt’s citizens are taking to the streets again – for different reasons – with one message: We no longer have confidence in the Morsi government to steer us forward.

In Tahrir Square, the usual crowd of liberals and secularists has returned to familiar territory, replicating scenes from the now-infamous 18 days of riots that overthrew Mubarak’s 30-year dictatorship, but there are two key differences: Chants of “down with the regime” are directed toward the elected president, Mohamed Morsi, and members of the underground movement of anarchists called the Black Bloc, dressed in black and wearing ominous balaclavas, have joined the protestors. Read more ..


America on Edge

Scalia’s Dead Constitution

February 1st 2013

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

In the latest example of how the distemper of the right infects the rule of law in America, and why President Obama would enhance his legacy by moving to fill ALL federal judicial vacancies within 60 days, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has reiterated his opinion that the Constitution is not a living document that should reflect the lessons of history but is, instead, a stale document that is (in his words) “dead, dead, dead.”

This radical notion of the law, which is held by many federal judges appointed by previous presidents, would turn back the clock against two hundred years of American experience and jurisprudence. 

If Scalia had served when John Marshall was as our nation’s chief justice, his “dead” Constitution theory would have presumably led to him rule that slavery was constitutionally sanctioned at that time. Scalia would have presumably ruled that the beating and whipping of slaves was constitutionally protected, because slaves were then regarded as the private property of slave owners, with no more rights than dogs or shoes, and not as American citizens guaranteed constitutional protection. Read more ..


The Hillary Edge

A Report Card for Hillary

January 31st 2013

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Rodham Clinton has just concluded four tumultuous years as secretary of state, and already, as though in anticipation of a possible presidential run in 2016 (not announced but assumed by Washington pundits), she faces a groundswell of criticism about her time as the nation’s number-one diplomat.

The basic line is that she didn’t succeed at anything big. She accumulated enough mileage for first class air travel for the rest of her life—and Bill’s. But she didn’t win a ticket to the Foggy Botton Hall of Fame. Her record of accomplishment, it is asserted, is disappointing. No peace agreement in Afghanistan. Failure in Israeli-Palestinian negotiation. Reset with Russia: a big zero. Syria: a frightening disaster. Benghazi: her biggest embarrassment. And Iran? Further negotiations possible, but nothing on the near horizon to suggest a deal to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Yet, though this record may be bleak, I would still give her an A-, which, in graduate school, is not a bad grade. My reasoning follows: Read more ..


Inside America

Milestones in the Arc of History Towards Justice

January 31st 2013

Martin Luther King I have a Dream crowds photogs

Anniversaries are, strictly speaking, not necessary, but neither is art, friendship, or many other of the most important things in life. We observe them by taking time out of the present to remember the past. It is a way of “marking time,” of measuring ourselves against the great and the bad who have foregone us.

​Right now, the Library of Congress is exhibiting drafts of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in his own hand, in honor of its 150th anniversary. I recommend viewing these profound two pages of Lincoln’s cursive, which show us both the boldness and the vulnerability of the greatest of our leaders.

It is hard to believe how long ago it was: not very long at all. A century and a half is, from the perspective of history, or even a lifetime, not much. It is two lifetimes, back to back. In the course of human history, it is a dream of a shadow; from the perspective of universal history, it is nothing at all. Read more ..


Economic Jihad

Brooklyn College’s Anti-Israel Hatefest

January 30th 2013

Alan Dershowitz lecture

Why is Brooklyn College’s political science department officially sponsoring a one-sided event that calls for divestment, boycotts and sanctions against Israel?

On Feb. 7, the college will be hosting a “forum” at which speakers will call for Israel to be singled out among all the nations of the world for this form of delegitimation. There will be no one presenting any other position.

Among the sponsors of this propaganda hate orgy are the usual anti-Israel groups, such as Students for Justice in Palestine. That is not surprising. What is shocking and wrong is that an academic department of a City University of New York senior college is also an official sponsor. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Senator Hagel and Nuclear Weapons

January 30th 2013

Chuck Hagel

Critics of Senator Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be Secretary of Defense cite his views on nuclear arms reduction, including his endorsement of a proposal to cut U.S. nuclear weapons to 900 and his membership in Global Zero, as potentially dangerous to U.S. security. Are Hagel’s positions really over the top?

The senator endorsed a proposal to reduce to 900 total nuclear weapons in a 2012 Global Zero paper. That might be too low for the next step after the New START Treaty. In a recent book—The Opportunity: Next Steps in Reducing Nuclear Arms—Mike O’Hanlon and I proposed a new U.S.-Russia treaty to cut each side to 2000-2500 total nuclear weapons, in large part because we doubt Moscow would agree to go lower without bringing in third-country nuclear arsenals.

The Global Zero paper called for eliminating all intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and maintaining 450 nuclear weapons deployed on submarine-launched ballistic missiles and at bomber bases, with another 450 weapons held in reserve. I personally would prefer to keep some ICBMs in the force mix. That said, if our nearest peer competitor, Russia, also reduced to 900 total weapons, what would be wrong with the outcome? The United States could still maintain a secure, reliable, effective and powerful nuclear deterrent; each of the 900 weapons would be many times the explosive force of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. Such an agreement, moreover, could offer significant defense budget savings, particularly as we face tough decisions on recapitalizing our strategic nuclear systems. Read more ..


Palestine on Edge

Welcome to State of Palestine?

January 29th 2013

PLO Flags

Nationalism and peoplehood are just part of the ingredients of statehood, or rather state building. Pronouncing their existence does not actually connote that the work is actually being done. The best illustration of this imaginary state is the newly inaugurated Palestinian one, as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas officially changed his government's name to "the State of Palestine" in an attempt to implement, albeit cosmetically, the recent UN vote granting it status of nonmember observer state.

Therefore, US United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice unequivocally stated that the US does not recognize the "State of Palestine" and that "the only way to establish a real Palestinian state is through the painstaking work of direct negotiations on final-status issues, without preconditions, between the Israelis and Palestinians." Yet, the question of what stands behind this declaration still remains. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Oil Industry Stages Another Sham Anti-Ethanol Press Conference

January 29th 2013

Oil Barrels

This morning, the American Petroleum Institute held their latest telephone press conference in their continuous attempt to undermine any alternative fuel solutions and keep us addicted to gasoline.

The information released by the API today during the press conference added nothing new or significant in their fallacious assault on ethanol…except one thing. The two presenters took on the surprisingly conciliatory pretense of “having nothing against ethanol.” They went so far as to say that there are fine “blending qualities” about ethanol.

They just don’t want it living in their neighborhood, so to speak.

API did what they have done for decades: they made up lies and insinuations, and they mischaracterized ethanol. To listen to them, anyone would think that vehicles that run on gasoline never experience any engine breakdowns or system failures, and that fuel pumps, fuel lines, pistons and cylinder walls only ever show signs of wear if alcohol somehow gets into the fuel system. They warned about consumers experiencing roadside breakdowns and costly repairs because of E15 use. What? Are they suggesting that the millions of vehicles that have broken down over the past 100-years only broke down because they used fuel other than gasoline? Read more ..


The Nuclear Edge

If Nuclear Weapons are Useless, Why are Iran, North Korea, China and Russia Building Them?

January 29th 2013

Russia May Day soldiers missile

Senator Chuck Hagel, while signing up to the timetable for the elimination of all nuclear weapons, also said in the 2009 Al Jazeera interview, that nuclear weapons can be abolished because they no longer need to play a traditional deterrent role. As part of this strategy, Hagel proposes to "de-alert" our weapons, making them unusable in a crisis. This raises the question of why any adversary would also volunteer to put its nuclear warheads in reserve and significantly delay its own ability to use such weapons, especially when doing so is largely unverifiable.

The "Global Zero" campaign to "zero out" all nuclear weapons is pressuring the US to set an example for the rest of the world to follow, by dramatically cutting its nuclear forces even further to a level not seen since the dawn of the nuclear age 60 years ago.

This cutback is on top of the already considerable 90% reduction -- since the height of the Cold War in 1981 -- in our deployed strategic nuclear forces, as well as a similarly significant reduction in our reserve stockpile and our tactical nuclear weapons. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Kerry's First Task is a Firm Stand on Venezuela

January 28th 2013

Hugo Chavez

“Depending on what happens in Venezuela, there may really be an opportunity for a transition there,” incoming U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told a Senate hearing Thursday, alluding to the expectation that Hugo Chavez may soon lose his bout with cancer. Unfortunately, at this very moment, Mr. Chavez’s cronies are doing whatever is necessary to hold on to power indefinitely. The most Mr. Kerry may be able to do is convince Mr. Chavez’s successors to end the dangerous alliances with drug traffickers, Iran and Hezbollah that pose a growing threat to U.S. security.

Until now, most of the U.S. foreign policy establishment has ignored the growing body of evidence that homegrown narco-traffickers in Colombia, Central America and Mexico have teamed up with Hezbollah to conduct criminal operations on our doorstep. What’s worse, this narco-terrorist alliance is aided and abetted by the governments of Venezuela and Iran. To put it bluntly, this is not mere criminal activity — it is asymmetrical warfare. Read more ..


The New Egypt

U.S. Gets It Wrong on Egypt Again

January 28th 2013

Morsi

Protests planned around Egypt -- particularly in Cairo's Tahrir Square -- on the second anniversary of the January 25 revolution are expected to be an explosion of dissent, revealing the deep divisions in the country between President Mohamed Morsy and the Egyptian people.

Opposition to Morsy's authoritarianism is broader than the world recognizes. In making accommodations for Morsy's government, the United States is -- once again -- out of step with the Egyptian people.

Egyptians may not know exactly what they want, but they know what they don't want. Although an effective political opposition has yet to coalesce, Egyptians from all sectors of society are united in their refusal to accept another repressive regime.

Egypt is on a collision course. An ever growing, if periodically discouraged, portion of the population opposes the government and Morsy's Muslim Brotherhood, and supports the revolution's goals of social and economic justice, accountable government, and basic freedoms, including freedom of expression and protection of minorities. Yet the government is moving in exactly the opposite direction, with its authoritarian control over political, social, and religious life. Read more ..


Broken Immigration

Immigration: A Problem-Solving Approach

January 27th 2013

Stop the Raids immigration protest

In his second inaugural address, President Obama stated that America will not reach its potential without immigration reform.

Although his reference was grandly vague, the President is expected to soon begin blazing the trail toward legislation that comprehensively overhauls the American immigration system. Congress has tried this before—with little to show for it except more division and multiplying challenges.

The problems in our immigration policy cannot be effectively solved in a comprehensive piece of legislation, because comprehensive is really just a code word for what will be a confusing, complicated, convoluted, and contentious bill that will create as many problems as it purports to solve.

Heritage’s Matt Spalding, Jessica Zuckerman, and James Carafano explain that “just as the many aspects and elements of immigration are not all the same and immigrants in this country are not a monolithic block, there is not one comprehensive policy that will deal with all matters all at once.” Read more ..


The Hillary Edge

Hillary Turns Texas Blue

January 26th 2013

Hillary Clinton in blue

The Lone Star State is headed blue — the only question is WHEN Texas becomes a Democratic state. If Hillary Clinton runs for president, she will have a fighting chance of carrying Texas, which shares revolutionary demographic trends rewriting the rules of politics, and of creating opportunities for Democrats to regain control of the House and achieve a national realignment of Rooseveltian magnitude.

No less an authority than Karl Rove is known to have been worrying about the political future of Texas for years, with good reason. If Clinton were to run in 2016, she would attract a giant surge of the demographically powerful Hispanic vote, an equally giant surge of the equally powerful women’s vote, a strong surge of support from younger voters who are developing lifetime habits of voting Democratic, and strong support from seniors and boomers. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

GOP Ready for Round II

January 26th 2013

john Boehner

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) isn’t ready for the dustbin of history — whether it is President Obama or the conservative members of his own conference who want to “shove” him there. After the best week in, well, perhaps his entire Speakership, Boehner told a crowd at the Ripon Society Wednesday that he thinks Obama is trying to annihilate the GOP, but that he is “up for the fight.”

“Given what we heard yesterday about the president’s vision for his second term, it’s pretty clear to me that he knows he can’t do any of that as long as the House is controlled by Republicans,” Boehner said, according to a transcript of the speech. “So we’re expecting over the next 22 months to be the focus of this administration as they attempt to annihilate the Republican Party. And let me just tell you, I do believe that is their goal — to just shove us into the dustbin of history.” Read more ..


Israel Reality

Samaria as You've Not Seen it Before

January 25th 2013

Nablus from the Mountain
Nablus - Area near Joseph's Tomb

Unless one takes a personal, honest, up-close look at Samaria, it will remain an occupied territory; the haven of fringe settlers trying to displace Palestinians and stymie the peace process. That is unless you actually go there and see the region up close, talk to the people who live there and understand the size, demography and conditions the people live with. Is it a perfect situation? By no means; but is it the obstacle to peace and the bane of the Palestinian existence? Hardly!

Deciding that the issue was too important to leave to the narratives presented by Rachel Madow, Wolf Blitzer, J-street, Peace Now, or the myriad of people and advocacy groups that insist on presenting Israel as an oppressive regime, I planned a visit to the Shomron for me, my 14 year old son and my 15 year old nephew. With the help of a friend, Knesset Member Danny Danon, who arranged this for us during the week of Israel's elections, we took a trip that none of us will soon forget. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

It’s Called the Vietnam Syndrome, and It’s Back

January 25th 2013

John Kerry

It had never really left—what was widely referred to as the “Vietnam syndrome”--but it has now returned unmistakably, certain to exercise a major influence on American foreign policy during President Barack Obama’s second term in office. It is the belief, born of brutal experience during the Vietnam War, that never again will the United States gradually tiptoe into questionable wars without a clearcut objective, overwhelming military force, an endgame strategy and, most important, the support of Congress and the American people. In today’s world of terrorist threat and guerrilla war, the Vietnam syndrome means, if nothing else, a fundamental reluctance to commit American military power anywhere in the world, unless it is absolutely necessary to protect the national interests of the country. The Vietnam syndrome is a giant step away from hard-edged policies, such as President George W. Bush’s adventurous plunge into Iraq in 2003, and toward softer-edged policies, such as President Obama has pursued in his measured anti-Qaddafi approach to the Libyan revolution and his careful, arms-length-away attitude to the complicated mess in Syria. Read more ..


The Edeg fo Terrorism

Leading From Behind" and Al Qaeda's Spread

January 25th 2013

Rebel fighters

Hillary Clinton’s long-awaited Benghazi testimony has come and gone. As some wag said, the Secretary of State pitched a no-hitter in Congress.  The scandal is over, and truth no longer is of any real political consequence. But Clinton will be remembered for her combative sneer: "Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?"

Of course, that statement will be interpreted by the major media as a fair response to her questioner, Rep. Ron Johnson (R. WI), for asking a “politically motivated” question.  What the question really was had to do with what intelligence the U.S. had prior to the event regarding the armed Islamists in Benghazi, and further, what the attack had to do with the administration’s policies toward Libya, as well as to the Arab Spring. It questions Obama’s “leading from behind” and the minimalistic and legalistic approach in dealing with rogue regimes, terrorists, Islamists, and the like. Read more ..


America on Edge

Civil Rights for All

January 24th 2013

Armstrong_Williams

As we mark the Second Inauguration of the first American black president, it is important to celebrate our successes in achieving the protection of civil rights for all people. But, sadly, this president has a terrible record on civil rights.

How about that contraception mandate? Millions and millions of Christians no longer have the right to exercise their religion, their First Amendment rights, thanks to this president.

After Obama got finished attacking the First Amendment, he’s now on to the Second Amendment. As Governor Mitt Romney predicted during his presidential campaign against this president, Obama might have more “flexibility” in a second term when it comes to deals with Russian dictators, but he will have less need for it when it comes to dealing with people in his own country who don’t happen to share his views. Governor Romney predicted correctly that, while Obama was accountable to the people, he would not go after people’s legal guns. But once he’s a lame duck—what a surprise—he attacks our Second Amendment rights.

​If he could find a way to strip away the Third Amendment, I’m sure he would. But that would involve supporting our military, which he’s too busy cutting. Not one of the president’s twenty-three proposals would have prevented the Newtown shooting, and just like welfare, just like redistributing wealth, just like every other liberal initiative, they do nothing to fix the problem. Their only purpose is to soothe the liberal conscience, to let them think that they are actually contributing something. Let’s take a look at a few of these proposals. Read more ..


Palestine on Edge

Palestinians are the First Victims of Their Own Reckless UN Bid

January 24th 2013

Click to select Image

When the Palestinian Authority (PA) obtained UN recognition as a nonmember observer state in November, many Israelis feared the consequences for Israel: After all, PA President Mahmoud Abbas stated openly that he sought recognition primarily "to pursue claims against Israel" in international forums. Those fears may yet prove justified. But so far, the biggest victim of Abbas's UN bid has been the PA itself.

The PA currently faces the worst financial crisis of its crisis-filled history. According to PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, it's in "extreme jeopardy," and on the "verge of being completely incapacitated." Its 150,000 employees have received only half their November salaries and nothing for December. It "owes local banks more than $1.3 billion and can't get more loans," the Associated Press reported. It "also owes hundreds of millions of dollars to private businesses, including suppliers to hospitals, some of whom have stopped doing business with the government." And it expects the poverty rate to double, to a whopping 50 percent of the total Palestinian population in the territories, if the crisis isn't resolved soon.
Read more ..


Israel on Edge

Changing the Guard in Israel

January 24th 2013

Binyamin Netanyahu and flag

Israel had a party on Election Day. The weather was beautiful and people went to the beach and the parks by the tens of thousands. They were in a very good mood. And why not? For all the gloom and doom about Israel, its neighbors and its neighborhood, Israel celebrated its place in the very exclusive club of free and vibrant democracies. There are multiple parties (including the Pirate Party) and a free press to air the issues and the candidates. Women vote, ultra-Orthodox Jews -- including ultra-Orthodox women -- vote, poor people and rich people vote, Arab citizens vote. The Arab League, which explicitly rejects the legitimacy of the State of Israel, encouraged Israeli Arabs to get out the vote, something they didn't do for the Saudi or Yemeni or Omani election. Oh, yeah, right -- Arabs in those countries don't get to vote; they have no elections.

The Google Doodle celebrated Israel at the polls.

The votes haven't all been tallied, but a few things are clear about Israel and its electorate.

Nearly 70% of Israelis voted. Remember, this is a country in which there is no early voting and there are virtually NO absentee ballots. (Diplomats stationed abroad and members of Israel's Merchant Marine only.) If you want to vote, you go to the polls on Election Day. And they did. Read more ..


Inside Israel

Possible Election Upset Signals Change in the Wind for Israel

January 23rd 2013

Lapid
Yair Lapid

Yair Lapid the new prime minister? What seemed absurd two days ago is now a remote possibility. There is the chance that Israel's president, Shimon Peres, might turn to the former television journalist to form the next governing coalition. His Yesh Atid party garnered 19 votes in Tuesday's election, making him not only a kingmaker, but perhaps a king himself.

Lapid's stunning success is symbolic of the election at large. From out of nowhere, the center-left candidate drew votes from all sectors of Israeli society. A party that did not even exist two years ago will now play a leading role in forming the next government.

Israelis voted for change, electing a stunning 53 new members to Knesset. While Naftali Bennett and Habayit Hayehudi did not perform as well as some had expected, his party nonetheless increased its representation by 400 percent from the last Knesset. Tzipi Livni's Hatnua party -- also a newly formed party -- won six seats, while Meretz also doubled its mandates from the last Knesset.

In that context, Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, may be the biggest loser of all. Surely, he expected to increase his power through the polls, not lose seats. And yet, Israelis told Netanyahu they wanted more. They want a greater effort in making Israel an affordable place to live and they want more in sharing Israel's national service burden. They perhaps even want more in terms of security and diplomacy. In which direction -- left or right -- is unclear at this juncture. Read more ..


The New Egypt

What did Obama know about Egypt's President Morsi and When did He know It?

January 22nd 2013

Morsi

For days now, the twittersphere and even the mainstream media have been agog at the anti-Semitism spewing in a now-viral video by Mohammed Morsi in 2010 when he was head of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. He called President Obama a liar as well, but the administration is doing its best not to let it matter.

It's not as if they didn't know. The Muslim Brotherhood is more than 80 years old and is organized around anti-Israel, anti-Christian and anti-Semitic claptrap. It also does not hide its anti-Western, anti-imperialist rhetoric that shares the stage with an interpretation of Islam that is homophobic and misogynistic.

Last summer, the Brotherhood's leader, Mohammed Badie, accused Jews of corrupting the world and slaughtering Palestinians. Essem al Erian, Vice President of the Brotherhood's political party, last month invited Jews to return to Egypt -- not because he likes them, but, as he said, "Why stay in a racist entity, an occupation, and be tainted with war crimes that will be punished? All occupation leaders will be punished." The "Zionist project," he added, will end. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

GOP'S Latest Gimmick

January 22nd 2013

John Boehner

Congressional Republicans are getting credit for temporarily abandoning their insistence on holding America’s economy hostage, but their latest proposal is more shrewd politics borne out of political necessity than serious policy. Americans haven’t been buying the GOP spin that it’s OK not to pay our bills, like a deadbeat, shutting down the government and potentially endangering the global economy in order to force cuts to programs like Social Security and Medicare while protecting corporate welfare in the form of tax cuts for oil companies.

As the latest NBC news/Wall Street Journal poll indicated, 49 percent of Americans view the GOP negatively, compared to only 26 percent positively; additionally, a plurality says it will blame the GOP if talks fail. According to the latest CBS News/New York Times poll, 47 percent of Americans blame congressional Republicans for the difficulties of the “fiscal cliff” deal than they do President Obama (31 percent); only 30 percent of Republicans approve of the job congressional Republicans are doing, with 65 percent opposed, versus 59 percent of Democrats who approve of the job of congressional Democrats are doing, with 31 percent opposed. Pressure has mounted on the GOP as concerns about America defaulting on its debt have raised growing concerns from Wall Street to Main Street. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Not a 'Nation of Takers,' Mr. President? Check the Numbers

January 22nd 2013

Obama

It is official: America is *not* a nation of takers. How do we know? Because the president of the United States just said so. President Obama used the occasion of his second inaugural address to take on the question of moral hazard emanating from our burgeoning entitlement state. In his estimate, there is no such risk — or at least none worth mentioning.

Here is the inaugural passage in question: "We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other — through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security — these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great." [emphasis added]

With these words, the president 1) made it clear he is aware many Americans are troubled by the seemingly relentless expansion of government entitlement benefits, and) 2 also made it clear that he totally dismisses their concerns. Read more ..


Broken Healthcare

Differing Notions of 'Affordability'

January 22nd 2013

medicine and money

For the first time in a long time, my former insurance colleagues and I agree on something: it’s time for affordability.

Health insurers’ big PR and lobbying group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, has launched a slick new campaign, complete with compelling graphics and pithy sound bites, to persuade lawmakers that they need to take immediate action to prevent insurance premiums from going up more than usual.

But while we agree that lawmakers do indeed need to focus on affordability, we disagree on what they should do. Insurance executives want Congress to get rid of some of the most important consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. ObamaCare. I believe it’s time to focus on the value—or lack thereof—that private health insurance companies actually add to our health care system.

Several years ago, a co-worker asked our CEO during a staff meeting what kept him up at night. He responded with a single word: disintermediation.

Merriam-Webster defines disintermediation as “the elimination of an intermediary in a transaction between two parties.” So what my boss was saying was that sooner or later, Americans might reach the conclusion that private insurers are no more essential than travel agents (remember them?), and that by dispatching health insurers to the history books, we could reduce spending on health care by billions if not trillions of dollars. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Murdered Diplomacy: How the Israel-Palastinian Conflict Has Been Totally Transformed

January 21st 2013

Abbas UN

If the Israel-Palestinian situation were to be considered to be like a hand grenade, the "international community" has just pulled the pin and thrown it away. Or, to put it another way, it has just taken a sledgehammer to two decades of fragile diplomacy and smashed all the diplomatic options to bits.

Even though almost nobody in the West recognizes it yet absolutely everything about the Israel-Palestinian conflict has changed. Or at least everything from the material realities which leaves Israel still stronger, in possession of part of the West Bank, and with the ability to act as needed to defend its security. But any talk of Israel-Palestinian negotiations, peace process activity, compromise diplomacy, and all that stuff is meaningless now and here's why: Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Obama Should Offer Iran a Generous Deal

January 21st 2013

Iranian clerics

The main issue regarding Iran is what nuclear offer to make. While most attention has focused on how to step up pressure on Tehran, the bigger sticks should be matched with juicier carrots, in a change from the past strategy of focusing on small confidence-building measures while leaving vague the end game. Neither Iranian leaders nor public opinion -- in Iran or around the world -- has been impressed by the very modest incentives offered Iran during the 2012 Baghdad talks. The "refreshed" offer that the big powers known as the P5+1 (Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the U.S.) are said to have agreed to is not much more generous. Not surprisingly, the reaction has been: Why should Iran make a deal if that is all it gets? Iran has insisted on two benefits from a deal: sanctions relief and nuclear enrichment. An agreement is more likely if these issues are addressed with a generous offer. Surprisingly, the sanctions relief may be harder to do than nuclear enrichment. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Young People After Four Years of President Obama

January 20th 2013

Obama

On Monday, young people across the country will watch, cheer and tweet as they celebrate the inauguration of the man they helped reelect president of the United States. The enthusiasm will be reminiscent of the excitement four years ago when President Obama was sworn in as the 44th president.

Only this time, we know what young people get after four years of Obama's policies. He no longer has the luxury of being judged just on the promise of hope and change. After four years of Obama, young people now face high unemployment and underemployment, increased health care costs and most recently, less take home pay compared to last year due to higher payroll taxes.

Obama's policies have weakened our economy, and the opportunities for graduating seniors are not getting better. Ask today's college senior who voted for Obama in 2008 how strong their job prospects are, and their answer will be virtually unchanged to a college senior's answer four years ago-not strong at all. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syria On The Verge Of Massacre: The World Must Intervene

January 19th 2013

Contreras

Inspired by the democratic movements all across the Greater Middle East region, known as the “Arab Spring,” the Syrians, though cautiously at the beginning, took to the streets demanding further political and social reforms and greater freedoms. Launched in March 2011, the Syrian uprising was a first major sign of popular resentment against the authoritarian Ba’ath party rule since the bloody clampdown on a revolt back in 1982 in Hama.
 
With the escalation of the civil casualties turning into a human tragedy of the uprising, few countries and organizations, including Russia, Iran and its proxy Hezbollah, could afford to remain indifferent in what was happening inside Syria. Even Tehran’s mercenaries such as Hamas sided with the Syrian opposition. Having nothing to lose itself, Iran burned the credit of its ally Hezbollah – gained after Israeli forces retreated from southern Lebanon and strengthened by the 33-day war with Israel in 2006 – and severely damaged the reputation and popularity of the so-called resistance front.
Read more ..


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