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Broken Healthcare

Healthcare Insurance Markets are Coming Soon

January 2nd 2013

Click to select Image

Online health-insurance exchange is coming to your state. How effective will it be? That is an increasingly important question in the United States. In June 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the legality of the country’s Affordable Care Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010.

The program mandates private-sector health insurance for all citizens, and provides subsidies for those who otherwise could not afford it. Insurance-plan choices will be available through exchanges, or marketplaces; most people will be able to study plans and sign up for one online. As of December, nearly 20 states have elected to run exchanges themselves; the federal government will run the exchanges in other states. Read more ..


Broken Government

Government Regulators Were too Busy in 2012

January 2nd 2013

SEC

During 2012, virtually every aspect of American life was subjected to government meddling, ranging from how many calories you consumed to how efficient your dishwasher was. These rules affect us in a variety of ways. Most increase the cost of living, others hinder job creation and many erode our freedom.

Not all regulations are unwarranted, of course. But increasingly, the rules imposed upon us by the government have less to do with health and safety and more to do with lifestyle; substituting the judgment of bureaucrats for our own. Which are the worst? There is no objective standard to measure such things, but here is our own take on 2012's bottom 10. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Don't Divest from Energy Stocks

January 2nd 2013

Oil well

In the mid-1980s, racial segregation in South Africa became one of the most heated issues on American college campuses. Student activists demanded that their universities divest themselves of stocks in companies doing business in South Africa. Quite a few complied, withdrawing their investments. South African President Nelson Mandela credited the divestment campaign with having helped turn the tide against apartheid.

Now, college students are once again at the vanguard of a national movement to force colleges and public pension funds to participate in a political cause, this time against global warming, by diverting all their endowment holdings away from large fossil-fuel companies.

What we have here is a divestiture target that's altogether different than apartheid, which was clearly evil. Indeed, the differences in the two campaigns could not be more distinct. In the current case, the burden of a war on fossil-fuel companies would fall disproportionately on those who can least afford higher energy costs. By driving cars and trucks off the road, older power plants out of business, and curtailing production of oil and natural gas, while mandating the use of costly "green" energy, the playing field would be rigged against the economically disadvantaged poor and the middle class. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Time to Stop the EIB’s Carbon Subsidies

January 1st 2013

Oil Barrels

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is greener than it used to be – it now lends half its annual energy pot to energy efficiency and renewables. But it is still lending to coal projects. This is inconsistent with EU climate policies, and must stop now.

Some leading politicians, such as UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, are arguing that, given the continuing economic crisis, we cannot afford to ‘go green’ at the moment. This is a serious mistake.  Climate change is not only an environmental problem; it is already causing death and want. A recent report on vulnerability to the effects of climate change found that climate change is already killing nearly 400,000 people annually world-wide each year. And it is already costing the global economy €930 billion each year. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

America’s Failing Drone War in Yemen

January 1st 2013

 The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper

In February, Eric Schmitt wrote in the New York Times about the Obama administration’s emerging Yemen strategy, whereby U.S. and Yemeni intelligence and military officials would “work together to kill or capture about two dozen of al Qaeda’s most dangerous operatives, who are focused on attacking America and its interests.” Like all previous objectives of America’s Long Third War of drone strikes, the scope of intended targets has expanded far beyond those two dozen individuals, who should have been killed at least nine times over by now.  According to the Long Wars Journal database, there have been forty U.S. airstrikes (drone or fixed-wing) in Yemen this year, up from ten in 2011. These have killed 223 people, an estimated 19 percent of them were civilians.

One of the Obama administration’s core principles of its counterterrorism policies is that the use of force should not radicalize populations, or increase recruits for terrorist organizations, in the countries where the United States drops bombs. As the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism, Daniel Benjamin, emphasized in 2010: “We are eager to ensure that whatever policies we pursue do not result in one terrorist being taken off the street while ten more are galvanized to take action.” Read more ..


Islam's War on Christians

Obama Accomodates Evil as Islamists Murder African Christians

January 1st 2013

Nigerians murdered in 2011 Islamist attack
Nigerian victims of 2011 Boko Haram terrorist attack.

We had warned that Boko Haram would continue its tradition of killing Nigerian Christians on Christmas day. Last week marked the third straight year that the terror group has murdered Nigerian Christians in the church on a Christmas day.

But the problem is worse than that. This year alone Boko Haram has killed almost 800 Nigerians, most of whom are Christians. In the last three years, over 3000 have been sent to tragic deaths. Victims also include people from several other countries.

The Nigerian President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan again over the weekend acknowledged his government's inability so far to quell the Boko Haram attacks. According to the Associated Press, Jonathan's remarks offer a glimpse into "the worried leader's mind as his weak government remains unable to stop attacks by the Boko Haram." Read more ..


Education On Edge

Is Federal Student Debt the Sequel to Housing?

January 1st 2013

Graduates

Back in March, we showed that the $1.4 trillion in U.S. direct federal student loans that will be outstanding by 2020 will amount to roughly 7.7% of the country’s gross debt. This is 6.3 percentage points higher than it would have been had the scheme not been nationalized in President Obama’s first term.

The government’s net debt was not directly affected by the move, as the government acquires assets when it issues student loans. The problem is that projected default rates on such loans have been climbing as the volume issued has increased, as shown in the graphic above.

If we apply the projected default rate on loans originated in 2009 to the amount of student loans outstanding in 2012, we find that defaults on federal student loans currently outstanding are likely to cost taxpayers almost $80 billion. And the cost is projected to increase rapidly over the next decade as default rates continue to rise and the amount of student debt the federal government owns soars. Read more ..


Islam's War on Christianity

The Carnage of Christians in 'Schedule 2' Countries

December 31st 2012

Coptic Girl

Author Lela Gilbert, a Christian who lived for years in Israel, spoke for many of Israel's supporters when she said she finds the international community's attacks on the Jewish State "puzzling, especially when atrocities are taking place every day in Syria" and elsewhere in the Middle East. In an interview in The Daily Caller, Gilbert doesn't discount anti-Semitism, but thinks some of it is also ideological. "Israel is categorized as a pariah state, a 'colonial' outpost in a post-colonial world, or an infidel trespasser in pan-Islamic utopia."

Or, perhaps, Israel is simply a "schedule one" country. In 1982, The Guardian (U.K.) ran an odd -- and currently timely -- short piece called "Carnage in Schedule Two," an adjunct to a story on Hafez Assad's massacre of Syrians in the Muslim Brotherhood stronghold of Hama. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

A Paradox of U.S. Middle East Policy: The Friend Who Acts like an Enemy is an Enemy

December 31st 2012

The expression, “With friends like you who needs enemies?” is an apt summary of a major problem for U.S. foreign policy during Obama’s second term.

Here’s the issue: a number of supposed allies of the United States don’t act as friends. In fact, they are major headaches, often subverting U.S. goals and interests. But to avoid conflict and, for Obama, to look successful to the domestic audience, Washington pretends that everything is fine.

Consider, for example, Pakistan. The United States has given billions of dollars to that country in exchange for supposedly helping keeping the lid on Afghanistan—and especially to ensure the Taliban does not return to power—and to fight terrorism, especially al-Qaida.

In reality, Pakistan supports the Taliban, wages a terrorist war on India, and hasn’t been all that helpful in fighting al-Qaida. It would be interesting to see the U.S. intelligence document evaluating how high up in Pakistan’s government was their knowledge that Usama bin Ladin was “hiding out” a few blocks from a Pakistani military complex. The fact that Pakistan threw into prison a local doctor whose work helped find bin Ladin indicates which side that regime is on.

Moreover, Pakistan’s regime is ferociously oppressing the Christian minority, becoming more Islamist, and giving women the usual treatment existing in such societies. Obama claims to be protecting women and religious minorities yet lifts not a finger in Pakistan. And rather than be a force against terrorism, the Pakistani government has been sponsoring a terrorist war against India. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

We Need Balance in Defense Cuts

December 31st 2012

Osprey

As the president and Speaker Boehner seek agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff, avoiding damaging across-the-board slashes in funding for defense is vital. The administration has already reduced defense expenditures by $500 billion over the next decade, cuts balanced in their application. The sequester would require additional and unbalanced cuts of an equal size. Even if applied selectively, that would severely damage national security.

In practical political terms, some budget reductions beyond those already adopted are certain. However, they must be applied in ways that pose the least risk to national security. We need to shrink force structure carefully, reduce or delay procurement of some weapons systems, streamline management and cut personnel costs. For example, we can reduce U.S. military forces in Europe. Their purpose is principally to reassure our NATO allies, especially those near Russia. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Who were the Remarkable Women of 2012?

December 30th 2012

Malala Yousafzai

Among the many compelling stories of 2012 have been those of remarkable women fighting for rights and opportunities—for themselves, their communities, and their countries. In this post I highlight several such women and their courageous struggles.

1. Malala Yousafzai and Sakena Yacoobi

Malala Yousafzai is the 15-year-old Pakistani student who inspired headlines around the world when she survived a Taliban assassination attempt in October. The reason for the attack? Malala’s advocacy of girls’ education. Now recovering from her injuries in the United Kingdom, Malala has become an international figure. Time made her runner-up for its Person of the Year. As the magazine wrote, the Taliban “wanted to silence her. Instead, they amplified her voice.” The question is how she will wield her formidable power in the future—in particular, whether she will try to return to Pakistan or exercise influence from abroad. Although the government recently launched a “Malala Fund for Girls” in conjunction with the UN, the fatwa against her announced last month by Pakistani extremists shows the danger she continues to face. She and her family will need to weigh carefully how they can stay safe while still making a difference for girls and women in Pakistan and around the world. Read more ..


Kosovo on Edge

"Privatizing" Kosovo--The Madeleine Albright Way

December 29th 2012

Kosovo

Properties were being offered for sale as if they were the holdings of politicians, rather than the resources of all Kosovo residents. The "Self Determination" representatives argued that Kosovo's leaders aim to drive down the value of state assets so that they may be expropriated and sold: "Privatization is the name behind which these officials hide."

The Balkan states of Albania and Kosovo are, without doubt, the most pro-American Muslim-majority countries in the world.

According to a new census including religious affiliation – the first since 1930 – Albania now counts 57% of its total population of 2.8 million as Muslim, down from 70% eighty-two years ago. Its Catholic population has remained stable at 10%, and Albanian citizens identifying themselves as Orthodox Christians have fallen from 20% in 1930 to about 7%. Although Kosovo does not tally figures for religious communities, the Muslim share of the population is thought to be larger, at around 80%. Both republics are secular.

Americans are beloved in Albania thanks to a significant history of Albanian immigration and success in America, and early contributions by Albanians in the U.S. to the national movement for freedom from the Ottoman Empire. At the end of November, the Albanian government of Prime Minister Sali Berisha was prepared to vote with the U.S. against a Palestinian observer seat in the United Nations, and, following unsuccessful pressure to vote "yes," from the Turkish Islamist prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Albania became the sole Muslim-majority UN member to abstain on the Palestinian issue. Read more ..


The Darkest Edge

Comprehensive Approach To End Gun Violence

December 29th 2012

Sandy Hook Shooting

Reacting to the shooting last week in Newtown, Conn., some Americans are calling for more gun control, including a ban on assault weapons.

However, before jumping to a solution, we should first define the problem. Just one week removed from the Sandy Hook attacks, the public still lacks a full understanding of the facts and an appreciation of the motivation that drove a 20-year-old to kill. The reasons for mass shootings are complex, and, most experts agree, cannot be addressed solely through gun control. The circumstances and motivation behind these types of killings require an examination of our mental-health regulations and practice, internal security at schools and the influence on young teens of violence in movies and videos, to name just a few of the contributing factors most often cited.

Many of my former colleagues in law enforcement have long supported further regulation of assault weapons. As attorney general, I worried over my agents confronting criminal organizations armed with such powerful weapons. I also worried over the safety of my younger brother, who served on the police force in Houston for over 20 years. Like millions of Americans, I own firearms. I have a right to protect and to provide for my family.  Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage

How to Use American Influence

December 28th 2012

Cairo embassy protest Sep 2012

Colonial powers – France, Britain, Belgium and Russia, in particular – believed there was no substitute for their own armies and officials to ensure that their colonies stayed in line. Instead of colonial occupation forces, the U.S. takes its money, arms, training and agenda abroad. It is a specifically American conceit that people in other countries and other societies want our social and governmental blueprint as well as our money, medicine and weapons.

As the Syrian civil war expands, a U.N. Commission of Inquiry finally determined that "The conflict has been overtly sectarian... government forces and its militias, dominated by Alawites, have been attacking Sunnis -- who are "broadly (but not uniformly)" backing the armed groups opposing President Bashar al-Assad's government. And anti-government armed groups have been targeting Alawites."

 

This is not news. It has, however, prompted another spasm of the belief that U.S. support for this side or that, this person or that, could have or would have produced in Syria a secular, moderate and tolerant revolution, led by those who would be America's friends. Read more ..


The Media on Edge

American Journalists Decry Israel’s Ability to Defend Itself as Blocking Peace

December 27th 2012

Iron Dome

I hate to spend time discussing U.S. media coverage of Israel. It should be clear by now that it is not very good, balanced, accurate, or fair. Yet there are examples which are irresistible to discuss because they are so revealing of the political as well as media assumptions made about Israel that so mislead the Western publics and policymakers.

The Washington Post has a major article explaining that while, on one hand, the Iron Dome missile defense is a good thing because it blocks missiles that would otherwise kill and injure Israelis as well as cause damage it is also a bad thing. Tom Friedman made similar claims. Why?

“For a nation that longs for normalcy and acceptance, one question being debated here is whether Iron Dome will motivate Israel’s leaders to pursue peace with the Palestinians and the wider Arab world or insulate them from having to do so.”

Read more ..

Israel on Edge

Hamas is Rising in Unseen Ways

December 27th 2012

Hamas and flags

A recent Arab World Research and Development poll has revealed that 88% of Palestinians favor armed resistance against Israel over negotiations as the path to independence. In May 2011, 59% of West Bank residents supported an immediate return to negotiations with Israel. This new poll has that number down to 43%.

These results, have generated much media buzz. First, because the numbers are worrisome and second because Prime Minister Netanyahu had convinced most citizens that relations with our West Bank neighbors were, if not peachy, at least stable.

Netanyahu has labored diligently to calm us. It’s what incumbents do when their re-election matters more than anything else, even the truth. And as anyone who is even slightly acquainted with our Prime Minister knows, nothing is a higher priority for him that retaining power. Read more ..


America on Edge

The Coming Age of Austerity

December 26th 2012

Click to select Image

The double-whammy of recession and sovereign debt crisis has made Austerity the buzz-word of politics in European Union nations in recent years. Now the A-word has become increasingly a part of political rhetoric in the US. In a recent book, journalist Thomas Byrne Edsall argues that America has already entered a new age of austerity that will remake its politics in the second decade of the twenty-first century. In his view the intensified polarization of Democrats and Republicans constitutes the first shots in a struggle over diminished national resources. Gone for good, he argues, are the days when the two parties could engage in a tacit compromise to fund their respective social-program expansion and low-tax agendas from the proceeds of economic growth.

In the United Kingdom, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition Government preaches the virtues of austerity as the castor-oil cure for the Blair-Brown Labour Governments’ sin of living off public credit in the early years of this century. It promised to get the nation back onto the track of economic growth by putting the public finances right and eliminating the deficit in a single five-year Parliament (by 2015). But austerity has mainly worked in Britain to increase inequality, enhance social instability, and retard economic growth.

A weak recovery led to new recession in 2012 and another weak recovery threatens a triple-dip recession in 2013. Read more ..


Europe on Edge

Europe Faces a Difficult 2013

December 26th 2012

Euro Symbol

Hope springs eternal about Europe's ability to finally resolve its sovereign debt crisis. For despite a double dip economic recession and despite the clearest of signs of austerity fatigue, the markets appear to be buying European policymakers' reassurances that the worst of the crisis is now behind us. The markets do so seeming to have forgotten previous hollow European policymaker reassurances since the start of the crisis in early 2010. They also do so in seeming disregard of the underlying economic and political forces now at play in Europe. Those forces offer little hope that the European periphery will soon extricate itself from its seeming downward economic and political spiral, which could make 2013 yet another challenging year for the Euro.

Read more ..

Inside Washington

Farewell to Secretary Clinton — Public Servant and Friend

December 25th 2012

Hillary Clinton

The fact that she may be the most popular secretary of State in U.S. history is no surprise. All the qualities that made her so successful are familiar to those of us who have known her for a long time: always working hard, sensitive to others, smart, sees the big picture, great people skills. 

Memories ...

September 1969. I first met Hillary Rodham when I was a third-year student at Yale Law School, registering for classes, and she was behind me in line. I recognized her, since I had recently seen her photo in a national magazine story about her valedictorian speech at Wellesley College about the legacy of the 1960s. Within five minutes she had asked me where the nearest legal clinic for the poor was in New Haven. Five minutes later I had made up my mind. One day she would be the first female president of the United States, or at the least a United States senator. Almost everyone who knew her back then had the same first reaction. 

Fast-forward to October 1997: My mom, frail from growing indications of heart failure, visited me at the White House so I could introduce her to her hero, Hillary. I had her repeat after me as we walked to the residence: “Hello, Mrs. Clinton; nice to meet you, Mrs. Clinton; goodbye, Mrs. Clinton” — nothing more. When the first lady walked into the room wearing a bright yellow pantsuit, she said, “Hello, Mrs. Clinton.” But then she said, “Didn’t you wear that suit on Larry King’s show last week?” I gasped. Mom put her hand over her mouth and looked at me, anxiously, knowing she had gone off-script. Read more ..


Mali on Edge

Mali: Military Force Is Not the Solution

December 24th 2012

Mali Millitary

Yesterday, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the deployment of an African-led military force to rebuild Mali’s military and support the recovery of northern Mali, currently controlled by terrorist and extremist entities.

Permitting the use of force against Mali’s occupiers will result in an unnecessary delay in the restoration of government. The United States should be cautious regarding its commitment to any military operation and withhold contributions to the mission before the reinstitution of civilian government is guaranteed.

Descent into Chaos

Last March, former Malian President Amadou Toumani Touré was overthrown in a military coup by a led by a junior army officer, Captain Amadou Sango. In the preceding months, Mali’s army had suffered significant losses at the hands of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), a separatist group based in the northern part of the country that benefited from fighters and weapons returning from the fallen Muammar Qadhafi regime in Libya. Frustration with the lack of support from Bamako was a key motivation behind the coup. Read more ..


The Gulf on Edge

Between Nuclear Iran and the Arab Street: The GCC Summit in Bahrain

December 24th 2012

Saudi princes

On December 24, leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council meet in Manama for their annual summit. The political turmoil sweeping the Middle East has yet to claim a casualty among the Gulf monarchies and hereditary sheikhdoms, but the GCC leaders are clearly apprehensive of the future. Bahrain is wracked by Sunni-Shiite tensions that also affect the nearby oil-rich Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. Kuwait's recent elections were boycotted by voters angry at changes made by the ruling family. And Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman have all acted swiftly to counter online criticism of their political systems.

Established in 1981, the GCC was originally conceived as way for conservative Arab Gulf states to avoid involvement in the Iran-Iraq War, which had begun the previous year and went on until 1988. Iran remains a major concern, and while Shiite-led Iraq is no longer the regional bully it was in the Saddam era, GCC leaders distrust its closeness to Tehran. Even so, despite the summit's likely conversational focus on Iran and differences with the Obama administration over the need for domestic reform, the final communique may well give greater prominence to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, for which there is probably greater consensus among the attendees. Read more ..


Broken Government

Keeping Stock in GM is in Best Interest of Federal Government

December 24th 2012

General Motors Corporation grille

Most journalists, federal officials, and General Motors (GM) executives are celebrating the U.S. Treasury's recent announcement that the federal government is beginning to sell its share in the bailed-out auto giant. They claim that the government's sell-off is good for GM and for the government, and it is the "American" thing to do. But the success of both the GM bailout and the history of private/public partnerships in early American history suggest that they are wrong on all three counts. The Treasury should hold onto GM stock as long as it can.

The federal bailout of GM occurred in spring 2009. What was then the world's largest auto company had been hemorrhaging money for years, losing an astonishing $69.6 billion in 2007-2008. By early 2009, the company faced bankruptcy, with no private investors willing or able to pour money into it. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

Hagel – a Litmus Test of Obama’s Attitude to Israel

December 23rd 2012

Chuck Hagel
Chuck Hagel

The possible nomination of former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense will represent a litmus test as to whether President Obama is poised to resume his anti-Israeli campaign, despite supporting Israel during Operation Pillar of Defense and only last week employing a US veto in favor of Israel at the UN.

One should not underestimate the significance of appointing a man like Hagel to such a key post. He represents one of the most hostile antagonists of Israel in the mainstream political arena. Some of his views have even been compared to the extremist policies promoted by Pat Buchanan, the former Republican radical isolationist.

For example, Hagel has questioned the patriotism of the American Jewish community – accusing them of displaying dual loyalties – proclaiming that “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people” and that “I am a United States Senator not an Israeli Senator”. Read more ..


Mali on Edge

Racism Obstructs Extremism in Mali

December 23rd 2012

In Nigeria, it is often said that the Arab racism inoculates the Sahel against al-Qaeda. Now, there is a credible report of black African defections from al-Qaeda linked groups in northern Mali. Hicham Bilal, who claims to have been the only black battalion leader within the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), defected in November and returned to his native Niger. In a press interview he accused jihadist groups in Mali of racism. The leadership is “white,” while blacks are “cannon fodder,” he said. He also complained that MUJAO included drug traffickers. MUJAO controls the city of Gao. According to another journalist, race may also play a role in Ansar Dine-controlled Timbuktu. Its leadership is “white,” from Algeria and Mauritania.

Racial tensions within the northern Malian radical jihadist groups could become a source of weakness, perhaps providing diplomatic opportunities once there is a credible government in Bamako. If, however, the UN Security Council votes on December 20, 2012, to approve the deployment of a force in northern Mali put together by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the jihadist groups may pull together. The UN Security Council resolution, sponsored by France, is widely supported in West Africa, and the New York Times expects the vote in favor to be unanimous. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Converging Toward Hamas

December 23rd 2012

Hamas Terrorist with Rocket

There are many points of disagreement between Fatah and Hamas; so many that they fought an ugly civil war in 2007, leaving Hamas in control of Gaza and Fatah in control of the West Bank. It is a mistake, however, to conclude from their often violent enmity, that Fatah, the so-called "moderate" faction, is or can be a partner to Israel in "peacemaking" or in finding the "two state solution" so beloved of Western politicians.

It is also a mistake for the U.S. and the West to push Israel toward concessions to Mahmoud Abbas in the hope of strengthening Fatah against Hamas.

The enemy of my enemy is not my friend. It is entirely possible for two parties to hate each other, but to agree they hate you more. And so it is in this case. Hamas and Fatah are not opposite ends of some mythical Palestinian political spectrum – they are merely different approaches to the same end. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Is Twitter Above the Law?

December 22nd 2012

Russian computer user

Social media have revolutionized communications by empowering millions of citizens to leap over traditional barriers and enter the public policy debate. But even in the brave new world of social media, there are still limits to who gets to speak and what they get to say. Some of these limits are a matter of basic morality. And some are a matter of federal law.

Unfortunately, Twitter is brazenly disregarding these limits.

Twitter must certainly recognize that not everyone is entitled to the privilege of a Twitter account. If a Mexican drug cartel used the site to brag about its latest mass beheadings, I suspect that Twitter would shut them down. And if a pedophile took to Twitter to describe his latest conquests, I’d pray that Twitter would stop him cold. Read more ..


The War on Israel

Google Images Faked To Incriminate Israel in World Public Opinion

December 21st 2012

Mickey Doll Hamas

To some, this story may seem to be getting old. Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense, its action to defend its citizens from the rockets being fired by Hamas in Gaza, concluded over one month ago; the public and media is already onto new topics of the day.  Facts and fictions of that period are no longer being discussed, as Israeli citizens have elections to focus on, media has housing being built in Judea and Samaria to write about and Americans are focused on the unspeakable crime committed in Connecticut or the coming Christmas and New Year’s holidays.  To say the least, a story about how Hamas uses very creative marketing techniques and manufactured public relations effects to skew opinions in favor of their efforts may seem out of place.

I would argue that it is actually a good time to talk about it. Israel’s public relations and crisis communications efforts often kick into gear haphazardly when a crisis hits.  Calls to action, emails and lobbying all become immediately actionable in an almost tumultuous way.  The axiom, “out of sight is out of mind” holds true, and once we are beyond one issue, it becomes difficult to look back – especially at the hard parts of life. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Welcome to Obama’s Parallel Universe

December 21st 2012

Kickin back in the Situation room

Now that he has been safely re-elected, Barack Obama’s personal foreign and defense views no longer pose any risk to him in domestic political terms. Unfortunately, however, the international risks caused by his radical ideology, naivety and simple ineptness, added to the damage already done in the first term, are increasingly apparent. The Obama Administration’s failures to date cover the full spectrum of national security affairs. At the strategic level, there is utter incoherence in dealing long term with powers like Russia and China, or the swirling morass of conflicts in the Middle East. In the immediate future, the Iranian and North Korean nuclear and ballistic-missile programs are speeding ahead as regional and global threats, without even effective tactical opposition by the United States and its allies. Read more ..


Arab Winter of Rage

Why Islamists Always Win in Their Own Societies

December 20th 2012

Morsi

I must quote extensively from a MEMRI analysis of the Egyptian referendum on the new constitution because it shows so vividly how politics work in the Arabic-speaking world today, especially when voting is involved.

First, the analysis presents the pro-constitution camp that is the Islamists. They coordinate their efforts and launched:

“A massive joint campaign aimed at persuading the public to endorse the constitution. This campaign includes holding conferences and symposia across Egypt; training thousands of Muslim Brotherhood activists to promote the constitution, some of whom are even going door to door, according to reports; and also recruiting mosque preachers and satellite channels in the efforts to persuade the public. Especially prominent in this campaign are the attempts to appeal to the average citizen and to impress upon him the economic and social advantages of supporting the constitution.” Read more ..


Energy Policy

Cap-and-Trade means Higher Prices for Cars and Fewer Choices for Buyers

December 20th 2012

new cars close up

New fuel-efficiency standards issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency will increase the average cost of a new car by $3,000 by 2025. Furthermore, consumers are unlikely to realize the projected fuel savings used to justify these standards, and the new standards will further constrain consumer choice. The market is better able to meet the needs of American consumers—including fuel efficiency—than the paternalistic government in Washington, which already uses the tax code and other government subsidies to pick winners and losers in the auto marketplace, distorting it to the detriment of consumers and the economy.

Just in time for automotive year-end sales drives, the Obama Administration recently finalized new fuel-efficiency rules for cars and light trucks for model years 2017–2025 that require a near doubling of the current standards. Combined with the more stringent rules for 2011–2016, the new standards will increase the average cost of a new car by $3,000 by 2025 by the government’s own account. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Hagel a Very Bad Choice--Obama Can do Better

December 20th 2012

Chuck Hagel

Even during difficult economic times, most Americans still want our nation to maintain a credible national defense, support the welfare of its troops, and assume a leadership role for America in an increasingly chaotic world including by continuing close cooperation with democratic allies. That is why the President's choice of a new Secretary of Defense is crucial to our nation during trying times. Unfortunately, the widely-rumored frontrunner for this position, former Senator Chuck Hagel, falls short on all three counts.

In his public statements, Hagel, a decorated war veteran with two Purple Hearts from service in Vietnam, has made it clear that "the Pentagon needs to be pared down," including our already diminished nuclear arsenal, and that America should lead not only from behind, but far behind. Current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has declared the severe defense cuts that Congress mandated to take effect January 1 under the sequestration process, "would have a devastating effect not only on our national defense but I think on the rest of the country. It's totally unacceptable, and frankly our political leaders cannot allow it to happen." In a September 2011 interview with the Financial Times, Hagel proclaimed, "The Defense Department, I think in many ways, has been bloated ... so I think the Pentagon needs to be pared down." Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

So How Does it End for Assad?

December 19th 2012

Assad

How will the end come for Assad's crippled regime?

Like Shakespeare's Richard II, Bashar al-Assad is a doomed monarch. The failure of his polices and the failures of his men have set the regime on an accelerating path to destruction.

There is no question that the regime has fought back hard against the powerful revolutionary currents it evoked. But its choice of violence from virtually day one of the rebellion set it on a course that would ultimately produce its destruction. A peaceful or negotiated solution was neither sought nor desired by the regime. Assad and his cohorts bet that the security structures his father created and he nurtured could crush the opposition. These structures proved inadequate for the task.

Read more ..

Obama and Israel

Obama's Nomination of anti-Israel Hagel is a Shocker

December 18th 2012

Chuck Hagel

Credible and widespread reports that former Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) is likely to be nominated by President Barak Obama for Secretary of Defense has rightly shocked Israel’s supporters and those who want to prevent Iran obtaining a nuclear weapons capacity. Little wonder: Hagel has accrued a record on Capitol Hill as an apologist for Iran and anti-Israel terrorist groups and for relentless hostility to Israel. In October 2000, when Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority (PA) launched a terror war against Israel after rejecting without counter-offer a plan for Palestinian statehood accepted by Israel, Hagel was one of only four senators who refused to sign a Senate letter in support of Israel. In July 2001, Hagel was in a minority of only two senators to vote against extending the original Iran-Libya sanctions bill, designed to deny both regimes revenues that would assist their weapons of mass destruction programs. In November 2001, Hagel was one of only 11 senators who refused to sign a letter urging President George W. Bush not to meet with Yasser Arafat until his forces ended terrorist violence against Israel. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

Israel at Peace

December 18th 2012

Those concerned with the security and welfare of the Jewish state keep asking questions like "Is Israel Doomed?" and Will Israel Survive? (also in French, Israël peut-il survivre?). One even titled a book The Late Great State of Israel. This gloom results from the unique barrage of threats facing the Jewish state. These include weapons of mass destruction, conventional armies, and terrorism; economic boycott, demographic challenge, and political delegitimization. No country at present – and perhaps in all history – faces such an array of dangers, from mass violence (Iranian nuclear bombs) to intellectual sabotage (professors of English).

As an aside, threatening the very existence of a country is a distinctive feature of modern Middle East politics rarely found elsewhere in the world: other examples include Kuwait (which actually disappeared into the Iraqi maw for half a year in 1990-91), Bahrain (under intermittent threat from Iranian imperialists), Jordan (seen as an illegitimate British imperial creation), Lebanon (eyed covetously by Syrians), and Cyprus (invaded by Turkish forces in 1974 and newly under threat again). Read more ..


The Second Revolution in Egypt

Egypt Democratically Adopts an Anti-Western Dictatorship in its Constitution Referendum

December 18th 2012

Egyptian hijabi

 The victory in the referendum on the Constitution is the fourth straight Muslim Brotherhood success—including the overthrow of President Husni Mubarak’s regime with army assistance, the parliamentary election and the presidential election--in the process of taking over Egypt for the long-term and fundamentally transforming it into a radical Islamist state. This last one should be sufficient to go all the way.

 This event is also producing a new stage of Western rationalizations that whitewash the Muslim Brotherhood and rationalize support for Islamists being in power.

It isn’t that the constitution, as many Salafists would have liked, explicitly mandates a revolutionary Sharia state. Rather, the constitution sets up a framework that will allow the Brotherhood to do so. Between the president and the constitution, the Brotherhood will now march through every institution and remake it. Judges will be appointed; school curricula rewritten; army generals appointed; and so on. As the Brotherhood shows patience in carrying out this process of gaining total, permanent control, many in the West will interpret that as moderation. Read more ..


Broken Healthcare

Don't Raise Medicare Eligibility Age

December 18th 2012

File folders

Over the past couple of years I’ve met many people who, as my mother would suggest, were wishing their life away. But I quickly understood why.

These were folks in their early 60s—and even some in their 50s—who couldn’t wait until they turned 65. They were literally counting the days until they could enroll in Medicare.

Many of these folks had been uninsured for years because of pre-existing conditions.  They’d been blackballed by insurance companies andcouldn’t buy a policy at any price because they’d been sick in the past. Others were underinsured because they simply couldn’t afford decent coverage. Policies that would better meet their needs were being sold to younger people for $300 a month or less. But for them: at least $1,500. And even the people with coverage were sick and tired of fighting to get medical bills paid and doctor-ordered treatments approved.

Read more ..

Israel and Palestine

Collaborators Blaming Israel: Then and Now

December 17th 2012

Mahmoud Abbas and Yassir Arafat
Palestinian Premier Mahmoud Abbas

The war against the Jews – and against the State of Israel – continues unabated.

For the past year, Israel has been subjected to rocket bombardments directed at its cities including Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv. A million Israeli civilians in Southern Israel had their lives disrupted as 8,000 rockets rained down on them since 2005. The Israeli government decided to respond militarily against Hamas which governs Gaza and has its own prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh.

The Israeli army, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), is made up of reserves that can be called up within 48 hours. Approximately 75,000 Israeli soldiers were sent to the Israeli frontier with Gaza. They didn’t cross the border, relying instead on the Israeli Air Force to wreak havoc. The IDF was successful in killing a significant number of Hamas terrorists including its major battle commander, Ahmed Jabari, responsible for the rocketing barrages, as well as numerous other acts of terrorism. Read more ..


Japan on Edge

Never Normal Nippon: Japan Faces Elections and Possible Decline

December 17th 2012

sunset in japan

For some reason we scholars, policy analysts, and journalists seem unable to see Japan as normal. No matter what Japan does, people view it through the lens of extremes. In the 1970s and ‘80s, when Japan’s economy grew rapidly, we concluded that Japan had created a miraculous strain of capitalism that would propel it to overtake the United States and achieve global supremacy. Then Japan’s bubble burst, and the slide began. Analysts now suggest that Japan is in terminal decline. Reading the news, one might conclude that in 100 years, there will only be eleven Japanese people left, all octogenarians.

Japan’s foreign policy is also cast in extremes. After World War II, the country pursued a restrained national security policy nested within an alliance with the United States; it built an impressive military with which to assist in Soviet containment. Many analysts and international relations scholars observed Tokyo’s restraint, disregarded the impressive military, and declared Japan to be a disarmed pacifist nation whose postwar norms and institutions had led it to eschew military statecraft. Read more ..


The Darkest Edge

The Metaphysics and Evil of the Newtown Massacre

December 16th 2012

Sandy Hook Shooting

The recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut initiated a predictable array of “solutions” in the public square. Advocates claim that gun laws need to be stricter, that the government needs to put more funding into mental health, that teachers should be armed. Many people, certainly, turned to prayer and looked for solace in community vigils and remembrances. But most looked toward pragmatic or political solutions to what is essentially a metaphysical problem, the problem of evil.

Thinkers of the twentieth century, however, generally concluded that “metaphysics is dead.” And along with metaphysics, they also declared God to be absent, weak: dead enough, if not completely dead. As a result, we, as a culture, have looked to psychotropic drugs, policy, and, above all, politics as ways to address the problem of evil. I don’t think it’s working. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Exclusion of Colombian Women from Peace Process

December 16th 2012

FARC

Earlier this year, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-FARC) expressed its willingness to negotiate a peace treaty with the government of President Juan Manuel Santos. Santos, an ardent supporter of peace in Colombia, has defended this decision to pursue peace negotiations with the militant group, fending off opposition from detractors such as his alienated predecessor, Alvaro Uribe. At the same time, Santos has reminded his fellow Colombians that the original goal of the revolutionary forces, including those that have already rejoined civic life, was to achieve social parity through a selective and democratic process. This important goal cannot be accomplished without the participation and impact of women on peace negotiations and the development of social and economic reforms.

Both parties have pursued the negotiations with enthusiasm and optimism. Norway and Cuba have offered themselves as facilitators, while Chile and Venezuela are participating as witnesses. The original official agenda consisted of land reform, political participation, drug trafficking, recognition of victims, and ultimately a solution to one of the most bitter and prolonged armed conflicts in the Western Hemisphere. Read more ..



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