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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.”


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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


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 ..

Kuwait on Edge

Echoes of the "Kuwait 17" Still Vibrant 29 Years Later

December 15th 2012

Kuwaiti Smokes

Twenty-nine years ago yesterday, December 12, 1983, Hezbollah and operatives of the Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite group Da'wa carried out a series of seven coordinated bombings in Kuwait, killing six people and wounding nearly ninety more. The targets included the American and French embassies, the Kuwait airport, the grounds of the Raytheon Corporation, a Kuwait National Petroleum Company oil rig, and a government-owned power station. An attack outside a post office was thwarted.

The bombings shocked Kuwaiti officials, but the damage could have been much worse had the bombs been properly wired. As it happened, faulty engineering prevented three quarters of the explosives planted at the American embassy compound from detonating, saving many lives. Shoddy planning also reduced the destructiveness of the attacks: a truck carrying two hundred gas cylinders primed to explode at the National Petroleum Company site went off 150 yards from a refinery and just a few yards shy of a pile of flammable chemicals. More adept operational planning might also have resulted in the destruction of Kuwait's primary water-desalination plant, located within the premises, leaving the desert nation nearly devoid of fresh water. Read more ..

Palestine on Edge

Radical and Moderate Palestinians

December 14th 2012

Hamas Kid

When Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas returned from New York to Ramallah and told the Palestinians that he obtained UN recognition of a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 lines -- namely, the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem -- fewer than 5,000 Palestinians, many of them civil servants who receive their salaries from the Palestinian Authority government, turned out to greet him in Ramallah.

When Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal came last week to the Gaza Strip and told Palestinians that armed struggle and jihad were the only way to liberate all Palestine, "from the river to the sea," and that there was no room for the Zionists in Palestine because the country belonged only to Muslim and Arabs, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians showed up to welcome Mashaal and voice support for his plan to eliminate Israel and replace it with an Islamic state.

Even many Palestinians in the West Bank expressed support for Mashaal, especially when he said that the Palestinians would never "give up one inch of Palestine." The Palestinian Authority's official TV station in the West Bank broadcast Mashaal's speech live, as well as Hamas celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Islamist movement. If anything, the widespread support for Hamas's position is a sign of how much the Palestinians have been radicalized over the past few decades. Read more ..

America on Edge

The Decline of Black America

December 14th 2012


The economic progress of black America has stalled or declined in the past twenty years. Blacks have failed to narrow the wage and employment gap during this period, even controlling for educational attainment. More critically, the wealth gap between blacks and whites is now wider than ever—by some estimates, the average white American has over twenty times the wealth of the average black American. Furthermore, Blacks constitute about twelve percent of the U.S. population, yet account for less than 1 percent of GDP—and declining.

This is a surprising state of affairs given the progress blacks have made in other aspects of American life: blacks have made many valuable contributions in politics, art, religion and entertainment. For the most part, they can vote freely and are no longer subjected to de jure discrimination. What then accounts for their stalled economic progress?

To address the first question, it might perhaps be useful to triangulate a bit. When adrift upon a sea of uncertainty, it’s often useful to pick two points on land and point your ship between them. For sake of argument, let’s pick as our two points of reference the age-old debate as to whether black American culture is essentially a surviving African culture or a wholly separate culture born of their experience in this country.

On one point, anthropologists such as the liberal Melville Herskovits and the structural-functional school studied African culture, came to believe that black Americans are essentially Africans. People in the Herskovits school point to surviving traits in African language patterns, religion and music as evidence of a “cultural focus” that is strong in some areas. On the surface, this might appear to be true, as music, religion, sports and entertainment are areas in which blacks have most successfully excelled in this country. Business and commerce, Herskovits believed, were not part of that cultural strength Africans brought to America. Read more ..

America on Edge

Happy Chanukah or Happy Holiday? That is the Question

December 13th 2012

Happy Holidays

Something interesting occurred on Monday when a good friend of mine had the fortune of being interviewed on Fox News about his business. When we were younger, Jonathan Greenstein and I tore up the roads of Sullivan County and had a lot of fun, caused some trouble, and served food to the summer vacationers in the hotels and bungalow communities off New York State's Routes 42, 52 and 17.

Some tales are better left to memory; others go down better after a few drinks with good friends, but no matter what happened, I always knew that with Jonathan everything would work out. One thing was sure then and still strikes true today, and from his appearance with Stuart Varney this week, anyone who watched it saw it, too; Jonathan is likely among the most pragmatically poised people I have met, and someone who represents the very best of Jews and Judaism. Read more ..

Broken Healthcare

The Need for Tougher Regulation

December 13th 2012

File folders

I’ve often said that the Affordable Care Act is the end of the beginning of health reform. It addresses many problems associated with health insurance, but more must be done to control costs and access real universal coverage. And flaws in the law need to be fixed.

However, the reform law will end some of the most abusive insurance industry practices, such as blackballing folks with pre-existing conditions and cancelling policyholders’ coverage when they get sick. And health insurance companies now have to spend at least 80 percent of our premiums on actual health care. If they devote more than 20 percent to administrative overhead and profits, they are supposed to send rebate checks to their policyholders. Since that 80/20 rule went into effect last year, consumers have saved almost $1.5 billion, mostly in the form of those rebates, according to a new study by the Commonwealth Fund.

The rule has also resulted in lower premiums for many and elimination of hundreds of millions of dollars in administrative waste. That’s the good news. The no-so-good news is that because the reform law does not give the federal government the authority to regulate rates, many health plans used their administrative savings to boost profits instead of reducing premiums. Read more ..

Africa on Edge

Revitalizing Africa's Rural Future

December 13th 2012

African ancestry

This is a guest post by Owen Cylke. Mr. Cylke is a development professional and a retired senior foreign service officer with USAID.

Dr. Ibrahim Hassane Mayaki, Executive Secretary of New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), this week declared his organization’s intent to “revitalize” development efforts in Africa. Recognizing the successful and well-supported efforts of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), which has been the foundation for development efforts in Africa since its launch in 2003, Dr. Mayaki was careful to describe his intention as a natural next step in the CAADP process.

CAADP itself has all the indicia of success. Following years of neglect, agriculture is once again central to the development agenda in Africa; and this African-led initiative has found affirmation and substantial support from the G8, donor communities, and not-for-profits such as the Gates Foundation. Indeed, Gates’ “End Hunger in Africa” and USAID’s “Feed the Future” programs define the central themes of international engagement in Africa’s development today. Read more ..

Egypt's Second Revolution

The Way Out for Restless Egypt

December 13th 2012

Cairo Violence Dec 2012

Nearly two years after the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, here we are once again with protesters back in the Egyptian streets, facing army tanks and tear gas, and this time with human rights defenders openly expressing concerns about the possibility of civil war.

There’s only one way out of this: Egypt has to build a new political future based on respect for human rights. The proposed constitution falls short of this, and if President Mohamed Morsi wants to back his claim to be president “for all Egyptians,” he must demand accountability for past human rights abuses and add constitutional protections for fundamental freedoms, particularly for women, before the document is submitted to voters for ratification. For the U.S. government, the crisis presents a difficult situation, but officials really have only one choice. They must insist on the primary importance of a constitution that will protect human rights. The U.S. has also had other priorities with regards to Egypt – maintaining stability in the Middle East’s most populous nation, supporting its role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and deterring armed Islamist groups. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

What Does Hamas Want?

December 12th 2012

Hamas Terrorist with Rocket

Frequently I have found that when I mention the odious Hamas “Charter” as the best insight into the group’s current goals, the response is that the Charter is nearly 25 years old and doesn’t mean much nowadays. In that context the words of Hamas’s two top leaders in the past few weeks deserve attention.

On November 26, Mahmoud al-Zahhar (a Hamas co-founder and influential leader) said this: “Anyone who wants to liberate Palestine by complaining [to the International Criminal Court] – I will send him handkerchiefs to wipe his tears. Whoever wants to really liberate Palestine should pick up a gun.”

Khaled Meshal is the top political leader of Hamas, and entered Gaza for the first time this weekend. Here are some of his remarks to a mass rally celebrating Hamas’s 25th anniversary: Palestine, from the river to the sea, from north to south, is our land. Not an inch of it can be conceded. We cannot recognize the legitimacy of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. There is no legitimacy to occupation, and therefore no legitimacy for Israel, no matter how long it will take. Liberating Palestine, all of Palestine, is a duty, a right and a goal….we will liberate [Jerusalem] inch by inch, stone by stone, Islamic and Christian holy places. Israel has no right in Jerusalem…. Read more ..

Broken Banking

Global Shariah Banking to Hit $1.8 Trillion by 2013

December 11th 2012

Dollar to Rial Exchange

Financial instruments -- cash, bearer bonds, etc. -- in line with Islamic law or Shariah are predicted to hit $1.8 trillion (U.S.) globally by 2013, up 38.5 percent year on year, according to American corporate auditors Ernst & Young's World Islamic Banking Competitiveness Report 2013 released Monday. But some wonder if this growth will help radical Islamist groups.

According to the report, the top 20 Islamic banks have registered an annual growth of 16 percent over the last 3 years.

The Saudi Kingdom emerged as the largest market for Islamic assets, with an estimated $207 billion in 2011, was ranked first by the report. Saudi Arabia is followed by Malaysia, with $106 billion that are "Shariah-compliant assets," while the United Arab Emirates ranked third with total assets of $75 billion (U. S.).

The 20 largest Islamic banks hold about 57 percent of the total international Islamic assets and are concentrated in the seven core markets for Islamic banking which include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Malaysia and Turkey, said the Global Islamic Banking Center of Excellence at global consultancy and corporate audit firm Ernst & Young. Read more ..

Broken Government

Jim DeMint Was the Libertarian Hero of the Senate

December 11th 2012

Jim DeMint

For libertarians, Christian conservative pro-lifer Jim DeMint was the best thing to come through the Senate in decades. DeMint, quitting early to run the conservative Heritage Foundation, embodied an underappreciated fact of life in Washington: The politicians who most consistently defend economic liberty are the cultural conservatives.

The National Taxpayers Union gave DeMint a 93 percent rating last year, putting him third out of 100. DeMint scored 100 percent from the Club for Growth, whose sole focus is economic conservatism.

Until last year, DeMint was the only senator with a lifetime 100 percent from the Club for Growth. He still has a perfect record, but now he has company: Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Ron Johnson -- all pro-life conservative freshmen derided as "Jim DeMint disciples" by the likes of lobbyist Trent Lott.

Many libertarians realize that DeMint has been one of their best allies in the U.S. Senate. Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, editors of Reason magazine, are libertarians with social liberal tendencies. When they interviewed him in May, they pointed out how much this Christian social conservative had to offer their ilk.

DeMint's 2012 book, "Now or Never," is a fiscal conservative book from cover to cover. Who wrote the foreword? Rand Paul, probably the most libertarian senator in a generation -- and Paul probably wouldn't be in the Senate if DeMint hadn't backed him in his 2010 primary. And DeMint boosts Rand's father, libertarian hero Ron Paul. Gillespie wrote last week: "DeMint is a social con's social con, but ... amazingly, he praised Rep. Ron Paul's libertarian influence on the GOP base." Read more ..


In Defense of Susan Rice—Again

December 11th 2012

Susan Rice

The accusations against UN ambassador and potential nominee for Secretary of State, Susan Rice, continue. Today they have taken a new turn as an Eritrean-American, Salem Solomon, wrote prominently in the New York Times about Rice’s supposed affections for a new generation of strongmen of Africa.

This article comes at a particularly inopportune time, as Rice is being hammered for all sorts of reasons, many of them specious in my eyes, and this article feels like piling on more than like fair-minded criticism. It is especially unfortunate since emotionalism and partisanship are complicating efforts at fair-minded assessment about whether Rice would be a strong choice as secretary of state.

I have written before about Ambassador Rice, a friend and former colleague. While an admirer of her work, I do not mean to suggest that she would necessarily be a better choice for secretary of state than Senator John Kerry or someone else. But she is a very capable government servant and a serious candidate for the secretary job. And the criticisms of her are often unfair. Today’s column belongs in that category. Read more ..

Edging Toward the Fiscal Cliff

The Fiscal Cliff and the Perils of Grand Budget Deals

December 10th 2012

Cliff Face West Wales

One of the major complications in the current fiscal cliff debate is that both sides are overreaching, trying to tie a near-term resolution to a sweeping deficit reduction plan that would address the longer-term budgetary crisis looming in the years ahead. They see the cliff negotiations as a stage for a “grand bargain” on the budget between the President and Congress.

The tight time frame of the cliff’s approach makes such an aim increasingly impractical. Furthermore, history shows that broad bipartisan compromises between the White House and Congress have typically just yielded higher taxes, while the promised spending restraint (except in national defense) and deficit reduction have failed to materialize. Given the current state of divided government, these risks prevail today. More broadly, they also offer a warning to budget process reformers who seek to institutionalize regular budget negotiations between Capitol Hill and the President. Read more ..

China on Edge

Human Rights Day Arrives in China: The “Shadow of the Future”

December 10th 2012

Chinese soldier at Tienamen Square

December 10 is Human Rights Day, and the International Committee for Liu Xiaobo along with Chinese advocates of human rights have organized a petition of 134 Nobel Prize winners demanding the release of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo. Their letter to Xi Jinping, the new General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, as well as the list of Nobel Prize winners, can be found here. They have also launched a citizens’ petition drive aimed at the Chinese government, and it has gathered 200,000 signatures so far. These drives have a second goal as well: the release from years of house arrest of Liu’s wife Liu Xia. And today we have a remarkable Associated Press (AP) report on Liu Xia, because two AP reporters managed to get to her apartment when the policemen outside her home went off to lunch. An account and a video of the interview can be found at China Digital Times. Here is an excerpt:

Stunned that reporters were able to visit her, Liu Xia trembled uncontrollably and cried as she described how absurd and emotionally draining her confinement under house arrest has been in the two years since her jailed activist husband, Liu Xiaobo, was named a Nobel Peace laureate. Her voice shook and she was breathless from disbelief at receiving unexpected visitors.

Liu said her continuing house arrest has been painfully surreal and in stark….Liu said she has been confined to her duplex apartment in downtown Beijing with no Internet or outside phone line and is only allowed weekly trips to buy groceries and visit her parents. Read more ..

Broken Government

Fiscal Cliff Could Cause Potitical Revolution

December 9th 2012

Fiscal Cliff Meeting

There is no doubt that there will be serious, adverse consequences to ordinary Americans if, on Jan. 1, 2013, the nation goes over the “fiscal cliff” — meaning, on that day, $1.2 trillion in cuts in federal domestic and defense spending over the next eight years will begin, combined with immediate substantial tax increases and less money in paychecks for all taxpayers, especially hurting the middle class, as the Bush tax cuts are rescinded.

Any Democrat who thinks there is a tactical advantage to going over the cliff is probably someone who isn’t about to lose a job or remain out of a job and whose family is suffering.
But just for the sake of it, if this awful thing happens, is there any good that could come out of it? I would say yes — three things, with the first two leading (I hope) to the most positive third result. Read more ..

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