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The 2012 Vote

Unraveling Biden’s Disregard for the Facts in the Libya Debacle

October 13th 2012

Biden Ryan debate

Vice President Biden’s assertions during the debate last night showed either a lack of information or a willful disregard for the facts.

Biden stated in relation to the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi—which killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens—that “We weren’t told they wanted more security. We did not know they wanted more security there.”

Biden’s assertions squarely contradict headline-grabbing testimony given just the day before to Members of Congress. At Wednesday’s hearing of the House Oversight and Government Accountability Committee, Eric Nordstrom, a regional security officer at the U.S.embassy in Tripoli, described his intense frustration at having his requests for more security turned down by State Department officials. In fact, said the exasperated Nordstrom, fighting violent extremists inLibya was nowhere near as tough as fighting bureaucrats inWashington.

Read more ..

Election 2012

Facts in Action: Obama and his Support of Israel

October 12th 2012

Obama Bibi

What can a young boy living in Israel show us about American policy and the support the American president may have for Israel?

In an era when candidates tell audiences of all persuasions what they want to hear in order to steer votes their way, what should an electorate do to discern the truth from hyperbole?

No matter which candidate or party one supports, the messages seem to always change, the promises seem to adjust to the sounds of popular opinion and we are left being bombarded with pundits every day attempting to interpret the newest campaign comments and gaffes into palatable positions.

What was once true to John Adams, still applies today; he said, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Defining Our Own Red Lines on Iran

October 12th 2012

Iran centrifuges

In a column in the October 7 Washington Post, I argued that "red lines" with respect to Iran's nuclear program, far from leading us automatically to war, are designed to facilitate diplomacy and prevent conflict. As Iran makes continued progress toward a nuclear weapons capability -- and according to a new report by the Institute for Science and International Security, it is now as little as 2-4 months away from having sufficient weapons-grade uranium (WGU) for a single bomb -- defining our red lines takes on increasing importance.

For all of its bluster, the Iranian regime has proceeded carefully to reach this point, expanding its nuclear capabilities while avoiding full-blown conflict with the West. The final stage of its nuclear drive will pose a significant challenge to this strategy, however, as any outright lunge for a nuclear weapon is likely to draw a devastating response. Iran could take any of several approaches to this last leg, from throwing caution to the wind and making a mad dash in the open, to proceeding entirely clandestinely. For this reason, we need not just one but several red lines, closing off all routes available to Iran for achieving a nuclear weapons capability. Read more ..


South Africa on Edge

South African Mining Strikes Also About Dignity

October 12th 2012

Upset South African miners

The labor unrest in South Africa’s mining industry is about more than wages. The Bench Marks Foundation, an influential South African non-governmental organization (NGO), issued a statement on October 14, in which John Capel, its executive director said, “Contrary to what is being reported, it is not purely about wages, but about the totality of people’s lives where they definitely do not feel respective and live under conditions that do not give them dignity.” In an October 4, press release, Bench Marks cited the cozy relationship between the mining companies and the government that “…raises questions as to government’s bias toward the mining companies and…why there is no real accountability in this sector.”

The press release notes that the companies court government influence and the politicians are appointed to mining company boards or are shareholders. Bench Marks says, however, it is the government not the mining companies that is ultimately responsible for the appalling living conditions that many miners endure, and that feeds the anger behind the illegal strikes. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama Should Seize upon America's Come-Back Story

October 12th 2012

obama and biden

President Obama should seize the mantle of optimism about America and pull all negative ads for at least four or five days. He should saturate the airwaves with positive ads about the economic progress that has been made during the first term of his presidency, and explain his plans to expand the American economic comeback if voters grant him a second term.

The latest fall in jobless claims this week to a four-year low of 339,000 reinforces the employment gains shown in the last monthly report, in which the jobless rate fell to a multi-year low of 7.8 percent. It is important that the latest decline in the jobless rate occurred at a time when the labor force was increasing, not decreasing, which adds to reasons for optimism.

As America approaches a major election, the state of the nation can be described this way: In economic terms, the times are still hard for many, but the corner has been turned and major economic progress has begun. In political terms the voters are unhappy with the gridlock in Washington and the tone of mutual mudslinging that exists between both parties. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

Should We Trust Obama's Words about Israel?

October 11th 2012

Click to select Image

“Americans who support Israel should take the president at his word,” wrote Haim Saban recently in the New York Times, claiming President Barack Obama is fully committed to the Jewish state.

But is that true? Should we take him at his word?

No, not when Israel confronts the threat of nuclear annihilation by Iran.

Time and again President Obama has signaled a lack of sympathy—or even outright hostility—toward Israel. Not long ago he was caught on an open microphone agreeing with French President Sarkozy’s slurring of the Israeli prime minister. And then there was his public snubbing of the Israeli leader’s request to discuss Iran during a recent U.S. visit, a measure Reuters termed “a highly unusual rebuff to a close ally.” Even more worrying, last month former U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, who attended several of Obama’s meetings with Netanyahu, admitted “there are serious differences between our interests and Israel’s own security interests.” Read more ..


The Edge of Defense

Sequestration Math: When Body Armor Equals Lawn Mowing

October 11th 2012

Allen West #2

Under the current law in the Budget Control Act of 2012, there will be across-the-board cuts, known as a “sequester,” imposed on January 2, 2013, resulting in a $500 billion cut to the defense budget. Intended to force deficit reduction, the imposition of this sequester will instead have devastating effects not only on our national security, but our job recovery as well. The sequester is essentially a blind cut – across the board – to all line items in multiple government agency budgets.  In the Department of Defense (DoD), cuts to fund body armor would be equal to cuts made to military base lawn mowing services. This is clearly terrible policy.

 

What’s more, the impact on employment from cuts in defense spending includes both the loss of jobs at defense contractors due to a decrease in purchases for equipment, supplies and services, as well as the additional job loss at the firms that supply the direct defense contractors. The employment impacts of the cuts in defense spending will be felt in all regions of the country. In 2014, California will experience the largest job losses (148,000), followed by Virginia (115,000), Texas (109,000) and Florida (56,600). Rounding out the top 10 are New York, Maryland, Georgia, Illinois, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

 

Related industries will also be impacted. While the maximum job loss will be one percent or less in these industries, since they tend to be large employers, it will result in large absolute numbers of unemployed. Business services, such as professional and computer programming services, along with transportation services will lose large numbers of jobs through lower defense expenditures. By 2014, the peak year of total job losses, employment will be reduced 0.3 to 0.4 percent in agriculture and mining, and 1.5 in construction employment –already depressed industries that can ill-afford more job losses. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

The Great Debates of 2012

October 11th 2012

Romney

Romney's stated policies in business during the first presidential debate: champion the growth and development for the middle class. Until now, Romney's position was widely perceived as one of the biggest enemies to the middle class.  One of his most powerful moments during the debate was the contrast he illustrated between the president's decision to finance the five big banks, while allowing small banks to fail across America. Some credit should be given to the president, however, for his short-term policies to save the banks, and the wise business decision to make interest from the banks that were save through the bailout.
 
It is clear that Romney's business experience empowered him with practical solutions for the restoration of the US economy. There was a glaring contrast between President Obama and Mitt Romney during the debate. Mitt Romney's philosophy is a better friend to the middle class than Obama's. The American people now must decide whether Obama's experience and philosophy can provide a more sustained exit from our current recession.

Romney's recent statement about the 47% of the population should be filtered through the lens of his business philosophy and business practices. Welfare is not a disgrace, but should be a transition. Business Friendly policies that are transparent and fair are color and gender blind. Read more ..


Islam on Edge

What Is Sufism And Why Does Radical Islam Want to Destroy It?

October 11th 2012

Sufisim destroyed

Remember the bombing of the Buddha statues carved into the cliffs at Bamiyan in north central Afghanistan in 2001? The Taliban destruction of these massive archeological monuments dating back to the 6th century has become emblematic of the cultural and religious intolerance of radical Islam.

What is less well known is that fanatical elements have done equal damage to Islam’s own religious heritage. Not only have Shia and Sunni partisans bombed each other’s mosques in countries like Iraq, Syria and Pakistan, but Sufi places of worship are under attack throughout the Islamic world.

In September, the world was shocked to learn that the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans had been killed in an attack on a U.S. Consulate in Libya. Few heard of the other violent events in that country last month, which included the destruction of Sufi shrines in three Libyan cities. Read more ..


Venezuela on Edge

Unrelenting Chávez Deepens Bolivarian Revolution as Hemisphere Reacts

October 11th 2012

Click to select Image

By now, the cheers from victorious celebrations greeting Hugo Chávez to another term as President of Venezuela have abated. Despite the oft-hysterical predictions of some in the mainstream media, the election was not carried out on a wave of violence, but rather seems to have reaffirmed the integrity of the Venezuelan electoral process. Even opposition candidate Henrique Capriles acknowledged the results. Indeed, Chávez, Capriles, and their respective aide de camps remained remarkably well behaved in the aftermath of the ballot count. By all of the available data, Capriles carried on a respectable fight against Chávez, succeeding in narrowing the Venezuelan leader’s popularity gap to its slimmest divide since the incumbent first took office. This is a notable feat for a historically disorganized and scattered opposition. On the other side, however, Chávez’s supporters now can justify the true grade of his vision with a definitive democratic stamp that marks his newest presidential term.

Under Chávez, Venezuela has seen substantial economic transformation and social improvements for the poor. The household poverty rate in Venezuela has slumped from 49 percent in 1998 to 26.7 percent in 2011, according to a recent report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Moreover, since Chávez was first elected in 1999, Venezuela’s Gini index has decreased from 49.5 to 39 (0 representing perfect income equality and 100 representing perfect inequality). The distribution of state-owned land to the landless, the building of hospitals and medical clinics in the country’s poorest areas, and the development of literacy programs have all combined to bring increased social mobility to many Venezuelans who previously had limited access to such opportunities. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Election and Dodd-Frank

October 10th 2012

Barack and Dodd

With the GDP’s growth rate for the most recent quarter now downgraded to 1.3 percent, it is useful to consider what the financial system and the economy will look like in the future if President Obama is reelected, which would seal the Dodd-Frank Act into place.

First, it is likely that the economy’s growth would remain well below its potential. Before the enactment of Dodd-Frank in the third quarter of 2010, the economy had emerged from recession and was growing at 2.5 percent over the post-recession quarters. Not a burst like the one we saw under Reagan, to be sure, but definitely a recovery. However, after Dodd-Frank was signed into law, the economy’s growth rate slowed; it has averaged less than 2 percent in the seven succeeding quarters. Dodd-Frank is by far the most comprehensive and restrictive financial regulatory legislation since the Depression era; its effect on regulatory costs for financial firms at all levels has been and will continue to be substantial, with severe adverse consequences for credit availability. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Romney’s Espouses Five Principles of Foreign Policy

October 10th 2012

mitt romney

Mitt Romney has delivered his first major foreign policy address since he spoke at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) National Convention on July 24. Although there were few differences from his previous speeches, it is increasingly apparent that there are five core principles that underlie the Romney worldview.

First, the world is a terrifying place. Romney warned on Memorial Day: “I wish I could tell you that the world is a safe place today. It’s not.” He doubled down on the threat-mongering at the VFW by reaffirming, “The world is dangerous, destructive, chaotic.” And during the Obama administration, Romney added, “The threats we face have grown so much worse.” Of course, all metrics suggest that the world is actually safer than at any point in history, and the only plausible threats facing Americans are self-generated.

Second, Romney’s proposed foreign policy is as detailed as a book cover without the table of contents and supporting text. While Romney clearly identifies his world vision, he omits any elements of a strategy that is required to achieve that vision. In lieu of specific policy recommendations, he repeats variations of the words “strength” and “leadership.” His only specific recommendations—such as increasing the U.S. Navy from 285 ships to 350 in 10 years—are stand-alone concepts, since there is no overall strategy that they could flow from. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Romney's Big Bounce--and Ryan's Moment

October 9th 2012

Paul Ryan

Gallup is reporting that Mitt Romney has received a five-point bounce from his trouncing of the President in last week's debate, with the race tied at 47-47. The race is a dead heat, and, just like the MLB playoffs happening in Washington for the first time in decades, every single play now counts. This week, Vice-President Biden will face Congressman Paul Ryan in the Vice Presidential Debate. Conservatives have been licking their lips for this one ever since Ryan was selected by Governor Romney as his running mate back in early August. But don't count Biden out too soon: he has thirty years of experience in the Senate-the most talkative group of people in history-and has run for president a zillion times. His debates with Sarah Palin were a draw, but Biden handily beat Obama and Clinton in the earlier primary debates, back in 2008. He has also another zillion in television appearances and interviews over the past thirty years, and is taking six whole days to prepare to face Ryan.
Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Political Opponents Should Learn to Spell 'R-E-S-P-E-C-T'

October 9th 2012

Romney Obama debate

It's a common refrain during the political season—Republicans and Democrats talk past one another. They claim they live in different universes or come from different species, with little hope for extending empathy across the political aisle. But University of Michigan researcher Yesim Orhun and her colleague Oleg Urminsky of the University of Chicago say that there exists a greater respect for one another's views than is generally assumed.

"Psychologists have claimed that people stop thinking about how they feel when trying to make sense of others' feelings when others are seen as very different," said Orhun, assistant professor of marketing at the U-M Ross School of Business. "Therefore, we would not expect people to rely on what they know about themselves to make sense of voters for the opposing candidate. But they do." Read more ..


Venezuela on Edge

Chavez Wins—So Does the Opposition

October 8th 2012

Hugo Chavez

Had Hugo Chavez won yesterday’s presidential election in Venezuela by a landslide, the opposition would have justifiably accused him of committing massive electoral fraud. Especially over the last two weeks, support for the opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles, swelled to the extent that many local pollsters believed he would pull off a narrow win at the last moment.

Instead Chavez garnered 54 percent of the vote, against 46 percent for Capriles. That margin of victory helps Chavez insofar as it staves off charges of electoral manipulation. At the same time, it confirms that Venezuela is seriously divided, with almost half the country rejecting the ideology of Chavismo pushed by the regime, along with the corruption, incompetence, and contempt for democratic rights inherent to this system of government.

The other half, as the Venezuelan dissident blogger Daniel Duquenal observed this morning, feels empowered by the social envy (el resentimiento social) that Chavez has turned into a revolutionary dogma. Says Duquenal. "[They]…hate people like me. Maybe not to the point of killing me, but to the point of trying to screw me any way they can…Now in Venezuela you will have all the trouble in the world to manage employees…to demand that public servants do the job they are appointed to do. Because if you feel that you have rights, then they will see you as a direct impingement on their comfort." Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Mitt Romney's Tax Proposals: Understanding the Debate

October 8th 2012

Mitt Romney

For months, Mitt Romney had been advocating tax cut proposals that would reduce revenues by about $5 trillion over the next decade, and that were heavily tilted toward the rich. Yet he did not explain how he would pay for these cuts, just that he somehow would.

In a recent paper I wrote with two colleagues, we showed that a revenue-neutral plan that met five specific goals that Governor Romney had put forth (reducing income tax rates by 20 percent, repealing the estate tax, the alternative minimum tax, and capital income taxes for middle class households, and enhancing saving and investment) would cut taxes for households with income above $200,000, and—as a result of revenue-neutrality—would therefore necessarily have to raise taxes on taxpayers below $200,000.

This was true even when we bent over backwards to make the plan as favorable to Romney as possible. We considered an unrealistically progressive way of financing the specified tax reductions. We accounted for revenue feedback coming from potential economic growth estimates as estimated by Romney advisor Greg Mankiw. We even ignored the need to finance about a trillion dollars in Romney's proposed corporate cuts. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Republicans Facing Longer Odds in Bid to Gain Senate Control

October 8th 2012

Juan Williams

As the old Negro League pitcher Satchel Paige once told reporters after his team faded in September and lost the pennant: “The future isn’t what it used to be.” What’s true in baseball is also true in politics.

At the start of this political cycle, basic math favored Republicans claiming the Senate majority in November and joining the Republican House majority to turn all of Capitol Hill into GOP territory. Back then, the math showed 33 seats being contested — with Democrats defending 23 of those seats. Republicans only had to protect 10 incumbents. The odds indicated the GOP was likely to win the four seats they need to become the majority of the Senate. But with a month to go before the election, that math is upside down.

The new math in the Senate indicates that Democrats and Republicans basically have an even shot at winning the majority. The GOP advantage began to disappear when Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) decided there was no place for a centrist in today’s Republican Party. That once-sure Republican seat is now up for grabs, with an Independent, former Gov. Angus King, holding the lead. The new math is also the result of fading GOP prospects in states such as Hawaii. Popular Republican Gov. Linda Lingle has not been able to overcome her state’s deep blue politics in her Senate campaign.

Similarly, centrist former Rep. Heather Wilson (R) has not been able to appeal to Hispanic and independent voters through her Senate campaign in New Mexico. In Missouri, Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has a good chance to win reelection because her Republican opponent is Rep. Todd Akin, now famous for his comment on “legitimate rape.” In Arizona, Dr. Richard Carmona, a doctor and a Democrat, is the surprise leader in the Senate contest ahead of GOP Rep. Jeff Flake. Meanwhile, former Virginia Gov. George Allen (R) has seen his prospects for reclaiming his old Senate seat go from a sure bet to — at best — a toss up. He is running against fellow former Gov. Tim Kaine (D).The new numbers are also informed by problems facing former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson — who is by far the most popular Republican in the state. He was thought to be a shoo-in to take the seat of retiring Sen. Herb Kohl (D), but the polls now show him locked in a dead heat with Democrat Rep. Tammy Baldwin. As the numbers keep changing, political analysts now say it is a toss-up as to which party claims the Senate. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Obama Sends Anti-American, Anti-Israel Islamist To Speak Overseas on Human Rights

October 7th 2012

Barack Obama

It was, unfortunately, no surprise when the Obama Administration selected Salam Al-Marayati to join the U.S. delegation at a human rights conference being held in Warsaw by the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). No surprise, because Marayati, the director of the Islamist Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), had already been dispatched by the Obama Administration in 2010 to speak on human rights on behalf of the U.S. to UNESCO in Paris and at the U.S. mission to the United Nations in Geneva. Yet, the bill of particulars against Marayati’s appointment to the delegation is large and, indeed, had resulted in 1999 in Marayati’s appointment to a Congressional committee on terrorism being actually rescinded, once his record of extremism to that date had been publicized by the ZOA.

In 1993, Marayati called Israel’s creation a “crime” which he vowed to “work to overturn.” In 1996, following the killing of a Palestinian terrorist, Muhammad Hamida, as he chanted ‘Alahu Akbar (‘Allah is Great’) and carried out an attack in Jerusalem that killed one Israeli civilian and injured 23 others, Marayati didn’t deplore Hamida’s act of terror – he deplored the killing of Hamida as a “provocative act” and demanded the extradition to America of those who had killed him “to be tried in a U.S. court on terrorism charges.”

In 1997, providing anticipatory defense for Islamist terrorist assaults on Americans, Marayati claimed that the Clinton Administration was in the pocket of Israel and pondered “whether the American people are aware of and ready for the consequences.” In 1998, following the slaughter of hundreds in the al-Qaeda bombings of U.S. embassies in east Africa, Marayati condemned military strikes launched upon al-Qaeda by the Clinton Administration as “illegal, immoral and illogical.” The same year, he defended the French Holocaust denier, Roger Garaudy, describing his prosecution and fining in France as “persecution of his right to express an opinion.” Marayati has also complained of “having the Holocaust shoved down [his] throat.” Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

The Domestic Counterterrorism Enterprise: Time to Streamline

October 7th 2012

FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force

Over the last decade, the domestic counterterrorism enterprise in the United States has added a significant amount of much-needed capacity. From the expansion of Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) by the FBI to the development of intelligence fusion centers by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the resources now dedicated to gathering information, analyzing it, developing actionable intelligence, and acting upon it are substantial.

With that being said, the domestic intelligence enterprise should base future improvements on the reality that governments at all levels are fiscally in crisis. Rather than add additional components to the system, law enforcement officials should streamline the domestic counterterrorism enterprise by improving current capabilities, leveraging state and local law enforcement resources and authorities, and, in some cases, reducing components where the terrorist threat is not high and the financial support is too thin or could be allocated more effectively. Read more ..


The Economy on Edge

Global Economic Recovery Hits the Ropes

October 7th 2012

Spanish unemployed

The global economic recovery is on the ropes, battered by political conflicts within and across countries, lack of decisive policy actions, and governments’ inability to tackle deep-seated problems such as unsustainable public finances that are stifling growth. Growth in global trade has weakened and the spectre of currency wars, with countries looking to maintain export competitiveness by keeping their currencies weak, has returned to the fore.

The Brookings-FT Tiger index shows growth momentum has dissipated in nearly all major advanced and emerging market economies. Central banks of the major advanced economies have responded with a range of conventional and unconventional policy monetary policy actions. These measures have put a floor on short-term financial market risks but have been unable to reverse declining growth momentum. As a result, financial markets continue to go through short-term cycles of angst and euphoria even as indicators of real economic activity remain mired in weakness. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

How the Media are Trying to Spin the First Presidential Debate

October 6th 2012

Obama

Did Romney win the debate, or did Obama lose it? To those who watched, the answer is obvious: both. In the media we hear endless explanations of why Obama lost but few comments on how effective and articulate Mitt Romney was.

Bob Woodward hypothesizes that Obama was, somehow, distracted — perhaps by some personal issues or maybe by a big international crisis about which we don’t know yet. Al Gore, ever focused on climate issues, posited that the high altitude in Denver had enervated the president since his handlers brought him out to the Mile-High City only a few hours before the debate.

These reasons may or may not have had anything to do with Obama’s terrible performance. But the point in floating them is to focus attention on something that may be repairable: Obama’s debating skills. They want to avoid having to zero in on Romney’s ability, knowledge, charm and charisma because these qualities are not likely to change and pose a permanent challenge to the liberal establishment. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Romney Starts to Fill in Blanks on His Tax Plan

October 6th 2012

Mitt Romney

For months, voters have been in the dark about key details of Mitt Romney's tax plans. He specified $5 trillion in tax cuts, a 20 percent cut in income tax rates, a 40 percent cut in the corporate tax rate, repeal of the estate tax and alternative minimum tax and elimination of taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains for households with incomes below $200,000.

He did not want his changes to raise the deficit, but he was utterly mum on how to raise $5 trillion to offset the tax cuts.

During the summer, two colleagues and I showed that if Romney did not want to add new taxes on savings and investments -- and raising savings and investments is the second of four main planks in Romney's overall economic package -- he could not finance his tax cuts without generating a net tax cut for households with income above $200,000. Read more ..


The Edge of Hunger

Three Keys to Ending Hunger

October 6th 2012

Hungry African Widow/Children

Hunger and malnutrition is the No. 1 risk to prosperity worldwide. The private sector is starting to invest in this generation-defining issue, while governments around the world, including our own, are struggling to keep pace. 

This month, President Obama’s Feed the Future initiative received a $1 billion pledge from U.S. organizations to address the root causes of hunger and poverty. This pledge came on the heels of a $4 billion pledge by more than 60 companies from Africa and other continents. As co-chairman of the Congressional Ethiopia Caucus and the Congressional Out of Poverty Caucus, I commend these pledges and look forward to working with the administration as they are implemented. These are short-term fixes, however, to the long-term issues of chronic food insecurity and malnutrition facing millions.  Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage

Even When the Arabs Benefit From Us They Can’t Say So

October 6th 2012

Egyptian women protesting

t is always amazing to me that the depth of the Arab world’s unhappiness with our presence in this part of the world makes it impossible for them to recognize the benefits that some Arab governments have received as a direct result of our being here. A case in point is the Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZ) which exist in both Jordan and Israel as a result of the peace agreements we signed with both countries and through the cooperation, as well, of the United States government.

In principle, the QIZ concept developed during the Clinton-Rabin years, allows for products manufactured in both countries to be exported to the US duty free as long as there is a small percentage of the product with “Israeli content.”  So, for example, Standard Textile Inc. of Cincinnati produces hospital linen in their plant in Jordan.  The fabric is cut in their factory in Israel then shipped to Jordan for finishing, where the operational costs are significantly lower than they are here in Israel.  The Jordanians then get to export these garments with a “made in Israel” label so that they can enter the US duty free in accordance with the terms of the Free Trade Agreement between the US and Israel.
Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Obama Purchases Prison to House Gitmo Terrorists

October 5th 2012

Obama

On Thursday, the day after Obama's poor showing during his debate with GOP opponent Mitt Romney, Rep. Peter T. King (R-NY), Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, slammed President Barack Obama over his Administration’s decision to purchase a Thomson, Illinois, correctional facility where the Administration seeks to transfer the remainder of the incarcerated Guantanamo Bay terrorists.

In a formal letter to President Obama, Chairman King suggested five alternative uses for the estimated $165 million that the Obama Administration will spend to acquire the prison in Barack Obama's home state. "Besides the obvious reasons for being against this latest attempt at closing Gitmo, I believe there should be a full investigation into Obama's choice for the location of a terrorist prison. It's no secret Obama is connected to some shady characters in Illinois and any purchase by this administration in that particular state should be investigated," said former police and corrections officer Eugene D'Amato. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Rethinking Palestine 2012

October 5th 2012

Wailing Wall in Jerusalem

In 2011, Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority (PA), failed to win U.N. acceptance of Palestine as an independent state1.  This year, he lowered the bar to upgraded status within the U.N.  In the intervening year, Palestinian finances have collapsed, Palestinians have taken to the street to denounce PA corruption rather than Israel, and Hamas in Gaza has begun a new relationship with Muslim Brotherhood-led Egypt.  By going the "more than territory but less than statehood" route, Abbas has essentially slipped the bonds of the Oslo Accords. It's about time.

The Oslo Accords, negotiated without U.S. participation and signed in 1993, were founded on the mistaken belief that Palestinians and Israelis were trying to solve the same problem -- namely, how to fit "two states for two people" in the space between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.  The Israelis, joined by the Americans, based their participation in the process on three mistaken principles: Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Height of Hypocrisy: Turkey Orders Military Action in Syria

October 5th 2012

Turkish Soldiers on patrol

This morning, Turkey’s Parliament ratified military action in Syria in response to a mortar attack from the war torn country which killed Turkish civilians. The New York Times reports: "Turkey’s Parliament approved a motion Thursday that authorizes further military action against Syria, as Turkey began its second day of shelling targets within Syria in response to a mortar attack that killed five civilians."

CNN has more, quoting a statement from Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s office: “Our armed forces on the border responded immediately to this atrocious attack within the rules of engagement, and points in Syria determined by radar were hit with artillery fire,” it said. “Turkey, within the confines of the rules of engagement and international law, will never leave these types of provocations aimed at our national security unanswered.”

Read more ..

The Race for Natural Gas

The New York Times Blunders Into Advocacy Role on the Fracking Debate

October 4th 2012

Hydrolic Fracking pollution

Over the past two years, The New York Times has stumbled badly in its coverage of the natural gas revolution and fracking debate. Jon Entine, senior fellow at the Center for Health & Risk Communication at George Mason University, reports. Displaying little of the contextualized reporting that the paper, at its best, is renowned for, the Times has run numerous articles in its “Drilling Down” series and elsewhere, simplistically framing shale gas extraction as an environmental disaster-in-progress.

Newly-minted natural gas beat reporter Ian Urbina has focused exclusively on the negative — “the risks of natural-gas drilling” the descriptor on the series page notes — rather than examining both the risks and benefits of the shale gas bonanza.

The questionable reporting kicked off in spring 2011 when the Times hyped the research of once obscure Cornell University professor Robert Howarth whose anti-shale gas activism and out-of-the-mainstream findings have been sharply contested by independent researchers, including at environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Fund and the Environmental Defense Council; a research team at MIT; the National Energy Technology Lab, and independent energy commentators such as Michael Levi at the Council on Foreign Relations. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Could Obama's Debate Performance Deflate His Base?

October 4th 2012

Obama

For last night’s debate, one could argue that President Obama brought talking points to a knife fight. Though, I don’t think he was even that well-prepared. His performance ranged from scattered to irritated to meek and stood in stark contrast to Mr. Romney. The governor appeared calm, confident and ready which helped gloss over what was a truly breathtaking reinvention of his policy positions.

One question remains: will it affect voters and do the numbers shift? My colleague Bill Galston wrote last night that he expects the race to tighten, and I agree. Last night’s debate likely pushes some undecided voters toward Romney, while Obama’s numbers remain (statistically) unchanged. A much more critical question hasn’t been asked but must: Was Obama’s performance deflating for his core supporters? In the short term, I argue yes. Having watched the debate with a group of people, among them what can be described as core supporters, “deflated” may be the most positive description. Read more ..


Iran's Looming Attack

Netanyahu Speaks for the Vast Majority of Israelis

October 4th 2012

Netanyhu-UN

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s skilled oratory last week at the UN (click here to watch the speech), climaxed his highly successful global campaign to convince the Western world that a nuclear Iran controlled by messianic mullahs would not merely impact on Israel but would have catastrophic consequences for the entire civilized world.

It was largely due to his unremitting warnings and threats of unilateral preemptive action, that the US and Europe belatedly imposed sanctions and began paying lip service to utilizing military force as a last resort should sanctions fail to impact.

Unfortunately in the midst of this, a number of disgruntled former Israeli intelligence chiefs began publicly casting doubt about Israel’s capacity to confront Iran alone. Whether they were right or wrong cannot be confirmed. But their irresponsible outbursts did reassure the Iranians that Netanyahu was bluffing and discouraged the US from adopting a tougher stand. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama Health Law Would 'Outperform' Romney Proposals

October 3rd 2012

Obamacare Protest

Mitt Romney's healthcare proposals would dramatically increase the uninsured population compared to the Affordable Care Act, according to a new study. The Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit research foundation that supports President Obama's signature reform law, evaluated the candidates' healthcare policies and found Obama's proposals "outperform" Romney's when it comes to expanding coverage and lowering costs.

Even compared against a baseline scenario in which the Affordable Care Act had not been implemented, Romney's plans "are estimated to increase the number of uninsured people by 12 million," researchers wrote. Romney, the GOP presidential nominee, has made repealing healthcare reform a cornerstone of his campaign, but is sometimes criticized for a lack of detail on what reforms he would enact in the law's stead. Responding to the Commonwealth study, Romney's campaign said researchers were wrong on the former Massachusetts governor's proposals and their implications — and said the report overestimated the likelihood that the president's bill will be effective. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

What Does Israel Do if Obama Is Reelected?

October 3rd 2012

Obama with baseball bat

I’m going to try to analyze what Israeli strategy might look like if Obama were to be reelected. I don’t want to write a partisan piece - predicting every type of the most horrible disaster and open hatred from the White House - but a serious analytical effort. This involves speculation, but policymakers have to develop the most likely scenarios in order to plan ahead.

Let me start, though, with a joke. An asteroid hits the ocean, producing a giant tidal wave so powerful that within an hour all land will be covered by water. Television networks put on a variety of politicians, alleged wise people, and religious figures to speak with the doomed population. The rabbi among them explains: “All I can say is that you have one hour to learn to breathe underwater.” That is Israel’s mission. To survive a second Obama term brought on it by the American - including a large majority of American Jewish - voters.

The first thing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does is send a warm message of congratulations to the reelected president. He is going to be president for four years, like it or not, and Israeli leaders will work hard to minimize any antagonism. At least with Netanyahu strongly entrenched, Obama will understand that he cannot subvert the Israeli government to get some other prime minister more to his liking (i.e., someone ready to make unilateral concessions in exchange for getting nothing in return). Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Like Reagan, Romney Can Still Win

October 2nd 2012

Mitt Romney

Here’s snapshot of the race heading into the first presidential debate: Amid anti-American turmoil in the Middle East, Gallup finds the president leading his GOP challenger 45 to 42 percent. Despite continuing bad economic news, Gallup also reports that 48 percent of American say they have confidence in the president’s ability to deal with the economy — up five points since June — while confidence in his opponent’s economic stewardship has dropped nine points in the same period.

Good news for the Democratic incumbent? Think again. Those were the findings of the Gallup poll on Oct. 28, 1980 — one week before Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter in a landslide. A late October CBS News/New York Times poll gave Carter a similar lead over Reagan, 42-39 percent. So what changed the trajectory of the 1980 election — and what lessons does Ronald Reagan’s experience hold for Mitt Romney today? Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Deficit Reduction: Three Tips For Obama’s Second Term

October 2nd 2012

Obama

It’s easy to find surveys purporting to show that Americans want a smaller government offering fewer services.  It’s even easier to find conservatives who believe them.  But it’s not true, or if it is true, only with a implicit qualification—fewer services for someone else.

If Barack Obama wins reelection in the face of a mediocre economy, it will be hard not to interpret his victory as a rejection of the massive domestic spending cuts at the heart of the Ryan budget.  Premium support for Medicare?  Block grants for Medicaid?  Repealing Obamacare?  Massive reductions in food stamps?  Private accounts in Social Security?  Forget about them.

In five weeks, the American people may well ratify a view of the role of government that implies federal spending averaging 22 percent over the next decade, and considerably more after that.  If so, the question before them will be how—or whether--to pay for all the government they collectively say they want. I say “or whether” because there is a respectable view that they need not, at least for quite some time. Read more ..


Arab Winter of Rage

5 Ways to Fix Afganistan

October 1st 2012

Afgan Troops

The U.S. mission in Afghanistan has suffered serious setbacks recently. The Taliban’s audacious September 14 attack on a major coalition base in Helmand Province suggested that the security gains in the south remain fragile and reversible, and that the insurgents are trying to make a comeback as foreign troops are withdrawing. Moreover, the alarming rise in insider attacks forced the U.S. and its allies to restrict joint operations with Afghan troops. These developments should alarm Washington as they undermine the security transition to the Afghan lead and the U.S. exit strategy. But on really placating war weary voters, both presidential candidates remain silent on America’s longest war. Mitt Romney made no mention of Afghanistan in his nomination speech, while President Obama only talks about his exit plan.

Yet there is much at stake in Afghanistan. A precipitous U.S. disengagement would allow the Taliban and al-Qaeda to reconstitute in southern and eastern provinces and plot against America and its allies. The United States can succeed in Afghanistan, but it needs to pursue a strategy that focuses more on success than just the endgame and withdrawal. There are five things the next president should do to sustain the gains of the past decade and ensure that Afghanistan will not become a safe haven for global terrorism once again: Read more ..


Broken Healthcare

Escape Fire: A Documentary Indictment of the U.S. Healthcare System

October 1st 2012

Escape Fire still

If you want to get a clearer understanding not only of why the U.S. health care system fails so many of us but, more importantly, how we can transform it to make it the best in the world, go to the movies this weekend.

Regardless of your political affiliation or your opinion of Obamacare, you will find “Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Health Care,” a compelling and convincing indictment of a health care system controlled by special interests that profit from the status quo and that spend millions of dollars every year to make sure nothing happens in Washington that would be harmful to their bottom lines.

You will also find that it offers some common sense ideas of how to fix many of the things about our system that are badly broken, including fixes that won’t require an act of Congress but that will require some innovative thinking and risk-taking on the part of health care providers, employers and other stakeholders in the private sector. Read more ..


Venezuela on Edge

Cuba Anxiously Eyes Venezuelan Election

October 1st 2012

Chavez PDVSA

Over the last week, indications have emerged from Venezuela that the fourteen year rule of President Hugo Chavez may be coming to an end this Sunday, when voters will choose between El Comandante and his dynamic opposition rival, Henrique Capriles. There are the polls from local companies like Datanalisis and Consultores 21 which show that Capriles has slashed Chavez’s lead, and may even be edging ahead. There is the large pool of “undecided” voters—anywhere between 10 and 20 percent—who will probably vote for Capriles, but are too afraid to let a pollster know. And there was the opposition rally in Caracas yesterday which drew tens of thousands onto the streets of the capital, all chanting “You See It! You Feel It! President Capriles!”

Perhaps the most striking suggestion that change is in the air came from a group of Cuban doctors who were sent to Venezuela under the Misión Barrio Adentro, a Chavez-financed social welfare program whose core purpose is to lock up the votes of poorer Venezuelans for the current regime. Back in 2006, the George W. Bush administration, having registered the large number of Cuban medical personnel working on such solidarity missions in countries like Venezuela, created the Cuban Medical Professional Parole program to assist those wishing to defect. Now, the Venezuelan newspaper El Universal reports (English translation here) that the Cubans are deserting their posts at a rate of 80 per month, in large part because they anticipate a Capriles victory in Sunday’s election.
Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

The Candidates' Positioins on Medicare Advantage

September 30th 2012

Obamacare Protest

President Obama and his allies continue to repeat attacks on Gov. Mitt Romney and his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan that were long ago discredited as completely false. That Republicans want to “end Medicare as we know it” is a popular line from the Democrats, but there’s nothing in the Romney-Ryan plan that ends Medicare as anyone has known it. Indeed, the whole point of the Romney-Ryan reform is to preserve Medicare for future generations. We are also told that the Republican plan would force seniors to pay $6,400 more per year for their care. This too is false. The Romney-Ryan plan guarantees that every senior will have the choice of at least two plans which will cost no more than current Medicare.

To see what the candidates really think about Medicare, voters need to set aside the overheated campaign rhetoric and look at the facts, starting with the candidates’ policies for Medicare Advantage. The differences are stark, and revealing. Medicare Advantage is the popular private plan option in Medicare. Twenty-five percent of Medicare beneficiaries have chosen to get their Medicare benefits from a Medicare Advantage plan. Read more ..


The Economy on Edge

Raising Minimum Wage to Create More Jobless Young Americans

September 30th 2012

Teenager texting

The unemployment rate for 16 to 19 year olds was an astonishingly high 23.8 percent last month. The United States is facing a youth employment crisis. Young workers are finding it increasingly difficult to enter the labor market, get their first job and work their way up the career ladder. Yet, during this time of persistently high youth unemployment, there have been calls to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to as high as $10 per hour.

America's youth are having a hard time reaching the first rung on their career ladders. Now is a bad time to increase minimum wages and make that important step more difficult. Higher minimum wages generate a tradeoff between higher wages for the employed and higher rates of unemployment. When minimum wages increase, many workers who earn less than the new higher minimum wage lose their jobs. Firms often decide that they can get by with fewer workers instead of paying higher wages. Read more ..


Iran’s Nukes

The Case for a Red Line

September 29th 2012

Simurgh booster

In his address to the UN General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reminded the world that all attempts to persuade Iran to halt its progress toward developing a nuclear weapon have failed. He urged the world to impose a strict red line on Iran. “At this late hour, there is only one way to peacefully prevent Iran from getting atomic bombs. That’s by placing a clear red line on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.”

The prime minister made a strong case that red lines prevent war and that when they were not declared, aggression was invited. He listed historical examples to illustrate the point, but it was his observation of recent events that should cause those who doubt their efficacy to pay closer attention. “Clear red lines have also worked with Iran. Earlier this year, Iran threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz. The United States drew a clear red line and Iran backed off,” he said. JINSA has long argued that the United States must affirm the credibility of a military threat against Iran’s nuclear weapons program. As necessary and important as other tools of statecraft—such as economic sanctions and diplomatic efforts—are, those who speak against military action undermine all other strategies. Read more ..



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