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Palestine on Edge

Washington's Failure to Rein in UNRWA

October 30th 2012

UNRWA Refugee Camp

General Assembly resolution 194 of December 11, 1948, offers two options, repatriation and resettlement, to achieve the reintegration of the Palestinian Arab refugees "into the economic life of the Near East." Yet, U.S. Department of State documents from 1949 through the early 1950s reveal that despite the lip service paid to repatriation, Washington and its allies effectively equated reintegration with the resettlement of the refugees in the neighboring Arab states.

Historical Context
Economic development has been viewed by successive U.S. administrations as the key to integrating regions and peoples, and since the 1930s, their vision of this endeavor was largely modeled on the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) project.

Created by an act of the U.S. Congress in 1933, the TVA was conceived as a regional economic development agency. It was tasked with responsibilities for flood control, electrification, reforestation, fertilizer production, agricultural education, and river navigation throughout the Tennessee Valley, an area that includes the state of Tennessee, parts of Kentucky, Mississippi, and Alabama, and smaller portions of Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Obama and the Women’s Lobby

October 30th 2012

No Obamacare

The Affordable Care Act mentions “breast” 44 times, “prostate” not once. It also establishes an elaborate and expensive network of special programs to promote women’s health. Programs for men are nowhere to be found. What explains the imbalance? 

When President Obama took office, he promised to insulate his administration from organized lobbyists. Yet, from day one, he granted the women’s lobby unprecedented influence. The results should trouble fair-minded feminists.

The 2009 stimulus program set the pattern. The president had originally called for a two-year “shovel-ready” plan to modernize roads, bridges, electrical grids, and dams. Women’s activists were appalled. Op-eds appeared with titles like “Where Are the New Jobs for Women?” and “The Macho Stimulus Plan.” More than 1,000 feminist historians signed an open letter urging Mr. Obama not to favor a “heavily male-dominated field” like construction: “We need to rebuild not only concrete and steel bridges but also human bridges.”


The 2012 Vote

Romney’s Strategy not Obama’s Doctrine will Advance Freedom in the Middle East

October 29th 2012

Romney in Jerusalem 7-31-12

As Governor Romney and President Obama continue to debate foreign policy and national security, voters would be wise to evaluate the “Obama Doctrine” against the current combustible state of affairs that it has led to in the Greater Middle East. In less than four years, the Obama administration’s policies have transformed the region into a powder keg with a hairpin detonator that could be set off by the slightest diplomatic misstep, engulfing the region and the world in war.  And, as if an economy on the brink wasn’t daunting enough, the current administration’s feckless diplomacy in the Arab world have begotten a near-impossible foreign policy conundrum that Mitt Romney will be forced to attend to from the moment he is sworn in as the forty-fifth President of the United States. In order to help voters see clearly where unfolding events in the region are headed, I have summarized the salient facts and provided a brief analysis below.


The Obama Edge

A Doomed Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan

October 29th 2012

Barack Obama in Thought

President Obama said, referring to Osama bin Laden's killing, "If we had asked Pakistan permission, we would not have gotten him." But if Pakistan can't be trusted, the president owes the American people an explanation of how he'd deal with a nuclear-armed impoverished country over the next four years.

Mr. Romney seems committed to changing Pakistani behavior. And although he claims he wouldn't "divorce" Pakistan, Mr. Romney's answer showed that he would downgrade Pakistan's status as an American ally. Demanding policy changes from Pakistan in return for American support and friendship is a sound idea but neither candidate has spelled out what specific instruments of persuasion or coercion the United States might successfully deploy to that end.

The discussion over Afghanistan and Pakistan needs to be put in the context of the wider issue of containing Islamist extremism. Mr. Obama defines success against Al Qaeda very narrowly, glossing over how jihadist networks are already preparing to regroup in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region after the withdrawal of American combat forces in 2014. Mr. Obama has not articulated a plan to deal with that challenge. Read more ..

The Iranian Threat

Interrupting Iran's Oil: The Price The West Can Now Afford

October 29th 2012

Iranian oil tanker

For many years, it seemed as if the West’s real plan for dealing with the Iranian regime was to talk it to death. Occasionally, a new round of sanctions would be announced, but they were never really very serious sanctions. Sure, they angered their targets in Tehran, but not enough to stop them from doing anything they really wanted to do. The world was willing to pay any price, bear any burden, to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Any price, that is, except the only one which would have made a difference: interrupting the flow of Iranian oil.
The two sides disliked each other, but they were dependent on each other, so they attacked each other in relatively minor ways in public, while continuing to do business in private. This latest round of sanctions, however, which included cutting Iran off from the global banking system, has been serious. Turkey has been forced to pay for Iranian oil by physically moving gold bars across the border in trucks, but most buyers have found it easier to simply buy their oil elsewhere. Over the course of the last year, Iranian oil exports have fallen by about 1.5 million barrels a day to under 1 million, less than half their previous level of roughly 2.5 million barrels a day.

Afghanistan on Edge

Predicting Gloom In Afghanistan An Inexact Science

October 29th 2012

Afghanistan Fighters

Predicting a troubled future for Afghanistan appears to be the new trend in some of the Western writing about the country. Think tanks, newspaper op-eds, and blogs in Europe and North America are warning about a range of scenarios, from a division of the country to a Taliban takeover, a civil war, and increased ethnic strife among the country's various groups.

The most discussed among these is a report called "Afghanistan: The Long, Hard Road to the 2014 Transition" by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG). It warns that Kabul is heading towards a potentially devastating crisis is 2014 when most NATO forces would leave the country: "Plagued by factionalism and corruption, Afghanistan is far from ready to assume responsibility for security when U.S. and NATO forces withdraw in 2014. That makes the political challenge of organizing a credible presidential election and transfer of power from President Karzai to a successor that year all the more daunting. A repeat of previous elections' chaos and chicanery would trigger a constitutional crisis, lessening chances the present political dispensation can survive the transition." Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

A Dysfunctional Political System and Contentious Elections

October 29th 2012

Juan Williams 02

In the 2000 presidential election, Al Gore got more votes than George W. Bush, but still lost the election. The Supreme Court’s ruling in Florida gave Bush that pivotal state, and doomed Gore to lose the Electoral College. That odd scenario — where the candidate with the most votes loses — has happened three times in U.S. history.

Will 2012 become the fourth time it has happened?

At the moment, Republican Mitt Romney leads among likely voters nationwide in several polls. But President Obama’s campaign remains confident because he leads in enough states to assure him the 270 electoral votes needed to capture a second term. “We [would] win the election if it were held today,” said senior White House adviser David Plouffe. “In the battleground states, we think we’ve got many more pathways to 270 electoral votes.”

Romney senior campaign advisor Eric Fehrnstrom was similarly blunt in his assessment last week. “The cake is baked,” he said. “Something structural changed in that first debate, and all the movement has been toward Gov. Romney.”

Yet, according to statistical guru Nate Silver, of The New York Times, President Obama has about a 74 percent chance of being reelected. Mitt Romney has only roughly a 26 percent chance of becoming the 45th U.S. president. According to Silver, President Obama will win 295 electoral votes and Romney will net 243 electoral votes. Of the seven battleground states — Ohio, Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire, Colorado, Nevada and Wisconsin — Silver projects Obama will win all of them with the exception of Florida. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Romney’s Structural Handicap: An In-Depth Analysis of The Foreign Policy Issue in the Presidential Election

October 28th 2012


We have yet to receive a full analysis on the foreign policy aspects of the third debate between President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Remember that the idea that someone “won” the debate in terms of an outside observer’s standpoint or even based on a poll is misleading. The only important thing is whether either candidate swayed additional voters to his side. Since I’m writing this to provide a detailed assessment, I’m not going to try to be short. So for your convenience let me begin by briefly explaining how Romney is so handicapped in dealing with foreign policy:

–He either cannot (or has decided for strategic reasons not to) name the enemy, revolutionary Islamism.

–He either cannot (or has decided for strategic reasons not to) discuss in sharp terms how Obama has objectively helped this enemy become stronger while weakening America’s allies.

–It is not politically profitable for him to explain that America faces a long struggle, since this would make voters unhappy and prefer Obama’s promise that he has brought peace.

–It is not politically profitable for him to explain that democracy and economic development are not panaceas for the Middle East. Read more ..

Venezuela on Edge

Latin America Reacts to Watershed Chavez Electoral Victory in Venezuela

October 27th 2012

Viva Chavez poster

Two days prior to the Venezuelan presidential election, Francisco Toro, a Venezuelan journalist and blogger, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times stating that Chavez and his movement have become irrelevant. As Chavez’s socialism is becoming increasingly authoritarian and has failed to reduce poverty, Toro claims that it is no longer an exemplary to other Latin American states; in his opinion, it is Brazil’s template—combining free enterprise and democracy with social programs aimed at reducing poverty—that is what everyone in the region hopes to follow.

To illustrate his point, Toro uses the examples of Ollanta Humala in Peru and Venezuelan presidential opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski. (To this list, we could also add Fernando Lugo in Paraguay). All of them ran on a “Brazilian” platform based on the social democratic principles established by former Brazilian president Lula Da Silva. Toro also points out that, in public, the authoritarian and the social-democratic Left are united but, behind closed doors, they are divided to the point of being “viciously dismissive of each other.” Read more ..

Israel and Gaza

Israel and Gaza

October 27th 2012


The recent upsurge of mortars and rockets being fired into Israel from Gaza, the strong Israeli military reaction, and the possibility that a stronger reaction may yet come, have raised once again the issue of Israel’s relationship with the small area many Israelis call Hamastan. The visit to Gaza this week of the Emir of Qatar, who was the first foreign head of state to go there since Hamas took over in 2007 and who pledged $400 million in aid to Gaza, has also put the region back on the front pages.

One view suggests that the Emir’s visit is simply a disaster. The money will be very helpful to Hamas and its continued rule. The visit by a head of state itself accords Gaza almost the status of a state—and thereby helps Hamas in its continuing struggle with Fatah and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. It legitimizes Hamas and its rule in Gaza, which is obviously bad for Israel, bad for the PA, and bad for the United States and all others who view Hamas as a terrorist group.

But there is another view, put forward this week by the former Israeli National Security Advisor, retired Major General Giora Eiland.

He thinks the visit and the aid were perfectly acceptable. He does not believe Israel has any particular interest in reuniting the West Bank and Gaza, rather than seeking a greater integration of Gaza with Egypt. He also notes that efforts by Israel to strengthen the PA and its leader, President Abbas, against Hamas quite often have the opposite effect. He also believes that weakening Hamas does not strengthen Abbas and Fatah in Gaza, because they are so weak there and unable to improve their situation. Instead, weakening Hamas strengthens even more extreme salafist and jihadi groups. He argues that to the extent that Hamas comes to be more like a stable government for Gaza, with a decent economy, it will have that much more to lose from confrontations with Israel. When many more valuable targets are at risk, he believes, Hamas will be more careful. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Ryan and the Poverty Question

October 27th 2012

Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan has earned a reputation for making Americans confront fiscal deficits many would prefer to ignore. Yesterday in Cleveland, the chairman of the House Budget Committee was at it again, forcing liberals and conservatives alike to look at their respective antipoverty deficits.

Ryan exposed the moral and fiscal bankruptcy of the liberal welfare state, driving dependency on more than 80 federal means-tested programs to the tune of $1 trillion annually. The Wisconsin Republican also owned up to conservatives’ leadership deficit when it comes to fighting poverty — and made a big down payment toward erasing it.

It’s not that conservatives don’t have answers to the question of poverty. To the contrary, we’ve had striking successes in the 1996 welfare reform and school choice for low-income students, for starters. But we’ve lacked the coherent framing, leadership, and initiative to convey the conservative antipoverty vision in a way that would capture Americans’ imagination and dislodge the default welfare-state paradigm.


The 2012 Vote

Obama's Failed Foreign Policy is an Opportunity to Address Real National Security

October 26th 2012


Presidential candidates usually frame national security in terms of foreign policy -- relations between nations, including their treaties, military agreements, arms sales, foreign aid and military action. But if a president’s most important job is to protect the welfare of his nation’s citizens, then this foreign policy frame is actually a narrow, militaristic, euphemistic way of avoiding talking about our real need for national security.

The greatest threats to our nation and our people are the growing wealth inequity that stifles economic growth and pushes millions into poverty; our dependence on energy sources that ignite wars and pollute the planet; our lack of universal health care; and a failure to provide educational opportunity for millions of children stuck in low-performing schools. Read more ..

Inside Afghanistan

Afghani Special Forces May Offer a Ray of Hope

October 26th 2012

Afghanistan Spec Forces

Eleven years after U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops first drove the Taliban out of Afghanistan, more questions than answers litter the landscape of a country that has been reeling under the burden of war for over 30 years. Most of those questions ask essentially the same thing: Is there any good news out of Afghanistan?

That question most often revolves around the state of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), comprised of three main groups: the Afghan National Army (ANA), Afghan Air Force (AAF), and the Afghan National Police (ANP). Critics charge that if the ANSF is not prepared to secure Afghanistan after the planned major drawdown of U.S. combat forces in 2014, then all of the blood and treasure poured into this country over the last several years was wasted. Read more ..

Iran on Edge

In Saudi Arabia and Israel, Signals That Iran Has Retaliation in Works

October 26th 2012

Shadowy Computer User

The Iranians and their Hizbullah ally are sending warning signals about how they might fight a future war with the United States and Israel. The signals aren’t subtle—Tehran intends to retaliate for any attack on its nuclear facilities with blows against America’s allies in the region, hitting their most sensitive oil and nuclear facilities.

The U.S and Iran have been adversaries since 1979; we fought an undeclared naval war in the late 1980s. The American presidential election has seen both candidates threaten Iran with military action if it does not forsake development of a nuclear arsenal and halt its nuclear enrichment program. Iran has long threatened it will retaliate dramatically and decisively if it is attacked by the U.S., Israel or both. Now it is showing some of its plans for doing just that.

On Aug. 15, a cyberattack hit Saudi oil giant Aramco with devastating results. According to U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, 30,000 computer workstations were rendered useless and had to be replaced. Aramco, which Forbes magazine ranks as the world’s largest oil company and is the key to Saudi Arabia’s production, had data on many of its hard drives erased and replaced with photos of a burning U.S. flag. Panetta did not directly accuse Iran of responsibility, but other U.S. officials have pointed right at Tehran. Panetta concluded that Iran has “undertaken a concerted effort to use cyberspace to its advantage.” Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

No Transfer for the Blind Sheik

October 26th 2012

Blind Sheikh

In last month’s Wall Street Journal, Michael Mukasey — the last of President George W. Bush’s three attorneys general, and, before that, a federal judge — wondered ominously:

Are senior Obama administration officials considering transferring to Egypt a poisonously influential Islamist cleric serving a life term in federal prison for trying to unleash a war of urban terrorism in the United States? That's the impression several officials have given over the past three months, apparently out of fear that if the cleric dies in U.S. custody, American outposts in the Middle East could be overrun by vengeful mobs.

The Islamist in question is Omar Abdel Rahman, or the “Blind Sheik,” as he is better known.  As a district judge, Mukasey presided over the latter’s trial, and imposed a life sentence for the Blind Sheik’s role in a conspiracy that included, among other things, the murder of a conservative New York rabbi and the World Trade Center bombing. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Thoughts About the Upcoming Election From a Holocaust Survivor

October 26th 2012


Over the past few months I have read many articles and listened to many speeches by many prominent and educated people concerning the upcoming Presidential election. I am also an educated person, though I doubt that my education came from the same place of wisdom that these writers and speakers received theirs. They were fortunate to receive their education, and I am unfortunate in mine. I was educated with Holocaust wisdom and it is from my unique perspective that I would like to share my thoughts about the upcoming election.

I am a Holocaust survivor, the only one from my large family to endure this horrible period of world history. I remember life before the political tides turned in Eastern Europe and also the horrors of the regime change when Hitler (may his name be erased) came to power. Read more ..

The Edge of Climate Change

Energy, Security, and Climate

October 25th 2012

Smokestack pollution

When the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill collapsed a few year back, advocates of aggressive action on climate change despaired. But a fascinating and provocative new analysis from Dallas Butraw and Matt Woerman at Resources for the Future suggests that people might want to revisit that judgment: by 2020, they write, domestic emissions will “probably [be] less than would have occurred if the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade proposal had become law”. Whether you believe that depends on some important details.

The underlying logic is relatively simple. Butraw and Woerman identify three main sources of emissions reductions over the next decade: changes in the economy (notably cheap natural gas), state and regional policies, and regulation of carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act (CAA). They project that those will collectively lead to a 16.3 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions below 2005 levels by 2020, with standards under the CAA contributing more than ten percentage points of that. That is close to the target the United States announced at Copenhagen. Read more ..

Nigeria on Edge

Nigerian Army Guilt?

October 25th 2012

Nigeria joint military task force

Sunday’s New York Times carried an Agence France Presse piece reporting on the alleged Boko Haram killing of at least thirty people over a three day period in Potiskum, Yobe state. 

The piece also notes that it was “not clear whether soldiers were responsible for any of the destruction.” The Nigerian army has been widely accused of indiscriminate killings in northern Nigeria as part of its campaign against Boko Haram.  Some political leaders have urged the Jonathan government to withdraw the military, especially from Maiduguri, arguing that it feeds popular support for Boko Haram.  I have blogged on a Human Rights Watch report that raises the question of whether the International criminal Court has jurisdiction over crimes committed both by Boko Haram and the military.

But it is too easy to lay responsibility for alleged security service atrocities solely at the feet of the Nigerian military.  As in many countries, the army in Nigeria is not responsible for maintaining domestic order.  That is the function of the police, which, like the army, is a national–not local or state–institution. The army is not trained for domestic policing.  Nonetheless the army has moved to the forefront in the struggle against Boko Haram because of the inadequacies of the police.  The latter are so poorly paid they often support their families by shaking down travelers at the ubiquitous check points and indulge in other forms of petty corruption.  The upper reaches of the police also appear riddled with corruption, sometimes of spectacular magnitude.  And they are very badly trained.  Anecdotes abound of indiscriminate police killings. A consequence of these shortcomings is that the police are widely (if not universally) despised.  Popular regard for the military is marginally better, if seemingly in decline because of recent abuse allegations. Read more ..

Israel's Looming Attack

The Ostrich Syndrome: Understanding the World’s Reluctance to Take Action Against Iran

October 24th 2012

The international community appears unlikely to take military action against the Iranian nuclear weapons program because of the “Ostrich Syndrome” – a reluctance to deal with difficult problems and a preference to ignore them. The historical record shows that failure to respond to Iranian actions only leads to more aggression from Iran, and inaction in the current situation will lead to dangerous global repercussions.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s September 27 speech to the UN General Assembly in which he delineated a red line for the Iranian nuclear program was widely reported. But its impact will soon dissipate, because the international community suffers from what might be called the “Ostrich Syndrome.” Most global leaders prefer to ignore the bad news of nuclear proliferation and stick their heads in the sand, as was the case with the way they dealt with (or failed to seriously deal with) North Korea’s nuclear program. Members of the international community are similarly reluctant to acknowledge the current reality in Iran because doing so would require action – probably military action – which they are far from ready to take.

Indeed, most states continue to downplay the extreme revolutionary nature of the Iranian regime, which seeks to export its radical jihadist version of Shiite Islam. When Israel seeks to warn of this, Israel is reassured by Western leaders that the Iranians are rational actors “just like us.” Is this really so? Are Iranian leaders rational actors “just like us”? The Iranian leadership is responsible for killing Westerners in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia…and yet Israel is supposed to believe that Iran is rational “just like us.” Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Obamacare vs. Women

October 23rd 2012

medicine and money #2

President Obama is campaigning hard on his promise to give women access to free oral contraceptives and surgical sterilization, benefits that are guaranteed under ObamaCare. But women should also know about all of the health services they stand to lose.

ObamaCare empowers a host of new boards and committees to arbitrate over what insurance will pay for, and what remains uncovered. They’ll rule over not just health plans sold inside the ObamaCare exchanges, but even private insurance.

One such board, the US Preventive Services Task Force, will evaluate preventive health services like contraception and decide which benefits must be part of the coverage that insurance plans offer — indeed, which services must be covered in full, with no co-pays.

But requiring first-dollar coverage for those services is expensive, so health plans will have to offset those costly mandates by dropping coverage for things that don’tmake the board’s grade. Problem is, what the board deems essential is often out of sync with patient preferences, conventional medical practice and even experts like the Centers for Disease Control — which has clashed with the Preventive Services Task Force over recommendations like screening for HIV and hepatitis C. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Debates Go into Foreign Territory

October 23rd 2012


During the debate, we went into some foreign territory. The election is going to be about the economy and the size of government, not foreign policy, but the task of a president—and, let’s not forget, a government—is most essentially to protect Americans. It is, at the most basic level, not as a manager or prophet or pop star, but as a commander-in-chief. And that was what the debate was: a clear view for all of the two prospective commanders-in-chief. While they are similar in many ways, there were some minor differences that might have major consequences in the future.
As with the economy, the American people already know Obama’s foreign policy. We’ve lived through it for the past four years, and so it is to be expected that more focus has been put on Governor Romney. Romney kept the gloves on, and passed up numerous opportunities for attacks, but, to his credit, looked more reasonable; he looked calm, cool, and collected. Obama, on the other hand, looked the way he did in the second debate: irate. Romney treated the debate as a professional performance; the President seemed to take it personal.
Let’s face it: Romney had a lot of red meat that he could have thrown to his base. We know that the Obama Administration has lied to us about Benghazi; this is all in the public record. But Romney did not even mention it, never mind pressing him on it. Romney was presidential: he had a staggering number of statistics available off the top of his head. The President didn’t have many of his own (any, actually, that I can recall), and couldn’t challenge Romney’s factual assertions.

The Iranian Threat

What to do With Sanctions

October 23rd 2012

Ahmadinejad pointing

Western Iran-watchers have been pleased these past few weeks to see evidence that international sanctions against the Islamic Republic appear to have precipitated the collapse of local currency and demonstrations in the marketplace.  The EU added a new sanctions package last week.  Finally, they seem to be saying, we're getting having an impact -- more sanctions, better sanctions, "crippling sanctions" are better than military operations. Certainly they are different from military operations.

Sanctions drive up prices, so they have an impact on people who are price-sensitive -- people without government protection.  But those whose behavior the international community is trying to modify are much less sensitive to economic or social cost than a) regular people and b) the international community itself. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

How Not to Help Lebanon

October 23rd 2012

Barack Obama in Thought

The White House has now issued the following statement. "Statement by NSC Spokesman Tommy Vietor on Attack in Beirut: The United States condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist attack today in Beirut that killed Lebanese Internal Security Forces Information Bureau Director Wissam al-Hassan and at least seven others, and wounded dozens more.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those killed and injured in this heinous attack and with the Lebanese people, who have sacrificed greatly to overcome war and violence.  Lebanon’s security and stability are vital both for the Lebanese people and their neighbors.  There is no justification for using assassination as a political tool.  The United States will stand by the Government of Lebanon and the people of Lebanon as they work to bring those responsible for this barbaric attack to justice and build a future where all Lebanese can live in security and dignity."

What’s wrong with this statement?

The Iranian Threat

America's Credibility Problem with Iran

October 22nd 2012

Iranian Qiam missile launch

In recent weeks, Iran has been ratcheting up pressure on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), accusing its inspectors of spying and sabotage, and threatening to further restrict the agency's access to its nuclear facilities. The target of the regime's finger pointing has typically been Israel and the United States. Its new focus on the IAEA likely reflects a continuation of its current strategy, namely, to keep stalling for time as unending diplomatic rounds continue, all the while continuing to expand its nuclear program.

Much of Tehran's decision to focus on the IAEA appears as a response to the agency's latest report, which reveals that Iran has doubled down on its uranium enrichment activities in recent months, doubling the number of centrifuges at its Fordo nuclear site while blocking the agency's access to the Parchin military installation where nuclear-related experiments were believed to be carried out. Read more ..

Energy Policy

Local Public Service Commissions Are Pivotal in our Nation's Energy Use

October 22nd 2012

rural electric lines

Energy is a driving force behind our nation –– our dependence on it and our ability to develop new ways for harnessing and producing it are all pivotal forces behind our strength as a nation. Current energy policies for transportation fuels like oil are set largely by national policies, such as mileage efficiency standards and requirements for blending bio-fuels. By contrast, energy for other uses is governed mainly at the state level. If we want to use energy more wisely in the United States, we must pay attention to the individual 50 states where Public Service Commissions regulate the use of electricity and natural gas and often provide policy guidance for their state legislatures.
To adopt policies favorable to national security, economic growth and a cleaner environment, all states should be actively promoting energy conservation and efficiency, the most cost-effective "new" energy.  States should also promote fuel diversity –– including the use of renewable energy like bio-fuels, wind and solar –– and they should be creating environments where the energy of the future can grow and strive in ways that contribute to local economies.
My home state, Georgia, has some of the nation's best resources for addressing these problems. Currently, the University of Georgia and others are conducting innovative work on bio-fuels, Georgia Tech is providing leadership on a wide variety of energy technologies and Emory University's commitment to sustainable development has led to buildings that must be LEED certified and ambitious programs to reduce its carbon footprint. All of these programs stand out nationally for their accomplishments. Read more ..

Broken Economy

Time to Address the Retirement Savings Crisis

October 22nd 2012

Click to select Image

Americans’ ability to build a secure retirement is increasingly in danger. In addition to Social Security’s rapidly approaching fiscal problems and underfunded traditional defined-benefit pensions, the retirement savings system is available to only about half of the workforce and needs other improvements before today’s workers can create sufficient retirement income. The longer this situation goes unaddressed, the greater the probability that millions of future retirees will face poverty or other financial hardships.

This is not a small issue. Social Security, the foundation of retirement income, is so underfunded that every retiree faces 25 percent benefit cuts in just over 20 years. In addition, many taxpayers face massive tax increases to pay for underfunded state and local government pension plans. However, the biggest problem may be the retirement savings system, and the need to improve this crucial aspect of retirement security receives scant press and virtually no legislative action. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Medicare’s Status Quo: No, We Can’t

October 22nd 2012

medicine and money #2

Politicians have promised Medicare benefits worth $37 trillion over the next 75 years. But that huge amount of benefits isn’t paid for, and so those promises will not be kept. 

That is why Republicans and Democrats agree — albeit usually in private — that a major reform of this healthcare program for the elderly is necessary. And on one narrow point, there is bipartisan consensus: Medicare must be put on a budget. President Obama has established the precedent. His Affordable Care Act phases in a hard cap on Medicare spending, indexed to the growth of the general economy (GDP) plus 1 percent. To enforce the cap, the national healthcare reform law creates a presidentially appointed Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) to make cuts to Medicare provider payments. This is the law of the land, not merely a proposal. 

Even before the IPAB starts cutting, the Affordable Care Act barrels ahead with massive reductions to Medicare provider payments — mostly to hospitals, health plans, nursing homes, home health agencies and even hospice care. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says they will amount to $716 billion in net spending reductions over the next 10 years. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Obama and Romney on Foreign Policy: Beyond the Rhetoric, Some Genuine Differences

October 21st 2012

Obama and Romney road show

Presidential campaigns should come with a disclaimer: “past promises are no guarantee of future policies.” Candidates are notorious for exaggerating modest differences with opponents, then doing precisely the same thing once elected. Remember Bill Clinton, blasting George H. W. Bush for toasting the “butchers of Beijing,” later cozying up to China. Or a junior senator from Illinois, Senator Obama, who condemned George W. Bush’s “global war on terrorism,” but adopted aggressive homeland security and counterterrorism measures of his own, from extending provisions of the Patriot Act to expanding targeted killings via drone strikes.

The lesson is that the realities of governance constrain a president’s freedom of action. Fiscal realities intrude; Congress proves obstructionist; strategic imperatives force unexpected continuity; and unanticipated events upset the best-laid plans. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Obama Reported Ready for One-on-One Talks with Iran Over Nukes

October 21st 2012


The New York Times reported on Sunday that the Obama administration has chosen to open face-to-face, one-on-one negotiations with the genocidal and antisemitic government of Iran for the first time. The Times called the negotiations "a last-ditch diplomatic effort to avert a military strike on Iran" and the "result of intense, secret exchanges between American and Iranian officials that date almost to the beginning of President Obama’s term."

The talks will apparently not be held until after the American presidential elections. Iran insisted upon this precondition. The talks are being spun by the Times' sources as a major breakthrough, and a sign that sanctions have forced Iran into talks that will end with Iran giving up its nuclear program. Unfortunately, this is likely not the case. According to the Times, allowing the Iranians to enrich uranium to some degree is "a concession that experts say will probably figure in any deal on the nuclear program." Read more ..

America on Edge

Has Rising Inequality Actually Hurt Anyone?

October 20th 2012

Out of Business

The incomes of the top 1 percent — and especially of the top one-half of the top 1 percent — have skyrocketed over the past 30 years. The latest estimates from the Congressional Budget Office show that the inflation-adjusted average income of the top 1 percent of households was $340,000 in 1979 but $1.4 million in 2007, quadrupling over less than three decades. Popular discussion of the top 1 percent tends to highlight how different, say, Mitt Romney and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg are from typical Americans. In reality there is as great a disparity between Zuckerberg’s and Romney’s income as between Romney’s and yours. Disparities in income are so dramatic it is difficult to comprehend them.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Or rather, it’s not necessarily the case that there’s anything wrong with inequality levels. Whether American-style inequality’s costs outweigh its benefits remains an open question. Too many accounts of inequality today simply assume that it must be bad — that gains at the top have come at the expense of the middle class and bottom, that high inequality has diminished opportunity, that it has stunted economic growth or led to financial instability, or that it has turned our democratic system into a “plutocracy.” But there is scant evidence for each of these propositions. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

The Global Oil Market Isn’t Going Away

October 20th 2012

Offshore Oil Rig

The debate over the consequences of rising American oil production has featured a wide range of serious but conflicting views from a host of informed people. This, from well-informed industry publisher Platts, is not one of those views: “Interdependence has been a consistent theme in the world of oil for many years, the idea that even a small supply disruption in one part of the globe can have an impact thousands of miles away. Well, say goodbye to that notion, or at least part of it. The International Energy Agency has looked into the not-too-distant future and it sees a world divided between an increasingly self-contained western hemisphere and pretty much everywhere else.”

The article goes on to explain how shifting patterns of production and refining are splitting the world oil market in two. Indeed there’s something to that prediction: over the next decade, oil trade is likely to become more regional, with the western hemisphere trading more with itself, and everyone else trading more among themselves. Read more ..

The Edge of Sport

Fútbol Femenino: A Reflection on Women’s Rights in Argentina

October 20th 2012

Injured female soccer player

Mia Hamm. Brandi Chastain. Brianna Scurry. These are all female athletes who became household names after the United States national team won the 1999 Women’s World Cup. Since then, women’s soccer participation levels have risen exponentially in the U.S., making soccer one of the most popular female sports played here. Now, young women in the United States have the opportunity to pursue their athletic dreams and ambitions; they can use soccer as a way to pay for their educations at leading universities and can even represent their nation in international competitions like the Olympics. Nevertheless, most young women around the world, especially in Latin America, do not have the same opportunities to play competitive and organized soccer, otherwise an immensely popular sport for men. Read more ..

Jewry on Edge

Honing Anti-Semitism in France & Sweden

October 19th 2012

french cops

A wave of anti-Jewish violence has taken place in France and Sweden over the past few weeks. The difference in government response is notable, and yet there is something similarly disquieting about their actions. The Swedish government alternately denies the problem, blames the Jews and blames Israel -- it recently funded a book on Israeli "apartheid." The French are more complicated. French counter-terror police have been good at tracking domestic radical Islamists, but the government has made overtly anti-Israel gestures that appear to be nothing so much as "compensation" to its increasingly angry and radical Muslim community and to the Arab world.

For the 600 Jews of Malmo, living alongside 60,000 Muslims, Jewish life has been difficult for years, with harassment of individuals and vandalism of the cemetery and synagogue. What makes it harder is a city administration that believes the Jews are asking for it. In a 2010 interview, Mayor Ilmar Reepalu told Skanska Dagbladet, [Jews] "have the possibility to affect the way they are seen by society," urging the community to "distance itself" from Israel. "Instead, the community chose to hold a pro-Israel demonstration," he said, adding that such a move "may convey the wrong message to others." He said, "There haven't been any attacks on Jewish people, and if Jews from the city want to move to Israel that is not a matter for Malmo." Read more ..

The Edge of Sports

Armstrong Can Live Strong or Fade into Memory – The Power is in his Hands

October 19th 2012

Lance Armstring

Lance Armstrong, seven time winner of the Tour De France bicycle race fell from grace recently, when he failed to contest accusations of taking illegal performance drugs following an investigation by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.  The shockwaves that poured through the sports world were loud and harsh, because Armstrong is not merely a sports hero to many.  He is known for his remarkable two-wheeling athletic accomplishments, but he is best known and loved for the fact that he did it while battling and surviving cancer.  Armstrong is a true inspiration, and he let his fans down.

We see sports fans all of the time, so called heroes on the field and courts, who often do little more than play remarkably well and live fast-paced, often chaotic lives.  Today’s society labels them heroes because many times they offer the kind of inspiration that comes from the depths of poverty and despair, and offers the possibility of a rise to what our society has come to see as success and achievement. Read more ..

The BDS Jihad

Asymmetrical Cognitive Warfare as Practiced at Northeastern University

October 19th 2012

Campus antizionists

Richard Cravatts' new book, "Genocidal Liberalism: The University's Jihad Against Israel and the Jews," concludes that across America, "it is the academics who lead the charge against Israel." This seems confirmed by our experience at Northeastern University (NEU), where anti-Israel (and anti-Semitic) professors have taught hundreds if not thousands of America's future leaders a negative and at times demonic view of the Jewish state and its supporters.

Apart from the damage this does to American support for Israel, it can also create a hostile climate on campus for Jews. Indeed, the Jewish students who appear on our NEU videos (www.shameonneu.com) complain that they feel culturally and ethnically assaulted in some classes.

But why are so many American college professors hostile to Israel? Cravatts explains that anti-Israelism fits perfectly into the worldview of many liberal professors as a twisted extension of the left's standard critique of the West. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Mobile Wallets, Not Everywhere They’d Like to Be

October 18th 2012

Mobile Wallet

Bill Gates once opined, “the pc will continue to evolve and eventually you’ll think of it as a flat screen ranging from a wallet-sized device to a notebook.” Prescient, huh? Well, Mr. Gates didn’t realize quite how prescient he was. At least insofar as mobile-wallet technology has progressed.

Mobile payments – or at least the option of mobile payments – have shown up at some retailers and are being touted as the new way people were going to pay for stuff. There are a lot of companies out there betting big dough that point-of-purchase mobile payments will be the next “big thing.” But that’s a problem. There are a lot of companies developing mobile wallet options out there, but there’s neither a single mobile-wallet standard, nor a single technology out there. So retailers are naturally reticent to invest in the technology required to upgrade to accept mobile payments. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

What Four More Years of Obama in the Mideast Can Do

October 18th 2012

Obama Biden

There are two problems with current U.S. policy toward the Middle East: both the analysis and response are not simply wrong, but rather make the situation in the region much worse. The White House has supported the antisemitic, anti-American Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Syria; insisted the Brotherhood is moderate; gave untrained, unreliable Libyans control over the U.S. ambassador’s security leading to his death; denied that revolutionary Islamists attacked the U.S. embassy and ambassador in Libya for reasons having nothing to do with a California video; apologized for the video in a way that escalated the crisis elsewhere; wrongly claimed that al-Qaida is finished when it is still strong in several countries; defined the Afghan Taliban, despite its involvement in the September 11 attacks, as a potential partner, etc.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration responds with a democracy-will-solve-everything approach that the same people ridiculed when President George W. Bush advocated it. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

The Debate was a Draw

October 17th 2012


​What everyone is going to talk about is how much more negative the president was in this debate than in the last. Whereas last time he seemed bored, or like he simply didn't want to be there, this time he seemed barely able to restrain his anger at Governor Romney.

In other words, what happened was exactly what every pundit said would and ought to happen. There were the same usual talking points, the same catchphrases-"trickle-down government" and "top-down economics," etc.-and, in comparison at least to the Vice-Presidential debate, the same tactics.

Obama did what Joe Biden tried to do: he made a series of aggressive, negative answers that tried to discredit Governor Romney. Unlike Biden, the president was generally respectful, even despite his visible indignation. Yes, he spoke out of turn, and yes, he got more time than Governor Romney, but following Joe Biden-who interrupted Paul Ryan some 82 times-anyone looks good.

Romney made too many arguments based purely on assertion. Simply saying that you know how to get the economy going again is not good enough. You have to explain why we should believe that. He repeated himself-and a little of that is good-just too many times.

But the debates generally help the challenger: we've seen enough of the president over the last four years-in my opinion, we've seen far too much of him, and he's done far too much talking and had too much camera time-but we still haven't heard very much unmediated Romney. Just getting to see him, rather than the Obama-manufactured straw man, will help him. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

To More and More Women, Romney is the Safer Choice

October 17th 2012

Obama and Romney road show

An interesting story from last winter: An email friend who lives in an affluent suburb far from Washington, a staunch Republican, was watching one of the Republican debates with his wife, a staunch Democrat. He was surprised by her response to Mitt Romney. "He's a grown-up. He's someone who is reliable," he told me she said. "People will feel safe if he is in charge."

I've been thinking about that email in the wake of the first presidential debate on Oct. 3 and the vice presidential debate last week. (This is written on deadline before the Oct. 16 Long Island debate.)

There's obviously been a surge toward Romney. He was trailing in just about every national poll conducted before Oct. 3. He has been leading in most conducted since. His national lead was matched as swing state polls came in. In the realclearpolitics.com average of recent polls he's ahead or even in states with 248 electoral votes. He's ahead, even or within 2 points in states with 301 electoral votes, 31 more than the 270-vote majority. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Companies Manipulate Data to Make it Appear many Americans Don't Want Insurance

October 16th 2012

medicine and money

I understand where Mitt Romney was coming from when he said last week that Americans without health insurance don’t have to worry about dying at home. “We don’t have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don’t have insurance,” the GOP presidential nominee told members of the Columbus Dispatch editorial board. “We don’t have a setting across this country where if you don’t have insurance, we just say to you, ‘Tough luck, you’re going to die when you have your heart attack.’ No, you go to the hospital, you get treated, and it’s paid for, either by charity, the government or by the hospital.”

I have no reason to believe that Romney saw anything wrong with what he said. In fact, I probably would have said the same thing back when I was still a health insurance PR guy and trying to convince folks that the problem of the uninsured wasn’t really such a big deal.

And Romney is absolutely right, people who are uninsured don’t have to die in their apartments. They can indeed be rushed to a hospital, and the hospital is obligated to treat them. It’s what he didn’t say, and likely doesn’t understand because he simply can’t relate to 47 percent of us, that is actually more important: many of the uninsured die in the hospital, in the emergency room, because they could not afford to get care earlier when it might have saved their lives. Instead of going back home to their apartments, many of them, unfortunately, go to the morgue.

In 2007, when the Democratic candidates for president were beginning to talk about health care reform, I was asked to write a policy paper that the insurance industry would use to “educate” people about the uninsured. I found that if you sliced and diced the data in just such a way, you could make people believe that many of the uninsured were simply shirking their responsibility by not buying coverage. Read more ..

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