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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 ..

Iran's Nukes

Beyond the Red Line

October 16th 2012


Was the prime minister of Israel justified when he publicly drew a red line on the Iranian nuclear program? Red lines have advantages and disadvantages. The advantage lies in the possibility of creating a deterrent that will stop the advancement of your opponent toward a goal that is dangerous for you. The disadvantage is that it can be inferred from this that the opponent is "permitted" to advance to that point, and the initiative and decision when to push on further remain in his hands. If he goes beyond the red line you've set, you have to stop him or risk eroding your deterrence.

Thus, for a policy of this kind to succeed, several conditions are necessary. The lines have to refer to a real strategic challenge; the person drawing them has to be determined to follow through even at the price of a military confrontation; and the other side must understand well, and believe, that if it goes beyond them, it will risk a confrontation of that kind. All the other relevant players -- in our case, the United States and the international community - also have to see things in the same way. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

GOP's Voter ID Campaigns

October 15th 2012

Juan Williams 02

Here’s a not-so-funny political joke for you.

Republicans have long argued that voter fraud in the United States is a widespread problem and called for requirements that voters have a government-issued identification. But they had no proof of any voter fraud. Now they do.

This month the Republican National Committee (RNC) canceled its contract with a firm accused of destroying voter registration forms for Democratic voters while submitting fraudulent Republican voter registration forms. The RNC cut ties with Strategic Allied Consulting to do voter registration in the swing states of Nevada, Colorado, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida.

Here’s the kicker: The Los Angeles Times reports that the RNC urged the firm to change its name before hiring it because of allegations of registration fraud in previous elections. As the 2012 elections approach the finish line, the chatter among columnists and political reporters is about upcoming books that take readers inside the campaigns, cutting-edge efforts to micro-target voters on Internet social applications, the enormous money flowing through super-PACs, and extreme political polarization.

But the political strategy with historical power to impact future campaigns is the Republican push for voter identification to deny the growing number of likely Democrats access to the ballot box. The rising percentage of Latinos, blacks and young whites, especially young white women, is now a structural political disadvantage for Republicans in most statewide and national campaigns. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Obama Has Pursued Change in Presidential Power

October 15th 2012

This month’s debates between President Obama and Mitt Romney are focusing on the central position of the presidency in our political system.The president is the leader of his political party, his views on the issues of the day come first, even in areas where he has little power, and he is the center of the 24-hour news cycle.

But what is equally important is the role of the president set out in the Constitution. Although it might not come up in the debates, Obama has pursued a dangerous change in the powers of his office that disregards the Constitution’s careful separation of power between the branches of the federal government. The Constitution imposes on the president two clear duties – to protect the national security and to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” Obama is the first chief executive since Richard Nixon to ignore a duly-enacted law simply because he disagrees with it, in clear defiance of his constitutional duty. Read more ..

Heathcare on Edge

Debate Over Medicare and Health Care Reform

October 14th 2012

No Obamacare

Most retirees believe they've earned their Social Security benefits. After all, they have contributed payroll taxes their entire working lives. Research backs up this belief. The lifetime Social Security benefits for a typical retiree in 2010 will roughly match the lifetime contributions made through payroll taxes while working. The same isn't true for most of the 45.6 million Americans on Medicare. Experts at the Urban Institute estimate:

Single beneficiaries and dual-earner couples who had earned the average wage throughout their working careers can expect to receive about $3 in Medicare benefits for every $1 paid in Medicare payroll taxes. If only one member of the couple had worked, we calculate a six-fold difference between contributions and benefits since both spouses are eligible for Medicare yet only one has paid taxes. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Lawyer by Training, Obama Ignores Rules of Law

October 13th 2012

Obama in deep thought

"The Illegal-Donor Loophole" is the headline of a Daily Beast story by Peter Schweizer of the conservative Government Accountability Institute and Peter Boyer, former reporter at the New Yorker and the New York Times. The article tells how Obama.com, a website owned by an Obama fundraiser who lives in China but has visited the Obama White House 11 times, sends solicitations mostly to foreign email addresses and links to the Obama campaign website's donation page.

The Obama website, unlike those of most campaigns, doesn't ask for the three- or four-digit credit card verification number. That makes it easier for donors to use fictitious names and addresses to send money in.

Campaigns aren't allowed to accept donations from foreigners. But it looks like the Obama campaign has made it easier for them to slip money in. How much foreign money has come into the Obama campaign? Schweizer and Boyer say there's no way to know. Read more ..

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.


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 ..

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