Brazil on Edge
|Luis Fleischman||November 7th 2014|
The recent elections in Brazil were very close with the incumbent president Dilma Rousseff from the Workers Party (PT) winning the election by a small margin of 3% against the pro-business candidate Aecio Neves from the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB). .
Although the result did not bring about a change of government, it definitely shook up politics as usual in Brazil.
The vote shows a deep division in the country between the richer South and the poorer North. The North has been the largest recipient of social welfare programs from the Federal government. It is precisely because of these welfare policies that a large majority of people in the North voted for Rousseff, giving her a narrow margin of victory. . The business sector, unhappy with high taxes and other obstacles imposed on them definitely voted against Rousseff. The middle class, that was the key to the protests over the poor quality of health and educational services last year, also voted against Rousseff. Read more ..
|Gal Luft||November 6th 2014|
Ten years ago, when oil prices were under $40 a barrel, the idea of $80 oil considered “cheap” would have sounded inconceivable. But let’s not be mistaken: Oil is not cheap even at its new level. It costs the Saudis and their OPEC partners under $5 to produce a barrel so their profit margins are orders of magnitude higher than in any other commodity. In fact, on an energy-equivalent basis the new “cheap” oil is still four times more expensive than coal and natural gas.
While the other fossils compete with each other—as well as with nuclear, solar, hydro and wind power—over market share in the electricity generation sector, oil faces no competition in the sector that matters most for the global economy: transportation. This monopolistic position has allowed OPEC, a cartel that today produces fewer barrels than it did 40 years ago despite controlling more than three-quarters of the world’s conventional reserves, to hike the price gradually in order to meet its member regimes’ budgetary needs. And those needs are only going to rise. Read more ..
The 2014 Vote
|Sheila Liaugminas||November 5th 2014|
When it became obvious, Democratic pundits did everything to spin it as anything but what it was.
By election day itself, the New York Times reported that ‘Washington was the biggest loser.’ As in, ‘everyone is disenchanted with the whole crowd in government. We don’t trust anyone. Throw all the bums out.’ That way, it wasn’t a referendum on the president, or any favored candidates, as much as a disgruntled public unhappy with the whole lot of them. Trouble is, it wasn’t exactly true.
Even as results started coming in to newsrooms doing live coverage on election night, some in-house Democratic strategists claimed that there was an ‘anti-incumbent’ sentiment among voters across the US on election day. But the results pouring in showed that GOP incumbents mostly held on to their seats, while Democratic incumbents lost theirs. Read more ..
The 2014 Vote
|A.B. Stoddard||November 1st 2014|
Ah, the midterm elections of 2014, thanks for the memories. There were certainly some keepers: a supporter of Sen. Thad Cochran's opponent snuck into Cochran's wife’s nursing home to take pictures of her, Rep. Bruce Braley, a Democrat hoping to become a senator from Iowa, got caught describing the most senior member of his delegation (Sen. Chuck Grassley) as “just a farmer who doesn’t have a law degree,” and of course Florida Gov. Rick Scott was so offended by the idea of air flow he was willing to embarrass himself by delaying a televised debate against with Charlie Crist when Crist brought a fan to place at his feet.
But there were also errors numerous candidates made that could easily be avoided in the future, like having no residence in the state he or she represents and skipping hearings. The basic elementary school lesson some candidates clearly forgot is this: be where you are supposed to be and do what you are supposed to do. Read more ..
Iran on Edge
|Carolyn Moynihan||October 30th 2014|
The hanging last Saturday of a young Iranian woman convicted of murdering her alleged rapist has caused an international outcry, including condemnation by the US Department of State and the British Foreign Office. Amnesty International, which had led a campaign to save the 26-year-old, said the execution was “deeply disappointing in the extreme”.
Amnesty says Reyhaneh Jabbari was convicted after a “deeply flawed investigation”, and the United Nations office of human rights says her conviction was based on confessions made under threat of torture. Since Iran is a country where Islamic law, with its notable bias against women’s testimony, holds sway one is inclined to believe that. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Sol W. Sanders||October 29th 2014|
Perhaps the glory of the English language is that it is so expressive. Its remarkable heterogeneous origins have given it an almost limitless vocabulary. And American English, particularly, has used that tool with an enormous flexibility to make it the international means of communication. One is able with a minimum of linguistic dexterity to capture every meaning, or almost every nuance.
That’s why it is so depressing to note that of late there is a growing tendency to do the opposite, that is, to camouflage real meanings with obfuscation.
It has become the fashion – and interestingly enough the tendency swells as one moves up the educational ladder – to mask real meanings with words or phrases that tell less than one could easily relate. At the moment my favorite bete noir in this regard is the phrase “to reach out to” which has become omnipresent. Read more ..
|Patrick McLaughlin||October 29th 2014|
Governments worldwide have long recognized that new regulations can create benefits, but always at a cost. More than 30 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have institutionalized the process of evaluating this tradeoff by assessing new rules' prospective impact — that is, its anticipated costs and benefits — prior to their promulgation. Formal processes for retrospective analysis of specific rules — where a rule's costs and benefits are assessed in hindsight — are much rarer. A third aspect of the regulatory process deserves attention: cumulative impact of regulation.
Over time, as regulations accumulate, an increasing proportion of companies' resources are devoted to compliance. This necessarily diverts resources away from things like the development of new technology or better training for workers. This diversion of resources may be further affected by the interaction of rules. The overlap of rules could potentially increase or decrease the regulatory burden faced by businesses. Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|George Friedman||October 28th 2014|
U.S. President Barack Obama has come under intense criticism for his foreign policy, along with many other things. This is not unprecedented. Former President George W. Bush was similarly attacked. Stratfor has always maintained that the behavior of nations has much to do with the impersonal forces driving it, and little to do with the leaders who are currently passing through office. To what extent should American presidents be held accountable for events in the world, and what should they be held accountable for?
Expectations and Reality
I have always been amazed when presidents take credit for creating jobs or are blamed for high interest rates. Under our Constitution, and in practice, presidents have precious little influence on either. They cannot act without Congress or the Federal Reserve concurring, and both are outside presidential control. Nor can presidents overcome the realities of the market. They are prisoners of institutional constraints and the realities of the world. Read more ..
The 2014 Vote
|Justin Sink||October 26th 2014|
The short-attention span generation has birthed the shiny-object election.
The theme of the 2014 midterms — to whatever extent one is discernable — has been an explosion of one crisis after another, each of which demands an enormous amount of media attention before fading for the next one.
From the Secret Service to ISIS, Ebola to immigration, mistreated veterans to Ferguson and race relations, candidates and the president have been forced to react to the controversy du jour.
Strategists and experts say the result has been bad news for Democrats, who have had a tougher time underscoring their preferred campaign messages on their party’s support for women and the middle class. Instead, each shiny object captivating a media that craves the hottest story has helped Republicans making the elections for the House and Senate all about President Obama. Read more ..
The 2014 Vote
|David Webb ||October 26th 2014|
When there are no policies to run on, a President Obama to run away from, Democrats go on the attack. I find it interesting and a bit disturbing how easily the left runs successfully for election as centrists for the most part. Many of their policies are not acceptable for the average American.
The mindset of so many Democrats is that they know what’s good for you (but it’s not necessary for them to abide by their rules). In an odd way I have more respect for an outright progressive than the political wolf in sheep’s clothing. We should all be concerned about the level of apathy and disconnect from the political system and knowledge — or lack of knowledge — of Americans who fall for this approach.
Republicans are accused by Erica Payne, founder of The Agenda Project and the Tesseract Group, of being responsible for the spread of Ebola. This is the same organization that did the infamous “Paul Ryan throwing grandma off the cliff” ad in the last election cycle, and is reminiscent of Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) stating during the ObamaCare debate that Republicans want you to die quickly. Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|A.B. Stoddard||October 22nd 2014|
The spread of Ebola in America, once described in repeated reassurances as only a remote possibility, has caught our health system flat-footed. Sadly, that doesn’t come as a big surprise.
But now, weeks after the disease was first diagnosed in our country and began spreading thanks to simple mistakes, it is staggering that there is still no one in charge. Citizens and lawmakers alike are asking if there is a czar or a national doctor, someone who could truthfully articulate the threat and the extent of the errors made so far as well as be held responsible for stopping the outbreak in its tracks. Nope.
Pressed several times about who is in charge Wednesday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest conceded that though Lisa Monaco, homeland security adviser, has been tasked with “coordinating” the response to the outbreak, she is not in charge. This means no one is accountable for solving this problem; not being in charge makes Monaco free of potential blame should things go fatally wrong. Read more ..
|Mark Byrne||October 22nd 2014|
Practically every American intervention abroad since the 1960s has prompted comparisons to Vietnam. So it was hardly surprising when on October 8, in response to President Obama’s decision to expand the campaign against ISIS into Syria, Frederik Logevall and Gordon M. Goldstein authored an op-ed in the New York Times that asked “Will Syria Be Obama’s Vietnam?”
I’m not sure that’s the right question. The American concern over ISIS originated in Iraq, after all—an intervention that is now eleven years old. America’s air campaign against ISIS today reminds me less of the intervention that happened in Vietnam than the one that didn’t happen—in the spring of 1975.
This past June, when ISIS suddenly broke through America’s collective effort to forget about Iraq and seemed poised to take Baghdad, it was easy to wonder if we were about to witness a repeat of the fall of Saigon.
More than two years after the peace agreement that led to the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam, a North Vietnamese offensive against South Vietnam met with little effective resistance, much like last June’s stories of Iraqi armed forces dropping their arms and failing to fight ISIS. Compare these passages from the New York Times coverage of the fall of Hue in March 1975 and Mosul in June 2014: Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Lawrence Wittner ||October 19th 2014|
American politicians are fond of telling their audiences that the United States is the greatest country in the world. Is there any evidence for this claim?
Well, yes. When it comes to violence and preparations for violence, the United States is, indeed, No. 1. In 2013, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the U.S. government accounted for 37 percent of world military expenditures, putting it far ahead of all other nations. (The two closest competitors, China and Russia, accounted for 11 percent and 5 percent respectively.)
From 2004 to 2013, the United States was also the No. 1 weapons exporter in the world. Moreover, given the U.S. government’s almost continuous series of wars and acts of military intervention since 1941, it seems likely that it surpasses all rivals when it comes to international violence. Read more ..
The Edge of Intolerance
|Paul Miller||October 19th 2014|
Freedom of speech is part of the cornerstone of our democracy – one of our country’s most precious values. And while “I may not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it,” Voltaire’s principle does not shield speech against challenges and consequences, especially if the language is laced with hate, blatant falsehoods and a call for murder.
Last week self-proclaimed intellectuals, progressive organizations and anti-Israel (dare I say anti-Semitic) groups welcomed to numerous Chicago college campuses Steven Salaita, the infamous professor whose job offer from the University of Illinois was rescinded after tweeting hate-filled rhetoric against the Jewish State and of course “Zionists.”
Salaita, a former tenured professor at Virginia Tech, has become the darling of progressive academia and the anti-Israel movement, portrayed as a victim of Jewish influence and power whose First Amendment rights have been trampled. Read more ..
The Bear is Back
|Sol W. Sanders||October 16th 2014|
All historical analogies are odious, some dead white man - probably a Frenchman - has said. Obviously, he meant that times change, the cast changes, the nuances change, the world moves on, and no geopolitical situation really replicates an earlier one. Some historiographers go even further; they say that for all these reasons there are not, indeed, any "lessons" from history,
George Santayana notwithstanding. Still ...
It's good intellectual fun to make comparisons and sometimes we learn a little by playing a game in which we compare those former events with the contemporary happening. Of course, one problem is that our reconstruction of earlier events is often skewed if not downright wrong. For, obviously, if for no other reason, we view them in the context of the present. Again, still... Read more ..
Israel on Edge
|Isi Leibler||October 15th 2014|
Israelis from all sides of the political spectrum desperately yearn that their dream of peace and a secure and stable relationship with their neighbors could be realized now. But alas, no quick fix is currently achievable.
Both left- and right-wing radicals continue to vigorously agitate for drastic action and predict disaster if the status quo is maintained. The delusional Left calls for further unilateral withdrawals and the radical Right demands instant annexationist policies.
Since the Oslo Accords of the 1990s, the Left has succeeded in convincing many rank-and-file Israelis to believe that the status quo is unsustainable and would lead to our destruction. Like the sound of a siren, their call for quick fixes and solutions has deeply penetrated the psyche of a nation that, understandably, desperately yearns for peace. Read more ..
|Mark Hyman||October 10th 2014|
Behind the Headlines
The U.S. Transportation Department
issues credit cards to employees for official travel expenses. This could include cash advances, when warranted. DOT’s IG conducted a random audit of 2012. It examined 400 cash advances [out of 48,554]
and 400 purchases [out of 890,132].
showed a program ripe for fraud, waste and abuse.
The IG found 24 cash advances were excessive. And not a single one was detected by DOT’s internal controls. Another 83 cash advances weren’t travel-related. The IG estimated more than $180,000 in cash advances were not travel-related for 2012. As an aside, the IG also looked at all 218 cash advances taken at gambling casinos. Yes, gambling casinos. 27 were taken while not on government travel. One cash advance of nearly $500 was taken by someone who hadn’t been an employee for more than two years. Read more ..
Obama and Israel
|Isi Leibler||October 8th 2014|
The exceptionally vicious U.S. condemnation of Israel with regard to housing construction in the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem is not merely misguided, but also reflects irrational bias. Incidentally, this behavior also has many ominous parallels to the inhumane incarceration of Jonathan Pollard, despite pleas for his commutation from all sectors of American society.
The harsh outburst relates to a 2,600-unit housing project planned as an extension of an exclusively Jewish neighborhood adjacent to the suburb of Talpiot and Kibbutz Ramat Rahel both within the Green Line. It incorporates primarily barren land on which Ethiopian and Russian immigrants had been housed temporarily in mobile homes. Highly significant – but a fact that is ignored – is that nearly half of the construction was designated to provide housing for Arabs. Construction permits were approved two years ago but it was the far left-wing group, Peace Now that saw fit to highlight the issue in a press release on the eve of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in a calculated effort to embarrass the prime minister and provoke tensions. Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|Alan M. Dershowitz||October 6th 2014|
Last year the Obama administration issued, with considerable fanfare, a new military policy designed to reduce civilian casualties when U.S. forces are attacking enemy targets. This policy required “near certainty” that there will be no civilian casualties before an air attack is permitted.
When Israel acted in self-defense this summer against Hamas rocket and tunnel attacks, the Obama administration criticized the Israeli army for “not doing enough” to reduce civilian casualties. When pressed about what more Israel could do—especially when Hamas fired its rockets and dug its terror tunnels in densely populated areas, deliberately using humans as shields—the Obama administration declined to provide specifics. Read more ..
The Ebola Pandemic
|Armstrong Williams||October 3rd 2014|
There is always a lesson in a crisis if you’re humble enough to look for it. As the Ebola crisis spreads throughout West Africa, both the on-the-ground struggles and the international response have been enlightening to say the least.
First, the U.S. military is the best in the world at leading and mobilizing resources in response to a humanitarian crisis. The President’s plan to send 3,000 American troops to Liberia and Sierra Leone in order to build hospitals and provide logistics and supplies for on the ground relief workers demonstrates a capability of U.S. international power that has rarely been displayed in recent years. Our adventures in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan on the other hand were seen by many citizens in those nations as primarily self-serving. The justification for the Iraq war, initially billed as a just war against the tyranny of a brutal dictator, eventually broke down under allegations that the U.S. used torture and techniques against the Iraqi people. The seeming justification also stood in stark contrast to the fact that over a million non-combatant Iraqis died in the dirty war that stretched for over a decade. And then there is the geopolitics of oil, which sits in the middle of the room like the eight hundred pound gorilla everyone is pretending to ignore. Read more ..
The Oil Addiction
|Allison Good||October 2nd 2014|
|Israeli oil drilling platform|
It has become clear over the past few years that Israel’s relations with Cyprus and Greece have improved, and that trilateral cooperation has created an Eastern Mediterranean framework that is in part based on shared energy interests. The Levant Basin natural gas discoveries in 2009, 2010 and 2011, combined with the rupture in Israel-Turkey relations, paved the way for enhanced political, economic and military cooperation.
Recent developments, however, indicate that a new Eastern Mediterranean framework including Cyprus, Israel, Jordan and Egypt is forming, and while there is certainly a concrete basis for this new arena in Eastern Mediterranean energy politics, it is unlikely that it will produce a dynamic similar to that between Israel, Cyprus, and Greece. Read more ..
Jewry on Edge
|Shammai Engelmayer||October 1st 2014|
Columnist, Rabbi and Contributor
This past summer was not a good one for the Jewish people or the Jewish State.
Operation Protective Edge reportedly embarrassed too many Jews in this country, none of whom should have been embarrassed. It also put Israel in a bad light, with accusations of war crimes, immorality, a genocidal agenda - accusations heard day after day over the airwaves, or read in newspapers, none of which bore relationship to the truth.
Protective Edge was not an "operation" as much as it was a full-scale war, fought against an intractable enemy with a very real genocidal agenda.
Make no mistake - Hamas wants all Jews dead, not just Israeli Jews. It says as much, without any sense of shame. It is part of Hamas' charter. According to that charter, Muslims are obligated - obligated - to "fight Jews and kill them." There is nothing ambiguous about that.
According to the Hamas charter, we Jews are a "warmongering" people who have been plotting for centuries to take over the world. For proof, the charter says, just read "the Protocols of the Elders of Zion." Read more ..
Islam on Edge
|Geert Wilders||September 30th 2014|
To defeat IS we should do more than just bomb its strongholds in the Middle East; we should no longer turn a blind eye to the violent nature of Islam. We should demand that those who settle in our countries cast aside values incompatible with ours. There is a huge problem -- also in our countries - cause by the violent exhortations of Islam. Only when we face this truth will we be able to win this war we are in.
Although the majority of Muslims are moderate, thousands of innocent civilians all over the West have fallen victim to terrorists inspired by Islam. IS has announced that every citizen of the West is a target.
70% of Dutch Muslims consider the religious rules of Islam more important than the secular laws of the country where they are living. Survey, December 2013, by Prof. Ruud Koopmans, Humbolt University, Berlin Read more ..
Islam on Edge
|Charles Jacobs||September 29th 2014|
“Narin” was abducted and enslaved in Iraq by ISIS jihadis and then escaped. She used a pseudonym with the reporter because: many of her relatives, practitioners of an ancient Zoroastrian faith, are held captives by the Islamic State. Her community in Eastern Iraq suffered a jihadi blitzkrieg: villages were surrounded, men, including her brother, were murdered and the women and children were carted off as slaves to be converted to Islam and given as “wives” to the jihadists. “Narin” escaped when her captors were at prayer.
Reports of the Yazidis’ enslavement shocks Westerners, but they it closely mirror reporting on Sudan, where African Christians were, in the 1990’s and for over two decades, target of an Islamic “holy war” which prominently featured jihad slavery as a terror weapon of choice. Just like ISIS raiders, Muslim militias stormed African Christian villages, shot the men and took women and children as slaves. Read more ..
The 2014 Vote
|Juan Williams||September 29th 2014|
One of the biggest surprises on the midterm campaign trail is hearing President Obama echo President Reagan’s famous question by asking voters whether “you are better off than you were four years ago.”
The question is the hammer in Obama’s toolbox for nailing down his Democratic majority in the Senate in this year’s midterm election.
“By almost every economic measure, we are better off today than we were when I took office,” the president said in a Sept. 19 speech to the Women’s Leadership Forum, sponsored by the Democratic National Committee.
Speaking to a Labor Day rally of union workers in Milwaukee, he also pointed to America’s improved economic performance over the last five years. “You wouldn’t know it from watching the news,” he lamented.
In fact, Reuters recently confirmed the president’s upbeat claims. Read more ..
|Kenneth Bandler||September 29th 2014|
The American Jewish Committee called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's address to the UN General Assembly a rhetorical cocktail of hatred, deceit and distortion. Once again, as in his previous UN speeches, Abbas undermined prospects for advancing peace. "President Abbas today offered no fresh ideas, indeed no hope for peace," said AJC Executive Director David Harris.
"Recycling well-worn and false accusations against Israel, ignoring the damage caused by his terrorist partner Hamas, playing to the rejectionist crowd, and pressing for UN intervention are not exactly the road to a two-state settlement and coexistence. Indeed, today Abbas took himself and the Palestinian people another step down into the abyss of failed peacemaking." Read more ..
|Valerie Plame||September 28th 2014|
As discussions of terrorism and foreign fighters come to a close this week at the United Nations, President Obama can be sure of one thing: his opportunity to add the single greatest safeguard to global security is slipping away. If he wants to cement his legacy as the president who faced what he himself identified as “the most immediate and extreme threat to global security,” he needs to double down on his vision for a world without nuclear weapons in order to prevent terrorists from getting their hands on them.
Today – the first-ever International Day for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons – is as good a day as any to get rolling. Achieving the elimination of nuclear weapons is one of the U.N.’s longstanding objectives, one it has failed to prioritize. It’s no surprise that the security discussions this year were overshadowed by the plans of 10 member states to dismantle and defeat the Islamic State group, especially as their assault on radical Sunni resistance and aggression toward U.S. and British journalists continues to grow. Read more ..
The Climate Debate
|Ira Chernus||September 26th 2014|
MythicAmerica is on a forced hiatus while I deal with health problems. But over 300,000 people in New York City the other day reminded us all that no one's health will matter much unless we take care of the planet's health. So I felt moved to polish up a previously unpublished column and share these thoughts with you:
The old joke, "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it," is no laughing matter any more. It's dead serious. Yet the United States seems politically paralyzed on this most vital issue.
It's easy to blame the climate change deniers. But it's wrong. In Gallup's most recent poll only 18% of us denied climate change. In a CBS poll, only 11% were outright deniers.
The vast majority of Americans are well aware that there's a real problem. More than four out of five agree with the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is happening now or surely will happen soon. Read more ..
The Water's Edge
|David Vitter||September 25th 2014|
|Mine runoff in Ohio River|
In several different ways, President Obama's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is using and abusing the Clean Water Act to improperly block economic development projects and take away Americans' property rights.
In one recent example, the EPA made plans to block a permit for a mining project before the project had even applied for one.
After intense pressure from and collusion with Washington D.C. and New York-based environmental lobbyists, the agency proposed to block an Alaska mining company from receiving a federal Clean Water Act permit for a project known as Pebble Mine. But the company had never even applied for a permit. In fact, EPA’s proposed Clean Water Act veto was based only on speculation of what mining on private land might look like, not on an actual mining plan. In other words, EPA manipulated its own bureaucracy in order to control potential and future projects of American businesses on private property. It did so to proactively discourage investment in the venture, so it could never begin to get off the ground. Read more ..
Venezuela on Edge
|Nancy Menges and Luis Fleischman ||September 23rd 2014|
On September 18th, the United States announced that it will not oppose Venezuela’s bid to seek a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council for a two year term that would commence in 2015. The U.S. decision came after countries in the region unanimously endorsed Venezuela’s bid.
For those who have monitored the assault on human rights in Venezuela as well as the country’s nefarious connections to the FARC, Hezbollah, ETA, and Iran, Venezuela’s appearance as a voting member of the Security Council would make a mockery of the UN Human Rights Charter.
Unfortunately, most of Latin America is now dominated by a left –wing cadre of countries that have warmly greeted the Bolivarian regime as well as the fifty year plus Cuban dictatorship and the ALBA countries. Read more ..
The 2016 Vote
|A.B. Stoddard ||September 23rd 2014|
So we know how Hillary Clinton feels about steak, retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), equal pay, a minimum wage increase and how hard Democrats should campaign for the midterm elections in November. But we don’t know what the former secretary of State — who wants to be president — thinks about a brand-new war launched by the United States in the Middle East. What’s staggering is that it comes as no surprise.
Last week, Clinton called on the United Nations to more effectively combat the abduction of women and girls by Boko Haram and other terrorist groups but was not moved to comment on the president’s strategy, outlined in an address to the nation two nights prior, to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Read more ..
After the Holocaust
|Angela Merkel||September 17th 2014|
The following is a translation of the text of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's speech on September 14 at Berlin's historic Brandenburg Gate. She delivered the address under a banner that read: 'Stand up. Jew hatred - Never again, coinciding with a conference of the World Jewish Congress in the capital city.
Governing Mayor Wowereit,
Ladies and gentlemen,
The fact that today there are again more than 100,000 Jews living in Germany is nothing short of a miracle. It’s a precious gift which fills me with profound gratitude.
That people in Germany today are being verbally abused, threatened and attacked when it somehow becomes apparent that they are Jewish or when they express their support for the State of Israel, is outrageous. Read more ..
|David Wessel||September 17th 2014|
When a country’s economy grows too slowly, the standard short-term remedies are to increase government spending, cut taxes or reduce interest rates. When none of those options is available, governments often resort to pushing down their currencies to make their exports more attractive to foreigners (and, these days, to push up import prices and thus bring inflation back up to desired levels).
When the world economy is sputtering, and every big country increases spending, cuts taxes and reduces interest rates, the global economy benefits from the increase in demand. That’s the story of 2009. But when individual countries lean heavily on pushing their currencies down, that tends to shift demand from one place to another rather than increasing the total. That is a “currency war.” And we may be on the verge of one. Last time, the emerging markets were doing the complaining; this time, it may be the U.S. (OK, I’m oversimplifying, but only a bit.)
Japan has already managed to depreciate its currency. The yen is at a six-year low against the dollar. There is a fine line between pursuing expansionary monetary policy which works (in part) by reducing a country’s currency, and making currency depreciation a primary goal. The U.S. and Europe have tolerated the sinking yen largely because they saw it as part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s broader effort to resuscitate the Japanese economy. Read more ..
Russia on Edge
|David Harris ||September 16th 2014|
Forty years ago this month, my life took a new path. Forty years later, I’m still on that path.
The year was 1974. U.S. President Richard Nixon and Soviet Chairman Leonid Brezhnev had introduced the word “détente” into the Cold War vocabulary. One of the outcomes was a series of annual Soviet-American exchange programs designed, at least in theory, to widen contacts between the two countries. One such initiative brought six teachers from the USSR to the U.S. for several months to teach Russian language and culture in American schools, and vice versa. Read more ..
The War on Terror
|David Brog||September 15th 2014|
The persecution of Christians in the Middle East is one of the great human rights emergencies of our time. The world’s silence in the face of this crisis is one of the great moral failures of our day.
Last week, Senator Ted Cruz tried to help shatter this silence. In a speech to a new organization called In Defense of Christians, Cruz highlighted a fundamental truth underlying this tragedy:
Religious bigotry is a cancer with many manifestations. ISIS, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and their state sponsors like Syria and Iran, are all engaged in a vicious genocidal campaign to destroy religious minorities in the Middle East. Sometimes we are told not to loop these groups together…. But we shouldn’t try to parse different manifestations of evil…. Hate is hate. And murder is murder.
Cruz spoke these words with the full knowledge that some in his audience had aligned themselves with Hezbollah’s terrorists and Assad’s death squads in their desperate struggle to survive. But these cynical deals notwithstanding, the crowd respectfully listened to their keynote speaker.
But then Cruz went too far. He stated, “Christians have no greater ally than the Jewish state.” Doubling down on the truth, he further noted, “Those who hate Israel hate America. And those who hate Jews hate Christians.” The honesty was apparently too much. A vocal minority booed Cruz off the stage. Read more ..
|David Shaywitz||September 15th 2014|
In Friday's Wall Street Journal, private practice endocrinologist Mark Sklar offers a concise summary of how many doctors feel about the changes impacting their profession. I've actually encouraged Vinod Khosla to consider offering a redline response, as Sklar captures so crisply what might be called the view of establishment medicine.
Sklar's arguments distill to this: efforts to improve medicine have generally only made it worse, introducing a range of largely irrelevant metrics, pointless tasks, gratuitous electronic documentation, and layers of bureaucracy and supervision. These intrusions reflect clumsy and destructive efforts by outsiders to mechanize and micromanage a deeply personal profession. Ultimately, argues Sklar, "The patient should be the arbiter of the physician's quality of care."
Essentially, Sklar is saying: a doctor should be able to make decisions without administrators looking over her shoulders, and patients should evaluate whether the doctor is doing a good job. Read more ..
|Daniel Siskind||September 14th 2014|
Daniel Pearl. Nicholas Berg. James Foley. Steven Sotloff.
Four American noncombatants have been beheaded by Islamic fanatics, and the videos of their murders brazenly circulated over the internet for the world to witness. Another Westerner – David Cawthorne Haines, a security expert hired by international aid organizations – faces the same gruesome fate.
Why do they behead us?
The question goes to the method, not the motive, of the madness. Murderers’ motives don’t matter much in the Middle East. In local eyes, there are so many causes to kill for, and so many victims deserving death. But assuming one is inclined to butcher, why do so by the particularly peculiar method of beheading? Why not butcher by shooting, or by hanging, or by detonation?
This is, to put it mildly, a grim inquiry. But it is worth the trouble to explore. For the answer may tell us something about the nature of the evil we face.
Others have asked the same question and come up with their own theories. David Brooks of the New York Times believes Islamic fanatics choose beheading because the act represents a defilement of something sacred: the human body. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Michael E O'Hanlon||September 14th 2014|
The most important part of U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent speech about Iraq and Syria wasn’t how many air strikes the United States will conduct and when -- the elements that have dominated much of the analysis of the event. Rather, it was his call to form, from scratch, an Iraqi National Guard.
That plan is a bold one, and it follows on what has been a good summer for Obama when it comes to Iraq policy. He has gotten two crucial things right. First, by working with local allies such as the Kurdish peshmerga forces, Obama was able to use limited U.S. airpower to prevent further conquests by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS, also known as the Islamic State). Second, by holding off from providing any more extensive help, he was able to push Iraqis to replace Nouri al-Maliki, the divisive incumbent prime minister, with a new one, Haider al-Abadi, and create a national unity government.
Obama didn’t make the latter decision simply because Americans like inclusive, democratic governance. It was because Maliki’s sectarian rule had so divided the country that the Iraqi army nearly dissolved when ISIS forces emerged on the battlefield this past spring. If the army was to be reconstituted so that it could reclaim the Sunni Arab heartland, including cities from Ramadi and Fallujah to Tikrit and Mosul, it needed a leader and a government it could believe in, obey, and die for. Read more ..
|A.B.Stoddard||September 12th 2014|
It’s gloom time for Democrats.
As most Americans worry about a new, unprecedented terror threat from the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS), national Democrats are facing their fears about losing control of the Senate on Nov. 4. The writing on the wall is dark but increasingly clear, as the GOP holds a steady and growing advantage that could cost Democrats six to 10 seats. With just eight weeks left until Election Day, Democrats are scrambling to target resources most effectively to contain their losses while their unpopular president launches a new war in the Middle East.
The upcoming election will be different from recent midterm cycles, in that there is no one galvanizing issue, like the Iraq War in 2006 or ObamaCare in 2010, that will influence the outcome. While most observers bet a year ago that the Affordable Care Act would surely dominate the debate as it had in 2010 and 2012, it doesn’t appear to be singlehandedly driving voter discontent. There is nothing the electorate is voting for or against this cycle and, according to polls, few believe the election will change the status quo of polarized gridlock that is now the norm in Congress. But voters are upset over everything, so the party of a president in his sixth year in office will likely pay dearly. Read more ..
|Michael Barone||September 11th 2014|
“Twentieth-century technology,” writes economic historian Joel Mokyr in the Manhattan Institute’s excellent City Journal, “was primarily about ‘large’ things.”
Large in physical size, that is. Mokyr’s examples include the diesel engine and the gas turbine, shipping containers, communications satellites launched by giant rockets, oil-drilling platforms, massive power stations, giant steel mills and huge airplanes.
Most are familiar sights today, but if we try to see them with the eyes of someone in 1914, they are awe-inspiring. This summer, I drove past the ruins of Henry Ford’s Highland Park plant, the largest manufacturing plant in the world when it opened in 1910. There, Ford set up the first auto assembly line and in 1914, the same year Europe went to war, started paying his workers $5 a day. Read more ..
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