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The US and Latin America

The Importance of the War of Ideas in Latin America

September 8th 2012

obama and chavez

As anti-American feelings are being cultivated in large parts of Latin America, not much attention is being paid to the potential consequences that this may eventually have. Propaganda is easy to dismiss as nonsense. But propaganda can unfortunately work. It is sometimes easy for those who are better informed to disregard propaganda as being the work of fanatics whose discourse is so ridiculous that nobody in his right mind would take it seriously. Yet the effects of propaganda are manifold. Often information that distorts reality can have harmful repercussions. This is because when something is repeated so many times, there is always the risk that such lies might perpetuate themselves. Since many governments in the region are left-wing regardless of whether they are extreme or moderate, anti-American prejudice is omnipresent. Many on the left believe in the theory of dependency, a notion that views economic development among advanced countries as being made possible by the exploitation of raw materials in the Third World. As the theory goes it is a zero-sum game where Third World countries, including those in Latin America, have always been the losers. Read more ..


The New Egypt

Egypt's Provocative and Dangerous Remilitarizationof the Sinai

September 7th 2012

Egyptian Tank in Sinai

Egypt has sent tanks into Sinai in gross violation of the peace treaty. And so far, the world is letting Cairo get away with it.

When Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was first elected, Israel worried that he might seek to revise the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement. After all, senior members of his Muslim Brotherhood party had threatened repeatedly to "review" it during the parliamentary and the presidential campaigns. Yet this idea always had a serious drawback from Morsi's perspective: It would require negotiating with Israel, a state the Muslim Brotherhood doesn't recognize and whose very name it refuses to utter. But it now seems Morsi has found a way around this problem: Instead of renegotiating the treaty, he simply moved troops into Sinai in gross violation of its central provision, demilitarization. It's exactly the tactic Hitler used to remilitarize the Rhineland in 1936: Move in the troops, and dare the world to do anything about it. And so far, it seems to be working just as well. Read more ..


The Economy on Edge

Let Banks Trade Securities

September 7th 2012

I Bailed Out a Bank

Sandy Weill's switch in time—calling for the reinstatement of the Glass- Steagall Act—again raises the question whether eliminating the trading activities of banking organizations would make banks safer and more likely to write good old-fashioned loans.

This is the view of the lawmakers who backed the Volcker Rule in the Dodd-Frank Act barring banks from trading securities for their own accounts. Will the Volcker Rule or reinstatement of Glass-Steagall reduce the risks of banking organizations or induce them to make more loans? The answer to both these questions is no.

The idea that banking organizations can be profitable solely or principally as lenders, or that this would be good for them or the U.S. economy, is based on a vision of the economy and the capital markets that no longer exists. As former Senator Phil Gramm once said, if you want your grandfather's banks, you'll have to restore your grandfather's economy. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Democrats Making Hard Sell to Latino Voters

September 7th 2012

obama

Conventions are all about sending a message.

The 2012 Democratic convention’s chairman is Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Its keynote speaker – and breakout star – is San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro. Latino, black and white speakers have mentioned that President Obama appointed the first Hispanic justice to the United States Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor. The two Latinos in the Obama cabinet have addressed the convention, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

And Rep. Luiz Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who pushed the president to stop deporting young Hispanics who came here as children, also had a prime spot on the convention stage. As the Democrats leave Charlotte, this convention’s message is clear – President Obama wants and needs to energize Latino turnout to win this fall. An August poll taken by NBC News, The Wall Street Journal and Telemundo found Latinos prefer President Obama over Mitt Romney by 35 points, 63 to 28 percent. But 14 percent of Hispanic voters remain undecided, according to a new Zogby poll. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

The End of U.S.-Israel Strategic Cooperation?

September 6th 2012

Obama and Israel

"I don't want to be complicit if they (Israelis) choose to do it (attack Iran's nuclear program)," said Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey.

News flash, General Dempsey: You are complicit in the way that counts; you are trapped: the Iranian leadership does not care what we say -- or what we do -- about our military relations with Israel. The Iranian leadership needs the U.S. as its adversary and will not allow you deniability. If there is a strike on Iran, they will need for it to have been the U.S. – will need, General Dempsey, for it to have been you.

It is unlikely, General, that you spoke on your own hook as you are still wearing your stars. The last General who spoke to journalists out of turn and out of the country was Stanley McChrystal – and he lasted only as long as it took to arrive in the Oval Office. Your Commander in Chief appears to have used you to hammer another nail in the coffin of a relationship that had, until he got here, been remarkably productive for more than 30 years. Read more ..


The Economy on Edge

Don’t Repeal Dodd-Frank, but Don’t Crush the Banks Either

September 6th 2012

Financial reform now protest

In the clamor of election rhetoric it is hard to make clear-headed judgments about what should be done to promote stronger economic growth and more jobs. One piece of the recovery puzzle is to make sure the financial sector can do its job. Political slogans calling for the repeal of the Dodd-Frank financial reform make no sense.

First, that is not going to happen when a few senators can block either new legislation or the repeal of existing legislation. Second, after the massive financial crisis, reforms to restrain excessive risk-taking were essential and Dodd-Frank made a good start on those reforms. At the same time, efforts to blame the entire crisis and the continuing slow economy on Wall Street are equally foolish. And the way the Dodd-Frank rules are being implemented threatens to hold back new lending. Some on the left, and even a few on the right, are calling for the break up of the big banks, under the illusion this huge disruption would help us get through the economic slump. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

Conventions Produce Unconventional Insights Into Parties’ Changing Views on Israel and Islam

September 6th 2012

Obama and flags

National party conventions produce balloons, hot air and many  conventional wisdoms, but this year, the conventions highlighted the changing way Republicans and Democrats treat Jews, Israel, Muslims and Islamic extremism.

Republicans stressed support for Israel and Jerusalem as its capital, but the Democrats removed platform language backing Jerusalem as the capital, and a Democratic leader spurred a fight with Israel’s US ambassador when she claimed that the ambassador said he viewed Republicans as dangerous to Israel.

“I categorically deny that I ever characterized Republican policies as harmful to Israel,” declared Ambassador Michael Oren, responding to claims from Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairwoman.

“Bipartisan support is a paramount national interest for Israel, and we have great friends on both sides of the aisle,” Dr. Oren said, but the tone at both conventions seemed to suggest that the traditional stance of both parties has changed.

For many years, few Jews felt comfortable with the GOP, but this year, the Republicans opened with a prayer by an Orthodox rabbi and closed with a prayer by a Catholic cardinal, symbolizing the “Judaeo-Christian ethic” that has been declaimed repeatedly by the GOP.


Meanwhile, the Muslim profile at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) has been raised in many ways, The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) reported that this year’s DNC was hosting  a record number of American Muslim delegates representing some 20 states. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

General Dempsey's Remarks Should Not Come as a Surprise

September 5th 2012

General Martin Dempsey

With his most recent comments in London last week, Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, put a greater distance between the United States and Israel over a potential attack against Iran. "I don't want to be complicit if they [Israel] choose to do it," Dempsey said, thereby clearly indicating that the differences between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government surpass the previously declared red lines.

If the strategic goal remains prevention and not containment of Iran's nuclear weapons program, then Gen. Dempsey's remarks hampered this objective. They notified the world that the United States and Israel are not united on this front. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama Hobbled by Record, Slumping Democratic Brand

September 5th 2012

Obama Pentagon

"One question, Mr President," read the words on the front cover of this week's Economist, behind a silhouette of the back of Barack Obama's head, "just what would you do with another four years?"

It's a good question, and one that's still open as Barack Obama prepares to deliver his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in rainstorm-plagued Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday night.

Other presidents seeking re-election have usually provided a more or less convincing answer. George W. Bush said he would try to reform Social Security and advance energy independence.

Bill Clinton said he would provide "a bridge to the 21st century," which turned out to include significant tax cuts and a lunge toward Medicare reform. Bush failed to deliver on Social Security and Clinton failed to deliver on Medicare, but both tried to pivot from a first-term to a second-term agenda. The first George Bush, in contrast, didn't seem to pivot. He gave the impression he'd just keep going on. That wasn't good enough for voters. Read more ..


South Africa on Edge

Desmond Tutu and Tony Blair--Another Outburst

September 5th 2012

Click to select Image
Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has pulled out of a speaking engagement in Johannesburg because he refuses to speak alongside Tony Blair.

Explaining his decision, Tutu says Blair and George W Bush should face trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague over the Iraq war. Blair can consider Tutu’s snub a badge of honour.

After all, Tutu has some very colourful views about international affairs. He has made sinister and inaccurate insinuations about a “Jewish lobby” in America. He has frequently compared Israel to apartheid South Africa, and argued that Zionism has “very many parallels with racism”. Tutu has also urged the Jewish people to “pray for” the Nazis, and is a subscriber to the obscene ‘they of all people’ argument. So I doubt Blair, who has brilliantly responded to Tutu’s outburst, will lose much sleep over this. Indeed, one wonders what is really going on here. Tutu agreed to speak with Blair, accepted the fee, and signed-off promotional posters featuring him with the former PM. Read more ..


America on Edge

Are Entitlements Corrupting Us?

September 4th 2012

Bundles of Cash

The American republic has endured for well over two centuries, but over the past 50 years, the apparatus of American governance has undergone a radical transformation. In some basic respects—its scale, its preoccupations, even many of its purposes—the U.S. government today would be scarcely recognizable to Franklin D. Roosevelt, much less to Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Jefferson.

What is monumentally new about the American state today is the vast empire of entitlement payments that it protects, manages and finances. Within living memory, the federal government has become an entitlements machine. As a day-to-day operation, it devotes more attention and resources to the public transfer of money, goods and services to individual citizens than to any other objective, spending more than for all other ends combined.

The growth of entitlement payments over the past half-century has been breathtaking. In 1960, U.S. government transfers to individuals totaled about $24 billion in current dollars, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. By 2010 that total was almost 100 times as large. Even after adjusting for inflation and population growth, entitlement transfers to individuals have grown 727 percentover the past half-century, rising at an average rate of about 4 percent a year. Read more ..


The Economy on Edge

The Underfunding of Corporate Pension Plans

September 4th 2012

Elderly couple

The current low level of interest rates poses a big challenge to pension plans with benefits guaranteed by their corporate sponsors. These pension plans have a difficult time earning a decent return from high-quality bonds with relatively low risk.

In response, Congress has recently revised the rules for calculating the obligations of corporate pension plans. But these revised rules allow corporate pension plans to assume that they will earn unrealistically high returns. As a result, many corporate sponsors will not contribute enough to meet their likely benefit obligations to retirees. The key to calculating a pension plan's obligations is the "discount rate." Actuaries estimate a plan's long-term benefit obligations by studying its benefit schedule and projecting the life span of its workforce. Then they reduce this amount by the discount rate -- the returns that the plan can reliably earn on its investments from the present to the times at which it must pay out benefits to retirees. Read more ..


Borken Healthcare

The Illusory Promise of Free-market Health care Miracles

September 4th 2012

StethoscopeAndKeyboard

While listening to the promises to repeal ObamaCare during the Republican National Convention, I was reminded of what those of us in the health insurance industry said when our friends in Congress were able to block passage of President Clinton’s health care reform legislation 18 years ago.

Like the politicians in Tampa, we insisted then that a big government program not only wasn’t needed, but would be harmful — that what the government really needed to do was get out of the way and let the free market work. Insurance company spokesmen like me assured the public that our then-novel managed care plans, coupled with the invisible hand of the market, would do the trick. Leave it to us, we said, and we’ll get medical costs under control and enroll every American in a good HMO.

Read more ..

The Economy on Edge

Bernanke’s No-Win Position in Jackson Hole

September 3rd 2012

Bernanke headache

Virtually all spectators to Bernanke's Jackson Hole speech will probably be disappointed, as Bernanke sits in a no-win position. Faced with sluggish economic growth, a strong desire exists for the chairman to announce a third round of quantitative easing at Jackson Hole, which is unlikely given the Fed's recent comments and fresh, positive financial data. Yet, the short-term rally is clearly not enough to cause the Fed to reverse its unprecedented accommodative stance.

The Fed Open Market Committee gave an uncharacteristically candid glimpse of its thought process following its August meeting, indicating that, given the continued tepid expansion of the U.S. economy, "additional monetary accommodation would likely be warranted fairly soon." This hint at more QE has proven that words can do a lot, as markets rallied through August, but not everyone likes this prospect.
Read more ..


Brazil on Edge

Brazil’s Chaotic Transportation Systems at Stake

September 3rd 2012

Broken Road

On July 27, a violent truck drivers’ strike occurred in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, which eventually encompassed Brazil’s entire trucking industry. Among other issues, they were protesting the National Agency of Terrestrial Transports’ (ANTT) new highway safety regulations. On the same day, the agency issued measures concerning a significant 2.87 percent price increase in highway tolls. Both controversial decisions reflect not only a strained road infrastructure, but also an urgent need for profound structural improvement in the country’s highway system. The lack of coherence in the region’s trucking industry derives from deep-rooted inadequacies and a lack of government investment. Since 1980, Brazil has witnessed a steady decrease in its public transportation investment, now at only 0.7 percent of its 2010 GDP. The dearth of appropriate planning and a complex regulatory environment have only amplified this problem. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

The Futility of Relying on the International Community

September 3rd 2012

Western/Wailing Wall

Over 120 countries – equating to two thirds of total United Nations membership – convened in Teheran to partake in the 16th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) hosted by the Iranian Islamic Republic.

The Iranians boasted that 3 Kings, 27 presidents, 8 Prime Ministers and 50 Foreign Ministers attended. Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsy was present, breaching Egypt’s long standing estrangement from Iran which he now describes as “a strategic ally”, even though he condemned Assad’s regime in Syria. India, the world’s most populous democracy, participated with a delegation of 250 headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, stating shamelessly that its objective was to increase trade and commerce with Iran. Despite appeals from the United States and others, UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, also attended. He did so only days after his condemnation of Iran for defying repeated Security Council resolutions demanding that it end its uranium enrichment program and repeatedly contravening the UN Charter by calling for the destruction of Israel. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Correcting Reality

September 1st 2012

Paul Ryan

In 2004, Arnold Schwarzenegger — then a popular figure in the Republican party — gave an exciting, upbeat, and surprisingly funny speech at the GOP convention. He covered a lot of territory: how he came to America, how he became a Republican after listening to Richard Nixon, and other highlights of his life story.

Afterwards, then–CBS News anchor Dan Rather reported that Schwarzenegger “slapped John Kerry around like a hockey puck.” The only problem: Schwarzenegger never mentioned John Kerry, not even once. I bring it up because it’s hardly news that much of the press likes to report the convention as they want it to be rather than as it is. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Al Qaeda in Syria: Jihadists Use Chaos in Arab Awakening

September 1st 2012

Ayman Al-Zawahiri (al Q #2)

The Syrian civil war has dramatically demonstrated both al Qaeda’s ability to exploit failing states to its advantage and the continued relevance of the al Qaeda core leadership 11 years after 9/11. The jihadist movement has found new life in the Arab awakening and is striking back from adversity, once again.

This February Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian who succeeded Osama bin Laden as the emir of al Qaeda, addressed the “lions of Syria” in an audio message from his hideout in Pakistan. He urged the Sunni Arab opponents of Bashar al-Assad to rely on al Qaeda for help and not to trust “the failed states of the Arab League, the West, or Turkey.”

Zawahiri urged jihadists from across the Islamic world to go to Syria to fight Assad’s Alawite minority, which he called “corruption.” In the six months since Zawahiri’s message, hundreds of jihadists have gone to Syria to fight. What began as peaceful protests have turned to suicide bombings and multiple simultaneous attacks — the violent fingerprints of al Qaeda since 1998. Read more ..


The New Egypt

Egypt's New Leaders Must Accept Reality

September 1st 2012

Egyptian bannerman

A new reality and an alternative reality are shaping up in Egypt. President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood appear firmly in control. Morsi seized on the killing of 16 Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai early this month -- an embarrassment for the military and particularly the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) -- to remove the most senior military leaders from office. He also unilaterally amended the March 2011 constitution declaration and gave his office executive and legislative powers. In short, with no hint of resistance from the military, Morsi has imposed civilian leadership on Egypt.

Many see Morsi's move to control the SCAF -- he sacked Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi; military chief of staff Sami Anan; and the heads of Egypt's army, navy and air force -- as finally giving Egypt's revolution the chance to remove key remnants of the Mubarak regime and fulfill its promise. Others, particularly non-Islamists, are more prone to see recent actions as the Muslim Brotherhood removing any checks on its power. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

2008 Was a Major Aberration for Democrats

August 31st 2012

Obama and Romney

By itself, the state of the economy is enough to guarantee a close election, and every national survey during the past two weeks has put Obama and Romney in a statistical tie. Now another key factor points in the same direction—the shifting balance between the political parties. This matters because party preferences and voting patterns are more closely linked today than they have been in several generations—and two recent in-depth surveys of the party system document that a clean Democratic victory, of the sort the party enjoyed in 2008, is exceedingly unlikely. The surging Democratic tide of four years ago has ebbed, exposing a partisan shoreline that more closely resembles what prevailed in 2004. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama in Political Trouble--Chances Less than 50-50

August 31st 2012

PBObama contemplative

President Obama is in political trouble. In my opinion the probability he is elected is slightly less than 50-50. The best case for Obama today, on current course, is that he wins a narrow victory without any mandate to govern, without a Democratic majority in the House and without enough Senate Democrats to challenge the inevitable Republican filibusters.

This outcome would leave the Obama presidency permanently disfigured, deformed and destroyed. The alternative is even worse. If Mitt Romney is elected the entire progressive legacy of economic betterment and social progress from the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt until today would be disfigured, defunded, deformed and destroyed, which would take America back to the days of the robber barons. Let’s be clear. Republicans today would not recreate the Reaganism of 1980, they would recreate the Gilded Age of 1890. They would destroy any role of government as a balance against the excesses of greed and corruption that poisoned America before Teddy Roosevelt, and continue to attack the middle class and poor today.

Today Republicans have an enthusiasm advantage, a turnout advantage, a money advantage, a voter suppression advantage and a media advantage, which is why I warn Democrats so severely. Read more ..


Inside Gaza

How Many Millionaires Live in the "Impoverished" Gaza Strip?

August 31st 2012

Gaza city skyline

The world often thinks of the Gaza Strip, home to 1.4 million Palestinians, as one of the poorest places on earth, where people live in misery and squalor.

But according to an investigative report published in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, there are at least 600 millionaires living in the Gaza Strip. The newspaper report also refutes the claim that the Gaza Strip has been facing a humanitarian crisis because of an Israeli blockade.

Mohammed Dahlan, the former Palestinian Authority security commander of the Gaza Strip, further said last week that Hamas was the only party that was laying siege to the Gaza Strip; that it is Hamas, and not Israel or Egypt, that is strangling and punishing the people there.

The Palestinian millionaires, according to the report, have made their wealth thanks to the hundreds of underground tunnels along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

VP Ryan: Deficit Compromise?

August 30th 2012

Paul Ryan

A major reason that many conservative analysts endorsed Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan as the vice presidential candidate is that they believe that Ryan is the only man with a plan for attacking the federal deficit. They argue that Ryan is one of the few members of congress who truly understands the federal budget and that he has made innovative if controversial proposals to stem the tide of red ink. Further, they claim that Ryan has shown his skills in explaining and defending his budget both in sessions with other Republicans and in confrontations with Democrats, especially those who came to campaign events specifically to trash his budget.

The long-standing conservative critique of the federal government is that it is too big, but this critique has taken on increased urgency in recent years. Although Republicans led campaigns to cut federal spending under Reagan in the 1980s and under the Gingrich-led congress in the mid-1990s, neither set of reforms resulted in permanent reductions in the size or functions of the federal budget. Like kudzu, federal spending just keeps on growing. Read more ..


Jewry on the Edge

The Jewish Struggle for Universal Human Rights

August 30th 2012

Isi Leibler

One of the conundrums associated with the enduring nature of global anti-Semitism which has soared exponentially in recent years, is why, having made such disproportionate contributions towards all levels of civilization and left major imprints on science, ethics, medicine, culture and the arts, we Jews continue to act as a magnet for such virulent hatred.

Equally bizarre is the failure of formerly oppressed groups and nations to reciprocate or even acknowledge the extraordinary Jewish contributions in support of their struggles towards overcoming persecution, discrimination, abuse of human rights and achieving independence.

This is typified by the fact that whereas there is no American group comparable to the Jews who sacrificed so much to help African-Americans to overcome racial discrimination and their struggle for civil rights, ironically, today they are amongst the foremost US racial or ethnic groups promoting anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism. The recent loathsome outburst by the African-American writer Alice Walker who sought to prohibit her novel – relating to racism – from being translated into Hebrew, typifies this. Walker’s demonization of Israel even extended to accusing Israel of practicing “racism” in a more extreme manner than was the case in apartheid South Africa. This is all the more perverse because aside from being the only free and democratic society in the region, the Jewish State probably also comprises the greatest mélange of racial groups in the world committed to equality. The same criticism would apply to the current South African government which is today bitterly anti-Israeli despite the fact that individual South African Jews were at the vanguard of the struggle against apartheid, many having been forced to leave the country during apartheid regime. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama’s Best Argument for Reelection

August 30th 2012

Obama pensive with flag

First and foremost, President Obama must return to the themes of his 2008 presidential campaign and his 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote speech that so inspired Americans from all walks of life, and from all across the political spectrum. In that address, then-Sen. Obama (D-Ill.) referred to the “spin masters” and the “negative ad peddlers” who, he claimed, divided the country. And then he said to those offenders:

“Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America — there's the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into red states and blue states ... But I've got news for them, too: We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the red states. We coach Little League in the blue states, and, yes, we've got some gay friends in the red states. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.” Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

The Great Medicare Compromise

August 29th 2012

Obamacare Protest

If you aren’t already convinced that current politics are dysfunctional, just listen to the campaign rhetoric on Medicare. Democrats accuse Republicans of seeking to “end Medicare as we know it,” while shifting unbearable health-care costs to struggling seniors; Republicans accuse the president of crippling Medicare by transferring huge sums intended for Medicare to pay for Obamacare.

Huh? Why would any politician want to undermine one of the most successful and popular programs in American history, especially at a time when the number of senior voters is growing rapidly? In fact, neither side wants to destroy Medicare—or even change it very drastically. But each wants to scare seniors away from their opponents—a truly irresponsible tactic that is leading millions of fearful seniors to believe the winner might actually gut their benefits. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

President Obama Can Stop Iran

August 29th 2012

Click to select Image

It is now become clear that neither diplomacy nor sanctions will halt the Iranian march toward nuclear weapons.  Iran is today stronger diplomatically than it has been in years, as evidenced by the meaning of the nonaligned nations in Tehran.  Iran is neither isolated nor alone in a world in which nonaligned nations form a majority at the United Nations.

The sanctions, while hurting the Iranian economy and making life more difficult for the average Iranian, are having zero impact on the Iranian nuclear program, which according to objective intelligence reports, is gathering steam and moving even more quickly toward its ultimate goal of a nuclear weapon that will be a game changer.  An Iranian nuclear weapon will end any dream of non proliferation.  It will protect Iran’s surrogate terrorists, such as Hezbollah, under a formidable nuclear umbrella.  And it will make an eventual nuclear war more likely.  That is why President Obama rightfully took the containment option off the table and put the preventive military option squarely on it. Read more ..


The Edge of Hate

Anti-Semitic Brutality Meets with Inaction by Michigan State University

August 29th 2012

Zachary Tennen
Zachary Tennen

A vicious hate crime occurred in East Lansing, MI – at an off-campus party near Michigan State University – to a university sophomore.

The cruelty and ferocity of Sunday’s Anti-Semitic attack is shocking: Two males walked up to Zachary Tennen, and when he responded affirmatively to the question of whether he was Jewish, they raised their arms in a Nazi salute, yelled “Heil Hitler”, said they were part of the KKK, and then they sadistically beat him unconscious, broke his jaw, stapled his mouth into his gum, and threw him out of the party.

Witnesses to the attack at the party did not intervene. They did not to stop the beating. They did not call police. They did not call an ambulance. They simply continued to party on. When Zachary regained consciousness, he had to use a taxi to make it to a hospital for treatment of his severe injuries. The taxi took Zachary to Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital for initial treatment. And, astonishingly, Sparrow Hospital never reported the violent assault to the police. Zachary later had to undergo surgery at a Detroit area hospital. Read more ..


Islam on Edge

The Enemy’s Strategy is to Promote ‘American Islam’

August 28th 2012

Iranian clerics

Since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini led the Islamic Revolution in 1979, regime rhetoric has depicted the United States as a “Great Satan” and an enemy of Islam. In this context, the shifting depiction of America’s relationship to Islam, exemplified in a recent speech by Mehdi Mahdavi-Nezhad, a brigadier general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, is important. Rather than depict the United States as opposed to Islam, he promotes an alternative conspiracy about America trying to hijack Islam.

Mahdavi-Nezhad’s comments might be a tacit acknowledgement that ordinary Iranians recognize that the United States is not opposed to Islam. The Iranian diaspora in the United States numbers several hundred thousand at a minimum, even if the Iranian community’s claim that it numbers more than a million in Greater Los Angeles alone is an exaggeration. Most Iranian émigrés in the United States are Muslim, and many maintain contact with relatives back in Iran. With such links between the two communities, Iranian regime propaganda depicting the United States as anti-Islam has fallen increasingly on deaf ears. Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

Saving the American Dream: A Blueprint for Putting Patients First

August 28th 2012

Black infant

The insurmountable problems with Obamacare are well documented. It is unworkable and moves the health care system further in the wrong direction, increasing costs to families and adding to the country’s debt. It also empowers the government—not the individual patient—to control health care dollars and decisions. Over time, Americans will be more dependent on the government and government programs for their health care.

For those who believe in more freedom, less government, and lower health care costs, there is a better way. First, there is no “fixing” Obamacare; it must be fully repealed. The underlying law is so flawed that instead of trying to right its wrongs, it is better to just start over.

Once Obamacare is repealed, the next Congress must take transparent and thoughtful steps to help solve the problems that remain in the health care system by putting power back in the hands of the American people. Congress should focus on the main obstacles that still stand in the way of reaching a true patient-centered, market-based model—by reforming Medicare, Medicaid, and the tax treatment of health insurance and enacting commonsense insurance reforms. Just as importantly, Congress should move such policy changes through the normal process so they can be fully debated and vetted—and, if necessary, on a piece-by-piece basis. Read more ..


America on Edge

With Hurricane Isaac Coming, Everyone Asks the Wrong Question

August 28th 2012

Click to select Image

As Tropical Storm Isaac is upgraded to Hurricane Isaac, the national media’s focus is on comparing the potential impact of Hurricane Isaac to Hurricane Katrina. Given that Hurricane Isaac appears headed to New Orleans and may hit land exactly seven years after Hurricane Katrina did, this focus is natural. With this focus comes the inevitable question on whether the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is “prepared.” But a more important question is whether New Orleans and Louisiana are prepared for Hurricane Isaac.

Though it became easy to scapegoat former FEMA Director Michael Brown for FEMA’s failure during Hurricane Katrina, the reality is that FEMA’s failure occurred only because Mayor Ray Nagin (D) first failed to evacuate his city, and then-Governor Kathleen Blanco (D) failed to evacuate New Orleans and the surrounding region. Had the correct actions occurred at the local and state levels, FEMA’s ability to serve as the final backstop would never have been tested.

Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Revolutionary Sunni Islam is the World's Greatest Threat

August 28th 2012

Islam vs World in NYC

No, it sure isn’t the age of Aquarius or of Multicultural, Politically Correct love-ins. It’s the age of revolutionary Islamism, especially Sunni Islamism. And you better learn to understand what this is all about real fast. (Shia Islamism, important mainly because of Iran and especially because of its nuclear ambitions, is number two on the threat list. But that’s not our topic today.)

Focusing on the Sunni revolutionary Islamist tidal wave, the foundation of knowledge is that there are three types and they are all bad, very bad. A lot of people are going to be misinforming you about this and getting others—never themselves, of course—killed. Sometimes people ask me why I use the phrase “revolutionary” Sunni Islamism. The reason is to remind everyone that this is a revolutionary movement like those of the past that seek to use a variety of strategies and tactics–of which violence might be only one–to seize, hold, and use state power to transform societies. Read more ..


The New Egypt

The House the Muslim Brothers Built

August 28th 2012

Mohamed Morsi Speaks at Press Conference

The recent events in Sinai are the latest evidence of Egypt’s rapid transformation under the ascendancy of the Muslim Brotherhood. They are only the most visible manifestation of the Brotherhood’s project in the largest Arab state.

The details of the unfolding situation in Egypt, in turn, may offer clues as to the direction of events in other parts of the region, as Sunni Islamism moves forward to power and influence in a variety of countries. Events in Egypt have moved forward with astonishing rapidity. The Muslim Brotherhood’s swift victories in parliamentary and presidential elections left the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces as the final barrier to the Brotherhood’s full spectrum domination of Egypt. President Mohamed Morsy’s bold move this month to annul the constitutional declaration granting SCAF its special powers, and his sacking of a number of senior generals, have removed this obstacle. This achieved, the Brotherhood is now moving forward to consolidate power. In the committee tasked with drafting the new Egyptian constitution, Brotherhood members and other Islamists constitute a majority. They are pushing to ensure that Islamic Shari’a law forms the basis for Egypt’s governance.

Senior Brotherhood member Essam al-Arian told Asharq Alawsat newspaper this week that it is not right for a supporter of democracy to object to the right of the majority to implement Islamic Shari’a law.” President Morsy has himself said that Shari’a should govern all aspects of life. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Romney’s Tightrope Act at the GOP Convention

August 27th 2012

Ask Mitt

No major political party at any point in history existed without division. Different factions within each party have caused headaches for party leaders and, without fail, require presidential candidates to walk a fine line at their conventions. This year is no different. For Republicans, the past ten days have brought such division to the fore and have made Governor Romney’s task even more precarious.

Congressman Todd Akin’s offensive comments regarding sexual assault, conception, and abortion were in many ways outside of the mainstream of even Republican Party ideology. But, in other ways—the idea that abortion should be illegal in all cases, including rape and incest—expressed views that have measurable support, (~20 percent in the latest Gallup poll) and have become part of this year’s draft Republican platform. In fact, the division over abortion exceptions not only pits Republican voters against their partisan brothers (and sisters), but illustrates a divide among the two people running on the GOP ticket. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Political Conventions Remain Relevant

August 27th 2012

Republican Convention Wendell Wilkie

In a time of social media, iPads, FaceTime and constant communication, it is often difficult to understand the purpose and need for national political conventions. The question that is increasingly being asked — and which is becoming more relevant — is why we need to have these quadrennial gatherings at all. No convention in 70 years has played a significant role in picking the nominee of the party.

The platforms developed as statements of party policy at these events are often ignored — and the nominee of the party in some cases campaigns against them. The folks who attend the conventions used to take comfort in the assurance, at least, of enjoying a continuous good time.

But the actual convention partying has been scaled back considerably, as events were most often underwritten by those unsavory “special interests.” Thus the event’s fun has taken a significant hit in the last decade or so.

This all creates the feeling conventions are anachronisms — developed in an era when people needed to physically gather to set the course of their parties and the nation — that hold only a marginal purpose in today’s digital times. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama's Favorite Opponent

August 26th 2012

Romney and Ryan--Virginia Announcement

When my fellow columnist Juan Williams wrote, “Political professionals are saying quietly that Mitt Romney conceded the presidential race by putting Rep. Paul Ryan on his ticket,” he was channeling his inner James Reston.

In March of 1980, Reston wrote of Ronald Reagan: “Seldom in the history of American politics has a party out of power shown so much generosity to a president in such deep difficulty.” Reston characterized Reagan as “Carter’s favorite opponent” and even joked that the Democratic National Committee was running the Republican campaign. 

Reagan’s big victory later that year proved Reston wrong, and it wouldn’t surprise me if events will conspire to similarly prove Williams wrong. The conventional wisdom holds that the American people can’t handle an adult discussion of the tough issues facing this country. But is that an accurate reading of the American public?  Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

The Myths and Realities of the Ryan Medicare Plan

August 26th 2012

Click to select Image

Gov. Mitt Romney's selection of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate has turned the 2012 presidential election into a referendum on Medicare reform. Ryan has sponsored multiple Medicare reform bills in Congress, with the Left charging that the Romney-Ryan ticket would "gut Medicare" by turning it into a "voucher system," and even "ending Medicare as we know it." Moreover, President Obama's supporters say, the Romney-Ryan approach would force seniors to pay an extra $6,400 per year toward their Medicare costs.  But would Ryan and Romney's reform ideas, known as "premium support," really do all of these terrifying things?

The Truth About Vouchers

To begin, is premium support for Medicare a "voucher system" as opponents claim? The label "vouchers" brings up frightful images of helpless seniors being handed a little cash and charged with entering the cut-throat private insurance marketplace to secure whatever coverage they can. The reality is much closer to the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program for government workers than to this imagined horror story. Under the FEHB, the government pays a set amount toward employee health premiums, which can be applied to a range of approved health plans offered by a number of insurers. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syrian Crisis Highlights Palestinian Priorities

August 25th 2012

Syrian Refugees

The PA has voiced concern over the fate of Palestinians in Syria. But it still isn't willing to negotiate in an effort to get a state that could succor them.

Last month, the Palestinian Authority (PA) took the rare step of publicly voicing concern over the fate of Palestinians living in Syria. About 300 (out of a population of over 500,000) have already been killed, PA officials said, and with some Palestinians supporting the Assad government while others supported the opposition, they feared the community would increasingly be targeted by both sides.

Those 300 slain Palestinians pale beside a total Syrian death toll of over 19,000. Yet the PA's concern is clearly justified, because Palestinians find it harder than other Syrians to gain asylum in neighboring states. Some Palestinians have reportedly been turned back at the Jordanian border. Jordan denies this, but doesn't deny that unlike other Syrians, those Palestinians whom Jordan has admitted are strictly confined to the camps where they are housed. Palestinians have also been denied entry to Lebanon, and those that succeed in entering say they live in hiding for fear of being sent back. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Fading Rock Star Obama

August 25th 2012

Obama and Israel

There are few things more uncomfortable to witness than a fading rock star in the process of slipping down the ladder he seemed to scale so adeptly and nimbly what seems like not so long ago.

Four years ago, presidential candidate Barack Obama took Berlin by storm with a soaring speech to some 200,000 adoring fans. Having next to nothing in the way of bona fides on foreign policy, given his scant experience in the United States Senate, Obama needed to score a lot of love on his world tour in an uphill battle to fill that void. He was adored — not for any accomplishment on his part, but rather by simply being him. The crowds cheered and it all was positively glorious.

Fast-forward to 2012, and we see the fading rock star reluctant and refusing to take the world stage, even while his competition takes an important lap around other nations.

While presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney prepares to step onto that stage with his upcoming trip to the United Kingdom, Poland and Israel, giving us all an opportunity to evaluate how he does in that arena and see how he measures up as a potential leader of the free world, President Obama stays put. His campaign understands that it is impossible to replicate or even approximate the 2008 Berlin love-fest, now that Obama has a record in office and that it has proven itself considerably less than stellar. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

PA Voices Concern over Palestinians in Syria, but Isn't Willing to Negotiate for a State to Help Them

August 24th 2012

syria-killing

Last month, the Palestinian Authority (PA) took the rare step of publicly voicing concern over the fate of Palestinians living in Syria. About 300 (out of a population of over 500,000) have already been killed, PA officials said, and with some Palestinians supporting the Assad government while others supported the opposition, they feared the community would increasingly be targeted by both sides.

 

Those 300 slain Palestinians pale beside a total Syrian death toll of over 19,000. Yet the PA's concern is clearly justified, because Palestinians find it harder than other Syrians to gain asylum in neighboring states. Some Palestinians have reportedly been turned back at the Jordanian border. Jordan denies this, but doesn't deny that unlike other Syrians, those Palestinians whom Jordan has admitted are strictly confined to the camps where they are housed. Palestinians have also been denied entry to Lebanon, and those that succeed in entering say they live in hiding for fear of being sent back.

Read more ..


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