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The Arab Fall in Egypt

Where Did Nick Kristof Get the Idea That the Muslim Brotherhood is Moderate?

December 21st 2011

Egypt - Members of Muslim Brotherhood

Parliamentarians' offices typically feature self-flattering photos and patriotic paraphernalia, so I was taken aback by the decor of recently elected Muslim Brotherhood MP Saber Abouel Fotouh's Alexandria headquarters. The walls were mostly blank, except for a tremendous banner commemorating a protest that the Muslim Brotherhood had sponsored outside the local "Zionist consulate," complete with an image of a burning Israeli flag. (The demonstration took place following an August 18 incident along the Egyptian-Israeli border, in which Israel responded to a cross-border attack in Eilat that resulted in the deaths of eight Israelis by inadvertently killing six Egyptian soldiers when it chased the attackers back into the Sinai.) When I asked Abouel Fotouh whether it was appropriate for a future parliamentary leader to display a neighbor's flag in flames, he got rather defensive. "We burned [the Israeli flag] for our soldiers and for Gaza, and we will burn it again and again if they infiltrate anything in the region," he said. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Word of Caution On Assad’s Fall

December 19th 2011

Syrian Issues - Syrian Protesters

Defense Minister Ehud Barak was reported this week as predicting that the regime of Bashar Assad would fall within weeks.

Certainly things are not going well for the Assad family dictatorship. The bloodletting continues as the Free Syrian Army and other insurgent groups continue to strike at government forces. Economic sanctions endorsed by the Arab League are to take effect December 27. The economy is expected to sharply contract in the year ahead, in the wake of EU sanctions already in place and the collapse of the tourism industry.

And yet, observers should be careful before confidently predicting the imminent fall of the house of Assad. They have being doing so since April, but the dictator is still there. Notwithstanding his recent absurd performance on ABC News, he may well be with us for some time to come. The factors that have kept him in place so far largely remain. Read more ..


Palestine and Israel

What Palestinian Membership Means for UNESCO and the Rest of the United Nations

December 19th 2011

UN Topics - Palestinian Flag and UNESCO Flag
Palestinian Flag alongside a U.N. Flag at UNESCO ceremony

Earlier this year, president of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas announced that he would seek Palestinian membership in the United Nations as “Palestine.” Under the U.N. Charter, a recommendation from the U.N. Security Council is required before the General Assembly may admit a new member. The U.S. has a veto in the Security Council and the U.S. has the power to unilaterally block the Palestinian membership bid. As President Barack Obama made clear in his May 19 speech on Middle East policy, the U.S. does not believe that the U.N. is an appropriate venue for addressing the Palestinian statehood issue:

For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.

This statement was widely interpreted as a threat by President Obama to use America’s veto in the U.N. Security Council to block the Palestinian membership request.

Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Unnecessary Keystone XL Pipeline Delay Obstructs Energy, Jobs

December 19th 2011

Energy / Environment - Keystone Pipeline

The Obama Administration announced in November that it would neither approve nor reject the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would provide Americans with an abundant and secure supply of oil, until after the 2012 presidential election. The pipeline, which would be built by TransCanada, would connect a major oil production region in Canada to American Gulf Coast refineries. The permit proposal to build the pipeline pits two of President Barack Obama’s largest constituent groups against each other. Environmental activists oppose the construction, arguing that extracting oil from Canada’s tar sands, where dense petroleum is buried in a mixture of sand, clay, and water, is harmful to the environment. Labor unions, which would stand to benefit from the jobs created by construction of the 1,700-mile-long pipeline, are pushing for approval. Executive Order 13337 states that because the project crosses the U.S. border, TransCanada must submit an application to the U.S. Department of State, with final approval coming from the President. Instead of moving forward with this pro-jobs project, President Obama called for an additional environmental review—to examine the reroute of the pipeline path around a Nebraskan water aquifer. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

How Can Israel Please the American Government, Media, and “Experts?” It Can’t

December 18th 2011

Israel Topics - Western/Wailing Wall

There is a constant effort—especially by the anti-Israel left—to portray those who express mainstream Israeli public opinion and the views of professional analysts as “right-wing” or “Likudnik.” This leads me to wonder what one would have to say to please these people. What would be the equivalent of a “liberal” position for Israel according to them? What kinds of positions would they see as legitimate?

What follows is not meant to exaggerate in any way but is, I believe, a genuine list of what they demand. To please them, I presume one would have to say the following:

–President Barack Obama is the best president for Israel ever (even he says so!). There are no problems in the relationship and if there are these are all due to Israel’s government being so selfish, short-sighted and unreasonable.

–Israel would have to agree to the following: a long-term freeze of all construction on existing settlements; to drop the demand for the PA’s recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, drop the demand for demilitarization of a Palestinian state and that Palestinian refugees be resettled in the new state of Palestine (or remain where they are living now), and accept the partition of Jerusalem. Israel could keep its demand for security guarantees but would have to ask for the minimum on this point, too, since Israeli demands block peace. Read more ..


The Race for Nuclear

Japan’s Nuclear Withdrawal: Bad for Japan, Bad for the U.S., Bad for the World

December 18th 2011

Japan - Rad monitor Japan

After an earthquake and tsunami caused equipment failures, meltdowns, and release of radioactive material at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant in March, there has been much discussion in the Japanese government and among the public about whether to continue production of nuclear power. While Japan’s former head of government (prime minister at the time the accidents occurred) Naoto Kan aggressively pursued his country’s withdrawal from nuclear energy, the new prime minister (since September), Yoshihiko Noda, has acknowledged its enduring role for Japan. He has not, however, endorsed a new policy. Japan’s official post-Fukushima energy policy is scheduled for release in summer 2012. Despite this lack of policy clarity, Prime Minister Noda has said that existing reactors would be brought back online as quickly as possible, that construction on reactors that began pre-Fukushima could continue, and that exporting nuclear technology would remain a priority. However, he also has stated that Japan should reduce its reliance on nuclear energy, and has been vague on policies regarding any new reactor construction. Read more ..

War Against the Weak

Eugenics Is Coming Back

December 18th 2011

Eugenics - Twins-Height-Verschuer

When most Americans hear the word “eugenics,” what probably comes to mind is a doctor wearing an SS uniform.

Sadly, as I have said before however, the Third Reich learned much of what it knew about eugenics from Americans. It was Americans who showed the Nazis it was legally possible to prevent the “wrong kind of people” from reproducing. And it was Americans who launched what journalist Edwin Black called the “war against the weak,” a war that was supposed to have ended with the fall of the Third Reich.

Except that it didn’t, as a recent New York Times story made frighteningly clear. The story was about North Carolina’s debate on how to compensate the victims of its mandatory sterilization program. Between 1933 and 1977, the state sterilized an estimated 7,600 people, almost entirely on the basis of social workers’ say-so.

The decisions to involuntarily sterilize people were based on a combination of IQ tests and the individual’s personal history. For instance, when Charles Holt, who had been described as having a “low mentality,” prepared to leave a juvenile mental institution, his release was conditioned on having a vasectomy. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Are We Winning the War on Terror Finance?

December 16th 2011

Terrorism - Twin towers burning

A few days after the most successful terrorist attack in U.S. history, President George W. Bush stated, "Money is the lifeblood of terrorist operations. Today we are asking the world to stop payment." Ten years later, has that request been fulfilled?

The short answer is both "yes" and "no." Completely eradicating terror finance is impossible. There is no doubt that our financial countermeasures have not been as smart or efficient as they could be. However, after ten years of concerted effort, it is also now harder, costlier, and riskier for terrorists to raise and transfer funds, both in the United States and around the world.

The learning curve has been steep. For example, in the years immediately after September 11th, policymakers within the Treasury Department were convinced that "financial intelligence" was the key to following the terrorist money trail. They had misplaced faith in the approximately 18 million pieces of financial intelligence that are filed annually with Treasury, and in the countless million pieces of additional financial information filed by members of the international community. The intelligence comes from a wide variety of sources, including banks, money service businesses, and individuals. Read more ..


China's Military

America's Naval Presence in the Pacific

December 16th 2011

China Topics - Chinese Aircraft Carrier

Too long neglected, the Pacific region will soon be getting its due. As U.S. forces are withdrawing from Afghanistan and have already departed Iraq, it is to the strategically important Pacific that American attention will be directed. And not a moment too soon.

Friends and allies in the region have spent the better part of the last decade seeking greater U.S. political support and military presence in the face of China's aggressive expansion of its power.

While our focus was necessarily on Southwest Asia, Beijing was using its military to back up tendentious claims on energy fields hundreds of miles from its coast beneath the South China Sea. Beijing's attempt to mark claims lying within the Philippine and Vietnamese exclusive economic zones has sparked small-scale naval confrontations. Tensions continue to run high. China also has claims in the waters abutting Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. 
Read more ..


Immigration on Edge

Immigration Enforcement Shatters Families

December 15th 2011

Social Topics - Praying to a purple sky

The federal government appears to be taking a close look at immigration enforcement. Recently, the House Judiciary subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement conducted a hearing on Secure Communities, a federal program that will soon involve every local police department with the deportation of immigrants. Next week, the Department of Homeland Security will initiate a six-week pilot program in Denver and Baltimore that it says will result in quicker deportations of immigrants who have convictions, while providing relief for those considered low-priority. Unless these programs address the needs of families through clear policy guidelines, tragic separations will continue, especially for those also involved in the child welfare system. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

A Teaching Moment for Professor-in-Chief Barack Obama

December 14th 2011

Politics - Rep Dennis Cardoza

After observing President Obama for the last three years, it has become obvious to me that the president might prefer to be a university professor rather than do the job he holds today. While he might not realize that he feels this way, the evidence is very clear to those who work with or watch him closely.

Let me be clear — I’m not trying to disparage professors. But anyone who wonders why the president is not crushing the weak Republican field only needs to examine how President Obama has behaved more like Professor Obama:

‘IDEA DISEASE’

In the president’s first year in office, his administration suffered from what I call “idea disease.” Every week, and sometimes almost every day, the administration rolled out a new program for the country. There was no obvious prioritization and, after the rollout, very little effort to actually pass the latest idea/imperative/plan/edict. Instead, the new programs just kept coming, with the new proposals constantly stepping on the previous day’s message. This rampant “idea disease” squandered the tremendous goodwill generated by the Obama campaign’s message of “hope,” tainting the president’s personal appeal. As Democrats in Congress, we often felt like we were drinking water out of a fire hose, trying to simultaneously deal with past failures of the Bush administration and the avalanche of new initiatives from Obama. This lack of focus also made it easy for congressional Republicans to stall and foil many of President Obama’s best initiatives — which they did with relish!

Early in his administration, President/Professor Obama repeatedly referred to “teaching moments.” He would admonish staff, members of Congress and the public, in speeches and in private, about what they could learn from him. Rather than the ideological or corrupt “I’m above the law” attitudes of some past administrations, President Obama projected an arrogant “I’m right, you’re wrong” demeanor that alienated many potential allies. Read more ..


America and Israel

Disturbing and Anti-Semitic Tones of DoD Secretary Panetta Remarks about Israel

December 13th 2011

Presidential - Barack Obama

As next year’s presidential election approaches, U.S. President Barack Obama’s policies have moved in a more pro-Israel direction and his supporters have been desperately trying to make the case that he is Israel’s friend.

Last week’s comments by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta have done much to undermine that case, however, and appeared to make Israel the scapegoat for any negative consequences that could arise from the Jewish state having the audacity to defend itself against the existential threat of an Iranian nuclear bomb.

Worse than the actual comments were the disturbing anti-Semitic undertones inherent in Panetta’s remarks. The secretary warned of the potential negative consequences to the world economy of a military strike against Iran, but he only raised the danger to the world economy before the discussion with Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The impact on the economy would apply to any country attacking Iran, but the timing of his remarks were clearly aimed at Israel as that meeting took place amid a flurry of reports about Israel considering an imminent attack. Read more ..


The Musical Edge

Music Is The World

December 13th 2011

Jewish Topics - Klezmer (credit: Mitaskim)
credit: Mistakim

While I’m mostly inclined to listen to what is called “classical music,” upon occasion other musical genres have proven enticing and powerful. I grew up with classical music, but along the way, a few musicians not necessarily in that category have impinged their way onto my consciousness. I will humbly offer up a few of their names to make my point that what makes music great is not necessarily its genre.

Foremost among them was Giora Feidman, the greatest of the Klezmer musicians. The first time I heard him was in a small synagogue as the result of an invitation by an old friend, Marshall Levy, an amateur clarinetist and magician who said I just had to hear Giora.

As we sat on small uncomfortable wooden chairs, and I was intent on the stage, from behind me came this most haunting song being played on a clarinet.

Then this almost Charlie Chaplain-like figure strolled down the aisle, and my neck craned as he sauntered past me, clarinet in his mouth, and his arms holding the rest of the instrument on high. As he mounted the stage, he was playing Dixieland and Gershwin. Then he switched to “Jewish” music—you could hear those ancient tunes from Safed as if you were there. He also played Jazz, even cool Jazz. He was much better than Benny Goodman, who was his obvious inspiration. I didn’t know the clarinet was capable of such grand music. Read more ..


Latin America on Edge

Big Hopes for CELAC, but Little Outcome (At Least for Now)

December 12th 2011

Latin American Topics - Hugo Chavez somber

The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) held its first summit on December 2 and 3 in Caracas, Venezuela. The group’s purported purpose is to create a deeper relationship among the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, one that is able to function free of the all-pervasive daily political and economic influence coming from Washington. In fact, out of all the sovereign nations in the hemisphere, the United States and Canada are the only ones that are not scheduled to be included in the organization. For some of CELAC’s members, their far from hidden aims are to substitute membership in CELAC for their current reliance on the OAS. Presidents Hugo Chávez and Sebastián Piñera were appointed by the members of CELAC as its co-leaders, which could be an ironic development given that Chávez is maybe the most radical chief of state of the organization, and Piñera maybe its most conservative. Read more ..


The Arab Fall

Middle East Studies’ Failure to Predict or Address the “Arab Spring”

December 12th 2011

Egypt - Flames in Cairo

When the young Tunisian burned himself in protest against authoritarian oppression and lack of economic justice, triggering massive demonstrations in this small North African country, commentators hesitated to coin the movement as an Arab Spring. It took months, and events exploding in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and Syria before the West labeled the upheavals “Arab Spring.”

And as the movement was developing throughout the region the West was also unsure as to which direction these revolutions are going to go. The main slogan in the media, and often in academia was—for many months—“we don’t know who the rebels are, we don’t really know if the Arab protesters are liberal, Islamists, or populists.” And at times few months before and still as elections have been taking place in Tunisia and Egypt, scholars and Government experts have been arguing that the Islamists who are winning the elections, “probably will behave as democrats and would be moderated by the political process.” What was intriguing in these Western reactions was the number of questions: we don’t know, perhaps, maybe, probably. Read more ..


Defense on Edge

Pentagon can Make Great Savings with Enforcement of Financial Management Requirements

December 9th 2011

Military - F-22s at Sunset

Among the amendments pending to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 before the Senate is one sponsored by Senator Kelly Ayotte (R–NH) that seeks to move up the date in the law for the Department of Defense (DOD) to produce auditable financial statements. The amendment would move this date up from 2017 to 2014. This is in keeping with a pledge made in October by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to make the DOD audit-ready in half the time.

The Senate is right to be pressing the DOD to improve its financial management system. The objective is to make the most efficient and effective use of U.S. tax dollars dedicated to defense, and it is appropriate to hold Secretary Panetta to his pledge. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Resetting the Missile Balance with Russia

December 8th 2011

Military - 50 Minuteman
Minuteman missile launch

Section 1228 of the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 1540), sponsored by Representative Mo Brooks (R–AL), would impose an absolute ban on sharing sensitive missile defense technology with Russia, including the technology for performing hit-to-kill intercepts of attacking ballistic missiles.

On the other hand, the provision would permit the sharing of non-sensitive technology with Russia after the Administration certifies that the technology will not be proliferated to third countries and that Russia is providing reciprocity. As such, Section 1228 is a carefully balanced legislative guide to pursuing missile defense cooperation with Russia.

The Obama Administration has been pursuing missile defense cooperation agreements between the U.S. and Russia and between NATO and Russia as part of its policy to “reset” the U.S.–Russia bilateral relationship. The Administration’s efforts to reach these agreements have not advanced very far because Russia is demanding a lopsided agreement that will give it direct control—and therefore a veto—over the use of U.S. and NATO missile defense systems.

Russia is interested not in cooperating with the U.S. and NATO in the area of missile defense but in limiting or curtailing the capabilities of U.S. and NATO missile defense systems. While the Administration has stated that it will not accept agreements with Russia that limit U.S. and allied missile defense options,[1] it has declared its intention to limit U.S. missile defense capabilities to the extent necessary to preserve the strategic balance between the U.S. and Russia.[2] This is code for keeping the American people vulnerable to Russian nuclear-armed ballistic missile attacks. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

Obama’s Middle East Policy: A Unified Field Theory

December 6th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Obama AIPAC
President Obama at an AIPAC convention

In the history of physics, the “unified field theory” was an attempt to bring together an understanding of all forms of energy in a single explanation. Albert Einstein tried and failed to discover this. I don’t know much about physics but I know about Middle East policy.

So here’s an effort to bring together all of Obama’s regional policy into a single analysis and explaining everything in 1100 words.

The first point  is that the Obama Administration’s behavior must be divided into two phases. They overlap and feature the same kind of thinking but they are also quite separate.

Phase One, from January 2009 until December 2010 was characterized by an emphasis on Israel-Palestinian peacemaking.  Obama’s Administration believed that it was possible to make rapid progress toward peace and also thought that this was essential to achieve anything else in the Middle East.

To achieve peace, they thought, required mainly putting pressure on Israel for more concessions and winning support from Arab states and Muslims by proving that the United States was more sympathetic to them than any previous presidency. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

Panetta Blames the Victim, but Obama Should Back Away from That Stance

December 6th 2011

Jewish Organizations - Abraham Foxman
Abraham H. Foxman

The notion that Israel is primarily responsible for deteriorating relations with Turkey, Egypt, and the Palestinians, as claimed by U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in his speech to the 2011 Saban Forum, is more than simply inaccurate. It is disturbing and potentially dangerous.

While bad at any time, his finding fault with Israel at a time of great instability and uncertainty in the region is particularly distressing. More than ever, Israel stands out as an island of stability and friendship with the United States.

The defense secretary's comments need a clear repudiation from the White House. Letting the secretary's views stand as is could serve to bolster those in the region who seek to return to days when Israel truly was isolated. Rather than scoring points for this administration in the Muslim world, it will reinforce their perception of American weakness for not sticking with a friend and will embolden enemies of Israel to increase their hostility toward the Jewish state.

Mr. Panetta's analysis of developments in the region is quite strange. That Israel is facing difficulties with Turkey, Egypt and the Palestinians is, of course, a fact. Why that is so bears no resemblance to what the defense secretary said.

In the case of the Palestinians, it is Israel that has called for negotiations time and again, only to be rejected by the Palestinians. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Enforce Existing Laws against Iran: Obama's new get-tough policy is weaker than Current Measures

December 6th 2011

Iran - Iran nuke reactor 3
Iran's Nuclear Reactor

In recent years, the United States has imposed punishing sanctions on Iran's financial sector. Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department announced new measures intended to hamper Iran's ability to raise and move funds internationally. Several Western allies have followed suit in an attempt to tighten the noose around the Islamic Republic and curb its ability to achieve nuclearization. Yet a close analysis of Treasury's action demonstrates that the new sanctions regime is far weaker than existing laws and falls short of the moves that members of Congress are demanding. What is needed is not new measures, but better implementation of existing statues.

Despite four rounds of sanctions by the United Nations and a concerted effort by many Western allies, a large number of banks around the world continue to do business with Iranian financial institutions that are complicit in supporting terrorist groups and spreading nuclear weapons. The Central Bank of Iran (CBI), for example, still has unfettered access to the international financial sector, even though it has been accused of helping fund Iran's nuclear weapons program, facilitating money transfers to terrorist organizations, and proliferating weapons of mass destruction. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

First Panetta, now Ambassador Gutman--Listen to Obama Representatives, Not to Obama Promises

December 4th 2011

Israel Topics - Obama and Netanyau
President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu

First it was Leon Panetta, and now it’s Howard Gutman. President Barack Obama, who just last week told Jewish groups that he was proud that the U.S. considered Israel America’s “best ally,” now faces a torrent of administration appointees making it quite clear that for this administration, Israel is to be blamed for all of its failure in Middle East policy-making.
As readers of PJ Media already know after reading Barry Rubin’s recent post, Leon Panetta told  the Saban Center in Washington, D.C., on Friday that Israel is responsible for its isolation in the world, that it hence must take bold action of a diplomatic nature to restore stability in the region, and that it must “get to the damn table.” When he was asked what the repercussions might be of a military strike against Iran, the secretary answered that if Israel struck the U.S. might be blamed and “could possibly be the target of retaliation from Iran.”
The clear implication is that Panetta thought it should not be done, and although he said all options are always on the table re Iran, any  Mullah worth his salt would take his words to mean the U.S. secretary of Defense was advising against such tough military action by Israel. Panetta concluded with these words of warning: Read more ..


American History

What Ended the Great Depression

December 4th 2011

America Themes - USANRA

What ended the Great Depression?  Contrary to the popular view, the New Deal did not, at least depending on who you ask.  Some conservative economists believe the New Deal possibly extended its length.  What everybody agrees ended the Great Depression was World War II marked the end of the Great Depression.   Liberal economists point to the vast increase in government spending during the war as a reason for the end of the Depression.  (Of course, organized labor had its own plans for the recovery, and some economists still dispute the centrality of the war in ending the Depression.)

One may ask how on earth a war could bring economic prosperity to a nation.  War is a machination for destruction, not production.  Common results of war include the bombing of buildings and infrastructure, the loss of human lives and an emphasis on the production of war materiel rather than products that actually enhance a person’s status and happiness—like refrigerators, clothes, food, radios and medical advancements. Read more ..


Ecuador on Edge

Ecuador's Media Caught in the Crossfire between a Popular President and Defenders of Free Speech

December 4th 2011

Ecuador Topics - el-universo-protesta

Throughout its history, free speech in Ecuador has been under constant threat by the government. After the country’s democratic life resumed in 1979, León Febres Cordero soon became one of the presidents who most abused his power to intimidate the media. Since then, there has not been a lack of heads of state who have done the same - among them Sixto Durán Ballén, Gustavo Noboa, Abdalá Bucaram, and Lucio Gutiérrez. Such leaders had been intent on closing down radio and television networks, while accusing the journalists of corruption, or encouraging the public to burn copies of newspapers. An example of the press war between the presidential palace and the media dates back to November 2003 when then President Lucio Gutiérrez accused El Comercio of being “satirical." Read more ..


The Way We Are

Self-esteem is Critical to Sustaining Wealth

December 2nd 2011

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

While reflecting on my childhood recently, I realized that self-esteem has a phenomenal impact on one's ability to become an entrepreneur. In order to do something new, one must believe in oneself, and that is very difficult with low self-esteem. It is critical that every child be brought up in an encouraging environment. I remember my father once said, "if we only tell them (referring to us, their children) negative things, and then the world reinforces that, how will they ever develop confidence?"

Self-esteem is the knowledge that you are a capable human being, able to learn from mistakes and turn them into triumphs. When you step out into the world, you must be able to converse and act with confidence in business and with friends. Home is one of the best places to start. Everyone needs encouragement and a sense that they are doing something right; without this feeling, it is easy to fall into the habit of self-doubt and pity.

In starting a business, you must have the self-esteem necessary to defend your ideas while listening to accomplished people contradicting you. The story of Famous Amos illustrates the confidence and lack of self-pity necessary to succeed in business. Famous Amos not only had his company stolen, but the rights to his own name as well—but he went on to create a new company; Uncle No Name cookies. In the face of his defeat he did not complain nor make excuses, he simply made up his mind that he would do well again, and he did. Read more ..


The Arab Fall

Fundamentalists by any other name would be as frightening

December 2nd 2011

Islamic Topics - Moslem Brotherhood
Muslim Brotherhood

In Egypt it is called the "Freedom and Justice Party." In Tunisia, it is called the "Renaissance Party."  They are benign sounding names. But in both cases they are political arms of the Muslim Brotherhood.

A couple of weeks ago, I warned that events in the Muslim world which we naively saw as the result of a yearning for freedom and democracy were in fact the product and brainchild of the Muslim Brotherhood. I would venture to say that the Brotherhood has plotted the overthrow of the existing governments for years even as many of its leaders were in exile. The events in Tunisia provided the opportunity for the Brotherhood "to unleash the Kraken" everywhere else.  And I suspect that they had their people well placed to start revolution all over the Middle East map.

Now we hear talk about the moderate Islamists, even about a moderate Brotherhood. And the Brotherhood, understanding us better than we understand them, salted and peppered their rhetoric to play into that Western delusion. In fact, the Brotherhood is not even on the State Department's terrorist list. There are two reasons for that. One reason is that the Brotherhood is a religious organization and the other is that the Brotherhood had renounced terrorism in the 1970s. Yet, they were the impetus for Hamas and al Qaeda. Read more ..


Military on Edge

Are We Entering Another Interwar Period?

November 30th 2011

Military - Korean War Memorial, OlympiaWA
Korean War Memorial, Olympia, Washington

“A nation that does not prepare for all forms of war should then renounce the use of war in national policy. A people that does not prepare to fight should then be morally prepared to surrender.”

– T.R. Fehrenbach, in his classic study of the Korean War, This Kind of War: A Study in Unpreparedness

Our nation has been in five big fights in my lifetime, and many more smaller ones. In four of those big fights, we were either totally unprepared or we had prepared for a completely different kind of fight than the one in which we found ourselves. Desert Storm was the only exception.

Military professionals and historians know this and are perpetually repeating to each other the cliché about preparing for the next war instead of the last one. Knowing, however, that we have been wrong four out of five times, it is a curious phenomenon how frequently we then hear the assertion, often in the next breath, that “the next one” will take a very specific and predictable form, such as insurgency or counter-terrorism. To make such assertions is to ignore the lessons of history. The operative lesson is that no one can state with certainty what form “the next one” will take. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Spare the Victory Dance

November 30th 2011

Terrorism - Osama bin Laden

Aproaching the 10-year anniversary of September 11th, senior U.S. officials have all but declared victory over al-Qaeda. Former top spy and newly-installed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta claimed this summer that the United States was “within reach of strategically defeating al-Qaeda.” Indeed, a recent Washington Post headline declared: “Officials: Al-Qaeda Close to Collapse.”

Killing Osama bin Laden undoubtedly was a major milestone. Counterterrorism officials trumpet that the al-Qaeda reins are now held by Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is commonly seen as uninspiring and divisive. “I have yet to see a debriefing of a suspect in a significant terrorism plot who said, ‘I was inspired by the videotapes of Ayman al-Zawahiri,’” a former intelligence deputy recently remarked.

Yet analysis that places personalities above ideas is deeply flawed. It provides Americans a false sense of security, blinding them to the significant terrorism challenges we face.

Consider Bin Laden’s vision. According to the Congressional Research Service, Bin Laden and his associates “have sought to serve as the vanguard of a religious movement that inspires Muslims and other individuals aspiring to join a jihadi movement to help defend and purify Islam through violent means. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

The Assault on Jewish Jerusalem

November 27th 2011

Israel Topics - A map

The ongoing pressures exerted against construction in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem like Gilo reflect intensified global efforts to redivide the city.

Like many aspects of the Israeli-Arab conflict, the issue of Jerusalem is being reviewed in a vacuum without relationship to the reality on the ground. It also overlooks the abominable restrictions on freedom of worship in the eastern part of the city between 1948 and 1967 when the city was occupied by Jordan. Jewish holy sites, including the 2000 year-old Jewish cemetery at the Mount of Olives were desecrated, with tombstones used to build latrines.

In the Old City, all 58 synagogues were razed to the ground, including the ancient Hurva synagogue. Read more ..


The West on Edge

A Trans-Atlantic Partnership

November 25th 2011

UN Topics - US-EU handshake

At precisely the same moment on Tuesday, October 4, parliamentary hearings started on each side of the Atlantic on the very same issue. Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, began his testimony on the economic outlook to the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress, just as his counterpart in Europe, Jean-Claude Trichet, then president of the European Central Bank, started his regular evidence session with the Economic and Monetary Committee of the European Parliament.

The reality revealed by this episode is that, in the face of a serious economic crisis affecting both our continents, lawmakers in America and Europe are in fact working more and more to a common—and hopefully increasingly converging—political agenda. On many issues—whether it be financial market regulation, farm reform, climate change, transport security, cyber crime or energy scarcity—we are very often grappling with similar problems in a world where, sadly, our individual influence is shrinking.

We have strongly argued for the completion of the transatlantic market—by removing tariff and nontariff barriers to trade and promoting regulatory convergence—just as we recently endorsed the Transatlantic Jobs and Growth Initiative. We look forward to momentum being carried forward on this front at the upcoming European Union-U.S. Summit. Read more ..


US Economy on Edge

Government Regulation does not Hinder Job Creation, says the Government

November 23rd 2011

Economy - Job Board

Do regulations kill jobs? Not according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–NV). In a floor speech November 15, Reid argued that the idea that regulations cost jobs was a “myth,” claiming that according to the Labor Department, “only a tiny fraction of layoffs have anything at all to do with tighter regulation.” In fact, he said, “last year, only three-tenths of 1 percent of people who lost their jobs were let go principally because of government regulation or intervention.”

Reid is not the only one to cite these numbers. They have been widely cited in media outlets ranging from The New York Times and The Washington Post to Mother Jones as proof that regulation is not a contributing cause of America’s stubbornly high jobless rate.  However, the statistics are of doubtful accuracy and have little to do with the primary cause of joblessness in the U.S. economy today: the lack of job creation.  Read more ..


The Food Edge

Shocking Ingredient in Bread That’s Problematic for Jews and Muslims

November 22nd 2011

Food - Bread

You may be eating a dead person’s hair in your commercially-baked bread. Watch out for L-cysteine if you’re queasy.

It’s name is inconspicuous enough, not something that would make the average consumer squirm as they read the ingredients label on a loaf of bread. The problem isn’t what L-cysteine does – it’s a non-essential amino acid used by many commercial bakers to condition the dough – but where it comes from: human hair. According to NaturalNews.com, much of it is from China, a country with a less than glowing track record for food contaminants.

According to the author, synthetic L-cysteine is sometimes used, while natural sources include human hair, chicken and duck feathers, cow horns and petroleum byproducts. “The hair is dissolved in acid and L-cysteine is isolated through a chemical process, then packaged and shipped off to commercial bread producers.” Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Only Threat of Military Action Will Stop Iran

November 22nd 2011

Iran - Iran Nuclear Equipment

Military action is a last resort. But for nuclear diplomacy to succeed, Tehran must believe that if it tries to build a bomb, the United States will undertake military action to disrupt such an effort.

Iran's near-term nuclear intentions are unclear. The recent International Atomic Energy Agency report supports the conclusion that at the very least, Tehran seeks an option to build a bomb. Believing that its nuclear program would be attacked if it sought to exercise this option might deter it from doing so, or at least cause it to defer such a decision.

The recent alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington should be a wake-up call. It indicates that 30 years of Iranian terrorist attacks on American interests, without a U.S. military response, has convinced Tehran that it can continue to act with impunity -- even on U.S. soil. Unless Washington alters Tehran's risk calculus, the United States may be targeted again. Iran may even conclude that it can also build a bomb with relative impunity.

Advocates of containment -- the much-touted alternative to diplomacy or to preventive military action -- often present it as a low-cost, low-risk policy option. They frequently gloss over the fact that to work, it must be backed up with a credible threat of force; that the costs of a nuclear deterrence failure in a proliferated Middle East may be measured in millions of lives lost; and that the likelihood of a nuclear deterrence failure is not trivial, given the propensity of an embattled and increasingly insular and hard-line regime in Tehran to miscalculate and overreach. Read more ..


Health Care on Edge

Keeping an Eye on Insurance Rates in the Golden State

November 20th 2011

Politics - CA State House

If there is one organization that insurers despise and fear more than any other, it surely must be Consumer Watchdog.

Since its founding in 1985, Los Angeles-based Consumer Watchdog has dogged insurers relentlessly and played a key role numerous times in forcing them to change business practices and price their policies more fairly. I first heard of the organization in 1996 when I was still an insurance industry spokesman. Consumer Watchdog seemingly came out of nowhere to take the lead in trying to put a halt to a new practice in the insurance industry: requiring women to be discharged from the hospital within a day after delivering a baby or undergoing a mastectomy. Largely because of Consumer Watchdog’s efforts, insurers had to rewrite their discharge policies.

The organization’s first major attack on the insurance industry—a ballot initiative in California (Proposition 103) require auto insurers to seek prior approval from regulators before increasing rates—has saved drivers in the Golden State more than $62 billion over the past two decades, according to an analysis by the Consumer Federation of America. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

Shared Security, Greater Stability--The U.S., Israel, and The QME

November 20th 2011

Israeli Military - Israeli Jets Parked

While the Obama administration has pursued Middle East policies that could be characterized as being sometimes indifferent to Israel's precarious security situation, relations between our Department of Defense and the Israel Defense Forces are as good today, if not better,  than they have ever been. Both countries reap the benefits that flow from their strategic cooperation and the provision of advanced U.S. defense systems. Above all, they significantly contribute to Israeli deterrence which leads directly to greater regional stability. 

Such stability allows Israel to prosper despite its neighbors' hostility. That Israel is the only true, pluralistic democracy in the critical arc from Egypt eastward through the Gulf States and north through Syria and Iran is a fact that should not be lost on those who favor dealing with "dictators who can deliver." 

  Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama and the Supercommittee: the Time to Lead is Now

November 19th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Barack Obama Israel speech

President Obama looks better for reelection today than any Republican could have possibly imagined as recently as six months ago. Recent polling shows him ahead of all Republican candidates in the pivotal swing state of Ohio, and he leads or is in a dead heat in the national polls against every GOP candidate, including Mitt Romney - this despite his low grades on handling the economy and the continued unemployment rate of 9 percent. 

Yet Obama still has one major stylistic liability that threatens his reelection: the perception of passive or belated leadership, or both. 

Now, with only a few days left to the deadline for the supercommittee to report on recommendations for at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions, it is time for Obama to lead in breaking the stalemate - specifically, to suggest he can support the latest Republican proposal by supercommittee members, i.e., to raise $300 million by closing tax loopholes. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Stronger Words but no Strong Action Yet on Iran's Nukes

November 16th 2011

Iran - Iranian chador pageant

Now that the International Atomic Energy Aency (IAEA) has issued its report confirming what most of us already knew for quite sometime - namely that Iran was developing a nuclear weapon - what has changed?

So far, nothing has changed except the credibility of Iran's denial of its intentions for seeking nuclear capability. Not even that is wholly true because all the while Iran was claiming that she was not seeking to weaponize her nuclear program she also threatened to use her prospective capabilities against Israel.

Now, all of a sudden, all eyes are on Israel. There is a lot of speculation as to whether Israel will or will not take unilateral military action against Iran.

But this is not exclusively an Israeli problem. It is a worldwide problem. Every nation needs to be concerned particularly Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Reaching the Point of No Return for Iran's Nuclear Threat to the World

November 14th 2011

Iran - Iran Long-Range Missile

Iran’s Nuclear Challenge Reaching Point of No Return
The current stalemate over Iran invites comparisons with Iraq in the months leading up to the 2003 war, but there is a critical difference between the two situations.

On Sept. 25, 2009, a grim-faced President Obama stood before the phalanx of journalists covering the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh to share a sensational piece of intelligence. Flanked by the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, and the then British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, Obama disclosed that Iran had been operating a clandestine uranium enrichment plant near the town of Fordow, in the country’s north.

The discovery of the Fordow facility—buried 300 feet beneath the region’s mountainous terrain, under the control of the regime’s much-feared Revolutionary Guard—did not sway Iran from the official line that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. Accordingly, Obama delivered a warning to Tehran. If Iran’s leaders continued to ignore the growing series of UN Security Council resolutions demanding the reigning in of their nuclear ambitions, they would be held “accountable.” Read more ..


Campus Hate

Israel and Academic Freedom

November 13th 2011

Campus - Kent State
Entrance to the Campus at Kent State

Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), one of the most prominent organizations supporting college and university professors, has forcefully and inappropriately spoken out in support of uncivil discourse. In an ironic twist, this development stands in stark contradiction to what organizations such as the American Association of Universities have stated:

In order to fulfill their responsibilities to academic freedom and intellectual development, universities must provide a forum in which individuals and groups can advocate their views, the Association of American Universities wrote in January. In a statement on the "responsibility of universities at a time of international tension and domestic protest," the organization of research universities said that such institutions must ensure an environment for civil discourse that is free of violence and intimidation; protect the rights of all members of campus communities to pursue learning, teaching, scholarship, and research; and actively promote informed dialogue and analytical thought. Read more ..


Campus Hate

Invoking ‘Academic Freedom’ to Silence Others

November 11th 2011

Israel Topics - Students Protest Israel
Students at U.C. Irvine Protesting a Lecture by Israel Ambassador Michael Oren

Academic freedom, like democracy, is one of those things everyone supports because it can mean anything to anyone. In this sense, it is the opposite of anti-Semitism, which everyone opposes because it can be defined so narrowly that it means virtually nothing at all. What’s interesting is when the two concepts collide.

This is precisely what happened, for example, on Oct. 28 at Kent State University. Guest speaker Ishmael Khaldi, a former Israeli consul official, got a rough welcome when he visited to discuss his experience as an Israeli Bedouin. Professor Julio Pino, a Kent State historian, asked Khaldi hostile questions before leaving the hall shouting, “Death to Israel!” Read more ..

Inside Latin America

All Good Things come to an End for Ecuador's Rafael Correa

November 11th 2011

Ecuador Topics - Rafael Correa
Rafael Correa

In the next twenty months, Rafael Correa’s second and final presidential term that began in 2009, will come to a close. The story of the young and impetuous president who has weathered an attempted coup, endless criticism from a divided but increasingly boisterous opposition, and a relentless battle with the media, already has begun to be recorded in the country’s chronicles. Over the course of his time in office, Correa undeniably has nurtured a foreign policy that has isolated Ecuador from international markets and distanced the nation from Washington, which happens to be its main trading partner. Nevertheless, not unimportantly, the Obama White House continues to see Ecuador as a key player in the fight against narco-trafficking.

Investments in education, health, and infrastructure have reflected some of Correa’s major achievements, but his government’s unbridled spending habits have left the country short of foreign exchange and vulnerable to the effects of the global economic recession. Additionally, cracks have started to appear within his party structure due to ideological differences dividing the nation. Though the possibility of a destabilization of Ecuador’s democratic institutions seems remote at this time, both Correa and his polity could use a dose of tolerance. They both must learn the important lesson of disagreeing with one another while firmly upholding the tenets of democracy. Read more ..



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