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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." 


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 ..

The Edge of Justice

Americans born in Israel's Capital City are Prohibited from listing Israel as their Country of Birth on Passports

November 11th 2011

Israel Topics - Jerusalem Capital of Israel
Protest in New York for U.S. to Recognize Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel

Where is Jerusalem located? What seems like a simple matter of geography is actually a thorny diplomatic issue, one the U.S. State Department has aggressively avoided answering on official U.S. forms since the early 1990s. On passports and birth certificates, Americans born in Jerusalem are prohibited from adding "Israel" after the city name. Instead, Israel's capital is listed without a nation attached to it, a purposeful ambiguity meant to suggest that Foggy Bottom doesn't favor the Israelis or the Palestinians. Jerusalem's ultimate status will be resolved in a final peace agreement at some later date-or by the Supreme Court, which is hearing arguments today in the case of Menachem Binyamin Zivotofsky v. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Read more ..

Edge of Justice

Interpol Boss Ronald Noble Sees Red over Red Notices

November 11th 2011

Crime Topics - Ronald K Noble of Interpol
Interpol Sec. Gen. Ronald K. Noble

While concerns grow that Red Notices are not only being issued in violation of human rights, but also that corrupt police forces extend their reach with them, Interpol Chief, Ronald Noble, is angrily dismissive when probed.

Since Interpol's chequered beginnings between 1923 and World War II, it has grown into an organization that envelopes the world and is now the second largest international organization after the United Nations. In addition to its headquarters in Lyon, France, Interpol has regional bureaus in Abidjan, Nairobi, Buenos Aires and San Salvador, liaison offices in Bangkok and New York, and National Central Bureaus (NCBs) in 190 member countries. Furthermore, presently under construction in Singapore is Interpol's state-of-the-art Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI), which Secretary General Ronald K. Noble (of Waco Siege, Texas fame) describes as "an initiative that will increase Interpol's operational reach around the globe." Read more ..

The Arab Fall

Welcome to the Islamist Middle East and It’s Not Going to Be Moderate

November 8th 2011

Iraq - Revolutionary Guards

Ladies and gentlemen, liberals and conservatives, Obama-lovers and Obama-haters, no matter what your race, creed, gender, national origin, or level of unpaid college loans, two things should be clear to all of you:

First, to describe the Obama administration’s Middle East policy as a disaster - I cannot think of a bigger, deadlier mess created by any U.S. foreign policy in the last century - is an understatement.

Second, the dominant analysis used by the media, academia, and the talking heads on television has proven dangerously wrong. This includes the ideas that revolutionary Islamism doesn’t exist, cannot be talked about, is not a threat, and that extreme radicals are really moderates. Read more ..

Arab Winter

Reading the Tea Leaves following Tunisia's Islamist Electoral Victory

November 7th 2011

Pres Zine el-Abidine Ben-Ali in the trash
Discarded portrait of former President Ben-Ali (credit: Magharebia)

While the world is looking at the demise of Colonel Gaddafi and dreaming of a Libyan democracy perhaps a far more significant event is taking place somewhat unnoticed next door in Tunisia.

Tunisia, which was the first country to have an uprising in a series of government overthrows that ironically became known as "the Arab Spring," has just engaged in another first. It held the first post "Arab Spring" elections in the Muslim world.

The elections took place on October 27. And there was a large and enthusiastic voter turnout.

Are there any lessons to be learned from the Tunisian elections? You bet there are, if we are willing to read the tea leaves. The winner in this election was the Ennahda Party, a formerly banned Islamist party that rapidly came to life after the overthrow of President Ben Ali.

The titular head of the party, Rachad Ghannouchi, claims he wants an Islamist democracy in Tunisia. Whatever that means. Read more ..

The Weapon's Edge

Panetta Warns Congress on Defense Spending

November 6th 2011

Military - KC-135, A-10s, and F-16s

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warned Congress that it would be "catastrophic" if the defense budget were to be reduced any further than the already agreed upon $450 billion in cuts to be made over the next ten years. Catastrophic is a strong word. Secretary Panetta is not known for hyperbole so we better take his warning seriously. It is always easier to balance the budget on the back of defense, because most people do not feel immediately impacted by cuts in defense. People are fearful, however, that they will not be able to make ends meet. They are concerned as to whether they will have jobs. They are directly impacted by proposed and actual cuts to social security, to Medicare, and to education. They will feel the burden of tax increases. Read more ..

America's Economic Recovery

Avoiding America’s Lost Decades

November 4th 2011

Japan - Japan money

The warning bells were sounded in early 2009: The U.S. government had to act swiftly and forcefully to avoid repeating Japan’s painful experience of sustained economic stagnation. The Obama Administration’s policies have failed to this point, and Japanese-style long-term stagnation may well ensue unless a fundamental course correction and decisive steps are taken. The two most important steps are to halt the federal government’s regulatory onslaught and to put the federal budget on a credible path toward balance by cutting spending quickly and steadily.

It is hard to exaggerate the shift in Japan’s fortunes over the past two decades. The Japanese economic miracle lasted over 40 years and saw the country climb out of true devastation from World War II to have the globe’s second-largest economy, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP). Many observers thought it was only a matter of time before Japan replaced the United States as the world’s leading economy. Read more ..

The Iranian Threat

Ecuador Defies the World to Deepen Relations with Iran

November 3rd 2011

Iran - Ecuador's Rafael Correa and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa clasps hand

with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

In an act of defying United States, European Union, and even United Nation’s policy, Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa pledged on October 26 to continue to build financial, trade and industrial ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Fars News, the Islamic Regime’s official news agency, published Correa’s remarks, and offered words on the Regime’s success in wooing further Latin American states such as Brazil, Venezuela, Cuba and Bolivia. Iran began building ties with Venezuelan Dictator Hugo Chavez soon after he came to power. Since then, he has been instrumental in supporting Iran’s relatively unchallenged campaign to further infiltrate Latin America.

Industrial, military and economic cooperation between resource-rich Latin America and uranium-hungry Iran raises many eyebrows and sparks even more concerns; the sanctions imposed on the Islamic Regime’s banks and energy sector by the U.S, the E.U. and the U.N. are effectively being skirted by our hemispherical neighbors. Read more ..

America and Turkey

Don’t Let Turkey Veto Effective Missile Defense

November 2nd 2011

Israeli Military - X band radar

This year, in a major breakthrough, Israeli Iron Dome batteries successfully intercepted scores of rockets and missiles fired from Gaza. Its 85 percent success rate has been a major deterrent of Gazan rocket fire and has propelled heated interest in the system by NATO countries and South Korea. These successes, moreover, could not have been possible without the U.S.-provided $235 million, which Israel is using to ramp up the deployment of batteries on its southern and, perhaps, northern borders. As Congressman Steve Rothman said earlier this year, “We gave them $3 billion, they have to use 75 percent of it to buy our stuff, and then they give us improvements on all the stuff we sell them, plus all the intelligence network.” “Such a bargain for the U.S.,” he added.

That “bargain,” however, is being challenged by Turkey’s opposition to cooperation with Israel under Washington’s missile defense umbrella. Turkey's regional realignment is threatening to insert itself directly into the deep and extensive defense cooperation between the U.S. and Israel. As the United States attempts to integrate its diverse missile defense programs into a single, regional network - called the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) - Ankara’s supposed refusal to liaise with Jerusalem could inhibit the protection of NATO countries and Israel from Iran’s ballistic missile arsenal. Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Muslim Brotherhood Influence Grows as Arab Fall becomes a Chill

November 1st 2011

Islamic Topics - Nihad Awad - left, Ibrahim Hooper - right CAIR
CAIR director Nihad Awad (l) and spokesman Ibrahim Hooper (r)

Disturbing reports are coming out of Washington, D.C.

These reports reveal the depth of the below-the-surface coordination between the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Hamas, Hezbollah, the Iranian regime and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Libya and Jordan. This bloc of regimes and organizations is now becoming the greatest Islamist radical lobby ever to penetrate and infiltrate the White House, Congress, the State Department and the main decision making centers of the U.S. government. All of this is happening at a time when the US government is going through its most strategically dangerous period in modern times because of its need to confront the Iranian Mullahs regime, which is expanding in the Middle East, as well as penetrating the United States, via powerful and influential allies.

It looks like the near future will uncover many surprises after the fall of the Gaddafi regime, as we realize more and more that the popular revolts in the Arab world - and the Obama Administration’s position towards them - were determined by political battles between various pressure groups in Washington. Moreover, pressures by these lobbying groups have left an impact on the region's events, the last of which was the canceling of the visit of Maronite Patriarch Rahi to Washington. A number of Arab and Western news agencies have leaked that one of “those who sought to cancel this visit was Dalia Mujahid, a top advisor on Islamic and Arab affairs at the State Department, who is of Egyptian origin. And that”, said the reports, “came at the request of the high command of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, who wish to see the US Administration support the Islamist Sunni current.” Read more ..

The Arab Fall

Let us Extend a Hand to Those Imperiled by Radical Islam

October 30th 2011

Arab Topics - Golan Hts protesters 062011

Earlier this year, the world was abuzz with news of the “Arab Spring.” As protesters took to the streets in great numbers, and as one oppressive Arab regime after another fell, it seemed to many that a new branch of liberty was flowering in this troubled part of the world.

There were others, however, who sounded a note of skepticism. Since there is no longstanding tradition of democracy in Arab countries, they cautioned, there was little reason to believe that the removal of oppressive dictators would result in the establishment of democratic forms of government.

Sadly, it seems the skeptics were right. Power vacuums that have been created in Arab countries where regimes have changed in recent months have not been filled by those seeking greater democracy and pluralism. They have been filled — or are in the process of being filled — by adherents of the intolerant, hateful ideology of radical Islam. It happened again earlier this week, when the interim leader in Libya, which recently lost its tyrannical ruler with the death of the murderous Muammar Gaddafi, promised that post-Gaddafi Libya will be ruled by the dictates of strict Islamic law. Read more ..

Libya after Gadhafi

Libya Mission A Success … Go Home

October 28th 2011

Libya - Gadhafi statue gets kicked

Another chapter of the Arab Spring concluded with Gadhafi’s death. The US played a significant financial role in tumbling his regime. We lost no troops and avoided political turmoil by putting no boots on the ground. There are important lessons that can be learned, such as the use of counterterrorism exercises and technology as opposed to flesh and blood to win wars. We should study and learn how to enhance our ability to effect regime change without risking the lives of military personnel. Gadhafi is like many other dictators, including Saddam Hussein, he needed to be removed for the sake of the people. Hopefully, our future military exercises will be based on such humanitarian principles and not on political expediency or the agendas of our foreign allies. Read more ..

Religious Tolerance

Cardinal Kurt Koch comes to New York to Mend Fences with Jewish Community

October 25th 2011

Christian Topics - Catholic Jewish meeting

Cardinal Kurt Koch, the Vatican’s key representative to Jews, is making his first visit to New York, home to the largest Jewish community outside of Israel. The cardinal, appointed president of the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews in 2010, has an opportunity, together with Jewish leaders, to reflect on the state of Catholic-Jewish relations and aspirations for the future.

While in New York, Cardinal Koch will meet with, among others, the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations, or IJCIC. This coalition of Jewish organizations, recognized by the Vatican as the official consultative Jewish body for the advancement of Catholic-Jewish relations, was created in the aftermath of Nostra Aetate. That document of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II, 1962-1965) changed the course of Catholic-Jewish history with its revolutionary statements rejecting the deicide charge against the Jews, decrying anti-Semitism and affirming the validity of God’s ongoing covenant with the Jewish people. In the post-Shoah era, the Church had begun to come to terms with its role in facilitating anti-Jewish animus that created a climate receptive to the horrors of the Holocaust. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Rising Cain

October 23rd 2011

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

Dr. Bill Bennett, at the Family Research Council’s Values Voters summit recently, said, “if you voted for Obama to prove that you’re not a racist, you should vote against him to prove you’re not an idiot. There’s one candidate for whom you can vote to prove both.”

Herman Cain has not played the race card, and that is to his credit. He has campaigned on a career unlike anyone else’s having succeeded in at least three different fields: computer science, business administration, and now politics, as he very likely will be the Republican nominee for President of the United States. He accomplished all this despite having been born in poverty in the American South.

If biography got Obama and Deval Patrick elected, then surely Cain warrants the same success. But Cain has not taken this easy way out; nor have his supporters focused on his race; in fact, Cain has insisted on making his campaign primarily about his 9-9-9 tax reforms. This is admirable. But something very strange—that is, if we are to believe the liberal media—has happened.

The Tea Party has abandoned Rick Perry for Herman Cain.

What is allegedly strange about this is that the Tea Party—we are told—is racist, or at least unconsciously so. Read more ..

The US and Iran

Deter, Don't Dismiss, the Iranian Threat

October 20th 2011

Iran - Ahmadinejad Nuke

Mustering an effective response to Iran's assassination plot is critical for U.S. national security as well as our already damaged credibility in the Middle East.

Iran's alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington was brazen, sloppy, but, regrettably, entirely plausible. While its tactics vary, the Iranian regime has engaged in direct terrorist attacks in the past, and recent events in the Middle East and changes to Iran's own military command and control structure have raised the likelihood of such attacks. The Obama Administration will be careful to avoid a war of escalation with the regime, but should resist the temptation to confine its response to sanctions.

On its face, the details of the Iranian plot seem amateurish and provoke deep skepticism. An Iranian-American who claims his cousin is a "big general" in Iran makes contact with what he thinks is a Mexican drug gang to blow up a Washington restaurant in a frantic effort to assassinate the Saudi ambassador, heedless of the innocents who will surely perish or the risk of US retaliation. This hardly seems to fit the modus operandi of the Quds Force, the external operations arm of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The Quds Force has recently tended to operate below the radar, through trusted proxies such as Hezbollah, and while its activities are global, it concentrates its most nefarious activities in Iran's immediate environs, most notably Iraq. Read more ..

Iran on Edge

Iran’s Global Strategic Goal is Rationally MAD

October 19th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Walid Phares new

My first book, The Iranian Islamic Revolution, published way back in 1986, dealt with the historicity of the 1979 Khomeinist Revolution in Iran. In it, I exposed the Khomeinist regime’s long-term ambitions and revisionist account of events that led to the Shah’s overthrow and Ayatollah Khomeini’s ascent to power in the alleged Islamic “Republic” of Iran. From my observatory in Beirut where Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRG) were growing into a force to be reckoned with in the region and beyond, I absorbed and digested the thinking and logic of Tehran’s strategists. Boiled down, that strategy involved sending as many mixed signals in as many directions as possible so as to confuse opposing forces and make them tentative. This would allow the Khomeinists to pursue their global ambitions with minimal opposition.

First, Tehran formed an alliance with the Assad regime in Syria. Next, Hezbollah was established in Lebanon and later, in 2003, penetrated Iraq’s Shia communities. Now, Tehran is about to achieve its most important goal since the inception of the Islamist regime— a strategic intercontinental ballistic missile arsenal capable of delivering nuclear and other lethal warheads. Military historians will undoubtedly debate the ins and outs of the Iran’s long trek to join the nuclear club. What they will find is a Western world that was fooled for decades. It remains to be seen whether the West’s current leaders will be able to stop this final phase in Iran’s jihadist strategy. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

DC Assassination Plot Related to Increasing Iranian Presence in Western Hemisphere

October 18th 2011

Venezuela Topics - Chavez and Ahmadinejad

Until Chavez assumed power, Iran’s presence in the Western Hemisphere was not as strong as it is today. Its proxy, Hezbollah, had presence and even committed a number of atrocities in Latin America such as the attacks on Israeli and Jewish targets in Buenos Aires. However, its presence increased manifold since Chavez and his Bolivarian revolution began to spread throughout the hemisphere.

Not surprisingly the Iranians have tried to carry out another act of terrorism by attempting to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States with the help of a Mexican criminal group. Iran intended to carry out this attack by using an American citizen of Iranian origins who contacted a member of a well-known Mexican gang and drug cartel called “The Zetas.” It was also disclosed that during their exchanges, they discussed attacks on Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington and Buenos Aires. Read more ..

Economic Recovery on Edge

When a House Is Not a Home: Falling Home Values Continue to Strain American Families

October 17th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

Legendary crooner Luther Vandross’s silken voice once enraptured audiences with the song “A House Is Not A Home.” The core metaphor in the song is that while a chair is still a chair when no one’s sitting there, a house is not a home when there’s no one there (to kiss goodnight). With the chilly headwinds of the financial collapse of 2008 still blowing strongly through the housing market, affecting employment, wages and retirement savings, more and more Americans are delaying important decisions around dating, marriage and retirement. For them, the house they live is increasingly not the home they thought it would be for them.

In fact, since 2000 there has been a precipitous 10 percent decline in the marriage rate among 25–34 year olds. In 2009, the marriage rate among that age group dropped below 50 percent for the first time in our nation’s history. There are of course many factors that account for the falling marriage rate, which after all, has trended down long before the housing debacle set in: increasing education, increase of non-married cohabitation, declining real wages, and the declining moral fabric of America. But such a large drop in recent years points to the effect that the run up in housing prices had on first time home buyers, and the economic effects of the housing fallout on employment. Read more ..

The Solyndra Scandal

In GOP’s Rush to Judgment on Solyndra, Solar Energy Takes a Hit

October 16th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Juan Williams 02

It seems congressional Republicans are more interested in making President Obama a one-term president than in creating or protecting American jobs.

The latest round of mudslinging by House Republicans in the direction of the White House concerns the Obama Administration’s flawed handling of subsidies to Solyndra, the California-based solar-panel manufacturer that went bankrupt last month. American taxpayers are on the hook for $535 million in loan guarantees to Solyndra.

As yet there is no evidence of any crime in the case. All the scandal mongering, however, is definitely tarnishing the public image of the American solar energy industry and the tens of thousands of people it employs.

Both President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden praised Solyndra as the poster child for the administration’s new “green jobs” initiative.

Obama even visited Solyndra. “The true engine of economic growth will always be companies like Solyndra,” he bragged in an attempt to associate himself with a growing business with potential to create manufacturing jobs during a period of high unemployment. The president proclaimed Solyndra was “leading the way toward a brighter and more prosperous future.” Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Iran's Threat to Station Warships off America's Coast

October 12th 2011

Iran - Ahmadinejad pointing

A few weeks ago the Islamic Republic of Iran announced that it plans to send its Navy to sit right off the coast of the United States, in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Call it a bluff if you will, but dismissing such a claim would be irresponsible and foolish. First, such a threat is not impossible – Iranian dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s friendship with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is deep, and based not only on a common disdain for the U.S., but also on an obscure view of international relations, law and human rights. They both see the increasing suffering of their people as acceptable, and have a fondness for tastelessly manipulating ad nauseam. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Obama's Department of Energy Should Not Be the Green Banker

October 11th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Obama relaxin

On July 14, 2011, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee marked up the Clean Energy Financing Act of 2011 (S. 1510). The bill would establish a federally owned, nonprofit Clean Energy Deployment Administration (CEDA) in the Department of Energy (DOE) to support the deployment of politically defined clean technologies. CEDA, also known as a “green bank,” is an outgrowth of the loan guarantee programs of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the 2009 stimulus package. It would provide government-backed low-interest loans, credit enhancements, loan guarantees, and other financial mechanisms for certain energy and automotive projects that Washington deems worthy. President Barack Obama included a similar proposal for green projects in the infrastructure bank section of his American Jobs Act.

However, while proponents call this “innovative financing,” in reality it is a substantial and costly subsidy that invites unjustified government intervention into the private energy marketplace. The Department of Energy has no business playing banker. CEDA would redirect capital inefficiently and create a massive taxpayer liability. Read more ..

Israel on Edge

Israel Loses an Old Friend in Fraser

October 10th 2011

Israel Topics - Malcolm Fraser

Malcolm Fraser was Prime Minister of Australia between 1975 – 1982, coinciding with the period when I was President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the umbrella organization representing Australian Jewry. During that period he was a great supporter of Israel but in recent years underwent a dramatic political transformation, embracing the far left and aligning himself with anti-American and anti-Israeli causes.

It should be noted that since 1948, with only one exception, successive Australian governments of all political persuasions have been amongst Israel’s staunchest supporters. The previous Prime Minister John Howard who held office for over a decade was considered one of Israel’s closest friends – akin to Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada today. The Labor Government headed today by Julia Gillard is maintaining this tradition. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Thoughts On Steve Jobs, Capitalism, Cybernetics, and Old Reactionary Bankers

October 9th 2011

Technology - Steve Jobs headshot w/dates

I’ve never been a fan of capitalism, but Steve Jobs made that a difficult position to uphold.

Jobs created one of this country’s biggest and most successful corporations by actually producing things good and real. More, the products were good because Jobs imbued those products with his own peculiar vision of things. That alone makes his corporation an exception to the general rule of America’s big business today.

Mind you, it might not seem so, but Jobs did not create this new age being wrought by computers. Norbert Wiener, whose best known book was God and Golem, published in 1964, invented the term cybernetics in the early 1940s. Cybernetics has all to do with machines and man and then machines making machines. The upshot was that computers would give every person extraordinary new labor power and thus transform the world. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Obamacare Has Arrived in the Supreme Court

October 8th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Barack Obama Israel speech

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) stole a march on the Obama Administration recently by filing a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court appealing the 11th Circuit’s Obamacare decision.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) had announced on Monday that it was not going to ask all 11 judges of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to review en banc the August 12 decision of a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit that found the individual mandate unconstitutional. This opened up a path to an appeal by DOJ to the Supremes.

However, with this petition, the NFIB jumped ahead of Eric Holder’s slow-moving DOJ (which until Monday had done everything it could to slow-walk this case filed by 26 states and the NFIB). The NFIB is obviously not appealing the three-judge panel’s opinion about the unconstitutionality of the individual mandate. But the NFIB is appealing the portion of the panel’s decision that held that the unconstitutional individual mandate could be severed from the Obamacare legislation. Read more ..

The Edge of Justice

We the People--Ask for Mercy

October 6th 2011

Jewish Topics - Sholom Rubashkin

Two weeks ago, the White House launched a project it calls "We the People."

Americans are invited to post a petition online at the White House's "We the People" website. If the petition garners 5,000 signatures within 30 days, the White House guarantees it will issue an "official response."

To date, 158 petitions have been posted to the website.

One petition deserves the attention of both the Jewish community and the broader legal community. It is the "Petition to Call For an Investigation into Allegations of Prosecutorial & Judicial Misconduct in the Case of Sholom Rubashkin." That petition is currently the second most popular petition, with as of October 6, more than 29,000 signatures. The only petition to garner more signatures is one to Legalize Marijuana (with more than 51,000 signatures), even more than Forgiving Student Loan debt (with more than 27,000 signatures) and Abolish the Transportation Safety Administration (with more than 25,000 signatures). Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Class Warfare Indeed

October 6th 2011

Art Topics - liberty leading revolution

Over the last two decades or more, Republicans have been denouncing as “class warfare” any attempt at criticizing and restraining their mean one-sided system of capitalist financial expropriation.

The moneyed class in this country has been doing class warfare on our heads and on those who came before us for more than two centuries. But when we point that out, when we use terms like class warfare, class conflict, and class struggle to describe the system of exploitation we live under—our indictments are dismissed out of hand and denounced as Marxist ideological ranting, foul and divisive.

Amanda Gilson put it perfectly in a posting on my Facebook page: “[T]he concept of ‘class warfare’ has been hi-jacked by the wrong class (the ruling class). The wealthy have been waging war silently and inconspicuously against the middle and the poor classes for decades! Now that the middle and poor classes have begun to fight back, it is like the rich want to try to call foul---the game was fine when they were the only ones playing it.”

The reactionary rich always denied that they themselves were involved in class warfare. Indeed, they insisted no such thing existed in our harmonious prosperous society. Those of us who kept talking about the realities of class inequality and class exploitation were readily denounced. Such concepts were not tolerated and were readily dismissed as ideologically inspired. Read more ..

Israel and Palestine on Edge

The Serious Implications of the U.S. condemnation of Construction in Jerusalem suburbs

October 5th 2011

Israel Topics - Gilo Israel

The serious impact of the U.S. administration’s fierce condemnation of a routine municipal approval for construction of 1,100 homes in the Jerusalem suburb of Gilo must not be underestimated.

It is crucial that Americans and the global community are made aware that Gilo is not a settlement outpost. For 40 years nobody ever challenged the fact that Gilo belongs to Jewish Jerusalem. It is a 100 percent Jewish populated suburb of south western Jerusalem located minutes from the heart of the city. During the second intifada it was under sniper fire from terrorists located in the adjoining Arab suburb of Bet Jala. It is as much part of Jerusalem as the suburbs of Rehavia or Katamon. To deny that Gilo is part of Israel is akin to denying that Tel Aviv is part of Israel.

To even hint that Obama's formulation of 1967 borders means that we are obliged to "negotiate with the Palestinians" over Gilo, would simply be inconceivable. It would challenge the residential rights of 300,000 Jews in the entirely Jewish populated areas of Jerusalem over the green line such as Ramat Eshkol, Pisgat Zeev, Ramot and French Hill. Read more ..

Edge of Religious Intolerance

Steering Jews at Columbia is Illegal and Discriminatory

October 5th 2011

Social Topics - Columbia University

Here’s a new way of sweeping a problem under the rug. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has just accepted the Institute for Jewish & Community Research’s request that OCR investigate whether a Jewish Barnard student was unlawfully “steered” away from a course taught by controversial Columbia Professor Joseph Massad.

In January, the student got some troubling guidance from Barnard’s Middle East studies department chair. The young woman told the chair that she was interested in taking a course on the Arab world with Prof. Massad, who is notorious for his animosity towards Zionism. Massad, whether fairly or not, has been repeatedly accused of anti-Semitism. The chair looked at the young woman, whose Orthodox background is apparent in her modest attire. Then, as the student tells the story, the chair told her that she would not be “comfortable” in Massad’s class and that she should instead consider a course on Ancient Israel.

OCR has just agreed to open an investigation, at IJCR’s request, as to whether the chair violated the Jewish student’s civil rights under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As IJCR told OCR, what the Barnard reportedly did to the student is called “steering.” Read more ..

Economy on Edge

Political Integrity, Not Expediency

October 4th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

The Republican Party and common sense-thinking people must maintain their core message. The core message is that the Federal Government has an unsustainable spending problem resulting in crippling deficits and an overbearing national debt that is a drag on America’s economy. To eliminate the deficit, government spending must be cut. Since entitlement spending on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid is nearly 60 percent of the budget and growing significantly faster than national income, entitlement spending must be reduced. Increased taxes are not a viable option because history has shown that Congress uses increased tax receipts to increase government programs—not to pay down deficits. History also shows that increasing tax rates does not raise tax revenues in the long run.

A closer look at the numbers clarifies the problem. In 2010, the federal budget deficit was $1.5 trillion or 41 percent of the $3.6 trillion budget. That works out to a federal deficit of $4,800 per American or $19,000 for a family of 4. It is also about 10 percent of the entire US economy.

In theory, the deficit could be covered by increasing taxes on the economy. If the government imposed a tax equal to 10 percent of every individual’s and corporation’s income, the government could in theory cover the deficit. How many Americans would be willing to see their personal income decrease by 10 percent to cover the government deficit? There may be a few millionaire liberals, but I do not personally know any. Such a large general tax increase would not be politically feasible. Read more ..

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