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Global Financial Meltdown

When’s Crossing the Street Safer than Standing on a Curb?

March 21st 2011

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

Learning to cross the street safely is one of the first things a child is taught after he or she learns to walk. The first lesson: Cross at the cross walk. Second, only cross when the pedestrian light is on. And, the cardinal rule: Always look both ways before crossing.

The financial markets have made folly of these rules of thumb over the past three years, transforming once seasoned street-crossers in mere toddlers overnight. People withdrew their investments from the roiling equity markets and sought safe havens in cash. Mattresses replaced major financial institutions as the most trusted stewards of national wealth.

Pedestrian investors came to no longer believe in the safety signals. After all, they had lost money on home mortgages that, up until 2008, were considered among the world’s safest investments. Almost all the economic models showed that housing values would never decline. But decline they did. For those who lost their investments, it was like getting hit when the light was green. A few of the more cautious investors even looked both ways and foresaw the bursting of the mortgage bubble. They wisely moved into other investments, thinking that the crisis would be contained within the housing industry. They were wrong. The mess spilled into the overall economy, causing a global financial meltdown. The goody-two shoes got hit, too. Read more ..

Palestine on Edge

Only Palestinians Are Not Held to a Standard

March 21st 2011

Palestine Topics - Palestinian Authority police

It appears that members of the American-trained Palestinian Security Force on the West Bank abetted the Itamar terrorists, prompting outrage over the fact that American military personnel are training Palestinian Security Forces in the first place. The outrage looks through the back end of the microscope—minimizing and magnifying the wrong things. The problem is not the training; it is the political decision-making in Washington that deliberately disconnects the Palestinian military from its political leadership. The same is true in Lebanon, where the United States arms and trains the Lebanese Army without regard for the nature of the current Lebanese government. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Hispanics a Prime Market for GOP

March 21st 2011

Contributors / Staff - Star Parker, CURE

New Census data show that Hispanics in California, our most populous state, are now a minority in name only. Of California's 37 million residents, 38 percent are Hispanic and 40 percent are white. Nationwide, the median Hispanic age is 27 compared to a national median of 36 and a median white age of 41. So Hispanics are not just our most rapidly growing demographic, they are our youngest. Projections show Hispanics reaching 30 percent of our population by 2050 from about 15 percent today.

All our growing big government failures, now being institutionalized instead of being reformed, will be dumped disproportionately into their laps.

The absence of real reforms coming out of Washington should be of particular concern to these youthful Hispanic Americans. All our growing big government failures, now being institutionalized instead of being reformed, will be dumped disproportionately into their laps.

Take health care.

A central pillar of Obamacare is the government mandate that everyone buy health insurance. This was sold as some great act of compassion to get everyone insured, but there is nothing compassionate about government forcing someone to buy what they don't need. Of the 50 million Americans without health insurance, about 65 percent are under 35. Although it might be tempting to view these uninsured youth as irresponsible, they are often making sensible choices. Read more ..

Edge on Geopolitics

As Obama Tours South of the Border, Hillary Clinton Gets Her War in Libya

March 21st 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Hillary Clinton in Tunisia

The United Nations Security Council, at the urging of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, approved a resolution on March 17 authorizing “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians, including a no-fly zone. This means that military force is now authorized to stop Libyan dictator Muammar Gadafi’s military as it advances along the Mediterranean shore towards the east—the last bastion of resistance in Benghazi.

Some see this as a political victory for Secretary Clinton, who has been advocating a muscular approach to Libya as President Barack Obama deliberated over the last month. President Obama made light of the apparent disparity in their positions at a March 12 Gridiron dinner for journalists where he apparently said that she had lobbied the White House by lobbing rocks through his window. Obama departs March 18 on his visit to Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador in the hopes of inking deals on trade and nuclear issues. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

How the GOP Can Capture the Youth Vote Next Year

March 14th 2011

Politics - Young Republicans

In the current political upheaval in the Middle East the high percentage of young people in the region is being cited as key to the overthrow of a rigid, outdated authoritarian rule.

American political leaders might want to take a peek at the youth movement at home and its potential to shake up old bones and old agendas here in the very near future.

Nearly one-quarter of the U.S. population is under the age of 18. In fact, more than 20 percent is under 15. And if the population graph extends out to “Millenials,” people younger than 30, then more than 40 percent of the population fits the category of young people. Read more ..

The Battle for Libya

Libyan Protesters Seek Justice—and Exiled Jews Should, Too

March 14th 2011

Jewish Topics - Libyan Jewish Women

I left Libya more than 42 years ago when the mobs were roaming the streets. They were not chanting for democracy or yearning for freedom—they were looking for Jews.

I am a Libyan Jew, though I have now lived in the Bay Area for 40 years. The upheavals sweeping Libya open old wounds. Violent political culture has often been part of Libyan society, especially toward its Jews.

There had been a Jewish presence in Libya since the 3rd century BCE—one millennium prior to the advent of Islam in the region. We were “tolerated” to varying degrees by successive rulers and continued to be part of a rich and ongoing thread in the fabric of Libyan society. Read more ..

Islam on Edge

Congressional Hearings on Muslim Radicalization in America Are Long Past Due

March 11th 2011

Islamic Topics - Praying on Madison Avenue
Muslim prayer on Madison Avenue, New York City

The hearings on radicalization in the American Muslim community, scheduled to begin on March 10, 2011, are past due. The reluctance to confront this disease affected American policy makers, monitoring organizations and the media, and judging by the wide spread dhimmi supported demonstrations, the revelations expected during the hearings could do little to stop the progression of the aggressive indoctrination to the radical Islamic agenda, recently  dressed as  “Islamic democracy, ” a contradiction in terms.

The principal Islamic text, the Quran, is riddled with edicts calling for violence to establish the supremacy Islam over all other religions. The threat posed by the rise of “political Islam” that calls for the establishment of Islamic state governed by Shari’a (Islamic law), was ignored by most Western and U.S. experts for decades. The Islamic agenda evolved and penetrated Muslim communities everywhere as well as Western educational institutions, political movements and economics with little or no objection. It seemed to have gained momentum after al- Qaeda’s successful attacks on the U.S. in 2001. A 2007 Pew survey found that more than 47 percent of Muslims in America “think of themselves first as Muslims,” not Americans, creating the prefect environment for Islamic radicalization. Read more ..

The Battle for Libya

Human Rights Watch and Libya

March 7th 2011

Libya Topics - Gadafi is bummed out

Where governments and statesmen can afford to be cynical about trade relations and security agreements with rogue regimes, human rights groups are supposed to operate at a higher level – the ultimate goal being for those regimes to alter their behavior. When NGOs traffic in realpolitik, it has a more scandalizing impact. Nothing better showcases this phenomenon than Human Rights Watch’s kid-gloved and self-interested approach to Libya in the past several years.

In 2009, Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s director of the Middle East and North Africa division, penned an essay for Foreign Policy magazine titled “Tripoli Spring,” which argued that Libya was opening itself up to reform and “self-rehabilitation in the international community.” Whitson’s piece started out with a troubling anecdote about the fate of Fathi al-Jahmi, who had just six days before died in a Jordanian medical center after being tortured and abused in the five years he spent in solitary confinement in one of Muammar Qaddafi’s prisons. Read more ..

Battle for Libya

The Consequences of Inaction in Libya

March 7th 2011

Libya Topics - Libyan unrest

The sanctions which have been placed on Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi, his family members, and his senior officials are strong. They include asset freezes, travel bans, and threats of criminal prosecution. All of which add up to a powerful signal to the Libyan regime that the war it is waging on its own people is illegitimate and unacceptable, and to the Libyan people that our sympathy is with them and we will act to prevent their national assets from being pillaged. The world is now a considerably less inviting place for Libyan officials, who have been known to carouse in the capitals of Europe, the Caribbean, and elsewhere. Read more ..

Unions on Edge

Principle over Political Expediency

March 7th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

Some startling revelations have come out of the fracas going on in Wisconsin over Gov/ Walker and the GOP controlled legislature facing off against public sector unions, namely the teachers’ union. From 2001 to 2010, Wisconsin taxpayers paid more than $8 billion for state employee health care coverage, while state employees contributed only $398 million, less than 5 percent of the total costs. From 2000 to 2009, taxpayers paid $12.6 billion for public employee pensions, while the employees only contributed $55.4 million, less than 0.5 percent of the total cost.

Public employees are guaranteed final salaries for life. Not only that, you get to add on other positions for mega pensions. So if you were a firefighter and a teacher, you get two pensions at your last salary in both jobs. Retired public employees regularly receive pension in excess of $100,000, again- guaranteed for life. And who pays for these folks not to work? You and I, the taxpayers. We are their meal ticket for their entire lives, yet when times are tough and we ask them to share the burden, they yell and scream that they are entitled to every penny they never had to contribute.

And many will claim the disparity between private and public sector pay as a reason that public employees should receive such largesse. However, study after study is showing that government employees are now making more than their private sector contemporaries, especially on the lower/mid end of the economic scale. So not only do they get paid better, they get an annual cost of living increase, locality adjustments, inflation adjustments, full medical, and of course the obscenely great pension. Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Congressman King Rejects Pressure to Drop Notable Scholar of Islam from Congressional Testimony

March 4th 2011

Congressional issues - Cong Peter King
US Representative Peter T. King (R-NY)

In the wake of the Council of American Islamic Relations’ (CAIR) call to block Middle East expert Dr. Walid Phares from testifying on Capitol Hill; Rep. Peter T. King (R-NY) has rejected the Islamist organization’s call to silence Phares.

King, who chairs the U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Homeland Security, issued the following statement: “Professor Walid Phares is a respected author, scholar and expert on Islamist Jihadism.  For several months Professor Phares has been advising the Homeland Security Committee staff and me in preparing for Committee hearings on Islamist or Jihadi radicalization. Professor Phares has been extremely helpful and cooperative, even agreeing to my request that he consider being a witness at a hearing, should the need arise. His only caveat was to warn me that certain elements would charge that as a Christian he is not qualified to testify as a representative from Muslim communities. I assured him that would not stop me from asking him to testify. Read more ..

Edge of the Future

Pathological Profits Make for a Disposable Planet

February 28th 2011

China Topics - Chinese woman masked

Some years ago in New England, a group of environmentalists asked a corporate executive how his company (a paper mill) could justify dumping its raw industrial effluent into a nearby river.  The river—which had taken Mother Nature centuries to create--was used for drinking water, fishing, boating, and swimming.  In just a few years, the paper mill had turned it into a highly toxic open sewer.

The executive shrugged and said that river dumping was the most cost-effective way of removing the mill’s wastes. If the company had to absorb the additional expense of having to clean up after itself, it might not be able to maintain its competitive edge and would then have to go out of business or move to a cheaper labor market, resulting in a loss of jobs for the local economy. Read more ..

Internet on the Edge

Would Shakespeare Have Survived the Web?

February 28th 2011

Book Topics - Shakespeare

When William Shakespeare was growing up in rural Stratford-upon-Avon, carpenters at that East London site were erecting the walls of what some consider the first theater built in Europe since antiquity. Other playhouses soon rose around the city. Those who paid could enter and see the play; those who didn’t, couldn’t.

By the time Shakespeare turned to writing, these “cultural paywalls” were abundant in London: workers holding moneyboxes (bearing the distinctive knobs found by the archaeologists) stood at the entrances of a growing number of outdoor playhouses, collecting a penny for admission.

At day’s end, actors and theater owners smashed open the earthenware moneyboxes and divided the daily take. From those proceeds dramatists were paid to write new plays. For the first time ever, it was possible to earn a living writing for the public.

Money changed everything. Almost overnight, a wave of brilliant dramatists emerged, including Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Kyd, Ben Jonson and Shakespeare. These talents and many comparable and lesser lights had found the opportunity, the conditions and the money to pursue their craft. Read more ..

Egypt After the Revolt

What Egypt's Democracy Advocates have in Common with Israel

February 21st 2011

Egypt - Egypt Riots #1

It is not a stretch to say that the demonstrators in Tahrir Square, who created a revolution by demanding liberty and freedom, had more in common with the government of Israel than with any other Arab government in the Middle East.

No, I am not stretching to see the possibility of a “purple nation” approach everywhere in the world. But it is a simple, indisputable fact that what the demonstrators in Tunisia and Tahrir Square demanded are the values that have governed Israel since its founding over 60 years ago — freedom of the press and assembly, guarantees of due process and the rule of law, civil rights, human rights, women’s rights and, most important, equal protection under the law for all Israeli citizens — including the more than 1 million Palestinian Arabs who have the same rights as Jewish citizens. Read more ..

Inside Washington

Republican Bumbling Marks First Six Weeks in Control of the House

February 21st 2011

Contributors / Staff - Juan Williams
Juan Williams

The curtain has been up for six weeks on the first act of the GOP in charge of the House. The audience is not applauding. Public opinion of Congress has not improved.

Despite the historic vote that gave Republicans control of Congress in the 2010 midterm elections, a February Pew poll reported “fully 65 percent [of Americans] say Obama and the GOP leaders are not working together on the important issues facing the country.”

And who takes the greater share of the blame for neglecting the big issues? Pew found that “far more of those who say the two sides are not working together blame Republican leaders [31 percent] than the President [19 percent.]” The first impression of the Republican agenda is that a lot of valuable time and political capital is being wasted on vapid arguments about the size of massive budget cut proposals. Read more ..

Egypt After the Revolt

Egypt Needs Time to Foster Democracy

February 14th 2011

Egypt - Wary Egyptian Cops

The jubilation in Cairo has riveted the world. The sea of this non-violent protest movement is both inspiring self-empowerment and providing hope that a democratic revolution need not bypass the Middle East. It is a historic moment to savor.

Even as it looks as though the hardest part has been accomplished with Hosni Mubarak's departure, surely the toughest part is ahead. President Obama wasted no time in insisting that the Egyptian transition retain its momentum. Yet, a democratic transition should not be confused with an instant election. One cannot have democracy without an election, but this is only part of the story. Timing is key.

Apart from an election, democracy is about building the institutions that ensure there are safeguards for individuals. This means going beyond the obvious of lifting the existing emergency law and amending the Egyptian Constitution. It also requires an independent judiciary, a free press, minority rights, and a security apparatus that maintains the monopoly on the use of force. These institutions provide the opportunity for the creation of a civic culture where parties can negotiate their demands in a peaceful framework. Otherwise, the hope for democracy can be easily thwarted. Read more ..

Egypt after the Revolt

Egypt--A New Beginning or a New Phase of the Crisis

February 14th 2011

Egypt - Egypt Riots #1

Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman announced, “In these grave circumstances that the country is passing through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave his position as president of the republic.” That was the beginning--or was it?

The departure of Mubarak has long been considered a prerequisite for transformation of the government. His departure, however, hardly means the crisis is at an end. The military has been prominent in guiding the government response, and now with Mubarak’s departure, the armed forces—one of the few government institutions widely respected in the country—will bear the responsibility for guiding the transition process. Read more ..

America on Edge

Bipartisan deal could address immigration

February 14th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Juan Williams
Juan Williams

Congress is going through a spell of pre-Lenten repentance.

The failure to pass the DREAM Act in the lame-duck session has opened the door to several confessionals about Congress’s sinful failure to deal with the nation’s crying need for immigration reform.

Last week Sen. Lindsey Graham, the conservative South Carolina Republican, told me he is talking with Sen. Charles Schumer, the New York Democrat, about the road to a new immigration plan. That follows news that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who abandoned support for any immigration proposals during a turn to the hard right in his 2010 re-election campaign, now thinks there is a “shot” at getting an immigration bill passed this year.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has long said immigration reform is a priority, and last week a spokesman for Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Democrats now plan to reintroduce the DREAM Act in this session. Read more ..

Obama's War

Welcome to Dienbienphu, Afghanistan

February 14th 2011

Military - Damn the Koregal Valley

In December 2009, President Barack Obama announced an increase in the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan, arguing that the additional troops would break the Taliban's momentum and deny al Qaeda a safe haven. The strategy was based on how small the effort had been compared to Iraq, and the fact that the Taliban had used the opportunity to recover from its original setback.

A year later, the president's strategy seems fraught with risk. Although the defense department claims progress has been made, its own reports reflect unease. In the words of a recent review, "the Taliban have sufficient organizational capability and support to pose a threat to the government's viability, particularly in the south." Read more ..

Oil Without A Plan

What if Saudi Arabia Erupts?

February 6th 2011

Energy Topics - Oil Barrels 400px

The demonstrations in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world could well be the harbinger of an excruciating oil crisis. Not because Egypt is a major oil exporter. It isn’t. Egypt produces less than 1 percent of the world’s oil. And not even because it controls the Suez Canal, through which 1.8 million barrels, about 5 percent of the overall global tanker trade, travels daily.

Egypt is relevant to the oil market because it may be a bellwether for the disgruntled masses in Saudi Arabia. And instability in that oil kingdom is how mega-oil shocks are made. For decades, experts have warned about the fragility of the House of Saud. To curtail their opposition, Saudi monarchs have placated their subjects with cradle-to-grave, petrodollar-funded entitlement programs, while taming the Wahhabi establishment through charitable contributions to religious institutions worldwide. Inspired by the events elsewhere in the Sunni Muslim world, this social contract could face a challenge at the worst possible time — when the House of Saud’s top echelon is ill and geriatric. Read more ..

Egypt in Revolt

The Brotherhood, Sooner or Later

February 6th 2011

Presidential - bush and mubarak

It was a great rhetorical moment. President George W. Bush, speaking in Whitehall, succinctly and eloquently framed the problem of twenty-first century Western policy in the Middle East:

[Britain and the U.S.] in the past have been willing to make a bargain to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability. Longstanding ties often led us to overlook the faults of local elites. Yet this bargain did not bring stability or make us safe. It merely bought time while problems festered and ideologies of violence took hold. As recent history has shown, we cannot turn a blind eye to oppression just because the oppression is not in our own back yard. No longer should we think tyranny is benign because it is temporarily convenient. Tyranny is never benign to its victims and our great democracies should oppose tyranny wherever it is found.

But rhetorical moments are only that and while the United States has made slow and difficult progress in helping Iraq find consensual government, elsewhere in the region we remained willing to turn that blind eye for perceived benefit. Like Egypt. Read more ..

Egypt in Revolt

In Search of a Leader: Egyptians Face Uncertainty

February 6th 2011

Arab Topics - Egypt Riots #2

A political festival of one million people was held in Cairo on Tuesday. Despite the continued shutdown of the Internet, transportation problems and a curfew, Egyptians came in the hundreds of thousands to Tahrir Square to tell President Hosni Mubarak, once again, to go.

His effigy was hanging in the square, but this has to be the most courteous demonstration the world has ever seen. Volunteers checked IDs and organized separate ladies’ entrances into the square, where tanks stood guard. Read more ..

Obama Edge

No Room for Latin America in Obama's State of the Union Speech

January 30th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Obama and Flag

New York Times Columnist James Reston once famously said, “The U.S. will do anything for Latin America, except read about it.” Or, evidently, speak about it. In President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, January 25, he spoke little of the international community, and even less about our southern neighbors. Despite the almost complete lack of direct attention, many of the topics that the president addressed are likely to gravely affect Latin America. Washington’s policies on higher education, immigration, and free trade will almost certainly reverberate beyond U.S. borders. Read more ..

Palestine on Edge

Measuring Words in Palestine

January 30th 2011

Terrorism - Hamas Kid

It has become axiomatic in a certain part of the American political class that words matter. Even with the necessary disclaimer that the shooting in Arizona was the work of a mentally deranged man whose political reading was confined mainly to Hitler and Stalin, and was not influenced by current political cross-currents, people across the political spectrum have pronounced the requirement that we measure our words against the harm they could do under some unforeseen circumstance. Fair enough.

But not only American rhetoric should be measured, and words should be measured for truth as well as for heat. As the Administration begins work on what appears to be the next phase of the Palestinian-Israeli “peace process” (words that clearly should be re-evaluated), let’s evaluate some fairly common Palestinian political rhetoric for the damage words can do under circumstances we can well see.

Start with the words “Palestine from the River to the Sea.” Every official map produced by the Palestinian Authority—whether used for school children or public buildings—shows Palestine replacing Israel. Children are taught that Haifa and Jaffa are “occupied cities” of Palestine. What harm are they doing to their children and what harm are they inviting their children to do to Israel? Read more ..

America on Edge

Restoring a Culture of Life for All Americans

January 30th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Star Parker, CURE

A black child has a 50 percent chance of being aborted and, if born, a 70 percent chance of living in a single parent home.

A campaign launched in Los Angeles last week sought to raise awareness of what is becoming known as "black genocide" -- the devastation occurring in black America as result of abortion.

It's modeled after a highly successful similar campaign conducted in Atlanta earlier this year by Georgia Right to Life and the Radiance Foundation.

According to just released data from the Guttmacher Institute, 1.21 million abortions were performed in the United States in 2008. Some 30 percent of these abortions were performed on black women. With blacks accounting for about 12 percent of the U.S. population, the tragic disproportionate rate of abortion in this community is clear.

Seventy billboards will be posted around Los Angeles, with focus on neighborhoods with high percentage black population. The billboards show the face of a beautiful black child with a headline that says: "Black Children are an Endangered Species." Read more ..

Peace Process on Edge

Must Israel Accept Palestinians’ “Right of Return” to Achieve Peace?

January 30th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Mitchell Bard

The Israeli refusal to allow Palestinian refugees to flood Israel is both a lawful and understandable position that should not impede a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Publicly, Palestinians insist the refugees have a “right of return.” In December 2010, for example, Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat declared that peace with Israel would be “completely untenable” if Israel continued to “disregard the aspirations [of the Palestinian refugees] to return to their homeland.”

Privately, however, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas acknowledged in a meeting with the Palestinian Negotiations Support Unit on March 29, 2008, “On numbers of refugees, it is illogical to ask Israel to take 5 million, or even 1 million, that would mean the end of Israel.”

In negotiations with Abbas, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, like other Israeli leaders before him, offered to accept a limited number of refugees on a humanitarian basis. No agreement was reached, but the record shows that the disagreements were over the number of refugees and the amount of monetary compensation rather than an Israeli acceptance of the demand that all refugees have an option to 'return' to Israel. Read more ..

Lebanon on Edge

How Hezbollah Will Carry the Day in Lebanon

January 24th 2011

Terrorism - Hezbollah Lebanon

The seemingly never-ending story of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which was established by the U.N. Security Council to prosecute the killers of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, reached a landmark this week when the court's prosecutor submitted his indictment to pretrial judge Daniel Fransen. Diplomats from Washington to Tehran expect the indictment, which will remain sealed for a few more months, to implicate members of the radical Shiite militia Hezbollah in the crime. Hezbollah has denounced the tribunal as an American-Zionist plot, collapsed the Lebanese unity government, and even, in recent days, staged mock "coup drills" in the streets of Beirut. Read more ..

Economic Recovery on Edge

A Half Century Later, Another Warning in Eisenhower Address Rings True

January 24th 2011

Presidential - Dwight D Eisenhower

Fifty years ago this month, Dwight D. Eisenhower gave his farewell address as President that famously warned the nation about the “unwarranted influence … by the military industrial complex.” But history has mostly overlooked a second caution in that Jan. 17, 1961 speech that has even greater relevance today.

According to the late Milton S. Eisenhower, the President’s youngest brother and his closest political confidant, Ike was equally concerned about insolvency, the ease with which pressure for government spending can add to the accumulated national debt.

In his televised farewell address, Dwight Eisenhower made this concern clear, “As we peer into society’s future, we—you and I and our government—must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow.

“We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren,” the President said, “without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.” Read more ..

Obama's War

Why Indeed Does the United States Remain in Afghanistan?

January 24th 2011

Afghan Topics - Afghanistan casualty

When I try to figure out why we are still in Afghanistan, though every ounce of logic says we ought to get out, an unexpected conversation I had last year haunts me. Doing neighborhood political canvassing, I knocked on the door of a cheerful man who was just about to tune in to his favorite radio show: Rush Limbaugh.  He was kind enough to let me stay and we talked.

Conservatives are often the nicest people -- that’s what I told him -- the ones you’d like to have as neighbors. Then I said: I bet you’re always willing to help your neighbors when they need it.  Absolutely, he replied. Read more ..

The Way We Are

A Reason to Blame?

January 24th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

There are times when even the capture of the culprit fails to quench people’s thirst for justice. This usually happens in the wake of horrific, mind-bending crimes, like the shooting in Arizona that left six people dead and scores of others wounded. The gunman’s intended target, a congresswoman, has barely escaped with her life.

But in the heated aftermath—sparked by comments by the Tucson sheriff who is a close friend of two of the victims—there seems to be a wider indictment being brought by some in the media. He suggested that a general political climate of intolerance caused these events. These comments seem to be inspired more by grief over losing a couple of close friends than any actual evidence that publicly disclose about the motivation for these crimes.

Following suit, pundits and commentators began to blame everyone—from Sarah Palin to Rush Limbaugh to Arizona’s gun law and even the gunman’s poor parents—for what happened. Almost everyone is being blamed except, of course, the suspected gunman himself. Of the scant evidence that has emerged about the troubled shooter thus far, he seems to be a mentally unbalanced loner with a sick celebrity obsession and a penchant for violence. This act does not bear any markings of an act by a rational person with any coherent political viewpoint or party affiliation. Read more ..

Lebanon on the Edge

Hezbollah’s Coup in Lebanon Targets the Cedars Revolution

January 24th 2011

Lebanon Topics - Hariri and Nasrallah
Saad Hariri, Rafiq Hariri; Hassan Nasrallah

On January 12, Hezbollah overthrew the Lebanese government. The constitutional coup, which effectively strips Prime Minister Saad Hariri of his powers, was timed with precision. As soon as news broke that he would meet President Obama in Washington, the group brought down Lebanon’s cabinet. Hariri’s father, Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, was blown up along with his escort and a number of other Lebanese politicians almost exactly six years earlier, on February 14, 2005.

Hezbollah’s latest political maneuver, along with its strategic re-arming over the past six years, has dangerous ramifications for Lebanon, and U.S. and Western interests in the Levant. But perhaps more imminent are the threats Hezbollah now directs against the United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon, formed to investigate and charge the perpetrators of the country’s own Valentine’s Day massacre.

Hours after the government collapsed, Hezbollah ally and former minister of parliament Wi’am Wahhab told Orange TV—an outlet owned by another Hezbollah ally, General Michel Aoun—that “we buried the Special Tribunal in 2011. It is a gang of Zionists which we’ve stopped.” Wahhab also warned any Lebanese official against cooperating with the U.N. agencies, “or else.” Read more ..

Mideast Peace on Edge

Secretary Clinton Once Again Gives Palestinian Authority an Excuse to Refuse Peace Negotiations

January 18th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Mitchell Bard

On January 9, 2011, Israeli crews began demolition work on the Shepherd Hotel building in the Sheikh Jarrah community of Jerusalem to make way for the planned construction of a Jewish housing project. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas insists the hotel is a historic national landmark and Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat claims that Israel is illegally demolishing the hotel as part of their attempt to "ethnically cleanse Jerusalem from its Palestinian inhabitants, culture and history."

In truth, the hotel, situated in the middle of a predominantly Arab neighborhood that overlooks Hebrew University and the Mount of Olives, was built in the 1930s. The building, which served as an Israeli district court for almost twenty years, was privately purchased in 1985 by an American businessman yet has remained vacant for more than a decade. The plans to build a 20 unit apartment complex on the site were approved less than six months ago and the government has ensured that the project will not displace any Arab residents or affect any other buildings in the neighborhood.

Secretary of State Hillary Hillary Clinton criticized Israel's actions, suggesting that the demolition of an unused building "contradicts logic" and somehow "undermines peace efforts to achieve a two-state solution." In doing so, Clinton once again - as with the earlier insistence on a settlement freeze - gave President Abbas an excuse for refusing to return to peace negotiations advocated by President Obama. Read more ..

America's Economic Recovery

Foretelling America’s Future: Slippery Slopes and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

January 10th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

The science of foretelling was apparently revered by the ancients. Examples abound of oracles divining the fates of wise men and kings. Mighty warriors Odysseus and Agamemnon would not dare sally forth less the portents augured in their favor. The balance of chances measured in scattered bones, animal entrails, or the position of the firmament still live on in today’s folklore. But in most of the Western world, fortune telling has lost its potency—that is unless the fortune teller happens to be a scientist, pollster, or economist.

The invention of science and statistics has replaced old-school fortune telling in very insidious ways. Now, while careful to disclaim—past performance is no guarantee of future results—hucksters of all sorts try to sell us stuff by pointing to long term trends. In fact, America’s current state of economic recession was caused by a confidence born of scientific analysis. Supposedly, we all believed, housing prices would never fall. After all, they had risen steadily for over eighty years. Very few people alive and relevant today remembered the last time when the U.S. housing market went bust. Those people who lost their homes in 1933 are no longer around to deliver any cautionary tales. Read more ..

Israel and Palestine

Continued Construction of Israeli settlements Does Not Hamper a Future Palestinian State

January 10th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Mitchell Bard
Mitchell Bard

When the 10-month Israeli moratorium on settlement building in the West Bank expired in September 2010, the approval of construction requests resumed. Despite the moratorium, the Palestinian Authority still had refused to enter negotiations for the first nine months. At the last hour, and under intense international pressure, the Palestinians agreed to participate in one round of talks yet threatened to leave if the moratorium was not extended. In separate negotiations with the United States, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was prepared to extend the freeze for another three months but the Americans dropped the idea.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians continued to insist they would not talk if any building took place in East Jerusalem. Israel never agreed to place any restrictions on building in its capital and the Palestinians used this as a pretext to avoid peace negotiations, this despite the fact that they had engaged in talks for nearly 17 years without the precondition of a settlement freeze.

Announcements of new construction in the West Bank immediately set off hysterical cries from the Palestinians and their supporters, as well as ill-informed journalists, that the continued building would make peace impossible. A December editorial in the Baltimore Sun, for example, mentioned that Israel's settlements are expanding "at a rate that will soon render the whole issue [of peace] moot because eventually there won't be enough land to create a viable Palestinian state." Read more ..

Islamic Against Christians

The New Year Starts Like the Old Year for Christians Persecuted by Islam

January 10th 2011

Islamic Topics - Pakistan antiblasphemy rally

The New Year began for Christians in the Middle East in the same manner as the last one had ended: twenty-one Egyptian Christians were murdered in a bomb attack in Alexandria, just weeks after more than fifty Iraqi Catholics had been slaughtered inside their church by Islamic terrorists. Perhaps all this is best described as the work of some crazed, gruesome optician, because while Christians in Islamic states have suffered for decades now much of the world, including and sometimes particularly the Christian world, seemed blind to what was going on. It has taken the horrors of Egypt and Iraq to clear the vision of at least some who prefer political myopia. Read more ..

Obama on Edge

A Review of President Obama's First Two Years in the Mideast

January 3rd 2011

Israel Topics - Obama Netanyahu Abbas1

President Obama assumed office in 2009 with an ambitious Middle East policy agenda. Atop the list of his campaign pledges, then Senator Obama vowed to pursue Israeli-Palestinian peace and re-engage in diplomacy with Tehran and Damascus. Given these grand plans, perhaps not surprisingly the first two years of the Obama Administration Middle East policy have been distinguished more by frustration than accomplishment. This is particularly true in the Levant -- in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Israel -- the focus of much of the Administration's regional efforts.

Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking has been the most obvious of the Administration's regional setbacks. Regardless of how one regards Israeli settlements in the West Bank, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that President Obama's approach has been counterproductive. Indeed, the Administration's mishandling of the portfolio resulted in the first cessation of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in more than fifteen years, a loss of over a year and a half. Other Administration initiatives in the Levant have likewise fallen short of expectations. Read more ..

America and Latin America

The Hemispheric Legacy of Senator Christopher Dodd

January 3rd 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Barack and Dodd

Within days, Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) will be leaving the Senate for the last time after decades of distinguished service on the Hill. His departure will leave a vacancy of immense proportions that will be difficult to fill. This was because he was the most bona fide Latin American expert to have frequented Congress this century. Senators Edward Kennedy and Claiborne Pell were also worthy contestants for this title, while Senators Patrick Leahy and Richard Lugar also remain genuinely credible as Latin Americanists. A few weeks ago, Senator Dodd delivered a compelling lecture regarding the future of the region to a college audience in his home state of Connecticut.

In his talk, which also was featured in The Huffington Post, Dodd focused on the brilliant Latin American future, listing its positive growth rate, its democratic advancement in recent months, and its solid economic development. Especially exhilarating were his optimistic comments on the region’s remarkable resiliency in the face of foreboding challenges brought on by the global economic downturn, the specters of political instability, and the multitude of natural disasters, like Haiti’s earthquake last January, its current cholera epidemic, and the hydra-headed presence of drugs and crime. Read more ..

Border War

Little to Cheer About as Mexico Faces a New Year of Narco-Violence

January 3rd 2011

Mexican Topics - Juarez crime scene

If anything could be said about 2010 in Ciudad Juarez and the state of Chihuahua, it might be stated that any semblance of human rights flew out the window. Ushered in with the January murder of Juarez Valley human rights defender and army critic Josefina Reyes, the year drew to a close with the December slaying of activist Marisela Escobedo in the state capital of Chihuahua City, a crime which was captured on camera and transmitted across the world via the Internet. Read more ..

The Nuclear Edge

On Arms Control, Learn from Reagan

December 27th 2010

Politics - Atomic Weapon Test Shot

START skeptics are driven by something else: the idea that arms-control treaties should serve our security interests now and in the longer term. New START does neither.

That is why the Senate should consider the full record of the negotiations before voting to approve a treaty that will: 1. encumber our freedom to deploy ballistic-missile defenses; 2. squander the negotiating leverage needed to bring Russian shorter-range missiles under control; and 3. reduce verification standards in this and probably future such agreements. Read more ..

Edge on Terrorism

Saudi Arabia's Questionable Support of America's War on Terror

December 27th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Mitchell Bard
Mitchell Bard

While the United States has publicly lauded Saudi Arabia as a major ally in the ongoing war on terror, classified diplomatic cables uncovered by the whistleblower site WikiLeaks in late November show that the State Department holds a much more pessimistic view toward the Saudi commitment to counter-terrorism.  More than nine years after the attacks of September 11th, the released cables reveal that U.S. officials feel Saudi Arabia continues to permit, and at worst even encourage, the financing of terrorists. 

In recent years, wealthy Saudi nationals were identified as funneling millions of dollars through various government-sanctioned charitable organizations that help fund Islamic terror organizations, including Bin-Laden's Al-Qaeda and Palestinian Hamas.  According to one of the released cables, "Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide."

Though the Saudi government was not directly indicted by WikiLeaks for financing terrorism, both their support for extremism and their reluctance to embrace the American-led war on terror is well documented.  In 2002, at the height of the Palestinian Intifada, the Saudis' sponsored a telethon for "Palestinian martyrs" through which hundreds of thousands of dollars were distributed to the families of suicide bombers. An estimate released in 2003 showed up to 60 percent of Hamas' total budget was supplied by Saudi Arabia, either from official government sources or through organizations whose ongoing activities were protected by the government. Read more ..

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