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Edge on the Economy

The New Dark Financial Ages

October 18th 2010

Economy - Tim Geitner
Secretary Timothy Geitner at Congressional hearing

It’s been two months since Timothy Geithner welcomed us to what he called economic recovery in a New York Times op-ed.  It’s been about that long since I argued here that the so-called recovery was a joke.

Who can you trust?  Is there a consensus shaping up elsewhere that would help you decide between these positions?

How about the financial press and the Masters of the Universe themselves?  What are they saying about the future, near and far?  Not that we should accredit their opinions just because they believe in capitalism.  Five years ago, they were betting on a future that looks nothing like the present.  Read more ..


Mideast Peace on Edge

Mideast Negotiations stall over Israeli Settlements and Palestinian Refusal to Recognize Jewish State

October 18th 2010

Israel Topics - Obama Netanyahu Abbas1

In negotiating tradecraft, the distinction between positions and interests is a fundamental one. Parties with divergent interests can unite behind common positions, like the environmentalists and trade unions who opposed NAFTA in the 1990s. Just as often, parties with opposing positions fail to perceive their common interests, like divorcing parents whose acrimony blinds them to what is best for their children.

It is neglect of this vital distinction that now has the United States scrambling to salvage Middle East peace talks, which are threatened by a resurgent dispute over Israeli settlement activity. The Obama administration initially viewed the settlements issue as "low-hanging fruit" -- the Palestinians, Arab states, international public opinion, and frankly even many Israelis were against settlement activity, whereas a seeming minority on the Israeli right favored it. Read more ..


Midterm Elections

Who’s in Charge of the Tea Party?

October 11th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

Is it Sarah Palin and her lunch pail brand of God, guns, and the Constitution? Is it Dick Armey, the former House majority leader who danced to his own tune and was the mastermind behind the GOP’s Contract with America? Or is the Tea Party led by a few private mega-funders—a George Soros clan of the conservative movement?

One thing is certain: liberals have no idea who their opponent is, and they and the mainstream media are desperate to find out.

Several months ago, when the tea party crusade hit its stride with a Kentucky primary win by Rand Paul to succeed retiring Sen. Jim Bunning, a Republican, the Left went out of its way to link Mr. Paul as the puppet behind a larger Republican machine. Democrat operatives quickly labeled Mr. Paul and his style of politics as wholly indicative of what the GOP had become.

As predicted, Republicans had reverted to their old-school style of hate politics, the storyline went, making this November a clear choice between “policies of the past” versus the future. Read more ..


China's Energy Future

China Gambles on Oil-free Future as America Fritters Away in Afghanistan

October 4th 2010

Energy Topics - Solar array Shandong China
World's largest solar array - Shangdong China

Thomas Friedman makes a very important point in his excellent column published in the New York Times on September 25.

The gist of the article, "Their Moon Shot and Ours," is that China is looking decades into the future and building the world's biggest network of ultra-modern airports, creating a web of high-speed trains, developing a world-class cell/genetic engineering industry, and lastly, China is investing $15 billion in its fast growing electric vehicle industry. Read more ..


Edge on Financial Crisis

America Must Face its Cash Flow Dilemma

October 4th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

Are banks and state governments unwittingly colluding to prevent millions of Americans from being able to afford to pay their bills or profitably run their small businesses? Several pieces of economic data have raised serious questions about the ability of a whole subsection of Americans and small business owners to take the first steps toward building wealth — namely, lack of credit.

For many Americans, this will preclude their ability to meet short-term financial commitments let alone achieve long-term financial stability. What is driving these negative trends in consumer and business credit? It is the same banking regulators who are supposed to be looking out for and protecting consumers. In fact, the constriction of consumer credit is the product of banking regulators who have continued to add to the hurdles that banks must meet to make loans, including raising the banks' reserve requirements. As a result, it makes it nearly impossible for the banks to meet the credit needs of this growing population of Americans — nearly 100 million strong. Read more ..


The Weapon's Edge

Massive Sale of U.S. Arms to Saudi Arabia Undercuts American Values

September 27th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Mitchell Bard
Mitchell Bard

The Arab lobby now seeks to capitalize on fears of war with Iran to convince Congress to approve the largest arms sale in U.S. history to Saudi Arabia. In fact, the sale will do nothing to protect the Saudis from Iran and will reward them for continuing to undermine our values and interests.

Who is this Arab lobby? It is led by the Saudis themselves and supported by Arabists – current and former government officials who believe America must keep the Saudis happy to ensure the flow of oil – oil companies who profit from that relationship and defense contractors who also make money and tell the Pentagon they can lower the unit costs for American weapons and keep production lines open. This formidable lobby has proven nearly impossible to defeat as the Saudis have already purchased roughly $100 billion worth of U.S. arms.

The argument that the Saudis need $60 billion worth of new arms to defend themselves from Iran is especially ludicrous. If the Obama administration prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, then Iran poses less danger to the Saudis; if Iran gets the bomb, the new arms will be of no use.

While the Saudis argue the sale is needed to defend them from the Iranians, a significant part of the arms deal is dedicated to bolstering the palace guard. This reflects the Saudis’ main concern, protecting the monarchy from internal opponents who cannot be fought with fighter planes and helicopters. Read more ..


Cuba on Edge

Does Castro's Change of Heart Signal a Change in Pace in U.S.- Cuba Relations?

September 27th 2010

Cuba Topics - Fidel Castro remonstrating

After four years of silence induced by grave physical illness, punctuated only by occasional newspaper commentaries, Fidel Castro has regained his voice. To the surprise of many, he is using it to make some startling comments on the escalating conflict between Iran and the western world. In one of his most recent statements on the subject, expressed in an exclusive interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic magazine, Castro surprised friends and foes alike by excoriating Iran’s Ahmadinejad for intensifying conflict in the Middle East by encouraging anti-Semitism in Iran. Specifically, Castro criticized Ahmadinejad’s denial of the Holocaust, declaring to Jeffrey Goldberg, “The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours. There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust.”

Castro has come out since publication of Goldberg’s piece to explain that the reporter missed the crucial irony in his statement that was originally heralded as a shocking admission that the Cuban economic model was failing. Instead, Castro explained that he had meant “exactly the opposite,” that the US capitalist model could no longer be seen as a model for the U.S., much less for Cuba. Fidel has made no such clarification or retraction regarding his words for Ahmadinejad, however. In this case, at least, it seems that Goldberg got Castro’s message right the first time. Read more ..


Inside Islam

What Arabs Really Think About Iran

September 20th 2010

Arab Topics - Saudi Prince in Meeting

It is no secret that Arab public opinion toward U.S. President Barack Obama has soured since his June 2009 speech in Cairo, Egypt. According to a slew of recent opinion polls, Arabs have been deeply disappointed with Obama’s accommodations to Israel. Analysts have suggested that this discontent has caused Arabs to embrace Iran and its nuclear program, and are hostile to U.S.-led attempts to isolate and pressure the Islamic Republic. But on this front, the numbers tell a very different story. Read more ..


Media on the Edge

TIME Magazine is Lying When it Says Israel Does Not Care About Peace

September 20th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Mitchell Bard
Mitchell Bard

As the author of a book on myths and facts about the Arab-Israeli conflict, I am often asked to identify the most prevalent myth. The answer can be found on the cover of the recent edition of Time magazine, which purports to explain "Why Israel Doesn't Care About Peace."

This assertion reinforces the views of the Arab lobby, especially State Department Arabists, who often work in tandem with foreign interests to frustrate broader U.S. policy goals. They have long believed that Israelis don't know what's best for themselves and must be forced, like recalcitrant children, to capitulate to the demands of the Arabs for their own good.

The Arabists, especially concerned that the creation of a Jewish state would jeopardize our access to Saudi oil, initially tried to prevent the creation of Israel altogether. Since 1948, their consistent posture has been that U.S. interests are best served by distancing the United States from Israel in order to improve our ties with Arab states.

We now have more than six decades of experience, which has utterly refuted this view. During these decades, we've seen U.S.-Israel relations grow closer without adversely affecting either our ties with Arab allies or oil supplies. Moreover, the true threats to U.S. interests have been external powers - the Soviet Union, regional provocateurs like the Iranians, inter-Arab rivalries (e.g., Syria and Lebanon) and terrorism, all of which the Arabists either ignored or downplayed. Read more ..


Turkey on the Edge

An Imaginary Vote in the Turkish Election

September 20th 2010

Turkish Topics - Turkish Flags

Had I voted in Sunday's referendum in Turkey, I would have struggled to decide whether to vote for or against the constitutional amendments put forth by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

On the one hand, the reform package includes progressive amendments, such as constitutionally guaranteed gender equality. On the other hand, it grants the AKP the power to appoint most of Turkey's high court judges without a confirmation process. Prior to Sunday, the secular courts were the last remaining check on the power of the AKP -- an authoritarian movement with Islamist roots that has often interpreted democracy as unchallenged majority rule. That judicial check is now gone. Read more ..


Argentina on the Edge

Hot Times in Argentina Leading to the 2011 Presidential Election

September 20th 2010

Latin American Topics - Cristina Fernandez gesture
President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

Alleged wiretapping hearings lead by a politician, the shutdown of an Internet provider and the investigation of a newsprint factory have all occurred in Argentina over the last few days. They all connect in one clear way: they signify the climax of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s presidency; they represent a moment of truth for the controversial figure. Argentina is fast approaching the 2011 presidential elections and the whole country is seized by the battle between the Kirchnerites and their fierce opposition. In this war, great names will be toppled and the ghosts of Argentina’s past—specifically the lingering effects of the country’s brutal military dictatorship—will certainly influence the country’s future. Read more ..


Edge on Terrorism

Nine Years after 9/11 and What have We Wrought?

September 13th 2010

Terrorism - Twin Towers 9/11

It has now been nine years since al Qaeda attacked the United States. It has been nine years in which the primary focus of the United States has been on the Islamic world. In addition to a massive investment in homeland security, the United States has engaged in two multi-year, multi-divisional wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, inserted forces in other countries in smaller operations and conducted a global covert campaign against al Qaeda and other radical jihadist groups.

In order to understand the last nine years you must understand the first 24 hours of the war — and recall your own feelings in those 24 hours. First, the attack was a shock, its audaciousness frightening. Second, we did not know what was coming next. The attack had destroyed the right to complacent assumptions. Were there other cells standing by in the United States? Did they have capabilities even more substantial than what they showed on Sept. 11? Could they be detected and stopped? Any American not frightened on Sept. 12 was not in touch with reality. Many who are now claiming that the United States overreacted are forgetting their own sense of panic. We are all calm and collected nine years after. Read more ..


Brazil on the Edge

The Stakes are High in Brazil's Forthcoming Presidential Election

September 13th 2010

Latin American Topics - Dilma Rouseff and Lula
Candidate Dilma Rousseff and President Lula da Silva of Brazil

In a scene from my first book, Hugo Chávez: Oil, Politics and the Challenge to the U.S., I discuss how Brazil became an ally of Venezuela during a key moment of heightened political tensions. It was December, 2002 and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez was facing down an economically damaging lock-out of the oil sector launched by the right wing political opposition. The lock-out capped a tumultuous political year for Chávez: just eight months earlier, he had scarcely managed to face down a coup d’etat launched by pro-U.S. elements within the country’s military and business elite.

As a result of the lock-out, Venezuela was obliged to import gasoline for domestic use. Chávez, who at the time was locked in a bitter political struggle with the Bush White House in Washington, desperately needed allies. Fortunately, just across the border Venezuela found an important diplomatic supporter in Brazil. In a clear sign that the South American giant was in no mood to cooperate with U.S. efforts designed to isolate Venezuela, Brazil shipped half a million barrels of oil to the Chávez government. Read more ..


Edge on Freedom

America's Free Speech Rights must be Shielded from Foreign Lawsuits

September 13th 2010

Social Topics - Bill of Rights

Although Washington is often mired in partisan political battles, there are some issues on which Democrats and Republicans in Congress can agree — and where they can work together in unison. One of these is our nation’s tradition of freedom of speech. Thanks to strong, bipartisan cooperation, an important bill to protect free speech is now set to become law.

The SPEECH Act (Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage) will protect Americans’ free-speech rights from the chilling effect of foreign libel lawsuits. The Act will ensure that American courts cannot be used to enforce foreign libel judgments against American journalists, authors and publishers if those judgments undermine Americans’ First Amendment rights.

For too long, American writers and publishers have been taken to court in countries with speech protections that are weaker than what our First Amendment affords. Moreover, these lawsuits often are brought in the courts of countries that lack any substantial connection to the speech or publisher, and that are selected by the plaintiff only because of that country’s weak free-speech standards. This is known as libel tourism. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Palestinians Will Not Accept Israel Within Any Borders

September 13th 2010

Jewish Topics - Women at The Wall

Last week, a small item of news shed piercing light on the reason for the intractability of the Arab war on Israel. The well-known 1970s disco group, Boney M, invited by the Palestine International Festival to give a concert in Palestinian Authority (PA)-controlled Ramallah, was pressured to drop performing one of its signature hit songs, ‘Rivers of Babylon.’

This is revealing. It reflects the fact that, since its inception in 1994, the PA has sought to deny and erase all Jewish connection with the land of Israel. This in turn reflects the fact that the PA and Palestinian society in general – as confirmed by many polls – reject Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, whose validity stems from the Jewish people’s religious and historical connection to the country. Read more ..


Economic Crisis

Where Can Americans Turn in a Government-created Artificial Reality?

September 13th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Star Parker, CURE
Star Parker

Many low income families bought homes they couldn't afford, not just because of lying mortgage brokers, but because the whole artificial reality that distorted prices and credit was created by government policy.  

It's interesting why behavior that we readily recognize on an individual level as undesirable, we routinely promote and accept as government and social policy.

What rational person would suggest that being detached from reality is a good thing? Or what rational person does not want good information when making important decisions?

But increasingly we live in an environment, created by government driven policies, in which the picture of reality we have is false, and the information available to us for making routine decisions is distorted. 

University of Chicago economist Raghuram Rajan demonstrates this problem in what he calls "let them eat credit." According to Rajan, we have a big problem at the lower end of our income spectrum. Low end incomes not only are languishing, but adjusted for inflation, are dropping. From 2002 to 2008, real wages for the top ten percent of earners increased, but for everyone else they dropped. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

America's Options in Iran and the Israel Attack Potential

September 6th 2010

Israeli Military - Israeli Jets Parked

Public discussion of potential attacks on Iran’s nuclear development sites is surging again. This has happened before. On several occasions, leaks about potential airstrikes have created an atmosphere of impending war. These leaks normally coincided with diplomatic initiatives and were designed to intimidate the Iranians and facilitate a settlement favorable to the United States and Israel. These initiatives have failed in the past. It is therefore reasonable to associate the current avalanche of reports with the imposition of sanctions and view it as an attempt to increase the pressure on Iran and either force a policy shift or take advantage of divisions within the regime. Read more ..


Electoral Edge

When Truth Itself Isn’t What Matters

September 6th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

In this modern era, in the United States, we often find ourselves, as voting adults, faced with a choice between the lesser of two evils. Take, for instance, the high-profile Senate race in Nevada where one of the most unpopular sitting elected officials in the nation, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, is neck and neck with someone whose only real selling point is that she’s – well, it’s simple: she’s not Harry Reid.

I don’t mean to disparage Sharron Angle. I’m only saying that Nevadans don’t seem particularly high on her. Nevada independents and moderates – who usually decide general elections – are not rushing to vote for a woman who wants to abolish the Department of Education, privatize Social Security, and who recently told a radio station she believes she was called by God to run for the Senate. (It’s important for me to note here, especially given my unabashed belief in the importance of faith in public life, that I am not mocking or ridiculing Angle’s belief that God called her to run for the Senate. I am merely commenting on the effect her claim might have on her chances of eventually capturing Reid’s Senate seat. And I, as do most Christians, understand what she was probably trying to say is that she feels God’s will for her is to run for the Senate seat, win or lose. After all, many people feel after long prayer, that God blesses their desires to be, say, a school teacher. I, as a matter of fact, believe God has answered my prayers in allowing me to use the talents he’s blessed me with in my own career. The prudence of making such a claim on the campaign trail is another matter, and it’s one that, instead of making her the presumptive Senator-elect from Nevada, has made her “the lesser of two evils” in the minds of key Nevada voters.) Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Are Iran Sanctions Too Big to Fail?

August 30th 2010

Iran - Iran Nuclear Equipment

On July 1, 2010, The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA), which passed by a large majority in the Congress, was signed into law. This Act puts the onus on American banks to audit and certify that their foreign correspondent banks are not knowingly facilitating or supporting Iran’s nuclear program and terrorist activities.

U.S law enforcement agencies’ investigation of the U.S. unit of HSBC could soon test the Administration’s resolve to act against big foreign correspondent banks that ignore the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA).

President Obama’s statement at the signing of CISADA, noted that this Act “requires sanctions on financial institutions facilitating certain activities involving Iran” (emphasis added). The vagueness of the President’s statement clearly indicates the Administration’s ambiguity towards the enforcement of severe sanctions against those who continue to fuel Iran’s coffers. Read more ..


Middle East Peace Process

Since America Wants Them, Mideast Peace Talks Begin Again

August 30th 2010

Israel Topics - Obama Netanyahu Abbas

The Israeli government and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) have agreed to engage in direct peace talks Sept. 2 in Washington. Neither side has expressed any enthusiasm about the talks. In part, this comes from the fact that entering any negotiations with enthusiasm weakens your bargaining position. But the deeper reason is simply that there have been so many peace talks between the two sides and so many failures that it is difficult for a rational person to see much hope in them. Moreover, the failures have not occurred for trivial reasons. They have occurred because of profound divergences in the interests and outlooks of each side. Read more ..


Religious Freedom

The Endless Wars of Islam

August 30th 2010

Islamic Topics - Islamic Protesters

Islam emerged from what is modern day Saudi Arabia in the 7th century, and never looked back. Muslim armies swept across North Africa and invaded Catholic Spain, destroying or converting the Christian communities along the way. They turned churches into mosques, and made Islam the official religion. Muslim armies also took over the Holy Land, destroyed the last non-Islamic Persian empire, and moved into Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). By the 16th century, Islam had destroyed the Christian Byzantine Empire, had taken over Constantinople, and had turned the Hagia Sophia -- the most beautiful church in Christendom -- into a mosque. A century later, Muslim armies were outside the gates of Vienna. Read more ..


The Electoral Edge

For Republicans, 2010 is the Year of the Woman

August 23rd 2010

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

The results of the recent primary elections have political pundits declaring 2010 to be the year of the woman. This may be true, but the real story is that this is the year of the conservative woman.

This year the GOP has nominated more female candidates than in any previous election cycle. The number of GOP women running for U.S. House or Senate seats has doubled over the past two years. In California, Republicans nominated Carly Fiorina to run for Senate and Meg Whitman to run for governor. In New Mexico, Sussana Martinez was nominated by the Republicans to run for governor. Linda McMahon, who formerly headed World Wrestling Entertainment, is the GOP Senate nominee in Connecticut. In Nevada, former state assemblywoman Sharron Angle was nominated by the Republicans to run against the Liberal Democratic standard bearer and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. An unwavering conservative, Angle seeks to cut federal waste by eliminating the Departments of Energy and Education. A recent Rasmussen poll put her ahead of Reid by a 50 to 39 margin.

In South Carolina, Nikki Heley will be a candidate in a run-off election. Of course the conservative queen-maker and Tea Party standard bearer was Sarah Palin. Two of the recent primaries’ biggest winners, Fiorina and Nikki Haley, were endorsed by Palin. This past week, Palin threw her support behind three more female GOP candidates, whom she called “liberty-loving Mama Grizzlies.” For the first time in history, the conservative movement and the Republic Party are headlined by women rather than middle aged white men. Read more ..


The Nuclear Edge

The Bomb Was Not Necessary

August 23rd 2010

Military - Atomic Mushroom Cloud

With the sixty-fifth anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb almost upon us, there is undoubtedly going to be a flood of commentary on the wisdom of its use by the United States during World War II. The justified scolding of Charles Pellegrino and his The Last Train From Hiroshima and Nagasaki is likely only the opening salvo.

Venturing into the arena of discussing the wisdom of the use of the atomic bomb is fraught with danger. It is somewhat akin to asking for the creation of an "impartial panel" to rationally discuss the issue of abortion, immigration reform, or the merits of the Obama health plan.

Virtually overlooked in the often heated debate is the question of whether the use of the bomb was justified from a strategic viewpoint. In other words, could we have induced Japan to surrender without the use of the bomb? This writer says yes.

For anyone looking for a recent accumulation of articles both pro and con, a useful starting point would be the 2005 essay by J. Samuel Walker in that April’s Diplomatic History. Clearly, the issue of the bomb is still an important story and will be with us for some time. Walker references a 1999 poll by Newseum, a museum of the news media, of sixty-seven American journalists who ranked the atomic bombing of Japan in 1945 at the top of all the news stories of the twentieth century. It would not be surprising if the story had the same rank at the end of this century. Walker, like almost all the others who venture into this arena, concentrates on the ethics and morality of President Truman's decision to utilize the bomb. Whether it was necessary to win the war is not discussed. Read more ..


Arabs and Israelis

The Palestinian National Narrative is the Biggest Obstacle to Peace

August 23rd 2010

Palestine Topics - Palestinian refugees

A specter is haunting the prospective Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations—the specter of the Nakba. The literal meaning of the Arabic word is “disaster”; but in its current, expansive usage, it connotes a historical catastrophe inflicted on an innocent and blameless people (in this case, the Palestinians) by an overpowering outside force (international Zionism). The Nakba is the heart of the Palestinians’ backward-looking national narrative, which depicts the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 as the original sin that dispossessed the land’s native people. Every year, on the anniversary of Israel’s independence, more and more Palestinians (including Arab citizens of Israel) commemorate the Nakba with pageants that express longing for a lost paradise. Every year, the legend grows of the crimes committed against the Palestinians in 1948, crimes now routinely equated with the Holocaust. Echoing the Nakba narrative is an international coalition of leftists that celebrates the Palestinians as the quintessential Other, the last victims of Western racism and colonialism. Read more ..


The Ground Zero Mosque

Ground Zero Mosque is a Mistake

August 16th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Star Parker, CURE
Star Parker

President Obama brought with him to the presidency a conviction that we Americans somehow bore some responsibility for the antipathy towards us in the Islamic world and that outreach would help. This is false.

The "Ground Zero" Mosque project should not go forward and let's hope that Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf who is behind this $100 million project gets this message and backs off.

But given what he is hearing from the liberals in New York, including the city's Mayor, the congressman in whose district Ground Zero sits, and the New York Times, it's hard to be optimistic that he will change his mind. 

Opposition to the Mosque is being portrayed, as the New York Times editorial page put it, as abandoning "the principles of freedom and tolerance."  But the Times makes its own tenuous grasp of reality clear as it goes on in its editorial embracing the Mosque and Islamic Center to say that "The attacks of September 11 were not a religious event."

We can only wonder what those at the Times think was motivating the young Muslims who, while embracing their Korans and chanting to Allah, committed suicide, taking 3,000 innocent Americans to their deaths along with them.

The website for the project, the Cordoba Initiative, advertises itself as "Improving Muslim-West Relations" and "steering the world back to the course of mutual recognition and respect and away from heightened tensions." Read more ..


Turkey On the Edge

Turkey May be Headed to Scary 1940s European Model

August 16th 2010

Turkish Topics - Turkish Flags

There has been speculation about where Turkey is heading ever since the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002. The early years suggested to most observers that Turkey was heading West, as the AKP lobbied hard for membership in the European Union, and pushed the liberal-democratic and free-market reforms that membership requires. Lately, the consensus view has shifted 180 degrees. As Europe makes clear its resistance to welcoming a Muslim-majority member, Turkey seems to be positioning itself as a regional power broker among its Islamist neighbors, most dramatically by casting a no vote against U.N. sanctions on Iran. Read more ..

The Education Edge

Education is the Silver Bullet

August 9th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams
Armstrong Williams

America’s once proud public education system is officially broken. Just about every study, statistic, expert, and professional agrees that without serious changes, our schools and our students will continue to fall further and further behind the world standard. But although parents, politicians, and policy makers recognize the problems facing our schools, they aren’t doing the right things to fix them. They’ve tried - in fact, they’ve tried ad nauseam – but they’re using band aids when reconstructive surgery is needed.

Whether it’s the No Child Left Behind Act enacted in 2002, President Obama’s “Educate to Innovate” campaign started this year, or the countless other education program instituted in between, our leaders seem to recognize that our education system is bleeding. Teachers, individual schools, school districts, local governments, states, and the federal government also see the problem and have made many legitimate attempts in the last decade to improve schools and better educate our children.

And it seems as though every politician and education professional has, at one time or another, spouted off various ways to fix our schools and help our children catch up with their international counterparts. The problem with all these ideas and initiatives however – no matter how sincere they are – is that none of them truly address the real problem in education: a lack of funding. Read more ..


BDS--the New Anti-Jewish Boycott

Isolation as a Tactic of Political Warfare

August 9th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Gerald Steinberg
Gerald M. Steinberg

Since 1948, Israel has been relatively isolated. In contrast to the Arab League, there is no "Jewish" League, and alliances depend on shared interests and values. European support has generally been problematic, and close cooperation with the United States only developed after 1967, with periodic friction, particularly during the Carter presidency (1977-1981). In the region, informal security links with Iran, Turkey and Jordan and the 1979 treaty with Egypt were exceptions.

The 1993 Oslo declaration opened many doors, and the era of Israel's isolation appeared to be over. But the Oslo process' violent end and other changes in the region reversed much of this progress. European governments became more distant again, and tentative ties with some Gulf countries and North Africa were reversed. However, cooperation with the US during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations remained very strong and Israelis were able to ignore the wider isolation.

The Obama administration has different priorities and perceptions, and relations have cooled considerably. Friction over Jerusalem construction, and images of humiliation during Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's March 2010 visit to the White House, suggested a major crisis. Conflict with Europe over the peace process and demands for Israeli concessions also expanded. In the region, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reversed years of close ties, instead forming alliances with Syria and Iran and joining in their support for Hamas and Hezbollah. Read more ..

Mideast Peace on the Edge

Palestinian Leader Abbas Seeks to Adopt Policy Based on Ethnic Cleansing of Jews

August 9th 2010

Palestine Topics - Mahmoud Abbas and Big Bro Arafat

The Palestinian Authority is under heavy international pressure, mostly American, aimed at facilitating the transition from proximity talks to direct negotiations with Israel.

The written message recently sent by President Obama to Palestinian Chairman Mahmud Abbas indicated that the American administration is not content, to say the least, with the Palestinian foot-dragging in the peace process, or with what is perceived to be a lack of appreciation for American pressure on Israel (which led PM Netanyahu to accept the two-state solution and to temporarily freeze settlement activity in the West Bank and Jerusalem.)

However, there is no obvious fundamental change in the Palestinian stance. The PA hesitates and refrains from explicit commitment to direct negotiations without any pre-conditions. Instead, it tries to weather the American demands by raising a new proposal to convene a three-way meeting of Palestine, Israel, and America to discuss the agenda of the negotiations, its legitimacy, and the settlement cessation. Read more ..


Edge on Death and Taxes

An Argument for the Flat Tax

August 2nd 2010

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

The ascendancy of the lawyer, banker, and political professions are as sure a sign of any that our society is becoming less free and more tyrannical.  In many ways, these professions have replaced scribes and Pharisees as the money changers in our temples. Just as the scribes and Pharisees interposed themselves between the average believer and God, so lawyers, bankers, and politicians have interposed themselves between the citizen and the society.  However, when we as individuals begin open our hearts to each other and rekindle moral excellence as the primary social currency, the need for oppressive laws and taxation lessens. Not to mention the deadening impact lawyers and so many laws have on the cultivation of virtues in the first place. It’s to the point where we’ve stopped talking about what’s right and wrong and more about what’s legal or illegal—what one can successfully get away with, instead of what one should do.

What’s right or wrong hinges more on recent case law—whether Napster or the recording industry won, for example. When trying to determine whether a course of action is good for the soul or the community of which we’re a part, it’s more “What did the Supreme Court recently say?” than “What would Jesus do?” Read more ..


Inside Latin America

Simón Bolívar, and Hugo Chávez's warped obsession

August 2nd 2010

Latin American Topics - Chavez and Bolivar

Upon Julius Caesar's murder, a struggle erupted over who would control his legacy. Octavius, Caesar's great-nephew, manipulated his position as Caesar's heir to wrest power from his rivals. He made Caesar a god and raised a temple, using Caesar's remains to underscore their connection. Symbolism was crucial, and to dispel any doubts about his legitimacy, Octavius added "Julius Caesar" to his name.

Shortly after midnight on July 16, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez reached back in time. He presided at  the exhumation of the remains of Simón Bolívar -- Latin America's greatest independence hero, who helped liberate the region from Spain in the 19th century, and the object of Chávez's personal and political obsession.

The skeleton was pulled apart. Pieces were removed, such as teeth and bone fragments, for "testing." The rest was put in a new coffin with the Chávez government's seal. Chávez, who also tweeted the proceedings, gave a rambling speech in which he asked Christ to repeat his Lazarus miracle and raise the dead once more. He also apparently conversed with Bolívar's bones.

"I had some doubts," Chávez told his nation, paraphrasing the poet Pablo Neruda, "but after seeing his remains, my heart said, 'Yes, it is me.' Father, is that you, or who are you? The answer: 'It is me, but I awaken every hundred years when the people awaken.' "

By presidential decree, every television station in Venezuela showed images of Bolívar in historic paintings, then images of the skeleton, and then images of Chávez, with the national anthem blaring. The message of this macabre parody was unmistakable: Chávez is not a follower of Bolívar -- Chávez is Bolívar, reincarnated. And anyone who opposes or criticizes him is a traitor not just to Chávez but to history. Read more ..


Edge on Narco-trafficking

A Disturbing Trend of Human Rights Abuses in Mexico's War on Drugs

July 26th 2010

Latin American Topics - Mexican soldier and dead guy

President Felipe Calderón’s aggressive counter-narcotics campaign in Mexico has begun to sprout a disturbing trend of abuse emanating from the Mexican armed forces. The human rights violations allegedly authored by the military rest on the underbelly of a drug conflict that has created frenzy throughout much of the country. As the country has seen an increase in military personnel patrolling its streets, so too has the public witnessed an increase in complaints of human rights violations. This disturbing trend highlights the reforms that need to be implemented in order to improve Mexico’s flawed human rights record. If advancement is to occur in safeguarding society, such abuses must be properly investigated and tried in a court of law. Read more ..


Edge on Race Relations

The Long, Slow, Painful Decline of the NAACP

July 19th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

The NAACP approved a resolution recently condemning the fringe element of the Tea Party movement for “explicitly racist behavior.” It would require a flow chart the likes of which have not been seen since the days of health reform to explain all of the ways this is wrong.

For starters, the mere act of criticizing a black president is not racist. Nor is it racist to raise the public consciousness to the very important issues of spiraling debt, misguided bailouts, and a series of social policies that may bankrupt the country. Our nation benefits from uninhibited discussion about these serious issues. Very simply, when movements—Tea Party or otherwise—openly debate these issues, the truth rises up. When the NAACP labels and dismisses the Tea Party as racists, it has a chilling effect on this important debate. As a result, the national dialogue is stifled.

It is sad that the nation’s oldest and most revered civil rights organization has been so co-opted by the Democrats that use the racism epithet to chill political discussion, rather than engage opposing viewpoints on the merits. Please understand, I have the utmost respect for the NAACP. But I cannot ignore the simple fact that the issues supported by the Tea Party relate principally to smaller government, lower taxes, less government debt, enforcing the immigration laws, and more individual freedom. These issues have nothing to do with abridging the rights and dignity of African Americans. By pretending otherwise, the NAACP has willingly allowed itself to be co-opted by the Democratic party. Even more alarming, they risk turning the word “racist” into a proxy for “someone whose politics you disagree with.” Read more ..


The Race for Alt Fuel

Is a Mideast War Brewing over Natural Gas Find?

July 19th 2010

Energy / Environment - Oil Spill
Leviathan natural gas well

The discovery of a gigantic natural gas reservoir less than 100 miles off Israel's coast seems like great news for the diplomatically and militarily embattled country. The gas finding will strengthen Israel's energy security, enable it to become an important gas exporter and contribute wealth to its economy.
It could also be the pretext for the next Middle East war.

Ten years after Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon, Hezbollah is struggling to find a cause that would enable it to continue its “liberation war” against Israel. Yes, there are those Shebaa Farms on Israel’s northern border that according to international law belong to Syria, not Lebanon. But neither the Lebanese population nor Syria seem to be eager to inflame the region over a territory one fifth the size of Disney World. Something of greater strategic importance must be found in order to revive the “resistance.” Read more ..


The Political Edge

SCOTUS Nominations Should Not Be Pro Forma Exercise

July 12th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

"When the Senate ceases to engage nominees in meaningful discussion of legal issues, the confirmation process takes on an air of vacuity and farce, and the Senate becomes incapable of either properly evaluating nominees or appropriately educating the public."
-Elena Kagan, 1995.

 
Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan must be psychic.  Fifteen years ago she called nomination hearings “a vapid and hollow charade.”  Last week, she ensured that her prediction came true.   After over nine hours of questioning, we still lack critical insights into how Justice Kagan would approach some of society’s most pressing questions before the Court—let alone the slightest whiff of a judicial philosophy that would inform her decision making.  Since Kagan has no actual judicial experience, one can’t help wondering if the nomination hearings were anything other than a political quiz show—they served the purpose of testing Kagan’s ability to perform under pressure, but they told us previous little about how she might approach the basic rights that we associate with happiness.

This should be at least somewhat disconcerting to the American people.  The Supreme Court is unique in that it serves to resolve disputes that have divided Circuit judges. Perhaps more than any other judicial position, Supreme Court Justices must rely upon their sense of equity to resolve issues that, by definition, have no clear legal answer. If we are going to give someone a life appointment to such a position, shouldn’t we at least get a whiff of their beliefs? Read more ..


Lebanon on the Edge

Passing of Shiite Cleric Fadlallah Spells Trouble for Lebanon

July 12th 2010

Lebanon Topics - fadlallah-mohammed-hussein-ulema
Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah

For Washington, the death this week of Lebanon's most prominent and respected Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, was a bittersweet moment.

In 1983, Fadlallah, a vocal proponent of suicide bombings, reportedly blessed the bombers of the US Embassy and Marine Barracks in Beirut that killed over 240 Americans. More recently, Fadlallah's purported dying wish was the destruction of Israel.

Yet his death now paves the way for a more militant, Iranian-influenced strain of Islamic ideology to gain ground in Lebanon.

Fadlallah represented the most credible moral, political, and theological alternative to Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite militia.

Notwithstanding his fiery Friday sermons targeting Israel and the United States, the Iraqi-trained Fadlallah opposed the concept of velayat-e-faqih, which puts an Iranian mullah at the pinnacle of Shiite theology and politics. He also condemned Al Qaeda and so-called honor killings of Muslim women, stances that led many Westerners to see Fadlallah, a man Washington labelled a terrorist, as a kind of moderate.

To Hezbollah, the departure of Fadlallah is an opportunity to co-opt local Shiites -- traditionally aligned with quietist Iraqi religious leaders -- to the more militant ideology espoused by Iran's supreme leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The effort to shift the orientation of the community will take time, but should Hezbollah succeed, it will strengthen Tehran and further erode Washington's influence in the region. Read more ..


The Political Edge

In Politics, Some Too Old to Govern

July 5th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

In our great system of American government, we have come to believe that age is a good thing. The older our elected officials—the theory goes—the better equipped and more seasoned they are to handle the challenges of running a government across our continental country.

After all, experience is what voters crave, no? President Obama himself had to overcome early questions about his relative inexperience, and he worked hard to debunk those misperceptions.

Wisdom is also a coveted hallmark of someone who’s logged a few more years in elected office. That can’t be a bad thing. I’ve never met a politician who didn’t pray for the wisdom of Solomon as he dealt with the most difficult of legislative matters.

But does too much gray affect an office holder’s gray matter? Is there such a thing as being too old to capably lead and govern such a massive nation of laws and regulations? At what point does a legislator become so debilitated he or she is no longer able to effectively execute the duties of office? And how can we as a voting public know when those mental and physical thresholds have been crossed?

We face these questions today.

As our nation has aged, so, too, has our Congress, perhaps even more acutely. A 2008 Congressional Research Service report found that the 110th Congress that year was the oldest of any Congress in U.S. history. The Congress currently in session today has broken even that record. The average age of senators at the beginning of this 111th Congress was 62.7 years. By comparison, the average age in the first Congress more than 200 years ago was a mere 47.

Clearly, longevity and modern medicine explain away some of these differentials. Yet a closer look at the age breakdowns reveals a heavy tilt in the upper chamber towards those entering or currently in the eighth decade of their lives.  Read more ..


After the Holocaust

The Rights of Survivors of Nazi Horror Should be Restored

July 5th 2010

History-Genocide - Holocaust survivor

For decades, Holocaust survivors and the families of Holocaust victims seeking transparent and accountable restitution of looted assets, such as insurance policies, have struggled against overwhelming odds.

In June, it was reported that Generali, Allianz, AXA and Munich Re are among the top 10 insurance companies in the world. After World War II, these companies, and others, failed to pay tens of thousands of policies bought and paid for by European Jews in good faith. Survivors were subjected to demands for original policies, or death certificates, as if Hitler was issuing those at Auschwitz.

As a result, the companies pocketed billions of dollars of Holocaust victims’ money.

The Obama administration, in legal papers filed by the Justice Department, recently stated that it would be “contrary to U.S. foreign policy” for Generali to be held accountable in U.S. courts. This was a different position from the one taken by President Bill Clinton, who refused to support Generali. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Where are the Aircraft Carriers Located—or Headed?

June 28th 2010

Military - French Plane-US Carrier
French Navy Rafale Practices on a U.S Carrier

“Any of you boys seen an aircraft carrier around here?” – Maverick (aka Top Gun)

Actually, a couple of them. The USS Truman sailed through the Suez Canal last week with a dozen escort ships all armed to the teeth. The Truman is supposed to relieve the USS Eisenhower on station in the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Ike stays around a little longer. Ostensibly, the Truman is supposed to provide support for the Afghanistan war, and several support ships are supposed to peel off for anti-piracy patrols off the coast of Somalia.

French President Sarkozy revealed last week that the French carrier the Charles De Gaulle is heading out to the region “before the end of the year.” How soon will it be before the British HMS Ark Royal will also join the other carriers in the region? Probably not too long, considering that French, British, and American jets have been participating in joint exercises in recent months with pilots landing on each other's carriers. Read more ..


Media on The Edge

The SPEECH Act Nears Closer to Reality

June 28th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Rachel Ehrenfeld
Rachel Ehrenfeld

BP CEO Tony Hayward will likely win his case if he decides to sue American reporters and media outlets for libel in England for exposing his participation in a yacht race off the British Isle of Wight in the midst of the oil spill caused by his company in the Gulf of Mexico. You see, unlike the protections of free expression guaranteed by the American First Amendment, the plaintiff-friendly British libel laws hold the right of privacy of a public figure such as Hayward above transparency and accountability to the public.

The United States has historically led the world in the protection of its citizens' rights to free speech. The introduction of a new bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee last week reinforces this role by protecting all American writers and publishers from the enforcement of foreign libel judgments, such as the British court might award Mr. Hayward.

On June 22nd, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-AL) introduced the Securing and Protecting our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage Act, or SPEECH Act. This bipartisan bill is co-sponsored by Senators Arlen Specter (D-PA), Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT), and Charles Schumer (D-NY). It will strengthen the protection of American authors and publishers from the enforcement of judgments ruled against them in frivolous and extortionate libel suits in foreign countries that do not have our protections for freedom of speech. Read more ..



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