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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 ..

Turkey and Israel

Strained Relations between Israel and Turkey Undermines Bridge Between West and Muslim World

June 21st 2010

Contributors / Staff - Abraham Foxman Color cropped
Abraham H. Foxman

These are sad times indeed for those with a strong attachment to Israel, and an equal and longstanding respect for Turkey. The unique relationship shared by these two countries, down through history and into the present, is being undermined in a stormy environment of disagreement, and charged rhetoric.

We need not go into a rehash of the much-discussed events and the diplomatic rows that brought us to this pass. The strongly critical remarks by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, first at Davos in response to Israel's December 2008 invasion of Gaza, and more recently over the flotilla episode and the deaths of nine Turkish activists aboard the Mavi Marmara, have cast a deep pall over the Israeli-Turkish relationship.

The echoes of Davos and the flotilla affair seem to be prevailing over calm heads and good will, and we can only wonder, why?

Sadly, an historic era of cooperation may be slipping away, as Turkey appears on the verge of abandoning a role it so proudly played as a bridge between the Muslim world and the West. The inter-governmental and people-to-people relationships are fraying, and the tangible benefits they have brought to both sides are at serious risk.

This is a shared history based on mutual interests and concerns. In March 1949, Turkey became the first Muslim state to recognize Israel, and in 1958, Turkish Prime Minister Adnan Menderes and Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion met in secret to sign a military and intelligence cooperation agreement. Ben-Gurion later wrote to President Dwight D. Eisenhower that Israel's "links with the Government of Turkey have grown more intimate in secret channels." Read more ..

The Race For Oil

Brazil’s Black Gold is a Black Stain

June 21st 2010

Energy Topics - Petrobras
Petrobras Brazil

The Brazilian authorities have portrayed a complex issue of huge significance as a simplistic contest between nationalists and sell-outs. On Wednesday, June 9th, the Brazilian Senate passed a bill that alters regulations governing the exploitation of the offshore “pre-salt” oil fields. Discovered in 2007, these are potentially extensive deposits of oil and gas, trapped several miles under the sea bed beneath a hard layer of salt. The regulations’ model will soon change from concessions to partilha, increasing the government’s control over production. One should hasten to underscore the dangers resulting from such a change. Read more ..

Israel on the Edge

If Israel Goes Down, We All Fall Down

June 21st 2010

Contributors / Staff - Jose Maria Aznar
Jose Maria Aznar

For far too long now it has been unfashionable in Europe to speak up for Israel. In the wake of the recent incident on board a ship full of anti-Israeli activists in the Mediterranean, it is hard to think of a more unpopular cause to champion. In an ideal world, the assault by Israeli commandos on the Mavi Marmara would not have ended up with nine dead and a score wounded. In an ideal world, the soldiers would have been peacefully welcomed on to the ship. In an ideal world, no state, let alone a recent ally of Israel such as Turkey, would have sponsored and organized a flotilla whose sole purpose was to create an impossible situation for Israel: making it choose between giving up its security policy and the naval blockade, or risking the wrath of the world.

In our dealings with Israel, we must blow away the red mists of anger that too often cloud our judgment. A reasonable and balanced approach should encapsulate the following realities: first, the state of Israel was created by a decision of the UN. Its legitimacy, therefore, should not be in question. Israel is a nation with deeply rooted democratic institutions. It is a dynamic and open society that has repeatedly excelled in culture, science and technology.

Second, owing to its roots, history, and values, Israel is a fully fledged Western nation. Indeed, it is a normal Western nation, but one confronted by abnormal circumstances. Read more ..

The Helen Thomas Affair

A Call for Grace on Helen Thomas

June 14th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Ken Bobu headshot
Ken Bobu

On May 27, 2010, a well known figure in the Washington Press Corps, Ms. Helen Thomas, was briefly interviewed ad hoc by Rabbi David Nesenhoff. According to press reports, the Rabbi, his son and a friend saw Ms. Thomas walking across the lawn at the White House when all were in attendance for the Jewish American Heritage Month celebration. The Rabbi approached Ms. Thomas and asked her for a comment on Israel, to which she replied, “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.” Ms. Thomas’s reasoning as she rambled on, was that Palestine was under occupation and that the Israelis occupying this territory should go ‘home’ to Poland, Germany, America, and everywhere else.

The Rabbi confessed to being shocked by the outburst, yet he proceeded to place the video of the conversation on his Web site as soon as he was able to. The following scandal led to many recriminations, and ultimately forced Ms. Thomas to resign from her position.

Undoubtedly Ms. Thomas’s position is one that is not viewed favorably by many Americans, and most assuredly not among the Jewish Diaspora. Her views on this subject are rather blunt, historically inaccurate, and probably more reflective of her age than her wisdom. In fact, since Ms. Thomas is just shy of her 90th birthday, it would not that far-fetched to infer she has become afflicted by the effects age has on the mind; so in that sense, her resignation under these circumstances while sad, is most likely somewhat overdue.

What is not so morally clear, however, is the manner in which the Rabbi dealt with the “story.” As Navy men, my father and I both learned that you punish in private, and praise in public. My question is: Couldn’t the Rabbi have handled this better and with far more grace, while simultaneously making his point and achieving his goal? As a man of God, one would expect that a Rabbi would be no stranger to the concept of grace. Why then was it that he felt a public outing was necessary? Read more ..

The Immigration Edge

Immigration, Capitalism, and Government

June 14th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

The problem with immigration is most definitely not capitalism. Capitalism depends upon the agreement of two or more parties upon a mutually agreeable exchange—whether it be of one’s labor for a wage or of one’s money for a product or service. Businesses seek to lower costs so that they can provide a product or service at the price at which supply and demand reach an equilibrium, which is the point—theoretically—at which their profits are maximized.

The problem with immigration is not that businesses follow this basic principle in seeking cheap immigrant labor, but is instead that the government has inadvertently, because politicians seem immune to understanding the “law of unintended consequences,” set the price of immigrant labor at an artificially low point. Illegal immigrants, are willing to work for less, in part, because they’re taxed less and business owners are all too willing to “exploit” (the anti-capitalist’s favorite word) the immigrant’s willingness to work for less, so this mutually beneficial exchange takes place at the expense of low-skilled American workers.

Of course businesses prefer cheap immigrant labor to more expensive legal labor, but only because cheap immigrant labor already existed in abundance, not because businesses sought a particular class of people to exploit and hold down. What is consistently  lost in the politics of this issue is that it’s not about the immigrants themselves; it’s purely about cost. A century ago, it was the Italians and the Irish. By mid-century they’d moved up and out of the low-skilled sector and our economy had itself moved into a more prosperous period that saw high-school boys seeking summer and after-school work building homes and widgets. When it was high-school kids earning only a penny an hour, we called it character-building, but in our increasingly race-conscious and entitlement-driven culture, all of a sudden the businesses that for eons have been paying low-skilled labor as little as they can get away with are vilified as racist tyrants. The reality is, you couldn’t pay low-skilled labor nearly enough to satisfy those whose real problem is not wages or greedy CEOs, but the entire capitalist venture.

The problems with today’s system were created by the government, plain and simple; after all, it’s not the CEOs of companies writing immigration laws; well-meaning but stupid politicians do that just fine all on their own. Read more ..

The Hamas Flotilla

Gaza Flotilla Captain Tells of Planned Armed Provocation in Video Tape

June 14th 2010

Gaza Topics - Gaza flotilla 2

A new videotaped interview with the captain of the largest ship in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla has surfaced, revealing that the ship had been overrun by members of the Turkish humanitarian group İnsani Yardım Vakfı (IHH) preparing for a confrontation with Israel.

The whole truth of the incident has yet to come out, but with each day that passes, new information gets presented that helps piece this puzzle together. Mehmut Tuval, Captain, Mavi Marmara tells Israeli officers of a very different type of voyage than that of a pure humanitarian mission. The video opens with Tuval talking about a group of IHH members cutting steel pipe from the rails of the ship and cutting chains, preparing them on the deck three hours before the IDF commandoes boarded. To do this, they used cutting disks that were brought on for this purpose. Read more ..

National Security on the Edge

Where is the Obama Administration Headed on Terrorism?

June 7th 2010

Presidential - Barack Obama
Barack Obama

I had originally planned on writing an article about the National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair’s resignation on May 20th after only 16 months in that position, which came reportedly at President Barack Obama's request. Then, like any good plan following its agenda, only six days later the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, John Brennan, gave a speech at CSIS (Center for Strategic and International Studies) in which he announced that President Obama would be releasing his National Security Strategy on the 27th. That speech changed my plans.

Just to put into perspective where this man’s loyalties lie, John Brennan had just given a speech on February 13 at New York University, in which he stated, "...And as part of that experience, to learn about the goodness and beauty of Islam....I came to see Islam not as it is often misrepresented, but for what it is...a faith of peace and tolerance and great diversity….”

Two minutes later in the same speech he referred to Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, by its Arabic name, “And in all my travels, the city I have come to love most is Al Quds...” Read more ..

Edge on Domestic Security

Response to Illegal Immigration is a Problem for Arizona--and all America

May 31st 2010

Social Topics - Arizona immigration rally

Section IV of Article IV of the US Constitution states:

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and on application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic violence. (Emphasis mine).

That the state of Arizona has need for the United States government to guarantee its protection from invasion and domestic violence is beyond question. It is expressly Constitutional. That Arizona has become frustrated by the insouciance of federal Immigration policy that evinces reluctance to sufficiently enforce laws that would limit the misery that Arizona is enduring through no fault of its own is clear. That Arizona has enacted a law to prevent financial, civil, and mortal chaos from worsening is understandable. And that the law, as currently enacted, has been misrepresented by myriad politicians, talking heads, and unelected elites is, sadly, typical. Read more ..

Inside the Eurozone

Leaving the Euro: An Exit Strategy for Germany and Greece

May 24th 2010

Europe Topics - Euro money

Rumors of the imminent collapse of the eurozone continue to swirl despite the Europeans’ best efforts to hold the currency union together. Some accounts in the financial world have even suggested that Germany’s frustration with the crisis could cause Berlin to quit the eurozone — as soon as this past weekend, according to some — while at the most recent gathering of European leaders French President Nicolas Sarkozy apparently threatened to bolt the bloc if Berlin did not help Greece. Meanwhile, many in Germany — including Chancellor Angela Merkel herself at one point — have called for the creation of a mechanism by which Greece — or the eurozone’s other over-indebted, uncompetitive economies — could be kicked out of the eurozone in the future should they not mend their “irresponsible” spending habits.

Rumors, hints, threats, suggestions and information “from well-placed sources” all seem to point to the hot topic in Europe at the moment, namely, the reconstitution of the eurozone whether by a German exit or a Greek expulsion. We turn to this topic with the question of whether such an option even exists. Read more ..

Inside Iran

America Needs to Get the Message Across to Iran

May 17th 2010

Iran - Iran protest

Persian-language radio and television broadcasts are among the main tools of U.S. public diplomacy toward Iran. Yet both of Washington's primary outlets for such broadcasting -- Radio Farda (RF) and the Persian News Network (PNN), an arm of Voice of America (VOA) television -- have been harshly criticized since their inception.

The most recent criticism surfaced last month, in a letter from Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) to President Obama. Signed by sixty-nine other congressmen, the letter accused PNN of "anti-American rhetoric" and an "apparent lack of oversight regarding the context of VOA-Persian broadcasting." Subsequently, an April 14 Washington Times editorial described VOA as "Voice of the Mullahs," stating "if VOA is telling Iranians struggling for freedom that resistance is futile, we hope Tehran keeps jamming it." As evidence of VOA's anti-American stance, the editorial noted that PNN had interviewed two "pro-regime" figures, Houshang Amir Ahmadi and Trita Parsi. Five days later, VOA director Danforth Austin responded to the allegations by defending VOA's objectivity, asking, "[W]ould the government of Iran waste time and money jamming VOA's PNN if it didn't find the content objectionable?" Read more ..

Pentagon on the Edge

America’s Defense Budget Waste Must be Cut

May 10th 2010

Military - Secretary Robert Gates
Defense Secretary Robert Gates

General Eisenhower – whose portrait hangs behind my desk at the Pentagon, and whose life has been a source of wisdom and inspiration – is a hero of mine. Eisenhower was a low-maintenance leader of simple tastes, modest demands, and small entourages – in stark contrast to what often happens at the upper levels of power in Washington and in other elite settings. A newspaper article from December 1944 described a visit by Eisenhower to the front lines in the European Theater of Operations. The reporter noted that “there is no fanfare, no screaming motorcycle escorts, no fluttering banners” – only a convoy that consisted of three cars:  one for Ike and his sole British aide, one for the press, and one spare. After arriving, Eisenhower set up his modest trailer right in the middle of what the reporter described as “one of the biggest and sloppiest mud puddles in creation,” despite the presence of an elegant (and abandoned) chateau nearby.

I should note that even the bureaucratically-wise General Eisenhower was flummoxed by the Pentagon, now referred to as the “Puzzle Palace.” Soon after the war and returning to Washington, Ike made the mistake of trying to find his office by himself, and got very lost. He later wrote:  “One had to give the building his grudging admiration; it had apparently been designed to confuse any enemy who might infiltrate it.” Read more ..

The Edge of Recovery

The Fourteen Fatal Flaws in Senator Dodd's Regulation Plan

May 3rd 2010

Economy - No Bull

The Senate is expected to take up a proposal, originally authored by Senator Chris Dodd (D–CT), to reform the financial regulatory system in the U.S. The goal is clear: to minimize the chances that another financial crisis—and bailouts—will arise again.

The objective is a good one. Unfortunately, the 1,408-page bill includes numerous provisions that would hurt—not help—consumers and the economy. It would even make another financial crisis or bailout more likely to occur.

Fourteen Flaws

Among other things, the bill:

Creates a protected class of “too big to fail” firms. Section 113 of the bill establishes a “Financial Stability Oversight Council,” charged with identifying firms that would “pose a threat to the financial security of the United States if they encounter “material financial distress.” These firms would be subject to enhanced regulation. However, such a designation would also signal to the marketplace that these firms are too important to be allowed to fail and, perversely, allow them to take on undue risk. As American Enterprise Institute scholar Peter Wallison wrote, “Designating large non-bank financial companies as too big to fail will be like creating Fannies and Freddies in every area of the economy.”

Provides for seizure of private property without meaningful judicial review. The bill, in Section 203(b), authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to order the seizure of any financial firm that he finds is “in danger of default” and whose failure would have “serious adverse effects on financial stability.” This determination is subject to review in the courts only on a “substantial evidence” standard of review, meaning that the seizure must be upheld if the government produces any evidence in favor of its action. This makes reversal extremely difficult. Read more ..

The Edge of Justice

Rubashkin Sentence Must Be Fair—Not Shocking

April 26th 2010

Jewish Topics - Sholom Rubashkin
Sholom Rubashkin

As a former United States District Court Judge, I have a unique perspective on the criminal justice system.

Aggressive prosecution and strong sentencing advocacy are at the center of most US Attorney decisions. Federal judges have the sole authority to administer fair and consistent criminal sentences. These are certainly weighty responsibilities which require balancing the dual interests of punishment and deterrence with mercy and societal redemption of those convicted of criminal acts. In his now famous speech to federal prosecutors, then Attorney General Robert Jackson captured the difficult balance that must be reached by those who exercise authority over fellow human beings when he concluded “the citizen’s safety lies in the prosecutor [or judge] who tempers zeal with human kindness, who seeks truth and not victims, who serves the law and not factional purposes, and who approaches his task with humility.”

Notwithstanding the best efforts of prosecutors and judges to administer justice, practitioners such as ourselves remain concerned about not only disparity in sentencing in the federal system, but specifically the shockingly high sentences being meted out in some white collar cases based on overinflated or overreliance on the dollar loss amounts in fraud cases. One particular case, set for sentencing in the coming days, is United States v. Sholom Rubashkin. Read more ..

Edge on Justice

Can Justice Meet Punishment in the Case of Rabbi Shalom Rubashkin?

April 19th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Shmuley Boteach
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

At middle age I have come to accept my limitations. Although I like to have an opinion on almost everything, I am conscious of the fact that I am not a legal scholar and do not understand all the complexities of the criminal case against Shalom Rubashkin, the former CEO of America's largest kosher meat plant, Agriprocessors of Postville, Iowa.

But I am not a stupid man either. And I, and a heck of a lot of other fairly intelligent and educated people are scratching our heads as to why government prosecutors are requesting that Rubashkin, who has ten children, including an autistic son, and a reputation for enormous philanthropy, be given a life sentence in prison.

A life behind bars. The very words are ominous. Isn't that reserved for society's most heinous offenders? Life sentence has one conjuring images of rapists and murderers, international drug cartel kingpins and white-collar criminals guilty of gargantuan fraud, like Bernie Madoff.

What did Rubashkin do? After an INS raid on the plant that found hundreds of illegal immigrants, the company was pushed to the brink of bankruptcy and Rubashkin, who had already been arrested for employing illegals, was subsequently found guilty of defrauding a bank and producing false invoices in order to keep the business going. There is no insinuation that he did any of this for personal profit or gain. Unlike Madoff, he had no Hamptons estate, no fancy yacht, and no Manhattan penthouse. By all accounts he and his family lived in incredibly modest circumstances. Read more ..

The Edge of Energy

Flex Fuel Vehicles Hold The Key

April 12th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Gal Luft

Two recent policy announcements revealed the Obama administration’s core strategy in addressing the nation’s growing dependence on oil. Early in April, President Barack Obama announced that his administration would allow new oil exploration along the Atlantic Coast and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. The administration also announced new mandatory fuel efficiency standards of 35.5 mpg average within six years, up nearly 10 mpg from now.

By simultaneously promoting supply-side solutions (drill baby, drill) and demand-side solutions like increased efficiency, Mr. Obama is throwing bones to the two camps that for decades have dominated the nation’s energy debate. This may be smart politics, but when it comes to effectiveness—though there is nothing wrong fundamentally with either efficiency or drilling—both policies will do very little to address America’s energy security challenge, as they fail to address the root of the problem: oil’s virtual monopoly over transportation fuel (only 2 percent of U.S. oil demand is due to electricity generation).

Last year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimated that opening the Outer Continental Shelf to exploration would affect oil prices by 11 cents per barrel by 2020, which would translate to less than a penny per gallon. On the flip side, going on an efficiency diet would not even offset the growth in demand due to natural growth. Read more ..

The Edge of Food

Does the Public have a Right to Know about Genetically Modified Meat?

April 5th 2010

Science - Mouse in Beaker

Is it a pig or a mouse pig? Relax I am told, it is just a bit of DNA and not species specific, putting mouse DNA into a pig won't affect it at all. Why then are researchers trying to bring a little piggy to market with mouse DNA spliced into the beast? The answer is simple and readily answered by people behind it, because the mouse DNA, when combined with E. coli, allows for the pig to process phosphorous in a way that the pig currently cannot.

To bring everyone up to speed on what I am going on about here, allow me to present Enviropig, an invention of the University of Guelph in Canada. The scientists behind Enviropig have been working on this animal for 11 years, trying to find a way to reduce the phosphorous output of swine herds raised through intensive livestock operations or factory farming. Professor Stephen Liss tells me that phosphorous run off can be a problem on farms, if the run off hits water supplies be it in streams or wells, the water can become contaminated, algae growth can overtake the water. The solution, Enviropig which can reduce phosphorous output by as much as 70 percent.

But this is not just about solving an environmental problem, the goal is to market this animal for human consumption and currently there are applications before the United States Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada, asking the regulatory bodies to approve the "transgenic" animal for the dinner plate. I'm not sure. Read more ..

Obama Edge

Stopping Iran by Appeasing Syria is a Diplomatic Illusion

March 29th 2010

Iran - Ahmadinejad and Assad3

After observing the Obama’s administrations attempts of engagement and rapprochement towards the Syrian regime it is logical to have deep concerns about the disturbing and negative results that these attempts have brought to the US allies and interests in the region.
As part of the Obama administration’s new approach towards the issues of the Middle East, reopening dialogue with the Syrian regime was advocated as the only way to detach Basher Assad from Syria’s 30 year old alliance with the Iranian theocratic regime. It also aimed at getting Syria to play a positive regional role in fighting terrorism and promoting stability and to participate in the peace process.

As it is obvious today none of the above objectives is close to happening. On the contrary the once cornered and ready to capitulate Syrian regime has slyly used the détente, freely offered to it, to strengthen its grip on the Syrian people, to continue its support of the terrorists who kill our soldiers and disrupt Iraq’s recovery process, to smuggle arms to Hezbollah and to intimidate the US allies in the region.  Read more ..

The Bad Arolsen Conflict

U.S. Holocaust Museum Owes Survivors an Apology Over Withheld Records

March 22nd 2010

Jewish Topics - BA Camp Documentation

As previously reported in the media, the National Archives & Records Administration (NARA) and Footnote.com announced in September 2009 the forthcoming release of the Internet’s largest interactive digital Holocaust collection. The collection has recently been released and it includes 26,000 Holocaust related photos, millions of names and records which are now available online for the first time.

Dr. Michael Kurtz, assistant archivist of the United States NARA and author of America and the Return of Nazi Contraband commented: “working with ‘Footnote’ these records will become more widely accessible and will help people now and in the future learn more about the events and the impact of the Holocaust.”

The announcement goes on to explain: “The Holocaust collection is the latest in a continuing partnership between ‘Footnote.com’ and the National Archives to scan, digitize, and make historical records available online. The goal is to give more people access to these and other historical records that have previously only been available through the research room of the National Archives.”

Russ Wilding, CEO of ‘Footnote” stated: “These pages tell a personal story that is not recorded in the history text books; they give visitors a first-hand glimpse into the tragic events of the Holocaust and allow users to engage with content such as maps, photos, timelines and personal accounts of victims and survivors.” Read more ..

Israel on the Edge

Stepping Back from Biden's Trip to Israel

March 15th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Abraham Foxman Color cropped
Abraham Foxman

On some level, it couldn't have been worse. We have a situation where the most trusted member of the U.S. administration, Vice President Joe Biden, is in Israel seeking to win over the hearts and minds of the Israeli public which, according to the polls, is highly suspicious of the Obama government. And in his opening public remarks, the vice president shows he's cognizant of the need by the administration to state more clearly and vociferously than it had heretofore that the American-Israeli special relationship is as strong as ever.

Included in his comments was the important statement that when it comes to matters affecting Israel 's security, there is no space whatsoever between the American and Israeli positions.

In sum, the administration was paying attention to those of us who have been saying for some time that it was imperative for the president and vice president to use their bully pulpits to make clear that the outreach to the Muslim world did not in the least mean any erosion in the U.S.-Israel relationship. This was important for at least three reasons: to keep the trust of the Israeli people; to prevent illusions about a weakening American support among the Palestinians which could lead them to conclude that peace is not necessary; and to make clear to anti-Israel forces around the world, who are feeling their oats these days, that America is not a ripe target for their campaigns against Israel.

The stage was set therefore for the most successful effort for strengthening U.S.-Israel relations since the new administration entered office. And then came the announcement of plans for building 1,200 new apartments in East Jerusalem.

One doesn't have to accept the most cynical interpretation of that announcement, and I surely don't, that the prime minister knew about it, to recognize what a disaster it was. Whatever the motivation and whoever the responsible party, it is the government of Israel that justifiably is held accountable for converting an optimal moment in U.S.-Israel relations into a moment of crisis. The crucial point is that the government had an obligation to anticipate what might go wrong during the vice president's visit and to give firm instruction to all cabinet members about avoiding such pitfalls, particularly on the subjects of settlements and East Jerusalem . Read more ..

Edge on Automobiles

Toyota's Deadly Secret

March 8th 2010

Automotive - Dec 2009 Toyota Accelerator Accident
December 2009 Toyota accelerator mishap

That Toyota brand and fleet of vehicles: Matrix, Sequoia, Highlander, RAV4, Camry, Avalon, Corolla, Tundra and Lexus. If any of you are the proud owner of one of these vehicles over the past few years, I’m certain some of you have horror story after horror story you could testify about before Congress, just as several have done in recent days. Do you ever wonder whether anyone was ever listening to your cry in the wilderness?

Many of us are just too personally familiar with the crisis Toyota now faces as a result of its clandestine relationship with our government which has seriously jeopardized or killed countless Americans on our highways. Toyota, which is headquartered in Japan, culturally addresses issues of irresponsibility and neglect in much harsher terms than the U.S. In fact, the Japanese have long been known as a group in which personal sacrifice (even suicide) is encouraged as part of one’s display of grief, regret and responsibility sharing.  Their culture is quick to issue apology after apology and show deep humiliation for their transgressions. Unfortunately in this latest episode, just simply apologizing repeatedly will not be enough to satisfy the tremendous harm and lack of sensitivity to those who have long prized the Toyota brand as the standard of the global auto market. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

A Joint Arab Force Against Terror Is Needed

March 1st 2010

Contributors / Staff - Walid Phares new
Walid Phares

In a discussion with American and European legislators as well as with counter terrorism experts from the Arab world, the formation of an “Anti-Terror Joint Force” was suggested as an appropriate response to the expansion of Terror organizations throughout the region backed by both al Qaeda and Iran. Over the past few years, I have given briefings to the Anti-Terror Caucus of the US House of Representatives as well as to several defense agencies on how such an initiative could start among Arab Governments and expand later to Muslim countries. These countries in the Arab world—Yemen, Saudi, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Iraq, and several Gulf states—are already fighting Terrorism in general and al Qaeda in particular. They are already confronting al Qaeda and Jihadi Takfiris in their homelands. and in some cases they are fighting networks backed by the Iranian regime, as is the case in Yemen, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Hence an Arab leadership on counter terrorism is the best idea to put all these resources together. The creation of an Arab special forces corps would benefit all countries involved and would be backed by many Western countries.

An Arab joint effort against terrorism is not only beneficial on military and security levels but also and mainly on ideological levels. Arab intellectuals and NGOs, when approached and supported seriously, can be efficient in countering radicalization and indoctrination by Jihadi Salafis and Khomeinists.

Furthermore, such a Trans Arab effort against Terrorism would enhance the image of Arab countries and societies in the West and at the international stage. After 9/11, connections were drawn between the Jihadists and entire Arab societies. With the rise of a common Anti Terror Arab force, these connections will be reversed as the international public opinion would then see these important efforts on behalf of several countries coming together to defeat a common enemy: al Qaeda and resist a global threat: Terrorism. Read more ..

The Edge of Justice

Federal Court Requires Washington State to Allow Felons in Prison to Vote

February 22nd 2010

Politics - Federal Court Building
Federal Court Building Ninth Circuit

You may have seen a headline like the one above following a January 5 decision issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (usually shortened to "Ninth Circuit"), the federal appellate court which handles appeals from federal district (that is, trial) courts in the State of Washington, California, and other western states. The headline seemed, shall I say odd, so I was prompted to read this Ninth Circuit decision (Farrakhan v. Gregoire), as well as other decisions on the same problem issued by three other federal appellate courts: Johnson v. Governor of the State of Florida (Eleventh Circuit 2005); Hayden v. Pataki (Second Circuit 2006); and Simmons v. Galvin (First Circuit 2009).

As we all learned from the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court case following the 2000 presidential election, most of the law governing the eligibility of individuals to vote is state, not federal, law. One such federal law, however, is the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was enacted to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, one of the amendments that followed the Civil War. Read more ..

Edge on Education

How to Make Higher Education More Affordable

February 15th 2010

Social Topics - Graduates

President Obama has proposed a new plan to cap student loan payments at 10 percent of the borrower's discretionary income. Borrowers with incomes below 150 percent of the federal poverty line (or approximately $33,000) would be required to make no payment, and the balance of a borrower's loan would be forgiven after 20 years for a private-sector worker and 10 years for a government employee.

Since college borrowers willingly take out loans in order to obtain a college degree, it is unclear why the federal government would choose to reduce their payments. This proposal would further shift the burden of paying for postsecondary education from the student or borrower--the person who directly benefits from the college degree--onto taxpayers.

In 2005, the Census Bureau reported that the annual earning of a worker with a college degree is roughly double the yearly income of a person who only earns a high school degree. The majority of American adults do not have college degrees. Shifting the burden of student loan repayments from college graduates onto taxpayers, many of whom did not attend college, raises serious questions about equity.

Increasing Subsidies, Increasing College Costs

Total federal student aid (including grants, loans, and tax benefits) was $117 billion during the 2008-09 academic year--a 99 percent increase over 10 years. Nevertheless, paying for college remains a challenge for students and families.

The cause of the affordability problem is ever-increasing college costs. The price of college tuition and fees grew by 439 percent since 1982--more than four times the growth rate of inflation (consumer price index: 106 percent) and almost twice the cost of medical care (251 percent). Read more ..

Edge on NATO

Macedonia's Admission to NATO is Long Past Due

February 8th 2010

Military - US - Macedonia cooperation
Macedonian soldiers in Iraq salute Major General Paul Levebvre, USMC

At the Bucharest Summit in April 2008, NATO affirmed that Macedonia would become a fully fledged member of the alliance once its bilateral name dispute with Greece is resolved. Nearly two years later, Greece continues to block Macedonia's NATO membership and has extended its obstructionism to Skopje's ambitions to accede to the European Union, despite widespread support in the region and from the broader Euro-Atlantic community.

The Adriatic-3 countries--Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia--have successfully completed their Membership Action Plans, and as a result, Albania and Croatia have taken their seat at the alliance's table. It is well past time for Macedonia to join them. The United States must work with Macedonia's allies within NATO to push their accession up the agenda and pressure Greece to abide by NATO's long-standing precedent that one country does not block another's membership on a purely bilateral matter. Read more ..

The Hell of Haiti

Haitian Disaster Could be a Boon to U.S.-Cuba Relations

February 1st 2010

Latin American Topics - Rene Preval - Fidel Castro
Rene Preval and Fidel Castro

Why is there almost no media coverage of Cuba’s medical assistance to Haiti? The Cuban government has provided free health care to the Haitian people since 1998 as well as many full scholarships to its medical schools. It also should be noted that Cuban doctors work in all 10 of Haiti’s departments (administrative divisions). At the time the earthquake struck, 344 Cuban doctors were providing health service in Haiti along with over 500 local Haitian graduates of Cuban medical schools.

For years, the Cubans had been implementing their model Comprehensive Health Program in Haiti, but immediately switched to treating earthquake victims when the emergency struck. The Cubans quickly established field hospitals at the University Hospital in Delmas 33, and at Rennaissance and Oftama. Cuban personnel also began performing operations on an18 hours-a-day schedule.

Yet, not a word of this appears in the mainstream U.S. media. In fact, U.S. news organizations seem to make the charge that patients routinely die at US-operated makeshift medical clinics and hospitals in Haiti because of a lack of adequate facilities to care for them, yet what about Cuban-run hospitals on the island? Do they have a better record? Read more ..

The Obama Edge

The Lesson of Massachusetts Reaches Across America

February 1st 2010

Obama Admin Topics - Obama at peace

The people of Massachusetts handed President Barack Obama a stinging political rebuke on his first anniversary in office. The descent from “Yes we can” to “No we won't” was dizzying. Mr. Obama won the Bay State last year by more than 25 percentage points in his triumphal march to his historic inauguration. A year later, Republican Scott Brown won the special Massachusetts Senate election by five points to replace the late Ted Kennedy. The message is clear: Voters, especially independent ones, believe Mr. Obama's presidency is on the wrong track.

To avoid derailment, President Obama must learn from Candidate Obama to transcend partisanship. He must reread his analysis in The Audacity of Hope that America has moved beyond 1960s-style Big Government liberalism, even as it realized it must move beyond 1980s-style Reaganism, too. In short, Mr. Obama must renew his vow to lead from the center.

Although the Democratic candidate, Martha Coakley, ran a Keystone Kops campaign in Massachusetts, Mr. Obama should take her defeat personally, especially after campaigning for her on Sunday. Mr. Brown boldly made the election a referendum on Mr. Obama's leadership and Mr. Obama's health-care reform. Cries of “41” at Mr. Brown's victory party celebrated his new power as the 41st Republican senator, preventing the Democrats from blocking a Republican filibuster that could bury health care or any other major reform.

Campaign signs calling Mr. Brown “the people's candidate” captured his campaign's populism, immortalizing his greatest moment. Moderating a debate between the candidates, CNN's David Gergen asked Mr. Brown about the irony that, by sitting “in Teddy Kennedy's seat,” he might sink Mr. Kennedy's long-sought health-care reform for another 15 years. Mr. Brown's reply was one of those great political sound bites: “Well, with all due respect, it's not the Kennedys' seat, and it's not the Democrats' seat, it's the people's seat.” Read more ..

The Hell of Haiti

President Obama Risks a Katrina-sized Fiasco in Haiti's Bleak Prospects for Recovery

January 25th 2010

Disaster - Haiti Eathquake Devastation

As the days go by, it has become almost impossible to exaggerate the untold devastation left in the wake of the massive earthquake that struck Haiti on Tuesday, January 12, with its epicenter just southwest of the capital city of Port-au-Prince. The quake, registering a magnitude of 7.0 on the Richter scale and followed by over thirty serious aftershocks, left what is likely to be well over 200,000 dead and millions more injured. Many additional victims remained trapped in the rubble of homes, schools, hospitals, and government buildings as the primary three-day window for search and rescue ran out. Early this morning, a major aftershock registering a magnitude of 6.1 wreaked yet further havoc on the island.

The crisis has thus far drawn significant contributions of humanitarian aid from around the globe, including $100 million pledged by the US and tens of millions more by public and private agencies, in addition to relief efforts bearing food, medicine, and supplies for critical search and rescue operations. Still, the international response has been insufficient to keep up with the mounting challenges stemming from Haiti’s weak existing national infrastructure, social and political instability, and chronic underdevelopment, amplifying the disastrous impact of the earthquake. On Friday, January 15, the United Nations announced an emergency appeal of over $550 million in international humanitarian assistance for earthquake relief efforts over the next three to six months. However, the overpowering logistical and bureaucratic challenges that have complicated relief efforts so far may prove even more difficult to confront in the face of the enormous challenges posed by rebuilding the infrastructure and institutions of Haiti, above and beyond coping with the immediate devastation wrought by the earthquake. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Why Sanctions Help—Not Harm—Iran

January 18th 2010

Iran - Iranian nuclear facility

After giving Iran another full year to move closer to building a nuclear weapon, the Obama Administration is finally coming to the realization that its engagement strategy was a failure. Its fallback position has been to threaten new sanctions, but this approach will not succeed and may, in fact, help the Iranian regime and ensure it becomes a nuclear power.

Perhaps the most significant problem with the idea of sanctions is that it gives the impression of action without really achieving anything.

Sanctions are already in place and have not stopped Iran's progress. Proponents say that they simply need to be stronger, but a tougher sanctions regime has a number of problems. First, it will take yet more time to adopt any new measures and, with each passing day, Iran's program advances. Many experts already believe Iran can now build a bomb and the point of no return has passed. Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

The Importance of Latin America to U.S. National Security Policy

January 11th 2010

Latin American Topics - Chavez and Latin American Presidents

The Christmas attempt at blowing up a Northwest Airline flying from Amsterdam to Detroit has rightly raised the level of concern regarding national security.

If some still believe that the 9/11 attacks were isolated cases that were not likely to be repeated, the Christmas event, as well as the massacre perpetrated by a radical Islamist at a military base at Fort Hood Texas and the capture of five Pakistani-Americans who tried to enlist with Al Qaeda, confirm that national security issues need to be comprehensively addressed. This is why paying full attention and giving priority to events occurring in Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan is imperative.

However, a national security policy cannot be subject to emotions or to the ideology of people who profess mere pacifism or wrongly believe that the enemy would not be our enemy if we treat it differently. Likewise, it is reasonable to say that no national security policy should be based only on a reaction to one specific dramatic event. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

A Restaurant in Tel Aviv and Hannah Rosenthal

January 4th 2010

Jewish Topics - Hannah Rosenthal
Hannah Rosenthal

In December, in a Tel Aviv restaurant, while I sat casually discussing my successor at the State Department with my dinner companions, I mentioned Hannah Rosenthal's J-Street affiliation, suggesting that this affiliation concerned me. Nearby sat a former US Foreign Service officer who upon the conclusion of her meal took it upon herself to—quite rudely—interrupt our meal to inform me in front of several other people, that in her opinion, J-Street was “a friend of Israel, not an enemy.” She then ran off out of the restaurant in a huff, shooting me a dirty look as she left. As publicly offensive as this woman proved to be, her rude declaration seemed to suggest a bothersome arrogance. Worse was the very public repetition of this effrontery by Ms. Rosenthal, the U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism when she publicly criticized and insulted Israel's Ambassador to the United States for purely political reasons.

Ms. Rosenthal suggested that Ambassador Oren “could have learned something” by attending the recent J-Street conference, which he refused to attend due to his differences over policy with the group. She attacked him in an Israeli newspaper in her official capacity, a position which dictates that she fights anti-Semitism, not breed it by openly picking a fight with Israel's Ambassador to the United States, thereby aiding and abetting anti-Semites around the world. Read more ..

Sports on the Edge

The Absurdity of Athlete Worship

December 28th 2009

Sports Topics - Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods

For me, it started with Muhammad Ali. I can perfectly recall sitting in the living room with my father, watching as Ali danced around the ring. He moved with a rare mix of fluidity and power, dispatching one rough, plodding opponent after another. He seemed the perfect embodiment of masculine striving. But the best part was after the match had ended. That's when Ali would unleash one of his verbal rants. Full of braggadocio, Ali would proclaim to the world, "I am the greatest." And I believed him.

But why? Why was I so willing to listen to Ali? Why do we take any guidance from athletes? In the midst of Tiger Woods's Thanksgiving day car wreck and his apparent infidelity with multiple women, I can't help but wonder why we bother to make heroes of our sportsmen.

After all, everything about the lives of our celebrity athletes encompasses abnormality. From a young age, they are conditioned to believe that they are superior in a Darwinian sense. The moment these physical outliers are spotted on playgrounds, they are courted by "street agents" who fill their heads with dreams of dollars, endorsement deals, celebrity and all those other things that fulfill their adolescent desires to be "feared and worshiped." These promising youths (the fittest, the strongest) are promptly shipped off to shoe-sponsored sports camps where their talents are honed under the adoring gaze of coaches. Money, gifts, promises and special favors from unscrupulous agents, shoe executives and recruiters inevitably follow. And if they hit the big time, their images are beamed across the world with a dreamlike quality based on the persona of the hero. Read more ..

The American Way

Should American Heritage be Preserved?

December 21st 2009

Architecture - Ruins of Windsor Mississippi
Ruins of Windsor Plantation, Mississippi

Today we are bombarded with allusions to the “culture war,” the conflict over the basic values that govern public life in the West. The war is grounded in a clash between the traditional West with its roots in the Christian heritage and a growing disillusionment with truth and meaning itself arising from a materialistic and secularistic world view.

The full dimensions of the conflict are seldom recognized primarily because of the superficial understanding of the intellectual heritage of the West, a superficiality spelled out by E.D. Hirsch in his Cultural Literacy (1987). Furthermore, Stephen Prothero has maintained in his book Religious Literacy (2007) that even among Americans--who overwhelming purport to believe in God--there is a “lack [of] the most basic understanding of their own religious tradition.”

Paradoxically, despite our cultural illiteracy, we are absorbed in preserving, promoting, and disseminating what is touted as heritage. Under the banner of “historic preservation,” government agencies, private organizations, and specialists constantly urge us to preserve heritage in the form of vast quantities of buildings and artifacts. The rationalization is that these things will help us understand “who we are, where we came from, and what is the legacy that shapes. . . us,” as Richard Moe, President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation once noted. Read more ..

Education on the Edge

The Dropout Crisis

December 14th 2009

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

In his second inaugural address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt lamented: “I see one third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, and ill-nourished.” From that lament the New Deal took root.

More than a pinching of the bare necessities, the nation President Barack Obama sees is plagued by ill-education featuring high school dropout rates routinely soaring past 50 percent in major urban areas where the underprivileged predominate. The ailment threatens the nation’s democracy, economy, and social fabric. It is aggravating racial or ethnic divisions. It confirms the insight of H.G. Wells that “human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.”

President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan deserve some praise for embryonic federal steps to address the dropout problem by encouraging charter schools and offering hundreds of millions of dollars in economic stimulus funds to innovative non-profit educational programs with promising or proven track records. But the national effort is vastly incommensurate with the magnitude of the high school dropout danger. President Obama needs to provoke a national conversation and high voltage concern over the disaster that is already upon us Read more ..

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