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The Edge of Terrorism

Jihadist Imam Anjem Choudary Condemns Himself in his Own Words

September 30th 2014

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"In the Quran it is not allowed for you to feel sorry for non-Muslims. I don't feel sorry for him." — Anjem Choudary.

"Eventually the whole world will be governed by Shari'ah & Muslims will have authority over China Russia USA etc This is the promise of Allah." — Anjem Choudary.

"Under the Koran the sale of alcohol is prohibited and if one were to also drink alcohol, that would be 40 lashes." — Anjem Choudary.

"We [Muslims] take the Jizya, which is ours anyway. The normal situation is to take money from the kuffar [non-Muslim]. They give us the money. You work, give us the money, Allahu Akhbar. We take the money." — Anjem Choudary. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Is California Dreaming just for the Wealthy?

September 29th 2014

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All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey
I've been for a walk on a winter’s day
I'd be safe and warm if I was in L.A.
California dreaming on such a winter’s day...

“California Dreaming”
The Mamas and the Papas (1965)

California is a land of dreams. From the star-struck Midwestern girl seeking fame and fortune in Hollywood to the Oaxacan farm laborer hoping to earn a few bucks for the folks back home, the Golden State lures the brave, the imaginative and the desperate. Almost another nation perched on the Pacific, California’s migrant histories span different eras, ranging from the Dust Bowl environmental exodus to the Indochinese apocalypse and the Central American cataclysm, among numerous others. Read more ..


Jewry on Edge

Reflecting on Rosh Hashanah and the Year 5775

September 28th 2014

As we mark the end of another year with the advent of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, we pause to take stock of the year that has passed, to learn from ourselves, our experiences and our mistakes as we move forward to build a better future.

This has been a most difficult year for the Jewish people and particularly for the state of Israel, which once again has fended off a threat on its southern border from an implacable foe: the terrorist group Hamas. As the year concludes there is little hope that the most recent war will lead to any meaningful change in the depressing state of affairs in the Palestinian territories and particularly in Gaza, where Hamas rules with an iron fist, an anti-Semitic charter and a deep ideological opposition to any rapprochement with Israel. Read more ..


Europistan

Germany's Sharia Police Enforce Muslim Law with Violence

September 23rd 2014

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Sven Lau chats with locals in Wuppertal, Westphalia, Germany

According to Burkhard Freier, the director of domestic intelligence for North Rhine-Westphalia, German Salafists are increasingly inclined to use violence to achieve their aims, and many have travelled to Iraq or Syria to obtain combat training.

"The intention of these people is to provoke and intimidate and force their ideology upon others. We will not permit this." — Wuppertal Mayor Peter Jung.

"In Germany, German law is determinative, not Sharia law." — Christian Democratic Union (CDU) politician Volker Kauder.

Salafist ideology posits that Sharia law is superior to all secular laws because it emanates from Allah, the only legitimate lawgiver, and thus is legally binding for all of humanity. According to the Salafist worldview, democracy is an effort to elevate the will of human beings above the will of Allah. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

A Foreseeable Failure

September 17th 2014

Syrian Sunni jihadis

In testimony yesterday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted that the most that could be done by way of creating an effective Free Syrian Army – that is, the forces of the moderate opposition to Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad – was to train a force of 5,000 over the next year.

That’s probably realistic, in the sense that the Free Syrian Army is starting from a very low point, but it’s also a tacit confession that the prospects for lasting success against the Islamic State enemy are slim and distant.

Just to review: the rise of the Islamic State has its origins in the Syrian civil war, and eastern Syria is where it has its greatest base of support and safest sanctuary.  The town of Raqqah is the “capital” of its would-be caliphate.  Intelligence estimates of IS troop strength are uncertain, but the numbers and capabilities have grown rapidly and continue to grow; total effectives are now some thing above 30,000. The Islamic State’s most vital lifeline extends through northern Syria into Turkey.  And, by training the Syrians in small increments, eight weeks at a time, the result will be small units with limited capabilities, dribbled into the fight in penny-packets.  Even with support from U.S. airpower, the Free Syrian Army isn’t going to be defeating the Islamic State any time soon. Read more ..


The Edge of Tolerance

Obama Meets with Hezbollah Supporter Following Anti-Semitic Conference

September 15th 2014

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President Barack Obama and White House national security adviser Susan Rice met with a delegation of Christian Middle Eastern leaders in Washington, D.C., on Thursday that included at least one Hezbollah-supporting Lebanese cleric.

The meeting came one day after Sen. Ted Cruz was booed off the stage for defending Israel while giving a keynote address at a conference for the same delegation of Christian leaders.

The In Defense of Christians summit, which was aimed at raising awareness of persecution against Arab Christiansa, featured speeches by several Hezbollah supporters and some of Bashar al-Assad's most vocal Christian allies. One of the clerics who met with Obama was Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, the Daily Star reported on Thursday. Read more ..


The Edge of Tolerance

Republican Cruz Says Anti-Semitic Conference Like Nothing 'I've Experienced Before'

September 15th 2014

Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) said in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon that the “hatred and bigotry” he encountered when he was booed off the stage at a Middle Eastern Christian conference for defending Israel on Wednesday night was like nothing he has previously seen in his political career.

“I’ve certainly encountered audiences that disagreed with a particular point of view. But this virulent display of hatred and bigotry was remarkable, and considerably different from anything I’ve previously encountered,” Cruz said, just a few hours after his pro-Israel speech to the In Defense of Christians conference was drowned out by shouts and jeers from the audience.

The senator was booed off stage at the conference, which is aimed at raising awareness for the persecution of Middle Eastern Christians, after saying that Christians “have no greater ally than Israel” and calling on the audience to support the Jewish state. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Wasting Time

September 15th 2014

Iraq ISIL double file of militants

The Obama administration is behaving like a prisoner under interrogation: eventually, if unintentionally, it ends up talking most about the subjects it least wishes to discuss.

Over the weekend, Secretary of State John Kerry reversed what he’d said a few days previously, acknowledging on CBS’s Face the Nation that “we are at war” the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.  But he hated to admit that obvious truth, telling the ever-avuncular Bob Schieffer that “it was a waste of time to focus on that.”

The president finds the question even more irritating.  As Walter Russell Mead notes, being criticized as a vacillating wartime leader is “getting under his skin.”  Giving a dinner for foreign policy big-wigs to preview his anti-ISIS strategy, Obama complained of the portrayal in the press of “a wan, professorial president” paralyzed when brought face to face with unvarnished evil and raging bloodlust. Read more ..


The Edge of Tolerance

Pro-Hezbollah Christian Leaders Headline Conference Funded by Clinton Donor

September 14th 2014

Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) is headlining a conference on Wednesday funded by a controversial Clinton donor that will feature pro-Hezbollah and pro-Assad speakers in Washington, D.C. The “In Defense of Christians” summit is a gathering of Middle Eastern Christian leaders that seeks to raise awareness about the threats to Arab minorities from ISIL.

However, critics fear several of the speakers will try to use the event to bolster Washington’s support for the Syrian regime in its ongoing civil war and help Bashar al-Assad restore his legitimacy and power.

The roster of speakers includes some of the Assad regime’s most vocal Christian supporters, as well as religious leaders allied with the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah. Other Washington policymakers scheduled to attend include Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.), Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), and Rep. Brad Sherman (D., Calif.). Read more ..


The Way We Are

Thousands Have Died From Ebola. Why Is the World Doing So Little?

September 14th 2014

Ebola health workers and corpse

Although Syria and Iraq get most of the international headlines, the Ebola outbreak in west Africa is a biological crisis of historic proportions: Three states are at risk of collapse and tens of thousands could be infected. Medical personnel say the disease is spiraling out of control.

The international response must become more serious.

Unlike the crises in the Middle East or Ukraine, there is no human adversary plotting against us. The real challenges are complacency and indifference. That the United States should be so slow to respond even after last month’s Africa summit in Washington is especially regrettable.

Outbreaks of Ebola dating to the mid-1970s have typically killed a few hundred victims. Traditionally, the virus’s hemorrhagic fevers kill more than half of those infected in experiences akin to those in fictional thrillers. One of those outbreaks, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) in 1991, affected a city where one of us served as a Peace Corps volunteer. Kikwit’s poor nutritional and public health conditions made the population vulnerable to contagious disease and complicated response efforts. Until this summer, however, even severely stressed developing countries have, with international assistance, mustered responses to outbreaks that contained the affected population to one small area. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Conservatives Against Fighting Terorists

September 12th 2014

Iraqi prisoners of ISIL

It is said that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds; let’s then posit that inconsistency is the hobgoblin of the chattering classes. A propos of which, an important question: does the United States have to defeat ISIS or not? Here are some rules of the game:

     It’s cheating to suggest that we only have to defeat ISIS where our partners are pretty, a little like looking for your lost keys in the lamplight. Either they are dangerous or they are not.
     It’s wrong to suggest that our partners are more than we make of them: guess what, Iraqis are reliable because we made them so; insofar as they are weak, it is because we abandoned them.
     The Free Syrian Army may not be the next Constitutional Convention, but the reason it is less palatable than the Iraqis or Sunni tribes, or the Kurds, is because it has received close to no support from any party with any money, values, arms or goals. Read more ..


America and Israel

Pro-Israel Christians are a Light in the Darkness

September 11th 2014

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When I left Israel nearly six weeks ago for my annual trip to America the rockets had already begun to fall. Just two nights before my family boarded a plane for Chicago we were frantically running for shelter as the code red siren blared, signifying an incoming missile directed at my city. The experience was truly terrifying but it was eye-opening as well. Feeling targeted and preyed on by the terrorists in Gaza enabled me to truly understand what the resilient and heroic residents of southern Israel have been experiencing for years.

“You must be excited to go to America and get away from the war zone,” many friends and family members said to me as I packed my bags, surrounded by sirens and fear. But that was not why I looked forward to my trip.

Israel is my home and her people are my people. I was not abandoning my nation during her time of need, but rather leaving my beloved homeland in order to strengthen her. With the unfair demonization of Israel and her growing number of enemies, I felt a calling to travel to America in order to seek out friends, to strengthen the pro-Israel voice and to help show my Jewish nation that we are not alone. Read more ..


The Caliphate

This Is What Happened to the Last Person Who Claimed the Caliphate. It Didn't End Well for Him. There’s a Lesson in that.

September 9th 2014

Sharif Husayn

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s recent unilateral assumption of the role of caliph has provoked widespread debate in jihadist circles as to the legitimacy of the ISIS leader’s claim, in doing so sparking memories of the similar controversy surrounding the Hashimite Sharif Husayn of Mecca’s March 1924 bid to be recognized as the legitimate successor to the deposed Ottoman caliph. It was a controversy in which the officials charged with formulating Britain’s post-war Near Eastern policy were deeply implicated.

Husayn’s claim to the caliphate was at least a decade in the making. Since the late nineteenth century, anti-Ottoman sentiment among the Arab intellectuals of Syria and Egypt had often been expressed through a proclaimed desire to reform the empire through a top-down process of Arabisation, in which the Sharif of Mecca was regularly touted for the position of caliph. In the context of deteriorating Ottoman-British relations, such ideas were encouraged by orientalists such as Wilfrid Blunt, author of an anti-Ottoman tract titled The Future of Islam in which he argued that the revival of Islam through an Arab renaissance was a historical inevitability. Read more ..


The War on Terror

9/11 Commission Criticizes Congress for Not Taking Islamic State Seriously

September 9th 2014

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Members of the 9/11 Commission are criticizing Congress for the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), arguing lawmakers have not taken the threat seriously enough.

In interviews with The Hill, veterans of the blue-ribbon panel rebuked lawmakers for a generally lax approach toward oversight and said Congress fell down on the job by not implementing the recommendations they made 10 years ago.

"Nobody can be very impressed by the congressional record here. You don’t go on a five-week vacation if you think the threat to the United States is imminent. Or, at least, I hope you don’t," said former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.), the vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission. Read more ..


Defense on Edge

Seize the Jacksonian Day

September 8th 2014

ISIL execution captive prayers

“They should know we will follow them to the gates of hell.”

“The long-term challenge is debilitating and ultimately eradicating a strong and growing ISIS.”

“The president should have weaponized the moderate Syrian rebels earlier.”

“Thousands of Russian troops are here [in Ukraine] with tanks, missiles, heavy artillery, and are directly engaged in what is clearly an invasion. We should be providing the Ukrainians with the type of defensive weapons that will impose a cost upon Putin.”

These quotes come from, in order, Vice President Joe Biden, Republican Sen. Rand Paul, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, and Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez.  This isn’t the sort of talk one hears from people who are “weary of war.”  But neither are these politicians who are neocon war-hawks; these are centrist Democrats and Paul, of course, is a libertarian Republican who flirts with neo-isolationism. Read more ..


The Way We Are

5 Feminist MythsThat Will Not Die

September 7th 2014

Working Women

Much of what we hear about the plight of American women is false. Some faux facts have been repeated so often they are almost beyond the reach of critical analysis. Though they are baseless, these canards have become the foundation of Congressional debates, the inspiration for new legislation and the focus of college programs. Here are five of the most popular myths that should be rejected by all who are genuinely committed to improving the circumstances of women:

MYTH 1: Women are half the world's population, working two-thirds of the world's working hours, receiving 10% of the world’s income, owning less than 1% of the world's property.
FACTS: This injustice confection is routinely quoted by advocacy groups, the World Bank, Oxfam and the United Nations. It is sheer fabrication. More than 15 years ago, Sussex University experts on gender and development Sally Baden and Anne Marie Goetz, repudiated the claim: “The figure was made up by someone working at the UN because it seemed to her to represent the scale of gender-based inequality at the time.” But there is no evidence that it was ever accurate, and it certainly is not today. Precise figures do not exist, but no serious economist believes women earn only 10% of the world’s income or own only 1% of property. As one critic noted in an excellent debunking in The Atlantic, “U.S. women alone earn 5.4 percent of world income today.” Moreover, in African countries, where women have made far less progress than their Western and Asian counterparts, Yale economist Cheryl Doss found female land ownership ranged from 11% in Senegal to 54% in Rwanda and Burundi. Doss warns that “using unsubstantiated statistics for advocacy is counterproductive.” Bad data not only undermine credibility, they obstruct progress by making it impossible to measure change. Read more ..


Labor on Edge

Michigan Judge Rules Teachers May Voluntarily Leave Labor Union

September 6th 2014

Administrative Law Judge Julia C. Stern has ruled that under Michigan’s right-to-work law, public employees can resign from a union at any time of the year. On that basis, Judge Stern said that the state’s largest teacher union, the Michigan Education Association, has been violating the law by enforcing its so-called 'August window.'

“Freedom and the ability to exercise one’s rights do not come with a time limit,” said Patrick J. Wright, vice president for legal affairs at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “As we have said all along, the bylaws of a membership organization do not trump state statute. The MEA, unfortunately, chose to treat its members not as professionals but as piggy banks.”

The Judge's "notice to union members." Read more ..


Isalm's War Against Christianity

Are Iran, Assad and Hezbollah are Using Christian Persecution by ISIS to Hijack the Minorities

September 5th 2014

ISIS Takes Homes in Mosul

On September 9, 2014, a conference organized by the newly formed group “In Defense of Christians” (IDC), will be addressing the issue of “persecution of Christians in the Middle East at the hands of ISIS.” The event is very well funded and a sophisticated outreach has been mobilizing Mideast Christian churches in the United States over the past few months to participate in great numbers. The board of IDC includes prominent citizens, former government officials, and experts in the field of international religious freedom.

The context of the conference, with one day in Congress and another day at a D.C. hotel is very appealing to the public. Christians in northern Iraq were ethnically cleansed from Mosul back in June and from the Nineveh plain—the last geographical enclave for Christian Assyrians, Chaldeans and Syriacs in Iraq—in July. More than 400,000 Christians are refugees in Kurdistan with no immediate hope for a return home. Scores of Christians have been killed, raped, and kidnapped by the Jihadists of ISIS, as were Yazidis and other Iraqis. Christians of Iraq and Syria—and before there, in Egypt—have been under persecution and submitted to violence for the past few years. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Fatherlessness, Cause or Symptom of Societal Decline?

September 4th 2014

Armstrong_Williams

There has been a lot of focus on the decline of fatherhood in the black community, as the proportion of black children growing up in single parent (overwhelmingly female headed) households have exploded since the 1960s.  Fatherlessness is widely cited as a cause of social pathologies that plague black youth – teen pregnancy, academic failure, joblessness, and epidemic rates of crime and incarceration.  This decline has been attributed by politicians and pundits to a culture of poverty -- a poverty of culture really – within the black community.  However, what the argument overlooks is that declining fatherhood may itself be a symptom of broader societal and structural factors that have affected the family unit in America as a whole.  And because of this missing connection between structural and institutional causes of family decline, the victims of the decline in families may end up taking the blame for factors that are beyond their control.  And in that sense they may be victimized twice over.

In a seminal piece entitled “Of Elephants and Men”, psychologist Dr. Wade Horn tells the fascinating story of a game reserve in South Africa’s Krueger National Park, in which juvenile and female elephants were removed in order to thin a herd that had grown beyond the reserve’s capacity to support it. The park was left with mostly male bull elephants. However, a short time later the juvenile elephants who had been transported to another reserve began violently marauding the park, killing several rare white rhinos. This was definitely not elephant-like behavior, and it confounded the reserve’s managers.  Ultimately the park rangers decided to import several male bull elephants into the reserve where the errant juveniles were wreaking havoc.  Read more ..


Islam on Edge

The Religion of Peace -- or War?

September 3rd 2014

ISIL execution crucifixion Iraq

American and European leaders are "shocked" that the Islamic State (IS) barbarians beheaded two American reporters, Steven J. Sotloff and James Foley. Their "shock" is disingenuous and troubling. They react as though such barbarism is something new among Islamists. It is anything but. And if not earlier, then certainly in the aftermath of al Qaeda's attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001, a spike in Muslim groups' and individuals' barbaric crimes has been reported worldwide. Islamist beheading is nothing new.  Open a Quran in any translation to find the instructions

of what the IS and other jihadists groups are following, in the name of the Beneficent, the Merciful, Allah.'

Here are a few examples: The Book of Muhammad, verse 4 (47:4) - "Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers (in fight), strike off their heads; at length; then when you have made wide Slaughter among them, carefully tie up the remaining captives: thereafter (is the time for) either generosity or ransom: Until the war lays down its burdens." Read more ..


Vote 2016

Romney 2016? Nooooo!

September 2nd 2014

Mitt Romney expansive

In the 1991 movie “Naked Gun 2 ½,” Police Lt. Frank Drebin drinks away his sorrows in a blues bar while sad music plays and the camera pans across a wall with pictures depicting the worst disasters in history: the Chicago fire . . . the Hindenburg . . . the Titanic . . . and Michael Dukakis.

If they did a remake today, they would replace Dukakis’s picture on the wall with one of another Massachusetts governor: Mitt Romney. Talk of a Romney 2016 run is heating up. A USA Today poll shows Romney with a huge lead in Iowa, far ahead of 14 other potential GOP candidates. And after months of Shermanesque denials, Romney recently cracked the door open to another presidential bid, telling radio host Hugh Hewitt that “circumstances can change.”

     To which I say: Nooooo!
Don’t get me wrong, I wish Mitt Romney were president right now. And apparently so do a majority of Americans. A recent poll found that if the 2012 election were held today, Romney would beat Obama by 53 percent to 44 percent. But those numbers more likely reflect buyer’s remorse with Barack Obama than a sudden longing for a Romney administration. Indeed, the very same poll showed Romney losing to Hillary Clinton by 55 percent to 44 percent — not exactly the result Republicans are looking for in 2016. Read more ..


The Caliphate

The World's Enormous Silence about the Slaughter of Christians

September 1st 2014

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The Pope, patriarchs and prelates are crying out for intervention. Where are the presidents and prime ministers?

I've known Maronite leader Monsignor Sharbel Maroun for many years, talked with him on radio in 2006 after Telelumiere was nearly destroyed in the Lebanon War that summer, and many times before and after then about the ongoing work of unity and mutual respect of Christians and Muslims in the Middle East. He just returned from Lebanon recently, we talked again this week, and he is despondent. What he said is captured well here.

Catholics in the Middle East are being persecuted and slaughtered while the world watches and remains silent, said the leader of an Eastern rite Catholic community. Read more ..


The Battle for Ukraine

How to Stop Putin’s War in Ukraine

August 31st 2014

Vladimir Putin cool sunglasses

The bloody crisis in Ukraine has entered a new phase, with regular Russian military forces now apparently fighting in the country’s rebel-held east. Although the elements of a possible political settlement are visible, so far, the Kremlin has shown little interest in de-escalating the conflict. Instead, at every turn, Russian President Vladimir Putin has met Western sanctions and opprobrium with fresh violence. Let’s admit it: The West’s current strategy isn’t working. It’s time for new steps designed to encourage Moscow to change course.

Putin met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Belarus on Aug. 26. Apparently the meeting did not go well. Ukrainian sources initially reported agreement on securing control of the Ukraine-Russia border and a prisoner release, but Russian sources gave a more downbeat assessment. For his part, Putin denied that Moscow had any role to play in achieving a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine—holding to the increasingly unsustainable fiction that Russia is not involved in the fighting. Read more ..


What is the Islamic State?

Five Myths about the Islamic State

August 30th 2014

Iraq ISIL double file of militants

As the United States widens its battle in Iraq against the Islamic State and contemplates strikes against it in Syria, the policy debate at home surrounding the intervention is heating up. Here are five myths circulating in the media that are clouding the discussion.

1. The Islamic State was never al Qaeda.
Recently, Andrew Sullivan has been flogging the idea that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS or now just “The Islamic State”) was never subordinate to al Qaeda based on the short essay, “A Closer Look at ISIS in Iraq,” by Evan Perkoski and Alec Worsnop. The authors claim ISIS pledged its loyalty to al Qaeda but retained its autonomy “at all times.” It was never “directly a part of AQ” (al Qaeda). Aside from the obvious contradiction between pledging one’s loyalty and doing whatever one wants, there are two problems with the authors’ claim. First, ISIS itself asserts it never pledged loyalty to al Qaeda. Second, al Qaeda disputes ISIS’s claim, contending ISIS had privately pledged its allegiance. It is a complicated issue that will eventually be settled when captured al Qaeda documents or U.S. intelligence on the group come to light. In the meantime, Aaron Zelin, a fellow with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, has compiled what we know about the issue from publicly-available sources. And chew on this: why would Zawahiri issue a direct order to the head of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and Baghdadi so loudly refuse to follow it if there was never any organizational tie between the groups? Read more ..


Broken Government

Good Politics Trumps Good Governance, Again

August 29th 2014

Capitol Senate

The current so-called “do-nothing Congress” has an impressive resume of legislation left on the table: corporate tax reform, the budget, and the border crisis.  Yet it was able to pass a trillion dollar 2014 farm bill. Why did the farm bill pass when so many other pieces of legislation didn’t?

It would be nice if Congress’s passage of the 2014 farm bill—and its creation of two new subsidy programs—indicated the arrival at a cost-effective solution to a problem that required federal involvement.  Unfortunately, it seems that good politics trumped good governance—and there’s an explanation as to why.

About 30 years ago Nobel Prize recipient Gary Becker developed a theory explaining the two attributes political programs that gain enough political support to pass will have. First, they will do less damage to the economy than alternatives because economic damage gives political ammunition to opponents. Second, they can be disguised as good governance rather than good politics to deflect criticisms of their true purpose. Read more ..


Operation Protective Edge

An Unsettling Truce Settles Upon Israel and Gaza

August 28th 2014

As an open-ended cease-fire took effect beginning on the night of August 26, ending seven weeks of hostilities, Palestinians celebrated in the streets of Gaza while Israelis showed more reserve. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri hailed the truce, negotiated by Egypt, as a victory for the Palestinian cause. "We are here today to declare that we have won over this destructive Israeli power," Abu Zuhri said. "We won, first and foremost thanks to God almighty, and, second, thanks to the resilience of our people."

The 50-day conflict was the longest ever between Israel and Hamas. The Gaza fighting killed at least 2,137 Palestinians, many of them civilians, as well as 69 Israelis. All but five of them were soldiers. Read more ..


Broken Healthcare

Obamacare Costs Soar Says Philly Fed

August 27th 2014

No Obamacare

Every month since 1968, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia has conducted a survey of manufacturers. Participants provide measures of activity at their plants such as employment, working hours, customer orders, costs, sales, and so on. The just-released August survey included a group of special questions.  The answers provided by manufacturers are deeply troubling. The special questions focused on the costs of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as ObamaCare.

There was no good news.

ObamaCare has caused manufacturers to cut employment by 15.2%.  The amount of work outsourced to other companies increased nearly 11%.  And prices charged to customers skyrocketed by almost 29%. Remember, these answers were in response to how ObamaCare has affected the manufacturing industry. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

GOP Keeps Quiet about Obama's Changes to Birth Control Mandate

August 27th 2014

Republican Senate candidates are staying silent on President Obama's latest changes to the birth control coverage mandate even as the policy catches flak from the religious right.

Top GOP hopefuls haven’t weighed in on the issue since Friday, when the administration announced new measures meant to accommodate religious groups and businesses that object to their insurance covering birth control.

Republican Senate candidates failed to jump on the announcement that day, and a dozen campaigns reached individually this week all declined to comment. The lack of response reveals would-be GOP senators' extreme caution as they approach the birth control debate at this point in the election cycle. Read more ..


Broken Government

Making Ryan'a Tax Plan Smarter

August 26th 2014

Paul Ryan

A few days ago, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin waded into a debate among his fellow Republicans about how they should think about tax policy. His words carry weight among Republicans: They almost universally respect his judgment on economic policy, and partly as a result have decided to make him chairman of the tax-writing committee of the House should they keep control of it in November's elections.

Some Republicans, notably Senator Mike Lee of Utah, have argued that the party's perennial focus on cutting marginal tax rates should be complemented by a revival of its occasional interest in tax relief for parents. Lee has proposed a plan that reduces the top tax rate to 35 percent and also expands the tax credit for children.

Ryan has repeatedly said that the goal should be a top rate of 25 percent. And last week, he told the Weekly Standard that he still thinks getting tax rates down should be the priority for tax reformers. Lower rates would improve incentives to work, save and invest, he argued, and thus increase economic growth. Higher growth would benefit households with and without children. This is a friendly disagreement among Republicans about what to emphasize. And Ryan's remarks point to a way it can be overcome. Read more ..


The Battle for Baghdad

Iraqi Government is Stingy with Aid to Persecuted Yazidi and Christian Refugees

August 26th 2014

Iraqi Christian home marked for dispossession by Islamic State

The Hammurabi Human Rights Organization, a non-governmental human rights advocacy agency endorsed by the U.S., has issued a report on the status of refugees in Iraq, especially on the situation in the northern tier of the embattled country.

According to Hammurabi, in the refugee center at Arbel there are now 5 refugee deaths per day, going back to August 7, according to the August 21 report. The number of refugees has overwhelmed the relief agencies. There is scarcity of food and shelter. Distribution channels are slow and ineffective.

Refugees are anxious about the military operations against the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS) in their towns and villages, and they fear for their property, especially in light of the fact that many of their former Muslim neighbors have participated in looting and plundering. The number of Assyrian Christian families seeking asylum has risen as hundreds of families in Turkey are at the United Nations offices in Ankara to apply for emigration. Read more ..


Operation Protective Edge

Reporters Have Finally Found Hamas. What Took So Long?

August 23rd 2014

Gaza Militants

The Western media have found Hamas. A month into the group’s mini-war with Israel, journalists have begun publishing images of Hamas fighters and reports on its human-shield tactics and intimidation of journalists. Whatever the reason—Hamas PR savvy, media incompetence, or the fear of retribution—it is astounding that the discovery has taken this long.

The Gaza Strip, after all, is just 25 miles tip-to-toe and seven miles at its widest. More than 700 journalists went there to cover Israel's ground offensive, during which Hamas fired more than 3,500 rockets into Israel—an average of more than 100 a day.

Still, since Israel launched its operation on July 8, the media focus has barely shifted from the loss of life in the Strip. That emphasis is understandable: Images of dead and wounded civilians are heartbreaking. Forty-three percent of Gaza’s population is under 14 (and half under 18), meaning the brunt of force is borne primarily by the young.

Read more ..

The 2016 Vote

AFL-CIO is Not So Keen on Hillary

August 22nd 2014

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A top AFL-CIO official said Wednesday that organized labor is witholding judgment on Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate.

AFL-CIO Political Director Mike Podhorzer said unions want to be more unified behind a candidate than they were in 2008, when Clinton and then Sen. Barack Obama battled for the nomination, splitting labor. He also pushed back against the suggestion that workers have “concerns” with Clinton.
But Podhorzer acknowledged labor has questions about what Clinton will emphasize in an expected run for the White House.

“I don’t know that there are concerns,” he told reporters during a briefing at the union’s headquarters in Washington. “People want to see where she’ll be on working family issues, if she decides to run. I think that she has, over the last six years, been really focused on foreign policy, and it remains to be seen how she’s going to campaign [on our issues] if she runs,” he said. Read more ..


The Battle for Baghdad

UN Responds to Islamic State with Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years

August 22nd 2014

Click to select Image

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni rebel group Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.

Sunburned and dehydrated from their trek across the desert, thousands of refugees continue to arrive at camps in Iraqi Kurdistan. Alongside ethnic minorities like Yazidis and Christians fleeing the Islamic State militants, there are Sunni and Shia Muslims escaping the violence. In the space of just a few weeks, an estimated 1.2 million Iraqis have been forced to flee their homes. The United Nations began an operation Wednesday to supply basic needs to about half a million of the refugees. Read more ..


Healthy Edge

Not Giving in to Ebola Scare-Mongering

August 20th 2014

With all of the attention devoted to the current international Ebola outbreak, it is no surprise to see public concern that the disease might spread to the United States. It is even less surprising that some are arguing that forestalling the possible spread of this horrific disease to the United States necessitates keeping out those who are infected.

The most vocal proponent of this viewpoint, Donald Trump, posted to Twitter his opinion that “People that go to far away places to help out are great-but must suffer the consequences,” and that “The U.S. cannot allow EBOLA infected people back,” in apparent reference to the evacuation of two Ebola-infected medical missionaries from Liberia to the United States for treatment. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

President Obama Takes Racism Personally

August 19th 2014

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding.

The time for healing for which President Barack Obama hopes has yet to arrive in Ferguson. Read more ..


America on Edge

A Nation of Victims?

August 18th 2014

Paramilitary police Ferguson Missouri

In a strange world of blatant hypocrisy and distorted equivalences, the United States--with the help of an all too cooperative media--is turning to victimization as the definition and explanation of most human relationships.

The tragedy of the death of an 18-year-old during an altercation with the police is not to be vouchsafed. Nor can the long and brutal history of U.S, race relations--particularly with African-Americans as victims--be denied or forgotten. 

But the instantaneous assumption that the police were at fault (still to be attenuated) and in the innocence of the victim (tarnished by surveillance video of a strong-arm robber) is symptomatic of a larger social evil. It is the instantaneous and unsubtle attribution of victimhood to individuals caught up in life dramas whatever their real character. Read more ..


The Caliphate

PA Accuses the US of Establishing ISIS

August 17th 2014

ISIS

The Palestinian Authority official daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, has published five articles in the last six weeks accusing the United States of establishing the radical Islamic movement Islamic State (ISIS or IS) that has conquered vast territory in Syria and Iraq in recent months, this according to a report compiled by the Palestinian Media Watch (PMW).  

The articles claim that the US has a long term goal of controlling the Arab-Muslim states by dividing them through conflict and wars. ISIS's war and other conflicts are all said to be the work of the US.

Al-Hayat Al-Jadida wrote on July 16th: "The wars in Libya, Iraq, Syria and Palestine were planned by the US in order to protect its interests... The ISIS, Islamic Front, and Al-Nusra Front (i.e., all radical Islamists) are Muslims from various countries the US is using to fight in Iraq and Syria, in order to fragment the unity of these two Arab countries... We are now more aware that the Americans, who want to fight for their own interests using Islamic, Jewish and Christian believers, are truly the head of the snake." Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Arming Rebels Wasn't the Only Option

August 16th 2014

Syrian Rebel w/SAW

Syrian President Bashar Assad winning the Syrian civil war is akin to dying of a heart attack, but a Syrian opposition victory is the equivalent of dying from cancer. Unfortunately, the time for preventive medicine was more than three years ago.

There’s a conceit in Washington that holds that debates can continue endlessly and that the rest of the world will remain frozen in time until a decision is made. The reality, of course, is that the world revolves neither around the White House nor Congress. While intervention in Syria might have tipped the balance against Assad in the first weeks of conflict, it was not long before both Assad’s foreign allies came to his rescue and the opposition radicalized. Politicians and partisan, meanwhile, cling stubbornly to positions hashed out when the Syrian civil war was in its infancy. Read more ..


Broken Policing

Gruesome Police Cavity Searches

August 15th 2014

Emergency Medical

In 2012, Hidalgo County, New Mexico sheriff's deputy Javier Peru questioned Tim Young at a convenience store.  Young, a married father of three, consented to a search of his truck. After two hours, nothing was found.  So Peru called in Leo, the department's canine.  Another search.  Nothing.  But the dog handler claimed Leo hit on the driver's seat. Young was then accused of hiding drugs his anal cavity.

This begs the question: why would anyone who's not crossing a border hide drugs in his rectum? Young was handcuffed and driven an hour away to a hospital in another jurisdiction where the deputies had no authority and their search warrant wasn't valid.  And subjected Young to involuntary medical x-rays.  Finding nothing, they directed medical staff to conduct an anal probe.  Still nothing.  So they released him. Days later he was billed over $600 for hospital services. Read more ..


The US and the Islamic State

US Has a Chance to Stop the Islamic State

August 13th 2014

Iraqi prisoners of ISIL

It would be wrong to view President Obama’s decision to order airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and to give weapons to Kurdish fighters as a continuation of the war in Iraq. It is more accurate to see it as a mission to prevent a repetition of the war in Afghanistan. We have a chance to stop the Islamic State before it creates a sanctuary in Iraq and Syria that it could use to strike the United States, just as al Qaeda used its sanctuary in Afghanistan to kill thousands of Americans on Sept. 11, 2001. That, to his credit, is what the president has begun to do.

Obama gave two very good, moral, short-term reasons when he authorized the airstrikes on Thursday: to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe for Yazidis and Christians and to protect Americans in Kurdistan and elsewhere in Iraq. Then, on Saturday, the president clarified the larger, longer-term goals of this action. Read more ..



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