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The Defense Edge

Getting to Yes on Defense Spending

February 17th 2014

B-2 Bomber

Borrowing a smart move from Robert Gates’ playbook, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will preview the major changes in President Obama’s forthcoming defense budget request for 2015 in advance of their official release. While the president’s budget is not arriving on Capitol Hill until March 4, Hagel will hold a public press conference a week prior to present highlights from the massive document.

The secretary will continue laying the groundwork for many difficult trade-offs that Congress will have to consider as sequestration-lite budget cuts continue. The services have been busy broadcastingexpected forthcoming controversial decisions to policymakers since work on the now-complete 2014 omnibus spending bill began.

By trying to get out in front of Congress, control the narrative and provide extra time that will surely be needed for greater education of members, Hagel is seeking a better partnership with the Hill than in previous years when it comes to accepting controversial decisions. Read more ..


Election 2016

Let Clinton Burn Out

February 16th 2014

Hillary Clinton

There is always a risk in going early as a political candidate, because it can result in burnout with the voters. Hillary Clinton, the former first lady, former senator of New York and former secretary of State, certainly runs this risk.

Whatever she does or says, or even that others do on her behalf, is certain to make news, and the signs are there that she’s preparing to build a ground game.

Political action committee Ready for Hillary, which recruited more than 1.6 million supporters in 2013 and raised more than $4 million according to Federal Election Commission filings, is holding a fundraiser in Columbia, S.C., this month with a price of admission of just $20.16. The Democratic super-PAC Priorities USA Action has been reported as staffing up for a Clinton 2016 fundraising effort, and EMILY’s List launched its “Madam President” campaign back in May of 2013. Read more ..


Education on Edge

De Blasio Cracks Down on Education Reform

February 15th 2014

school kids

Last week, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told a local radio station that there would be a “moratorium” on co-locating charter schools in New York City Public Schools. Under the previous mayor, Michael Bloomberg, public charter schools could use excess space in traditional public-school buildings for free. Charter schools do not receive facilities funding from the state of New York, unlike their traditional public counterparts, and many public schools had excess space, so the administration saw it as a win-win. According to the Manhattan Institute, two-thirds of charter schools in New York are co-located.

This arrangement seems fair so long as charter schools are in the shared enterprise of educating New York’s children and do not otherwise receive funding for buildings. The buildings were built with taxpayer money to educate children, after all. Removing this support could risk successful schools going under and would certainly raise barriers to entry for new schools to crop up in New York. But what is perhaps more troubling is that screwy building-use policies are by no means confined to the Big Apple. Read more ..


Broken Economy

A $4 Minimum Wage Can Get People Back to Work

February 14th 2014

Unemployment Line in California

The fate of the long-term unemployed is arguably the most immediate social and economic challenge facing the U.S. today. How have our leaders in Washington responded to it?

The left wants to extend the maximum duration of unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed. This is helpful, but not nearly sufficient. And President Barack Obama recently held a meeting with chief executives urging them not to discriminate against this group -- maybe a little helpful, maybe not. If anything, the right has been worse -- with a few notable exceptions -- offering its usual menu of tax cuts, less federal spending and less regulation.

Society owes these workers better -- creative public policies to help increase their chance of staying in the labor force. They want to work; they want to earn their own successes, to help the economy grow, and to support themselves and their families. But they can’t, in large part because they happen to be alive and working during a once-in-a-generation economic downturn. Read more ..


Egypt After Morsi

A ‘Yes’ for Egypt’s Future

February 13th 2014

Egypt-Protest

The approval of a new Constitution in a referendum that took place on January 14-15, 2014 is an important step in implementing the roadmap announced by the current interim authorities in Egypt. The authorities feel that it provides them with greater legitimacy. After all, the participation rate of nearly 39 percent and the 98 percent yes vote are higher than those obtained by the Muslim Brotherhood-backed 2012 Constitution, which had a participation rate of 33 percent and a yes vote of 64 percent.

According to the preliminary assessment of Transparency International “…the political context in the run-up to the referendum impaired conditions to hold a fair and free referendum when compared with international standards.” The assessment pointed out that the interim authorities took some steps that limited freedom of expression, association and assembly, and that the space for civil society to represent the voice of the people has been greatly reduced. The Muslim Brotherhood was declared a terrorist organisation in December 2013. According to Transparency International, government officials as well as public and private media outlets campaigned vigorously for a ‘yes’ vote and did not provide an opportunity for the opposition to express their views. Moreover, activists who called for a ‘no’ vote or for boycotting the referendum faced repression. Read more ..


Diplomacy on Edge

Pivot on the Rocks

February 12th 2014

John Kerry

Max's questions about why John Kerry is paying far less attention to helping tamp down the tension in Asia are echoed throughout the region. On Thursday, Kerry is leaving for his fifth visit to Asia since taking office last year. The State Department claims this is proof of his commitment to the administration's pivot. Yet the White House continues to believe that merely showing up is 90 percent of success. This Woody Allen approach has worn thin with countries looking at Washington's continuing refusal to confront China head-on over its increasingly coercive behavior. Nor were our partners in Asia appeased by once-regular statements that D.C. budget battles would not reduce the American presence in the Pacific.

Now they read comments by the commander of Pacific Air Forces, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, that "resources have not followed the ... rebalance." They see that U.S. Pacific Command has cut back on travel throughout the region and joint exercises, and that the U.S. Navy is planning on dropping down to just two carriers deployed globally. Far better than most in Washington, our friends and allies in Asia understand the immense distances separating the U.S. homeland from the areas in which it has rather daunting commitments. Read more ..


Inside Politics

Using the Debt Ceiling as a Politcal Pawn is Bad for America

February 11th 2014

$1B US Currency

The United States hit its debt ceiling last week. Now the government is deploying “extraordinary measures,” such as reducing the debt held by the federal employee pension fund, until policymakers can figure out how to pay its bills on time. If this sounds like déjà vu, it should. Washington faced the same scenario last October, only to come to a short-term resolution that suspended the borrowing limit. Months later policymakers are more or less back to square one, and using the same old backroom negotiations to achieve temporary debt solutions in conjunction with unrelated ideological victories. Unfortunately, the debt ceiling, and the ongoing negotiations, are just the tip of the iceberg.America faces a tremendous fiscal challenge today and in the decades going forward. As the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) notes, fiscal deficits are expected to start rising in the near future, as national spending is expected to far outstrip GDP’s anticipated growth. These large deficits will contribute to substantial increases in federal debt. CBO estimates that federal debt held by the public will equal 74 percent of GDP at the end of this year and 79 percent in 2024, which is when it will begin to rise quickly. Such large and growing federal debt could have serious negative consequences, including restraining economic growth in the long term, giving policymakers less flexibility to respond to unexpected challenges, and eventually increasing the risk of a fiscal crisis wherein investors would demand high interest rates to purchase government debt. Read more ..

Broken Government

Unequal to the Challenge

February 10th 2014

Congress-senate

America these days faces a daunting array of economic challenges. Still in the midst of a weak recovery from a recession that technically ended more than four years ago, the economy continues to suffer from high unemployment and weak income growth. Americans are anxious about their own and their children’s economic prospects, and they are unsatisfied with what their political leaders have offered them.

The Democrats think they know how to address these problems and anxieties. To hear them tell it, income inequality is at the core of what ails us. “Income inequality is a threat to the strength of our middle class, the health of our businesses, the security of our workers, and the growth of our economy,” Nancy Pelosi argued last spring. President Obama has repeatedly called rising inequality “the defining challenge of our time.” Liberal commentators insist on a tight link between increasing inequality, declining growth, and weak social mobility. And for the left, the centrality of inequality among our economic woes demands an agenda of redistribution: higher taxes, higher spending on our existing assortment of social-welfare programs, new programs (such as universal preschool), and, most prominently just now, a higher minimum wage. Read more ..


Broken Government

Using the IRS to Suppress Free Speech

February 9th 2014

Star Parker right crop

The latest round of the IRS scandal, in which Tea Party and conservative groups have been selectively targeted for harassment by our tax collection agency, is now unfolding,

This comes in the form of proposed new rules from the IRS regarding the operation of organizations falling under the 501c4 provision of the tax code.

These are organizations whose purpose is to promote “social welfare” and therefore their income is tax-free.

Because promoting a cause or agenda in our free and democratic country cannot be isolated from political activity associated with that agenda, such activity is permitted by 501c4 organizations, as long as politics does not become its main purpose.

These are the rules of the game that have existed since 1959. But now the IRS wants to change the game.

The new rules they propose expand the definition of “candidate related activity” so broadly – to include voter education campaigns and grass roots lobbying campaigns – and to forbid even the mention of a candidate in any context 30 days before a primary or 60 days before a general election – that it will make it impossible for these organizations to function. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Heroin and Painkillers Come Together

February 8th 2014

injectable drugs

Using the tragic death of a celebrity as a basis to discuss national drug problems is usually pointless. For one thing, the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died with a syringe in his arm and packets of drugs found nearby, had the wealth and access to insulate himself from some mundane forces -- price and availability -- that affect so many people struggling with addiction.

Yet his death is calling attention to the ways in which many individuals can be helped.

A definitive cause of what killed Hoffman hasn’t been determined yet. If he moved from prescription pills to heroin (he entered a rehabilitation program last May after a reported reliance on painkillers led him back to heroin briefly), he was following a familiar path. Many individuals who have become addicted to prescription painkillers (a group that includes OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet and Roxicodone) at some point realize that, depending on where they live, heroin, which is pharmacologically similar, is cheaper and easier to get. Read more ..


Broken Government

Farewell to Henry Waxman, Maker of Bad Laws

February 7th 2014

Henry Waxman 2

After 40 years in Congress, California Democrat Henry Waxman is calling it quits. His legacy includes a toxic fuel additive (a boondoggle known as ethanol), a failed pork-fest of a climate bill and the devastation of small businesses -- to name a few of his legislative accomplishments.

Washington Post correspondent Karen Tumulty praised Waxman, calling him “one of the last to whom the word ‘lawmaker’ still applied.”
But here’s the thing: If you spend four decades making laws, you’re going to make some bad laws. And Henry Waxman made a lot of bad laws. Waxman deserves praise for many things. Together with Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, Waxman passed a reform that improved the prescription drug patent system. He also passed a postal reform. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

A Teettering Ukraine—Putin’s Nightmare As the Sochi Games Begin

February 6th 2014

putin

When the Olympic Games began in Beijing in 2008, Russian and Georgian troops began to fight for control of a north Caucasus province called Ossetia. Now, as the Olympic Games begin in Sochi (not too far away from Ossetia) Ukraine totters towards an economic and political collapse, a condition so potentially contagious to Russia that a concerned President Putin has begun a crackdown.

So far, he has not moved Russian forces into Ukraine, but he has urged Ukrainian President Yanukovich to contain and stop the popular insurrection that started more than two months ago. Putin has taken three other actions that could be a prelude to military intervention. First, he has imposed a blockade of Ukrainian goods into Russia, devastating to the already weak Ukrainian economy. Second, he has frozen a promised $15 billion aid package for Ukraine, leaving Ukraine without any outside financial support, which is desperately needed. And third, he has opened a propaganda war blaming the United States for the crisis now spreading through Ukraine. When in trouble, Putin starts following an old Russian pattern: Don’t address the problem—blame the United States. Read more ..


Edge of Climate Change

Climate Change May Cause Trillions in Damage to Coastal Regions

February 4th 2014

New research predicts that coastal regions may face massive increases in damages from storm surge flooding over the course of the 21st century. According to the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, global average storm surge damages could increase from about $10-$40 billion per year today to up to $100,000 billion per year by the end of century, if no adaptation action is taken.

The study, led by the Berlin-based think-tank Global Climate Forum (GCF) and involving the University of Southampton, presents, for the first time, comprehensive global simulation results on future flood damages to buildings and infrastructure in coastal flood plains. Drastic increases in these damages are expected due to both rising sea levels and population and economic growth in the coastal zone. Asia and Africa may be particularly hard hit because of their rapidly growing coastal mega-cities, such as Shanghai, Manila and Lagos. Read more ..


The Way We Are

The Gender Wage Gap Myth

February 3rd 2014

Green Jobs

President Obama repeated the spurious gender wage gap statistic in his State of the Union address. “Today,” he said, “women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment.”

What is wrong and embarrassing is the President of the United States reciting a massively discredited factoid. The 23-cent gender pay gap is simply the difference between the average earnings of all men and women working full-time. It does not account for differences in occupations, positions, education, job tenure, or hours worked per week. When all these relevant factors are taken into consideration, the wage gap narrows to about five cents. And no one knows if the five cents is a result of discrimination or some other subtle, hard-to-measure difference between male and female workers. In its fact-checking column on the State of the Union, the Washington Post included the president’s mention of the wage gap in its list of dubious claims. “There is clearly a wage gap, but differences in the life choices of men and women… make it difficult to make simple comparisons.” Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Do Senators Fear the Internet

February 2nd 2014

Hand on Mouse

Despite millions in potential cost savings to taxpayers, the U.S. Senate has still yet to pass a requirement that it file campaign finance reports electronically.

By Friday, presidential candidates, House candidates, political action committees and super PACs must file their fourth-quarter financial reports with the Federal Election Commission electronically.

Senate campaigns, however, must submit their reports on paper to the secretary of the Senate, where they are scanned and sent to the FEC. The agency then prints the documents, collates them and delivers them to a private contractor to type into an electronic database.

The process costs taxpayers roughly $500,000 a year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. And as a result, it can take weeks or even months for the public to know who is bankrolling senators’ campaigns.

A requirement that senators e-file their campaign finance reports was included in the Senate version of a financial services bill that was folded into the larger budget bill passed earlier this month. However, the e-filing measure didn’t appear in the final budget.

The disappearance disappointed advocates for the practice, such as Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who has championed e-filing legislation. His stand-alone bill requiring Senate e-filing has yet to receive a vote.

Nothing, however, prohibits senators from e-filing voluntarily with the FEC — in addition to filing on paper with the Senate — and an increasing number are doing so. Yet as many as 80 senators are not, including about 20 who backed a bill requiring the practice. Read more ..


The Edge of Healthcare

Clear the Air on Addiction

January 31st 2014

CanadianCigaretteBillboard

The biggest class action suit in Canadian legal history is under way at the Quebec Superior Court in Montreal. At stake are billions in damages and penalties sought from three tobacco companies – Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd., Rothmans, Benson & Hedges; and JTI-Macdonald. Justice Brian Riordan is hearing cases representing almost two million victims of lung, larynx and throat cancer, and emphysema caused by smoking cigarettes.

In an unusual act, the Non-Smokers’ Rights Association has filed a complaint with the Collège des médecins du Québec against a key expert who testified last week. The complaint accuses Dominique Bourget, a forensic psychiatrist at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, of breaching the college’s ethics code by “minimizing the gravity of, if not denying the existence of, tobacco dependence.” Read more ..


Sports on Edge

Politics Are Coming Back to the Olympics

January 29th 2014

Sochi 2014 Olympic games torch

Watching the Olympic Games used to be like watching The Godfather, or Citizen Kane. You knew you were watching something spectacular, and you didn’t want the show to end. I remember anticipating the eve of the games; the complexities and rivalries between cultures, seeing the top athletes around the world give it their all, the tradition of the games, and then the ensuring political nature of them.

There are a few reasons the ensuing Winter Olympics will not be met with the same excitement in as in years past, but still eagerly anticipated. Our athletes represent ideals, not just skill and prowess.  In years past the United States competing against the Soviets got my full attention. Every four years; it seemed like a battle of good vs. evil, white cowboy hats and black cowboy’s hats every four years. Beating the Soviets was like winning a battle in the Cold War. It was more than just the games, and I loved every second of it. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

The Way They See It

January 27th 2014

Syria fighting injured baby

Israel receives a lot of unwelcome attention from the U.S., the UN and the EU. As others in the region see it, however, that makes Israel the most important country in the world, and Palestinians the world's luckiest "refugees." While withdrawing security and political assistance from most of the Middle East and Africa, the Obama Administration has increased its visibility in the "peace process" and announced a $4 billion investment plan for Palestine. To other countries, this attention shows who is important in America's eyes.

Through Syrian eyes:
     The Syrian civil war has killed more than 200,000 people, including more than 1,500 by poison gas. More than 11,000 children have died; both children and adults have died by starvation. The Assad regime refused to let relief agencies into villages unless they surrendered and flew the government flag. Starving a population into surrender is a war crime. The government is using "barrel bombs" -- barrels filled with nails and metal shrapnel and thrown from airplanes. Twenty-one people died last week from a barrel bombing of the Aleppo market. There are more than 2 million refugees both internally displaced and in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Coddling the Muslim Brotherhood

January 27th 2014

Morsi

The TSA public review that was released last week reports a 16.5 percent (257) increase in guns discovered in 2013 over the previous year. Checkpoints across the countrydiscovered 1,813 firearms in carry-on bags. Of those, 1,477 (81 percent) were loaded, averaging nearly fivefirearms that could have been fired at a U.S. airport on any given day. Firearms were intercepted in 205 airports. How many guns got by the TSA?

The report details some of the weapons that were discovered and the methods used to try to conceal them. However, there is nothing about the passengers who intentionally packed them. Were they American citizens? White? Hispanics? Blacks? What was their average age? What was their gender? How many had criminal records? What triggered the search? And, were any of these passengers "home-grown" jihadis?

Briefing reporters earlier this month, Deputy Coordinator of Regional Affairs and Programs in the State Department's Bureau of Counterterrorism, Justin Siberell said that "since the Arab uprising, dozens of terror groups having affiliation with Al-Qaeda have emerged...Al-Qaeda is more decentralized, with like-minded groups drawing inspiration from its ideology. ... The U.S. is concerned over the fact that regional conflicts are fuelling these groups." Another senior Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) official added, "Homegrown terror suspects are difficult to find. ... It is the biggest challenge today for intelligence and law enforcement officials." Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

President Obama Goes Up Against Hobby Lobby

January 25th 2014

Click to select Image

Senior advisor to President Obama, Valerie Jarrett, wrote for the White House blog and the Huffington Post that, "A Woman's Health Care Decisions Should Be in Her Own Hands, Not Her Boss's." I couldn't agree more.

Odd then that the administration is trying to insert bosses, many of them against their deeply held religious beliefs, into the private health care decisions of women. Ms. Jarrett writes that, "The ACA (Affordable Care Act) was designed to ensure that health care decisions are made between a woman and her doctor, and not by her boss, or Washington politicians."

In fact, the administration has done the opposite. It has forced employers to act as middlemen between women and their doctors by forcing them to participate in providing four potentially life terminating drugs and the whole gamut of FDA-approved contraceptives, even when they object on religious grounds. And then it thrust the issue right into the portfolio of Washington politicians by making it an election wedge issue, by using it to stoke partisan bickering, and by peddling lies about a "war on women." Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Iranian Executions Belie Claims of "Moderation"

January 24th 2014

Rowhani

On Wednesday the United Nations called on Iran to put an end to an ongoing surge in executions. Amnesty International reports that 40 people have been executed in Iran in the last two weeks. The executions are conducted in public and hanging is the most common form of punishment. Most of the criminals are charged with drug-related offenses. There is no means of appeal if convicted of a drug crime in Iran and non-lethal drug crimes do not meet international protocol for crimes worthy of execution.

In 2013, which includes the June election of President Hassan Rouhani, there were 100 more executions than in 2012. The drastic increase undermines with Rouhani's efforts to present himself as ideologically and politically "moderate" and thus a potential partner for talks with the West. His "moderate" persona was the main impetus for the White House to open diplomacy and undertake the talks that eventually led to the current six-month nuclear agreement. Read more ..


America on Edge

The Shriver Report is Stuck in Reverse

January 23rd 2014

father and son

Following in the footsteps of her poverty-warrior father, Sargent Shriver, Maria Shriver has cast a needed spotlight on the millions of women and children in America who live in or at the brink of poverty. Her newest Shriver Report, A Woman's Nation Pushes Back from the Brink, has garnered positive notice in liberal circles for advocating a progressive agenda - encompassing everything from expanded family leave to a higher minimum wage - that is designed to help women and children struggling to make it in modern America. But in one major respect, the report's rollout, which was orchestrated this month by Shriver and the left-leaning Center for American Progress (CAP), is surprisingly regressive. Read more ..


Mexico on Edge

Mexico's President Peña Nieto Faces a National Meltdown

January 21st 2014

As a massive federal police and military deployment gains momentum in the Mexican state of Michoacan, polemics and debate shroud the first major such operation undertaken by the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto.

At stake in the campaign is not only the reassertion of state power, but also the strategic control of the Pacific coastal port of Lazaro Cardenas, one of the key portals of the Asia/NAFTA economy, as well as the productive mountains and farmlands whose products and people travel a network of highways leading across Mexico and into the United States.

With upwards of 10,000 federal forces now deployed, along with perhaps equal numbers of gunmen from the Knights Templar syndicate and opposing, civilian self-defense groups, Michoacan is the scene of a “low-intensity war” that will soon witness drones, massive telecommunications intercepts and commando operations, predicted Gerardo Rodriguez Sanchez Lara, director of the private Mexican Human Security firm. Read more ..


The Way We Are

The GOP and the Next War on Poverty

January 20th 2014

American poverty

On the 50th anniversary of President Johnson’s War on Poverty, leading Republicans have been taking to the speaking circuit calling for new solutions.

"I would give us a failing grade," Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, told NBC News at an event last week. “It has failed. We should've done better than this. We can do better than this."

Speaking at Brookings this week at a summit on social mobility, Ryan said federal antipoverty programs take a “haphazard, Whack-a-Mole approach… because the federal government created different programs to solve different problems at different times.” He continued, “There is little to no coordination among them.”

Ryan, who’s been traveling to low-income neighborhoods across the country for the past year to talk to local leaders, called for a more streamlined approach that allows for leadership from community members and the poor themselves. “Washington does not have all the answers,” Ryan told the crowd at Brookings. “Only the people in the community can solve the problems facing their community.” Read more ..


Israelis and Palestinians

Palestinian Leader Abbas Refers Four Times to Murderers as 'Heroes'

January 19th 2014

Abbas UN

In December 2013, Israel released 26 Palestinian terrorist murderers from prison. In his speech at the PA event celebrating their release, Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the terrorists and called them "heroes" four times during his speech:

"[The release of our prisoners] is a day of joy for our nation, for our people, for our heroic prisoners... There will be more groups of heroes who will come to us... They [the Israelis] postponed these heroes' release by 24 hours... we congratulate you and ourselves for the [release] of these heroes." [Official PA TV, Dec. 31, 2013]

Israel released these terrorists because the PA demanded Israel release 104 prisoners from jail, all of them murderers, in order for the PA to resume peace negotiations with Israel.

Three released terrorist "heroes" celebrated with Abbas on stage:

Jamal Abu Muhsin - stabbed a 76 year-old Israeli civilian to death in a park in 1991.

Ahmad Kmeil - a commander of a terrorist cell that murdered an Israeli soldier and 15 Palestinians who they suspected of helping Israel.

Na'im Al-Shawamreh - placed a bomb in 1993 that killed the police sapper who was trying to defuse it. Read more ..


Israel and Palestinians

Kerry’s Oblivious “Peace” Efforts

January 18th 2014

Kerry SOS

In Kuwait, after 10 failed trips to negotiate peace between Israel and the Palestinian authority, Secretary of State John Kerry proudly declared “Everywhere I go, even here today, everybody I talk to expresses gratitude to the efforts the United States is making … to try to make peace between Palestinians and Israelis.” However, as his predecessors, Kerry fails to recognize that the major obstacle facing his “efforts” is the Palestinian Authority’s absolute refusal to recognize the Jewish State of Israel, instead, demanding the fictitious “right of return” (to Israel) for all Palestinian refugees and millions of their descendants all over the world.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas, the purported moderate pragmatist, has stated clearly and repeatedly that the Palestinians will never give up what they consider their “right-of-return” for the descendants of Arabs displaced in the Israeli War of Independence. Read more ..


Broken Government

Don't Turn Away from Reforming Military Retirement

January 17th 2014

Bunch of American flags

The U.S. military is at a crossroads. We can either properly train and equip our future warriors or maintain overly generous benefits for young military retirees who have many years in the workforce ahead. We cannot do both. How the nation chooses will, to a great degree, determine how secure Americans will be in decades to come.

The president’s signature on the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (BBA) is barely dry, yet several members of Congress have already pledged to undo a provision that would modestly limit annual increases to pension payments for working-age (38 to 62) military retirees, while directing budgetary savings to preserve military readiness.

We are increasingly concerned that fast-growing personnel costs – including health and retirement benefits that begin at a very early age – will crowd out other defense priorities. As DOD spending on the all-in personnel costs of the volunteer force approaches 70 percent of the defense budget annually, with the prospect of additional unchecked acceleration in the years ahead, it is clear that we are heading for a readiness and procurement catastrophe if causal factors are not addressed. Read more ..


Broken Government

Rate Hike Will Harm Postal Service

January 16th 2014

Post Office closed

Let’s face it, the U.S. Postal Service is facing a large financial problem, and everyone agrees that it must be fixed. However, the exigency rate increase on the price of postage, recently approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission, amounts to little more than a short-term stopgap measure. Even worse, it will ultimately cause further damage to the long-term viability of the Postal Service.

Sure, the agency might see some short-term increases in revenue. But in an industry already fraught with competitive pressures, it makes no sense to add another negative feature that will lead to lower mail volume levels, while failing to bring about comprehensive postal reform.

Under the law, the Postal Service is not allowed to raise prices above the rate of inflation unless there are serious exigent circumstances. These increases are meant to create better business in times of need, but unfortunately, this increase is not the silver bullet the Postal Service’s budget requires. It won’t solve the financial crisis, nor will it create a stronger product — just the opposite. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Bring Wireless 911 Up to Date

January 15th 2014

Smart phone running voice recogniton

This past summer, Mary Thomas suffered a stroke in New York City. Ms. Thomas knew something was wrong and mustered up the strength to call 911. But the stroke had taken its toll. Her speech was slurred. She was unable to clearly tell the dispatcher — an emergency medical technician named Joann Hilman-Payne — where she was.

So the first responders turned to technology. The tower information for Ms. Thomas’s phone gave an address for the call. But the address was wrong. It turns out that on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, it can be easy to get lost. Lots of buildings, lots of floors, lots of apartments stacked high in the sky. In fact, first responders in New York followed several false leads trying to track the call. All in all, they searched for eight hours before they found Ms. Thomas.

This is an incredible story. Because thanks to the superhuman efforts of the EMT who stayed on the line — for a full straight eight hours — Ms. Thomas never lost consciousness and was taken to a hospital to recover. Like Ms. Thomas, there is one telephone number every one of us knows by heart but none of us ever hopes to use. That number is 911. Read more ..


Broken Government

Fight Poverty the Conservative Way

January 14th 2014

Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL)

On the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida proposed a conservative version of it.

His speech follows a much-publicized tour of poverty-stricken areas by Representative Paul Ryan and a proposal by Senator Rand Paul to revitalize depressed parts of the country. Suddenly, fighting poverty has become a theme of Republican rhetoric.

Republicans may be overestimating how much political benefit they can get from this new focus (the party’s real vulnerability is that people think it’s disconnected from the struggles of the middle class). But a reputation for indifference to poverty is unattractive, too -- and a concern for the poor has a moral importance beyond any political value it may have.

In creating an anti-poverty agenda, Republicans have a positive legacy on which to build. The most successful such initiatives of recent decades -- welfare reform and the earned income tax credit -- reflected conservative thinking and had conservative support. Read more ..


Inside Politics

Owning the Income Inequality Issue

January 13th 2014

American poverty

Democrats are obsessed with income inequality. They are determined to exploit the issue in this midterm-election year. It is a strategy that will no doubt be aided and abetted by the media. Pope Francis was named Time magazine’s “Person for the Year” for his critique of what he called “trickle down” capitalism.

The likely Republican response, to the extent there will be one, should note the lack of hard evidence that income inequality (as opposed to, say, family breakdown) hurts economic growth; argue that income inequality is a crass political attempt to distract from a continued weak job market; and offer a worthy substitute to what President Obama has labeled the nation’s “defining challenge.”

On that last point: The problem is not too much income inequality, the GOP will say, but too little upward mobility that endangers the American Dream. As Senator Marco Rubio said last week in an important anti-poverty speech, “upward mobility and equal opportunity is not a partisan issue, it is our unifying American principle.” Read more ..


Financing the Flames

Financing the Flames: Worldwide Funding Keeps Palestinian Leaders Rooted in a Philosophy of Violence

January 12th 2014

Financing the Flames

Why is peace so illusive between Israel and the Palestinians? The Palestinian leaders themselves must want peace in order to facilitate a lasting solution.  Edwin Black’s new book Financing the Flames demonstrates that these leaders are the origination point of a philosophy of violence and terrorism against the Israelis.  Black shows that global media and public disinformation against Israel, the flow of money from Saudi Arabian wealth, as well as US and European taxpayer dollars serve to fund and support ongoing conflict originating with the Palestinians.

 

In 1948, when the United Nations (UN) passed its resolution to create the nation of Israel, the same resolution was made to the Palestinians to create their own nation, side by side with Israel. Had the Palestinians been serious about peace, economic investment and the self-empowerment of its people, their leaders would have accepted. Instead, the Palestinians rejected the offer as their goal was to control all the land rather than co-exist with a Jewish nation.

 

Violence Originates with Palestinian Leaders

 

In 1964, Yasser Arafat became the formal leader of the newly created Palestinian Organization (PLO), a known terrorist organization.  Over the decades, he established a formal “refugee” status for his people purposely keeping them in poverty while instigating terrorist attacks against Israel. This strategy also served to keep Arafat in power while putting the Palestinian cause on center stage with the world community until he went into temporary exile in 1982. Read more ..


The Way We Are

For Single Mothers, Marriage No Panacea in the War on Poverty

January 12th 2014

Latino boy and mother cooking

Today, the Council for Contemporary Families (CCF) called marriage an "ineffective weapon in the War on Poverty" in a report issued in honor of the upcoming 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty." After admitting that "children raised in single-parent homes fare worse on a wide range of outcomes...than children raised by two biological parents," the report, written by sociologist Kristi Williams, went on to argue that post-1996 welfare reform efforts to push marriage are of no help in the battle against poverty. Read more ..

Education on Edge

A Promising Solution for Struggling Schools

January 11th 2014

school kids

Just before Christmas, the National Center for Education Statistics released testing data from 21 of the nation's largest school districts, known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress Trial Urban District Assessment. The scores paint a bleak picture. In the average large urban district, just one in four students typically reaches proficiency in reading or math.

Given this harsh reality, what do we do about our country's failing inner-city schools? This question has vexed district, city and state leaders for decades.

In 1984, Judge Russell Clark proposed a novel solution for one such struggling district, Kansas City. His solution? Write the district a blank check. Its budget ballooned from $125 million in 1985 to $432 million in 1992. The district completely overhauled its facilities. It had the lowest student to instructional staff ratio in the nation. Adjusted for cost of living, it spent more per pupil than any other district. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Barack Obama Left Iraq to Fester

January 10th 2014

Obama with baseball bat

Iraq is not yet lost, but the victory that the United States, our allies and our Iraqi friends achieved at such high cost is now at risk. Who is responsible? The blame lies squarely at the feet of President Obama. He inherited a stable Iraq in 2009 and promptly signaled his intention to scuttle, much as he is now doing in Afghanistan. Partisans of the president will claim that the United States had no choice, that we were forced to withdraw because the Iraqis didn’t want us, were making too many demands in the notional Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), etc. Military leaders, Iraqis and American officials outside the White House agree that’s claptrap. The president had no intention of leaving troops in Iraq, made that clear to his military commanders and Pentagon honchos and seized on the difficult negotiations over the SOFA to legitimize his cut and run. Read more ..

Israel and Palestine

Muslim Religious Authority's Temple Mount Excavation Violates the Law, and Archaeological Good Practice

January 9th 2014

Click to select Image

We reported on January 9 that the Waqf, the Muslim religious authority that holds administrative jurisdiction in Jerusalem over the Temple Mount due to Israeli sensitivity to the presence there of both the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque – and in spite of the Mount being the holiest site in Judaism – has been excavating the Mount in violation not just of Israeli law but of good archaeological practice.

This is nothing new. The Waqf has controlled the Mount for 20 years and has, for most of that time, been digging using heavy equipment. The position of the Waqf, of course, is that no Jewish Temple ever existed on the site, Jewish and Christian Scriptures and mounds of physical and documentary evidence proving the existence of the Temple notwithstanding. Read more ..


The Middle East on Edge

The Way They See It

January 8th 2014

Syran refugee girl in Jordan

Israel receives a lot of unwelcome attention from the U.S., the UN, and the EU. As others in the region see it, however, that makes Israel the most important country in the world, and Palestinians the world's luckiest "refugees." While withdrawing security and political assistance from most of the Middle East and Africa, the Obama Administration has increased its visibility in the "peace process" and announced a $4 billion investment plan for Palestine. To other countries, this attention shows who is important in America's eyes.

Through Syrian eyes:

The Syrian civil war has killed more than 200,000 people, including more than 1,500 by poison gas. More than 11,000 children have died; both children and adults have died by starvation. The Assad regime refused to let relief agencies into villages unless they surrendered and flew the government flag. Starving a population into surrender is a war crime. The government is using "barrel bombs" -- barrels filled with nails and metal shrapnel and thrown from airplanes. Twenty-one people died last week from a barrel bombing of the Aleppo market. There are more than 2 million refugees, both internally displaced, and in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

Turkey's Democratic Institutions Besieged

January 7th 2014

Erdogan

The struggle has already consumed three ministers’ posts and led to a major reshuffling of the cabinet. The Minister of Economy Zafer Cağlayan, the Minister of Interior Muamer Güler and the Minister for the Environment and Urban Planning Erdoğan Bayraktar, whose sons were reported to have been implicated in the probe, have resigned. Bayraktar did not go down without a fight, directly implicating the prime minister in the probe. Known as a close confidant of the prime minister, Bayraktar, at a press conference, in no unclear terms noted that whatever he did, he did with the complete knowledge and authorization of the prime minister. Bayraktar called on Erdoğan to resign as well. Many commentators have compared these resignations and especially Bayraktar's remarks to a live hand grenade. What do these resignations mean for Turkish politics and the future of Turkish democracy? Read more ..


France on Edge

The Islamization of France in 2013

January 6th 2014

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Who has the right to say that France in thirty or forty years will not be a Muslim country? Who has the right in this country to deprive us of it?" — Marwan Muhammed, spokesman, Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), Paris.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls said he was "shocked" by an RTL Radio report which estimated that more than 40,000 cars are burned in France every year.

The Muslim population of France reached an estimated 6.5 million in 2013. Although France is prohibited by law from collecting official statistics about the race or religion of its citizens, this estimate is based on the average of several recent studies that attempt to calculate the number of people in France whose origins are from Muslim majority countries.

This estimate would imply that the Muslim population of France is now approximately 10% of the country's total population of around 66 million. In real terms, France has the largest Muslim population in the European Union. Read more ..


America on Edge

'What's a Slum?': And Therein Lies a Tale

January 6th 2014

When I was about thirteen-years-old I chanced upon an article in Henry Luce’s Life magazine that described East Harlem ( a Manhattan working class neighborhood) as “a slum inhabited by beggar‑poor Italians, Negroes, and Puerto Ricans,” words that stung me and wedged in my memory.

“We live in a slum,” I mournfully reported to my father.

"What’s a slum?” he asked. He was not familiar with the term.

“It’s a neighborhood where everybody is poor and the streets are all run-down and dumpy and dirty and filled with beggars.”

“Shut up and show respect for your home,” he replied. Note his choice of words. Poppa was not expressing pride in East Harlem as such. But situated within the neighborhood was our home, and you didn’t want anything reflecting poorly upon family and home. Read more ..



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