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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 ..

The Economy on Edge

The Bubble is Back

January 6th 2014

Home Foreclosure

In November, housing starts were up 23 percent, and there was cheering all around. But the crowd would quiet down if it realized that another housing bubble had begun to grow.

Almost everyone understands that the 2007-8 financial crisis was precipitated by the collapse of a huge housing bubble. The Obama administration’s remedy of choice was the Dodd-Frank Act. It is the most restrictive financial regulation since the Great Depression — but it won’t prevent another housing bubble.

Housing bubbles are measured by comparing current prices to a reliable index of housing prices. Fortunately, we have one. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics has been keeping track of the costs of renting a residence since at least 1983; its index shows a steady rise of about 3 percent a year over this 30-year period. This is as it should be; other things being equal, rentals should track the inflation rate. Home prices should do the same. If prices rise much above the rental rate, families theoretically would begin to rent, not buy. Housing bubbles, then, become visible — and can legitimately be called bubbles — when housing prices diverge significantly from rents. Read more ..

Israel and Palestine

A Purported UK 'Peace' Festival Supported by Palestinian Terrorists

January 5th 2014

St. James Church supports the lie that the wall exists not to save Israeli lives but to subjugate Palestinian ones. Its replica of the security barrier has not managed to bring people together; it has only legitimized the extremism of the Holy Land Trust and the terror links of Interpal. In reality, it is Israel's security barrier that is an example of truly non-violent resistance.

Just off London's famous Piccadilly Circus stands St. James Church, a historic building designed by Christopher Wren and consecrated in 1684. Last week, upon this hallowed ground, St. James Church built an enormous 26-foot replica of Israel's security barrier, at a reputed cost of £30,000 ($50,000).

The replica barrier is the main feature of a twelve-day festival organized by a coalition group called "Bethlehem Unwrapped." The festival is apparently "inspired by the cultural movement in Bethlehem known as 'Beautiful Resistance' in which Palestinians express their determination peacefully and creatively to resist injustice." Read more ..

America on Edge

American Freedoms Under Seige by Eavedropping Federal Government

January 4th 2014

As must appear self-evident to both historians and astute observers by now, the United States, in its history, has had a rather facile and at times acrimonious relationship to the idea of domestic democracy (If this is not self-evident, see Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival, along with Failed States. For a specific analysis of this observation applied to the USA Patriot Act, see my A User’s Guide to the USA Patriot Act). What is seldom noticed, however, is the speed with which the U.S. has moved from a liberal democracy to, at best, an authoritarian government.

To demonstrate this rapid movement in U.S. government, we will use as a base Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” address to Congress, on January 6, 1941. By all rights, and regardless of FDR’s real intent (some say it was to garner support for U.S. involvement in WWII), very few would doubt that his elucidated four freedoms form an important base for understanding liberal democracy. Here are FDR’s own words, quoted at length: Read more ..

The Afghan War

Why Are We Still in Afghanistan?

January 4th 2014

US Military In Afghanistan

Fifty years not-so-long ago, under the umbrella of the Cold War, we were embroiled in the quicksand—“quagmire” was the term of choice—of Vietnam. By 1965, with upward of half a million troops “in-country,” skeptics and critics began to seriously question the war.

The U.S. government, however, countered with the “domino theory,” contending that unless stopped in Vietnam, hordes of Chinese-led communists would overrun Southeast Asia, leapfrog to Japan, the Philippines, and eventually Hawaii and the beaches of La Jolla. But no dominoes fell.

The government’s response nevertheless proved effective, and such arguments are used today, foisted on a passive, apathetic public, and serviced by a compliant media. The rationale is as bankrupt as 50 years ago.

Historical analogies are treacherous, yet the past can inform subsequent events. In Vietnam, we had Nguyen Ngo Diem—“the George Washington of Southeast Asia”—and his family as our allies, but more often than not resistant to our will. Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai, for peculiar reasons of his own, likes to appear as an ingrate, adept at ignoring our advice, and undoubtedly corrupt. Most of all, both interventions have had little to do with our national interests.

At the end of the Vietnam adventure, we tried briefly to exact some meaning, some lessons in the hope that we would not repeat the same mistakes. First and foremost, we had to understand and accept the limits of American power. In vain. Vietnam has been ignored other than with public displays for recognition of veterans and of those permanently impaired by the war. The Vietnam Wall signifies our human sacrifices, not the loss of national sensibility. A sizable number of veterans not surprisingly recall battles as glorious adventures; indeed, to question the war or suggest that we lost in terms of stated goals is to verge on the unpatriotic. Read more ..

Geopolitical Edge

Hope and Change for the EU in 2014

January 4th 2014

Click to select Image

The new year will see a changing of the guard in Brussels, with top posts at NATO and the major European institutions changing hands.

NATO will get a new secretary-general; new presidents will be sought for the EU Commission, the European Council, and the European Parliament; and hopefuls will jostle to succeed Catherine Ashton as the EU's foreign-policy chief.

Three of these posts -- European Commission president, European Council president, and EU foreign-policy chief -- are interlinked. The successful candidates should reflect a geographical, gender, and party-political balance and they should also be ready to give up their national careers back home. The NATO secretary-general is not directly part of this equation but it's unlikely that he or she will come from the same country as any of the three above. Read more ..

Amerrica and Israel

Will Israel and the U.S. Break Up over Iran?

January 3rd 2014

Obama pointing finger at Netanyahu

Israel begins 2014 facing a truly Dickensian moment -- enjoying the best of times while staring at the worst of times.

Since Jewish DNA tends to accentuate the negative, let's first focus on the positive: the amazing resilience Israel has shown in the face of global economic adversity and the remarkable calm with which Israel has faced the regional chaos swirling around it.

First, the economy: If your early memories of Israel, like mine, included exasperating trips to Soviet-style banks to buy just enough shekels to get through the night, fearing the investment would lose half its value by sunrise, it is mind-boggling to think that Israel today has one of the strongest currencies in the world. That is a reflection of Israel's economic miracle. As former ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren was fond of recalling, this miracle extends to such feats of technological and entrepreneurial chutzpah as exporting wine to France and caviar to Russia. Last summer, Israel achieved the highest cultural status in Western civilization when an Israeli brand of hummus was named the official dip of the National Football League. Read more ..

The Media on Edge

New York Times Hit with Dishonest Reporting Award for its Reporting on Israel

January 2nd 2014

New York Times Bldg

The New York Times has captured the 2013 Dishonest Reporting Award, given annually by HonestReporting to the journalist or media outlet most responsible for skewing coverage of Israel during the past year.

The Times is America’s most influential newspaper, partly because of its reach, and partly because of its reputation for journalistic excellence. With more than 1.8 million subscribers, 4.7 million followers on Facebook, and another 10.4 million on Twitter, the New York Times is the second most-visited news site in the world. Put simply – what the Times says matters.

When it came to coverage of Israel, the Times distinguished itself throughout the year by publishing news articles that glorified Palestinian stone throwers, opinion pieces that questioned Israel’s right to exist, and editorials that took a dismissive tone towards Israeli fears of a nuclear Iran. Read more ..

The Defense Edge

The Crisis for American Power and its Middle Class

January 1st 2014

US Attack Helicopters

When I wrote about the crisis of unemployment in Europe, I received a great deal of feedback. Europeans agreed that this is the core problem while Americans argued that the United States has the same problem, asserting that U.S. unemployment is twice as high as the government's official unemployment rate.

My counterargument is that unemployment in the United States is not a problem in the same sense that it is in Europe because it does not pose a geopolitical threat. The United States does not face political disintegration from unemployment, whatever the number is. Europe might.

At the same time, I would agree that the United States faces a potentially significant but longer-term geopolitical problem deriving from economic trends. The threat to the United States is the persistent decline in the middle class' standard of living, a problem that is reshaping the social order that has been in place since World War II and that, if it continues, poses a threat to American power. Read more ..

The Innovation Edge

Big Idea 2014: Goodbye Silicon Valley, Hello Silicon Cities

December 31st 2013

NYC fashion district

As the United States slowly emerges from the Great Recession, led by our cities and metropolitan areas, a remarkable shift is occurring in the spatial geography of innovation.

For the past fifty years, the landscape of innovation has been epitomized by regions like Silicon Valley — suburban corridors of spatially isolated corporate campuses, accessible only by car, with little emphasis on the quality of life or on integrating work, housing and recreation. That model now appears outdated.

Innovative companies and talented workers are revaluing the physical assets and attributes of cities. A new spatial geography of innovation is emerging and, in 2014, it will reach a critical mass worthy of recognition and replication. Read more ..

The Arab Winter

"Arab Spring" Delusions

December 30th 2013

Egypt Riots #1

In the Arab-Islamic Political Culture rumors are an integral part of social activity that quickly become absolute truth that cannot be challenged. It has to do with exaggerations, flights of fancy and especially, in a society that believes in conspiracies… every date is important, remembering everything and forgiving nothing. This is a society wherein the lie is an essential component of behavior and lying is endorsed by religious sage.

Yet, from the beginning of the uprisings in the Middle East, the media has disseminated the idea — as if the internet, Facebook, and Twitter have produced a new situation — of a young Arab generation that adopts Western ideals and yearns for democratic values, civil rights, and freedoms. The code name for this phenomenon that has become known worldwide is the “Arab Spring,” an analogy of the “Spring of Nations” in the Europe of 1948. The question is whether these hopes and aspirations are true, and the Middle East has really been transformed according to the will of the people, or perhaps this is just another wishful thinking, a mirror image, a cultural ignorance of Western leaders? Read more ..

Turkey on Edge

Turkey: The End of a Geopolitical Model

December 30th 2013

Turk flags

Whether Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan survives the current crisis, the legend of "The Turkish model" is dead. The implications of the loss of Turkey's image abroad, particularly in the Islamic world, may be far more important than the explosion of corruption scandals which always cynical Turkish voters may take in their stride.

But the possibility that Turkey could be the template for a predominantly Muslim, democratic, prosperous, stable society has failed after more than a half century when it was a highly vaunted prototype. The longer-term implications of that failure reach far beyond what happens to 70 million Turks and the 10 million Turkish immigrants in Europe. It goes to the heart of what Samuel P. Huntington called the clash of civilizations, and the long-sought modernization of Afro-Asian societies where 1.3 billion Muslims live. Read more ..

Jewry on Edge

Canada Demands Firing of Racist Anti-Israel U.N. Official

December 29th 2013

Richard Falk

Canada has called for one of the viciously hateful and antisemitic figures in the international establishment to be fired.

Richard Falk, a U.N. Special Rapporteur who specializes in racist and defamatory statements against Israel, the Jews, and the U.S., including 9/11 conspiracy theories, recently upped the ante still further by calling Israel "genocidal" on Russian television.

He has also said that "slouching toward nothing less than a Palestinian holocaust," explicitly equating the Jewish state to the Nazi regime.

Canada, however, has proven courageous enough to call Falk's bluff. Defying the U.N.'s adoration of all things anti-Israel, its foreign minister said that Falk should be fired Read more ..

Israel on Edge

Ha'aretz Debases Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and Falls Further into Disrepute

December 29th 2013

Isi Libler

I rubbed my eyes in disbelief this week when I read an article prominently featured on Haaretz website entitled “The Warsaw Ghetto Myth”. The story asserts that the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the largest single revolt by Jews under Nazi occupation, was extremely limited in in scope and duration. The most obscene aspect of the article is the allegation that the fighters were responsible for the death of the 50,000 Jews in the ghetto who had not yet been deported.

This unquestionably distorted interpretation of events typifies the historical revisionism to which Haaretz is predisposed, not only with regard to post-Zionism but now also to Jewish history. That such an article is given prominence in an Israeli daily newspaper with a wide internet English readership reflects adversely on us all.

The author, Eli Gat, is a Holocaust survivor who, in 2009 privately published a shoddy book "Not Just Another Holocaust" describing his sufferings and alluding to the revisionist nonsense incorporated in his current article. His book was completely ignored and very few people would have even heard his name until Haaretz published his article.

In his article Gat dishonors the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and diminishes its historical and symbolic significance. He insists that there were fewer than 700 ghetto fighters and that the revolt lasted a mere two days, after which time many fighters fled. Gat has the gall to repudiate the accepted view that the most significant portion of the uprising took place over the course of a month and specifically dismisses the assertion confirming this by the late Professor Israel Gutman, a respected Holocaust historian and participant in the uprising. Read more ..

China Rising

It's Déjà Vu All Over Again in the East China Sea

December 28th 2013

Click to select Image

There is an eerie feeling of déjà vu about the drama in the East China Sea just now.

Again an authoritarian government with a rapidly expanding politicized military is making more and more aggressive noises, in large part in pursuit of its voracious appetite for energy. The U.S., hegemonic power in the Western Pacific since the beginning of the 20th century, is being challenged. Washington again follows a zigzagging policy, all the while protecting freedom of the seas — even for its adversaries.

It was, after all, imposition of the American oil embargo on Japan in the summer of 1941 that was the final tripwire leading to Tokyo’s attack on Pearl Harbor. U.S. Ambassador Joseph Grew’s reports of rumors of a surprise attack were discounted. When it came, of course, the U.S. — despite an overwhelming majority opposition until then against a vocal minority adroitly headed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt — plunged into a catastrophic worldwide conflict. The U.S. saved the world from unprecedented organized bestiality, ultimately winning against initial odds.

Like all historical comparisons, this one is full of holes. Read more ..

Broken Education

American Studies Association Joins a Wacky "Academic" Clique

December 28th 2013

American Studies Association logo

"One has to start somewhere."  That's how the president of the American Studies Association justified the ASA's vote to boycott Israel when he was asked why the organization had ignored the vast number of human rights abusing states that pepper the planet. He might have added, where else do we get equivalent PR bang for the buck? Would the Wall Street Journal devote an editorial and an op-ed piece (on one day!) to our radical left pint-sized under-the-radar association if we had condemned the Sudan?  And if the Wall Street Journal doesn't appreciate us, our academic peers will. Read more ..

The Iranian Threat

It's 1938 All Over Again, Folks

December 27th 2013

When Hassan Rouhani was elected President of Iran, western leaders declared, in the teeth of stark evidence to the contrary, that this man was a reformer. So they rushed to do a deal with him over Iran's nuclear program, considered by the west to be a threat to the free world. But Rouhani does not run Iran. The man who actually calls the shots — the only man who matters — is Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. In November , Khamenei said the Jews of Israel:

'cannot be called humans, they are like animals, some of them'

and that Israel was

'the rabid dog of the region'.

What do you do with rabid dogs? That's right: you put them down. That's what Khamanei intends to do to the Jews of Israel. That's why he says Israel is 'doomed to collapse' and why his regime has repeatedly declared it will wipe Israel 'off the page of history'. Dehumanizing the Jews: ring any bells? Know what happened next? But it's not just the Jews who are in Iran's sights. It's the west, upon which it has been waging a self-declared war since the Islamic revolution of 1979.
'Death to America! Death to Israel!' chanted the crowd in response. Yup, that's the agenda. Always has been. And they mean it. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Obama's Deal for Iran's Nukes is Worse than It Looks

December 27th 2013

The Geneva deal agreed to in November by six major powers with Iran is a gamble on Western optimism. While slightly rolling back Iranian nuclear capability, the agreement greatly weakens Western economic sanctions. Iranian sanctions-busters will be in position to exploit the changing market psychology and newly created pathways to reap billions of additional dollars in economic relief beyond those projected by the Obama administration. The Geneva deal's provisions are too weak to prevent Iranian physicists from making further nuclear progress in several key areas.

The interim agreement has glaring loopholes even as it addresses some areas of Iran's nuclear-weapons capacity. It includes several Iranian commitments that, if verifiably implemented, would extend Iran's nuclear breakout time from about a month to about two months, while making it easier to detect an Iranian breakout. Read more ..

The Media Edge

One Thousand Words from The New York Times

December 27th 2013

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. So when The New York Times elected to illustrate a story about the brutal murder of a teenage Israeli soldier with a picture of the killer’s mother, I wondered precisely what words were conveyed.

Of course, as has been well documented, the New York Times’ Israel problem goes far further than photographs. But pictures are extremely powerful as a means of communicating messages. Here is what the New York Times, subtly and by implication, conveyed to its readers:

1. The headlines about the murder of most Israeli media outlets were accompanied by an image taken from the Facebook page of the victim, Eden Atias. Smiling, cherubic, Eden looks like any other cheeky teenager ready to take on life. Brutally stabbed to death as he slept on a bus, that life was abruptly ended. Read more ..

Turkey on Edge

Are the Days Numbered for Turkey's Premier Erdogan?

December 27th 2013

Click to select Image
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Fethullah Gulen

It appears that the Islamic Gülenists and the secular Atatürkists -- not friends in the past -- have forged an alliance and are now ascendant. Major political events have rocked the political scene in Turkey the past two weeks. Turkey's once seemingly-invincible prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, seems in a tailspin. A few days ago, he lashed out at U.S. Ambassador Frank Ricciardone and threatened to expel him from Turkey. Erdoğan claimed the Ambassador told other Western diplomats that the "empire [Erdoğan and his associates] is about to fall."

Clearly, Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's policy of "Zero Problems With Our Neighbors" -- meaning the alliance with Turkey's Sunni-ruled Arab neighbors -- has failed. Turkey now has problems with almost all its neighbors. Read more ..

Palestinians on Edge

Palestinian Myths: Jerusalem is Ours

December 25th 2013

Jerusalem TowerOfDavid

There is the common saying: "A grain of truth is needed to make a mountain of lies believable." However, this saying does not apply to Palestinian claims. However, they rely on this saying to help sell the absolute fabrications and distortions of claiming Jerusalem as part their made up historical lore. For it is hard for average people, international media, world public opinion, and states' leadership to grasp and internalize the totality of nothing relating the Palestinians' claims and pretensions.

The Palestinian legends and myths, however, are tightly tied to the development of an intense propaganda machinery of denial of any Jewish sanctity for Jerusalem, as if "Jerusalem has always been under Muslim sovereignty from time immemorial." The Palestinians do not have any historical, religious, political, or cultural connection to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is not and never has been part of their history. The mosques erected on the Temple mount during the Umayyad Dynasty did not achieve any importance in other Muslim dynasties until the 20th century. Read more ..

Obama and Israel

The Turning of the Screws on Israel

December 24th 2013

Jerusalem flags

Obamacare being the massive failure it is, and with the President’s approval ratings at an all-time low, it is only natural that the heat will be turned up under the Israelis in their negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA). After all, President Obama needs to leave some kind of presidential legacy, and Israel is easy prey. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu may not give in on every point, but he has, at various times in response to U.S. pressure, voiced acceptance of the two-state solution, frozen settlement building, and released numerous Arab prisoners with Israeli blood on their hands; the latter in spite of a huge outcry against the unpopular move, by Bibi’s Israeli electorate. Read more ..

Intelligence on Edge

Rogue Panel Reports on Non-Rogue NSA Program

December 23rd 2013


When the “President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology” issued its report (Liberty and Security in a Changing World) this past week, an honest and objective newspaper headline the next day would have read: “Rogue Panel Reports on Non-Rogue NSA Program.”

To start, almost every one of the panel’s major recommendations is at odds with the policy positions of the administration and its senior intelligence officials—be it, the need for telephony metadata, the party responsible for storing that data, and whether to end the dual-hatting of the director of NSA as also head of Cyber Command. As uncomfortable as the president is already in defending the NSA, one can only imagine how much more uncomfortable he will be with his liberal base if he turns his back on the panel’s recommendations.  But never one to stick to a law or a redline, President Obama was already signaling in Friday’s press conference his willingness to accept a number of the panel’s proposed changes. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

New Year, New Politics

December 22nd 2013


If the public polling is any indication, public opinion has been extremely volatile the last several months, from the GOP’s post-shutdown nadir to the Democrats’ own post-ObamaCare-rollout collapse.

But with the holidays pushing politics out of people’s minds, we’re about to see a resetting of sorts in the new year, as people reassess their political views with both the shutdown and (now vastly improved)

HealthCare.gov in the rearview mirror. So now is as good a time as any to get an end-of-year baseline from which to evaluate numbers in 2014.

One of the most closely watched metrics over the coming year will be the generic congressional ballot. While members of the House of Representatives aren’t elected by national ballot, there is close correlation between the national House vote and the balance of power in that chamber. Given the heavily gerrymandered nature of the House, Democrats would have to win the national House vote by anywhere between 6 and 9 points to take the chamber. Anything above a 1-point Democratic advantage — the 2012 margin — should deliver Democratic seat gains. Read more ..

Japan on Edge

Japan: Land of the Rising Gun

December 21st 2013

JLTV Prototype

Japan’s first-ever national security strategy, released this week, may prove to be an inflection point in 21st-century Asia’s young history. Not only had Japan abided by a strict interpretation of its U.S.-written pacifist constitution over the last six decades, but Japan’s people had adopted pacifism as an important part of their national identity. And yet, somewhat suddenly, a country that has been not just wary of but eager to avoid foreign military entanglements is now implementing a more “proactive” national security policy. Its plans are good for Japan, good for Asia, and good for U.S. interests.

While Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is owed Washington’s thanks for his steely leadership, congrats are also in order for Beijing. China has done what North Korean belligerence and American goading have long failed to do: awake Japan from its Rip Van Winkle-like postmodern slumber. Just four years ago, Japan’s then prime minister Yukio Hatoyama was seeking to distance Tokyo from Washington and pushing the formation of an Asians-only “East Asian Community.” Read more ..

Broken Government

Behind The Headlines

December 20th 2013

google logo

Google executives have gotten a sweetheart deal not available to anyone else in America.  And it’s saved these billionaires millions of dollars.

Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt have a company, called H211, which operates nine aircraft.

In 2007, H211 began leasing a hangar at NASA’s Ames Research Center. Located four miles from Google’s Mountain View, California headquarters.

NASA’s inspector general conducted an audit.  The lease agreement was conducted in secret without public disclosure. The aircraft have been exempt from California property taxes.

The IG determined H211 has also been getting aviation fuel at a steeply discounted price unavailable to the public.  This price also excluded state and local taxes. Read more ..

Jewery on Edge

Throw the Bum Out!

December 19th 2013

Richard Faulk UN

Canada has called for one of the viciously hateful and antisemitic figures in the international establishment to be fired.

Richard Falk, a U.N. Special Rapporteur who specializes in racist and defamatory statements against Israel, the Jews, and the U.S., including 9/11 conspiracy theories, recently upped the ante still further by calling Israel "genocidal" on Russian television.

He has also said that "slouching toward nothing less than a Palestinian holocaust," explicitly equating the Jewish state to the Nazi regime. Canada, however, has proven courageous enough to call Falk's bluff. Defying the U.N.'s adoration of all things anti-Israel, its foreign minister said that Falk should be fired

for his numerous outrageous and anti-Semitic statements and these comments underscore once more the complete and total absurdity of his service as a UN Special Rapporteur... Not only do these comments undermine the fundamental values of the UN, they also belittle the terrible genocides that have tragically taken place throughout history and around the world. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Hyped Claim Organic Milk is Healthier: Activist Science, Bungled Reporting

December 18th 2013


For the health-obsessed media, a study touting the alleged benefits of drinking organic milk is a made-for-headlines event and a bonanza for the ‘natural food’ industry.

The web erupted last week after Washington State University issued a news release titled “Researchers see added nutritional benefits in organic milk,” promoting a just-published study as a long awaited silver bullet proof of the superior health benefits of organic foods. All the stories lacked were consensus science. Here’s how the media bungled their reporting and what the science really says—and doesn’t say.

The study, co-authored by well-known organic researcher Charles Benbrook, claimed to be “the first large-scale, U.S.-wide comparison of organic and conventional milk”—it wasn’t, but we’ll get to that later. Published in PLOS ONE, the Public Library’s open-access resource, the news struck immediate media gold, spawning a spate of misleading headlines and stories, even in the mainstream press. Read more ..

Broken Economy

Why Unemployment Benefits Should be Extended

December 17th 2013

Emplyment Application

Why extend the emergency federal unemployment-insurance program? Herewith, two reasons:

1. In normal times states (typically) offer 26 weeks of unemployment (“UI”) benefits to qualifying workers. During recessions, the federal government has in the past supplemented the offering of the states, providing additional weeks of UI benefits to workers who are unemployed for longer than 26 weeks. This is a reasonable and prudent measure – if 26 weeks is deemed long enough for a worker to find a job in normal economic conditions, then it’s not long enough during a recession, when jobs are much harder to come by. This is doubly true for a downturn as serious as the Great Recession. When the labor market is in better shape, of course, the emergency federal extensions are allowed to expire.

In the two recessions prior to the Great Recession emergency federal UI expired when the long-term unemployment rate — the share of workers who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer — was 1.3 percent. The long-term unemployment rate is currently at twice that level. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Needed: "Leadership Out of the Swamp"

December 16th 2013

Obama with baseball bat

In 1967 Rudi Dutschke, a flamboyant leader of post-World War II European student radicals looking back on two centuries of failed revolutions, had an epiphany: Instead of attacking prevailing institutions head on, he advocated that his fellow revolutionaries should take a "long march through the institutions of power to create radical change from within government and society by becoming an integral part of the machinery." In the decades since, more than one aspiring revolutionary has attempted to implement his strategy, some even claimed credit for inventing it.

But American students, more intent on panty raids and Florida spring break orgies when not on their iPhones, have never been serious politicians. That is especially true compared to the history of student activism bringing on regime crashes in Europe and Asia. Looking back, the anti-Vietnam War student protests -- including the tragic 1970 clash at Ohio's Kent State that claimed four student lives and one permanent paralysis -- were atypical. In fact, the American anti-Vietnam War protests were more conceived in guilt by ill-informed, ahistorical, cosseted "collegiates" unjustly spared Vietnam military service.  Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

The End of Obamacare: Just the Beginning of Better Health Care

December 15th 2013


The Obama administration detected faint signs of a pulse last week in its dysfunctional health benefits exchange website. But the parade of dismal failures, broken promises, and unsuspecting victims under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will only grow longer. The White House insists that Obamacare is not really as bad as it looks. Besides, says President Obama, “[T]he only alternative that Obamacare’s critics have is, well, let’s just go back to the status quo."

That, too, isn’t true. Nevertheless, we should acknowledge that most Republican-sponsored bills in Congress and health reform proposals advanced by market-oriented policy organizations have lacked necessary details, conceptual depth, and compelling themes. Rather than just pointing to everything that is wrong with ACA, we need to flesh out a clearer path to a better future. Read more ..

Broken Politics

Tea Party Says Speaker Boehner has Declared 'War'

December 14th 2013

Click to select Image

Tea Party Patriots said Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has “declared war on the Tea Party” with his “smug and pretentious rant” against certain right-wing organizations.

The group made the charge in a fundraising email to supporters, seeking to win donations over the public feuding.

In the past two days, Boehner has repeatedly attacked the conservative groups that championed the October effort to defund ObamaCare and are now opposed to the recent budget deal negotiated by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). He has criticized the groups for being more interested in raising money than actually solving problems.

The letter quotes Boehner's statement that “outside groups” were “using our members and ... the American people for their own goals.” Read more ..

America on Edge

Tyranny by the Majority: In More Than One Arena

December 13th 2013

Harry Reid

On Thursday, November 21, the Democrats in the United States Senate, the heretofore “greatest deliberative body in the world,” changed the rules that have guided it since 1789. That’s a long time. It was not bipartisan. Not a single Republican voted for the change. Three Democrats voted against it. The vote was 52 to 48 -- a simple majority – to change a rule that would now allow a simple majority, rather than a supermajority, to confirm the presidential nominations of executive officers who would serve at the pleasure of the president – and, more, those of federal judges (other than Supreme Court justices) with lifetime appointments. We know what the Senate was like before November 21.

We do not know what the Senate will be like after that fateful day. When Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) exercised this “nuclear option,” did he assassinate the United States Senate? Read more ..

Broken Government

6,000-Page Report on CIA Torture Has Now Been Suppressed for 1 Year

December 13th 2013

prison cell northern ireland flickr

One year ago today, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to adopt a 6,000-page report on the CIA rendition, detention, and interrogation program that led to torture. Its contents include details on each prisoner in CIA custody, the conditions of their confinement, whether they were tortured, the intelligence they provided, and the degree to which the CIA lied about its behavior to overseers. Senator Dianne Feinstein declared it one of the most significant oversight efforts in American history, noting that it contains "startling details" and raises "critical questions." But all these months later, the report is still being suppressed. 

The Obama Administration has no valid reason to suppress the report. Its contents do not threaten national security, as evidenced by the fact that numerous figures who normally defer to the national-security state want it released with minor redactions. The most prominent of all is Vice President Joe Biden. Another is Senator John McCain. Read more ..

Economic Jihad

Against Academic Boycotts

December 12th 2013


Friends and colleagues familiar with my longstanding support of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza and my extensive criticisms of the Israeli government's expansionist policies and violations of Palestinian human rights may be puzzled that I have weighed in publicly in opposition to the proposed academic boycott of Israel endorsed by the council of the American Studies Association (ASA) and now the subject of a membership vote in that organization. But the fact is that such a boycott is at best misguided. Not only is it the wrong way to register opposition to the policies and practices it seeks to discredit, it is itself a serious violation of the very academic freedom its supporters purport to defend.

The American Association of University Professors has opposed academic boycotts as a matter of principle since 2005, when we published a major statement "On Academic Boycotts." Last week AAUP President Rudy Fichtenbaum and I signed an "Open Letter to Members of the American Studies Association" reaffirming this opposition and urging ASA members to reject the proposed boycott.


Iran's Nukes

The Phantom Iran Nuclear Deal

December 12th 2013

Iran Nuclear Equipment centrifuges

When it comes to the most asinine response to the purported deal between the world's main powers and Iran over the latter's nuclear program, top honors to go Harvard University's Stephen Walt.

Walt was the co-author, with his academic colleague John Mearsheimer, of "The Israel Lobby," a badly researched, poorly argued screed about how a cluster of pro-Israel organizations have cajoled successive U.S. administrations into doing things they otherwise wouldn't have done.

Paranoically obsessed with what he regards as the malign influence of Israel and its supporters, Walt has made it his personal mission to defend the Iranian nuclear deal. Like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he thinks it's the deal of the century; unlike Netanyahu, he thinks the main beneficiary is not the Iranian regime, but the United States Hence Walt's recent tweet: "75 percent of NatSec experts support Iran deal. So what explains Congressional opposition?" Great wit that he is, Walt added, "(Hint: maybe a powerful lobby?)" Read more ..

Broken Government

Congressional Republicans in Rare Internal Face-Off

December 12th 2013

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) are headed for a rare split on the budget deal. Boehner backs the agreement, while McConnell doesn’t. The two GOP leaders have worked closely together for years, and it is highly unusual for daylight to emerge between them.

The Speaker on Wednesday urged Republican colleagues to vote for the budget deal negotiated by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and his Senate counterpart, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). He blasted conservative groups pressuring House Republicans to vote against the deal. His deputy, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), praised the agreement. McConnell and Senate GOP Whip John Cornyn (Texas), who both face Tea Party-backed primary challengers next year, will vote against the bipartisan budget pact. Read more ..

Significant Lives

Israel and the Hijacking of Apartheid

December 11th 2013

Nelson Mandela 1995

In remembering Nelson Mandela, we most recall his determined leadership in bringing down “apartheid” – the separation of races – in South Africa. His passing after a lifetime of suffering extreme prejudice and hatred causes us all to pause in honor of his deeds and in respect for his commitment to justice and equality.

The term “apartheid” evokes not only images of the struggle of his people in South Africa, but is a concept that is often taken, and sometimes mistaken, by advocates determined to achieve their own goals for their own purposes.

Such is the misuse of the term “apartheid” as it is thrown around in an accusatory framework against the State of Israel, which suffers regularly in the United Nations and in the press from the untrue and unfounded accusation that Israel, in building the terrorism prevention security fence, has built an “apartheid wall.” Read more ..

Broken Government

Obama Reaches Lowest Approval Rating Yet During His Administration

December 11th 2013

President Obama’s disapproval rating has shot up to 53 percent, the highest rating the McClatchy-Marist poll has recorded for him in nearly 30 surveys.

Obama's approval rating stood at 43 percent in the poll released Monday night. Obama’s approval rating has been hanging in the low 40s for the last few months as the 16-day government shutdown and the shaky rollout of the healthcare exchange website dominated the news.
But there is plenty of disapproval to go around.

A plurality of people, 38 percent, would grade all Washington officials with an F, according to the poll. Another 31 percent would give them a D, and 25 percent would give them a C. Only 1 percent of the public, well inside the margin of error, would grade their elected officials with an A. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Obamacare's Troubles Are Far from Over

December 10th 2013


The Obama White House has spent the past week trumpeting the supposedly fixed healthcare.gov website, with the hope that the strong negative perceptions now held of Obamacare can be partially reversed in the coming months. Among other things, we are now told that 29,000 people “signed up” for coverage through healthcare.gov on December 1 and 2. (Incidentally, this story emerged after administration officials had repeatedly refused to provide real-time enrollment counts in October and November.) The law’s defenders are using this information to make the case that all is now well and the program is back on track.

It is certainly true that healthcare.gov is performing better than it did on October 1. As others have noted, that is not saying much. But, despite the relentless cheerleading by the administration and its allies, no one should assume that the Obamacare website story is behind us. The real test of healthcare.gov is whether it is transmitting accurate data about those signing up for coverage to the insurance plans selected by the consumers. We have no idea if that is happening today, and plenty of reason to suspect it is not. Read more ..

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