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Obama's Second Term

DHS Hired Racist Official Accused of Advocating Killing Whites

August 23rd 2013

A left-leaning, public-interest legal group exposed a Homeland Security Department department head of creating and maintaining a web site dedicated to advocating the killing of white people and black conservatives, according to a report on Thursday.

The Homeland Security Department official is authorized to buy weapons and ammunition for the numerous government agencies that came under the umbrella of the DHS when it was created, according to Southern Poverty Law Center officials. What the SPCL found disturbing was that DHS manager Ayo Kimathi operates an inflammatory web site that features gay slurs and the murder of "whites" and the "ethnic cleansing" of "Uncle Tom race traitors," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage

Whatever Happened to the Arab Spring

August 22nd 2013

Shouting Muslims in Cairo

As Egypt explodes in what could be civil war, with a reported death toll of at least 628 dead and rising in clashes between security forces and Islamists that began August 14, many are wondering, whatever happened to the Arab Spring? That is, to the wave of popular uprisings against the long-lasting dictatorships of the Middle East and North Africa that began nearly three years ago in Tunisia, and brought the promise of democracy to the region at last?

And what should the U.S. do now that the Muslim Brotherhood--President Obama's chosen horse in the race for control of the largest Arab state and our most important Arab ally—has apparently lost?

To answer the first question, the Arab Spring never happened as advertised. Rather than a series of straightforward, largely peaceful popular risings led by social-media savvy youth that swept decades-old repressive regimes into the dustbin of history, as first portrayed by the media, something else occurred.

In their place were a couple of military coups in Tunisia and Egypt, prompted by—or under the cover of—of the largest demonstrations yet seen in those countries; armed uprisings in Libya and Syria (the former successful with help from the U.S. and NATO, the latter locked in a stalemate that has claimed a 100,000 lives), and scattered demonstrations that have led nowhere--or next to it--in Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, Sudan and beyond. Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage

Why the Arab Spring hasn't Failed in Egypt and the Middle East

August 21st 2013

2012 Egyptian Elections

So much for the Arab Spring. In Cairo, Egyptian history appears to have completed a bloody full circle. First the crowds filled Tahrir Square to demand the end of a military-backed dictatorship. Then, just two years later, the crowds filled Tahrir Square again to demand the restoration of a military-backed dictatorship.

Now, within weeks of the coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of Mohamed Morsi, massacre has become the new normal in Cairo. In 2011, Egypt seemed to have reached a turning point – but it ended up turning 360 degrees. We are back to a “temporary” martial law that will probably last for years. Read more ..


Israel and Palestinians

The Triumph of Illusion

August 20th 2013

Mahmoud Abbas and Yassir Arafat

The Palestine Liberation Organization was created in 1964. Like most revolutionary movements, it wrote a Charter to define its aims and fundamental policies, including:

Article 17: The partitioning of Palestine, which took place in 1947, and the establishment of Israel are illegal and null and void, regardless of the loss of time...

Article 18: The Balfour Declaration, the Palestine Mandate System, and all that has been based on them are considered null and void. The claims of historic and spiritual ties between Jews and Palestine are not in agreement with the facts of history or with the true basis of sound statehood. Judaism... is not a nationality (and) the Jews are not one people with an independent personality...

Article 19: Zionism is a colonialist movement in its inception, aggressive and expansionist in its goal, racist in its configurations, and fascist in its means and aims...

Article 24: This Organization does not exercise any territorial sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, (or) on the Gaza Strip. Read more ..


The Way We Are

World Humanitarian Day: The Courage of Humanitarian Workers

August 19th 2013

Humanitarian aid

Today is World Humanitarian Day – a time to remember the courageous people who risk their lives and give up the comforts of everyday life to bring assistance to those whose lives are shattered by war and disasters. I’ve been working the past couple of weeks on Syrian displacement, sifting through hundreds of reports by aid workers from many organizations – UN agencies, NGO staff, Red Cross/Red Crescent societies, diaspora groups, governmental aid agencies, faith-based groups. The reports tell a terrible story of what is happening inside Syria and the human consequences of a conflict the international community seems incapable of stopping.

The conflict seems intractable and as the International Crisis Group recently concluded “the optimal solution – a negotiated, diplomatic one – at this stage belongs pretty much to the world of make-believe.” It seems impossible to get meaningful action through the UN Security Council. Supplying arms to the rebels raises thorny issues about who will use the arms and where they will end up. There are complex regional dimensions in play; every political actor in the region seems to have a stake in this conflict. As we’ve seen in other conflicts, notably Bosnia, when the quest for a political solution reaches an impasse, attention turns to humanitarian response. ‘Even if we can’t stop the war,’ the argument goes, ‘at least we can help the victims.’ In the case of Syria, that means sending aid to help the refugees pouring out of the country, increasing funding for the few international organizations which are able to work inside Syria, and supporting under-the-radar operations in rebel-controlled territory. Read more ..


The Battle for Egypt

Abdullah Should Put His Money Where His Mouth Is

August 18th 2013

King Abdullah2

Vacationing President Obama conceded the obvious, “America cannot determine the future of Egypt,” he said. He went on to declare, “We don’t take sides with any particular party or political figure,” only to contradict himself by announcing the cancellation of U.S.-Egyptian joint military exercises “while civilians are being killed in the streets.”

The Saudis, however, have little doubt regarding the Brothers’ political agenda. Saudi King Abdullah reiterated the Kingdom’s backing of the Egyptian military and “Egyptian brothers against terrorism, deviance and sedition and against those who try to interfere in Egypt’s internal affairs and its legitimate rights in deterring those tampering with and misleading its people.” He called “on the honest men of Egypt and the Arab and Muslim nations … to stand as one man and with one heart in the face of attempts to destabilise a country that is at the forefront of Arab and Muslim history.”

Jordan and the UAE (except for Qatar), which are also threatened by the Muslim Brotherhood’s calls for an “Islamic uprising (overthrowing the current rulers),” find Obama’s and European leaders’ support of the radical anti-Western Muslim Brotherhood difficult to understand.

There is growing critisim of American and European officials and commentators support of the Muslim Brotherhood’s “democratic” election and/or future participation in government. The Saudi Gazette pointed out, “The bloodshed … effectively ends the open political role of the Brotherhood, which survived for 85 years as an underground movement before emerging from the shadows after the 2011 uprising.” Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage

Egypt's Quest for Democracy in Context

August 18th 2013

Hijab and flag

It's impossible to tell whether it is an infection from the hysterical Mideast Arabic and English commentaries on radio and TV. Or is it twaddle the result of misunderstanding of the complexity of the issues? Whatever, our talking heads are more than usually befuddled about events in Egypt. And they are lending further confusion to an already impossibly muddled situation with Obama Administration attempts to straddle the unstraddable.

No, "democracy" was not overthrown in Egypt, nor can it be restored with the ouster of the present puppet government established by the military. "Democracy" is not simply elections, however fairly they may be managed--and we in the U.S. know something about the difficulties of that. It requires a whole set of values, not the least, the concept of the individual and his right to his own thoughts and, in so far as he does not harm others, actions. That has rarely if ever existed anywhere in the Arab-Muslim world--except perhaps for a brief glimpse of it, ironically, under what is now Pakistan in late British colonial days. (Now, for example, in Pakistan proselytizing for a religion other than Islam, and that is often interpreted in exaggerated ways, brings the death sentence. A leading political figure was not only assassinated for advocating its amendment two years ago but his confessed murderer was cheered in courtroom scenes--by lawyers!) Read more ..


Defense on Edge

The Military Epidemics That Aren't

August 17th 2013

Army in Afghanistan

There is a growing presumption in the West that war dehumanizes those who experience combat, or, in more extreme expressions, even those who only serve in the military. In this country, for example, journalist Robert Koehler writes of war itself as a "disease," one that produces a nearly infinite variety of violent "symptoms."

The wars of the post-9/11 era, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, might seem to reinforce the point—the Abu Ghraib scandal, for instance, or atrocities committed by U.S. soldiers like Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who murdered 16 Afghan civilians in March 2012. Then there are the supposedly high rates of suicide, post-traumatic stress and sexual aggression, all of which tempt one to regard the military itself as a dehumanizing institution in need of therapeutic intervention.

Soldiers, in this view, are no longer seen as models of self-control, courage and patriotism. Instead they are victims and should be treated as patients. Yet the links between combat, the military and mental health are more complex than the war-as-disease construct allows. Read more ..


The Middle East on Edge

'To Hell With Them' Sums Up American Exasperation with Middle East

August 16th 2013

Islamist Protest PostMorsi

Maybe everyone is misreading America's views on foreign policy?

Among Republicans, there's a big argument between the so-called isolationist wing of the party and the ostensibly interventionist wing. On the left, there's a similar debate (though liberals are never described as isolationists no matter how isolationist they might be). Among Democrats, the dividing lines are murkier if for no other reason than the Democratic Party takes its lead from President Obama, and his own views are murky, to put it charitably.

The biggest boon to the anti-interventionists is the simple political reality that Americans just don't want to intervene in Syria. They also want to get out of Afghanistan. They don't seem to care much that Iraq is slowly sliding back into chaos. The footage out of Egypt may be horrific, but I would be surprised by any groundswell of sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood. Read more ..


Broken Healthcare

Health Insurance Exchanges and the Affordable Care Act: What To Expect on October 1

August 15th 2013

No Obamacare

You have probably heard the classic definition of the Yiddish word "chutzpah"—it defines the behavior of the youngster on trial for killing both his parents who pleads for mercy because he is an orphan. The current behavior of the Republican party with respect to implementation of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) fits that definition pretty well. Republicans are vociferously predicting that implementation of the that law will fail and simultaneously doing all they can to produce that outcome. They seek to stop spending to implement the law. Officials in many states have adopted a stance reminiscent of "massive resistance," the South's futile effort to block implementation of the Supreme Court's decision banning school segregation. A state legislator in South Carolina even proposed that the state give tax credits to help defray any penalties state residents might incur from defying the federal law. Read more ..


Broken Government

Lawmakers Demand Emails from Lois Lerner

August 14th 2013

IRS Bldg DC

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the Subcommittee of Regulatory Affairs, on Tuesday submitted an official letter to the Internal Revenue Service's Lois Lerner seeking e-mails related to her official duties in her non-government e-mail account.

“Through the course of the investigation, we have learned that you sent documents related to your official duties from your official IRS e-mail account to an msn.com e-mail account labeled ‘Lois Home,’” the letter sent to Lerner states. “This raises some serious questions concerning your use of a non-official e-mail account to conduct official business.” Read more ..


Broken Government

We're No. 1-- In Public Employee Pay

August 13th 2013

US Capital Day

Amid the recent hubbub over municipal bankruptcies and rising public-employee pension costs, pay for state and local government employees has gotten a great deal of publicity. Lost in the press attention, however, is that federal-employee compensation remains a problem, too, and new data again indicate that Washington, D.C., may be overpaying for the two million workers it employs.

In a 2011 AEI paper with Jason Richwine, I concluded that federal workers receive salaries and benefits around 37 percent higher than do private-sector workers with similar levels of education and experience. This prompted congressional requests for the Congressional Budget Office to conduct its own analysis, which, the requesters hoped, would rebut ours. Using slightly different methods, the CBO showed a smaller wage premium for federal workers. They omitted a $2.3 billion per year federal subsidy to government workers’ accounts held by the Thrift Savings Plan, but still reached qualitatively similar conclusions: Federal workers receive pay and benefits 16 percent above private-sector levels. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

The Rebirth of Al-Qaeda

August 12th 2013

Armstrong_Williams

I must be mistaken. I was told that Al-Qaeda was basically wiped out; for all intents and purposes it was dead. Nope, that was Detroit. Al-Qaeda is very much alive as evidenced by the closing of embassies and consulates throughout the Middle East and Islamic world.

Wait, I must be confused again. The election of President Barrack Obama promised to usher in a new age of love from the Muslim sphere. Nope, somehow the words “love” got mixed up with “revulsion.”

The drone attacks in Yemen signal a possible ramp up in kinetic action against Al-Qaeda. Hold on now. The administration promised no more war and pledged to try to withdraw all the military from areas of conflict. Oh, I see. Because drones are robots piloted from simulators in Utah, it is ok and not actual boots-on-the-ground.

The hard reality is this: the current Al-Qaeda in the Middle East has arisen like a phoenix from the ashes of Al-Qaeda Iraq (AQI). It has helped plunge Iraq back into a civil war, is fighting against Assad in Syria, operating in Libya, and training in Yemen.

The Arab Spring gave Al-Qaeda the perfect opportunity to move into the chaos that ensued. We absconded the field and hung any allies out to dry. We still have troops scattered throughout the Middle East, but none are in a position to start fighting a hot war in a faraway nation (outside Afghanistan that is).

Yes, the Bush administration is responsible for creating AQI by invading Iraq. Just like the US helped create what would become the Taliban during the Afghan war against the Soviets. Read more ..


The Media on Edge

The Death of The Washington Post

August 12th 2013

Newspapers

"In the good old days" a reader's world was filled with newspapers, several coexisted competitively in a single urban area and even in the rural hinterlands. The choice for a subscriber for dawn home delivery by a boy on a bicycle or picked up at the local newsstand en route to work was based on one's "worldview," however vague. It was a filter for what was then considered a welter of reporting of events out there in the wide world, although in America before World War II largely confined to North American happenings.

Needless to say, that day is long since going, going, gone, for an institution that has been with us for three centuries, or maybe even earlier if you count something the Chinese, as usual, invented along with movable type. But it was not until the 19th century that newspapers took on the importance that The American Founders ascribed to them. That was summed up in Thomas Jefferson's famous dictum: "The basis of our government's being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter." Jefferson was writing to a fellow Virginia politician to endorse the adoption of the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution including guarantees for freedom of the press. They were designed to meet the objections then--and now--of those who opposed big government and feared its depredations. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Putting Russia on the Right Path

August 11th 2013

putin

I was relieved to learn Wednesday that President Barack Obama canceled a planned summit meeting with Vladimir Putin. It was the right thing to do, given the Russian president’s recent bad behavior. But there’s much more the United States can and must do to help put Russia on the right track.

The European Court of Human Rights recently ordered the Russian government to pay damages for violating the rights of former Yukos Oil Co. CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who has been languishing in jail ever since the state took over his company a decade ago. Russia’s expropriation of Yukos and Putin’s escalating crackdown on political opponents continue to have repercussions not just for Khodorkovsky and his fellow Russians, but for thousands of foreign investors — including many Americans — who were caught in the crossfire between Khodorkovsky and the Kremlin. My Senate colleagues and I addressed this problem last year in legislation that grants Russia permanent normal trade relations with the United States. We hoped that the Obama administration would use the bill to work with Russia on a robust rule of law agenda. Read more ..


Broken Intelligence

Is NSA Leaker Edward Snowden a Traitor?

August 10th 2013

Snowden

The White House has cancelled a planned summit meeting next month between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin and one of the reasons given was Moscow’s decision to grant asylum to an American who leaked top secret information.

The American, former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, is wanted in the United States on espionage charges after he leaked information about how the super-secret National Security Agency (NSA) monitors U.S. and international telephone and Internet traffic.  

Snowden is now living in Russia after spending more than a month in the transit area of a Moscow airport. But his plight has triggered a discussion on the issue of treason. In other words, is Snowden a traitor?

For John Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, the issue is clear. “I do consider him a traitor. He has taken vital secrets of the United States, undoubtedly given some to China, given some to Russia – Russia and China may have them all now for what we know,” Bolton states. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Rest in Peace, OPEC

August 9th 2013

Oil well

It happened to potash. It can happen to oil.

Last week marked the collapse of one of the last remaining cartels in the world economy—the potash cartel. Potash is a critical ingredient in the production of the fertilizers that help grow our food. For decades, the global potash industry has been dominated by Belarusian Potash Company (BPC), a joint venture between the Belarusian Belaruskali and the Russian Uralkali, together producing about a third of the world’s potash supply. On July 30th Uralkali broke away from BPC and directed its exports to China, consumer of one fifth of the world’s supply, via its own distribution channels. The announcement rocked the potash industry. Potash miners worldwide lost a third of their share value, and the commodity’s price is projected to slump by thirty percent. The breakup of the potash cartel should soon translate into lower fertilizer prices, which should in turn lower wholesale food prices. But as a new World Bank report confirms, the biggest contributor to increases in food prices over the last several years was neither the price of potash nor, as many still mistakenly believe, demand for biofuels, but rather the price of oil. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

"Radicalizing" the Muslim Brotherhood

August 8th 2013

Following another night of violence in Cairo during which 72 people were killed, The New York Times accused the military led government of Abdul Fattah al Sisi of "radicalizing" the Muslim Brotherhood. "For all its stated commitment to democracy and nonviolence, the Brotherhood's only reliable partners now are other Islamist groups whose members may be more willing to use violent or radical tactics -- partners that would tar the Brotherhood's identity as a more pragmatic movement with a broader base."

The poor Brotherhood. It seems, according to The Times, that people it cannot control are pushing it into violence it does not want. Pardon, but how do you "radicalize" an organization the credo of which is, "Allah is our objective; the Quran is our law, the Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way; and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations"? The Brotherhood was born in violence and knows the value not only of violence, but also of martyrdom. Since its ouster, its leaders have been threatening and inciting violence, hoping to provoke the secular government into killing.

The organization works much the same way Hamas -- the Brotherhood's Palestinian franchise -- does. Hamas implants its military capabilities, storehouses and launch sites in civilian neighborhoods in Gaza. From behind the captive civilians, it fires rockets and missiles at Israeli towns, putting on high alert a million people on who will have exactly 15 seconds to find shelter when the alarm goes off. When the situation becomes intolerable, Israel responds and Hamas wins: if the Israelis are cautious, and there are no civilian casualties, Hamas has terrorized Israel with no consequence. If there are civilian casualties, Hamas wins again, bewailing Israeli brutality in front of Western media. Read more ..


Broken Intelligence

Manipulating the U.S. Intelligence Community Shouldn't Be This Easy

August 7th 2013

Embassy Attacks 9-12-12

The US government shut down all US embassies in the Middle East for the first weekend in August and notified all US persons traveling abroad that they face extra danger of being set upon by terrorists. Because, says the official announcement, US Intelligence detected "increased chatter" among suspected terrorists that contained "specific threats." The closings and warnings are dreadful policy. The intelligence on the basis of which the policy was made suffers from a lack of quality control - counterintelligence in the language of the trade - so serious as to expose US policy makers to being manipulated by foreign enemies. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Palestinians Dismiss Prisoner Release as a "Bribe"

August 6th 2013

Dome of the Rock

They regard the prisoner release as something Israel was supposed to have done anyway, many years ago. Many will continue to see it as as part of an Israeli-American scheme to extract concessions, and will continue to attack Abbas for "succumbing" to US presure.

The argument that the release of Palestinian prisoners boosts the standing of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and "moderate" Palestinians and facilitates the resumption of peace talks with Israel is not necessarily true.

Many Palestinians do not see Israel's decision to release more than 100 Palestinians who were imprisoned before the signing of the Oslo Accords two decades ago as a gesture on the part of Israel.

Rather, they regard the Israeli move as something that Israel was supposed to have done anyway, many years ago.

As Saeb Erekat, the chief PLO negotiator, explained: "This Israeli cabinet decision is an overdue step towards the implementation of the Sharm Sheikh agreement of 1999, whereby Israel committed to release all the pre-Oslo prisoners. We welcome this decision 14 years later."

So unlike the US and other Western governments, the Palestinian Authority does not see the release of prisoners as a conciliatory move on the part of the Israeli government. Moreover, Palestinian Authority representatives do not believe there is a link between the release of prisoners and progress toward achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Many of the prisoners who are scheduled to be released do not even belong to Abbas's Fatah faction. Read more ..


Borken Economy

Economy is Sick and Prospects are Dim

August 5th 2013

I am not your ATM

The U.S. economy is sick. And it's not getting any better despite the inherent vitality and innate resources which do spring to life intermittently from the world's largest and most important economic enterprise. In fact, it may be growing worse in terms of basic issues.

Vested interests--the Obama Administration, economists living in perennial statistical delirium, and the Administration's media claque led by government-subsidized National Public Radio/Marketplace--have been grasping at straws. Despite their paeans based on Washington's manipulated statistics, the reality is quite different.

One stark element stands out: a catastrophic loss of jobs and increasing, not decreasing, unemployment, particularly among semi- and unskilled workers and among recently university leavers. The Administration and its backers perform a statistical hat trick in calculating a declining unemployment percentage against the working population. But what is not emphasized is that the total labor force is rapidly declining, due in large part to disillusioned workers dropping out as they find it more and more difficult to find employment and take advantage of government benefits. (Almost 50 million people are on the government's give-away food program. A third of a million workers are at any given time receiving unemployment benefits.) Read more ..


Broken Economy

Wild About Larry

August 4th 2013

Federal Reserve

Can a couple dozen Democratic senators and the New York Times editorial board be wrong?

You bet they can. Both are advocating Janet Yellen’s appointment to be the next chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve, claiming that those who prefer Larry Summers as the Fed’s big cheese are closet sexists in bed with the banking lobby.

These advocates, along with a host of left-leaning pundits, say they are concerned about Summers’s involvement in financial markets, as a paid consultant to megabank Citigroup, hedge funds like DE Shaw, and other financial institutions, while clucking about what a shame it would be for President Obama to pass up the chance of nominating the first woman for the top Fed post. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) has made clear her preference for Yellen, telling CNN, “a woman as head of the Fed, a qualified woman, would be a positive thing for this administration.” Even the Wall Street Journal has fanned the flames, headlining one article,” Summers Faces Hit on Potential Fed Nod Over His Wall Street Ties.” Read more ..


Broken Economy

The Unemployment Rate Is Edging Down, and the Job Picture Slowly Improving

August 2nd 2013

Employee applications

Moderate employment gains continued in July, and the unemployment rate edged down.  The BLS employer survey showed payrolls grew 162,000 in July, with all the gains occurring in the private sector.  Government employment continues to be a source of job market weakness.  Revisions in payroll estimates for May and June subtracted a total of 26,000 from estimated job growth in those two months. Nonetheless, the 3-month average of payroll gains remained slightly above 175,000 per month.  Employment gains of between 75,000 and 80,000 a month are needed to keep the unemployment rate from rising.  So far this year the BLS employer survey shows that payrolls have been rising about 190,000 a month, fast enough so that we should expect the unemployment rate to fall.

The unemployment rate is estimated based on the BLS household survey, which shows a somewhat slower rate of employment growth since the end of last year.  The number of adults who report holding a job has increased an average of 140,000 a month since last December. This is a fast enough rate of improvement to push down the unemployment rate.  Read more ..


Broken Economy

We Don't Need More Humanities Majors

July 31st 2013

Graduates

This piece is in answer to the question: Do we need more humanities majors? You can read the "yes" answer to this questions here.

It’s no secret that innovation grows America’s economy. But that growth is constrained in two ways. It is constrained by the amount of properly trained talent, which is needed to produce innovation. And it is constrained by this talent’s willingness to take the entrepreneurial risks critical to commercializing innovation. Given those constraints, it is hard to believe humanities degree programs are the best way to train America’s most talented students.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. employment has grown roughly 45 percent since the early 1980s. Over the same period, Germany’s employment grew roughly 20 percent, while France’s employment grew less than 20 percent and Japan’s only 13 percent. U.S. employment growth put roughly 10 million immigrants to work since the BLS started keeping track in 1996 and it has employed tens of millions of people offshore. The share of people in the world living on less than $1.25-a-day has fallen from over 50 percent to nearly 20 percent today, according to The World Bank. Name another high-wage economy that has done more than the United States for the employment of the world’s poor and middle class during this time period. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Paying in Advance

July 30th 2013

Dome-of-the-Rock

Like the dog that finally caught the bus he chased, Secretary of State John Kerry now has to figure out what to do with what he's got. He induced, bribed, cajoled, and threatened Israelis and Palestinians to return to the "negotiating table." The Palestinians were promised up to $4 billion in "investment" and aid, and up to 104 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel from the pre-Oslo era; terrorists with blood on their hands and previously thought to be unreleasable.

What the Palestinians paid, if anything, is unclear, but they are trumpeting a victory -- that Israel will release prisoners and that the prisoners cannot be banished to Gaza; that Israel will not be able to seek an interim agreement, but must to go "final status" issues; and that Kerry agreed with them that the 1949 lines (the so-called 1967 border) are the starting point. Almost as a throwaway line, Mahmoud Abbas said he was committed to a "two state solution" and Kerry has referred vaguely to the promise that that Arab States might make peace with Israel if the Palestinians were satisfied (more on that later). So, Mr. Kerry has put his bribe on the table and Israel has paid in advance. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

The U.S. Lost in the Mideast Swamp

July 29th 2013

Cairo Claashes Dec 2012

The Obama Administration's Middle East policies - it would be foolhardy to call them "strategy" - would be ludicrous were they not so threatening to American interests, regional and world stability.

The latest permutation is Washington's position against the Egyptian military and its satellite, hopefully provisional, civilian government. Washington's insistence that the discredited, ousted, and now imprisoned Mohamed Morsi be treated as a legitimate political figure, serving Egyptian or American interests, is highly questionable. Morsi was quintessential: a Third World Muslim dictator-apprentice, promising one man, one vote-one time. Read more ..


China on Edge

Chinese Urbanization: Field of Dreams or Real Estate Fantasy?

July 27th 2013

Industrial and Commericial Bank of China

Recent headlines continue to point to a slowing of China's investment and infrastructure-led growth model. Yet, as the New York Times recently documented on its front page, China's rapid push to move 250 million people from the countryside to the city continues unabated. Fully half of China's 1.3 billion people still live in the country-side, and are extremely poor. President Obama underscored China's domestic challenges during his interview with Charlie Rose. He started his comments by noting that China's leaders still view their home "as this poor country that's got all these problems." Fighting poverty through urbanization remains near the top of most Chinese leaders' priorities.

In other words, China's main answer to the 650 million people living in rural poverty is to get them to move. In fact, in the last three decades, China has moved more people out of poverty than any other country on earth. Nearly all of those people did that by physically migrating from country to city. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Our Government's Foolish View of US Energy Revolution

July 26th 2013

oil pump

Wednesday, President Obama gave an address on the U.S. economy at Knox College in Illinois in which he argued that the future looks much brighter for the country in part because the energy revolution in natural gas taking place right under our feet.  But, disappointingly, neither the president nor Congress are making the most of this revolution and, hence, are reducing the economic benefits that would come from more drilling and more exports of this now abundant resource. The fact is, America today is awash in natural gas.

Through technological advances in tapping into shale rock formations, the amount of recoverable natural gas reserves has grown by nearly 800 percent over the past seven years, with estimates that the United States has more than a century’s worth of supplies on hand. The result has been a sharp and sustained decrease in the price of gas and, with that drop in energy prices, the prospect of a revitalized American manufacturing base and the jobs that will come with it. Read more ..


The Edge of Justice

Unasked Questions About the National Impasse over Zimmerman and Martin

July 25th 2013

Armstrong Williams Headshot

What more can be said about the George Zimmerman trial that has not been said? It seems that two sides have staked out their territory and are not budging.

On one side we have those that are looking at the case purely through a lawyerly lens. The evidence did not rise to beyond a reasonable doubt, therefore the verdict of not guilty was correct. On the other side we have those representing Trayvon Martin as the avatar of racial problems in America. Martin’s blackness was the catalyst for the “white” Zimmerman’s actions and acquittal. Both sides talk past each other without listening.

So many times I hear or read inaccurate accounts of the trial and evidence. Very few people listened to all seven hours of closing arguments, much less tracked down coroner reports, read through the entire Zimmerman call to police, or listened to Rachael Jenteel’s recollection of Martin’s last phone conversation.

So whenever someone complains about the trial by brandishing a blatant error, one side perceives the entire argument to lose credibility. No amount of explaining the facts of the case, as known, will move the other person.

On the other hand, when President Obama tried to explain why so many in the black community were moved by this case, that they saw themselves or their sons as Trayvon Martin, many shouted that Obama was trying to cite a race war. They claim race does not matter, but by not listening to the concerns people raise, they shut themselves off from understanding and the ability to help overcome prejudice.

So we find ourselves at an impasse. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Kerry Runs Around in Rings

July 25th 2013

Kerry and

Once again a lot of people think that Secretary of State John Kerry is on the verge of making a breakthrough toward peace. The problem is that these people believe that the contenders were born yesterday, that they have no constraints whatsoever.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has no intention of making peace. It only wants to get concessions and blame Israel for an absence of peace. It knows that the Obama Administration will never punish it if it balks but probably will only offer it more.

The PA doesn’t want to make peace since any actual concessions will make it appear to be a traitor and will bring a counter-offensive from Hamas. Since it doesn’t even represent the territory it claims—it has no power over the Gaza Strip and has no prospect of getting any—the PA cannot make any binding commitment at all. And it is watching as the battle for Syria is going on next door. That would give it a radical neighbor—the United States is supporting it—which will deem a peace agreement as null and void. Every PA negotiator knows well that he isn’t supposed to succeed. It is only Kerry who doesn’t know this. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

The Plight of Ayatollah Bourojerdi

July 24th 2013

Hassan Rohani closeup

With the election of Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s new president, the international debate about reaching out to the “moderates” inside the Iranian regime has been reignited. But before we get overly excited at the prospect of a kinder, gentler breed of mullah, it’s worth revisiting one of the most heinous examples of human rights abuse in Iran, a case that involves a man who carries the honorific Shi’a Muslim title of “ayatollah.”

Over the last fortnight, the various Iranian emigre networks have lit up with renewed calls for the release of Ayatollah Hossein Bourojerdi. Bourojerdi, who has languished in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison since 2006, preaches an Islamic doctrine that is utterly at odds with regime’s outlook, in that he advocates the separation of mosque and state, and urges religious tolerance. Read more ..


America on Edge

Detroit’s Financial Slide Linked to Exodus of Auto Industry

July 23rd 2013

Panic in Detroit

Its nickname is the Motor City, but many of the automobile factories that gave Detroit that moniker are now hard to find inside the city limits.  Detroit’s financial crisis is linked to the exodus of its auto industry, as it failed to achieve the economic diversity that helped other cities avoid bankruptcy. At the height of Detroit’s boom in the mid 20th century, this plant manufactured Packard automobiles, employing about 40,000 people. The promise of good pay and plenty of work at similar plants around the city attracted people like Tennessee native George McGregor in the 1960s. Today, he's president of the United Auto Workers Local 22 in Detroit.

When I first came here, in the automobile factory, they were begging people to come.  The hour rate was something like $3.25 an hour,” he recalled. But the auto industry stopped begging when demand for American cars slowed and interest in foreign automobiles increased. Read more ..


Broken Economy

A Growth Strategy for Post-Bankruptcy Detroit

July 22nd 2013

Detroit abandoned house

Americans are riveted by Detroit’s municipal bankruptcy—the largest in the country’s history. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Detroit emergency financial manager Kevyn Orr are engaged in a historic intervention with serious implications for Detroit’s citizens and businesses, pensioners and creditors. Yet they know that getting Detroit’s fiscal house in order—as difficult as that is—will not be sufficient to renew Detroit. Detroit needs a strong growth strategy to complement the state’s intervention on debt and deficits.  Absent an economic revival, the city’s fiscal problems will be recurring and inescapable.

The good news, lost amidst the screaming headlines over bankruptcy, is that market momentum in Detroit’s core is real and palpable and provides a strong foundation for future growth. In fact, the broadly supported Detroit Future City plan provides an excellent blueprint for growth and investment. Now is not the time for investors outside Detroit merely to observe or monitor the dramatic intervention of the state and the bankruptcy process. Rather, this is the time to engage in a productive and creative fashion. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Old Ways Not Obsolete

July 21st 2013

John McCain

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. And in the U.S. Senate, that’s not a bad thing.
On Tuesday, the upper chamber saw an eleventh-hour deal to avert the so-called nuclear option, a rule change to alter Senate procedure that would have multiplied the level of polarization and distrust in the body exponentially. It was cobbled together by a bunch of old-timers who remember a Senate of days gone by.

Later that hot afternoon, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) announced his plans to seek a fourth Senate term, and in less than an hour was challenged by Liz Cheney, the 46-year-old daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney who moved to Wyoming last year and allegedly told Enzi she would run if he retired, but then decided to challenge him anyway. Enzi, who has been friends with Dick Cheney for 30 years, was dumbfounded by the news, saying “I thought we were friends.”

Cheney, in a video, excoriated President Obama, but not Enzi. She hinted that Enzi needs the boot because it is “necessary for a new generation of leaders to step up to the plate,” because “we can no longer afford simply to get along to go along.” Read more ..


Broken Economy

Europe: It's Going to Get a Lot Worse Before It Gets Better

July 20th 2013

euro flags

Shakespeare memorably wrote that when sorrows come, they come not as single spies but as battalions. He could very well have been writing about the current spate of political troubles in Europe’s beleaguered economic periphery. For there we now find the most dangerous aggregation of political troubles, which hardly bodes well for the long run survival of the euro.

At the heart Europe’s political malaise is the very poor state of the European economy and the growing popular discontent with externally imposed policies of budget austerity and painful structural economic reform. As an extreme case, the Greek economy has now been in recession for the past five years and has seen an economic contraction exceeding 20 percent. However, even Italy and Spain have now been in economic recession these past two years with the result that their current level of output is more than 7 percent below the peak it reached in 2008. Read more ..


Developing Countries on Edge

Slum Currency and Implications for the Poor in Developing Countries

July 19th 2013

Nairobi Slum

First came M-Pesa, the now famous mobile phone money transfer system in Kenya, which has made it possible for millions to access the life-changing financial services previously not available to them.

Now there is Bangla-Pesa, a complementary currency that has become a medium of exchange in the Bangladesh slum in the city of Mombasa. Bangla-Pesa—appropriately named as it is only accepted within the confines of this particular slum— is a voucher that traders and service providers are using to do business. Unlike vouchers that are used for a particular good or service, Bangla-Pesa coupons are accepted for many transactions and therefore represent a complementary currency acting as a means of exchange in the slum. For this slum, Bangla-pesa operates alongside the official government issued currency.

One feature of slum economies is business volatility. Sometimes within a month, businesses are booming and demand for goods and services is high. This could, for example, coincide with times when workers receive their wages.  However, good times are often followed by downturns within the same month, where economic activity quickly slows down. A survey conducted in the Bangladesh slum in Mombasa found that many residents were not able to get basic necessities during periods of business downturns. Read more ..


Broken Government

Farm Bill is an American Boondoggle

July 18th 2013

wheat fields

The House of Representatives has now passed a farm bill on an entirely partisan basis. No Democrat voted for the bill, not least because the House leadership voted out the nutrition title that would have reauthorized food stamps, or Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program.

Several Republican members also refrained from offering support for the modified legislation because of their concerns about feckless spending on farm programs that waste economic resources and disproportionately send billions of subsidy dollars to wealthy individuals. The farms that would receive over 80 percent of all the subsidies in the 2013 House bill are owned and managed by farm households and landowners with assets that are measured in the multiple millions of dollars, and incomes that are several times larger than those of the median U.S. households. Read more ..


After the Holocaust

Claims Conference: Has it No Shame

July 17th 2013

Isi Libler

For more than a decade, there have been passionate pleas for the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the organization responsible since its inception for the distribution of over $70 billion of restitution payments, to review its management, governance and oversight procedures and prioritize the distribution of discretionary funds so that aged Holocaust survivors desperately in need of assistance could live out their remaining years with a modicum of dignity.

The Claims Conference response has been consistently hostile. It has demonized critics, threatened the media with libel suits and accused me of conducting a vendetta and jeopardizing its negotiations with the German government. At all times it has brazenly insisted that its management and oversight procedures were impeccable.

Even following a $57 million fraud - the largest financial transgression ever experienced by a Jewish organization - Chairman Julius Berman and CEO Greg Schneider adamantly rejected pleas to strengthen organizational oversight and authorize an external independent review. They insisted that the fraud, which was orchestrated by a senior manager at the head office and perpetrated over 16 years, was merely a regrettable breakdown that could never have been detected. They refused to accept accountability; they did not even apologize.

Over the past month, in response to media accusations of failed governance and a possible cover-up, Claims Conference Ombudsman Shmuel Hollander, was commissioned to prepare a report for a committee of directors handpicked by Berman. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

State Department Blind to Iranian Threat in Latin America

July 16th 2013

Hassan Rowhani

Last year a bill titled “Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act” sponsored by Congressman Jeff Duncan was passed into law. This law mandated that the State Department issue a yearly report on Iran’s influence and activities in all of North, South and Central America as well as the Caribbean. As a result, on June 27 the State Department released their report to Congress on Iranian influence in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The State Department released an unclassified summary of policy recommendations, but it assessed that “Iranian influence in Latin America and the Caribbean is waning.” According to the report, the main reason this occurred is that international sanctions against Iran “have limited the economic relationship between the Western Hemisphere and Iran.” Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

American Jihad Gaining Strength

July 16th 2013

Death to infidels

It is not just that the United States government has aligned itself with the avowed vanguard of Islamic jihad -- the Muslim Brotherhood [MB] -- or committed American troops to battle (in Libya, and maybe soon in Syria) to ensure the victory of al-Qa'eda-linked militias. It is not just that whenever an opportunity has arisen, as in Iran in 2009, or pre-and-post revolutionary Egypt, or the Syrian civil war, the U.S. deliberately has chosen to side with the forces of jihad and shariah law and against the voices of civil society and genuine democracy.

The current U.S. administration has actually managed to flip from one side to the other, from "for the people in the streets" to "against the people in the streets," as recently became evident in late June 2013, when protests mounted against the incompetent, oppressive regime of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. The U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson, reportedly asked Coptic Pope Tawadros II, "to urge the Copts not to participate" -- as well as other groups, apparently -- in the demonstrations planned for June 30. Read more ..



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