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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 ..


Eugenic America

America's Continued Fascination with Eugenic Genocide

July 15th 2013

Click to select Image

The early 20th century saw hundreds of thousands of so-called "defective" Americans forcibly sterilized in the name of "improving" the human race. In one of the darkest chapters in its history, the Supreme Court sanctioned the process in Buck v. Bell, declaring that "three generations of imbeciles is enough." Some people would say three generations of imbeciles on the Court is enough; of course, I would never say that.

Not surprisingly, the people deemed "imbeciles" were nothing of the kind. They were simply the most vulnerable people in their communities.

Thankfully, we've learned our lessons, and nothing like that can ever happen again. Right? Wrong!

According to a shocking new report from the Center for Investigative Reporting, between 2006 and 2010, "doctors under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation sterilized nearly 150 female inmates" without the approval of top medical officials in Sacramento as state law requires.

The reason for these restrictions should be obvious: the possibility of coercion and manipulation.

According to the report, that's what happened at the California Institution for Women and Valley State Prison for Women.

According to former inmates and prisoner advocates, prison medical staff targeted those they deemed most likely to re-offend. Read more ..


Broken Borders

Some Common Sense on Immigration

July 15th 2013

US/Mex Border fence

lmost three decades ago, I made a "discovery." Virtually all the problems I had been chasing for years, as a reporter in Asia, existed in Mexico. Because of the only land border between what was then called the first and the third worlds, one day it might constitute a security threat for the U.S.
(Mexico: Chaos on our doorstep, Madison Books, 1989, "The Invisible Invasion," documentary, Coalition for Freedom, some PBS stations, 1990).

Much has changed in both Mexico and the U.S., of course. But the current debate on immigration turns around the same old issues. Illegal immigration, delineated in my research then, remains as critical for American policymakers. It all begins and ends with numbers, of course. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Why the Competion of Ideas Matters

July 14th 2013

fencers

It is a uniquely American belief that competition is the fuel for human flourishing. European commentators in early America were amazed at the popular love for what Alexis de Tocqueville called, “self-interest rightly understood.” This competitive ideal, Tocqueville noted, “Is as often asserted by the poor man as by the rich.”

The competitive ideal persists in America, by and large. The World Values Survey (WVS) in 2006 found that 55 percent of Americans told survey researchers, “Competition is good,” versus just 5 percent who said, “Competition is harmful.”

To understand just how much this attitude differs from the rest of the world, consider that the French in 2006 were about half as likely as Americans to say competition is good, nearly five times as likely to say that competition is harmful. Read more ..


The EMP Threat

Time to Shield the U.S. from EMP Threats

July 13th 2013

rural electric lines

Instead of fixating on George Zimmerman's trial, the U.S. media would much better serve the public by probing real existential threats to the U.S. -- threats that would leave them and us in the dark, unable to use any our sophisticated communication gadet, drive, fly, heat/or cool our homes, use our credit cards, obtain cash from the ATM machines, have no water orthe services of other untilities, no funcutioning hospitals, no police, no nothing.  An electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) attack could do all this and more.  The nation's vulnerability to  EMP attack created by the explosion of a nuclear device in the atmosphere, could shut down the electrical grid of the country for a very long time.

Ambassador R. James Woolsey, former Director of Central Intelligence, gave a sobering illustration and warning of this threat at the ACD/s April 9Washington briefing "Cyber Threats & the Economy." It was hardly covered by the press. 

Dr. Peter V. Pry, who has been advising Congress on policies to counter Weapons of Mass Destruction for the last three decades has also published here: "EMP, Congress & The SHIELD Act." Woolsey and Pry together described in an op-ed published by the Wall St. Journal last May, "How North Korea Could Cripple the U.S."--a single nuke exploded above America could cause a national blackout for months. Read more ..


Broken Taxes

A GOP Game Plan for Tax Reform

July 12th 2013

IRS building

Thanks to the efforts of Democratic Sen. Max Baucus and Republican Rep. Dave Camp, Congress will take up tax reform this year. Before the debate begins, however, Republicans need to set out the principles that represent our values. In my 24 years in the House and Senate, I never wrote a bill that represented a 100 percent statement of my values, but I always found it important to know where the North Star was as I tried to navigate through the swamp.

First, under no circumstances should Republicans agree to make the tax system even more progressive than it already is, or to increase the number of people who do not pay income taxes. In 1980, the top 1 percent and 5 percent of income earners in America paid 19.1 percent and 36.9 percent of total federal income taxes. Today, the top 1 percent and 5 percent pay 37.4 percent and 59.1 percent. Meanwhile, 41.6 percent of American earners now pay no federal income taxes. Read more ..


The Edge of Hatred

Why Are Arab Children Taught Racism and Jew-Hatred.

July 12th 2013

Hamas Kid

Well intentioned people like John Kerry cannot understand why it’s so hard to make peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis, despite the fact that “everyone knows” what the eventual settlement will be, and, in the opinion of one BBC reporter, “it could be solved with an email.”

Many, frustrated with the lack of movement towards so obvious and mutually beneficial a goal, tend to blame Israel. This includes not only hard-line anti-Israelis like Walt, Mearsheimer, and Carter, but also good liberals like the editors and op-ed writers at the NYT, Peter Beinart at Open Zion, and all the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobbyists at J-Street. Indeed, at the talk I gave at the Association of Isreal Studies last month, most of the objections centered on my changing the subject from the real problem, “the settlements.”

And, unquestionably, the Israelis are pretty reluctant to make the concessions these well-intentioned people urge upon them, often as thinly veiled threats in the form of eventual boycotts, divestments and sanctions. This reluctance, critics readily attribute to the irredentist desire of the religious zealots who have settled what they call Judea and Samaria and want to hold onto the them, which certainly is one factor, among a relatively small minority in Israel (certainly not an electoral majority.) Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Special Forces can Rescue the US Pivot

July 12th 2013

Navy Seal

The disconnect between U.S. defense cuts and President Obama's strategic pivot toward Asia has raised doubts about whether the policy can live up to its billing. Amid this uncertainty, however, one part of the military is eager to expand its footprint in Asia and make the pivot real, at a relatively low cost – if only Congress would loosen its purse strings.

Admiral William McRaven is the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) in Tampa, Florida. For the past several years, some of his top officers have been creating a plan to use America's special operations forces to radically transform Asia's security environment. The goal is to help America's elite warriors better train Asian militaries and special forces to counter threats such as narcotrafficking and terrorism. In the process, Adm. McRaven says, such training could bring Asian nations together to reduce the risk of future conflict.

When most people think of U.S. special operations forces, they think of Navy SEALs taking out Osama Bin Laden or the Army Delta Force kicking down doors and rescuing hostages. This is what SOCOM calls "direct action." Yet the bread-and-butter of special operations work is the long-term "indirect action" of training foreign military forces and sharing information. While there will always be a need for special forces' ability to execute high-risk missions, their partnering with foreign militaries often pays a higher dividend over time.

Read more ..

The Way We Are

Why The Competition Of Ideas Matters

July 12th 2013

Warren Buffett

It is a uniquely American belief that competition is the fuel for human flourishing. European commentators in early America were amazed at the popular love for what Alexis de Tocqueville called, “self-interest rightly understood.” This competitive ideal, Tocqueville noted, “Is as often asserted by the poor man as by the rich.”

The competitive ideal persists in America, by and large. The World Values Survey (WVS) in 2006 found that 55% of Americans told survey researchers, “Competition is good,” versus just 5% who said, “Competition is harmful.”

To understand just how much this attitude differs from the rest of the world, consider that the French in 2006 were about half as likely as Americans to say competition is good, nearly five times as likely to say that competition is harmful.

Competition in what? Business, sports, and politics, obviously—but other areas as well, that go back to America’s founding. For example, given their radical views on freedom of religion and the separation of church and state, it was clear that America’s founders believed in a competitive market for souls. Read more ..


Broken Politcs

How Spitzer's Fall Showed He Deserves a Second Chance

July 12th 2013

Elliot Spitzer

New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's fall from office and public grace in 2008 was a tragedy in the strictest classical sense: The substance of his offenses paled before the shock of his stupidity and hypocrisy in committing them. You had to worry even more about his mentality than about his morality.

What made the fall so stunning was not his infidelity and how he committed it but the sheer folly of one as tough and experienced as he'd proven himself to be in pursuit of others' far-more-consequential wrongdoings.

That very toughness and experience made his tragedy a public one, because New Yorkers and all Americans at that time needed a real fighter -- one as good as Spitzer was on offense as well as defense -- against the casino-finance, corporate-welfare regime that would soon throw millions of people out of their homes and jobs.

When I first met and wrote about Spitzer in 1995 as a columnist for the New York Daily News, he was no raging, anti-capitalist radical. He wasn't even what you'd call a model civil-libertarian: He co-chaired the advisory board of the American Alliance for Rights and Responsibilities, which was pushing for legal reforms to balance citizens' rights with some new requirements that they meet certain responsibilities. (I cited examples of such cases in the Daily News column.)

Spitzer's fall 13 years later came from his failure to meet his own responsibilities by patronizing a high-end escort service that he, of all people, had to know was on the wrong side of the law in more ways than one. But a long-forgotten irony in that debacle reminds us why we still need a fighter like Spitzer all the more now. It's that some of his inquisitors in the Bush Justice Department were as guilty of malfeasance in Spitzer's case as he was himself, and partly because they were serving moneyed, partisan interests that feared him. Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

Getting Erdoğan Wrong

July 12th 2013

Erdogan

In the aftermath of Turkey's urban uprisings, many have expressed bewilderment at Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's outlandish reaction. Whereas the Prime Minister had multiple opportunities to prevent the demonstrations from escalating, he never missed an opportunity to miss those opportunities, lashing out at foreign and domestic enemies for planning a protest movement that was so obviously spontaneous. As Erdoğan and his mouthpieces have blamed everyone from foreign media and airlines to the "interest rate lobby" and "Jewish diaspora," Erdoğan is rapidly becoming a liability to his foreign friends. President Barack Obama is sure to regret having mentioned Erdoğan as one of the five foreign leaders with which he has the closest "friendship and bonds of trust". Indeed, Erdoğan's Turkey has taken on an important role in Obama's policy toward the Middle East, and according to numerous sources, Erdoğan is among the foreign leaders Obama speaks with most frequently. But Erdoğan's authoritarianism is not new. Anyone watching Turkey for the past several years has had plenty of opportunity to see Erdoğan's slide. Did the White House not know or not care? And what should American policy toward Turkey be now? Read more ..

Afghanistan on Edge

Karzai Spokesman says US Withdrawal is a Pressure Tactic on Afghanistan

July 12th 2013

Click to select Image

Afghan President Hamid Karzai's spokesman has dismissed a New York Times report claiming President Barack Obama is considering an expedited and complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan as a tactic "aimed at putting pressure on Afghanistan." According to RFE/RL, Aimal Faizi said that the "zero option" -- whereby there would be no U.S. troops left in Afghanistan after 2014 -- was never discussed with Kabul. "The complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan is an issue that has never been brought up in joint meetings between Kabul and Washington. The report in The New York Times is aimed at putting pressure on Afghanistan and on public opinion in the country," Faizi said.

"We have already put our conditions to the United States and have clearly told the United States that a final decision regarding the [U.S.-Afghan] security agreement will be made by the people of Afghanistan, and that is through a national jirga," he added, in a reference to the national parliament.
Read more ..


Political Satire

Satire: Letters from the Imam

July 12th 2013

Obama Cairo Speech

Selections from recently discovered and decoded letters written by the Imam of Obama's madrassa he attended in Manilla as a child. The misspellings, and repetitions, are the Imams own as English is not his first or second language. I am struck by his grasp of  America's political process, and how Obama's policies have aided the Imams grand vision..no less than a world wide Caliphate.

(Note to the NSA and IRS...last time I read the constitution, satirical commentary involving public figures is protected free speech. The author has not deliberately insulted muslims, gays, transgenders, liberals, feminists,  developmentally disabled,  and any combinations of above classes, or other politically correct terms for government welfare recipients.) Read more ..


Defense on Edge

Psst, Congress: You Don't Really Know Sequestration's Bite

July 10th 2013

military convoy

After four months, we still know precious little about how sequestration — or automatic budget cuts in the name of debt reduction — is being implemented or what Pentagon priorities are most affected. But one important detail has become clear after the Pentagon recently released two reports. Leaders are trying to navigate near-term fiscal uncertainty, as well as blunt the hard-edged impact of sequester’s blind mechanism for cutting, by applying reductions against both 2013 funding and unobligated balances (money that Congress appropriated but the Pentagon has not spent).

The Pentagon comptroller recently released a report that detailed the impact of sequestration at the program, project and activity level as required by the Budget Control Act. It provides the most specific information yet regarding the impact of sequestration for hundreds of military procurement programs. While the report is not comprehensive (it fails to demonstrate how reductions will impact the eventual number of units procured in a particular program, for example), it provides a valuable glimpse into Pentagon planning and prioritizing — an effort heretofore thought impossible under sequestration. Read more ..


The Edge of Cable News

CNN Now One Big Nancy Grace Show

July 10th 2013

CNN

As of today, I have retired from criticism of CNN for falling short of some sort of journalistic standard that news providers should maintain. That activity no longer makes sense. Let someone else receive the “ratings, you idiot” replies on Twitter. I’m done. I’m pretty sure you don’t care about this announcement, either. Which nicely illustrates why I’m done.

The immediate cause of action is an amusing but also telling column by Jack Shafer of Reuters: In praise of tabloid TV, which explains why critics of CNN are absurd creatures. If you want coverage of Egypt instead of the Zimmerman trial there’s plenty of places to find it and besides audiences have always loved murder trials, so who are you to tell them they shouldn’t? Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

Erdogan's Overweening Racism Now Disparages "Negroes"

July 9th 2013

Obama & Erdogan

One of the key factors about revolutionary Islamism is that it is an innately ant-American and racist doctrine. Usually this is seen through antisemitism or ant-Christian views (since in the case of Islam, religion now seems to have been reintepreted as a race when convenient) but sometimes there are different, but not highly publicized examples, such as the racism employed against Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Palestinian and other Arabic newspaper cartoons.

Can you imagine how the United States would react if someone said something like what Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has just said. Remember that President Barack Obama has flattered endlessly the radical Turkish leader, ignoring insults and the subversion of U.S. interests. Erdogan seems to be Obama’s ideal leader, a “moderate Islamist.” Obama has turned over U.S. Syrian policy to Turkish regime direction. Yet despite Obama's pro-Islamist policy, Erdogan is blaming him for the fall of Egypt's government!  Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Obama and Africa: Guilt Trip or Pivot?

July 8th 2013

Obama

President Obama’s recent visit to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania was written off as a “guilt trip” by some and a “last chance” to salvage an Africa policy legacy by others.

In fact, the initiatives that President Obama introduced during his trip have the potential to be as transformative, if not more so, than those developed by his predecessors, Presidents Clinton and Bush.

True, there was frustration on the continent and in some U.S. policy circles that the Obama administration has not paid more attention to the continent during his first term, frustration which I shared.  His 2009 visit to only one country, Ghana, for less than 24 hours diminished expectations and conveyed a sense of detachment on the part of the first African-American president whose father was from Kenya.

Nevertheless, the president has put in place a number of initiatives that have the potential to reorient U.S. policy on the continent.  Chief among them is Power Africa, which is designed to add 10,000 megawatts of cleaner, more efficient electricity to an estimated 20 million homes and businesses in six countries over the next five years.  The U.S. will commit $7 billion in financial support, and companies such as General Electric, Symbion Power and the African Finance Corporation have pledged more than $9 billion to support the development of at least 8000 megawatts of new electricity. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Al-Qaeda's Jihad on Anti-Morsi Egyptians

July 7th 2013

Islamist Protest PostMorsi

Since Islamists have tasted power -- Salafis, Muslim Brotherhood or al-Qaeda -- it is unlikely that they will quietly release the reins of power without a fight. Now that the Egyptian military appears to have granted the nation's wish—to be rid of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, as millions have been chanting, "Irhal" ["Leave office"] -- al-Qaeda appears to have stepped in.

Hours before Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was sidelined by the military council, Muhammad al-Zawahiri, Egypt's al-Qaeda leader, declared that the terrorist organization would wage a jihad to save Morsi and his Islamist agenda for Egypt. (They would not be the first Islamic terrorists to come to his aid; Hamas members were earlier arrested from inside Muslim Brotherhood headquarters, where they opened fire on protesters.) Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Israel’s Interests in Syria

July 6th 2013

IDF Soldiers

Several prominent Israelis have expressed their preference for a Bashar Assad victory in the civil war in Syria. This is a mistaken attitude for moral and strategic reasons.

First, siding with a dictator that butchers his own people, and even uses chemical weapons in order to stay in power, is morally disgusting. At the normative level, Assad’s brutal dictatorship is not an acceptable preference for a democratic state like Israel, even if the alternatives to Assad are not very enticing. (The Syrian opposition includes radical Sunni elements – such as al-Qaeda – that have not displayed great sensitivity to human rights either.) In the real world there is sometimes a tacit necessity to tolerate a dictatorship for a variety of reasons, but explicit support for it is a moral embarrassment.

Read more ..

Egypt’s Second Revolution

More Muslim Brotherhood Violence Promised

July 5th 2013

ProMorsi Demo Post-Coup

If the world thought the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi would quell the civil unrest and violence in the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities and towns, they may discover that peace and civility is merely wishful thinking, according to an Israeli police and counterterrorism analyst on Thursday.

Already a new round of violent clashes has erupted between Egyptian security forces and Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist supporters of the overthrown President. For example a sit-in for Muslim Brotherhood’s supporters in southwest Cairo developed into a confrontation with Egyptian police officers, according to Samuel Wolinsky.

This latest news story was released following the formation of an Islamist coalition led by the Muslim Brotherhood who called on people across the nation to protest in a “Friday of Rejection." Morsi’s ouster as Egypt's first post-Mubarak president after only one year in office marked has thrown that Arab nation in further turmoil, in spite of the U.S. media's jovial coverage on Tuesday night and Wednesday. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Mr. Rouhani, You’re No Gorbachev

July 4th 2013

Hassan Rowhani

For several days after the election of Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s new president, advocates of engagement with Tehran couldn’t stop smiling. Jack Straw, the former British Foreign Secretary, praised Rouhani as “straightforward and pragmatic to deal with” and expressed hope that the tortuous saga of Iran’s nuclear ambitions would “have a happy ending.” A New York Times editorial solemnly concluded that a rare opportunity to reach a deal over Iran’s nuclear program was now at hand, cautioning that President Obama would have his work cut out dissuading potential spoilers—such as “congressional leaders and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel”—from raising objections.

It’s understandable, if not quite excusable, that the engagement camp is positively joyous at the thought of using the words “moderate,” “pragmatic” and “Iran” in the same sentence. Rouhani’s predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was always a thorn in the side of those who consider Iran what international relations scholars call a “rational actor.” To cynics, he was a gift that kept on giving, someone who could be faithfully relied upon to say something outrageous—denying the Holocaust, threatening Israel with annihilation—just when everyone else was quietly waiting for a breakthrough. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

The Muslim Brotherhood Can't Save Morsi Now

July 3rd 2013

Security Forces Riot Gear

It seems illogical that mass protests should force an elected president from office, especially only a year into a four-year term. But democracy in Egypt, such that it exists, has not been institutionalized, in large part because President Mohamed Morsi failed to govern via consensus. His November 22 constitutional declaration asserting unchecked executive authority and its subsequent withdrawal, which he used to push an Islamist constitution to ratification, permanently alienated Egypt's non-Islamist masses, and they are now fighting his autocratic tactics not in the ballot box, but in the streets. Popular mistrust of political institutions, however, would not normally be sufficient reason to remove an elected leader from office. Egypt's recent history suggests as much: Mass protests have erupted here repeatedly since Hosni Mubarak was ousted two-and-a-half years ago, and the result was never regime change. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Catholic Bishops of Syria Oppose Obama's Arming of Islamist Rebels

July 2nd 2013

Syrian Rebel w/SAW

Christian leaders are warning against arming either Syria’s government or the rebels who vow to bring down the decades-old Assad regime there. Christians and other minorities caught in the two-year-old conflict have been targeted for killing as the fight has degenerated into a sectarian bloodshedding between Shia Muslims and Sunni Muslims.

According to the National Catholic Register, Bishop Nicholas Samra – who leads Catholics of the Melkite rite living in the US – said “We’re seeing what looks like an extermination of Christianity,” adding, “It’s not a healthy situation to help either side militarily at this point.”

His remarks came just days after revelations that Rev. Francois Murad, a Catholic priest, was beheaded along with two other persons by Muslim terrorists who had occupied a monastery. In addition, the whereabouts of two Orthodox Christian bishops, abducted earlier this year by Muslim terrorists, remain unknown. Read more ..


Egypt on Edge

Springing Backward – The Muslim Brotherhood Revolutions

July 2nd 2013

Erdogan

In 2011, Egyptians poured to the streets, risking their lives in quest for a better future, only to have it hijacked by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brothers then set out to deny freedom of expression, destroy Egypt’s economy, impoverish its people and impose shari’a. The ill-fed, fed-up Egyptians seem to have had enough. Millions are protesting iall over the country. Joined by the military, which until now stood on the sidelines, they are demanding the resignation of the tone-deaf Islamist president, Brother Mohamed Morsi.

In Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s growing autocratic conduct and attempts to enforce Islamic law, resulted in month-long clashes with demonstrators demanding reform. The violent suppression of the demonstrations shattered the illusion that Turkey is an exemplary Muslim democracy. It proved, again, that “Islamic democracy” is an oxymoron. Read more ..


Mexico on Edge

Mexico's Wealthy Continue to Grow Despite Narco-War and Recession

July 1st 2013

Mexican soldiers at the beach
Carlos Slim

A Great Recession? Not for Mexico’s rich. In fact, the number of people in the Mexican Republic defined as wealthy by the corporate research outfit WealthInsight grew by almost a third between late 2007 and late 2012, a time when high unemployment and hard times had most people scrambling to make ends meet.

According to WealthInsight, the total number of Mexican residents who held wealth valued at than one million dollars (minus their principal home) reached 145,000 at the end of last year. Of this group, 2,450 people were classified as multi-millionaires.

Overall, the millionaire-plus class possessed a fortune of $736 billion, or 43 percent of the entire amount of individual wealth in Mexico. Sixteen persons were identified as falling in the billionaire category. The 2010 Census counted 112, 336, 538 people inhabiting the country. Read more ..


American History

A Historian Asks: What If Robert E Lee had Fought for the Union?

July 1st 2013

Robert E Lee apotheosis

The United States of America trembled on the brink of her greatest tragedy -- a civil war that would kill a million young men. Seven Southern states had seceded after Abraham Lincoln was elected president as an anti-slavery Republican, with scarcely a single Southern vote. They had been unmoved by his inaugural address, in which he warned them that he had taken a solemn oath to preserve the Union -- and reminded them of their shared heritage, witnessed by the numberless patriot graves in every state.

When Lincoln tried to resupply Fort Sumter, the Federal fort in Charleston, South Carolina’s harbor, the secessionists had responded by bombarding it. The president summoned an army of 75,000 men to suppress an unquestionable rebellion -- and asked Colonel Robert E. Lee of Virginia to take command of it. Suddenly Colonel Lee -- and the nation -- confronted one of the most crucial turning points in American history. What would have happened if he had accepted the president’s offer? Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

Doctors Will Have to Take a Pay Cut Under Obamacare

June 30th 2013

Surgeons

For Obamacare to succeed, American doctors need to earn less money. Last week, Washington took a step in that direction. One of Medicare’s influential advisory boards recommended that payment rates to providers be sanded down.

At present issue are the rates paid to doctors working as part of hospital-owned clinics versus physicians working in their own, independent offices. Right now, when a doctor works as part of hospital owned practice, and bills Medicare, she’s paid more money than what she’d receive for providing the same services in her own independent medical office. That’s because of an arbitrage between Medicare’s inpatient (Part A) and outpatient (Part B) billing schemes.

In part to take advantage of these differentials, hospitals have gone on a buying binge in recent years, purchasing doctor practices. One of their aims was to bring the physicians’ services (and the procedures that doctors perform) under the “Part A” reimbursement scheme, where they can bill at higher rates for the same services. In fact, for hospitals, outpatient services are among their highest profit centers (typically, along with neonatal intensive care units and spine surgery). Read more ..



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