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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 ..


Afghanistan on Edge

The Danger of Talking with the Taliban

June 29th 2013

Taliban

The opening of a Taliban office in Qatar prompted fresh optimism over the prospect of a political settlement being reached that could end the 12-year conflict in Afghanistan. The U.S. and Afghan governments hoped that the insurgent group would agree to renounce violence, cut ties with al Qaeda and accept the Afghan constitution. The Taliban, however, clearly had a different agenda, using the occasion as a publicity stunt to present itself as an alternative government and gain international credibility. And its approach sent shockwaves across Afghanistan.

At the inauguration ceremony in Doha, Taliban representatives reportedly played their official anthem, hoisted their white flag and placed an “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” nameplate outside their embassy-like building. Feeling betrayed by the U.S. and Qatari governments, Afghan President Hamid Karzai almost immediately announced he was boycotting the talks and suspended planned negotiations with Washington over a bilateral security agreement that lays out the legal framework for post-2014 American military presence in Afghanistan. Since then, the peace talks have been placed on hold. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Iranian Terrorism Under 'Moderate' Presidents

June 28th 2013

Rowhani

Hassan Rouhani's victory in Iran's presidential election has been widely heralded as a protest vote against the hardliners and a window of opportunity for diplomatic breakthrough with Western powers. But such assumptions beg the question: just how much moderation should be expected from a "moderate" Iranian president, particularly with regard to state sponsorship of terrorism? Past precedent suggests that expectations should be tempered.

RAFSANJANI'S TERRORISM REPORT CARD
Rouhani is not the first Iranian "moderate" to win the presidency. Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, elected in 1989, was frequently described as a moderate as well. According to U.S. intelligence, however, he oversaw a long string of terrorist plots during his eight years in office.

The CIA linked Rafsanjani to terrorist plots as early as 1985, when he was serving as speaker of parliament. In a February 15, 1985, memo, the agency assessed that "Iranian-sponsored terrorism is the greatest threat to US personnel and facilities in the Middle East...Iranian-backed attacks increased by 30 percent in 1984, and the numbers killed in Iranian-sponsored attacks outpace fatalities in strikes by all other terrorist sponsors. Senior Iranian leaders such as Ayatollah Montazeri,...Prime Minister [Mir Hossein Mousavi], and Consultative Assembly speaker Rafsanjani are implicated in Iranian terrorism." Read more ..


The Way We Are

We Ignore Joblessness Among the Elderly at Our Peril

June 27th 2013

Elderly man

The Great Recession's employment crisis is notable for two reasons. First, the number of long-term unemployed has been much higher than in prior recessions. The percent of unemployed who have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer has been above 40 percent since December 2009, far higher than the previous peak of 26 percent in 1983. Second, those over the age of 55 were particularly hard hit by unemployment.

The two stories are connected. According to our calculations with Bureau of Labor Statistics data, more than fifty percent of unemployed older workers were among the long-term unemployed in 2012. Prior to the recession, this number was 20 percent. Also, today this group accounts for more than 20 percent of all long-term unemployed workers. In other words, addressing the problem of long-term unemployment necessarily involves tackling the challenge of helping older workers find jobs.

To see how older workers respond to job loss, particularly a long spell of unemployment, we examined the Current Population Survey microdata from May 2012 to April 2013. We tracked individuals over the course of the year and noted changes in their situation between the beginning month of the sample and the last month. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Ms. Davis Goes to Austin

June 26th 2013

Texas state capitol

I have a dream. The date is Nov. 1, 2014. The place is Austin, Texas. The candidate is state Sen. Wendy Davis (D), nominated by Texas Democrats to run for governor after a grassroots groundswell that began with her courageous filibuster against an extremist anti-choice bill that was pushed by a Texas Republican governor — a governor who recently declared war against the University of Texas, against pay equity for women and against voting rights and fair representation for Hispanics, and now wages war against the right of choice even for women who are raped.

I have been singing the praises of Wendy Davis of Texas for some time now. If the Good Lord would grant me one political wish, it would be that every Democrat at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue would battle for principle with the spunk, heart, courage, tenacity and grit that the gentlewoman from Fort Worth has shown throughout her career. Read more ..


The Afghanistan War

Exit from Afghanistan--Here we Go Again

June 24th 2013

US 10 MT departing

For those of us who lived through it, current negotiations for the American exit from Afghanistan smells much too much like the end of the U.S. commitment in Vietnam. Washington, after a decade of enormous sacrifice of life and treasure, has chosen to negotiate with the enemy following diplomatic "modalities" pretty much on his terms.

What has faded is Washington's resolve to crush completely the hosts of the perpetrators of 9/11 by setting up an alternative regime in Kabul. Now, whatever the failings of the Karzai government, Washington finds itself in bitter confrontation with its own creature. That parallels the long history of embittered relations with the Saigon regime in the negotiations leading to the Vietnamese Communist victory.

In fact, Pres. Obama's dual strategy at the outset of his first administration was doomed: the surge in the American military effort was vitiated by his simultaneous announcement of a withdrawal deadline. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Hassan Rowhani: A Honey Trap for Iran and the World?

June 23rd 2013

Rowhani

Sayyed Hassan Rowhani, who adopted the color purple during the election campaign, won an overwhelming victory in the first round of the Iranian presidential election with a majority of over 50 percent, leaving Saeed Jalili (who came in second), his bitter rival during the campaign and the favorite of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and certain other conservatives, far behind.

The win for Rowhani, a dyed-in-the-wool member of the revolution, will likely give the Iranian regime medium-term breathing space both at home and abroad. At home, the victory has deflected the pressures of the “Iranian street” and forestalled a (weak) possibility of a “Persian Spring.” Abroad, it will afford Iran breathing space in the international arena to gain a little more time, and possibly to ease the sanctions a bit by presenting the “moderate” Rowhani to the West. The West will likely “adopt” Rowhani – the only cleric among the candidates – and award Iran yet another opportunity to resolve the nuclear issue without a confrontation.

Yet Iran is unlikely to alter its plan to achieve regional hegemony, and will go on exploiting Sunni weakness and American hesitations. In any case, Rowhani does not formulate Iran’s foreign and nuclear policy, which is dictated by Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard. Rowhani could even serve as a sort of buffer between Khamenei and the West, thereby winning more time to complete the nuclear program and move to a “breakout” at the right moment.

The Iranian people voted for the only “reformist” candidate, even though Rowhani is a conservative and part of the regime. Within the rules of the game of the Islamic regime, Rowhani will try to promote freedom of expression and to free some of the detainees (including Mehdi Karroubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who are under house arrest). He is likely, though, to encounter the opposition of the Revolutionary Guard if he tries to move too fast. In 1999 the Revolutionary Guard sent a threatening letter to President Khatami, who instituted far-reaching reforms, in which they warned against continuing such a policy that threatened the Islamic nature of the regime.

Rowhani, unlike Jalili, is a diplomat and a sophisticated negotiator in the nuclear field. In interviews before the 2009 elections, he explained the rationale behind Iran’s decision to suspend uranium enrichment in 2003. It came, he said, from a situation assessment of the regional and international circumstances at that time. “The presence of the United States all around Iran and along its borders, the American invasion of Iraq on the pretext that there was mass-destruction weaponry there, posing the potential threat of a similar move against Iran…these were certainly very uncomfortable circumstances for Iran.”

Rowhani emphasized at the time that, given these conditions, the decision to suspend the uranium-enrichment program was one of the ways to break the international consensus against Iran. In agreeing to suspend enrichment, Rowhani made clear, Iran managed to neutralize any such broad international consensus and to remove the threat of the United States bringing the Iran-related issues to the United Nations Security Council during his tenure as negotiator.

Rowhani also revealed part of Iran’s negotiating strategy with the Western countries; implicit in his remarks is that it was based on deception. He underlined that, while Iran indeed suspended enrichment at Natanz (where Iran enriches uranium in centrifuges), it simultaneously continued its activity at Isfahan, where the uranium-conversion facility is located that produces the UF6 gas needed to supply the centrifuges at Natanz. Rowhani explained that at the time the Isfahan facility was not yet operational and more work and installation of equipment were needed there. He also said Iran did not agree to suspend the assembly of centrifuges; instead it continued that endeavor since it only had a few centrifuges and needed a larger number.

Iran under President Rowhani will keep using similar tactics of cautious, non-defiant diplomacy. The West has obtained its “moderate president.” Iran will exploit this ongoing Western delusional tendency to the end.

Numerous fruitless rounds of nuclear negotiations have been held since Rowhani’s time as negotiator. He was one of those who, carefully and prudently, set Iran on its nuclear course, and it looks as if he will be the one to bring it toward the bomb.

- See more at: http://jcpa.org/hassan-rowhani-a-honey-trap-for-iran-and-the-world/#sthash.LzpewRCR.dpuf

Sayyed Hassan Rowhani, who adopted the color purple during the election campaign, won an overwhelming victory in the first round of the Iranian presidential election with a majority of over 50 percent, leaving Saeed Jalili (who came in second), his bitter rival during the campaign and the favorite of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and certain other conservatives, far behind.

The win for Rowhani, a dyed-in-the-wool member of the revolution, will likely give the Iranian regime medium-term breathing space both at home and abroad. At home, the victory has deflected the pressures of the “Iranian street” and forestalled a (weak) possibility of a “Persian Spring.” Abroad, it will afford Iran breathing space in the international arena to gain a little more time, and possibly to ease the sanctions a bit by presenting the “moderate” Rowhani to the West. The West will likely “adopt” Rowhani – the only cleric among the candidates – and award Iran yet another opportunity to resolve the nuclear issue without a confrontation.

Yet Iran is unlikely to alter its plan to achieve regional hegemony, and will go on exploiting Sunni weakness and American hesitations. In any case, Rowhani does not formulate Iran’s foreign and nuclear policy, which is dictated by Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard. Rowhani could even serve as a sort of buffer between Khamenei and the West, thereby winning more time to complete the nuclear program and move to a “breakout” at the right moment.

The Iranian people voted for the only “reformist” candidate, even though Rowhani is a conservative and part of the regime. Within the rules of the game of the Islamic regime, Rowhani will try to promote freedom of expression and to free some of the detainees (including Mehdi Karroubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who are under house arrest). He is likely, though, to encounter the opposition of the Revolutionary Guard if he tries to move too fast. In 1999 the Revolutionary Guard sent a threatening letter to President Khatami, who instituted far-reaching reforms, in which they warned against continuing such a policy that threatened the Islamic nature of the regime.

Rowhani, unlike Jalili, is a diplomat and a sophisticated negotiator in the nuclear field. In interviews before the 2009 elections, he explained the rationale behind Iran’s decision to suspend uranium enrichment in 2003. It came, he said, from a situation assessment of the regional and international circumstances at that time. “The presence of the United States all around Iran and along its borders, the American invasion of Iraq on the pretext that there was mass-destruction weaponry there, posing the potential threat of a similar move against Iran…these were certainly very uncomfortable circumstances for Iran.”

Rowhani emphasized at the time that, given these conditions, the decision to suspend the uranium-enrichment program was one of the ways to break the international consensus against Iran. In agreeing to suspend enrichment, Rowhani made clear, Iran managed to neutralize any such broad international consensus and to remove the threat of the United States bringing the Iran-related issues to the United Nations Security Council during his tenure as negotiator.

Rowhani also revealed part of Iran’s negotiating strategy with the Western countries; implicit in his remarks is that it was based on deception. He underlined that, while Iran indeed suspended enrichment at Natanz (where Iran enriches uranium in centrifuges), it simultaneously continued its activity at Isfahan, where the uranium-conversion facility is located that produces the UF6 gas needed to supply the centrifuges at Natanz. Rowhani explained that at the time the Isfahan facility was not yet operational and more work and installation of equipment were needed there. He also said Iran did not agree to suspend the assembly of centrifuges; instead it continued that endeavor since it only had a few centrifuges and needed a larger number.

Iran under President Rowhani will keep using similar tactics of cautious, non-defiant diplomacy. The West has obtained its “moderate president.” Iran will exploit this ongoing Western delusional tendency to the end.

Numerous fruitless rounds of nuclear negotiations have been held since Rowhani’s time as negotiator. He was one of those who, carefully and prudently, set Iran on its nuclear course, and it looks as if he will be the one to bring it toward the bomb.

- See more at: http://jcpa.org/hassan-rowhani-a-honey-trap-for-iran-and-the-world/#sthash.LzpewRCR.dpuf

Sayyed Hassan Rowhani, who adopted the color purple during the election campaign, won an overwhelming victory in the first round of the Iranian presidential election with a majority of over 50 percent, leaving Saeed Jalili (who came in second), his bitter rival during the campaign and the favorite of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and certain other conservatives, far behind.

The win for Rowhani, a dyed-in-the-wool member of the revolution, will likely give the Iranian regime medium-term breathing space both at home and abroad. At home, the victory has deflected the pressures of the “Iranian street” and forestalled a (weak) possibility of a “Persian Spring.” Abroad, it will afford Iran breathing space in the international arena to gain a little more time, and possibly to ease the sanctions a bit by presenting the “moderate” Rowhani to the West. The West will likely “adopt” Rowhani – the only cleric among the candidates – and award Iran yet another opportunity to resolve the nuclear issue without a confrontation.

Yet Iran is unlikely to alter its plan to achieve regional hegemony, and will go on exploiting Sunni weakness and American hesitations. In any case, Rowhani does not formulate Iran’s foreign and nuclear policy, which is dictated by Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard. Rowhani could even serve as a sort of buffer between Khamenei and the West, thereby winning more time to complete the nuclear program and move to a “breakout” at the right moment.

The Iranian people voted for the only “reformist” candidate, even though Rowhani is a conservative and part of the regime. Within the rules of the game of the Islamic regime, Rowhani will try to promote freedom of expression and to free some of the detainees (including Mehdi Karroubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who are under house arrest). He is likely, though, to encounter the opposition of the Revolutionary Guard if he tries to move too fast. In 1999 the Revolutionary Guard sent a threatening letter to President Khatami, who instituted far-reaching reforms, in which they warned against continuing such a policy that threatened the Islamic nature of the regime.

Rowhani, unlike Jalili, is a diplomat and a sophisticated negotiator in the nuclear field. In interviews before the 2009 elections, he explained the rationale behind Iran’s decision to suspend uranium enrichment in 2003. It came, he said, from a situation assessment of the regional and international circumstances at that time. “The presence of the United States all around Iran and along its borders, the American invasion of Iraq on the pretext that there was mass-destruction weaponry there, posing the potential threat of a similar move against Iran…these were certainly very uncomfortable circumstances for Iran.”

Rowhani emphasized at the time that, given these conditions, the decision to suspend the uranium-enrichment program was one of the ways to break the international consensus against Iran. In agreeing to suspend enrichment, Rowhani made clear, Iran managed to neutralize any such broad international consensus and to remove the threat of the United States bringing the Iran-related issues to the United Nations Security Council during his tenure as negotiator.

Rowhani also revealed part of Iran’s negotiating strategy with the Western countries; implicit in his remarks is that it was based on deception. He underlined that, while Iran indeed suspended enrichment at Natanz (where Iran enriches uranium in centrifuges), it simultaneously continued its activity at Isfahan, where the uranium-conversion facility is located that produces the UF6 gas needed to supply the centrifuges at Natanz. Rowhani explained that at the time the Isfahan facility was not yet operational and more work and installation of equipment were needed there. He also said Iran did not agree to suspend the assembly of centrifuges; instead it continued that endeavor since it only had a few centrifuges and needed a larger number.

Iran under President Rowhani will keep using similar tactics of cautious, non-defiant diplomacy. The West has obtained its “moderate president.” Iran will exploit this ongoing Western delusional tendency to the end.

Numerous fruitless rounds of nuclear negotiations have been held since Rowhani’s time as negotiator. He was one of those who, carefully and prudently, set Iran on its nuclear course, and it looks as if he will be the one to bring it toward the bomb.

- See more at: http://jcpa.org/hassan-rowhani-a-honey-trap-for-iran-and-the-world/#sthash.LzpewRCR.dpuf

Sayyed Hassan Rowhani, who adopted the color purple during the election campaign, won an overwhelming victory in the first round of the Iranian presidential election with a majority of over 50 percent, leaving Saeed Jalili (who came in second), his bitter rival during the campaign and the favorite of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and certain other conservatives, far behind.

The win for Rowhani, a dyed-in-the-wool member of the revolution, will likely give the Iranian regime medium-term breathing space both at home and abroad. At home, the victory has deflected the pressures of the “Iranian street” and forestalled a (weak) possibility of a “Persian Spring.” Abroad, it will afford Iran breathing space in the international arena to gain a little more time, and possibly to ease the sanctions a bit by presenting the “moderate” Rowhani to the West. The West will likely “adopt” Rowhani – the only cleric among the candidates – and award Iran yet another opportunity to resolve the nuclear issue without a confrontation.

Yet Iran is unlikely to alter its plan to achieve regional hegemony, and will go on exploiting Sunni weakness and American hesitations. In any case, Rowhani does not formulate Iran’s foreign and nuclear policy, which is dictated by Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard. Rowhani could even serve as a sort of buffer between Khamenei and the West, thereby winning more time to complete the nuclear program and move to a “breakout” at the right moment.

The Iranian people voted for the only “reformist” candidate, even though Rowhani is a conservative and part of the regime. Within the rules of the game of the Islamic regime, Rowhani will try to promote freedom of expression and to free some of the detainees (including Mehdi Karroubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who are under house arrest). He is likely, though, to encounter the opposition of the Revolutionary Guard if he tries to move too fast. In 1999 the Revolutionary Guard sent a threatening letter to President Khatami, who instituted far-reaching reforms, in which they warned against continuing such a policy that threatened the Islamic nature of the regime.

Rowhani, unlike Jalili, is a diplomat and a sophisticated negotiator in the nuclear field. In interviews before the 2009 elections, he explained the rationale behind Iran’s decision to suspend uranium enrichment in 2003. It came, he said, from a situation assessment of the regional and international circumstances at that time. “The presence of the United States all around Iran and along its borders, the American invasion of Iraq on the pretext that there was mass-destruction weaponry there, posing the potential threat of a similar move against Iran…these were certainly very uncomfortable circumstances for Iran.”

Rowhani emphasized at the time that, given these conditions, the decision to suspend the uranium-enrichment program was one of the ways to break the international consensus against Iran. In agreeing to suspend enrichment, Rowhani made clear, Iran managed to neutralize any such broad international consensus and to remove the threat of the United States bringing the Iran-related issues to the United Nations Security Council during his tenure as negotiator.

Rowhani also revealed part of Iran’s negotiating strategy with the Western countries; implicit in his remarks is that it was based on deception. He underlined that, while Iran indeed suspended enrichment at Natanz (where Iran enriches uranium in centrifuges), it simultaneously continued its activity at Isfahan, where the uranium-conversion facility is located that produces the UF6 gas needed to supply the centrifuges at Natanz. Rowhani explained that at the time the Isfahan facility was not yet operational and more work and installation of equipment were needed there. He also said Iran did not agree to suspend the assembly of centrifuges; instead it continued that endeavor since it only had a few centrifuges and needed a larger number.

Iran under President Rowhani will keep using similar tactics of cautious, non-defiant diplomacy. The West has obtained its “moderate president.” Iran will exploit this ongoing Western delusional tendency to the end.

Numerous fruitless rounds of nuclear negotiations have been held since Rowhani’s time as negotiator. He was one of those who, carefully and prudently, set Iran on its nuclear course, and it looks as if he will be the one to bring it toward the bomb.

- See more at: http://jcpa.org/hassan-rowhani-a-honey-trap-for-iran-and-the-world/#sthash.LzpewRCR.dpuf

Sayyed Hassan Rowhani, who adopted the color purple during the election campaign, won an overwhelming victory in the first round of the Iranian presidential election with a majority of over 50 percent, leaving Saeed Jalili (who came in second), his bitter rival during the campaign and the favorite of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and certain other conservatives, far behind.

The win for Rowhani, a dyed-in-the-wool member of the revolution, will likely give the Iranian regime medium-term breathing space both at home and abroad. At home, the victory has deflected the pressures of the “Iranian street” and forestalled a (weak) possibility of a “Persian Spring.” Abroad, it will afford Iran breathing space in the international arena to gain a little more time, and possibly to ease the sanctions a bit by presenting the “moderate” Rowhani to the West. The West will likely “adopt” Rowhani – the only cleric among the candidates – and award Iran yet another opportunity to resolve the nuclear issue without a confrontation.

Yet Iran is unlikely to alter its plan to achieve regional hegemony, and will go on exploiting Sunni weakness and American hesitations. In any case, Rowhani does not formulate Iran’s foreign and nuclear policy, which is dictated by Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard. Rowhani could even serve as a sort of buffer between Khamenei and the West, thereby winning more time to complete the nuclear program and move to a “breakout” at the right moment.

The Iranian people voted for the only “reformist” candidate, even though Rowhani is a conservative and part of the regime. Within the rules of the game of the Islamic regime, Rowhani will try to promote freedom of expression and to free some of the detainees (including Mehdi Karroubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who are under house arrest). He is likely, though, to encounter the opposition of the Revolutionary Guard if he tries to move too fast. In 1999 the Revolutionary Guard sent a threatening letter to President Khatami, who instituted far-reaching reforms, in which they warned against continuing such a policy that threatened the Islamic nature of the regime.

Rowhani, unlike Jalili, is a diplomat and a sophisticated negotiator in the nuclear field. In interviews before the 2009 elections, he explained the rationale behind Iran’s decision to suspend uranium enrichment in 2003. It came, he said, from a situation assessment of the regional and international circumstances at that time. “The presence of the United States all around Iran and along its borders, the American invasion of Iraq on the pretext that there was mass-destruction weaponry there, posing the potential threat of a similar move against Iran…these were certainly very uncomfortable circumstances for Iran.”

Rowhani emphasized at the time that, given these conditions, the decision to suspend the uranium-enrichment program was one of the ways to break the international consensus against Iran. In agreeing to suspend enrichment, Rowhani made clear, Iran managed to neutralize any such broad international consensus and to remove the threat of the United States bringing the Iran-related issues to the United Nations Security Council during his tenure as negotiator.

Rowhani also revealed part of Iran’s negotiating strategy with the Western countries; implicit in his remarks is that it was based on deception. He underlined that, while Iran indeed suspended enrichment at Natanz (where Iran enriches uranium in centrifuges), it simultaneously continued its activity at Isfahan, where the uranium-conversion facility is located that produces the UF6 gas needed to supply the centrifuges at Natanz. Rowhani explained that at the time the Isfahan facility was not yet operational and more work and installation of equipment were needed there. He also said Iran did not agree to suspend the assembly of centrifuges; instead it continued that endeavor since it only had a few centrifuges and needed a larger number.

Iran under President Rowhani will keep using similar tactics of cautious, non-defiant diplomacy. The West has obtained its “moderate president.” Iran will exploit this ongoing Western delusional tendency to the end.

Numerous fruitless rounds of nuclear negotiations have been held since Rowhani’s time as negotiator. He was one of those who, carefully and prudently, set Iran on its nuclear course, and it looks as if he will be the one to bring it toward the bomb.

- See more at: http://jcpa.org/hassan-rowhani-a-honey-trap-for-iran-and-the-world/#sthash.LzpewRCR.dpuf

Sayyed Hassan Rowhani, who adopted the color purple during the election campaign, won an overwhelming victory in the first round of the Iranian presidential election with a majority of over 50 percent, leaving Saeed Jalili (who came in second), his bitter rival during the campaign and the favorite of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and certain other conservatives, far behind.

The win for Rowhani, a dyed-in-the-wool member of the revolution, will likely give the Iranian regime medium-term breathing space both at home and abroad. At home, the victory has deflected the pressures of the “Iranian street” and forestalled a (weak) possibility of a “Persian Spring.” Abroad, it will afford Iran breathing space in the international arena to gain a little more time, and possibly to ease the sanctions a bit by presenting the “moderate” Rowhani to the West. The West will likely “adopt” Rowhani – the only cleric among the candidates – and award Iran yet another opportunity to resolve the nuclear issue without a confrontation.

Yet Iran is unlikely to alter its plan to achieve regional hegemony, and will go on exploiting Sunni weakness and American hesitations. In any case, Rowhani does not formulate Iran’s foreign and nuclear policy, which is dictated by Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard. Rowhani could even serve as a sort of buffer between Khamenei and the West, thereby winning more time to complete the nuclear program and move to a “breakout” at the right moment.

The Iranian people voted for the only “reformist” candidate, even though Rowhani is a conservative and part of the regime. Within the rules of the game of the Islamic regime, Rowhani will try to promote freedom of expression and to free some of the detainees (including Mehdi Karroubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who are under house arrest). He is likely, though, to encounter the opposition of the Revolutionary Guard if he tries to move too fast. In 1999 the Revolutionary Guard sent a threatening letter to President Khatami, who instituted far-reaching reforms, in which they warned against continuing such a policy that threatened the Islamic nature of the regime.

Rowhani, unlike Jalili, is a diplomat and a sophisticated negotiator in the nuclear field. In interviews before the 2009 elections, he explained the rationale behind Iran’s decision to suspend uranium enrichment in 2003. It came, he said, from a situation assessment of the regional and international circumstances at that time. “The presence of the United States all around Iran and along its borders, the American invasion of Iraq on the pretext that there was mass-destruction weaponry there, posing the potential threat of a similar move against Iran…these were certainly very uncomfortable circumstances for Iran.”

Rowhani emphasized at the time that, given these conditions, the decision to suspend the uranium-enrichment program was one of the ways to break the international consensus against Iran. In agreeing to suspend enrichment, Rowhani made clear, Iran managed to neutralize any such broad international consensus and to remove the threat of the United States bringing the Iran-related issues to the United Nations Security Council during his tenure as negotiator.

Rowhani also revealed part of Iran’s negotiating strategy with the Western countries; implicit in his remarks is that it was based on deception. He underlined that, while Iran indeed suspended enrichment at Natanz (where Iran enriches uranium in centrifuges), it simultaneously continued its activity at Isfahan, where the uranium-conversion facility is located that produces the UF6 gas needed to supply the centrifuges at Natanz. Rowhani explained that at the time the Isfahan facility was not yet operational and more work and installation of equipment were needed there. He also said Iran did not agree to suspend the assembly of centrifuges; instead it continued that endeavor since it only had a few centrifuges and needed a larger number.

Iran under President Rowhani will keep using similar tactics of cautious, non-defiant diplomacy. The West has obtained its “moderate president.” Iran will exploit this ongoing Western delusional tendency to the end.

Numerous fruitless rounds of nuclear negotiations have been held since Rowhani’s time as negotiator. He was one of those who, carefully and prudently, set Iran on its nuclear course, and it looks as if he will be the one to bring it toward the bomb.

- See more at: http://jcpa.org/hassan-rowhani-a-honey-trap-for-iran-and-the-world/#sthash.LzpewRCR.dpuf

Sayyed Hassan Rowhani, who adopted the color purple during the election campaign, won an overwhelming victory in the first round of the Iranian presidential election with a majority of over 50 percent, leaving Saeed Jalili (who came in second), his bitter rival during the campaign and the favorite of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and certain other conservatives, far behind.

The win for Rowhani, a dyed-in-the-wool member of the revolution, will likely give the Iranian regime medium-term breathing space both at home and abroad. At home, the victory has deflected the pressures of the “Iranian street” and forestalled a (weak) possibility of a “Persian Spring.” Abroad, it will afford Iran breathing space in the international arena to gain a little more time, and possibly to ease the sanctions a bit by presenting the “moderate” Rowhani to the West. The West will likely “adopt” Rowhani – the only cleric among the candidates – and award Iran yet another opportunity to resolve the nuclear issue without a confrontation. Read more ..


Broken Banking

Senators Grill Treasury Official about Debit Card Program

June 23rd 2013

Democrats on the Senate Special Committee for Aging pummeled a Treasury official Wednesday with questions about the effort to replace paper checks with electronic payments to mostly poor and elderly beneficiaries of government programs.

Questioning Treasury Fiscal Assistant Secretary Richard Gregg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts repeatedly expressed her concern about the decision to pay an additional $30 million to Comerica Bank that was not in its original contract.

Comerica issues a taxpayer-subsidized debit card that the government is pressuring beneficiaries to use if they haven't already signed up for direct deposit.

Unsatisfied with Gregg's response that the nature of the deal changed between 2008, when Comerica offered to perform the service for free, and 2010, when the Treasury Department agreed to the additional millions, Warren repeatedly interrupted his answers. “Mr. Secretary, let me stop you there,” she said at one point. “My question is about the contract … and that we agreed to give Comerica — we, the U.S. government, through Treasury — an additional $30 million without knowing if they were already making substantial profits on this contract or not.” Read more ..


After the Holocaust

ADL Withdraws Honorary Status for Giovanni Palatucci

June 22nd 2013

Abraham Foxman Color cropped
Abraham H. Foxman

In view of new historical evidence that has come to light documenting that an Italian police official, Giovanni Palatucci, did not play a role in rescuing Jews during the Holocaust as was widely believed and may have in fact been a Nazi collaborator, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) will no longer present law enforcement officials with an award named for him.

We know now what we did not know then, which is that Giovanni Palatucci was not the rescuer he was made out to be. We thank the historians for their efforts to bring the truth to light, and as a result of their research we have decided to disassociate our law enforcement award from his name.

Palatucci was long credited with saving thousands of Jews during the Holocaust while he was police chief in Fiume, Italy, and has been recognized by Yad Vashem as one of the Righteous Among the Nations.  But a panel of historians and scholars, after examining hundreds of documents, has recently concluded that Palatucci was “a willing executioner of the racial legislation” and may have even collaborated with the Mussolini government in helping to identify Jews for deportation.

Palatucci was recognized with ADL’s Courage to Care Award in 2005 and, since 2007, the League has bestowed the ADL Giovanni Palatucci Courageous Leadership Award in honor of Italian and American law enforcement officials who have exemplified leadership in the fight against extremism, bigotry and terrorism. 

Read more ..

The New Venezuela

Jimmy Carter Gives Seal of Approval to Venezuela Election

June 21st 2013

Jimmy Carter

When the Venezuelan tyrant Hugo Chavez passed away back in March, one notably unctuous commemorative tribute came from former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. “Although we have not agreed with all of the methods followed by his government, we have never doubted Hugo Chavez’s commitment to improving the lives of millions of his fellow countrymen,” the statement, carried on the website of the Carter Center, intoned. Carter then praised the “positive legacies” of a man famous for embracing genocidal dictators like Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, before ending with a vague plea to Chavez’s successors to forge a “new consensus” in taking the country forward.

Three months and one disputed election later, has Carter revised these views? As the Miami Herald’s Andres Oppenheimer discovered this week when he interviewed Carter, the answer is a resounding no.

“Would Carter now approve of the results of Venezuela’s April 14 elections, which according to the pro-government National Electoral Council (CNE) were won by Chavez protégé Nicolas Maduro?” Oppenheimer asked. “Would he give some credence to opposition leader Henrique Capriles’ claims that the election had been stolen from him?” Carter’s responses on these matters were an artful fusion of tired platitudes with flagrant untruths. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syria: Pick Your Poison…or Pass the Cup

June 20th 2013

Syrian Fighters w/RPGs

President Obama met with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G8 summit this week to discuss many things, but the biggest topic appeared to be their differences over Syria. One look at a picture of their meeting tells you how poorly it went.Syria has been in the midst of a civil war for 2 years. The rebels were a late bloom of the Arab Spring—beginning while the Western world was occupied with Libya. President Obama has largely avoided getting involved, but recently cited reports of chemical weapon usage for declaring that Syrian “President” Bashar al-Assad must go. Obama backed himself into the same corner when he said Qaddafi must go last year. Furthermore, the UK and France forced the White House to openly agree to supply arms to the rebels. Read more ..


The Arab Winter

The Arab Impasse

June 19th 2013

2012 Egyptian Elections

The Arab Spring has failed.  The Sunni Renaissance has floundered. And all in the space of three years.  In a review of Arab history, one searches in vain for a comparable epoch of chaos and confusion.

Egypt under Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan al-Muslimun) is a mess. So too is Libya. And Tunisia under the Muslim Brothers and eminence gris Rachid Ghannouchi is not much better. The Khartoum government, yet another Ikhwan outpost, is a state whose riverain core is under attack by its periphery. The Sudanese remain as they always have been--bogus genealogies to the contrary--more African than Arab. Ditto, Mauretania.  Algeria will remain a military dictatorship for the foreseeable future, while the Moroccan throne totters.    Read more ..


Broken Intelligence

People, Privacy and Fear

June 18th 2013

NSA

The American people often prove to be more sophisticated about themselves, their rights, and their government than they get credit for. Even if they can't enumerate the clauses, most people know the Bill of Rights is designed to restrict the government's ability to curb their speech or religious practice; take their weapons; search their persons or property without a warrant; make them incriminate themselves; deny them a lawyer, a speedy trial, and a jury of their peers; or set excessive bail. Some people know that at least in peacetime, the Army can't live in your house without your permission. But they're not absolutists about it.

Even after the discovery that the Federal Government has been collecting voluminous data -- including aggregated information on credit card usage, e-mails, telephones and EZ-passes -- on American citizens, the Pew Research Company found that 56 percent of Americans consider it "acceptable" for the NSA to get "secret court orders to track calls of millions of Americans to investigate terrorism," while 41 percdent said it was not. In addition, 62 percent say, "it is more important for the government to investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that intrudes on personal privacy," while 34 percent reject government intrusion, "even if that limits its ability to investigate possible terrorist threats."  Read more ..


Broken Healthcare

An Outbreak of Bipartisanship

June 17th 2013

US Capital Day

Folks, there is reason to be hopeful that our lawmakers can put aside their ideological differences every now and then and do what makes sense for constituents.

In fact, last week some of the people we have elected to represent us — at least at the state level — even showed a willingness to put careers at risk by doing what they believe is the right thing.

One of the most contentious issues during state legislative sessions this year has been whether to expand the Medicaid program for low-income individuals and families, as Congress intended when it enacted health care reform three years ago.

The state-level debate was made necessary when the Supreme Court ruled last year that Congress can’t force the states to expand their Medicaid programs, even if the feds will always cover no less than 90 percent of the cost. Medicaid is jointly funded by the states and the federal government. Read more ..


Brazil on Edge

Occupy Mato Grosso: Brazil's Native People Rise Up

June 17th 2013

Yanomami in Brazil

In the last two years, media outlets have reported the actions of the so-called “Occupy” movement that began on Wall Street and subsequently spread across the globe. Beyond the individual episodes, occupying has nowadays become a way of life to raise voices against social and economic inequalities and injustices all over the world. Brazil is not an exception, nor is the phenomenon likely to disappear soon.

On June 3, 2013, the website of the Italian newspaper La Stampa included a piece titled “Occupy Mato Grosso—La Protesta Degli Indios Brasiliani” (“Occupy Mato Grosso—The Protest of Brazilian Indigenous Peoples”). But what is this protest about? Which injustices are the Brazilian Mato Grosso experiencing today? Read more ..


The Economy on Edge

The Sub-Bachelor STEM Economy

June 16th 2013

university students and laptops

To make it in this economy, you have to have skills that customers or employers value. The need for skilled workers is at the heart of debates about immigration policy, innovation, education, and opportunity. It raises questions about how to better prepare students, spark entrepreneurship, and spur innovation as part of the broader quest to revamp our stagnant economy and bring more Americans into the middle class.

But these questions can’t be answered without a proper definition of our skilled workforce, and we don’t have that. It is well established that knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects leads to high-paying careers, but we have the misconception that all STEM workers are advanced degree holders.

As my new report shows, half of America’s highly-skilled technical workers do not possess a doctorate or even a bachelor’s degree. Instead their knowledge is acquired through a combination of on-the-job-training, experience, and relatively short periods of post-secondary education. These are unheralded STEM jobs, in the background of every city and town, far removed the public accolades, or support, reserved for scientists and tech workers. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Pentagon Must Change the Way It Does Business

June 15th 2013

Chuck Hagel

On increasingly rare occasions, the relentless cacophony inside the Beltway gives way to harmony. Such was the case last week when the doyens of DC’s think-tank community united their voices to urge painful yet necessary Pentagon reforms. On Monday, a group of 25 scholars from ten different think tanks released an open letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and senior congressional leaders of the defense committees on June 3 in The Hill newspaper.

The authors issued a clarion call on the need for quick action on excess bases, the size and structure of the defense civilian workforce, and make-up of military compensation. Many of the necessary measures will face steep political resistance from entrenched interests in both branches of government as well as many communities and constituencies across America. While all of these concerns must be weighed equally, what should not get lost is the other key Pentagon priority to provide service members the cutting-edge tools and training, maintenance, and readiness they need to fight and win as safely, effectively, and quickly as possible. Yet this is increasingly a zero-sum outcome if policymakers continue to allow DoD structural costs to squeeze the defense budget from within. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

A Rapidly Evolving World

June 14th 2013

North America sat image

As a diplomat for 42 years, 16 of which I spent at the Elysée, under three presidents (Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy), I’ve always believed that one of the most difficult tasks of an advisor involved in the action is to understand the long-term consequences of key events beyond their immediate impact, which can be misleading.

To take the image of a game of chess, how can you think not just tactically but strategically, calculating not just the next move but the fifth or sixth one down the line, based on all the possible reactions of the other player? With an additional difficulty: In international relations, the number of players—both state and non-state—is considerable.

The demise of the Soviet Empire and reforms in China marked the end of a century of ideologies. The market economy now reigned supreme.
Without rewriting history, it’s possible to illustrate my remarks by looking at key moments in recent decades that eventually led to upheavals that were unsuspected at the time.

1979: Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan on Christmas day. The USSR was on the offensive, making gains in Africa, Angola and Ethiopia. Faced with this event, along with the loss of an ally, Iran, and bogged down in the Teheran hostage crisis, President Carter projected an image of America on the defensive. This was also true on the economic front, due to the meteoric rise of Japan, which was buying up Hollywood properties and the Empire State Building. According to a number of analysts, it was about to become the world’s leading economic power. Read more ..


The Mideast on Edge

New Iran Crisis Looming

June 12th 2013

Iran Nuclear Equipment centrifuges

At a time when news headlines from the Middle East are dominated by battles in Syria, growing Sunni-Shi'ite conflict in Iraq and Lebanon, and mass disturbances in Turkey, it is easy to forget about Iran's nuclear program; but early warning indicators are signaling an impending, explosive crisis over Iran's refusal to halt its covert nuclear weapons program. At enrichment facilities in Natanz and Fordow, Iran is continuing to inch closer to the point of nuclear breakout, as a report by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently noted.

The report confirmed what defense analysts had been saying for months: that Iran installed hundreds of additional centrifuges for uranium enrichment, enhancing its nuclear program, while continuing enrichment activities. Tehran has also taken steps to create a parallel path to nuclear weapons through its plutonium plant at Arak. Iranian engineers are constructing a reactor at the heavy water plant at Arak, which could enable the production of a plutonium-based atomic bomb.  Read more ..


Broken Government

IRS Seeks Advanced Surveillance Equipment

June 12th 2013

IRS building

Internal Revenue Service snoops are seeking to purchase surveillance equipment from an “undisclosed Corporation,” according to a solicitation the agency posted on June 6. The tax agency expects to close the deal on June 10.  The purchase order includes cameras hidden in coffee trays, plants and clock radios. “The Internal Revenue Service intends to award a Purchase Order to an undisclosed Corporation,” reads the solicitation. Furthermore, it says “The following descriptions are vague due to the use and nature of the items.” Continuing, the solicitation says, “If you feel that you can provide the following equipment, please respond to this email no later than 4 days after the solicitation date.”  Read more ..

The Race for EVs

Alternative Fuel Automobiles are No Cure-All for Environmental Woes

June 12th 2013

Click to select Image

Making cars more fuel-efficient is great for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but rather than promoting sales of electric and other alternative-fuel vehicles, policymakers should turn their focus to cutting emissions in other energy sectors—from oil wells and power plants to farms and forests affected by biofuels production—says a University of Michigan researcher.

"While the rush to get alternative fuels on the road has become dogma in many policy circles, such haste cannot be justified by careful analysis," said John DeCicco, a research professor at the U-M Energy Institute and professor of practice at the School of Natural Resources and Environment.

Alternative fuel vehicles have been promoted for decades—plug-in electric cars as well as those powered by ethanol, natural gas, hydrogen or other nonpetroleum fuels. Federal tax credits for electric vehicles range up to $7,500 per car and many other alternative fuels are also subsidized. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

46 Years of "No"

June 11th 2013

Dome-of-the-Rock

At the end of August 1967, shortly after the Six Day War, the heads of Arab states held a special conference in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, where the three famous "Nos" were decided on: No to peace with Israel; no to the recognition of Israel; and no to negotiations with Israel. The PLO representative at the conference, Ahmad Shukeiri, was even more extreme and called for an active military struggle against Israel. The heads of Arab states believed the superpowers would do their work for them and pressure Israel to withdraw.

Forty-six years have passed, and nothing has changed in relation to the Arabs who are dubbed Palestinians. Yasser Arafat replaced Shukeiri, and Mahmoud Abbas replaced Arafat, but the three "Nos" remained as they were. The chairman of the Palestinian Authority (which the Palestinians insist on calling a "state") is not willing to reach a peace agreement with Israel; he is not willing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state; and he is not willing to negotiate with it. Read more ..



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