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China on Edge

Chinese Growth, GDP, and Other Things the U.S. Should Doubt

January 21st 2013

Soldiers

The first question regarding China’s newly released economic numbers is not how fast the People’s Republic of China (PRC) grew last year. Rather, it is whether stars are aligned for the State Statistical Bureau (SSB) to provide accurate information about GDP and more useful measures, such as household consumption.

Answer: to some extent. The Chinese economy is undergoing a cyclical recovery and the SSB can honestly report a noticeable improvement.

There are two large qualifiers to this happy statement. First, the SSB never provides much valuable information due to political imperatives and flaws in GDP accounting itself. Second, the recovery is cyclical, not structural. The PRC’s economy structurally weakened under Hu Jintao’s outgoing government and, until market reform restarts, slow weakening will continue. Chinese data do not reflect this weakness and, therefore, incentives at work in Beijing. The U.S. needs its own measurements of China’s economy as the first step toward better policymaking. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

White House: Deeper Policy Thinking on Morsi

January 20th 2013

Morsi

When it came to light that Egypt’s new president had made blatantly antisemitic (in the Western context today they could also be called racist) remarks, it finally became necessary--albeit only when the New York Times covered a story (putting it in the most apologetic light, by the way) that's been evident during many years--for the U.S. government to reluctantly and grudgingly remark on these statements, through the medium of spokesman Jay Carney. A State Department statement said that Mursi's saying he is against intolerance was an important first step and expected him to show that he believed in religious tolerance.

My problem in dealing with such statements is that they are seen as  isolated acts. As I’ve been writing now for about 30 years, the Muslim Brotherhood has always talked this way as do Hamas, Hizballah, the Ba’th Party, the Iranian regime, and many—though not all—Arab intellectuals, journalists, politicians, and journalists  in living memory. In fact, already a new Mursi statement has surfaced, "We must nurse children on hatred towards Jews."  Note he did not add, until I become president and then we can start teaching them to live in peace with others of different faiths. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Party Organizers Pull Plug On Lupe Fiasco After Anti-Obama Performance

January 20th 2013

Obama

The organizers at an event celebrating startup companies pulled the plug on rapper Lupe Fiasco Sunday night after he reportedly performed an an anti-war song criticizing President Obama for half an hour. "Lupe Fiasco performed at this private event, and as you may have read, he left the stage earlier than we had planned," organizers said in a statement. "But Lupe Fiasco was not 'kicked off stage' for an 'anti-Obama rant.' We are staunch supporters of free speech, and free political speech. This was not about his opinions. Instead, after a bizarrely repetitive, jarring performance that left the crowd vocally dissatisfied, organizers decided to move on to the next act."

Video of the performance posted to BuzzFeed shows the artist criticizing the president along with prominent conservative commentators. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Kerry, Powell, and Hagel

January 19th 2013

Obama

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and nominated by President Obama to serve as secretary of State, stands foursquare in a bipartisan national-security tradition that has served America well for generations. Former Secretary of State, National Security Adviser, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and U.S. Army Gen. Colin Powell stands solidly in this bipartisan tradition. Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), nominated by President Obama to serve as secretary of Defense, whom Powell correctly called “superbly qualified,” and who is currently chairman of the Atlantic Council and co-chairman of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, similarly stands with this bipartisan security tradition.

It is important, and profound, that Hagel is strongly supported by so many former officials who served President Reagan and other Republican presidents and so many senior retired military officers, former U.S. ambassadors to Israel and leading diplomats who served presidents of both parties. Read more ..


America's Darkest Edge

NRA Stumbles in Fight with Obama Over Gun-Control Proposals

January 19th 2013

Bullets

Facing its toughest fight over gun reform in decades, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has stumbled out of the gate. The powerful gun-lobby group responded to last month's Newtown, Conn., massacre with a defiant press conference calling for more guns in schools, then doubled down this week with an in-your-face web ad that drew President Obama's young daughters into the fray.

To be sure, the NRA — which did not respond to a request to comment for this story — remains an enormous influence on Capitol Hill, and there’s no evidence its actions have increased the likelihood that Obama's ambitious gun-reform agenda can move this year, even through the Democratically controlled Senate. Yet the public relations missteps have given Obama an opening in the difficult fight by making him look like the more reasonable party, even as it has made the NRA look out of touch with mainstream thinking. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

The Demise of North African Dictators and the Rise of al-Qaeda

January 19th 2013

Tourag at Timbuktu

Muammar Qaddafi's warning that his removal will open the door to al-Qaeda's takeover of the region, dragging it into chaos, didn't take too long to materialize. The links between the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has been known at the  time France intervened on behalf of the LIFG during NATO's attack on Libya,"providing weapons, training, special forces and even aircraft to support them in the overthrow of Libya's government."  Now France, and soon other countries will be mired in Mali. And if the recent past is of any indication, Algeria and West African countries could be AQIM'S and other jihadist groups next target.

Analyzing the situation in globalresearch.ca, Tony Cartalucci, points out that NATO has turned Libya into a Western-sponsored sanctuary for al Qaeda, and was right saying that "AQIM's headway in northern Mali and now French involvement will see the conflict inevitably spill over into Algeria." Read more ..


Broken Government

Wake Up, Socially Liberal Fiscal Conservatives

January 18th 2013

Congress-senate

Dear Socially Liberal Fiscal-Conservative Friend, That’s pretty toothy, so I’m going to call you “Bob.”

But whatever specific name you go by, Bob, you know who you are. You’re the sort of person who says to his conservative friends or co-workers something like, “I would totally vote for Republicans if they could just give up on these crazy social issues.”

When you explain your votes for Barack Obama, you talk about how Republicans used to be much more moderate and focused on important things such as low taxes, fiscal discipline, and balanced budgets.

When Colin Powell was on "Meet the Press" the other day, you nodded along as he lamented how the GOP has lost its way since the days when it was all about fiscal responsibility. And, Bob, you think Republicans are acting crazy-pants on the debt ceiling. You don’t really follow all of the details, but you can just tell that the GOP is being “extreme,” thanks to those wacky tea partiers. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Is Obamacare Socialism or Fascism? Ask Whole Foods CEO

January 18th 2013

Obama in front of AMA

As a general rule, I avoid “healthy” food whenever possible. I try to eat things with extra fat and lots of additives. This is a conscious strategy that should assure that I keel over before being left to the tender mercies of Medicare after the Obama administration has transformed it into a system that rations care based on a Byzantine formula that purports to measure how many “quality” years of life a patient has left. Moreover, if I consume enough chemical additives, I can save my family some money by arriving at the funeral home pre-embalmed.

For a brief period this week, however, I was on the verge of bestowing my custom on Whole Foods Market, despite its deplorable policy of “selling the highest quality natural and organic products available.” Why? Because it seemed that the grocery chain’s CEO, John Mackey, was that elusive creature for whom Diogenes searched so fruitlessly — an honest man. Mackey is currently promoting his new book, Conscious Capitalism, and has therefore subjected himself to a series of media interviews, including one recently broadcast on NPR.

Read more ..

America's Darkest Edge

Gun Control: Obama Abandons Logic and Facts

January 17th 2013

Guns for sale

Whenever a politician proposes a policy surrounded by children, skepticism is in order. But skepticism, logic and sound argumentation are the enemies of President Obama in his gun control push, which kicked off Wednesday on a White House stage filled with kids.

After December's Sandy Hook massacre, Obama has reached deeper than usual into his bag of debater's tricks and rhetorical ploys. He assigns evil motives to those who disagree with him on policy. He tries to pre-empt cost-benefit analysis with facile assertions that any policy is mandatory if it will save "only one life." And the most contentious policy he seeks -- a ban on so-called assault weapons -- has near zero correlation to the problem he claims to be addressing.

Obama on Wednesday told voters to ask their congressman "what's more important, doing whatever it takes to get an A grade from the gun lobby that funds their campaigns, or giving parents some peace of mind when they drop their child off for first grade?" Read more ..


Jewry on Edge

Liberal Jewish Israel Bashers: Ignorant or Malicious?

January 17th 2013

Isi Leibler headshot

I must confess to a rising sense of frustration and rage when observing the increasing number of ill-informed and fallacious critiques of Israel by liberal Diaspora Jews.

This is not in reference to the loathsome so-called anti-Zionist Jews who call for boycotts of Israel. Nor even to jaundiced far-Left Jewish groups like J Street, that inflict considerable damage on the Jewish state by calling on the US government to pressure Israel, or orchestrate petitions such as those recently circulated among liberal Jewish clergy demanding that Israel cancel plans for residential construction in Jerusalem’s Jewish suburbs and the E-1 area.

I refer to those Jews who, when it was fashionable, were enthusiastic supporters of Israel. But the estrangement of many of their liberal non-Jewish friends from the Jewish state encouraged them to also assume politically correct attitudes, even adopting an “anti-Zionist chic.” Some were swept up in the tide of post-modernism with its often espoused view that Israel was born in sin and represents one of the last bastions of colonialism.

This was an evolutionary process which began with the progressive application of moral equivalence to Israelis and Arabs and climaxed with Binyamin Netanyahu’s election and demonization as an extremist nationalist. At this point, these Jewish liberals began chanting the mindless mantra that Israel had become obsessed with maintaining “the occupation.”

They adopted the Arab narrative that settlements represented the greatest obstacle to peace, dismissing the fact that settlements comprise only two percent of territory over the Green Line and that since Oslo, every territorial concession from Israel merely emboldened Palestinian radicals and resulted in intensified terror. Read more ..


Broken Economy

The Wages of Unemployment

January 16th 2013

People lined up for jobs

From the mid-17th century to the late 20th century, the American economy grew roughly 3.5 percent a year. That growth rate has since declined significantly. When the final figures are in for 2012, the annual rate of real output growth for the first dozen years of this century is likely to be about 1.81 percent.

What accounts for the slowdown? An important part of the answer is simple: Americans aren't working as much today. And this trend reflects more than the recession and sluggish economy of the past few years.

The national income accounts suggest that about 70 percent of U.S. output is attributable to the labor of human beings. Yet there has been a decline in the proportion of working-age Americans who are employed.

In recent decades there was a steady rise in the employment-to-population ratio: For every 100 working-age Americans, there were eight more workers in 2000 than in 1960. The increase entirely reflects higher female participation in the labor force. Yet in the years since 2000, more than two-thirds of that increase in working-age population employed was erased. Read more ..


Boycott Jihadis

Boycott Israel Groups Continue to Fake Their Victory Claims

January 16th 2013

BDS_Israel

The latest breathless announcement from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) "movement" regarding their alleged victory in getting the state of California to refuse to do business with a company on the BDS blacklist has something in common with dozens of other BDS announcements and press releases over the last several years, notably:

 

(1)    It didn't include a single official statement by the institutions they claim had joined their cause; and;

(2)    The announcement turned out to be totally fraudulent

 

Generally, these all-too-common BDS hoaxes follow the same pattern whereby an institution's decision to sell off shares or not do business with some company on the BDS blacklist (such as Caterpillar Tractor or the French transportation giant Veolia) is cast as a political choice resulting from pressure from anti-Israel activists.  But a little digging (in the form of a few seconds of Googling or, at most, a brief phone conversation with the organization allegedly doing all this boycotting and divesting) is all that's required to expose that the BDSers were simply providing their own spin on someone else's apolitical decisions. Read more ..


America's Darkest Edge

Gun Debate Overheats

January 15th 2013

NRA shotgun ammunition

Recent polls show an increasing majority of Americans support improved gun-safety laws — Gallup found a 13-point increase, now at 38 percent — and they aren’t buying the National Rifle Association’s tired mantra that any attempt to address gun safety impossibly conflicts with protecting our Second Amendment rights, as the NRA’s favorability ratings within and outside of the organization continue to drop.

President Obama, Vice President Biden, Democrats in Congress and other elected leaders have also continued to affirm the seriousness of their commitment to move forward with executive and legislative solutions aimed at addressing basic issues, including the 40 percent of gun sales that occur without a background check; the lack of a national database system that could alert local law enforcement about a citizen amassing weapons and ammunition; and the accessibility and use of weapons of war carried by our soldiers in Afghanistan in American communities like Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo.  Read more ..


France and Mali

Mali is France’s Gaza

January 15th 2013

Francois Hollande

France is now going to war in Mali because it says “we cannot have a terrorist state at the door of Europe,” but when Israel launches a defensive operation to protect its citizens from missile attacks from terrorists in Gaza, all the French newspapers and television commentators scream about Israeli aggression. The distance between Bamako and Paris: 6266km. The distance between Gaza and Israel: 1km. This situation starkly exposes the hypocrisy of the Europeans in their attitudes toward Israel, which drives me insane.

In my many years of commenting on  foreign affairs, I haven’t seen a clearer indication of incredibly malicious hypocrisy directed toward Israel than the recent statements justifying France’s intervention in the conflict in Mali. Read more ..


The Media on Edge

The Fox Effect

January 14th 2013

al-Jazeera

It is nothing if not disorienting to live in times when a former Vice President of the United States finds the deeply patriotic, Constitution-respecting worldview of Glenn Beck to be political anathema in direct comparison with that of the sharia-compliant Qatari dictatorship that owns and controls Al Jazeera, better known as "the Muslim Brotherhood channel." I'm referring to Gore's decision to sell Current TV to Al Jazeera and not Beck's The Blaze TV, a subject that has occupied this blog this week.

By the way, "controls" is the appropriate verb to describe how the muscular little dictatorship runs its international media org. Qatar, after all, is a country Freedom House deems "not free" where, as reported in Freedom House's the 2012 Freedom of the Press Report, it is against the law for journalists to "criticize the Qatari government, the ruling family or Islam." The country's seven newspapers are all owned by the ruling family or its business associates, while "the state [i.e., the ruling family] owns and operates all broadcast media." That would include the country's two TV networks, Al Jazeera and Qatar TV. As for the Internet, "the government censors political, religious, and pornographic content through the sole, state-owned internet service provider." Interestingly enough, Qatari totalitarians are harder on foreigners than nationals when it comes infringements on goverenment speech controls. As Freedom House reports: "While local reporters often receive warnings and threats when they push the limits of permissible coverage, noncitizens employed by Qatari media outlets risk harsher repercussions, including termination, deportation, and imprisonment." Read more ..


Broken Immigration

New Illinois Driver's License Law Opens Door For Criminal Aliens

January 13th 2013

Traffic Jam

The General Assembly in President Barack Obama's home state of Illinois passed legislation (SB 957) to establish a "lower tier" driver's license for individuals who assert that they cannot provide proof of lawful presence within the United States. It now awaits Governor Pat Quinn's signature, notes a public-interest group, concerned with the security of driver's licenses, on Friday.

The Illinois Senate on Dec. 4, 2012, passed SB 957 on a 41-14-1 vote, and despite the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police's testimony that the bill is "unsafe," because it lacks "basic public safety and homeland security safeguards," and despite bi-partisan opposition, SB 957 passed the Assembly by a vote of 65 - 46.

During the Bush Administration, several U.S. states either passed legislation allowing illegal aliens access to driver's licenses or were toying with the idea. However, with the current administration pushing de facto amnesty and other perks for illegal aliens, states are re-evaluating their laws regarding illegal aliens. Read more ..


Venezuela on Edge

Hugo Chavez and his Recondite Connection with Peru’s Fujimori Dictatorship

January 13th 2013

Hugo Chavez waves

At the time of this writing, the Western Hemisphere, and Venezuela in particular, continues to wait for news regarding the fate of President Hugo Chavez, who is in a Cuban hospital recuperating from several rounds of surgery meant to treat his recurring cancer. The Venezuelan leader was re-elected for a new presidential term (2013-2019) on October 7, and was scheduled to be inaugurated on January 10. Nevertheless, Chavez has been in Cuba since mid-December due to his latest surgery and, for the past weeks, there has been a constitutional crisis brewing in Caracas regarding what would happen in the case Chavez is unable to return to Venezuela by January 10. Ongoing rumors suggesting that Chavez may be at death’s door have also raised questions regarding the legitimacy of the due process affecting his possible succession.

The possibility that Chavez’s time as head of state of Venezuela may be coming to an end (he’s been president since 1999), has prompted a plethora of analyses in recent weeks regarding the outspoken president, including his domestic and international policies, as well as his legacy. For example, Foreign Affairs has published an analysis entitled “Chavismo after Chavez,” while Al Jazeera‘s website recently released a commentary entitled “Venezuela: Prospects fading for truly revolutionary change.” Read more ..


America's Darkest Edge

Biden's Faulty Lifeguard Logic

January 12th 2013

joe biden

‘As the president said, if your actions result in only saving one life, they’re worth taking,” Vice President Joe Biden declared on Wednesday as he previewed what his commission on gun violence might actually do.

“There are executive orders, there’s executive action that can be taken. We haven’t decided what that is yet. But we’re compiling it all with the help of the attorney general and the rest of the cabinet members as well as legislative action that we believe is required.” Biden insisted that it is a moral imperative for the White House to do something: “It’s critically important that we act.”

Most of the attention, understandably, is on Biden’s suggestion that the president will consider using executive orders to do things he couldn’t possibly accomplish legislatively. The imperial presidency is always troubling, but when it rubs up against the Bill of Rights it is especially so. But what I find to be arguably the most disturbing — and definitely the most annoying — part of Biden’s remarks is this nonsense about if it saves only one life, the White House’s actions would be worth it. Read more ..


Edge of the Cliff

Tax Hikes on the Rich to Pay for Corporate Welfare

January 12th 2013

Obama-Limo

During the "fiscal cliff" debate, the White House justified raising taxes on the rich to ensure people "pay their fair share." But the beneficiaries were hardly the poor and dispossessed. Instead, President Obama raised taxes on the rich to fund corporate welfare, with General Electric likely the biggest winner. Obama's income tax hikes will raise $22.5 billion this year (compared with extending all the Bush tax cuts), while the special-interest business and energy tax credits he demanded will reduce revenue by $65.3 billion, according to data from the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Republican sources told me and other reporters that the White House "absolutely insisted" on loading up the fiscal cliff deal with a package of targeted tax break extensions that had passed the Senate Finance Committee in August. The White House did not respond to a string of phone calls and emails seeking confirmation, denial or clarification. Read more ..


Venezuela on Edge

Chavez the Phantom Remains in Control

January 11th 2013

Hugo Chavez infirm

Perhaps the least disturbing aspect of today’s abandoned presidential inauguration ceremony in Caracas is that the incumbent, Hugo Chavez, didn’t turn up.

Ever since Chavez returned to Cuba last month seeking further treatment for the cancer consuming him, it’s been clear that January 10 would go down in Venezuela’s history as a no-show on the part of the comandante. Nothing has been heard from Chavez during that time. Meanwhile, his various subordinates, among them Vice President Nicolas Maduro, his appointed successor, along with National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello and Information Minister Ernesto Villegas, have issued irregular and sometimes contradictory bulletins about Chavez’s health. Currently, Venezuelans are being told that Chavez is suffering from a lung infection, but there is no reason to trust these statements. Indeed, the two years of sustained government deceit over Chavez’s health situation–last July, Chavez himself announced that he was completely cured–provides enough cause to speculate over whether he is, in fact, still alive.  Read more ..


Broken Government

Is There a Future for the US Postal Service

January 10th 2013

Post Office closed

At some point in each academic year over the past 20, I have asked my introductory economics students the following question: "If you wanted to communicate with a friend, how many of you would send a letter?" In past years several hands would float up, but this year my question was greeted with howls of laughter. Although that may seem amusing, it should be taken very seriously by the new Congress when it forms in a few weeks.

Indeed, the problems that new communication technologies create for the U.S. Postal Service should be Congress's top priority. The window for comprehensive, sustainable postal reform in the United States is rapidly closing. First-class mail - by far the Service's most profitable - is down a third since its high in 2001, while overall mail volume is down 26 percent. Such declines have not been seen since the Great Depression, and they are devouring the Service's bottom line. It lost almost $16 billion in its 2012 fiscal year, hit its $15 billion borrowing limit with the U.S. Treasury, and has only enough cash left for a few weeks of operation. There is no improvement in sight under current postal policy. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

Hagel-Chaired Think Tank Predicts Iran Will Be ‘Natural Partner’ For U.S.

January 10th 2013

Chuck Hagel

The Atlantic Council, a think tank chaired by defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel which last month published a column titled “Israel’s Apartheid Policy,” during the same month predicted that Iran “should be viewed as a potential natural partner” for the U.S.

The Washington Free Beacon reported that the think tank’s December policy paper titled “Envisioning 2030: U.S. Strategy for a Post-Western World,” which was not written by Hagel himself, predicted the following of an Iranian regime that continues to forge ahead with its nuclear program and bankroll both Hamas and Hezbollah terrorism: “A post-mullah dominated government shedding Shia [Muslim] ideology could easily return to being a net contributor to stability by 2030.” The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) has called President Barack Obama’s Hagel’s nomination of Hagel “a blow to U.S.-Israel relations, to the President’s relationship with the American Jewish community, and to U.S. security in the Middle East.” Read more ..


Broken Healthcare

The Project to Replace Obamacare Begins Now

January 9th 2013

No Obamacare

As 2013 begins, encouraging a discussion about how to replace the president’s health-care law might strike some observers as a case of particularly bad timing. After all, in the year just ended, the Supreme Court upheld most of the provisions of the law and the president won reelection. As a consequence, the best opportunities to remove the law from the books before it ever really got started are now gone. The tough reality now is that Obamacare is not going to be undone during the next four years. So why bring up an alternative plan at this point?

The answer is that replacing Obamacare is by necessity a long-term project; you have to start somewhere. Moreover, it remains essential. Like it or not, health-care policy is central to the struggle over the size and scope of governmental power. Without a better approach than Obamacare, there will be no success in limiting government or in lessening the dependence of citizens on the state. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

A Petty Decision by Obama

January 9th 2013

Chuck Hagel

It's official. President Obama has named former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) as his nominee for secretary of defense. Hence, we may be in store for the worst defense secretary nomination fight since George H.W. Bush's failed appointment of Sen. John Tower (R-Texas) more than 20 years ago.

The interesting question is, why? Why waste the political capital? Why pass over more qualified candidates who would sail through confirmation, including Michele Flournoy — who'd be the first female Defense secretary?

The most ridiculous answer is among the mainstream media's favorites: bipartisanship. According to Politico, the choice "appeals to Obama's bipartisan spirit." The Washington Post, in a front-page news story, says that a "successful nomination of Hagel would add a well-known Republican to the president's second-term Cabinet at a time when he is looking to better bridge the partisan divide, particularly after a bitter election campaign." Read more ..


Obama and Israel

Obama Takes Off the Gloves Ready to Confront Israel, Jewish Community Over Hagel

January 8th 2013

Obama with baseball bat

A history of anti-Jewish statements, in addition to overt hostility to members of the Jewish community. A stated reluctance to confront Iran. A belief that Israel is the source of recalcitrance in the Middle East.

Statements attributed to secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel demonstrate all these facts. But perhaps more striking is President Obama's willingness to nominate Hagel at all. One could easily conclude that President Obama, having won re-election with nearly 70 percent of the Jewish vote, will now reveal his true attitude to Israel and the Jewish community. His first move is the nomination of Chuck Hagel.

A long history of anti-Jewish statements:

On December 21, the Algemeiner published a long article describing the attitude of former Senator Hagel toward members of the Jewish community in Nebraska, his home state. One choice tidbit: "Former editor of the Omaha Jewish Press, Carol Katzman, who was in that role while Hagel was in office, related her experiences with him in an interview with The Algemeiner. Read more ..


The Economy on Edge

Michigan Helps Itself with Jobs

January 7th 2013

Michigan right to work protest

Michigan last month became the 24th state to pass a right-to-work law, keeping workers from having to join a labor union or pay union dues in order to work in unionized businesses. This is a step in the direction of economic freedom, a competitive labor market, and a pro-growth policy agenda.

The rationale for right-to-work laws is not grounded in ideological opposition to unions; nothing in right-to-work laws prevents workers from joining unions or keeps unions from bargaining collectively. These laws merely reflect the reality that states with right-to-work laws have more robust personal income growth, lower unemployment, and greater opportunities for younger workers.

It's perfectly sensible that states that want to see their economies grow should enact right-to-work laws. But the privilege of unions to extract money from workers' paychecks is far from the only special preference granted by state policy. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Taxing the Wealthy

January 7th 2013

Armstrong_Williams

Democrats always seem to be in search of new ways to get revenue, especially from the rich. One idea being floated around recently which a few European countries have is a tax on wealth, or assets. According to Daniel Altman in the New York Times “the real menace for our long-term prosperity is not income inequality — it’s wealth inequality.” This is the great distortion to economic prosperity he argues. It sounds good, and I am sure when people think of it, they imagine an NBA superstar or Bill Gates looking at his balance sheet and paying fees on certain items, like houses, cars, and  yachts, without objection because they are so wealthy. Beneath the surface though it is more legally more complex, and could be counterproductive.

First off the constitution would complicate its implementation. Within Article One it says “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers.” Along with “No capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken. “The Sixteenth Amendment (1913) also says “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.”

The wealth tax would be considered a direct tax, because it is based off of the property or assets and individual owns. The tax would have to be “apportioned among the several States “which means it would be based off of the census of a given area. This also means that government must a goal or target or revenue, so there would have to be large regulations enacted so that the government has an idea of how much revenue it is going to take. States with small populations like Rhode Island and Montana would have to be a portion of the overall tax, but the money taken from them would devastate them compared with California or New York. Read more ..


The Media on Edge

Al Gore Sells Out (to al-Jazeera)

January 6th 2013

al-Jazeera

What would you call it if a former vice-president of the United States had sold his television network to a fascist or Communist front group at a time when such forces threatened America? Nothing very nice. But now Al Gore has sold out his admittedly obscure channel to al-Jazeera and taken a position on its board. Here's an interview of myself on this issue.

1.) Is Al Jazeera a news station a former American vice president should want to associate with?

Absolutely not. There are multiple reasons.

First, al-Jazeera was originally run by Arab nationalists but these people were replaced by Islamists about four or so years ago. It is thus a radical media outlet run by people who are anti-American, anti-Christian, antisemitic, and anti-Western. In other words, it is an instrument of extremist revolutionary movements. On a number of occasions it has lent itself to promote and be used by violent terrorist groups. Read more ..


Palestine on Edge

Arafat and the Second Intifada

January 6th 2013

Mahmoud Abbas and Yassir Arafat

Analysts have long debated the role of Yasir Arafat in the second intifada, the violent Palestinian uprising that followed on the failure of Camp David in 2000.

The PLO and Palestinian Authority (PA) have long denied that Arafat was behind the violence, instead calling the second intifada a spontaneous uprising. This claim was endorsed in the so-called Mitchell report, the “Sharm el-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee” of 2001: “We have no basis on which to conclude that there was a deliberate plan by the PA to initiate a campaign of violence at the first opportunity….”

That story began to fall apart for good in 2010, when Hamas leader and co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar stated that “President Arafat instructed Hamas to carry out a number of military operations in the heart of the Jewish state after he felt that his negotiations with the Israeli government then had failed.” Read more ..


Washington on Edge

Maybe the 112th Congress Wasn't History's Worst After All

January 6th 2013

Lobbyist

Welcome to the 113th Congress. The conventional wisdom is that the 112th Congress, which has now been ushered out, was the worst in modern history, and that the political process is becoming ever more dysfunctional. Howard Kurtz of the Daily Beast counted the ways, reciting the litany of non-accomplishment, culminating with the watered-down fiscal cliff deal reached at the last possible moment. David Horsey of the Los Angeles Times called it “the most worthless, incompetent, do-nothing gathering of lawmakers in the nation’s history.”

But here’s the strange thing. In the toughest economic landscape in the post-war period, this Congress actually got many of the big things right. With unemployment high and growth still weak, the central challenge was to maintain government spending and low taxes to provide economic stimulus, but without raising government debt to levels that would shake market confidence and lead to a spike in interest rates. And in its own ugly, snarling way, that was roughly what the 112th Congress accomplished. Read more ..


The Media on Edge

Is al-Jazeera a News Network?

January 6th 2013

al-Jazeera

Today’s news informs us that Al Gore and his partners have sold their “left-leaning Current TV” to al-Jazeera, which is to say to the government of Qatar. Although “The nation’s second-largest TV operator, Time Warner Cable Inc., dropped Current after the deal was confirmed Wednesday,” the arrangement still opens many more American homes to the pan-Arab channel.

Any problem here? One, at least: al-Jazeera is wholly owned by the Qatari royal family, whose interests it will pretty obviously protect. It is not, in that sense, a news channel, even if it broadcasts news. Here’s a simple test: is al-Jazeera able to report candidly on events in Qatar? The answer is no.

Moreover, there is this story from the Guardian of London just last September: “Al-Jazeera’s editorial independence has been called into question after its director of news stepped in to ensure a speech made by Qatar’s emir to the UN led its English channel’s coverage of the debate on Syrian intervention.” Read more ..


Israel on Edge

European Settlements And Double Standards About Israel

January 5th 2013

West Bank Construction

Anyone flipping through cable television channels with his or her remote control has undoubtedly come across programs about British and other retirees from Northern Europe seeking to escape the harsh climate where they live by venturing to one of the well-known vacation spots along the Mediterranean coast. The difficult problem that these buyers face is the soaring prices of properties over the last decade in places like Marbella, Spain, the French Riviera, or Italy's Amalfi Coast, which leads many to look for more economical alternatives. As a result, many European buyers after 2002 have been flocking to Northern Cyprus, where a villa with a swimming pool can be bought at discount prices.

The main legal question that is not addressed with this new European property boom is the legal status of the area where these new homes are being built. It should be recalled that in 1974 the Turkish army invaded Cyprus, which had been an independent state since 1960 and took over 37 percent of the island. Read more ..


The Edge of the Fiscal Cliff

U.S. Fiscal Policy Is Detached From Reality

January 4th 2013

Star Parker right crop

Here are two ways to think about the "fiscal cliff" deal that just took place in Washington.

You are sitting at dinner and television is on, broadcasting the news. There is one story after another about things you don't want to hear. Recession. Unemployment. You walk over to the TV, turn it off or switch to a sitcom or sporting event and sit back down to finish your meal in peace.

Or a more personal version.

You take your mail out of the mailbox and see the bills that are due. Without opening the envelopes, you throw them into a desk drawer with vague intention to open them at some point. Or you have voice mails from creditors that you erase and then head out to a show.

There is an inconvenient truth called reality. There are aspects of reality -- things involving behavior and obligations that, unlike a rock falling on your head, can be denied so that, at the moment it's like it's not there. Read more ..


Palestine On Edge

The Palestinian Authority's Inconvenient Truths

January 4th 2013

PLO Flags

The truth sometimes hurts; that is why the Palestinian Authority has been working hard to prevent the outside world from hearing about many occurrences that reflect negatively on its leaders or people. In recent years, the Palestinian Authority leadership, often with the help of the mainstream media in the US and EU, has been successful in its effort to divert all attention only toward Israel. Following are examples of some of the inconvenient truths that the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank do not want others to know about:

- Over 100 senior PLO and Fatah officials hold Israeli-issued VIP cards that grant them various privileges denied to most Palestinians. Among these privileges is the freedom to enter Israel and travel abroad at any time they wish. This privileging has existed since the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO in 1993. Read more ..


India's Darkest Edge

Sexual Violence in India

January 3rd 2013

India Gang Rape Protest Placard

Shocked by a brutal rape case that has gripped the country, India is going through some soul-searching about its shameful mistreatment of women. Riot police lined the streets of Delhi the past few days to calm protesters who gathered in outrage as the body of the 23 year-old rape victim returned from Singapore where she had been transferred for emergency treatment. She suffered severe internal injuries after being gang-raped, beaten, and thrown naked from the bus she and her boyfriend tragically got on after seeing a movie on December 16. She died on Saturday and protesters have demanded the death penalty for the rapists.

Rape happens everywhere, but India is a particularly tough place to be female. Over 40 percent of the child marriages in the world take place in India. Sex selective abortions occur there at staggering rates. In 2011, the gender ratio was at its most imbalanced since India’s 1947 independence: among children six years old or under, there were only 914 girls per every 1,000 boys. Increases in wealth and literacy have only exacerbated the problem of female feticide. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

2012 and the Shame of American Policy in Syria

January 2nd 2013

Syria fighting injured baby

As 2012 ended, the news from Syria became worse and worse.

The Washington Post reported that 400 people were killed in one single day on Saturday, December 29, and “About half of them were civilians slain in an alleged mass killing carried out by government troops at a petrochemical university in central Syria, opposition groups reported.” Reports are that chemical weapons are being used by Assad’s army–breaking the taboo and the red line set by President Obama and just about every other government on earth.

Over the past few months the rebels have been reporting of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime. Initially the West doubted the credibility of these reports, assuming the rebels were trying to drag the West into a military operation by spreading false information. However, a few weeks ago Western intelligence sources learned that they have been wrong and that the rebels’ reports were accurate. Read more ..


Broken Healthcare

Prescription for Trouble

January 2nd 2013

Abuse of prescription narcotics remains one of America’s fastest growing drug problems. But rates of illicit use of some prescription opioids like OxyContin — drugs that have been subject to the most rampant abuse — are finally starting to decline.

Stepped-up enforcement against illegal diversion is one reason. More significant are changes in the medicines themselves. New technologies make the drugs less prone to manipulation and therefore much less likely to be used illegally in the first place.

Some of the most widely abused drugs, including OxyContin, have been re-engineered in tamper-resistant formulations and introduced in place of their original versions. Rates of abuse have fallen sharply as a consequence.

But the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may let the older, riskier versions back onto the market in the form of cheap generic drugs — reigniting the original problems. Ample evidence shows that criminal use will simply shift to the generic drugs, since these older pills are easier to abuse. It will undermine efforts undertaken by industry and policymakers to design the new tamper-resistant drugs as a way to combat the problem. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Kill the Oil Monopoly

January 2nd 2013

Oil Barrels 400px

Until the early 19th century, salt was among the world's most valuable commodities due to its monopoly over food preservation. It was Napoleon who diminished salt's strategic status by declaring a cash prize that triggered the invention of canning. Refrigeration soon followed, and within a decade salt lost its status forever. With a simple bill requiring no subsidies, costly tax breaks, or Solyndra-style government giveaways, President Obama can deliver the same fate to oil, allowing Americans for the first time in a century to choose what to put in their tanks.

Most cars sold in the United States -- roughly 14 million annually -- are allowed under their warranties to run on nothing but oil: gasoline and, in some cases, diesel. Due to this virtual monopoly, oil has taken on inordinate strategic importance, and oil prices have a significant economic impact. Oil-price spikes have the power to reduce consumer confidence, trigger recessions, and inflate the country's trade deficit. Were drivers able to respond to high oil prices by switching from gasoline to less costly fuels, oil's importance would be greatly diminished. But they can't. Read more ..


Lebanon on Edge

Lebanese Military Summoned After Israeli Peppers Discovered at Supermarket--Threat Neutralized!

January 2nd 2013

Green Bell Peppers

The Lebanese military intelligence and police force were summoned today after a man, who wished to remain anonymous, discovered packets of peppers that were made in Israel at a Spinneys supermarket located in the southern town of Sidon, according to the Lebanese Daily Star newspaper.

The packets contained three kinds of peppers, and prompted the man who discovered them to immediately contact the “local authorities who in turn contacted the Lebanese Army.”

Members of military intelligence and police arrived to Spinneys to discover 13 similar bags that have the word “Israel” printed on the sale tag.

Police also noticed that the international bar code for the items was scratched with a blue pen and a new code was handwritten on the bag. 

The case was then referred to the military judiciary for investigation into how the products made it through the customs department at the port or the airport.

“Spinneys had a similar incident almost ten years ago when shoppers discovered mugs made in Israel being sold at the retailer,” wrote the Daily Star. Spinneys is a high end supermarket chain in the Middle East whose majority shareholder is Dubai based private equity firm Abraaj Capital. Read more ..


Islam's War Against Christianity

“Plotting To Celebrate Christmas”

January 1st 2013

Saudi princes

Saudi religious police stormed a house in the Saudi Arabian province of al-Jouf, detaining more than 41 guests for “plotting to celebrate Christmas,” a statement from the police branch released Wednesday night said.

The raid is the latest in a string of religious crackdowns against residents perceived to threaten the country’s strict religious code.

Only in Saudi Arabia could the phrase “plotting to celebrate Christmas” appear in official statement. Religious freedom does not exist in the kingdom. There are literally millions of Christians living there, and according to the government they are permitted to practice their religion in private– though not one single church is permitted. But as this news story shows, in fact the religious police do not permit such dangerous practices as a Christmas party. So the foreigners living there who are Christians will continue to be without churches, priests and ministers, sacraments– or Christmas parties. Read more ..



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