The Edge of Terrorism
|Jim Kouri||December 6th 2012|
In a preview of Maj. Nidal Hasan's impending trial, that's certain to become a courtroom spectacle, the judge who insisted the defendant shave his unkempt beard for his court martial will be replaced. Citing the appearance of judicial bias, the highest U.S. military appellate court yesterday ordered the removal of Army Col. Gregory Gross, an experienced jurist, as trial judge in the court-martial of the Army psychiatrist arrested in November 2009 following a shooting rampage at the deployment center at Fort Hood, Texas.
Maj. Nidal M. Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. The self-avowed Islamist's shooting spree was labeled a "workplace violence" incident rather than an Islamic terrorist attack by President Barack Obama and his minions including those at the Pentagon. Read more ..
Sudan on Edge
|Shoshana Bryen||December 5th 2012|
Iran has made common cause with similarly nasty countries around the world to promote an anti-American, anti-Israel and anti-Western agenda. This includes the transfer of weapons as well as the training of terrorists who return to their places of origin ready and able to blow themselves up. While the U.S. focuses almost exclusively on Iran's acquisition of nuclear capability, its conventional military relations with countries such as Sudan are largely ignored.
Israel doesn't have the luxury of feigned ignorance.
On 24 October, the Yarmouk arms factory in Khartoum exploded. The specific target appears to have been two buildings housing Iranian Fajr-5 rockets. It wasn't the first time weapons blew up in Sudan; in December 2011, April 2011, March 2009 and January 2009 someone took proactive measures to prevent the movement of arms from Sudan to what appeared to be their destination in the Gaza Strip. Sudan blamed Israel then and blames Israel now. "Israel is a country of injustice that needs to be deterred," Vice President Ali Osman Taha told the crowd while standing next to President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Read more ..
The Vote Aftermath
|Sam Baker||December 5th 2012|
A major restaurant chain said Tuesday that its complaints about President Obama's healthcare law have been bad for business. Darden Restaurants, which owns Olive Garden and Red Lobster, had previously announced plans to cut its workers' hours so that it wouldn't have to provide health insurance under the law's employer mandate.
Darden is one of several large employers to consider rolling back workers' hours in response to the Affordable Care Act. But the company said Tuesday that negative publicity surrounding that position might be bad for business. The company on Tuesday lowered its earnings estimates for fiscal 2013, and said in a statement that the weaker projections owe in part to concerns over a backlash to its healthcare stance.
"Our outlook for the year also reflects the potential impact, though difficult to measure, of recent negative media coverage that focused on Darden within the full-service segment and how we might accommodate healthcare reform," Darden CEO Clarence Otis said in a statement. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Richard Swier||December 4th 2012|
As Raess Alam Qazi and Sheheryar Alam Qazi, two Muslim men from Pakistan, are indicted in Florida for plotting to carry out a terrorist attack using a weapon of mass destruction it is time to analyse the Obama Doctrine on terrorism.
On August 3, 2011 President Obama released the National Strategy on Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism. The strategy, now known as the Obama Doctrine, was based upon the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) study group findings and recommendation developed in 2010 by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The CVE has become the blueprint for both domestic and foreign policy when dealing with terrorism. The Obama Doctrine redefined “terrorism” as “violent extremism”. Read more ..
Egypt's Second Revolution
|Barry Rubin||December 4th 2012|
On November 30, a Constituent Assembly consisting almost 100 percent of Islamists voted to approve the draft of Egypt’s new Constitution. The next day, President Muhammad Mursi ordered that a referendum be held on December 15. In other words, Egypt’s population will be given two weeks to consider the main law, which has 230 articles, that will govern their lives for decades to come. Most of the non-Islamists had walked out of the Assembly because they objected to the proposed Constitution and it seems as if the remaining opposition members did not even attend the vote. So great is the outrage that Egypt's judges--who supervise elections and were explicitly asked by Mursi to oversee the forthcoming referendum--have refused to do so.
Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s chief spiritual guide. raved about how great the Constitution is and then responded to the walk-out with a phrase that might serve as the slogan for the new democracy in Egypt and other Arabic-speaking countries: "You should not have withdrawn. It's your right to express your opinions freely." Read more ..
Israel on Edge
|Anav Silverman||December 4th 2012|
When Israel evacuated the Jewish communities from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, no one imagined that the area would become a platform for the thousands of rockets targeting Israelis living in cities as far as Tel Aviv. As the international community continues to pressure Israel into limiting the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria and eventually withdrawing, one can only wonder who in the UN will guarantee that another terrorist entity will not emerge on Israel’s eastern border.
Most likely, Europe has not even considered what would happen if terrorist elements in Judea and Samaria would start firing rockets at civilians living across Israel. But Europe, like Hamas, has plenty to say about the settlements. Read more ..
Edging Towards the Fiscal Cliff
|Juan Williams||December 3rd 2012|
As the nation approaches the “fiscal cliff” there is one gold standard for all sides in the debt debate – the Simpson-Bowles Commission. The latest burst of interest in Simpson-Bowles is akin to having that old disco-era dress in the basement come back in fashion again.
The commission’s findings — long abandoned — are suddenly the thinking-man’s solution to the debt crisis. There is shiny new politics involved, too. The Democrats have added confidence after their election victories and feel they can sell their base a deal that includes spending cuts. And Republicans love the idea that Simpson-Bowles gives them one more chance to bash President Obama.
Republicans, including former vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), have long condemned President Obama for not packaging the panel’s recommendations as a bill and sending it to Congress for a vote.
That predictably leads Democrats to ask why Republicans, most notably the same Paul Ryan who is chairman of House Budget committee, also abandoned the commission by voting against its recommendations even though he was a member of the commission.
How times change. Now Republicans and Democrats are finding new appeal in the old ideas in the Simpson-Bowles proposal. This is especially true with every politician trying to get out of town before Christmas. It is the non-political solution. Republicans and Democrats can blame a third party for any tax increases and spending cuts: Simpson-Bowles. Read more ..
|Jim Kouri||December 2nd 2012|
While President Barack Obama lambastes the so-called "fat cats" who "outsource" their money and jobs to other countries, perhaps the President should look at one of his own minions, Susan Rice, who appears to have turned her government connections into a winning lottery ticket, said a political strategist on Sunday.
According to Mike Baker, a GOP consultant and attorney, a liberal-left grassroots organization this weekend setup an Internet petition slamming Susan Rice, a potential secretary of State nominee, and demanding she divest herself of her stock in the Canadian company seeking approval for the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline to the Gulf Coast. "It's indefensible that Susan Rice has millions of dollars invested in oil companies and banks that will make huge profits if the State Department gives approval to the XL pipeline," said officials at Roots Action. Read more ..
America After Sandy
|David B. Muhlhausen||December 2nd 2012|
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Senator Joseph Lieberman (I–CT) has filed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (S. 3254) that would reauthorize the ineffective fire grant program. The amendment is a revised version of the Fire Grants Reauthorization Act of 2011 (S. 550), and it reauthorizes a grant program that has significant shortcomings.
Jewry on Edge
|Isi Liebler||December 2nd 2012|
Word From Jerusalem
The time has come for European Jews to pull their heads out of the sand, face reality and ask themselves honestly whether there can be any meaningful prospects for their children to remain proud Jews in societies which have reverted to treating them as pariahs.
Less than seventy years ago the soil of Europe was drenched in Jewish blood. Orchestrated by Germany, considered the most cultured country in Europe, six million Jews were brutally murdered in a meticulously planned genocidal campaign. The vast majority of Germans and citizens of Nazi-occupied territories either collaborated or closed their eyes as millions of their Jewish neighbors were deported and systematically exterminated.
After that terrible era the call went out “Never Again”. Yet just a few decades later, the evil winds of visceral anti-Semitism are again raging throughout Europe with the addition of the nation state of the Jews acting as surrogate to the conventional demonization of individual Jews. For many Jews, it now directly impacts on the fundamental quality of their daily secular and interpersonal lives. Read more ..
|Brent Budowsky||December 1st 2012|
One of the highest-stakes games of poker in Senate history is now unfolding between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who on the issue of filibusters is not inappropriately compared to the Jimmy Stewart character in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who has abused the filibuster more than any leader of any party in the history of the Senate.
As a reelected President Obama prepares two powerful presentations to the nation in his inaugural and State of the Union addresses, the reputation of the Senate lies in tatters. The Senate is viewed as a gridlocked and impotent institution more akin to a Third World banana republic than the great deliberative body envisioned when Thomas Jefferson first wrote his Senate rules. The reason is the destruction of comity and respect for majority rule caused by the grotesque and unprecedented abuse of the filibuster by Senate Republicans. My advice to McConnell is to offer a bipartisan proposal to reform the filibuster rules by mutual agreement, in line with the historical precedents of the Senate, without forcing Democrats to resort to the “nuclear option,” which is best avoided if possible but employed if necessary. Read more ..
Gaza and Israel
|Michael Wildanski||November 30th 2012|
In the last two or three weeks, we have heard more stories from Gaza about Israel killing or hurting “innocent” Arabs or Western journalists. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyyeh took both the Egyptian prime minister and the Tunisian foreign minister to visit the dead body of a boy who was supposedly killed by Israel so that the three leaders could symbolically dip their hands in the boy’s blood and condemn Israel for murdering an innocent “martyr.”
Arabs from North Africa to the Persian Gulf saw pictures of the child’s blood brandished on Arab TV and the front pages of Arab newspapers. Then it turned out the boy was killed when a Hamas rocket, launched at Israel , misfired and landed on the boy’s house. Arab TV and Arab newspapers did not publish retractions.
That is because the Arab atrocity story is a best seller, but one should treat the Arab authors—the PLO, Hizballah, Hamas (and the journalists who often work with them or are used by them) —with great, great skepticism. When they cry “Israeli murder !!!” we should be careful not to get caught up in their narrative. “Ya-da ya-da ya-da”—as Jerry Seinfeld used to say. Read more ..
Edging Toward the Fiscal Cliff
|A.B. Stoddard ||November 30th 2012|
Somebody better tell the Democrats they can’t have it all. Yes, President Obama was reelected, but no, he doesn’t have a mandate for denying our fiscal crisis. Yes, Republicans will compromise on new taxes on the wealthy, but no, that new revenue is not enough to get us off the cliff.
As each day Republicans give more — from talk of ditching Grover Norquist’s no-new-taxes pledge to Oklahoma Republican Rep. Tom Cole’s call for Republicans to join Democrats in extending all tax cuts for those making $250,000 or less each year — Democrats dig in. They won’t budge on entitlement reform. No way. But they want a debt-ceiling increase. All at once.
How? With 33 days to go, Democrats have not proposed one spending cut. Yet the unions, the teachers and MoveOn.org are running ads about the need to block any changes to social programs. Republicans want to raise revenues by capping deductions and closing loopholes; Democrats — including Obama — say that won’t amount to enough money. Though Republicans have publicly declared they won’t raise income tax rates, they privately concede they will likely be forced to relent on rates if Obama moves the threshold for tax increases from those earning $250,000 to $500,000 or higher. Read more ..
|Edward Alden||November 29th 2012|
Council on Foreign Relations
When President Bill Clinton was trying to persuade Congress to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993, administration officials frequently made the claim that each additional $1 billion in exports would produce 17,000 new jobs in the United States. Implicit in the claim was the idea that NAFTA and other free trade agreements would trigger a big growth in exports, and that exports would be an engine of job creation.
The claim turned out to be half true. U.S. exports to Mexico surged, growing nearly 400 percent since 1993, and Mexico is today the second largest recipient of U.S. exports after Canada. Overall, the value of U.S. exports to the world has increased nearly three-fold, from $627 billion in 1993 to $1.65 trillion last year. But the promised job growth never came; the number of U.S. jobs supported by exports is up only marginally from 1993, and is roughly the same number as existed in the mid-1990s. Read more ..
|Jim Kouri||November 28th 2012|
Tuesday's much-anticipated closed-door meeting between a key member of the Obama administration and Republican lawmakers turned out to be a bust for getting the facts behind the alleged Benghazi-consulate cover up by members of the State Department, the CIA and the Defense Department. Several members of the Senate and House denounced the meeting as being a waste of time.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice on met with three Republican senators who have criticized her comments about the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. "I want to say that I'm more troubled today," Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) said after she and fellow GOP Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) met with Mrs. Rice for an hour on Capitol Hill. The CIA's Acting Director Michael Morell accompanied Rice to the meeting. Read more ..
The Defense Edge
|Michael Auslin||November 28th 2012|
Iran. Gaza. Syria. Political opposition in the Emirates and adjoining states. The Persian Gulf region simmers and America may have only one carrier group deployed there at the end of this year. Should we worry?
Let's examine the puzzle. The USS Nimitz's planned deployment to the Persian Gulf may be delayed. That is raising concern, since the Navy will be down to just one carrier in the region during the months of December and January.
But are carrier groups the only agents of US influence in the region? The U.S. Air Force has numerous bases and installations from which it operates. Indeed, Air Force tactical air is a key part of any joint air operations, while the real threat the United States poses to Iran's nuclear ambitions comes from Air Force heavy bombers and their massive ordinance loads, which are operated by Global Strike Command and based in the continental U.S., as well as in the region. Similarly, any theater air operations will be dependent on Air Force tankers in the skies off the battlefield. Read more ..
|Kenneth P. Green||November 28th 2012|
The Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline, which would bring oil from Canada's oil-sands to refiners in the Gulf Coast is in the news again. An unlikely set of bedfellows have recently come out with strong statements of support for the pipeline. The American Petroleum Institute says exit polls during the last election showed 75 percent of Americans support building KXL. A bipartisan group of 18 senators also favors it, calling on the administration to issue a Presidential Permit as soon as Nebraska finishes re-routing the planned pipeline, a process that's nearly complete. And the Laborer's International Union of North America also wants KXL, arguing that there's "no rationale for further delay."
Standing foursquare against Keystone XL is the environmental lobby, led by the peripatetic Bill McKibben, of 350.org, a group devoted to limiting the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, the level they feel will only lead to moderate warming. McKibben's been dashing around the country in a biodiesel-fueled bus, warning of the perils of greenhouse gases and the Keystone pipeline. He also held an anti-Keystone rally in Washington on November 18th, that while smaller than previous such rallies, still attracted "hundreds" of supporters, according to Reuters. Read more ..
The Congo on Edge
|Mwangi S. Kimeny||November 27th 2012|
The Brookings Institution
The crisis in the Middle East has attracted a great deal of international attention and emotions. Regardless of which position one takes, it is quite understandable why the situation demands attention. The security of the state of Israel is of great concern and so is the suffering of her people and those affected by the conflict in the region. Likewise, the internal conflict in Syria has dominated news for the better part of the year. Again, the deaths and suffering of innocent people does warrant such attention.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a major crisis resulting in untold human suffering has been unfolding for the last few months, but has received scant attention in the media. Even worse, there have been no major international efforts to deal with it. There are some United Nations peacekeeping forces, but their mandate is limited, and they have not been able to halt the escalation of the conflict. Although the crisis in the DRC has a long history, the current escalation has the potential to generate into one of the most serious humanitarian crises in Africa. Read more ..
|Wendell Potter||November 27th 2012|
Center for Public Integrity
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Although it’s a few days past Thanksgiving, I’m still feeling grateful, even to much maligned federal employees. Last week bureaucrats at the Department of Health and Human Services did us a big favor by resisting pressure from insurance company executives. Those executives wanted to keep charging some of us more than others and to keep selling policies that offer far less coverage than we need.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius reaffirmed last week that starting in 2014, insurance firms will not be able to discriminate against us nearly as much as they can now because of our age, gender and health status. And they won’t be able to sell policies with deductibles that are unreasonably high and benefits that are dangerously skimpy.
Among the long-awaited Obamacare regulations from HHS were those that further define the “essential health benefits” that health plans must offer in the future and that limit the amount of money we will have to pay out of pocket if we get sick or injured.
The Edge of Terrorism
|Elliott Abrams||November 26th 2012|
Council on Foreign Relations
The current conflict between Hamas (and other terrorist groups) and Israel has brought out the worst in Amnesty International. Amnesty has taken a position that can only be called anti-Israel, treating the terrorists and Israel with an “evenhandedness” that bespeaks deep biases. The story is well told at the web site of NGO Monitor, an NGO set up precisely to catch self-proclaimedly neutral human rights organizations doing just what Amnesty is doing: taking sides, and in this case taking sides with terrorists. As NGO Monitor summarizes: 1) During the weeks of escalation in rocket attacks prior to the Israeli response, Amnesty International failed to issue a single statement condemning the firing of scores of rockets by Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups at Israeli civilians in southern Israel, demonstrating Amnesty’s lack of regard for Israeli human rights. 2) Amnesty has repeatedly blamed Israel alone for “re-igniting the conflict.”
Amnesty asks for two remarkable things in its November 19th statement. One is for the International Criminal Court to take up the Goldstone Report and seek war crimes prosecutions based on it. No notice whatsoever is taken by Amnesty of Goldstone’s own “reconsideration” (largely a recantation) of his own report, in which he notes that: We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-09 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding mission appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council that produced what has come to be known as the Goldstone Report. If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document." Read more ..
Operation Pillar of Defense
|Petra Marquardt-Bigman||November 26th 2012|
You can safely bet the ranch on it: When a Washington Post writer dismisses thousands of rockets as not much more than “bee stings” on a “bear’s behind,” the country that is targeted with these rockets is Israel.
The callous dismissal of the roughly 12 000 rockets and mortars that have been raining down on Israel’s south and its 1 million residents in the past 12 years – yes, on average a thousand attacks a year – is all the more outrageous when you consider that it comes from the Washington Post’s ombudsman Patrick Pexton. Officially, Pexton “represents readers who have concerns or complaints on topics including accuracy, fairness, ethics and the news-gathering process. He also serves as The Post’s internal critic and strives to promote public understanding of the newspaper, its Web site and journalism more generally.”
With his response to criticism of a recent front page photograph showing a grief-stricken father from Gaza holding the shrouded body of his infant son, Pexton certainly succeeded in giving the public a glimpse of the multiple biases that apparently guide his own work when it comes to Israel’s efforts to defend its citizens against bombs and terrorism. Read more ..
The Vote Aftermath
|Rich Tucker||November 25th 2012|
There are plenty of things to be thankful for this week, and this year as well.
Yes, after our country’s recent elections, big government remains the rule here in the United States and throughout the West. Yet the language used by the candidates (both talked of reducing federal spending and creating jobs, for example) and the closeness of the race proved that, in the U.S. at least, conservatism remains a powerful force.
Conservative thinkers present a compelling, principled alternative to liberal ideas. Right-leaning politicians retained control of the House of Representatives, where they’ll control all spending bills and be able to push back against the expansion of government. Conservative governors will run 30 states and can use their offices to thwart federal overreach. Many governors, for example, have already announced they won’t set up Obamacare insurance exchanges, which will save the states money and may doom the entire federal power grab. Read more ..
|Clifford Winston||November 23rd 2012|
The Brookings Institution
As the holiday season approaches, the major airlines are signaling to some passengers to take a hike. At least that’s what travelers might infer from the smaller number of flights being scheduled at many of the nation’s airports.
Between 2007 and 2012, airlines cut the number of domestic passenger flights by 14 percent, according to the Department of Transportation—with the biggest drops occurring at midsize and smaller regional airports. The five heartland hubs of Cincinnati, Cleveland, Memphis, Pittsburgh and St. Louis have lost a stunning 40 percent of their scheduled flights.
The reason is simple: airlines have decided that the best way to earn a healthy return on their investment is to maintain tight discipline on capacity. That’s a fancy way of saying they want their planes to fly as full as sardine cans. And the way they’ve been accomplishing this is by concentrating service on the big domestic and international markets and by cutting flights in smaller, less traveled ones. Read more ..
Operation Pillar of Defense
|Barry Rubin||November 22nd 2012|
One of the most important things to understand about how the Middle East works is what I’ll call the suicide strategy. It can be described as follows: I will start a war that I cannot win in order to create a situation where the other side wrecks my infrastructure and kills my people. Then I will lose militarily but win the battle. How? By the following means:
• I’ll kill some people on the other side and do some damage to it. Since they are weaker and less brave than I am they will give up. The longer the war, the more likely they are to look for a way out even if that involves many concessions on their part. Using terrorism against their civilians reinforces this tactic.
• By suffering, and magnifying that suffering using a generally sympathetic Western media, I will make the other side feel sorry for me and oppose their own leaders who will be portrayed as bullying, bloodthirsty, and imperialistic.
• The specter of war, suffering, and especially civilian casualties, will drive the “international community” to press my adversaries to give in, stop fighting (even if I continue it on a lower level), let me survive, and even give me benefits. Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|Paula Briscoe||November 21st 2012|
Council on Foreign Relations
President Obama’s trip to Southeast Asia this week brings into sharp relief the challenges facing the administration: how to retain influence in the region and honor commitments to allies without provoking China or furthering suspicions of encirclement.
In numerous remarks and public statements President Obama’s cabinet have been on message stressing the need for balance. On November 15, the day before the president departed on his five-day trip, the National Security Advisor, Tom Donilon, reiterated the importance that the United States places on getting this balance right: “The United States is a Pacific power whose interests are inextricably linked with Asia’s economic, security, and political order. America’s success in the twenty-first century is tied to the success of Asia.”
On her recent trip to Australia and Thailand with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Secretary of State Clinton also presented a message of partnership and of U.S. neutrality regarding Southeast Asia’s territorial disputes. The Australia-U.S. Ministerial Meeting’s 2012 Joint Communique states: “We welcomed a strong, prosperous and peaceful China, which plays a constructive role in promoting regional security and prosperity.” And: “We reaffirmed that we do not take a position on competing territorial claims in the South China Sea.” Read more ..
Operation Pillar of Defense
|Ben Cohen||November 20th 2012|
There was a fiery exchange at yesterday’s State Department briefing between the department’s spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, and AP reporter Matthew Lee, over Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s latest verbal assault upon Israel. Here’s the key part of their back-and-forth:
LEE: You’re not telling us anything about… when the Turks come out, when the leaders of Turkey come out and say that Israel is engaged in acts of terrorism and you refuse to say that you don’t agree with that… maybe you do agree with that, that’s being silent.
NULAND: Matt, we have made a decision that we need to engage in our diplomatic work diplomatically, we have been very clear on where we stand on this. Which is that we don’t practice diplomacy from the podium. We have been very clear that Israel has the right of self-defense. Very clear that rockets continue to be fired and land on Israel. We’ve been very clear that we are working to get this conflict de-escalated. We have been very clear about our concern for the civilians and innocents on both sides who are getting caught in this… Read more ..
Operation Pillar of Defense
|Elliott Abrams||November 20th 2012|
The visit of Egypt’s prime minister to Gaza last week, and a return visit promised for Tuesday, raises the question why President Morsi has not himself gone. Why send the little-known PM when a personal visit would presumably gain Morsi much more acclaim back home?
Here’s a theory: Morsi is the Muslim Brotherhood president of Egypt but he is still president of Egypt. He thinks of Egypt as a great nation and is not given to the kind of language we associate with Al Qaeda leaders or the Ayatollah Khomeini, about states all disappearing and Islam being all that is left. He wants Egypt to be, once again, a leader in Arab councils and in world politics. Read more ..
|Jim Kouri||November 20th 2012|
While appearing on Fox News Channel on Monday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told anchor Megan Kelly that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may testify before a senate panel in about two weeks to answer questions about embassy security and the bloodbath at a U.S. consulate that suffered from insufficient security.
During Sunday morning's television news shows, the primary focus of discussion was the testimony given on Friday by former CIA chief and retired four-star general, David Petraeus, and the bloody terrorist attack on the Benghazi, Libya, U.S. consulate. However, according to an expert in security management, very little attention is being paid to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's failure to heed the warnings contained in a congressional report on the subject of embassy security and safety released in July 2011.
"Secretary Clinton and her staff received a report regarding diplomatic security from the U.S. Congress but she and her staff appear to have ignored its findings and failed to implement its recommendations," said Thomas Sullivan, a security and safety expert. "Clinton said she took responsibility for what happened on Sept. 11, 2012, but then she refuses to make any statements regarding that incident." Read more ..
The Arab Winter of Rage
|Barry Rubin||November 19th 2012|
The most interesting developments in the Middle East aren’t in the news stories but can be discovered by analyzing those reports. Here are a few developing right now.
–The Libyan government gave 50 percent of the funds to finance the budget of the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Syrian National Council (SNC) budget. Since Libya is very much a U.S. client, it’s reasonable to conclude that the Obama Administration encouraged this generosity. Yet this money was financing a Muslim Brotherhood front. A lot of arms have been flowing from Libya to Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip and to radical forces in Syria. Some claim that the U.S. government was coordinating that traffic though this has not yet been proven. The SNC has now been replaced by a new umbrella group whose role and even survival is still unproven. Read more ..
Trying to Get to Diversity
|Wendal Porter||November 19th 2012|
Center for Public Integrity
Get ready to hear that word many times in the coming weeks, especially if you hang out inside the Washington beltway.
“Disruption” will be the new buzzword in an upcoming advertising campaign aimed at scaring us. The campaign is selling the idea that millions of Americans will face higher premiums and possibly be forced into health plans with skimpier benefits — , i.e., disrupted — if Congress doesn’t repeal a provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that raises money to pay for expanding coverage for the uninsured.
The greed of the health insurance industry knows no bounds. Insurance companies will get billions of dollars in new revenue every year as a result of the health act’s requirement that, starting in 2014, we will have to buy coverage from private insurers if we’re not eligible for Medicare or Medicaid.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 32 million uninsured Americans will finally get coverage as a result of the law. While many will be newly eligible for the Medicaid program, millions of others will get subsidies from the federal government to help them buy private insurance. So insurance companies will get new premium revenue not only from individuals and families but also from the government. Read more ..
Operation Pillar of Defense
|Danielle Pletka||November 19th 2012|
Can Hamas win militarily against Israel? Of course not, and while Hamas’ leaders are certifiably bad men, they are not obviously stupid. But their aim isn’t to win, it’s to be relevant in the modern Middle East.
Look at what’s happening in Gaza from Hamas’ perspective. If you don’t care about human life, governance or infrastructure – and that was manifest well before the outbreak of current hostilities – then Hamas’ decision to launch a war on Israel might look like a winner. Think about it this way: Hamas split from Iran and Syria after Bashar al Assad began killing his own people with abandon. A period of coolness between Hamas and Tehran, once an ardent sponsor, began. The Iranian leadership didn’t appreciate Hamas’ moralizing over Assad. That meant finding a new political sponsor; Iran was still ok with arming the Palestinian terrorist group. Et voila, a new sponsor has emerged in Cairo. Turkey too. And Qatar, which had been there all along, but quietly. Read more ..
Operation Pillar of Defense
|Barry Rubin||November 19th 2012|
The new war between Hamas and Israel has a lot of important lessons for international diplomacy and U.S. policy today. It once again shows that a country, especially one faced by a hostile adversary who cannot be turned away by words or compromises, has limited choices. And in that case a government must do what it must do.
A key to the problem of Western comprehension of international realities is admirably summarized by a New York Times editorial on the subject: "No country should have to endure the rocket attacks that Israel has endured from militants in Gaza, most recently over the past four days. The question is how to stop them permanently."
The answer to that question is simple to understand, if not easy to implement. The attacks can only be stopped if Hamas is removed from power and replaced, given contemporary circumstances, by the Palestinian Authority (PA). The PA is certainly no prize, but that’s a reasonable goal for what is often referred to as the international community. Read more ..
The Economy on Edge
|Edward J. Pinto||November 18th 2012|
There's a growing consensus in America that the long-suffering housing market has reached bottom and is now mounting a recovery. Housing starts surged 15 percent in September to their highest level in four years. New home sales in the same month rose 5.7 percent to their highest level in two years. And the Zillow Home Price Index shows that home prices are up 3.4 percent from a year ago.
While these are welcome trends, figures released today from the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) throw a sobering splash of cold water. FHA's FY 2012 Actuarial Study for its main single family program shows that its capital position has turned negative, by $13.5 billion. That's a shift of $23 billion in economic value in a single year, and it puts the 78-year-old agency $34.5 billion short of its legal capital requirement. If it were a private company, it would be shut down. Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|Star Parker||November 17th 2012|
Scripps Howard News Service
Here's an excerpt from a letter I received the other day from a college professor:
"Throughout this election I discussed with students the differences between ideologies. The majority of them are on federal financial aid. They are fine with more taxes as long as they will be taken care of. It is disturbing to hear that they are willing to spend their own money on tattoos and cellphones but cannot buy the book for class until the financial aid comes in." For those who see social conservatism as an annoyance and argue that Republicans must purge this agenda from their party to survive, I say: "Think again." If Republicans want revival, we need an honest focus on what's really wrong in America and what must be done to assure that a great nation will be standing for our grandchildren and great grandchildren. Read more ..
The Vote Aftermath
|Armstrong Williams||November 16th 2012|
Barack Obama received more than 99% of the vote in more than 100 precincts in Cuyahoga County, Ohio on election day. In fact, there were a substantial number of precincts where Mitt Romney got exactly zero votes.So how in the world did this happen? Third world dictators don't even get 99% of the vote. Overall, Mitt Romney received 30.12% of the vote in Cuyahoga County. There were even a bunch of precincts in Cuyahoga County that Romney actually won. But everyone certainly expected that Cuyahoga County would be Obama territory.
And in most of the precincts that is exactly what we saw large numbers of votes for both candidates but a definite edge for Obama. However, there are more than 100 precincts in Cuyahoga County where the voting results can only be described as truly bizarre. Yes, we always knew that urban areas would lean very heavily toward Obama, but are we actually expected to believe that Obama got over 99% of the votes in those areas? In more than 50 different precincts, Romney received 2 votes or less. Considering how important the swing state of Ohio was to the national election, one would think that such improbable results would get the attention of somebody out there. Could we be looking at evidence of election fraud hidden in plain sight? Read more ..
America on Edge
|Jim Kouri||November 16th 2012|
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Citizens in more and more U.S. states are petitioning the federal government to allow them to secede from the United States, according to news stories aired on Fox News Channel on Thursday. By the time President Barack Obama celebrates Inauguration Day, citizens in all 50 states will be in the process of compiling their petitions and submitting them to the Obama White House with an ultimate goal of being allowed to peacefully secede from the union. While liberal-left pundits are ridiculing these petitions calling them attempts by the "far-right" to create disharmony between conservatives and liberals, the mainstream news media are beginning to cover this quiet rebellion by Americans who believe in states' rights.
For example, according to Drew Zahn of Christianity Today, Louisiana's secession petition has more than 14,000 signatures, more than halfway to the threshold needed after which the White House has pledged to respond. Texas, is another state to join the secessionists with about 25,000 signatures.
Great Britain on Edge
|Erick Stakelbeck||November 15th 2012|
Stoning for adultery. Amputations for theft. Death for apostates. And second-class status for Christians and Jews. This is life under Sharia law, the Islamic system practiced in countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Great Britain. Yes, Great Britain.
There are reportedly some 85 Sharia courts now operating there, with Islamic judges ruling on cases ranging from financial to marital disputes among British Muslims.
"We went into some proceedings and there were a couple of Islamic judges sitting up above the rest," said Alan Craig, who recently stepped down as leader of the Christian Peoples Alliance party. "And there was one Muslim woman who was suing for divorce." Craig is a former city councilor in East London, home to several Sharia courts where women face open discrimination.
"A woman's witness value is half that of a man," Craig told CBN News. "So [the courts] will tend, therefore, to take the man's position in a divorce." Craig is working with Baroness Caroline Cox to pass a bill in Britain's House of Lords protecting women from this Sharia oppression. Read more ..
The Vote Aftermath
|Michael Austin||November 15th 2012|
All the discussion here and elsewhere dominating GOP/conservative issues is playing small-ball, I fear. Forget elections, the only thing that matters from now on is reclaiming as much of the culture as we can. Immigration, taxes, demographics are important, but in terms of electoral success, they are symptoms, not causes of GOP decline. Without getting too bogged down in esoterica, it seems uncontroversial to say that, at the end of the day, politics is culture (and of course, political systems reflect the cultures from which they grow). If that’s the case, then we will be in ever greater danger at the national level unless we start winning on the cultural battlefield. Losing five of the last six popular votes for the presidency should be a wake-up call.
As Irving Kristol noted, the culture war is over, and we lost. We were driven out of the universities, surrendered popular culture, and hunted from the mainstream media (from which most Americans continue to get their news). But we better start opening up some new fronts, conducting guerilla warfare, and investing in long-term strategy to have just the hope of keeping even. We need to fully accept the fact that nearly two generations have grown up in a dominantly liberal culture outside the home. It’s not simply that many don’t agree with conservative positions, it’s that they reflexively think in mainstream liberal terms. Moreover, conservatives, and the GOP in particular, have been vilified for so long that large swaths of the country see us as no less than dangerous to American society.
The campus conservative movement was an important, but small, push back, along with its campus media focus. Groups such as ISI continue to fight on, but we are holding small bridgeheads, at best. The majority of the time we are on the defensive, outside of churches and some synagogues. We start from a position of weakness and have to expend most of our energy just getting to even. The ratings success of Fox doesn’t translate into broader cultural appeal; instead we are increasingly in our own echo chamber. Read more ..
After the Election
|Andrew G. Biggs||November 14th 2012|
In a speech immediately following the election, House Speaker John Boehner offered President Obama an olive branch on taxes: Republicans are open to raising more taxes to help close the budget deficit, Boehner said, but it must be through tax reform rather than raising tax rates. "Tax reform" is almost certainly a euphemism for broadening the tax base by eliminating deductions, which leave trillions of dollars in income untaxed. Is this a deal in the making? Perhaps. If you have to raise taxes, this may be the way to do it. But both Democratic and Republican mindsets stand in the way.
Most conservatives and Republicans oppose raising tax rates because of their negative effects on individual incentives and the economy. Economists call this a "substitution effect"-that is, raising marginal tax rates induces individuals to substitute working with leisure time. If the government is taking a greater share of each additional dollar you earn, many people will simply choose to spend more time with their family, on the golf course, or whatever. And even those people who continue to work will make greater efforts to hide their income from taxation, in particular by exploiting tax deductions. Economists argue over how large these effects are, but no one claims that raising marginal tax rates won't hurt the economy. Read more ..
Heathcare on Edge
|David Shaywitz||November 13th 2012|
Obama's most significant health care-related accomplishment this year may well have been his campaign's demonstration of the effective use of analytics and behavioral insight - strategies that also offer exceptional promise for the delivery of care and the maintenance of health.
For starters, of course, there's the widely-reported "big data" success of the Obama campaign. In unprecedented fashioned, they collected, mined, analyzed, and actioned information, microtargeting voters in a remarkably individualized fashion. Imagine if health care interventions could be personalized as effectively (or pursued as passionately).
Another example: According to the NYT, the Obama campaign hired a "dream team" of behavioral psychologists to burnish their message and bring out the vote, using a range of techniques the field has developed over the years.
According to the article, the behavioral experts "said they knew of no such informal advisory committee on the Republican side." Read more ..
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