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The Darkest Edge

The Coming Civil War Over Guns and TV Mayhem

December 16th 2012

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When Lyndon Johnson, standing before a joint session of Congress and a national television audience to propose the Voting Rights Act, said, "We shall overcome," he risked his party's political future to defy long-entrenched interests and arrangements. Progress would require more than laws and federal marshals and troops. It would depend on nothing less than a long, wrenching reconfiguration of many Americans' national myths and viscera.

Now President Obama should urge a joint session of Congress and a national audience to overcome the delusion that arming ourselves as we do has made the United States a safer or freer country in which to raise children with hope.

We're far less safe -- or free -- than other western countries that prohibit or restrict guns. We're certainly no safer or freer than the regime of racial segregation that Johnson ended. And yesterday Newtown, CT, like a growing list of other communities, felt like Iraq or Afghanistan after our heavily armed invasions of them. We have forgotten where power really comes from and how it really flows or is drained. Since the middle of the last century, vast empires and national-security regimes, armed to the teeth, have been brought down by unarmed peoples in British India, apartheid South Africa, the Soviet-ruled nations of Eastern Europe. Read more ..


The Vote Aftermath

Tea Partiers Must Hang Tough.

December 15th 2012

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Now, suddenly, the Tea Party is everybody's whipping boy.Liberals, in the wake of the election, gloat about what they see as liberalism's return to the mainstream and good riddance to the end of the Republican "extremists." And, despite the spin, which never stops in Washington, it is not accidental that four prominent Tea Party congressmen have been purged from key committee posts by House Speaker John Boehner.

So as the Washington "establishment" cozies up to the mindset that America will go on no matter what and that a bloated, debt-ridden America can go on just fine as long as there is political compromise in Washington, here are a few things to think about.

The Economist Intelligence Unit, a sister company of The Economist magazine, publishes each year a "quality of life" index. It ranks 50 countries around the world according to which has the best prospects for the highest quality of life in the upcoming year. It looks at 11 factors, including economic (GDP per capita, GDP growth, inflation) and socio-political (life expectancy, literacy, human rights) considerations. When the Index was first published in 1988, the United States was No. 1 in the world. This year, the United States has dropped to number 16. Read more ..


Islam's War on Christianity

The Unheralded Murder of Birgitta Almby

December 14th 2012

Birgitta Almby

Who, you ask? Were it not for the valiant agency Morning Star News, which specializes in documenting the persecution of Christians around the world, even fewer news consumers would know the name of this angelic-looking, 71-year-old Swedish lady who was gunned down in the Pakistani city of Lahore:

Shot by two armed men outside her house in Lahore’s upscale Model Town as she returned from her Full Gospel Assemblies (FGA) office in the Kot Lakhpat area, Almby died at about 10 p.m. Pakistan Standard Time at Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm, FGA Bible School Principal Liaqat Qaiser told Morning Star News. Almby, director at the FGA Technical Training Institute and also a teacher at the FGA Bible School, was shot in the chest, and the bullet damaged her left lung. Initially she was taken to Lahore’s Jinnah Hospital, where doctors removed the bullet and said her condition was critical because of excessive bleeding.

She had served the Pakistani Christian community for 38 years. “Almby will be missed dearly,” Qaiser said. “She spent a long time serving the poor and downtrodden Christians in Pakistan, and every Christian is very sad at her demise. But she is in a much better place now.” Who would commit such a monstrous act? According to the local police superintendent, Ijaz Shafi Dogar, the lack of witnesses means that it’s hard to figure out the motive behind Almby’s murder.

But Qaiser, Almeby’s colleague, is in no doubt that the responsibility lies with Islamist terrorists. “Who else would want to murder someone as apolitical and harmless as Almby, who had dedicated her life to serving humanity?” he asked. Superintendent Dogar, meanwhile, is making every effort to dampen speculation over the Punjabi Taliban’s involvement in the murder, on the grounds that “there was no word from them regarding the attack on the Swede.” Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

European Union Policy of Hypocrisy

December 14th 2012

Turkish Flags

The leniency with which the European Union (EU) judges Palestinians’ reforms compared to the strictness of EU demands for reform by the Turks reveal Europeans’ duplicity and lack of integrity, and should disqualify the European Union from playing any significant role in the Middle East peace process, under the guise of being an honest broker.

EU hypocrisy is undoubtedly noticed when one examines and compares the own benchmarks of the EU as applied to a country-candidate [for example Turkey] waiting to join the European Union on the one-hand, and the benchmarks the EU is applying toward the Palestinians who seek to have a state, on the other hand.

European yardsticks for Palestinians, a hostile society, joining the Family of Nations amounts to praise for fabricated non-existent reforms and calls to drop the required incremental progress from the Roadmap. An end to violence and democratic reform that Palestinians have not even begun is tolerable. All of this in order to forge the way for immediate establishment of a Palestinian state, one which will endanger the very survival of a free and democratic Israel. Read more ..


Broken Elections

What Do Elected Officials Owe Voters?

December 13th 2012

What do elected officials owe voters? The debate over the theory of representation is an old and distinguished one, asking whether elected representatives should vote as they believe their constituents would wish or vote as they think best.

But this assumes that the elected parliamentarians stick around long enough to vote at all. In recent weeks we’ve seen examples of a newer phenomenon: the person who is elected and then walks away.

The worst example is that of Jo Ann Emerson, re-elected just five weeks ago in Missouri. Within days of that victory she quit, announcing that she will resign from Congress to head up the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Her resignation statement  says “I am going to miss the constituents I work with every day, the thousands of small business owners, compassionate families, community leaders, students and servicemembers who define the character of Southern Missouri….I am not leaving Congress because I have lost my heart for service — to the contrary — I see a new way to serve.” This is pretty much nonsense, as the Washington Post pointed out in a sharp editorial that noted how much more money she will be earning in her “new way to serve.” Read more ..


Israel on Edge

Israel Has No Other Alternative—But the One It Has is Good

December 12th 2012

soldiers pray at wailing wall

The Palestinian leadership, abetted by many Western governments, has now torn up every agreement it made with Israel. Once the efforts of two decades of negotiations—including irrevocable Israeli compromises in giving the Palestinian Authority control over territory, its own armed forces, dismantling settlements, and permitting billions of dollars of foreign aid to the Palestinians—were destroyed, the world has decided to focus the blame on Israel approving the construction of 3,000 apartments.

In 1993, Israel signed an agreement with the PLO to make peace in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. The accord, known as the Oslo agreement, included the following passage in Article 31: “Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.” By essentially unilaterally declaring the existence of an Arab Palestine, the world has abrogated that agreement. Read more ..


Gaza on Edge

When Is an Open-Air Prison a Terrorist Camp?

December 12th 2012

Gaza mall

It is a term we hear a lot in the twenty-first century anti-Israel propaganda storm, flung wildly against the truth – that Gaza is an “open-air” prison. We hear it not only from Arab and Muslim anti-Semites and the committed anti-Israel ideologues, but from well meaning people on the left who speak out of compassion. They know of a densely populated land area with significant poverty, an area the borders of which are controlled by third parties – Israel and Egypt, though most of these people purposely or ignorantly neglect to remember Egypt – and they are moved by what seem to be longstanding and intractably oppressive living conditions. It is simply inconceivable to them that these conditions – the density, the poverty, the external controls – are conditions that the people who live in them, in fact, choose for themselves rather than opt to alleviate . Who would act so against reason and manifest self-interest? An alternative historical narrative is thus required to render such hateful self-destructiveness more comprehensibly as pitiable oppression. Read more ..


Edging Toward the Fiscal Cliff

Obama's Fiscal Cliff Stubbornness Dangerous for Military

December 11th 2012

U.S. Naval Carrier

For nearly a year and a half, sequestration has been the law of the land. But few treated it that way, including the White House. The Obama administration was supposedly so confident sequestration would never happen that the Department of Labor encouraged defense manufacturers to ignore another law leading up to the election … and sequestration with the WARN Act. This basically mandates 60 days' notice in advance of predictable mass layoffs for certain larger companies.

Then the Pentagon went so far as to offer and foot the bill for contractors if they followed the government's advice and subsequently were sued by their laid-off employees. While Pentagon leaders never had the authority to bind the hands of a future Congress's spending, leadership of these major companies took Obama's Cabinet at its word. Finally, President Obama dismissed the prospect of sequestration during the final presidential debate, saying flat-out, "It will not happen." Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Obama v. Assad

December 10th 2012

Damascus Car Bomb 11-28-12

The flurry of excitement over Syria’s “moving” of chemical weapons highlights yet again the paralysis gripping U.S. Middle East strategy. “We’re kind of boxed in,” an administration official confessed to the New York Times. “There’s an issue of presidential credibility here, but our options are quite limited.”

Indeed, there is a credibility issue. President Obama said at an August 20 news conference that it was a “red line for us [if] we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.” That would “change my calculus,” he declared. But what has changed is the definition of “move.” Apparently, it doesn’t mean the Syrian Army moving chemical rounds in order to use them on rebel forces or mixing the “precursor” elements that give a chemical warhead its lethality, but, in the clarifying words of National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor, “ ‘moving around’ means proliferation,” as in transferring them to Hezbollah. Read more ..


America after Sandy

FEMA Needs to Refocus

December 10th 2012

Power company trucks queued for post-Sandy repairs

Ten years ago this month, a sweeping bipartisan consensus helped create the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Today, the nation is unarguably better prepared for a terrorist attack than it was on September 10, 2011. However, preparing for a terrorist attack doesn’t help prepare for a natural disaster. The United States now needs an aggressive effort against the threat of natural disasters similar to the one it mounted against terrorism. This means reform at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

After September 11, everything changed at FEMA. The government was under pressure to do something—anything, really—to prepare for terrorism. Congress and the president created the mammoth 180,000-employee DHS, which swallowed the relatively small 3,000-employee FEMA and 21 other agencies, from the Coast Guard to the Customs Service. The new department divided FEMA’s attention between its core work of natural-disaster response, and the new counter-terrorism mission. Read more ..


Jewry on Edge

Who Heads UNESCO - is it Joseph Goebbels?

December 9th 2012

Slapping history squarely in the face, UNESCO has accepted Arab propaganda and expropriated Jewish sites. In May 2011 the village of Battir in Judea, called “occupied Palestinian territory”, won the “Safeguarding and Management of Cultural Landscapes” award from the United Nations’cultural agency, UNESCO.

Now the UN has informed the Palestinian Authority that it will accelerate the process of recognizing the ancient terraces near the village of Battir as a “world heritage site”. These terraces are the oldest in the Biblical Judean Hills and if the Palestinian Arabs’ strategy succeeds, the place is expected to be recognized as both a natural and a human heritage site, which is very rare (only five sites worldwide received such recognition). UNESCO is pursuing a diabolical Arabized geography which opens the door to a Jüdenrein Judea, a de-Judaized “holy land”, as the anti-Semitic semanticists call it.

Read more ..

China on Edge

Human Rights Day Arrives in China: The “Shadow of the Future”

December 9th 2012

Chinese soldier at Tienamen Square

December 10 is Human Rights Day, and the International Committee for Liu Xiaobo along with Chinese advocates of human rights have organized a petition of 134 Nobel Prize winners demanding the release of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo. Their letter to Xi Jinping, the new General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, as well as the list of Nobel Prize winners, can be found here. They have also launched a citizens’ petition drive aimed at the Chinese government, and it has gathered 200,000 signatures so far. These drives have a second goal as well: the release from years of house arrest of Liu’s wife Liu Xia. And today we have a remarkable Associated Press (AP) report on Liu Xia, because two AP reporters managed to get to her apartment when the policemen outside her home went off to lunch. An account and a video of the interview can be found at China Digital Times. Here is an excerpt: Read more ..


After the Holocaust

Fiscal Ciff for Holocaust Survivors

December 9th 2012

Concentration Camp Survivor

There is not much similarity between the fiscal cliff most Americans face and what is ahead for many Holocaust survivors. The commonality is that both crises are man-made and within man's power to remedy.

Jewish social service agencies around the U.S. are dealing with shortfalls with regard to funds for needy Holocaust survivors. What is not widely known is that almost half the survivors in the U.S. live at or below poverty level. Though the number of survivors diminishes daily, those still with us have increasing needs. People who went through the bottomless evil that was the Shoah are dealing with the ravages of poverty in old age.

The German government has provided monies to help the survivors but not all the money collected in the name of survivors ever reached them. The organization responsible for distributing this money, the Claims Conference, has failed in several major respects and has quite a checkered history.

The Claims Conference took it upon itself to decide that not all the German funds were needed for survivor care so they initiated a system where some of the monies would go to projects they deemed worthy. They decided that about $18 million of the money they distributed annually would not be used for survivors. Instead it would be used for educational and other nonsurvivor programs including many programs of Claims Conference board members and their affiliates. As the public outcry got louder because the needs of the survivors were not always being met, the Claims Conference raised the amounts devoted to survivors but refused to cut nonsurvivor grants to various Jewish organizations. The aggregate amount of these diverted funds for over a decade exceeds $250 million. Read more ..


The Way We Are

You Can Give a Boy a Doll, But You Can't Make Him Play With It

December 8th 2012

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Is it discriminatory and degrading for toy catalogs to show girls playing with tea sets and boys with Nerf guns? A Swedish regulatory group says yes. The Reklamombudsmannen (RO) has reprimanded Top-Toy, a licensee of Toys"R"Us and one of the largest toy companies in Northern Europe, for its "outdated" advertisements and has pressured it to mend its "narrow-minded" ways. After receiving "training and guidance" from RO equity experts, Top-Toy introduced gender neutrality in its 2012 Christmas catalogue. The catalog shows little boys playing with a Barbie Dream House and girls with guns and gory action figures. As its marketing director explains, "For several years, we have found that the gender debate has grown so strong in the Swedish market that we have had to adjust."

Swedes can be remarkably thorough in their pursuit of gender parity. A few years ago, a feminist political party proposed a law requiring men to sit while urinating—less messy and more equal. In 2004, the leader of the Sweden's Left Party Feminist Council, Gudrun Schyman,proposed a "man tax"—a special tariff to be levied on men to pay for all the violence and mayhem wrought by their sex. In April 2012, following the celebration of International Women's Day, the Swedes formally introduced the genderless pronoun "hen" to be used in place of he and she (han and hon). Read more ..


Edging Toward the Fiscal Cliff

Time to Stop the Debt Charade

December 8th 2012

Star Parker

The crisis du jour in Washington now dominating the news, the so-called "fiscal cliff," is but the latest in seemingly endless political crises that we shouldn't be having. We get two different kinds of problems in life: the real ones -- the struggle to work and improve the quality of our lives -- and the ones we bring on ourselves through poor behavior. The more time we must deal with the latter type, the less time and energy we have to tackle life's real problems and challenges. The political crises that emanate from Washington are invariably problems of the type that result from poor behavior. And this latest, the fiscal cliff, is no exception.

Let's recall that the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts scheduled to occur in January -- the fiscal cliff -- are the result of the failure of Republicans and President Barack Obama to agree on a budget deal as a condition for raising the debt ceiling last year. Why do we have to keep raising the debt ceiling? Because politicians are afraid to be honest with the American people and immediately raise taxes to pay for all their new spending. So instead of raising taxes and paying for our new bills when we incur them, they just borrow the money. Anybody who doesn't pay the full balance on a credit card bill each month knows what this is about.

Except there's one big difference. You run up your credit card bill on your own account. You are the one who is on the line for your own bills. Politicians run up bills on our account. We're on the line for what they spend. They could just be honest. When they have their wonderful ideas about what they want to spend our money on, they could go right to taxpayers and say, "We are going to spend X for Y, so we will raise your taxes by Z to pay for it, OK?"

They don't do this because they know it is not OK. Politicians know that the money they are spending ultimately will come out of every American household. And if they go to those households, to those actually responsible for paying the bills, and the heads of those households know they don't have the money, they will say, "No. Don't spend the money and don't raise my taxes." Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

Raising Medicare Eligibility a First Step Toward Deficit Reduction

December 7th 2012

Elderly couple

The nation's fiscal problems are mainly the result of the rapid growth in spending on entitlement programs. In 1972, the federal government spent 4.4 percent of the nation's gross domestic product on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. By 2011, spending on these three programs had jumped to 10.3 percent of GDP. The added spending on the "big three" entitlements—5.9 percent of GDP more in 2011 compared to 1972—exceeds the size of the entire budget for national defense.

Over the next 20 years, spending on the major entitlement programs (including the new spending from the 2010 health care law) is projected to continue to rise very rapidly, reaching 15.1 percent of GDP in 2030 under plausible assumptions used by the Congressional Budget Office. The historical rate of tax collection is 18.5 percent of GDP. Even assuming that were to rise, there's no prospect of raising taxes high enough or fast enough to cover the coming entitlement spending explosion. Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage

Darkness Prevails Throughout the Muslim World Following the Arab Spring

December 7th 2012

Tahrir square at night

Sadness prevails in the Middle East over the turn that the Arab Spring is taking. The most significant image is that of young people these days peacefully besieging Mohamed Morsi's presidential palace in Heliopolis.

After nearly two years we are still at the starting point, faced with a fresh attempt at dictatorship. It seems that the Arab Spring has been swept away. In addition, there is an increasingly clear bias towards Islam. This is evident in Cairo, but also in Tunisia, Libya and Syria.

The Arab Spring was the first rebellion against regimes that were born from a military revolution which gradually gave way to full scale dictatorships. The protest movements that have emerged in the past two years are a sign that there is a consciousness among the Arabs that says: We are fed up, and the force was such that it overthrew these dictatorships. It was an improvised protest against poverty and unemployment, and for more freedom and dignity. Read more ..


Edging Toward the Fiscal Cliff

Taxing the Wealthiest Could Go a Long Way

December 6th 2012

Tax Haven Protesters

Middle-class households will eventually have to see their taxes rise and some of their benefits fall as part of a long-term fiscal solution. The projected budget shortfalls in coming decades are too substantial for any large group to escape unscathed.

But increased tax revenue from high-income households alone could go a long way toward stabilizing the medium-term debt relative to the economy – a policy that could be achieved with about $2 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade.

The administration has already proposed $1.6 trillion in tax increases on high-income households. The top two rates would return to Clinton-era levels, 36 and 39.6 percent. Tax benefits would be capped at 28 percent per dollar of itemized deductions, health insurance premiums, retirement contributions and tax exempt interest. These changes would have no effect on anyone currently in the 28 percent bracket or below, about 98 percent of households. A plan that is not yet on the table would be to reform the alternative minimum tax. The A.M.T, originally intended to assure that the richest Americans pay taxes, applies to a broader income base than the regular tax. But it has an almost flat rate structure of 26 and 28 percent. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Judge In Fort Hood Shooter's Military Trial Dismissed From Case

December 6th 2012

Fort Hood notice

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

Why Treat Sudan Like a Normal Country?

December 5th 2012

Sudan President al-Bashir

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

Restaurant Chain Says Criticizing Obamacare is Bad for Business

December 5th 2012

Obama with baseball bat

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

Inside The Obama Doctrine On Terrorism

December 4th 2012

NYPD and flag

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

Egypt's New Constitution: Laying the Basis for an Islamist, Sharia State

December 4th 2012

Mohammed Morsi

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

Europe Loud on Settlements, Quiet on Terrorism

December 4th 2012

Fogel boy murdered 2

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

With Debt Talks Foundering Simpson-Bowles Suddenly in Vogue

December 3rd 2012

Juan Williams 02

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 ..


Benghazigate

Susan Rice's Foreign Investments Blasted by Liberal Group

December 2nd 2012

Susan Rice

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

Fire Grants: Do Not Reauthorize an Ineffective Program

December 2nd 2012

Hurricane Sandy New York

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.

Ineffective Fire Grants

Fire grants, administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), encompass a number of grant programs. The Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program subsidizes the routine activities of local fire departments and emergency management organizations. Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) grants fund projects to improve the safety of firefighters and the public from fire and related hazards. Created in late 2003, Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants are intended to increase staffing levels by funding the salaries of career firefighters and paying for recruitment activities for volunteer fire departments.

Read more ..

Jewry on Edge

European Jews: Time to Wake up Now

December 2nd 2012

European Anti-Semitism

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 ..


Broken Government

Reid Versus McConnell

December 1st 2012

Harry Reid

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

The Arab Atrocity Story Again, and Again, and Again

November 30th 2012

Hamas head

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

Dems Can’t Have It All

November 30th 2012

Capitol Hill

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 ..


Broken Economy

Why Don’t U.S. Exports Create More Jobs?

November 29th 2012

Employee applications

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 ..


Benghazigate

Amb. Rice Meeting with Lawmakers a Waste of Time

November 28th 2012

Susan Rice

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

Can US Keep Pressure on Persian Gulf?

November 28th 2012

Nimitz

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 ..


Oil Addiction

Our Handling of Keystone Is a Smack in Canada's Face

November 28th 2012

Keystone Protest

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

Crisis in Democratic Republic of Congo

November 27th 2012

Soldiers

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 ..


Broken Healthcare

Health Insurance Industry Greed--Obamacare Will Rein it In

November 27th 2012

medicine and money #2

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.

Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Amnesty International And Hamas

November 26th 2012

Hamas Kid

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

When Rockets Are Just ‘Bee Stings’ For The Washington Post

November 26th 2012

Apartment rockets

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

Reasons for Conservatives to Be Thankful

November 25th 2012

Statue of Liberty

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 ..



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