The 2012 Vote
|Paul Abowd||October 27th 2012|
Center for Public Integrity
The origin story of the secretive nonprofit that is leading efforts to invalidate Montana’s campaign finance laws keeps getting murkier. In a document filed with the Internal Revenue Service, the group claimed Jacob Jabs as its “primary donor” who had “agreed to provide $300,000” to get the group rolling in 2008.
It appears the group was referring to Jacob Jabs, the president and CEO of American Furniture Warehouse, based in Colorado, where ATP was created. But a spokeswoman for Jabs said he's never heard of the group. ATP’s current executive director says he wasn’t with the organization at the time.
“Someone is not coming clean,” said Marcus Owens, the former director of the division that handles nonprofit corporations at the IRS. “A knowing effort to mislead the IRS is a crime and people go to jail for that.” Jabs has been a major supporter of Republican candidates and causes. He gave heavily to an anti-union ballot initiative in Colorado in 2008, and is a donor to Mitt Romney. Read more ..
The Obama Edge
|Hans von Spakovsky and Amy Payne||October 27th 2012|
The Obama Administration’s disregard for the law has struck again—and this time, it’s encouraging others to violate the law at taxpayer expense. That’s worth saying again: The Obama Administration is encouraging people to violate a law, and promising that it will use taxpayer money to cover fines incurred from this action.
The law: The law in question is called the WARN Act, and it requires that federal contractors send employees layoff notices 60 days before a plant closing or mass layoff. The inconvenience: Massive defense spending cuts under sequestration are scheduled to hit on January 2, 2013. Defense contractors affected by the budget cuts would have to issue notice letters to employees by November 2 (four days before the election) to meet the January 2 start date for the spending cuts. The penalty taxpayers would pay: Employers who violate the WARN Act are liable to their former employees for “back pay for each day of a violation” and “benefits under an employee benefit plan,” as well as a penalty of $500 for each day that notice has not been sent to the local government where the layoffs will occur. Read more ..
Russia on Edge
|Brian Whitmore||October 27th 2012|
Remember Aleksandr Bastrykin's " forest scandal"? In light of the horrors Leonid Razvozzhayev says he endured, merely hauling a journalist out into the woods and threatening his life looks positively quaint. Bastrykin has managed to survive -- and indeed thrive -- amid not just the forest incident, but also the revelations about his unreported properties and business dealings in Europe. And his sharp bureaucratic elbows have made him plenty of enemies inside the elite.
Will the mushrooming scandal around Razvozzhayev's abduction and alleged torture finally be the one that brings him down? I wouldn't count on it. He enjoys President Vladimir Putin's favor and the Kremlin leader isn't one to throw his people under the bus. Moreover, the case that led to Razvozzhayev's abduction -- allegations that he, Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov, and Konstantin Lebedev conspired with Georgian officials to provoke mass unrest in Russia -- was clearly green lighted at the highest level. Read more ..
Nigeria on Edge
|John Campbell||October 26th 2012|
Council on Foreign Relation
It baffles me that the Western media is paying so little attention to the flooding in Nigeria. There are dramatic aerial photographs of the flooding in the Delta, and affected areas spread as far afield as Kano and Kogi states in northern and central Nigeria.
Over a million people have been displaced. In the Delta alone, tens of thousands have been moved into camps that are ill-equipped to receive them. Crop fields and fisheries in their thousands of hectares are completely flooded and destroyed. Local food shortages seem inevitable; though President Goodluck Jonathan is confident existing grain stores will be sufficient. In over-crowded camps with poor sanitation, the spread of infectious disease also seems inevitable. Deaths–direct and indirect–from flooding in Nigeria this season, may exceed the total associated with Boko Haram. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Mackenzie Eaglen||October 26th 2012|
Washington lawmakers have failed to reach a compromise over how to reduce the national debt, and the automatic budget cuts of the 2011 Budget Control Act are set to take force on January 2, 2013. These automatic cuts, known as sequestration, are inflexible, across-the-board cuts that were designed to be so harmful that no politician would ever let them occur. Unfortunately, the White House and Congress have yet to reach a deal that would prevent their implementation.
Sequestration is particularly harmful for national defense, as it would cut another half trillion from the military's budget on top of nearly $900 billion in cuts already under the Obama administration.
Contrary to public perception, most defense dollars today go to small and medium-sized businesses rather than large firms. In a recent letter to Ohio's congressional delegation, concerned small businesses wrote, "[b]etween two-thirds and three-quarters of defense industrial purchases go to smaller suppliers, and three-quarters of all defense related manufacturing jobs are at supply chain firms." This means the real harm of sequestration will fall disproportionately on small business owners and entrepreneurs. Read more ..
The Economic Edge
|Alex Brill||October 26th 2012|
The engine of growth that has fueled the U.S. economy for over 225 years appears idle. In the five-year period from the second half of 2007 through the first half of 2012, the U.S. GDP growth rate has averaged just 0.6 percent annually. In fact, as the accompanying chart indicates, the average annual growth rate of the U.S. economy has been below 1 percent during the last five years, far slower than its recent historical average.
Furthermore, a recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that the median household income in the United States in 2011 declined for the second consecutive year to $50,054. On an inflation-adjusted basis, the median household income in 2011 was 8.1 percent lower than in 2007. And finally, the average unemployment rate in the first nine months of 2012 has been 8.2 percent. While an improvement relative to 2010 and 2011, the labor market remains weak as 12 million workers are unemployed. Read more ..
Turkey on Edge
|David P. Goldman||October 25th 2012|
Syria's two million Kurds have become a wild card in the country's crisis, after the Assad regime encouraged Kurdish autonomy as a ploy against its Sunni opposition in the ongoing civil war. The importance of the small Syrian Kurdish zone extends far beyond its possible role as a base for PKK guerillas to attack Turkish security forces. The new self-assertion of Syria's Kurdish minority forces a long-term problem onto the short-term regional agenda: the inexorable shift of the population balance in Anatolia towards the fast-growing Kurdish population at the expense of Turkish-speakers, whose fertility has fallen to Western European levels.
Turkey's demographic time bomb has gone largely uncommented in the Western press, but it has the undivided attention of the Turkish media. The thesis that the Kurdish question may not be soluble within Anatolia over the medium term has gained wide credence among Turkish analysts. It helps to explain why Turkey appears paralyzed in the face of the Syrian conflict. Read more ..
South Africa on Edge
|John Campbell||October 25th 2012|
Council on Foreign Relations
Politics within South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) is focused on the upcoming December party convention for the party presidency. The political maneuvering is focused on nominees for party positions, but also looks over its shoulder at the national presidency and vice presidency nominations for the 2015 elections. Voting in South African national elections largely remains a racial census. The ANC candidates for presidency and vice presidency can count on support from most of the country’s black population, making victory for its nominees in national elections almost a foregone conclusion. Africa Confidential has published an excellent primer on the current state of play inside the ANC.
Zuma faces a serious challenge for the party leadership from the vice president, Kgalema Motlanthe, and, possibly, billionaire businessman Cyril Ramaphosa. But neither Motlanthe nor Ramaphosa have yet declared themselves candidates for the party presidency. A possible deal between the Zuma and Motlanthe campaigns might have Motlanthe not run against Zuma for the party presidency in December in return for a promise of the ANC nomination to be president of the country in 2015. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Eric Trager||October 24th 2012|
Hosni Mubarak had to go.
It's nice that the presidential candidates can agree on something. (Never mind that they agree on something that happened over twenty months ago.) During last night's debate, both candidates said that the United States had to stand with the brave Egyptians who took to Tahrir Square to demand Mubarak's ouster. This was, in fact, the position of the American public, which supported Egypt's uprising by a whopping 82-11 margin. Who would want to run against those numbers?
Yet neither candidate articulated a clear policy towards post-Mubarak Egypt. (Perhaps this is a reflection of Americans' own ambivalence towards Egypt, which has a middling 47-percent approval rating among the American public.) Instead, the candidates espoused a virtually identical set of guiding principles -- Egypt's new government, they agreed, should uphold the rights of women, protect religious minorities, and act as a partner in American counterterrorism efforts -- but failed to say how they would deal with Egyptian Islamists' rejection of these things. Read more ..
China and the US
|Edward Alden||October 24th 2012|
Council on Foreign Relations
I have a suggestion for everyone who writes about international trade: it is time to bury, once and for all, the concept of a “trade war.” The phrase is so ubiquitous that it will be awfully hard to abolish; I have probably been guilty myself from time to time. Indeed, it is almost a reflex that every time the United States or some other nation takes any action that restricts imports in any fashion, reporters and editorial writers jump to their keyboards to warn that a trade war is looming. But it is a canard that makes it far harder to have a sensible discussion about U.S. trade policy.
No sooner had President Obama and Mitt Romney finished their latest round of “who’s tougher on trade with China?” in their final debate Monday night than the New York Times – to take one of many possible examples – warned that “formally citing Beijing as a currency manipulator may backfire, economic and foreign-policy experts have said. In the worst case, it could set off a trade war, leading to falling American exports to China and more expensive Chinese imports.” Read more ..
The Obama Edge
|Jim Kouri||October 23rd 2012|
One of the nation's top conservative voices, syndicated radio talk host and former Reagan Administration Justice Department chief of staff Mark Levin at the beginning of Monday's show announced his legal group's intention to pursue another lawsuit against the Obama Environmental Protection Agency.
Levin gave a brief explanation of the Landmark Legal Foundation -- which he founded -- battle against what he termed an "out of control" and "unconstitutional" EPA. Levin and his legal staff are demanding records that were requested months ago as per the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), but have yet to materialize, a violation of FOIA. "There are a host of new regulations waiting in the wings no matter who wins, but especially if the 'dear one' loses, to create havoc," Levin stated.
The records involved in Landmark Legal Foundation v. Environmental Protection Agency that are in dispute include identification of all new rules or regulations for which the public has not yet been given notice, but for which public notice is planned by the EPA before Jan. 20, 2013; the names of individuals, groups or organizations outside EPA with whom the agency has met or talked regarding the pending rules and regulations; documents concerning pending revised or new environmental rules including notes, letters, memoranda, minutes, logs, calendars, schedules, reports, studies, analyses and plans; economic-impact assessments and environmental-impact statements that have been conducted in accordance with any pending new regulations; and efforts by EPA to issue a host of new rules and regulations proposed by environmentalists and other liberal groups, but adamantly opposed by many business and industry organizations and leaders. Read more ..
Mexico on Edge
|Kent Paterson||October 23rd 2012|
“Each year, thousands of people are trafficked within and across our borders to serve as sex slaves or un-free labor in U.S. homes, fields and factories. Many enter via our southern border with Mexico, after having been trafficked within or across Mexico from other parts of the Americas and beyond…enslaved migrant laborers are often seen simply as undocumented workers who are in the country illegally, while sex trafficking victims are merely prostitutes plying an illegal trade.”
The above passages were from a program backgrounder to a timely conference held this past week at the University of New Mexico (UNM) in Albuquerque: “Borderline Slavery: Contemporary Issues in Border Security and the Human Trade.”
Sponsored by UNM’s Latin American and Iberian Institute and in cooperation with colleagues from New Mexico State, the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and other academic institutions, the event drew borderlands scholars, journalists, legal professionals and students. In a series of presentations, panelists dug into the problem of human trafficking within the socio-economic contexts of massive immigration, globalization, drug prohibition, border militarization, and the War on Terror. And as conference participants learned, the parts can't be neatly packaged into just a U.S.-Mexico box, but encompass long migrant threads from Central America, the Caribbean and elsewhere. Read more ..
|Bronson Stocking||October 23rd 2012|
Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) have launched a protest against their own union in California over waste and corruption. They rallied outside SEIU headquarters last week and plan to be in Sacramento on Wednesday.
The protestors are calling for transparency, accountability, and audits of the 2 million member labor union. The group’s website is urging members to hold their representatives accountable: “It is our members that see the waste every day; it is our members that can call it out to the union representatives in their area.” At the rally last week, SEIU officials asked the gathering protesters, “How much are they paying you?” The protestors replied that they were participating on their own time.
SEIU reacted to the protest outside its offices by closing the doors and videotaping the dissenting members, according to the protesters. The group’s website describes the purpose of videotaping dissenting members as an effort to identify members to add to a “blacklist.” Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Leslie J. Sacks||October 22nd 2012|
Strength and Tolerance Blog
The next four years may prove to be a trying time for those who truly love democracy, those who abhor ideologues, extremists and agenda driven radicals. For democracy at its very essence is a continuous uneasy balance between varying yet reasonable opinions, valid alternatives - a respectful conversation. It is not the bulldozing of one side by the other, as though one side's ideas always have a superior lock on the truth, a permanent fix on reality.
The forthcoming election is more than being about the middle, the centrists, the moderates, holding sway between a little left versus a little right. It's fast becoming the seminal election of the century, with two game changing policies that may determine, eventually, the very nature of our democracy, the heart of America. Read more ..
Healthcare on Edge
|Roger Bate||October 22nd 2012|
Everyone knows about the risks narcotics pose and the lethal war waged against them. But there are probably far more deaths caused by dangerous therapeutic medicines. Lazy, cost-cutting manufacturers and criminal counterfeiters make billions of dollars a year peddling products which may kill you and which you might find online or even at your neighbourhood pharmacy.
It is impossible to know the exact size of the illegal medicine trade or its lethal impact. I estimate that bad medicines cause at least 100,000 deaths annually. Some markets are barely affected while others are replete with substandard products. Around 10 percent of all essential drugs in emerging markets fail basic quality tests. The UK is much better served: far less than 1 percent of all drugs are faulty. Although even if only 0.001 percent of the hundreds of millions of prescriptions filled in the US every year were compromised, well over one thousand prescriptions could be deadly. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Karlyn Bowman||October 22nd 2012|
Fact-checkers from Politifact, FactCheck.org, and The Washington Post's Fact Checker blog were out in force after the first two debates as they have been for much of the 2012 campaign season. Do Americans want journalists to assess the accuracy of debate claims, candidate speeches and TV ads?
Brooks Jackson, who heads FactCheck.org thinks so. He was quoted recently as saying: "In an age where the typical citizen is subjected to an avalanche of the kind of pure baloney that journalists used to keep out of the public discourse ... they are looking for journalists to be kind of adjudicators or referees. That's what we try to do."
The media's job used to be to report the news - who, what, when and where. Their new role as adjudicators extends their warrant at a time when skepticism of the media is already sky high. In a September Gallup poll, 60 percent said they had either "not very much trust or confidence" or "no trust at all" in the media to report the news "fully, accurately or fairly." Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|John Yoo||October 22nd 2012|
Today's presidential debate no doubt will center on the Middle East, as it should. President Obama has stood by while Iran has closed in on nuclear weapons, Syria has massacred its own civilians and al Qaeda terrorists killed our ambassador to Libya. After all the blood and treasure spent in Iraq, we hastily left instead of maintaining a stabilizing presence, and we are following an arbitrary withdrawal schedule in Afghanistan just when our brave troops are achieving success.
We have the chance to strike at two of our most dangerous enemies: Syria and Iran. A no-fly-zone and military aid could overthrow the Assad regime in Damascus, and precision strikes, while costly, could destroy Iran’s weapons-of-mass-destruction (WMD) programs — which could even produce regimes that, while not Jeffersonian democracies, would pursue friendlier relations with their neighbors and the United States. Read more ..
|Richard Solash||October 21st 2012|
It could have been the start of a war the likes of which the world had never seen. Films and history books have documented the the hair's-width margin that separated the United States and the Soviet Union from nuclear conflict during 13 days in October 1962, the height of the Cuban missile crisis.
But a speech drafted by U.S. President John F. Kennedy, and newly released to the public, throws what may be the starkest light yet on just how close the sides came to starting World War III. "My fellow Americans, with a heavy heart, and in necessary fulfillment of my oath of office, I have ordered -- and the United States Air Force has now carried out -- military operations with conventional weapons only, to remove a major nuclear weapons build-up from the soil of Cuba," Kennedy was to begin. Read more ..
The Caribbean on Edge
|Ryan Olsen and James M. Roberts||October 21st 2012|
The historically pro-American multilateral organization known as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has been struggling for decades to form a regional “Single Market and Economy” (CSME) to integrate the disparate islands and sub-continental economies of the Caribbean Basin into a common market based on sound democratic institutions and pro-market policies. The obstacles to this integration have been plentiful, but none has been as daunting in recent years as the assault on free enterprise in the Caribbean mounted by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Since taking power in 1999, Chavez has been enticing and outright bribing member countries to join instead his own statist regional creations: the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA) and “PetroCaribe.” The U.S. should strongly support market democracy and free enterprise in the Caribbean while simultaneously encouraging CARICOM to reject and withdraw from ALBA and PetroCaribe. Read more ..
The UN on Edge
|Brett D. Schaefer||October 21st 2012|
Last fall, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) granted membership to the Palestinian Authority. It did so despite clear warnings from Washington that this would necessitate an immediate freeze on all U.S. funding to the agency. Subsequently, President Obama stopped all U.S. financial contributions to the organization as required by U.S. law.
Since then, however, UNESCO and the Obama Administration have been pressing Congress to change the law, arguing that the prohibition threatens programs vital to U.S. interests and that the cut improperly punishes a valuable voice for integrity and moderation. Neither of these claims is persuasive or sufficient to trump the purpose of the law, which is to dissuade U.N. organizations from granting membership to the Palestinians before a negotiated peace agreement is concluded with Israel. To avoid an accumulation of arrears and disabuse UNESCO of the idea that U.S. funding will resume, the U.S. should withdraw from UNESCO. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Elizabeth C. Economy||October 21st 2012|
Council on Foreign Relation
A few weeks back I explored the quality of the China debate in the Presidential campaign and found it sadly lacking. The campaigns have targeted China as a critical issue, but not in a way that elevates the discourse. China-bashing television ads and debate over whose pension fund has Chinese companies in its portfolio are not going to help the American people understand who would better manage U.S.-China relations and China’s rise. As a result, I raised a number of potential issues I thought might help answer this question.
Now with the foreign policy debate just a few days away, I see that the moderator Bob Schieffer has selected “The rise of China and tomorrow’s world” as one of the five central topics for the debate. The somewhat awkward-sounding but bold title has reinforced my sense that the candidates need to be pushed out of their comfort zones to address the more strategic challenges that China is likely to present. Read more ..
Nigeria on Edge
|John Campbell||October 20th 2012|
Council on Foreign Relations
Floods resulting from the autumn rainy season have devastated central and southeastern Nigeria. According to Nigerian media, the flooding is the worst in fifty years, and has already killed more than one hundred and displaced more than a million people. The Nigerian media speculates that the particularly heavy rains are associated with global warming–as is the shortage of rainfall, when it occurs, and the advance of the Sahara Desert in the north.
In the areas affected by flooding, the displaced are huddled together in camps set up by the state governments. Presumably, outbreaks of infectious disease will start soon if these conditions do not improve. Despite the efforts of Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency, the Red Cross and some private organizations, nationally organized relief appears minimal. According to a locally-based NGO in Delta state, in a camp for one thousand five hundred victims, the state authorities have been able to supply only one hundred mattresses, fifty blankets, twenty bags of rice, and a few bags of gari. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|A.B. Stoddard||October 20th 2012|
President Obama is losing. So says the latest Gallup poll, and so do those swelling numbers in key states like Wisconsin, Florida, Virginia and Ohio.Democrats say wait, he won the second debate. They are holding their breath, hoping polls next week will show that this week's debate brought the herky-jerk of the campaign back full swing, with Obama back to his September lead in the swing states and poised to win. But with two weeks to go, a sudden surge in voter support for a president as unpopular as this one, in an economy this weak, is simply hard to believe. Conservatives like Karl Rove note that this late in October, no candidate with support higher than 50 percent (see Mitt Romney: Gallup) has ever gone on to lose.
Perhaps Obama lost the presidency weeks ago, on Oct. 3, when he sleepwalked and scribbled through the first debate and helped make Romney a new candidate overnight. It was Obama's night to finish Romney off; behind in the polls, even Romney likely woke up that morning thinking it was over. But Obama underestimated the task, the challenger and the electorate — all in 90 minutes. So a win this week was critical but perhaps not decisive. There is no obvious reason for Obama's performance to reverse the course of the campaign and blunt Romney now. And though there is one final debate next week, a back-and-forth on national security and foreign policy isn't likely to make the sale for anyone who still cannot make up his or her mind. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Elliott Abrams||October 20th 2012|
Council on Foreign Relations
Fears are expressed almost every day that the war in Syria will spread to Lebanon, or to all of Syria’s neighbors. The problem, however, is not that the war “will spread” as if by nature, inevitably, the way spilled water spreads, but that it will be spread– deliberately, by the Assad regime.
And that is indeed what is happening. The assassination in Beirut of Wissam Hassan, by a huge car bomb, is only the latest in a long series of such murders of critics of the Assad regime. Hassan was a senior intelligence official, a Sunni, and the man who led the investigation of the murder in 2005 of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. That investigation led to the uncovering of evidence implicating both the Assad regime in Syria, and Hezbollah. Read more ..
America and Israel
|Juda Engelmayer||October 19th 2012|
Cutting Edge News Contributor
The election season is becoming an all out brawl between the candidates; each one is trying to paint a picture of the better America he will create in less than four years. Something is wrong with that philosophy, but it is hard to really put your finger on it after being indoctrinated with the short-term fix for so long. Our leaders, instead of looking at Israel as a strategic ally in a troubled region, or the little democracy that needs protecting, may be able to learn a real lesson from Israel about how to establish and run a country that is living for today while truly building for future generations.
The debate over the benefit or usefulness of green initiative continues as we spend more money on fuel every week. In reality, little has been done here to push forward a viable alternative energy policy for the everyday consumer. Sure there have been those publicly discussed initiatives where government funded green companies have subsequently failed, but in practical terms, not much is happening to encourage the use of alternative energy. Why? Read more ..
Israel's Looming Attack
|David P. Drimer||October 19th 2012|
A major study by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) and other reports have shown that sanctions imposed on Iran are failing to achieve the desired goal of compelling the Shia Islamist regime in Tehran to terminate its quest for obtaining a nuclear weapons capacity. As a result, a military strike upon its nuclear facilities, before further progress in its nuclear program is registered and before its nuclear installations are rendered invulnerable to attack, may be the only remaining option.
According to the CRS study, sanctions have failed in their "principal objective" of preventing Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons. The CRS study said that sanctions "have not stopped Iran from building up its conventional military and missile capabilities, in large part with indigenous skills ... Iran is also judged [to be] not complying with U.N. requirements that it halt any weapons shipments outside its borders, particularly with regard to purported Iranian weapons shipments to help the embattled Asad [sic] government in Syria ... The principal objective of international sanctions-to compel Iran to verifiably confine its nuclear program to purely peaceful uses-has not been achieved to date," (Kenneth Katzman, 'Iran Sanctions,' Congressional Research Service Report, October 15, 2012). Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Barry Rubin||October 18th 2012|
While foreign policy did not figure large in the second presidential debate, the Middle East again emerged as the overwhelming international issue. In the beginning of the debate, President Barack Obama claimed that he put a high priority on energy independence, an assertion well refuted by Governor Mitt Romney. A president who wants energy independence because of the unreliability of Middle East supplies has many options: he could easily expand oil drilling on federal land, promote the use of new technology to produce oil and gas, approve a major pipeline from Canada, and continue production and use of coal for generating power. To do none of these things and put his effort into restricting traditional energy sources and pushing hard for untested, long-term, and failed “green energy” schemes subverts energy independence.
But the main emphasis in the debate was on the Benghazi assassinations. Obama said:
So as soon as we found out that the Benghazi consulate was being overrun, I was on the phone with my national security team, and I gave them three instructions. Number one, beef up our security and — and — and procedures not just in Libya but every embassy and consulate in the region. Number two, investigate exactly what happened, regardless of where the facts lead us, to make sure that folks are held accountable and it doesn’t happen again. And number three, we are going to find out who did this, and we are going to hunt them down, because one of the things that I’ve said throughout my presidency is when folks mess with Americans, we go after them. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Armstrong Williams||October 17th 2012|
Cutting Edge Commentator
There were no protesters. I'll say it again: there were no protestors. People tend to believe the first thing that they hear. If I tell you that the individual mandate is a penalty, and then I later tell you that it's really a tax, you will doubt the second thing I say rather than the first, even though you're hearing it from the same source.
So it is that people don't seem to understand what is happening with the Obama Administration in the Middle East. The attack on Benghazi on September 11 that killed Ambassador Stevens was intelligently planned, coordinated murder. This was no spontaneous demonstration run amok. This was premeditated, cold-blooded killing.
As is to be expected, the media is partially to blame for allowing the Obama Administration to get away with their ridiculous narrative that the murder of our ambassador-an official of the Administration, no less!-was the result of protests of an obscure Youtube movie that hardly anyone had ever heard of. The fact that it was the anniversary of September 11 in an area known to have al-Queda cells was a coincidence. Read more ..
The Economic Edge
|Sita Nataraj Slavov||October 17th 2012|
We've heard a great deal about the "war on women" lately, mostly in connection with hot-button issues like abortion and birth control. But beyond all this rhetoric, there is in fact a large program whose design reflects antiquated, sexist thinking about women. It's called Social Security.
Social Security's spousal and survivor benefit provisions - which date back to 1939 - make the program a terrific deal for spouses who stay out of the labor force. As such, they are unfair to the growing number of two-earner families, and they discourage married women from working outside the home. We will soon need to undertake serious reforms to keep Social Security solvent. Redesigning the program to reflect the changing role of women could be a rare opportunity for bipartisan agreement.
Here's how the system works. Single people pay payroll taxes and collect benefits based on their own earnings. Married people pay payroll taxes based on their own earnings and can collect either a spousal benefit or a benefit based on their own earnings (whichever is higher); they can also choose to switch to a survivor benefit if they are widowed. Thus, a non-earning spouse who pays no payroll taxes can still claim Social Security benefits based on the earning spouse's work history. Read more ..
|Gene Bolton||October 17th 2012|
|Mexican soldiers burning marijuana.|
Last March, Central American nations held a drug legalization summit in Antigua, Guatemala. As the host of the summit, Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina suggested that production, consumption, and sales of narcotics should be regulated and legalized. In April, current strategies to fight the war on drugs received frequent criticism at the Summit of the Americas. In fact, several other Latin American countries, namely Costa Rica, Colombia, and Uruguay suggested legalization and decriminalization approaches should be undertaken in an effort to reduce drug violence. Even U.S. President Barack Obama acknowledged that the issue should be discussed but thought that legalization, “[was] not the answer.” Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Jim Kouri||October 16th 2012|
Upon telling the news media that the buck stops with her when it comes to who was in charge of security ahead of a deadly assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday flew to Peru to lecture on a subject close to her heart -- women's empowerment.
More than one source said that they are suspicious of this so-called admission coming the day before a highly-anticipated debate between President Barack Obama and his GOP opponent Mitt Romney. "To me this was a politically-motivated 'hit-and-run' or 'drive-by' admission that presents no consequences to either the globe-trotting Clinton or the TelePrompTer-less Obama," said former police commander Ernie Collastrona.
In addition, Clinton said that the administration's evolving story about what exactly happened at the consulate was attributable to "the confusion you get in any type of combat situation." "The only problem with that excuse is that no one in the White House was in a combat situation. In fact, Obama jumped on Air Force One and flew to a campaign event in Las Vegas," said Collastrona. Read more ..
Europe on Edge
|Tanya Domi||October 16th 2012|
As the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced it had selected the European Union as the winner of the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize, a news story from Bosnia-Herzegovina reported the remains of 11 people had been recovered from a mass grave in northeastern Bosnia.
The International Commission on Missing Persons said the bodies were found in shallow graves near Trnovo, and were believed to be Muslim civilians from the area of Vlasenica, a former Bosniak-populated municipality in eastern Bosnia where hundreds of war crimes were committed by Bosnian Serbs between May and June 1992. By the time those soldiers were done with their lethal handiwork, more than 3,000 Muslims had been killed and thousands more imprisoned -- in addition to the thousands who fled into exile with only the clothes on their backs. Within a month of the Serb takeover there in June 1992, there were very few, if any, Muslims left in Vlasenica. Read more ..
The Arab Winter of Rage
|Diego DiGhero||October 16th 2012|
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is taking responsibility for a deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya last month, saying it is her job to be in charge of security for State Department employees working around the world. Clinton said in television interviews during a visit to Peru on October 15 that President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden would not know about specific decisions made by security personnel. She also said circumstances surrounding attacks like the one on September 11 that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans are not always clear at the time.
The attack, and the Obama administration's response, have become an issue in the presidential campaign. Republican candidate Mitt Romney has criticized Obama for not providing more security at the consulate in Benghazi. Clinton said on October 15 she did not want the attack to be part of a political "blame game." The Obama administration initially said the assault came after a protest against an anti-Islam film made in the United States, but now says it was a terrorist attack. Read more ..
|Andre de Nesnera||October 16th 2012|
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. Historians say there were several key events that led to the decision by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to station nuclear missiles in Cuba in October 1962.
In January 1961 John F. Kennedy assumed office as president of the United States. One of his major foreign policy dilemmas was how to deal with Fidel Castro, a Cuban nationalist who in 1959 overthrew General Fulgencio Batista, the country’s American-backed president. Castro ultimately allied himself with the Soviet Union. In April 1961, Mr. Kennedy launched the Bay of Pigs invasion, an unsuccessful attempt by a CIA-trained force of Cuban exiles to overthrow Mr. Castro. Sergei Khrushchev, son of the former Soviet leader, said Moscow had to help Fidel Castro. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|James Pethokoukis||October 15th 2012|
You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to raise an eyebrow — maybe both eyebrows — at the recent jobs report. Plenty of economists doubted whether 900,000 jobs were created in September, dropping the unemployment rate to 7.8 percent from 8.1 percent. "I don't believe in conspiracy theories, but I don't believe in the household survey either," said David Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff. RDQ Economics called it "implausible" and a "statistical quirk." Dennis Jacobe of Gallup concluded the report "should be discounted."
A jobless rate decline of 0.3 percentage points or more has occurred nine times since 1990, including last month. Usually when it drops like that, it's for one of two reasons. Sometimes it's because the economy is growing rapidly and creating lots of jobs. That was the case in the 1990s, when GDP growth averaged close to 5 percent during those months. And job growth was strong, according to the Labor Department's survey of households as well as its survey of employers. (The latter is the one that showed just 114,000 jobs created last month.) Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Brent Budowsky||October 14th 2012|
President Obama should seize the mantle of optimism about America and pull all negative ads for at least four or five days. He should saturate the airwaves with positive ads about the economic progress that has been made during the first term of his presidency, and explain his plans to expand the American economic comeback if voters grant him a second term.
The latest fall in jobless claims this week to a four-year low of 339,000 reinforces the employment gains shown in the last monthly report, in which the jobless rate fell to a multi-year low of 7.8 percent. It is important that the latest decline in the jobless rate occurred at a time when the labor force was increasing, not decreasing, which adds to reasons for optimism.
As America approaches a major election, the state of the nation can be described this way: In economic terms, the times are still hard for many, but the corner has been turned and major economic progress has begun. In political terms the voters are unhappy with the gridlock in Washington and the tone of mutual mudslinging that exists between both parties. Read more ..
Germany on Edge
|Erick Stakelbeck||October 14th 2012|
There was a time when the Turkish-led Ottoman Empire ruled over a large chunk of Europe. Now some believe the Turks want to bring back those old glory days.
The Turkish government has embarked on a mosque-building campaign throughout Germany.
One new Turkish mega-mosque, the Cologne Central Mosque, has Germans on edge. When construction on the facility is completed, it will be Germany's largest Muslim house of worship - and one of the largest mosques in all of Europe. It's so big that it stops passersby in their tracks. The structure's 100-foot-high-plus minarets tower over the local landscape and can be seen from blocks away. The $40 million-plus facility will hold at least 1,200 worshippers and include a restaurant, a prayer room, a library, and more.
Germany is home to some 4.3 million Muslims, including 125,000 who live in Cologne. The large majority are Turkish. Read more ..
Pakistan on Edge
|Rebecca Winthrop||October 13th 2012|
The Brookings Institution
As the International Day of the Girl Child is celebrated for the first time ever around the world, a defiant and brave young ninth-grader is recovering from a gunshot wound to the head. Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani girl, was attacked by the Taliban on Tuesday for speaking out on girls’ rights. Going to school was one of the many things the Taliban found objectionable with Ms. Yousafzai’s behavior and indeed she was attacked on the way back home from her classes.
Malala’s courage, the Taliban’s cowardice, the oppression of women and girls, the power of education, and the geo-politics of extremist groups in Pakistan have all simultaneously been highlighted by this story and served to draw international attention to it. The sad truth is that Malala’s case is not the exception. Violence against girls and women continues to be one of the most prevalent human rights abuses of our time – but so does the much less discussed topic of attacks on education. Oftentimes, as in Malala’s case, the two phenomena are intertwined. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Dick Morris||October 13th 2012|
This week, Mitt Romney has turned the tables on the president and now is spending more on television advertising in the swing states.
Buoyed by a 64 percent increase in his television spending (versus only 2 percent for Obama), Romney is spending $22.4 million on ads in Florida, Virginia, Ohio, Colorado, Iowa and Nevada compared to $17.5 million for President Obama. In the previous week — and for several weeks before that — Obama had a spending edge. In the week of Oct. 1, Obama outspent Romney by $17.2 million to $14.8 million. This emerging gap in ad spending might account, in part, for the widening lead Romney is posting with each passing day in most polling. In Florida, for example, Romney is outspending Obama by $1.2 million this week while Obama spent $650,000 more last week. Read more ..
The Arab Winter of Rage
|Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Aaron Y. Zelin ||October 12th 2012|
The investigation of the devastating Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed American ambassador Christopher Stevens -- limited as it is by security concerns that hampered the FBI's access to the site -- has begun to focus on a Libya-based Egyptian, Muhammad Jamal (aka Abu Ahmad al Masri). As a detailed Wall Street Journal report explains, Jamal is notable not only for having fighters under his command and operating militant training camps in the Libyan desert, but also for having recently gotten out of Egyptian prison.
This latter fact makes Jamal part of a trend that has gone largely unremarked upon in the public sphere since the beginning of the "Arab Spring" uprisings: prisons in affected countries have been emptied, inmates scattering after being released or breaking free. In many cases, it is a good thing that prisoners have gone free: the Arab dictatorships were notorious for unjustly incarcerating political prisoners, and abusing them in captivity. But jihadists have also been part of this wave of releases, and we are now beginning to see the fruits of the talent pool that is back on the streets. Read more ..
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