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The Vote Aftermath

Dismayed Tea Party Calls for Wholesale Reassessment of DC Politicians

November 7th 2012

Obama and Romney dreamin

Leaders of the Tea Party News Network (TPNN) and TheTeaParty.net offered an unflinching assessment of Election Day results. Todd Cefaratti, editor of the Tea Party News Network said, "We're disappointed in Governor Romney's loss. But this goes to the heart of what we have been saying all along. Bob Dole didn't win. John McCain didn't win. And now Mitt Romney hasn't won. The lesson the GOP and Americans need to learn is that weak-kneed Republicans do not get elected. Conservatives do."

"The Tea Party has not yet begun to fight. It's time for a wholesale reassessment of the D.C. establishment politicians and party grandees who have no commitment or courage to reduce the size of government. We now have another four years ahead of us with Barack Obama leading the charge against liberty,"  TPNN News Director Scottie Hughes said.  "There were some bright spots tonight from Ted Cruz to Jeff Flake, to a decisive win in the U.S. House where Tea Partiers have a mandate to stand against Obama's big government second-term agenda."

Read more ..

Obama and Benghazi

Media Scandal in the Making: CBS Posts Still More of President’s Benghazi Interview

November 6th 2012

Amb. Christopher Stevens, killed in Libya #2

On Sunday night, a full 54 days after the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, CBS finally posted a critically important segment of the 60 Minutes interview with President Obama conducted on September 12.

Unbelievably, it was left on the cutting room floor even as 60 Minutes aired a long segment with President Obama criticizing presidential challenger Mitt Romney over his remarks on protests in Egypt. Given the substance of what was left out, this editorial decision shows CBS as either shamelessly biased in favor of the President or hopelessly incompetent as a news organization.

Central to the newly released segment is President Obama’s failure to describe the Benghazi attack as terrorism in his Rose Garden statement made earlier the same day. It will be recalled that he was pressed hard by Mitt Romney on this point in the second presidential debate. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

In the Face of Sequestration Military Must Be Kept Strong

November 6th 2012

USS Abraham Lincoln Flight Deck

Retired Admiral Gary Roughead, former chief of naval operations, recently expressed concerns over looming defense cuts caused by sequestration.

He joins a chorus that includes the current service chiefs, the Secretary of Defense, and the former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in urging political leaders to find a way to stop these debilitating cuts.

Speaking at the Hoover Institution, Roughead reiterated Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s comment that sequestration’s cuts to defense would be “shooting ourselves in the head.” Rather than discuss the dramatic reductions that the Navy’s fleet faces under budget cuts, the retired four-star admiral made the case for why a robust U.S. naval force is necessary: When people [in Iran] talk about closing the Straits of Hormuz, in the Arabian Gulf, no one can guarantee passage in that critical strait other than the United States. When we talk about the South China Sea and the East China Sea and causing cooler heads to prevail, so that some of these issues [between China and its neighbors] can be worked out, it’s the United States that provides the credible presence. No one else can do that. Read more ..


Broken Education

Five Myths About Education

November 5th 2012

parents teachers students

MARK TWAIN observed that "it's not what you don't know that kills you, it's what you know for sure that ain't true." After 15 years doing fieldwork in more than 100 public schools and interviewing more than 1,000 students, parents, and educators, we're convinced that no area is more fraught with myths and misconceptions than education policy, especially during election seasons like this one. Indeed our friend Jay Greene wrote a whole book, "Education Myths," devoted to debunking them.

With apologies to Jay, here are our own favorite myths about public education.

1. The Cutback Myth. Most Americans believe that their public schools are underfunded, and struggling to get by on declining resources. Certainly among 14,000 school districts and roughly 100,000 public schools some are under-resourced, but on the whole this is simply not true. In constant dollars, education spending rose from $1,214 in 1945 to just under $10,500 in 2008. The St. Louis public schools, for example, spend more than $14,000 per student per year, so if it has problems, money is not one of them. What's far more important is how that money is spent. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

I Didn't Leave the Democrats. They Left Me

November 5th 2012

sheldon adelson

When members of the Democratic Party booed the inclusion of God and Jerusalem in their party platform this year, I thought of my parents. They would have been astounded.

The immigrant family in which I grew up was, in the matter of politics, typical of the Jews of Boston in the 1930s and '40s. Of the two major parties, the Democrats were in those days the more supportive of Jewish causes. Indeed, only liberal politicians campaigned in our underprivileged neighborhood. Boston's Republicans, insofar as we knew them, were remote, wealthy elites ("Boston Brahmins"), some of whose fancy country clubs didn't accept Jews. It therefore went without saying that we were Democrats. Like most Jews around the country, being Democrat was part of our identity, as much a feature of our collective personality as our religion. So why did I leave the party? Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syrian Rebels and the War Crimes they Commit

November 5th 2012

Free Syrian Army

Before embracing the Syrian rebellion, American leaders would be wise to investigate allegations of war crimes committed by some of the rebels fighting the Assad regime. A graphic video examined by officials from the United Nations on Saturday appears to show Syrian rebels beating and murdering soldiers or pro-Assad militiamen, and is possibly evidence of war crimes, according to a counterterrorism source in Israel.

The source emailed an Internet hyperlink of the video on Saturday, but believes the actual incident occurred on Thursday. The video shows gunmen beating and shooting a group of prisoners who are seen cowering on the floor. It has been alleged that radical Islamist carried out the attack after seizing several security checkpoints.

The video appears to show agitated rebels kicking and pushing the soldiers or pro-government militiamen, known locally as "Shabiha", to the ground inside one of the seized buildings. Shots are then fired into the cowering mass of bodies.

Read more ..

Russia on Edge

Cashing in on the Pussy Riot Brand

November 5th 2012

pussy riot hoosegow
Members of Pussy Riot at trial

An ugly dispute over the ownership of Pussy Riot's name has flared up in Russia, with lawyers and members accusing each other of seeking to cash in on the group's notoriety.

The all-women punk collective shot to global fame earlier this year after staging a provocative anti-Kremlin performance in a Moscow cathedral. Three members of the group were sentenced to two years in prison over the stunt, although one of them, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was later released on probation.

Samutsevich is now accusing her former lawyer, Mark Feigin, of applying for the Pussy Riot trademark without the group's knowledge. In comments published November 2 in the Russian "Kommersant" daily, she said she was "shocked" and "very surprised" to learn that Feigin had applied to register the brand under his wife's film company, Web Bio. Read more ..


Nigeria on Edge

Boko Haram Offers Cease Fire Opportunity?

November 4th 2012

Helpless Nigerian man

A phone call to journalists on November 1st may have put a cease fire with Boko Haram on the table. Abu Muhammad Ibn Abdulazeez, who claims to be a spokesman for the group, and “amir” (lieutenant) to leader Abubakar Shekau, laid out conditions for a cease fire and named acceptable mediators. These included former presidential candidate General Muhammadu Buhari (Ret).  Talks with the government would take place in Saudi Arabia.

Ibn Abdulazeez’s credibility as a Boko Haram spokesman is not yet established. If he does speak for Shekau, his disavowal of certain recent terrorist attacks in Maiduguri might be a sign that Boko Haram is fragmenting, or merely reflect a highly decentralized structure. The three major Nigerian newspapers reporting the story are treating it with caution. So should we. The preconditions are broadly familiar: the government should compensate Boko Haram and rebuild its mosques and other facilities destroyed during the 2009 uprising; release all Boko Haram members in detention; “rehabilitate” the families of Boko Haram members; and prosecute and punish former governor of Borno state Ali Sheriff, whom Boko Haram holds responsible for the 2009 massacre. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Mega Storm Saves Obama from himself

November 4th 2012

Obama-Limo

If President Obama had the time for some introspection on the campaign trail, he might take offense at all the media speculation (and in many cases wishful thinking gussied up as speculation) that his response to Hurricane Sandy will give him the edge going into Election Day. In effect, people are saying: “Obama is doing the minimum requirements of his job, what a game-changer!”

Now, one could quibble about whether he’s really doing what a president should. He’s handing out a bunch of checks, which is warranted, but he has staff to do that. Moreover, presidential photo ops at disaster sites aren’t all that helpful. In his remarks Wednesday, the president thanked some local politicians and told people to visit the FEMA website, if they have electricity. The imperative for him to be the one delivering that message is no doubt obvious to all. Read more ..


Broken Economy

Welfare Under Obama Hits $1 Trillion

November 3rd 2012

Unemployment Line in California

Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. government is distributing a record amount of public assistance and a new report reveals that it’s much worse than previously imagined because the Obama administration is spending more than the median national income to provide each impoverished household with welfare, a public-interest watchdog group reported on Halloween, the day of trick-or-treat.

According to Judicial Watch, a disturbing report was released by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), a group with a staff of about 900 lawyers, economists and scientists who conduct research and analysis for the United States Congress.

The report reveals that in 2011 the U.S. government spent $1 trillion for welfare benefits, including $746 billion in federal funds and $254 in state matching funds. The incredible amount of taxpayer money doesn't include Medicare and Social Security, which are paid for by recipients throughout the working years, but only handouts like food stamps, cash welfare, Section 8 housing, and medical insurance known as Medicaid, the report indicates. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama’s Medicare Plan: Seniors Will Pay More

November 3rd 2012

medicine and money #2

Today’s seniors are facing higher Medicare costs. Over the next five years, current law, as amended by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, also known as “Obamacare”), and President Obama’s budget proposals guarantee higher costs for today’s seniors.

Status Quo Hikes

The 2012 Medicare trustees report says that, over the period 2012 to 2017, seniors’ standard Medicare Part B monthly premiums will jump from $99.90 to $128.20, while their Part B deductibles will rise from $140 to $180. Seniors’ Medicare hospital deductible will increase from $1,156 to $1,336, while their daily hospital coinsurance will climb from $289 to $334. And for seniors in the hospital beyond 90 days (lifetime reserve days), the per diem coinsurance costs are estimated to reach $668 by 2017. In other words, under current law, anyone over 65 who fails to buy private catastrophic insurance coverage is taking a huge risk. Read more ..


America After Sandy

In Hurricane Sandy Aftermath, Why Has New Jersey Been Forsaken?

November 2nd 2012

Hurricane Sandy Lashes Ocean City

Is there anyone who can tell us what the heck is going on? We in New Jersey have no power, no heat, no lights, in some places little food, and no gas. Yes, I know these are mere inconveniences compared to those who have suffered the unspeakable tragedy of losing family members. At least 50 are dead from Sandy, and those lives are irreplaceable. We mourn their loss. But nothing should excuse New York and New Jersey looking like Armageddon.

Aren’t we the nation that rebuilt Iraq and have done tons of nation-building in Afghanistan? Can’t we put the lights and heat back on New Jersey? Is it asking too much to bring a bunch of fuel tankers here and end the 100 vehicle long lines that are growing larger by the day? Just getting from point A to point B has been like navigating an labyrinth since the gas lines have cut off so many of the streets. President Obama declared this area to be a Federal Disaster Area. But where is FEMA? Where are the troops? Where are the gas tankers? Read more ..


Obama and Benghazi

Recovered Document Reveals Al-Qaeda ‘Brother’ in Control of U.S. Embassy in Tripoli

November 2nd 2012

Libya protesters

A treasure trove of secret documents has been obtained by a Libyan source who says that secularists in his country are increasingly wanting to see Mitt Romney defeat Barack Obama on November 6th. This charge is being made despite Muslim Brotherhood losses in Libyan elections last July which resulted in victory for the secularists. One of those documents may help explain this sentiment.

It shows that in supporting the removal of Gadhafi, the Obama administration seemed to sign on to an arrangement that left forces loyal to Al-Qaeda in charge of security at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli from 2011 through at least the spring of 2012.

The National Transitional Council, which represented the political apparatus that opposed Gadhafi in 2011 and served as the interim government after his removal, made an extremely curious appointment in August of 2011. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

The Failure of the American Jewish Left

November 2nd 2012

David Brog

In early September 2012, many in the pro-Israel camp were disturbed by a series of events at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. First, the committee drafting the party platform eliminated traditional language recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Next, the party elders chose to restore the language and called for a pro forma voice vote from the delegates in support of this amendment. Instead, what looked and sounded like an angry majority of the delegates voted against recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

This hostility should not have come as a surprise. For many years, the liberal base of the Democratic Party has been steadily turning against the Jewish state. So much so that for the first time since 1948, one of America's two major parties has begun to abandon its commitment to Israel. This trend has less to do with the behavior of President Obama or other national party leaders than with the far more troubling phenomenon of changing opinions at the grassroots. The Jerusalem flap at the Democratic convention was not a warning sign. It was the final bell.

The Democratic Decline
Freeze the frame right now, and you could still imagine that all is well. True, President Obama seems to identify with Israel less passionately than the Republican who preceded him, George W. Bush. But then again, Republican George H.W. Bush also seemed to lack the warmth toward Israel of his Republican predecessor, Ronald Reagan. And even if one believes that Obama has erred in ways that have endangered Israel, this alone is not evidence of a more permanent grassroots shift. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

The Curious Creation (and Unintended Consequences) of the Electoral College

November 2nd 2012

Vote Buttons

What were the framers of the Constitution even thinking? Why did they bequeath to us the Electoral College, which grants the people of Ohio the power to choose the nation’s president and which has produced four winners who actually lost the popular vote?

The short answer: the men who wrote the Constitution believed they were producing a system not only different from but antithetical to the one that soon emerged.

Their first thought was that Congress should choose the executive, but in that case the president would be subject to the “intrigue & faction” they knew would characterize that body. (These are Gouverneur Morris’s words, echoed often by other framers.) Pennsylvania’s James Wilson suggested that the people, the source of all authority, should make the selection, but this radical notion was rejected overwhelmingly three times. Virginia’s George Mason spoke for many when he said that allowing the people to elect the chief executive would be as “unnatural” as referring “a trial of colours to a blind man.” Popular election also ran counter to the interests of states with small populations and those with large numbers of slaves, who added to a state’s representation in Congress but who of course would not be voting in presidential elections. Read more ..


America After Sandy

Let's Make Sure this Natural Disaster Doesn't Become a Political Disaster

November 1st 2012

Bridge Failure

As Hurricane Sandy pounds the East Coast, endangering as many as 60 million Americans, just days before Election Day, it is reasonable to worry about possible disruptions next Tuesday. States have a responsibility to protect their citizens, while democracies have a responsibility to hold fair elections. And especially after such a high stakes campaign, every voter who wishes to vote should be able to cast a ballot safely and comfortably. L.V. Anderson on Slate offers a thoughtful overview of the legal issues involved if areas are out of power, roads are blocked or polling stations are inaccessible. I hope, however, that Election Day goes off smoothly, with no postponements, no disruptions -- as it did in 1864 during the Civil War, as it did in 1944, during World War II.

The thicket of state and country regulations -- and the relative irrelevance of the federal government here -- reminds us that these are 50 state-by-state elections, thanks to the Electoral College. True, presidents have wide emergency powers, and Congress could enact an emergency law, but any decision about extending polling hours, postponing Election Day, or other improvisations will most probably be made by governors, state judges, secretaries of state, or even county election officials. Read more ..


Nigeria on Edge

Nigeria and Norway: Accountability Dilemmas and Jet Travel

November 1st 2012

Nigeria Oil

Nigeria and Norway have little in common except the first letter of their names and the fact that they produce about the same amount of oil each day. Norway on a per capita basis may be the richest country in the world, while Nigeria is among the poorest. Norway has among the world’s best social statistics, while Nigeria has among the worst. Norway has been a democracy for a long time, while Nigeria is still struggling to attain it.

I was therefore startled to learn that an official spokesman for Rivers State, one of the Nigeria’s principal oil producing states, confirmed the purchase of a new Bombardier jet for Governor Chibulke Amaechi. It cost U.S. $45 million. The jet is for the governor’s “exclusive” use and replaces an older aircraft, which will be sold.

And, just out of interest, what would be the travel arrangements for the King of Norway and the prime minister? I learned from a good authority that the King flies commercial. The seat next to him, however, is left vacant. The prime minister is not accorded the privilege of a vacant seat next to him when he flies commercial. It is true that the King of Norway can use a military aircraft on official (usually state) visits. And the prime minister can hire a plane. These occasions are relatively rare.

It is an illustration of how the Norwegian leadership is accountable to the parliament, and through it to the Norwegian people. Nigeria cannot yet hold its leaders to that standard of accountability. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

SEAL Team Community Disputes Osama Movies Based on Obama Narrative

November 1st 2012

Special-Ops

In a Hollywood Reporter news story by Tim Goodwin on Monday night, readers were told about the two motion pictures that depict the hunt and killing of radical-Islamist icon Osama bin Laden by President Barack Obama and members of the U.S. Navy SEAL Team Six being released. Goodwin mentions Katherine Bigalow's big screen release Zero Dark Thirty, which will be released after election day, and the National Geographic cable-TV channel's SEAL Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden scheduled to air at 8 p.m. on Sunday, two days before Election Day.

The NatGeo film comes from The Weinstein Company, a big contributor to the Obama campaign, and is directed by John Stockwell (Into the Blue, Turistas, Crazy/Beautiful) and produced by Nicolas Chartier, who was a producer on The Hurt Locker, Bigelow’s best picture Oscar winner.

But a former high-ranking Army officer and television news military analyst said that the Barack Obama telling of the Osama bin Laden killing is full of discrepancies geared towards helping Obama's re-election bid. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Leaving No One Behnd

October 31st 2012

Barack Obama

Remember when Barak Obama had a silver tongue? Was a great orator - maybe so much so that it didn't matter what he said, it just mattered that he was the coolest guy in the room, or on the platform, or in front of adoring crowds in front of some phony Greek columns in Denver? Remember that, because it's over.

He's not cool. He's not hip. He's not even terribly articulate; the teleprompter has become the butt of jokes people don't want to make about the President himself. But this really couldn't have been an accident, a slip of the tongue, could it? Could the President of the United States really have said in the wake of Hurricane Sandy that "Americans leave nobody behind?" After Benghazi, did he really have the nerve to use the words that soldiers use to reassure themselves that their comrades will do everything they can to support them?

At a Red Cross relief/campaign stop, President Obama told the audience and the video camera that Sandy was tough, but, "America's tougher. And we're tougher because we pull together, we leave nobody behind, we make sure we respond as a nation and remind ourselves that whenever an American is in need, all of us stand together to make sure we're providing the help that's necessary." From the man who left American soldiers on the battlefield.

The President is the Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces. It was bad enough that he and his minions -- Secretary of State Clinton, UN Ambassador Susan Rice, Press Secretary Jay Carney -- all spun a knowing lie about "the video," made a show of asking Google to take it down and had the videographer arrested in the dead of night and clapped into jail. They knew better then and now. But it all pales in comparison to what we now know about the failure of the commander in chief to respond to the call of soldiers in battle -- when the battle started, how long it was running, where the enemy was and what was needed on the ground. Read more ..


America After Sandy

Hurricane Sandy: A Lesson in Why Governments Really Matter

October 31st 2012

Hurricane Sandy Lashes Ocean City

Grover Norquist, the anti-tax crusader, has famously said that he has no wish to eliminate government, but only to “shrink it to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub.” Americans up and down the east coast can be grateful in the wake of Hurricane Sandy that he has not yet succeeded, or they might well have drowned in their own homes.

For those who wonder just what it is our tax dollars pay for, consider just a small list of government actions before and during the storm that made it far less catastrophic than it might have been:

    The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is responsible for tracking the path of hurricanes and other storms, predicted days in advance – and with astonishing accuracy – both the path and strength of Hurricane Sandy. That gave governments throughout the region time to plan a response. Read more ..


Media on Edge

Journalistic Sham: Haaretz Acknowledges Misleading ‘Apartheid’ Survey Report

October 31st 2012

Haaretz

A recent survey presented by “Haaretz” newspaper claimed that the majority of Jews in Israel advocate the establishment of an apartheid regime, and further claimed that most Israelis believe that currently there are areas in the Jewish state in which apartheid measures are already exercised.

The survey relied on a sample of 503 respondents, and was referenced in articles published by media outlets all over the world, allegedly revealing a series of racist views and extreme nationalist opinions among the Jewish citizens of Israel. However, an in-depth analysis of the survey performed by Israeli media watch dog ‘Presspectiva’ presents a different depiction of Israeli opinion. Presspectiva was able to obtain a full copy of the survey, enabling them to take a close and accurate look at the survey’s findings.

According to their analysis, the conclusions in this survey were misrepresented by the Haaretz article, details were omitted, and Gideon Levy’s coverage of the survey was not objective and contained information that was intentionally distorted. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Having our Soldiers' Back

October 31st 2012

Leon Panetta

The government of Israel traded 1,700 Palestinian terrorists for Sgt. Gilad Shalit, an IDF soldier kidnapped and held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The Israelis have been known to trade live terrorists for the bodies of its soldiers held by its enemies. That's what it means to have your soldiers' collective back. And their families' back.

Navy SEALS Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods knew the risks they took having volunteered for service in the American armed forces. They were in a war zone; they knew what the enemy could do, but it's hard to imagine they ever considered that their government didn't have their back. That the U.S. government would deny them rescue, deny them reinforcements, deny them cover. What must they have felt in those hours, knowing it was only a matter of time until they died -- not because their government didn't know, not because their comrades couldn't reach them, but because their comrades weren't sent.

Riding Amtrak Sunday, I read an article in the magazine about Jill Biden's new book, When Daddy Goes to War. Dr. Biden, stepmother of an Army National Guardsman who served a tour in Iraq, has -- along with Michelle Obama -- been a public face in support of our troops. Her book is about "the sacrifice of one military family -- the endless worry, the prayers, the love, the lonesomeness..." Mrs. Biden talks about "gestures of kindness" her family received while Beau was in Iraq. "I can't tell you how many times people would come up to me -- I mean strangers, complete strangers -- and say, 'I'm praying for your son.' As a mom, you can imagine what that means." Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Obama and The Women's Lobby

October 30th 2012

Obamacare

The Affordable Care Act mentions “breast” 44 times, “prostate” not once. It also establishes an elaborate and expensive network of special programs to promote women’s health. Programs for men are nowhere to be found. What explains the imbalance?

When President Obama took office, he promised to insulate his administration from organized lobbyists. Yet, from day one, he granted the women’s lobby unprecedented influence. The results should trouble fair-minded feminists.

The 2009 stimulus program set the pattern. The president had originally called for a two-year “shovel-ready” plan to modernize roads, bridges, electrical grids, and dams. Women’s activists were appalled. Op-eds appeared with titles like “Where Are the New Jobs for Women?” and “The Macho Stimulus Plan.” More than 1,000 feminist historians signed an open letter urging Mr. Obama not to favor a “heavily male-dominated field” like construction: “We need to rebuild not only concrete and steel bridges but also human bridges.” Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), attacked the “testosterone-laden ‘shovel-ready’ terminology.” Christina Romer, who chaired the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, would later say, “The very first e-mail I got . . . was from a women’s group saying, ‘We don’t want this stimulus package to just create jobs for burly men.’” Read more ..


The Obama Edge

The Night our Consulate was Attacked--Was Obama in charge—or not?

October 30th 2012

Amb. Christopher Stevens, killed in Libya #2

Much has been made of President Obama’s considerable use of the pronoun “I” on the night he announced to the nation the killing of Osama bin Laden. As Mark Bowden notes in his recently published account of the killing and the decision-making that led up to the operation, The Finish, the president was not shy about putting himself front and center when it came to the decision to proceed with the operation: “I directed Leon Panetta … I was briefed … I met repeatedly with my national security team … I determined … and authorized … Today at my direction.” 

While a bit over the top when it comes to the “me” factor, nevertheless, the president is indeed commander in chief and, under the Constitution, with its unitary executive, he is, as the text of that document asserts, the sole holder of “the executive power.” Unlike many of the state constitutions of the time, the national executive authority was not divided among various state office holders nor as under the Articles of Confederation—the country’s first federal constitution—was it in the hands of the national assembly. So, whether critics of the president liked his rhetoric or not, whether they felt it was unseemly or not, it wasn’t out of bounds from a constitutional perspective. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

Haaretz Survey Distorts Data and Falsifies Israeli Sentiment

October 30th 2012

Austrian Hospice

A recent survey conducted and presented by "Haaretz" newspaper claimed that the majority of Jews in Israel advocates the instating of an apartheid regime, and further claimed that most Israelis believe that currently there are areas in which apartheid measures are already exercised.

The survey relied on a sample of 503 respondents, and was published in the media all over the world, allegedly revealing a series of racist views and extreme nationalist opinions among the Jewish citizens of Israel. An in-depth analysis of the survey performed by the Israeli media watch dog 'Presspectiva' presents a different depiction of Israeli opinion. Presspectiva was able to obtain a full copy of the survey, enabling them to take a close and accurate look at the survey's findings.

According to their analysis, the conclusions in this survey were misrepresented by the Haaretz article, details were omitted, and Gideon Levy's coverage of the survey was not objective and contained information that was intentionally distorted.
Presspectiva's study provides many examples of inconsistencies between the survey's data and the information presented by Haaretz newspaper. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

President Obama's Outsized Stakes in Hurricane Sandy

October 30th 2012

obama

The stakes are higher for President Obama than for his Republican opponent Mitt Romney as Hurricane Sandy pounds the eastern United States.

Obama could reap big electoral benefits if he takes command of the situation and if the federal government's response to the massive storm is competent.

But it will be Obama who gets the blame if anything goes badly wrong with that response or if it takes longer than expected for a swathe of the nation to get back on its feet.

It is a tantalizing but perilous situation for a president locked into a race that both sides agree is extremely close.

On Monday, both campaigns wrestled with an appropriate response to a storm that had suddenly supplanted all else, just eight days before Election Day. Obama and Romney each cancelled events on Monday and Tuesday. Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage

A Foreign Policy Failure to Acknowledge the Obvious

October 29th 2012

libya-consulate

A month after the murder of four American officials in Libya on Sept. 11, congressional testimony and leaked government cables have revealed that some U.S. officials immediately recognized that terrorists had planned the attack. So why did the Obama administration's top policy makers—including the president himself—persist in claiming that the catastrophe was a spontaneous outburst of rage against an anti-Islam video posted on YouTube by an American provocateur?

Many critics smell cynical politics. The president, after all, has an electoral interest in denying that terrorism remains a serious problem. Likewise, during the second presidential debate, when he could no longer justify his initial emphasis on the video, Mr. Obama claimed misleadingly that he had called the Benghazi attack a terrorist act a day after it happened. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Everybody in Washington Wants a Piece of the Libya Action

October 29th 2012

Libyan rioters at US consulate Sep 2012 #1

Everyone in Congress seems to want a bite at the Libya apple. Lawmakers have launched a half-dozen probes, scheduled numerous hearings and sent dozens of letters to the Obama administration asking for information on the attack at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. The administration also is undertaking its own investigation into the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi where four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed.

In Congress, lawmakers from the Armed Services, Homeland Security, Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees have all asked for information from the Obama administration over the attacks. Most are Republicans, but some Democrats, such as Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), are also involved. Read more ..


Islam on Edge

Islamists Got it Right: America is Their Enemy

October 28th 2012

Obama Cairo Speech
Obama in Cairo

One of President Barack Obama’s main themes has been to convince Middle Eastern Islamists and Arabs generally that America is not their enemy. But the reason this strategy never works is that the radicals, be they Islamists or nationalists, know better. They see the United States as their enemy and they are right to do so.

No amount of sympathy, empathy, economic aid, apology, or appeasement will change this fact. Nor did such efforts succeed in making either Obama or the United States popular in such circles and the tens of millions of people influenced by them.  The only thing surprising about all of this is that so few “experts” and politicians seem to comprehend it. There are a number of reasons why this is true, though many people mistakenly think they must find just one factor that explains this reality. Read more ..


China on Edge

Will the Real Chinese Leaders Please Stand Up?

October 27th 2012

Chinese soldier at Tienamen Square

For more than two decades beginning in 1956, CBS and then NBC aired a television show “To Tell the Truth,” in which a panel of celebrities attempted to identify which one of three contestants was telling the truth about who he/she was. I always found the show rather painfully gripping as I waited for the final reveal, when the host would ask, “Would the real [so and so] please stand up?”

That pretty much sums up how I feel about the Chinese leadership succession process. I am more than ready for the host of the Chinese Communist Party to ask, “Will the real Chinese leadership please stand up?”

It has been an exhausting process, trying the patience of even the most dedicated Pekinologists. As China watcher Francesco Sisci has noted, there are still “so many elements up in the air,” including: how many people will be in the standing committee? Will there be a woman? Will Hu Jintao stay as chairman of the Central Military Commission? Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Mystery Deepens Over Origins of Nonprofit Battling Montana Spending Limits

October 27th 2012

Money Stack

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

Obama Administration Will Pay Companies to Violate the Law

October 27th 2012

 The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper

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

Aleksandr Bastrykin's 'Forest Scandal' and its Connections to Putin

October 27th 2012

Putin

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

Is the West Uninterested in Nigeria’s Floods?

October 26th 2012

Flood

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

Defense Sequestration Targets Small Business

October 26th 2012

The Pentagon

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

Returning to an Economic Growth Agenda

October 26th 2012

Unemployed Claimants

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

The Demographic Sources of Turkey's Foreign Policy Crisis

October 25th 2012

Turk flags

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

ANC Party Politics and the Upcoming Convention

October 25th 2012

Africa-Mantashe-South-Africa-ANC

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

The Missing Obama-Romney Debate on Egypt

October 24th 2012

Obama and Romney road show

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

A U.S.-China “Trade War”--Time to Abolish a Silly Notion

October 24th 2012

Bank of China

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 ..



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