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The 2012 Vote

Obama Spiraling Down Toward a Loss

October 20th 2012

PBObama contemplative

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

Syria’s New Attack on Lebanon

October 20th 2012

Tripoli Lebanon Embattled Street Aug 2012

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

The Israel that Can help the United States

October 19th 2012

Better Place Station

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

Congressional Research Service Says Iran Sanctions Have Failed--Military Strike May Be Only Option

October 19th 2012

USS Abraham Lincoln Flight Deck

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

The Patterns of the Obama Doctrine in U.S. Foreign Policy

October 18th 2012

Obama and Hillary Clinton

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

How Could the President and Secretary of State Allow this to Happen?

October 17th 2012

Amb Chris Stevens in Death

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

Social Security's War on Working Wives

October 17th 2012

tiger mom

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 ..

Drugs Wars

Latin American Nations Consider Drug Legalization

October 17th 2012

mexican soldiers burning pot in Sinaloa
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

Critics Say: Clinton Leaves Country to Avoid Questions about Benghazi

October 16th 2012

Hillary Clinton in Indonesia

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

European Union Doesn't Deserve a Nobel Prize

October 16th 2012

Bosnia mourner in cemetery

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

Obama Dodges Responsibility for Terrorist Attack on U.S. Consulate

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 ..

American History

Cuban Missile Crisis: Cold War Contest Remembered

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

Jobless Data Don't Match Up

October 15th 2012

Emplyment Application

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

The Great USA Comeback

October 14th 2012

Obama Campaign 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

Mosque-Building Campaign by Turkey Stirs the Pot in Germany

October 14th 2012

Cologne mosque

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

Malala’s Attack, Fight for Girls’ Education Mark International Day of the Girl Child

October 13th 2012

Malala Yousafzai

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

Romney Ad Blitz outspending Obama on TV in Swing States

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

How the Arab Spring's Prisoner Releases Have Helped the Jihadi Cause

October 12th 2012

Libyan freedom fighter

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 ..

Thailand on Edge

Southern Philippines Deal a Lesson for Southern Thailand?

October 12th 2012

Puea Thai

In the wake of the Philippines government announcing last weekend that Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had agreed upon a peace plan after fifteen years of negotiations and forty years of war, many Thai news outlets are wondering whether Manila could teach Bangkok a lesson in how to deal with the southern Thailand insurgency. The Nation today, in an editorial titled “A Lesson for Thailand from the Philippines,” offers that the Philippine agreement has many key points for Thai policymakers to learn from, a mantra echoed by several other Thai media outlets. Yet there are key differences between southern Thailand and southern Philippines that, at this point, will make it hard to apply many of Manila’s lessons to Thailand.

Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra is not personally engaged in ending the insurgency. According to nearly all Philippine news sources, Philippines president Benigno Aquino III made a peace deal with the MILF one of his highest priorities, and agreed to face-to-face meetings with the MILF leaders in order to personally guarantee the peace process and demonstrate his commitment. Read more ..

Edge of Intolerance

A Darkness Falls on Europe as it Learns to Know Fear

October 11th 2012

Vigil in Paris

When kippah-wearing Jews and non-Jews march in Sweden to show that they have no fear, I know fear.

When anti-Semitism is again the most common currency of politics in Europe, I know fear.

When the Chief Rabbi of Lyon receives death threats with menacing photos, I know fear.

When a rabbi and his daughter are assaulted in the middle of Berlin, I know fear.

When guards patrol the streets near Rome’s Jewish school with metal detectors, searching for explosives, I know fear.

When I, a non-Jew, receive letters saying “dear feces eating insect, scratch around the Zionist dung as it’s natural for you” and my name appears in the list of the “mafia ebraica”, I know fear.

When Bruxelles debates the criminalization of “Islamophobia” like the Soviet Union did with “deviationism”, I know fear.

When circumcision is persecuted in Germany, like during the Shoah when the Jewish ritual could bring with it a death sentence, I know fear. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

The True Choice Facing Voters in 2012

October 11th 2012

Click to select Image

In 2008, when Americans went to the polls, our nation was in dire straits. Unemployment was high. The housing market had collapsed. Our national debt was swelling. Like a great locomotive, our nation was off the rails, teetering on the edge of a precipice. With great hopes for the future, voters cast their ballots looking forward to the change a new conductor promised. But three and a half years later, our situation is no less precarious.

Apologists would say it was ambitious to think we could put the train in reverse and back it off the cliff in such a short time. But there can be no one who would say it is acceptable or excusable to drive the train even further into the abyss. And yet, that is precisely where the Obama administration has led the American people. Whether it is through sheer ineptitude or calculated design, the result is the same. No objective measurement can demonstrate the President’s policies have improved the lives of Americans or made our nation stronger. Never before have voters faced so stark a contrast and so critical a decision point.

On every single issue, staying the course will serve only to accelerate the fall into the deep chasm, taking with it the hopes, livelihood and security of this nation and its citizens.

Fiscal Policy

Since 2009, our national debt has swollen by almost $6 trillion to an incomprehensible $16 trillion. The Obama administration is borrowing $4 billion. Every. Single. Day. With every billion borrowed, we drive down the value of our dollar, saddle our children with insurmountable debt and raise the specter of fiscal collapse. But how does the Administration address this madness? With even greater insanity -- named “QE3”  --where we print money in order to buy our own debt. Even median family income has decreased by 2.6% to 4% -- so much for the middle class. Read more ..

Israel on Edge

Jewish Leaders Outraged Over Christian Call for Reevaluation of Israel Aid

October 11th 2012

Abraham Foxman Color cropped
ADL's Abraham Foxman

American Jewish organizations are reconsidering relations with certain Christian leaders after a call for reevaluation of U.S. foreign aid to Israel. On October 5, a group of Christian leaders wrote a letter to the U.S. Congress accusing Israel of human rights abuses and asking lawmakers to reevaluate "unconditional" military assistance. “We urge Congress to undertake careful scrutiny to ensure that our aid is not supporting actions by the government of Israel that undermine prospects for peace. We urge Congress to hold hearings to examine Israel’s compliance, and we request regular reporting on compliance and the withholding of military aid for non-compliance.” It added, “As Christian leaders in the United States, it is our moral responsibility to question the continuation of unconditional US financial assistance to the government of Israel. Realizing a just and lasting peace will require this accountability, as continued US military assistance to Israel — offered without conditions or accountability — will only serve to sustain the status quo and Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian territories.”

After learning of the letter, the Anti-Defamation League pulled out of a joint interfaith conference scheduled for October and urged other Jewish organizations to do the same: “it is outrageous that mere days after the Iranian president repeated his call for Israel’s elimination, these American Protestant leaders would launch a biased attack against the Jewish state by calling on Congress to investigate Israel’s use of foreign aid. In its clear bias against Israel, it is striking that their letter fails to also call for an investigation of Palestinian use of US foreign aid, thus once again placing the blame entirely on Israel.”

The American Jewish Committee questioned the timing of the letter, coming just days after Iran's president unleashed a blistering attack on the Jewish state: “When the world currently is focused on the Iranian nuclear threat to the entire Middle East and the world, Christian leaders have chosen to mount another political attack on Israel,” said Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations. “When religious liberty and safety of Christians across the Middle East are threatened by the repercussions of the Arab Spring, these Christian leaders have chosen to initiate a polemic against Israel, a country that protects religious freedom and expression for Christians, Muslims and others.” Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

'Sesame Street' and 'Big Bird' are Unwilling Props in Contentious Election Year

October 11th 2012

Big Bird

Sesame Street's objection to the use of Big Bird as a political prop has churned plenty of headlines over the last week, but it's hardly the first time this year a prominent name has protested an unwitting campaign appearance.

From Exxon to AARP to several national journalists, a growing number of well-known groups and individuals have taken exception when either President Obama or GOP nominee Mitt Romney invoked them – without notice or approval – to hammer home a political message. While those organizations have plenty to gain from the national attention a campaign-trail shout-out can generate, they seem more wary that appearances of supporting one side or the other could alienate a huge segment of the country, potentially costing them customers, members or even influence on Capitol Hill. Read more ..

The Arab Winter of Rage

Former Saudi Navy Officer says Arabs' Real Enemies are Corruption and Dearth of Freedom

October 11th 2012

Abdulateef Al-Mulhim
Ret. Commodore Abdulateef Al-Mulhim

"The Arab world wasted hundreds of billions of dollars and lost tens of thousands of innocent lives fighting Israel, which they considered is their sworn enemy, an enemy whose existence they never recognized. The Arab world has many enemies and Israel should have been at the bottom of the list. The real enemies of the Arab world are corruption, lack of good education, lack of good health care, lack of freedom, lack of respect for the human lives and finally, the Arab world had many dictators who used the Arab-Israeli conflict to suppress their own people."

I did not write these words. I have said the same things many times before in different ways, but these words are not mine. What is shocking is not the paragraph itself, but rather who wrote it and where it was published. This comes from an article titled, "Arab Spring and the Israeli enemy" by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim, and it was published October 7, 2012 by the Arab News. Read more ..

Israel on Edge

Israel's Destruction of Drone Changes Region's Dynamics

October 10th 2012

MQ-1 Predator Drone

The widely reported downing of an unmanned aerial vehicle that entered Israeli airspace on Oct. 6 demonstrates, in stark terms, how UAVs have the potential to upend long-held assumptions regarding the nature of Iran’s reach in the Middle East. For Israel, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

The UAV (industry experts dislike the term drone) arrived in Israeli airspace from over the Mediterranean, flying west to east in a trajectory that brought it “over settlements and military bases in the Negev” before it was shot down south of Hebron. In a video released by the Israeli Defense Forces, a missile fired from a fighter jet can be seen striking the interloper. Israeli officials believe the UAV may have been on a mission to perform surveillance of the Dimona nuclear plant.

The video shows that the UAV was flying at a sufficiently high altitude to allow use of an air-to-air missile. In addition, a size comparison with the missile in the video frames just before impact indicates that the UAV was fairly small, making Israel’s success at destroying it noteworthy. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Obama's Closing Argument

October 10th 2012

Obama Bowed Head

President Obama won’t have a chance to make up for his uninspiring debate performance until Oct. 22, when he will meet Mitt Romney in Florida with CBS’s Bob Schieffer moderating. The vice president’s debate comes before that, though, as well as a debate with a town-hall format that won’t allow the candidates much opportunity for oratory. So, as an old speech writer, I can’t resist offering suggestions for his last clear chance for summation. Here’s what I’d whisper in his ear the night before.

Rest up on debate day. Have an espresso before going onstage. Keep in mind: You are the champ, not the contender. Act like it. Dark suit, red tie. Ramrod straight. Never look down. Use the right mix of sugar (that wonderful smile) and salt (a few zingers on point.) The final debate is on foreign affairs, which offers the right openings for you to regain your respect, along with your mojo.

Set a presidential stance, reminding your opponent that you are one of the 44 commanders in chief in American history. You committed the lives of brave young Americans to war. No one who has not written personal letters of condolence to military families or met and saluted troops’ returning caskets at quiet airports can know this feeling.

Take some sober credit. You promised to end the war in Iraq, and you did. You promised to pursue Osama bin Laden and kill him, and you did. You promised to end our military adventure in Afghanistan, and that is happening. You promised to find and kill the terrorists who killed our ambassador and other Americans in Libya and you will do that. In critical matters of war and peace, any administration should be graded on one fundamental basis: Promises made, promises kept. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

General Destroys Officer's Career Over Radical Islam Course

October 9th 2012

Click to select Image
General Martin Dempsey

During a press briefing, Army General Martin Dempsey, President Barack Obama's Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, publicly lambasted Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Matthew Dooley, a 1994 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a highly decorated combat veteran. His reason: The course on Islamic Radicalism which LTC Dooley was teaching at the Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC) of the National Defense University was offensive to Muslims, according to a statement released on Monday by officials from a public-interest law firm in Michigan. As a result, the Thomas More Law Center on October 8 announced it is taking on LTC Dooley's case against the Defense Department and the Obama administration.

"General Dempsey characterized LTC Dooley’s course as "totally objectionable," and ordered all material offensive to Islam scrubbed from military professional education within the JFSC and elsewhere. In addition, LTC Dooley was fired from his instructor position and given an ordered negative Officer Evaluation Report (OER) -- the death-knell for a military career," according to Thomas More officials. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Thoughts on China and American Elections

October 9th 2012

Chinese Credit Card

The current presidential campaign will be the eleventh U.S. presidential election since Richard Nixon began America’s opening to the People’s Republic of China. It is the sixth election in which an elected incumbent seeks a second term. On one of those six occasions (1972), China policy arguably worked to the advantage of the incumbent; twice (1984 and 2004) it figured little or not at all in the contest; and in three instances (1980, 1992, and 2000), the challenger tried to make a case that the incumbent had not stood up for American interests and values against Beijing.

It is not yet clear how Barack Obama’s policy toward China will feature in the 2012 campaign. There has been no huge China controversy under Obama thus far, as there was under Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush. However, China’s revival as a great power poses greater challenges for the United States than ever before. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

The Obamagas Rip-Off

October 9th 2012

USS Harry S Truman

The Wall Street Journal notes that when President Obama took office in 2009, gas was $1.84 per gallon. The Lundberg Survey last Sunday shows gas in Chicago at $4.25. But that's small potatoes. Wait until you learn what the U.S. Navy pays for Obamagas.

Even loyal Democrats in the Teamsters Union would raise hell if the Obama administration started a biofuel program that bumped a gallon of gas to $10. But not the U.S. Navy. In 2009 Navy Secretary Ray Mabus ordered the Navy to spend $424 per gallon for 20,000 gallons of biofuel from Solazyme, another ‘green' company like Solyndra -- the outfit that went bankrupt after a $535 million loan from the Obama administration.

To be fair, that $424 gas was just the first batch. These days, the admirals have the price of a gallon of biofuel down to a mere $27, instead of the usual $3.60 for conventional fuel. They bought 450,000 gallons based on chicken fat, grease and algae, and used it to power "The Great Green Fleet," a carrier strike group, for a six week exercise in July. Read more ..

Russia on Edge

Vladimir Putin: By the Numbers

October 9th 2012

Vlad the Action Figure winks

Russiuan President Vladimir Putin celebrated his 60th birthday on October 7. But how many people know the price of oil on the day he was born? Or the number of airplanes and helicopters he has at his disposal? Or how many tiger cubs he was given as a birthday gift?

See Vladimir Putin by the numbers below:

1 -- The number of rare tiger cubs Putin was given on his birthday in 2008. He declined to reveal who gave him the cubs. But Putin Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a Putin appointee, is known to be the proud owner of a pet tiger.

2.6 -- The price in U.S. dollars of a barrel of oil in 1952, the year Putin was born in Leningrad.

6 -- The number of years that have passed since Journalist Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead outside her apartment in Moscow on October 7, 2006, Putin’s 54th birthday.

11 -- Putin’s age when he began learning sambo and judo. He holds a black belt in the latter.

12 -- The number of female Moscow State University students who posed in lingerie to mark Putin’s 58th birthday in 2010 in a racy calendar. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

The Undoing of Storybook Man

October 8th 2012


It was the Puss in Boots eyes. If you’ve seen the Shrek movies or the spin-off cartoon starring the storybook cat voiced by Antonio Banderas, you know what I’m talking about. Whenever Puss in Boots really needs something from someone, he flashes these enormous kitten eyes that melt anyone in their path. Whenever my daughter really wants something, she tries to lay them on me, and I have to say, “Stop trying to give me the Puss in Boots eyes . . . you can’t have chocolate cake for dinner.”

I knew Barack Obama was miserable when he tried to give debate moderator Jim Lehrer the Puss in Boots eyes. “You may want to move on to another topic,” Obama implored Lehrer, a bit like a motorcycle thief begging a cop to take him into custody rather than let him stay with the surly biker gang that caught him.

I expected Romney to beat expectations and win the debate (though I had no clue how decisive his victory would be), not because I thought Romney was such a fantastic debater, but because Obama is the single most overrated politician of my lifetime. That’s not to say he’s a bad politician. He’s not. He’s fine, even pretty good. But he’s not the master so many people claim he is. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

The Odd September Unemployment Rate: When Good Surveys Produce False Results

October 8th 2012

Click to select Image

What’s behind the seemingly sudden drop in the unemployment rate?

While the economy stumbles along, no one would expect a sudden jump in employment. Job growth has averaged about 100,000 per month over the past six months, roughly consistent with other economic indicators suggesting slow growth. But the Labor Department reported today [1] the unemployment rate fell from 8.1 percent in August to 7.8 percent in September, which makes a full half-point drop since July.

These results suggest something very strange is going on with the household survey. In this hyper-political season, some who should know better and some who know little at all are suggesting the Obama Administration is playing games with the numbers. This is almost certainly not the case. The professionals at the Bureau of Labor Statistics would never stand for it, and like all good bureaucrats, they have ways of getting the truth out. Something strange is going on, but not politics—rather, statistics caused this little rhubarb. Read more ..

The Arab Winter of Rage

The FBI in Libya--a Very Cold Case

October 7th 2012


Close to three weeks after the deadly and destructive terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, a team of FBI investigators finally had boots of the ground in order to examine the crime scene, a police source said on Friday. But several forensics experts and former crime scene investigators called this latest display from the Obama administration a "dog and pony show" for consumption by U.S. voters.

The forensic team had hoped to gather information, investigative aids, and evidence on the terrorist attack that burned-down U.S. diplomatic compound and killed four Americans including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. “The FBI continues to coordinate with the U.S. Departments of State, Justice, and Defense, as well as the Libyan government, and other agencies in furtherance of the investigation into the deaths of Ambassador Stevens, Glen Doherty, Sean Smith, and Tyrone Woods,” the FBI said in a statement. “As this is an ongoing investigation, we have no further information to provide.” Read more ..

Iran on Edge

Corruption Scandal in Iran’s Central Bank

October 7th 2012

Iranian Moneychanger

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s final term as president will end in 2013. While Western audiences remember the Iranian president for his blustery rhetoric, his legacy in Iran may well revolve around economic failings.

Throughout the first decades of the Islamic Republic, war and revolution took its toll on the Iranian rial. Unable to stem its devaluation, Iranian officials imposed an official bank exchange rate, which differed from the black market rate offered by traders in the traditional Tehran bazaar. When this author visited Iran in the late 1990s the discrepancy between the bank rate and the black market rate for dollar exchange was almost 300 percent. A hotel room, therefore, might cost three times as much for foreigners as it would for Iranians, even if they were paying the same rial price. The black marketing was so blatant that Iranian financial newspapers would print the current black market currency exchange rates openly. Read more ..

Mexico on Edge

Coffee, Culture and Restoration in Mexico's Borderland

October 7th 2012

Juarez Mexico

As Ciudad Juarez lurches ahead in an uncertain recovery from years of extreme violence and economic decline, signs of renewed night life are stirring in the northern Mexican border city. Especially in the Pronaf and Gomez Morin zones, new bars and clubs, known as antros in Mexican lingo, are open for business. And across the street from the Rio Grande Mall near the Pronaf area, a different option now exists for people interested in more than just bouts of mindless drinking and dancing.

Open since August, Bumps Café Trilce proposes to be a center for creative connection, cultural revival and collective healing in a city traumatized by multiple crises. Housed in a former billiard joint, the new establishment is refurnished with comfy couches, several tables, a long liquor bar and decent space for artistic exhibitions and performances. A message on the wall behind the bar proclaims, “Life is Too Short for a Bad Coffee.” Fine cheeses, cold cuts and sandwiches round out the menu. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Health Care Reform and the 47 Percent

October 6th 2012


Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's secretly videoed remarks regarding the number of Americans "dependent upon government" have sparked a great deal of debate over who in the public receives what from the state.

The Census Bureau's latest figures confirm that 49 percent of Americans received benefits from at least one federal program. This total, however, mixes apples and oranges insofar as it includes 35 percent of individuals who rely on means-tested benefits and those who might be viewed as having "earned" their benefits, including nearly 50 million recipients of Social Security and much smaller numbers of individuals who qualify for unemployment benefits, workers' compensation, veterans benefits, etc.

Let's examine one segment from the former category: the 80.5 million low-income Americans on Medicaid — 26.4 percent of the entire population. As discussed in previous posts, Medicaid is a seriously flawed program. From a beneficiary standpoint, it generally offers quite comprehensive benefits-rivaling or exceeding those available to most workers through employer-sponsored coverage. However, Medicaid also severely underpays providers. Consequently, only 53 percent of doctors accept all or most new Medicaid patients (compared to 87 percent who will accept all or most new patients with private insurance). This is why Medicaid ranks as "America's worst health care program" — in some cases, worse than no coverage at all. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

How the Media are Spinning Romney's First Debate Victory

October 6th 2012

Ask Mitt

Did Romney win the debate, or did Obama lose it? To those who watched, the answer is obvious: both. In the media we hear endless explanations of why Obama lost but few comments on how effective and articulate Mitt Romney was.

Bob Woodward hypothesizes that Obama was, somehow, distracted — perhaps by some personal issues or maybe by a big international crisis about which we don’t know yet. Al Gore, ever focused on climate issues, posited that the high altitude in Denver had enervated the president since his handlers brought him out to the Mile-High City only a few hours before the debate.

These reasons may or may not have had anything to do with Obama’s terrible performance. But the point in floating them is to focus attention on something that may be repairable: Obama’s debating skills. They want to avoid having to zero in on Romney’s ability, knowledge, charm and charisma because these qualities are not likely to change and pose a permanent challenge to the liberal establishment. Read more ..

Venezuela on Edge

Election in Venezuela: Wild Card for US National Security

October 5th 2012

Chavez PDVSA

The upcoming October 7th elections in Venezuela do not constitute just another round of elections in another country. These elections are crucial for the future of Latin America and for the security of the United States. In fact, it is no exaggeration to point out that the Venezuelan drama should be as great a  concern as the  elections in the young democracies of the Middle East that emerged in the aftermath of the Arab spring.

Unfortunately, the Venezuelan electoral process  has been characterized by intimidation of the opposition and the press, violence, and indiscriminate use of state resources, all this with the objective of providing an advantage to Hugo Chavez.

In fact,  two supporters of Henrique Capriles Radonsky, the opposition candidate  challenging the President,  were recently shot to death.

Although Chavez and his interior Minister pledged to make every effort to bring the killers to justice, the case seems to follow an environment of intimidation and fear that has characterized the Chavez campaign. Opposition rallies have been blocked and undermined by pro-Chavez supporters and fistfights have been very common. Even the last killings took place at the time Chavez supporters blocked a motorcade of Capriles supporters. In September, Chavez supporters blocked a motorcade and burned a truck that belonged to the Capriles campaign. Read more ..

Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries

Challenging Opponents of Jewish Refugee Status

October 5th 2012

Alan Dershowitz lecture

Mention the words “refugee” and “Middle East”—in the media, at universities, at the United Nations and elsewhere—and the image of a Palestinian living in a makeshift camp will immediately pop into one's mind.  That is because the world has neglected the plight of an equal or greater number of Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim countries.  One rarely hears any discussion of the hundreds of thousands of Jews, whose families had lived throughout the Middle East and North Africa for thousands of years, and who were made refugees between 1947 and the early 1970s. 

There are differences, of course, between Palestinian and Jewish refugees.  Palestinian refugees have deliberately been kept in camps and not resettled so that they can be used as political footballs by Arab and Muslim states in their continuing effort to delegitimize Israel.  Jewish refugees were quickly resettled in Israel, in the United States and in several European countries.   Read more ..

Honduras on Edge

Murder and Corruption Taint a Model-City Program in Impoverished Honduras

October 5th 2012

Honduras - free speech - if I speak I die
Honduran protester bearing 'I will die if I speak' label.

MGK Group is lead by CEO Michael Strong, who the New York Times describes as an “activist” — “He promises that his investors include Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and Central American investors, but when pressed for details, named only one Guatemalan businessman.” The newspaper says that the lack of details has made even pro-government newspapers question the reality of the project. Honduras Culture and Politics says that the group’s “bare bones generic website grupomgk.com … was hastily erected in the last week.” El Heraldo reported on September 14 that the organization did not exist, and that no trace of it could be found online.

Honduras Culture and Politics reports that Strong has been involved in projects including Conscious Capitalism, Radical Social Entrepeneurs, and Peace Through Commerce, which all share the idea that poverty can be combatted through better legal systems that allow poor people to set up businesses free from restrictions. Read more ..

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