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Palestine and Israel

Who Violated the Oslo Accords?

September 21st 2012

Mahmoud Abbas and Big Bro Arafat

The month of September plays a central role in the Hebrew calendar, roughly correspondending with the holiday month of Tishrei. It also occupies a central place in Israel's collective political experience: On Sept. 13, 1993, the Oslo Accords were signed.

Recently, we learned that chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that "the Palestinian leadership is considering abrogating the Oslo Accords because Israel has sabotaged all peace efforts." The main reason, according to Palestinian Authority leaders, is economic - the financial document signed during those days in Paris that hinged the Palestinian economy to the Israeli economy in certain areas is the root of all the difficulties, and should therefore be nullified.

Why is there a need to abolish the entire agreement over this? Have these accords not already been annulled a number of times in the past? Did the Palestinians ever intend to honor them? After all, did the Oslo Accords alter our lives in the region in any decisive manner? They stipulated that Israel and the PLO mutually recognize each other and prescribed a series of steps to be taken by both sides; essentially they "promised" a new future for both peoples, who live in the same territory, because the PLO under Yasser Arafat's leadership promised to renounce violence. Really? Read more ..


The Obama Edge

As Middle East Policy Crumbles, Obama Defense: It's Not a Revolution, It's a Video

September 21st 2012

Libyan rioters at US consulate Sep 2012 #1

So now we have the answer of the “best and the brightest” expressed in the most explicit terms by American leaders and the mass media. The problem in the Middle East is not mass revolutionary Islamist movements seeking to mobilize the masses, seize state power, expel U.S. influence, overthrow all non-radical regimes, wipe Israel off the map, and transform their own societies through Sharia dictatorships, despite the fact that they have been working on this project for a very long time and discussed it openly in thousands of articles, speeches, rallies, terrorist attacks, and other actions.

Oh, no, the problem is that a guy in California made a video on You-Tube that nobody ever saw. Therefore the main task is to apologize, explain, and keep trying to make friends with the ideologically determined revolutionary Islamists who take each concession as help toward their winning and see every American vacillation as a weakness that urges them toward more aggression. These are people who never lack an excuse to kill you. Read more ..


Media Bias

Does AP stand for 'Associated Propaganda'?

September 20th 2012

Associated Press

Associated Press told the story this way:

"PARIS -- A small package bomb exploded inside a kosher grocery store in a Paris suburb Wednesday, wounding at least one person...The reason for the attack was unclear, but it rattled nerves amid global tensions surrounding a U.S.-produced film insulting to Islam. The French grocery store attack came a few hours after a satirical French weekly published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, prompting anger from French Muslim groups."

So many odd thoughts in so little space, but the oddest thought of all is that something other than anti-Semitism was grounds for an attack on Jews in a Jewish place.

"Global tensions surrounding a U.S.-produced film insulting to Islam." This is, simply, a lie. It has become clear since last week that armed and radical groups had threatened American facilities in Egypt and Libya prior to 11 September. According to Fox News, DHS issued a warning to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo that, "an 'unidentified user' on an Arabic-language forum posted the statement 'inciting Egyptians to target the U.S. Embassy, indicating the U.S. Embassy shouldn't remain in Egypt' until Omar Abdel-Rahman ... is released." Read more ..


Inside Islam

“Islam’s Savior” or Muslim Brotherhood’s Heir?

September 20th 2012

Tariq Ramadan

As the Muslim Brotherhood tightens its grip on Egypt, Western governments are trying to get a handle on this powerful group: Is it a radical jihadist movement or a voice for reform that opposes violence?

Muslim activist Tariq Ramadan is facing those same questions. His family lineage gives Ramadan instant credibility among Islamists. Ramadan’s grandfather, Hassan al-Banna, founded the Brotherhood. His father, Said Ramadan, helped lead the movement in Europe. Tariq has been accused of carrying on that tradition, but in a recent interview, he denied any involvement with the Brotherhood.

“I’m not a member,” he said. “I never was a member, so this is something also which is known.” Still, he praises his forefathers’ work and has said there is “nothing in this heritage” that he rejects. Read more ..


Iran on Edge

Cleric Beaten Up By 'Badly Veiled' Woman

September 20th 2012

Iranian women with mobile
Typical Modern Iranian Women

"I politely [told] her to cover herself up," said Hojatoleslam Ali Beheshti, an Iranian cleric in the city of Shamirzad in Semnan Province, describing a recent encounter with a woman he believed was improperly veiled. "She responded to me by saying: 'You [should] close your eyes.'"

The cleric, who spoke to the semi-official Mehr news agency, said he repeated his warning to the “bad hijab” woman, which is a way of describing women who do not fully observe the Islamic dress code that became compulsory following the 1979 revolution.

"Not only didn’t she cover herself up, but she also insulted me. I asked her not to insult me anymore, but she started shouting and threatening me," Beheshti said. "She pushed me and I fell to the ground on my back. From that point on, I don’t know what happened. I was just feeling the kicks of the woman who was beating me up and insulting me." He said he was hospitalized for three days following the attack.

I’m not a supporter of violence, but as a woman who grew up in Iran and was harassed many times for appearing in public in a way that was deemed un-Islamic, I understand the frustration that woman in Semnan must have felt and why she lashed out at the cleric. Read more ..


America on Edge

Balance between Personal and Government Responsibility

September 19th 2012

Unemployed Claimants

The media is full of commentary about Mitt Romney’s suggestion that people who do not pay income taxes are lacking in personal responsibility.

My view is that personal responsibility matters. In fact, Governor Romney has cited more than once a Brookings study (done with my colleague Ron Haskins). The study shows that if you do just three things: stay in school at least through high school, don’t have a child until you’re married and over 21, and work full-time, your chances of being poor are only 2 percent and your chances of joining the middle class are 74 percent.

We should expect and encourage this kind of behavior. It is necessary but it is not sufficient. The larger society, including government, has a role to play as well. Are children born to irresponsible parents to blame for their lack of opportunity? Are adults who can’t find a job during a recession at fault? Are the seriously disabled or the frail elderly supposed to fend for themselves There was a lot of talk at both the Republican and the Democratic conventions about the American Dream. The difference was that Republicans celebrated the Horatio Algers among us – the Mark Rubios who have pulled themselves up from modest beginnings. Democrats also lauded the upwardly mobile but with a recognition that a Pell Grant to go to a community college or free access to contraceptive services can make a difference. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008 Set to Expire

September 18th 2012

National Security Agency
National Security Agency

Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives reauthorized the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA), which expires at the end of the year. The Senate will take up the measure shortly. James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), and U.S. Attorney General (AG) Eric Holder have informed leaders in Congress that reauthorizing the FAA is “the top legislative priority of the national Intelligence Community,” and national security officials from the previous Administration have testified in favor of reauthorization.

FAA Remedied Defects in FISA
Enacted in 1978, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) created a secret national security court to review wiretap applications for national security investigations conducted in the U.S. that involve foreign powers or their agents. With FISA, Congress recognized the need to distinguish between rigorous judicial review of intelligence surveillance efforts in the U.S. (where the Fourth Amendment applies) and allowing the government to conduct surveillance overseas (where the Fourth Amendment does not apply) without judicial oversight. Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

Fiscal Cliff and the Healthcare Edge

September 17th 2012

medicine and money #2

Newspapers and airways are chock full of warnings about the fiscal cliff the country is getting ready to topple over when scheduled tax increases and spending cuts kick in on January 1, 2013. Standard macroeconomic models, such as those employed by the Congressional Budget Office, predict a contraction in GDP in the first half of 2013 if Congress does not act. But the impact will not be delayed until then. It has started already.

The large and increasing uncertainty about the future of federal fiscal policy is causing the economy to slow even before we reach the edge of the fiscal cliff. Last week's weak jobs report is one broad-based indicator of this trend, but a clearer example of the economic impact of policy uncertainty lies in the health care sector.

Apart from the future effects of health care legislation on health care spending and costs, near-term fiscal policies are stunting the sector. Physician reimbursement in Medicare is scheduled to be cut 27 percent on January 1, 2013, when the current "doc fix" expires. Congress has almost always intervened to avoid these recurring cuts, but the uncertainty still looms, and if Congress does act, other health care providers may be forced to endure cuts to offset the budget impact. Read more ..


Jewish Refugees from Arab Lands

Undermining the Jews of the Arab World

September 17th 2012

Expelled Jews from Arab countries

If you’re looking for an online aggregator of Israel-bashing articles, you could do a great deal worse than visit Open Zion, the website edited by the darling of America’s Jewish far left, Peter Beinart. All the obsessions of today’s anti-Zionists are neatly organized there, in the form of hand-wringing tracts about Rachel Corrie’s death, Israel’s resemblance to apartheid South Africa, and the dangerous refusal of Israel and the United States to acknowledge that Iran’s rulers really are reasonable people.

This week, I spied a new theme. An article by Hussein Ibish, a Senior Fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, caricatured the legitimate claims for justice of those Jews who were expelled from Arab countries as the latest trick on the part of the Israeli government. (Ibish, it should be added, is regarded by many supporters of Israel as a rare voice of sanity among the chorus of increasingly whacky anti-Zionists. However, as his piece on the Jews of the Arab world demonstrates, Ibish is far better at convincing people that he’s an original thinker than he is at original thinking.) Read more ..


The Winter of Arab Rage

The Abandonment and Violation of Christopher Stevens

September 17th 2012

Amb. Christopher Stevens, killed in Libya #1

By obsessing over the 14-minute YouTube Muhammad video and its maker, the mainstream media ultimately exonerates the inexcusable and murderous response of the Islamic world.

There is only one question: did those who make this movie break any law?  No, they did not—and so the matter should end there, and the media should move on.  Focusing on those who did not break any American laws as a way to take the focus off those who murdered and initiated an act of war against the United States is not only misleading; it validates and gives Islamic blasphemy laws precedence over American freedoms.

Worse, even if making movies deemed offensive to Muslims was illegal in the U.S., the fact is, these embassy attacks, which “coincidentally” began on September 11, have nothing to do with the movie.  On September 10, I wrote an article titled “Jihadis Threaten to Burn U.S. Embassy in Cairo.” The demand that the U.S. release its imprisoned jihadis, including the Blind Sheikh, was behind these threats.  There was no mention of  “offensive movies.” My source, El Fagr, an Arabic website, reported all this on September 8. Read more ..


Obama and the Middle East

Obama's Middle East Policy in Perspective

September 16th 2012

Obama

The partisan furor over President Obama's Middle East policy strikes me as misplaced. While there is plenty to debate in foreign policy, and even more to debate on economic matters - which are themselves central to America's future global role - the allegations of supposed Obama apologies do not hold water.

I say this as someone who was dubious about Mr. Obama's big promises during his 2007/2008 campaign. The talk of reconciling with dictators, stemming climate change, making a big dent against global poverty, working towards a nuclear-free world, achieving Middle East peace, and healing the broader breach with the Islamic world was unrealistic and, for me at least, overdone.

In fairness, the big vision did help Obama get elected, and did excite the world at large about his presidency. But that also set up false expectations around the world about what he could really do. And that has led to disappointment, especially in the broader Middle East (in Europe, Obama is still popular; in much of Asia, President Bush was never so unpopular or the U.S. stock so low prior to Obama's inauguration). Throughout the Islamic world, the president's and Obama's standing as measured by public opinion polls is similar to George W. Bush's. That is surely a disappointment. Read more ..


The Economy on Edge

The Fed Doubles Down

September 15th 2012

Federal Reserve

The FOMC statement released Thursday amounts to an extraordinary upgrade in the intensity of the Fed’s effort to ignite higher growth and reduce unemployment.  The new “conditional” approach — call it CA — to monetary policy aims at enabling the Fed to affect real variables like the level of unemployment by pre committing it to further action if goals are not met and pre committing it to maintain a highly accommodative policy stance (zero interest rates and QE) even after the economy starts to improve.

The new approach has been hinted at for years in academic papers presented at the Fed’s annual Jackson Hole Conference and elsewhere. The new approach was forcefully expressed at this year’s conference in a paper presented by Michael Woodford, a former Princeton colleague of Chairman Bernanke, and the September 13 FOMC statement clearly reflects to influence of Woodford’s analysis. See “Methods of Policy Accommodation at the Interest-Rate Lower Bound” presented at the Jackson Hole Symposium August 31-SEptembere1, 2012. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Defense Jobs Already Being Lost to Sequestration

September 14th 2012

F-35 Military Plane

Last week, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget was required by law to report to Congress about how sequestration will be implemented. The late report may be made public today.

In the meantime, the defense industry, which employs over one million Americans, is left to guess just how badly its workers are going to be hit when sequestration takes effect in 2013. And the rumor mill is churning. I’m hearing that the White House budget guidance will be thin and largely lacking in new or substantive details.

If that’s the case, the president’s vagueness will likely be motivated by the same “concern” (read: politics) that led the Department of Labor to issue guidance on the WARN Act layoff notices to industry earlier this summer. Remember, the WARN Act requires defense companies to give 60 days notice to employees they’re planning to lay off. But the Labor Department, which has no jurisdiction over WARN Act notifications, decided it should issue a guidance memo to defense contractors telling them that they really weren’t required by law to notify employees of prospective layoffs… and especially not if those notices were going to go out the week before the election. Of course, it’s the federal courts, not Labor, that adjudicate whether employees’ rights have been violated. Read more ..


Obama and Egypt

Egypt Kicks Sand in Obama's Face; Obama Gives Money, Arms, and Apologies

September 14th 2012

African soccer

Rather than expose the phony excuse for the demonstration and condemn the Egyptian government’s behavior, the U.S. government groveled. It issued statements in English apologizing for the fact that someone had exercised his right of free speech within its country. The tweets it sent out in Arabic were even worse, pitiful pleas of the we-are-on-your-side-against-this-terrible-Islamophobia variety. And will Egypt’s failure to protect the embassy - because it is on the side of America’s enemies - have any effect on the Obama administration’s helping the Egyptian government get two German submarines (against Israel’s efforts), taking $1 billion off Egypt’s debt, and having a nice meeting with the visiting Egyptian president (while refusing to meet Israel’s prime minister, this supposedly super-pro-Israel president)? You know the answer.

This is a policy of institutionalized cowardice unprecedented in U.S. history. Read more ..


The U.S. and Libya

Could Obama Have Prevented the Benghazi Attack?

September 14th 2012

Libyan rioters at US consulate Sep 2012 #1

On September 11, the New York Times chose to run an op-ed attacking President Bush for not preventing the attacks of September 11 charging that Bush had intelligence about Al Qaeda’s intentions that should have led him to act. The same question should now be asked about Obama in the wake of the devastating attack in Benghazi, the brutal murder of a US Ambassador and other Americans. It should especially be asked considering that Obama has been skipping half his intelligence briefings.

The Government Accountability Institute, a new conservative investigative research organization, examined President Obama’s schedule from the day he took office until mid-June 2012, to see how often he attended his Presidential Daily Brief (PDB)—the meeting at which he is briefed on the most critical intelligence threats to the country. During his first 1,225 days in office, Obama attended his PDB 536 times—just 43.8 percent of the time. During 2011 and the first half of 2012, his attendance became even less frequent, falling to just over 38 percent. By contrast, Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush almost never missed his daily intelligence meeting. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Keystone a Key Ingredient Missing from Obama’s Economic Recovery Recipe

September 13th 2012

Keystone Pipeline

President Obama’s State of the Union address laid out his long-term economic recovery plans, which he claims will “work for everyone, not just a wealthy few.” That is, unless it is the pipeline construction business. President Obama’s politically intoned decision to reject TransCanada’s permit application to construct a 1,700-mile pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to Texas refineries last week sent a clear message that special-interest demands are more important than more energy and much-needed job creation.

Despite the Department of State’s (DOS) finding that Keystone XL would pose no significant environmental threat, environmental activists’ relentless opposition persuaded President Obama to deny the permit application. Congress should recognize the findings in the DOS Final Environmental Impact Statement and authorize the application submitted by TransCanada on September 19, 2008. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Is any Party Truly the Party of the Jewish People?

September 13th 2012

Obama -Jewish Meeting 0347 lo-res
Jewish roundtable with President Barack Obama

With the conventions behind us and about 50 days left, the candidates are looking to garner whatever swing voters they can to firm up the election. Not surprising, Florida is a swing state, and appealing to Jewish voters there could prove crucial to an election victory. Yet, even with the Republican Party claiming that it may gain as much as 30 percent of the so-called Jewish vote this year (not much to brag about, really), the majority of voting Jews still seem to migrate to the Democrats. It begs the questions: Why do Jews seem more comfortable within the Democratic Party? What is it about the changing times that have some people fearing a slow migration of Jews toward the right?

I have heard an argument from people who are fairly smart, well studied, and truly committed to the Jewish religion that “the GOP of the last 20 years is evil incarnate. No question about it!” I was shocked that anyone who disavows racism, embraces the doctrine of open-mindedness that is often associated with the liberalism most Democrats champion, could generalize like that about a party of people in a manner they would abhor if it were aimed at other groups of people. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Romney's Uphill Road

September 12th 2012

Ask Mitt

After a long, lovely hiatus, marred only by too little real vacation, it’s an opportune moment to examine just where the race for president stands as we enter the contest’s final weeks. For many months, the commentariat has wisely warned observers to pay no attention to the early polls — I even argued here that too much focus on early polling could lead to a net loss of knowledge about the race. No longer. It’s time to discard that advice and start paying attention.

Why? Because history, albeit an imperfect guide, suggests that polls are starting to have real predictive value. In 13 of the last 15 presidential elections, the leader after the two conventions has gone on to win the popular vote on Election Day. The two remaining cases found the candidates tied after the conventions, with victory going to the candidate who led going into the conventions. Read more ..


Mexico on Edge

Presidential Victory in Mexico: Introduce Critical reforms

September 12th 2012

Enrique Pena Nieto

The Federal Electoral Tribunal confirmed Enrique Peña Nieto as winner of the Mexican presidential elections on August 31. This followed accusations that Peña’s party, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) had bought votes and illegally used campaign funds. While the decision failed to address the question of whether the July 1 election was legitimate and free, the seven justices on the Electoral Tribunal concluded unanimously that there was insufficient evidence to prove fraud. President Felipe Calderon’s Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) party accepted the tribunal’s decision despite its finish in third place. Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador of the leftist Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD) rejected the tribunal’s decision and called upon his followers to protest with a national rally on September 9. An estimated 38,000 people turned out for a peaceful rally in Mexico City, and the following day Lopez Obrador gracefully left the PRD party to reunite with his personal followers in the Movimiento Nacional de Renovacion (MORENA). Read more ..


Healthecare on Edge

The Medicare Distortions

September 11th 2012

Medical bag

In the last three weeks, President Obama and his apologists have been incredulous that the Romney-Ryan campaign would have the audacity to attack them over Medicare. How dare they? That’s what we do, not them!

As my colleague Yuval Levin has already explained, these Democrats don’t seem to realize that Obamacare changed everything. The new health-care law cut Medicare by $716 billion over a decade to partially finance the cost of expanding entitlement benefits for other Americans. Put simply, Medicare was squeezed to grease the way for the president’s main first-term ambition — enactment of a government takeover of American health care. That’s a fact, and it’s one that doesn’t sit well with many voters, especially seniors. Romney and Ryan are helpfully reminding the electorate about this matter, as they should.

Those coming to the president’s aid in this debate — and the usual suspects have certainly stepped up to the plate, including Paul Krugman, Peter Orszag, Laura D’Andrea Tyson, and most recently former president Bill Clinton — have offered up a number of different arguments on the president’s behalf, some based on defending his record, and others aimed at changing the subject to the supposed defects of the Romney-Ryan Medicare reform plan. Read more ..


Education on Edge

Poor Students Can’t Afford Teacher Strike

September 11th 2012

Teachers Strike
Credit: Chicago Teachers Union Local 1

Ninety-three years ago yesterday, the Boston police force went on strike, leaving the city unprotected while the state scrambled to find replacements. Governor Calvin Coolidge’s declaration of support for the city—he said that “There is no right to strike against the public safety, anywhere, anytime”—established his national reputation that ultimately led to the presidency.

Public outrage at labor actions that compromise public safety has historically been a bipartisan affair.  Coolidge was a Republican but his actions earned the respect of Democratic President Woodrow Wilson, who hailed his re-election as Massachusetts governor as “a victory for law and order.” Nearly 20 years later, President Franklin Roosevelt shared his view that a strike by public employees of any sort is “unthinkable and intolerable.” Read more ..


Remembering 9/11

Killing Osama’s Body—But Nurturing His Dream

September 11th 2012

WTC on Fire (credit: Macten)

Finding and bringing the perpetrators of 9/11 to justice by any and all legitimate means became the centerpiece of American national security policy after that fateful day in 2001. “Bring bin Laden to justice or bring justice to bin Laden” sat atop the list of US national security priorities irrespective of who was President, which party held sway in Congress, or which Hollywood actor might be opining at any given moment in time. “Finding bin Laden” wasn’t a political football. It was an obligation that superseded the economy, entitlements, the national debt, and unemployment rate in importance. The entire US defense complex, Intelligence and Homeland Security establishments were mobilized to find Osama bin Laden after 2001.

Eichmann eluded justice after 1945. It wasn’t the first Government of the State of Israel, but one that came decades later that apprehended the Nazi war criminal. Apprehending Eichmann was a permanent institutional objective. Law enforcement and justice agencies sometimes bring criminals to justice many years after they have committed their crimes.

Such was the case with bin Laden. American intelligence located him and top decision makers authorized the operation to get him. It didn’t matter where he was. The American people wanted him brought to justice. The mandate to find, capture, or eliminate him wasn’t a privilege. It was an obligation delegated to the Chief Executive by the American people. Operational mechanics notwithstanding, there was one and only one option to choose from. Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

Why Traditional Medicare Must (and Will) Be Reformed

September 10th 2012

Obamacare Protest

Medicare must undergo structural reform. Its deficiencies undercut patients’ comprehensive and integrated care while increasing costs and generating debt. Medicare’s inadequate benefit package causes big gaps in coverage, requiring patients to buy costly supplemental insurance. Its outdated administrative payment system routinely overpays and underpays for benefits and services; such price distortions are worsened by narrow special-interest lobbying, an avalanche of red tape, and massive cost shifting to patients in private health plans.
Altogether, these structural flaws result in a substandard insurance program that generates unsustainable costs and a crushing debt. Medicare’s four-part complexity contributes to confusion among patients, inefficiency among providers, and higher costs for taxpayers. Care is chopped up and fragmented, reimbursed under an old and complicated fee-for-service payment system created in the 1960s that has long since disappeared from the private sector. Read more ..


The Economy on Edge

Great Stagnation or Leap Forward? Place Your Bets

September 10th 2012

Out of Business

Over the last 18 months, a debate has raged about what the future will look like.  Will the innovation and rapid economic growth that Americans have enjoyed over the past two centuries continue? Or have we plateaued and are we now entering a period marked by persistent anemic growth and less rapid technological change?

On one side you can find economist Tyler Cowen, author of the best-selling e-book The Great Stagnation; investor/entrepreneur/intellectual Peter Thiel, who wrote an influential essay in National Review called “The End of the Future”; and now comes economist Robert Gordon, author of a new paper “Is U.S. Economic Growth Over? Faltering Innovation Confronts the Six Headwinds.”  In case you couldn’t tell from the titles, these are the pessimists about the future.

On the other side you’ll find Eric Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, authors of Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy; Mark Mills, author of a much-discussed essay “The Next Great Growth Cycle”; Singularity theorist Ray Kurzweil; and Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist and the Wired cover story “Apocalypse Not.” Read more ..


Holland on Edge

Former Maoists Stalk Dutch Election

September 10th 2012

Ballot Box

Like bees swarming to a honey pot, Europe’s extremist parties have wasted no time in seizing upon the Eurozone crisis to garner an electoral boost. In Greece, back in June, an assortment of unreconstructed communist and neo-Nazi parties won 101 out of 300 possible seats in the election. Next week, it’s the turn of the comparatively sensible (and far more prosperous) Dutch to decide whether they want a government based on prudence, or one based on protest.

Although a small majority of Greeks opted, at the very last moment, for a center-right coalition, political debate in the run-up to their election was dominated by talk of an extremist victory. That has also been the case in The Netherlands. For weeks, the Dutch press has been ruminating on the likelihood that the far left Socialist Party will triumph on September 12.

It’s certainly been a heady period. Just a year ago, Emile Roemer, the leader of the Socialist Party, would have been pleased with a mention of his name in the media, never mind the following encomium from the pages of The Economist, whose correspondent described him as an “eternally smiling man who casually shrugs off euro-zone rules on budget deficits and promises to preserve the generous Dutch welfare system.” Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Clinton Sees No Need for "Red Lines" or Deadlines on Iran

September 10th 2012

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton

Contrary to recent media reports, the U.S. will not be setting out any "red lines" on the Iranian nuclear program. It had been previously reported that the Obama administration was planning to announce a series of conditions under which America would take or support military action against Iran, mainly to assuage Israeli concerns that they would have to go it alone against the Islamic republic. On Sunday, however, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that, while America is watching Iran "very carefully," the administration is "not setting deadlines" for Iran.

"We’re convinced," she said: "that we have more time to focus on these sanctions, to do everything we can to bring Iran to a good-faith negotiation. It’s a very challenging effort to get them to move in a way that complies with their international obligations. But we believe that is still by far the best approach to take at this time."

Despite this, Clinton did acknowledge Israeli concerns, noting that the country feels it is "right in the bull’s-eye, so to speak." It feels that it would be an existential threat if Iran were a nuclear-weaponized state, and no nation can abdicate their self-defense if they feel that they’re facing such a threat. This final statement could be interpreted as an endorsement or at least an understanding of possible military action by Israel. Nonetheless, Clinton's statement represents a serious setback for the Netanyahu government, which was hoping to use the threat of an Israeli strike to push the international community toward more serious action against the Iran threat. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

The Democratic Platform and Israel: What Does It Really Say?

September 10th 2012

Obama and Netanyau

Many political criticisms, particularly during an election year, are subjective and can be challenged. Has something been taken out of context? A claim misunderstood? A word twisted? What’s special about analyzing the Democratic Party platform over Israel is that it is easy to take the text and show how support for Israel has been reduced, in some cases shockingly so.

This is the draft platform and it was written by experts. The problem is the identity of those experts. This platform is a combination of “we love Israel” rhetoric (put in by the politicians?) with some serious policy problems (put in by their advisors?).

The Democratic response has been denial. Oh, no, there is nothing new or different and the platform corresponds with standard U.S. policy. The first half of that statement is a lie; the second half is technically true but in some ways it shows the replacement of the traditional over-promising on Israel to what might be called the standard historical State Department line. The base line, then, has been pulled back. If you start out promising the kid a pony you’ve got to produce something impressive; if your initial offer is a text on grammar one can expect less to be delivered in the end. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Welfare Work Requirements: Vague Replacement of Work for Welfare

September 9th 2012

Obama

In July, the Obama Administration waived the core work requirements of the historic welfare reform law of 1996, which law required a portion of the able-bodied recipients in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program work or prepare for work as a condition of receiving aid. The new bureaucratic directive from Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared that in the future, neither states nor TANF recipients would have to obey these workfare requirements. It replaces those work requirements with new, vague standards devised by HHS without any congressional input, such as “employment exits” and “universal engagement.”

The mainstream press has defended this illegal waiver,declaring that the Obama Administration merely wants to “tweak” the law’s work standards. But the Obama policy does not “tweak” the work provisions in the law. In fact, it does not just weaken the law’s work requirements; in many cases, the policy would bypass those work requirements entirely. The HHS directive establishing the new policy repeatedly asserts that the Administration will exempt states from the law’s “work participation requirements” and replace those work requirements with new standards devised by HHS without any congressional input. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

Obama Administration Still Cannot Say Where Jerusalem Is.

September 9th 2012

Obama-Peres

A day after the Democratic party rammed through an amendment to its platform to retain its previous reference to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell  refused to acknowledge the city as the capital of Israel upon being questioned  by a reporter. Below is a transcript of the exchange that took place today at around noon during the State Department daily press briefing.

QUESTION: On Israel?

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: Which city does the U.S. Government recognize as the capital in the – Israel?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, as you know, longstanding Administration policy, both in this Administration and in previous administrations across both parties, is that the status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in final status negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. So that’s longstanding Administration policy and continues to be so. Read more ..


The New Egypt

America’s Policy Reversal toward the Muslim Brotherhood

September 8th 2012

Mohamed Morsi - Vivat Rex

America used to be acknowledged as a beacon of democracy, a defender of values, a bridge-builder between people and nations, and an example for the entire world to emulate. In the Middle East, this image of America is unfortunately quickly losing its place in the hearts of democracy lovers and peace makers of this tortured region.

In early 2011, political observers noted that the Obama administration had begun to reverse decades of mistrust and hostility towards the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). This reversal was carried out with full knowledge that Brethren policy calls for the imposition of the Islamic Shari’a on Christians and liberal Muslims who reject this policy as tyrannical. Their organizational creed says it all: “Allah is our objective, the Qur’an is our law, the Prophet is our leader, Jihad is our way, and death for the sake of Allah is the highest aspiration.” Even the MB emblem appears to encourage military Jihad, consisting of two swords and the Qur’an. This would probably be acceptable in a homogeneous Muslim Society like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), but it is certainly not the case in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Facebook Fails A Review for Digital Hate

September 8th 2012

The Online Hate Prevention Institute recently reported a number of antisemitic images to Facebook using the regular reporting facility available to all users. Every one of our reports was swiftly reviewed and swiftly rejected. Facebook is making a serious effort to respond faster to complaints, but this is meaningless if the response is to invariably reject the complaints. There is also no appeal and we have no details of any internal review process – if there is one, Facebook is welcome to share details to reassure us.

There is no way of knowing what is going on at Facebook, but three possibilities suggest themselves: (1) Facebook is giving control of the review process to a group of died in the wool racists, (2) Facebook review staff are well intentioned but seriously ignorant about hate speech, (3) Facebook as policy is doing everything it can in order to normalise the presence of hate speech on its platform. Either the recruitment process is serious flawed, or the training provided to staff is seriously inadequate, or something is rotten at the core of Facebook. OHPI believes that these examples are exceedingly clear demonstrations of racism. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Two Huge Flaws in the Legend of the Clinton Economy

September 7th 2012

Obama Clinton
Credit: Washington Free Beacon Staff

Two inescapable flaws mar the Clinton economic legend. One is conveniently papered over; the other conveniently forgotten. Even so, a flawed legend is better than the economic reality President Obama’s policies have produced, so it is no surprise the sitting President has outsourced his economic messaging to the former President.

The first flaw, described here is that President Clinton raised taxes and the economy boomed. The flaw in the narrative is it ignores the passage of time—four years, to be exact. The timeline matters. Clinton raised taxes in 1993 just as the economy was set to take off from a recession, and instead job and wage growth sputtered for four years. The famous Clinton era boom started four years after the tax hike, in 1997, and was triggered at least in part by the Republican tax cut of that year. Four years may seem like a detail, but details like this matter. Read more ..


The Economy on Edge

The Job Market Has a Case of the Blahs

September 7th 2012

Unemployed Claimants

The sluggish labor market recovery continued in August, with employers adding 96,000 to their payrolls. This rate of job gain is approximately fast enough to keep pace with the growth of the working-age population. If maintained over several months, however, it is too slow to put a dent in the nation’s unemployment rate. For the 30th consecutive month private payrolls grew, increasing 103,000. Since the turnaround in private payrolls began in March 2010, private employers have added a total of 4.63 million workers to their payrolls, for an average gain of 154,000 workers a month. In 24 of the 30 months since March 2010, however, government payrolls declined. Last month they fell another 7,000. The good news is that this is a slower rate of decline than we have seen during most of the recovery. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

Dershowitz Blames "Rogue" Democrats for DNC Jerusalem Debacle

September 6th 2012

Obama-Limo

As President Obama prepares to accept the Democratic nomination for his second term in the White House on Thursday night in North Carolina, one of the United States’ most vocal supporters of Israel is calling on Obama to reaffirm his party’s entire platform language on Israel from 2008, and vowed to fight “rogue elements” within the Democratic party who seek to end the positive relationship between the U.S. and Israel.

After failing to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city in their initial 2012 platform, which prompted a sharp rebuke from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the Democrats reinstated language on the issue from their 2008 and 2004 versions, however Dershowitz said that his party did not go far enough.  Isolating Hamas until it renounces terrorism, solving the Palestinian refugee crisis through a Palestinian state alone, and affirming that a two-state solution could not realistically force Israel back to its borders of 1949 should be publicly endorsed by President Obama within the coming weeks, after statements on these issues were also left out of the Democratic platform this year. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama, Biden Fail to Mention GM Outsourcing to Indonesia

September 6th 2012

Chevey

On Labor Day, during a campaign visit in Detroit, Vice President Joe Biden boasted that had President Barack Obama not intervened with a huge bailout to General Motors, the company's plants would have been shutdown and thousands of employees thrown out of work. However, during this week's Democratic Party Convention Biden and Obama failed to announce GM's planned outsourcing to Indonesia and other nations .

According to a press statement from the Indonesian branch of General Motors, the firm had allocated some $150 million to build a production facility in Bekasi, West Java province in Indonesia. The new plant is scheduled to open and begin building automobiles sometime in 2013.

"The construction of the new plant began in August in Bekasi," Marketing Director of General Motor Indonesia (GMI), Yuniadi Hartono, said. The new GM plant is expected to produce more than 40,000 cars each year and will employ 800 new workers. The workers will be trained with skills and production technical aspects that fit with international quality standards, according to GM.

They will undergo the training programs in GM production facilities across the world, tapping the knowledge about high-quality car production and how to expand the firm's businesses. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Running Scared?

September 6th 2012

Armstrong_Williams

After a well-executed Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., it is now time for the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

The Democrats are already responding to the Republican convention, and changing their speaker lineup: According to Donovan Slack of Politico, the Democrats are adding women and minorities to their roster, which I take to mean that the Republican convention was effective. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s speech was presidential—it wouldn’t be hard to imagine her giving that if she were the nominee. Just as stirring was that of Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. Some left-wing critics noted that the RNC stage was more diverse than the RNC delegation; I ask, would you prefer it the other way around?

I’m afraid that that’s the case with the Democratic National Convention. As Matt Yglesias tweeted, “[the] DNC lineup exaggerates whiteness of the party relative to its actual voting base.”

One good way to judge the confidence of a campaign is to note how often it uses ad hominem attacks. The more ad hominems, the less confident they must be. The Democrats’s schedule of speakers is interesting. Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker is scheduled to speak on the first day of the convention. I will be interested to see the reaction to his speech, because Mr. Booker reminds me a lot of a younger President Obama. He is young, black, and at least pays lip service to healing the partisan divide in this country. His speech will be a test of whether the country is jaded with this sanctimony yet. Read more ..


The Economy on Edge

The Accounting Trick That Will Haunt Public Pensions

September 6th 2012

union protest

State and local government employee pensions around the country are significantly underfunded. The Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB), which is the closest thing that comes to a regulator of public pensions, tells them, through its accounting rules, that the single best thing pensions can do to improve their funding is to take greater investment risk. Economic theory, accounting rules applied to virtually all other pension plans, and plain common sense strongly disagree. GASB rules cause U.S. public pensions both to vastly understate their true liabilities and to take excessive investment risk, putting in danger both government budgets and the economy as a whole. With pension liabilities breathing down the necks of state and local governments around the nation, it is time for bond rating agencies to expose what GASB rules sweep under the rug.
Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Party Time in Charlotte, With Corporate Cash Present

September 6th 2012

obama and biden

After a week of political pageantry and Republican politics in Tampa Bay, the spotlight turns to Democrats this week, as they kick off their own party convention in the battleground state of North Carolina. Readers know all too well what that means: It's party time. Sunlight Foundation's Political Party Time Blog estimated that Republicans held upwards of 200 fundraisers during their stint in Tampa Bay. But that doesn't hold a candle to the Democrats' itinerary: politicians, lobbyists and other interest groups have 400 such events planned this week in Charlotte, according to Party Time. Themes range from a how-to on formal dining etiquette to one event called Nuns on the Bus. That's right: nuns. On the Bus.
 
That event is sponsored by a Catholic social justice group called Network, which just finished promoting a nine state bus tour to "highlight the work of Catholic Sisters, meet the people they serve and learn about the harm that would be caused by the Ryan/House federal budget cuts."
Read more ..

Romney Calls DNC a 'Celebration of Failure'

September 6th 2012

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney blasted the first day of the Democratic convention on Wednesday, saying that the effort by his political rivals was "so far a celebration of failure."

Romney and his allies have pounced on Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's comments over the weekend that Americans are not better off than they were four years ago. The top Democratic surrogate has since walked back those remarks, and officials with the Obama campaign have contended this week that Americans are better off under Obama's presidency.

But the Republican nominee brushed aside those assertions in an interview with Fox News, noting that the "better off" message hasn't been expressed from the stage in Charlotte, N.C. "You know no one in the convention so far has had the temerity to say that people are better off in America because they realize that’s not the case," Romney said. "The convention so far is a celebration of failure." Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama Deserves Four More Years

September 5th 2012

Obama

My grandfather used to say, “Don’t tell me your priorities. Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you your priorities.” So, let’s compare the Obama-Biden record in three critical areas — Medicare, taxes and veterans — with what is in the Romney-Ryan budget.

First Medicare, where there is perhaps no better contrast and choice facing Americans. President Obama and Vice President Biden want to ensure Medicare is solvent for generations to come.

The president has ended excessive subsidies to insurance companies and eliminated waste, fraud and abuse, adding eight years of solvency to Medicare. He has also helped seniors in the Medicare prescription drug doughnut hole to pay less for their prescription drugs, and the doughnut hole will be closed by 2020. On the other side, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher program, taking guaranteed benefits away from seniors and increasing Medicare recipients’ costs by $6,350 per year. If that is not bad enough, Medicare would be bankrupt by the end of their first term. Read more ..



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