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The 2012 Vote

Ryan and his Panicky Critics

September 2nd 2012

Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan’s speech accepting the Republican party’s nomination for vice president was everything that could have been hoped for by the Romney campaign and more. It made the case against President Obama in devastating terms — using humor and memorable line after memorable line to drive home the main point that the president has been a miserable failure in office. The speech is likely to have lasting impact in this campaign.

Which perhaps explains the panicky reaction of the mainstream press and Ryan’s liberal critics. Almost from the moment Ryan finished his speech, apologists for the president (including the Washington Post) have come out swinging, quite plainly indignant that Ryan landed so many punches when the usual media filters couldn’t stop him. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

International Security Advisory Board’s Misplaced Focus

September 1st 2012

Iran centrifuges

The U.S. and its allies face many grave dangers today, including the spread of ballistic missiles and nuclear know-how. The International Security Advisory Board (ISAB), designed to provide independent analysis and advisement regarding such issues for the Secretary of State, recently published a report titled “Mutual Assured Stability: Essential Components and Near Term Actions.” The report’s recommendations, however, are almost exclusively focused on improving relations with Russia and largely ignore the risks associated with a nuclear North Korea and Iran. Such an omission is dangerous.

The report does not fully address issues specified in the Terms of Reference by then-Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher. Of the six issues specified, ISAB focuses on only one: “The possible components of mutual assured stability and what the United States would need to see happening to have the confidence to consider very low numbers and, eventually, agree to the elimination of nuclear weapons.” Remaining points are related to international cooperation, nuclear reductions management and conditions for the nuclear-free world, possible tensions between nuclear reductions and effective deterrence, stabilizing factors outside of deterrence, and U.S. force structure supporting deterrence. Read more ..


America on Edge

Anti-Chemical Alarmism Spreads to Your School

August 31st 2012

Student Backpack

Today’s toxic headline: a plastic gun is pointed at your children and it looks like SpongeBob, Hello Kitty and Dora the Explorer. Campaigning NGOs and many journalists share a not-so-attractive sensibility: they are often uncomfortable with complexity. Dividing the world, and prickly science policy issues, into black and white makes for exciting narratives. Unfortunately it’s invariably wrong, authoritarian and, as Freud would say, crazy (“neurosis is the inability to tolerate ambiguity”).

That’s certainly the case in today’s anti-science campaign du jour: a ferocious attack on the harmless backpacks, book covers and lunch boxes that your children tote to school.

The hysteria kicked off earlier this week with a news conference organized by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice starring anti-chemical flack Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) at which the CHEJ released a guide ominously titled, “Hidden Hazards: Toxic Chemical Inside Children’s Vinyl Back to School Supplies”.

“These dangerous chemicals manufactured by ExxonMobil have no place in our children’s school supplies,” said Mike Schade, CHEJ’s “Markets Campaign Coordinator” who orchestrated the media blitz. The non-profit, composed almost entirely of fulltime campaigners, has one lone non-PhD scientist on staff—with no research expertise in this area. Read more ..


The Race for EVs

Israel’s Better Place Electric Car Network Bleeds Capital

August 31st 2012

Better Place

Last month Israel’s Better Place rolled out their all-electric vehicle network to the Israeli public with much fanfare. Of the hundreds of civilians that bought the cars, warm reviews of excitement ensued. Pictures and photo ops were maximized. Since opening the car sales channel to the public the number of Better Place cars on the road now exceeds the number of Better Place cars being driven by company employees. The company also released news that it had set an electric car distance world record, garnering some fresh enthusiasm for the business.

But a new report warns that the company is seriously bleeding cash, suggesting it’s light years away from putting 10,000 cars on the road – its break even point.

Even after recent news of a $40 million Euro loan,  in order to set up a network in Denmark and continue deployment in Israel, the company is ripping through cash. Much of it being spent on PR, public education and wrapping.

Will the Better Place car network and its rechargeable battery stations survive the long-term? I have a feeling that unless it starts to make its car the much cheaper alternative to driving a petrol-powered car in Israel, it will not. The Renault cars aren’t attractive, or different looking. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Clint Eastwood Tells America: "Let Him Go."

August 31st 2012

Clint Eastwood at Tampa Convention
Clint Eastwood Grilling an Imaginary Obama in Chair

Actor and director Clint Eastwood tried a risky and sometimes awkward 10-minute routine Thursday before the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla., that involved several minutes of him pretending to ask questions to a non-present President Obama, though he won big applause for lines saying it's time for him to leave office.

"When somebody does not do the job, we got to let him go," he said near the end of his remarks, to rowdy applause. "We own this country," he added. "Politicians are employees of ours. They're just going to come around and beg for votes every few years, it's the same old deal." Before grilling an invisible Obama in an empty chair, Eastwood said he was initially fine with Obama's election, but that the state of the economy made him sour on the president.  Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

UN Blames Only Israel for Gaza's Inviable Future

August 31st 2012

Gaza Qasam Rocket

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) held a conference on August 27th entitled “Will the Gaza Strip be Viable in 2020?” The conclusion, predictably, was that the Israeli government was fully responsible for the difficult human living conditions in the Gaza Strip and that the Gaza population will face a real disaster on all levels by 2020 if the Israeli “siege” were not immediately ended.

In attendance at the Israel-bashing conference were the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator, Maxwell Gaylard, Director of UNRWA operations in Gaza Robert Turner, and UNICEF Special Representative in the Palestinian Territory, Jean Gough.

Gaylard said that the Gaza population is expected to expand by a half million, reaching 2.1 million in 2020, while access to water and electricity, education and health resources will get worse over the same period, unless major remedial action is taken immediately. Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

Health Insurers: Mind your own business!

August 30th 2012

Obamacare Protest

You may have received a refund check in the past few months from your health insurer. This is not your individual reward for staying healthy; it is your insurer's punishment for making too much money because you did.

Obamacare includes what the health care technocracy calls the "MLR rule" - minimum requirements for medical-loss ratios - or the percentage of premiums collected by health insurers that must be spent on medical care or refunded. The inverse of the MLR is the percentage spent on administration and marketing, and earned as profit. Obamacare sets minimum MLRs of 80 percent for individual and small group plans, and 85 percent for large groups.

Aside from its obvious populist appeal, this profit regulation mechanism signifies a belief, now enshrined in legislation, that health insurance markets do not work. Without such a rule, the architects of Obamacare believe, insurers can name their prices, however inflated, and we all just pay. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

EPA Gives Chinese Millions for Green Projects

August 29th 2012

Obama with baseball bat

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, while campaigning in Tampa just before the RNC convention that began on Tuesday, outlined his energy and environmental plan that he claims will achieve energy independence by the year 2020. And he noted his plan doesn't include millions of U.S. dollars for the Chinese. He proposed opening new areas for offshore oil drilling, starting in Virginia and the Carolinas, and by empowering the states. He also noted that the Obama Environmental Protection Agency's statutes and regulations would be removed or loosened to green-light more coal production and other industry priorities, and the United States would reach agreements for energy production with Canada and Mexico, including the building of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Possibly the most important Romney energy proposal is removing Obama's "EPA fangs" and his internationalist green programs, said several Romney supporters.

For example, in a transaction by the Obama White House that's sure to anger most Americans -- if the news media ever bother to tell them -- the People's Republic of China and other nations get millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to help with their so-called green projects. The outrageous part of the story is that the U.S. is indebted to China for almost a trillion dollars, according to a vocal critic of outsourcing on Friday. Read more ..


The Race for Natual Gas

Hydraulic Fracturing: Critical for Energy Production, Jobs, and Economic Growth

August 29th 2012

Fracking gas well

While Americans continue to be disappointed by dismal jobs reports and a high unemployment rate, one of the few recent bright spots in the U.S. economy has been energy production, particularly the shale oil and shale gas revolution. In fact, the Yale Graduates Energy Study Group calculated that in 2010 alone, the consumer surplus (the consumer savings or gain from reductions in price) from shale gas production was worth over $100 billion. The technological one-two punch of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing has created a remarkable energy boom and created hundreds of thousands of jobs in the U.S. The possibility of continuously low natural gas prices is turning the United States into a prime destination for chemical companies and other businesses that rely on abundant amounts of natural gas. While the energy development has been substantially positive, the process of hydraulic fracturing has come under scrutiny over concerns about contamination of drinking water, the use of chemicals, wastewater management, and the potential for causing earthquakes. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Physicians' Group Will Barnstorm Conventions With Truth-Telling On Obamacare

August 29th 2012

stethoscope

As the Republican convention gets underway today in Tampa, we can expect to hear the politicians and delegates gathered there — including GOP nominee Mitt Romney — rail against “Obamacare”, insisting that what we need instead of a “government takeover of health care” is “patient-centered” care, although what that would look like hasn’t been disclosed.

If recent statements by Romney and his VP pick Paul Ryan are an indication of the rhetoric we’ll likely hear, get ready for speech after speech telling us that Obamacare will “cut” $716 billion from Medicare and cost small businesses a bundle. In anticipation of these sorts of misrepresentations, doctors from all over the country — all members of a four-year-old organization called Doctors for America — have traveled to Florida to serve as a truth squad. And while they’re dispensing facts, they’ll also be providing more than a little free care. When the GOPers leave the Sunshine State, the doctors will hop on a bus and head to Charlotte to try to persuade the politicians and delegates who will gather there that they need to start aggressively defending the reform law. Read more ..


Israel's Looming Attack

Debating What to Do About Iran

August 29th 2012

F21 kfir jet

Almost everyone seems to agree that the Iranian nuclear weapons project should be stopped. Preferably through economic sanctions against Iran, but if that doesn't work, then military means will have to be used. But if a military operation is required, should it be carried out by the United States or Israel? Everyone in Israel seems to prefer that the operation be carried out by the United States, but what if the Americans delay in making a decision?

That's where the disagreement begins: Should Israel go ahead on its own, without U.S. approval, should it wait for U.S. approval before taking action, or should it just leave things to the United States, trusting that the Americans will take the necessary action at the appropriate time?

No matter who strikes first Israel's civilian population will be subjected to tens of thousands of rockets launched from Lebanon by Hezbollah in retaliation for a military strike against Iran. Hezbollah's response - on orders from Tehran - can be considered a certainty. But the extent of the damage caused to life, limb and property in Israel is not at all certain. Read more ..


The Edge of Hate

Anti-Semitic Brutality Meets with Inaction by Michigan State University

August 29th 2012

Zachary Tennen
Zachary Tennen

A vicious hate crime occurred in East Lansing, MI – at an off-campus party near Michigan State University – to a university sophomore.

The cruelty and ferocity of Sunday’s Anti-Semitic attack is shocking: Two males walked up to Zachary Tennen, and when he responded affirmatively to the question of whether he was Jewish, they raised their arms in a Nazi salute, yelled “Heil Hitler”, said they were part of the KKK, and then they sadistically beat him unconscious, broke his jaw, stapled his mouth into his gum, and threw him out of the party.

Witnesses to the attack at the party did not intervene. They did not to stop the beating. They did not call police. They did not call an ambulance. They simply continued to party on. When Zachary regained consciousness, he had to use a taxi to make it to a hospital for treatment of his severe injuries. The taxi took Zachary to Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital for initial treatment. And, astonishingly, Sparrow Hospital never reported the violent assault to the police. Zachary later had to undergo surgery at a Detroit area hospital. Read more ..


The BDS Jihad

South African BDS - or Just BS?

August 28th 2012

Wailing Wall in Jerusalem

The government of South Africa has defined the State of Israel as not including Beersheva, Yad Mordechai, Acco, Afula, and Nahariya. It creates an "Arab Enclave" in Jaffa not governed by Israel. It reduces the borders of Israel in two places to points on a map -- one in the Galilee and one in the Negev Desert -- and, for good measure, restores Jerusalem and certain of its suburbs to "corpus separatum." Yasser Arafat didn't have the nerve to define such borders.

South Africa has decided to label goods entering the country from certain places as "IOT" for "Israeli Occupied Territory." The outraged Israeli government called the decision "blatant discrimination based on national and political distinction. This kind of discrimination has not been imposed -- and rightly so -- in any other case of national, territorial or ethnic conflict[.] ... What is totally unacceptable is the use of tools which, by essence, discriminate and single out, fostering a general boycott."

It is worse than that. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Luxury Perks Pile Up For Putin

August 28th 2012

Putin

A new report by Russian opposition leaders accuses President Vladimir Putin of enjoying a lifestyle that "can be compared to that of a Persian Gulf monarch or a flamboyant oligarch." The report is sarcastically titled "The Life of a Galley Slave," which is how Putin once described his life as president. The authors of the report -- opposition leader Boris Nemtsov and Leonid Martynyuk, a member of the Solidarity movement -- say that during Putin's 12 years in power, the perks that the president enjoys have significantly increased. The report says the president has 20 residences and dozens of jets and luxury cars at his disposal. It asserts that the luxurious lifestyle is the reason Putin "maniacally clings to power."

The report includes pictures of presidential residences, aircraft, yachts, and cars. Nemtsov, presenting the report at a news conference in Moscow, said putting all that state property at the disposal of one person was "immoral" and "criminal." "I disagree with the claim that controlling and disposing of this kind of state property for the luxury of one person is normal," Nemtsov said. "I think it is immoral, it is criminal, and it is unacceptable in a poor country."

$1 Billion In Aircraft
It says nine of the 20 residences available were added to the official list of presidential residences during Putin's time in office. It says the restoration of some of them, including a Czarist-era palace near St. Petersburg, cost tens of millions of dollars. The report also says Putin has 43 aircraft, 15 helicopters, four yachts, and a fleet of luxury cars available for his use. It says the aircraft alone are worth an estimated $1 billion. It says Putin has a collection of 11 expensive watches with an estimated retail worth of $687,000, "about six times Putin's annual salary," according to the report. The report includes enlarged photographs of Putin's wrists during meetings and public appearances, revealing a variety of expensive watches. Nemtsov saw that as an indication of corruption. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Romney's Play for Michigan

August 28th 2012

Romney and Ryan--Virginia Announcement

It is no surprise that in the run-up to this week’s Republican National Convention, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan made their first joint campaign appearance in the key battleground state of Ohio. More interesting is that Romney and Ryan took their pre-convention tour to a Midwestern state that went for Barack Obama by double digits in 2008: Michigan.

No GOP presidential candidate has carried Michigan in almost a ­quarter-century, and four years ago Obama won here in a 16-point landslide. This November, however, Romney sees Michigan as ripe for a pickup.

Most polls show Obama leading here narrowly, but Romney strategists point out that their man is nearly tied with the president before the TV ad war between the campaigns has even begun. Michigan is one of 11 states where the Romney campaign is fully staffed with a battleground footprint and money flowing in. Read more ..


Islam on Edge

Why Revolutionary Sunni Islamism is the World’s Greatest Strategic Threat and None of it is Moderate

August 28th 2012

Islamic Terrorists

No, it sure isn’t the age of Aquarius or of Multicultural, Politically Correct love-ins. It’s the age of revolutionary Islamism, especially Sunni Islamism. And you better learn to understand what this is all about real fast.

(Shia Islamism, important mainly because of Iran and especially because of its nuclear ambitions, is number two on the threat list. But that’s not our topic today.)

Focusing on the Sunni revolutionary Islamist tidal wave, the foundation of knowledge is that there are three types and they are all bad, very bad. A lot of people are going to be misinforming you about this and getting others—never themselves, of course—killed.

Sometimes people ask me why I use the phrase “revolutionary” Sunni Islamism. The reason is to remind everyone that this is a revolutionary movement like those of the past that seek to use a variety of strategies and tactics–of which violence might be only one–to seize, hold, and use state power to transform societies. Some ask why I use the word “Islamism” and the reason is because this is a specific, conscious set of organized political movements. However theology is related to this issue the problem is political, not theological.  Anyone who watched over decades, as I have, how the radicals had to sell the idea that “jihad” today meant picking up guns, cutting off people’s heads, overthrowing governments, and assembling mobs of thousands screaming for death and destruction, would have no illusion that they had an easy time of it. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Republicans Cannot Duck the Abortion Issue

August 27th 2012

Star Parker, CURE

When Republicans turn away from moral issues, it cedes the high moral ground to the other party. Republican Party operatives, who wasted no time indicting their Missouri Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin for his interview faux pas on abortion, may bear more responsibility than Akin himself for the mess that has been created.

Akin's statement, suggesting low probability of conception in cases of 'legitimate rape," was barely coherent and was said with neither force nor conviction. He said it was a view he "understood from doctors." And soon after, he apologized.

Akin has served six terms in Congress with a consistent, unblemished conservative record. The fact that leaders of his own party joined hands with liberals, thereby legitimizing them, and body-slammed Akin microseconds after his unfortunate and easily disabused remark, shows there's more going on.

What's going on is these influential Republicans don't want any kind of discussion about abortion. This campaign, in their view, is supposed to just be about the lousy economy.

But for Republicans to turn away from moral issues doesn't neuter the campaign of them. It cedes the high moral ground to the other party. And suggesting that fixing the economy is like fixing your broken air conditioner -- that it's not fundamentally a question about human behavior, choices and values -- makes Republicans amoral on this central issue.

Far from hiding from moral convictions, or lack thereof, Democrats showcase their values with pride. Word is that the president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, has a prime speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention. Democrats are proud to associate publicly with the largest abortion provider in the nation. There is no shame that a few weeks ago a young black woman bled to death, lying neglected for five hours in a Planned Parenthood clinic in Chicago, after a botched abortion. Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

A Blueprint for Putting Patients First

August 27th 2012

Obamacare Protest

The insurmountable problems with Obamacare are well documented. It is unworkable and moves the health care system further in the wrong direction, increasing costs to families and adding to the country’s debt. It also empowers the government—not the individual patient—to control health care dollars and decisions. Over time, Americans will be more dependent on the government and government programs for their health care.

For those who believe in more freedom, less government, and lower health care costs, there is a better way. First, there is no “fixing” Obamacare; it must be fully repealed. The underlying law is so flawed that instead of trying to right its wrongs, it is better to just start over.

Once Obamacare is repealed, the next Congress must take transparent and thoughtful steps to help solve the problems that remain in the health care system by putting power back in the hands of the American people. Congress should focus on the main obstacles that still stand in the way of reaching a true patient-centered, market-based model—by reforming Medicare, Medicaid, and the tax treatment of health insurance and enacting commonsense insurance reforms. Just as importantly, Congress should move such policy changes through the normal process so they can be fully debated and vetted—and, if necessary, on a piece-by-piece basis.  Read more ..


American Lives

JFK and His Legend: Exceptional in Death, and Life

August 27th 2012

JFK official portrait

It is said that John F. Kennedy became a legend because of the way he died. Actually, he became a legend because of the way he lived. He turned into a myth due to his tragic death; by then, he had already been a legend for quite a while. As we approach the fiftieth anniversary of Kennedy's greatest triumph -- his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis -- it's important to keep that in mind.

Kennedy was the youngest ever person to be elected president of the United States. He was the first Roman Catholic to assume the highest political post in a country steeped in a Protestant ethos. He was a war hero. He was handsome. When he first entered the White House, after being sworn in, he was accompanied by a beautiful, Hollywood-like wife and two little children. When was the last time the people of the United States have witnessed such a scene? JFK represented a generational change, no less than a political one. Not only was he the youngest person ever to be elected president, but his entourage of advisers was striking for its youth.

Kennedy's election ignited a sense of hope reminiscent, in part, to what took place following the election of Barack Obama in 2008. Obama, too, is young and handsome, with two little children and a young wife. Moreover, he's the first African American to be elected president, no less of a feat than having a Roman Catholic elected back in 1960. Both studied at Harvard. Both chose as vice presidential candidates two senior and experienced senators. The similarities, though, stop there.

Kennedy came from a very wealthy family; Obama does not. Kennedy came from a socially privileged background; Obama does not. Kennedy was a war hero; Obama is not. However, it should be stressed that being a war hero back then, with World War II still fresh in the minds of most people in the U.S., was an asset; not being a war hero in 2008 or 2012 is certainly not an obstacle. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Ron Suskind's Confidence Men

August 26th 2012

Tim Geitner

When Ron Suskind published his book The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O’Neill in January 2004, he received rave reviews from many on the left. In researching that book, Suskind found the perfect source, Paul O’Neill, who had been fired from his post as Treasury Secretary. Suskind milked that source for an astonishing amount of inside dirt. The book was manna from heaven for those inclined to dislike President Bush.

Suskind’s latest effort, Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington and the Education of a President uses a similar algorithm to generate a glimpse of the current administration, this time relying on disgruntled insiders and former senior Obama administration officials. While the reception of Suskind has been quite different at The Washington Post, the New York Review of Books and The New York Times, Suskind is, after two such books, at least vying to become that most valuable of journalists, the fellow that everyone in any administration feels they must confide in, else their history will be written by rivals. Read more ..


India on Edge

The Limits of Freedom in the Social Media Network--Tested in India

August 26th 2012

Computer User India

Where do you draw the line on free speech when extremists use social media to spread rumors that send thousands of people fleeing their homes in panic? And what about when political activists impersonate the prime minister on social media to put out offensive material to ridicule him?

Those are the questions India has faced in recent weeks as the world's largest democracy finds itself wrestling with what to do with Twitter -- the world's loudest public megaphone. The most urgent issue since mid-July is how to stop extremists in two rival communities stoking a full-scale sectarian conflict. The extremists have been using Twitter to spread rumors that each side is attacking the other across India and supporting the charges with falsified pictures of purported victims.

The two communities are both native to the northeastern state of Assam but have diasporas in cities across the country after a bloody clash in 1993. In that clash, the local Bodo tribe evicted local Muslim Indians from disputed land before thousands of members of both groups sought refuge or migrated to other parts of India, where they live uneasily together. Read more ..


Justice on Edge

Rubashkin Brief Hammers Home the Injustice

August 25th 2012

Sholom Rubashkin

In a brilliant, hard-hitting reply brief, attorneys Nathan Lewin and Paul Clement shredded the Government’s arguments challenging Sholom Rubahskin’s “cert” petition to the Supreme Court. The brief hammered home the injustice of the case which it says “must not stand.”

To briefly sum up the relay of legal filings to the Supreme Court:

• The April “cert” petition asked the Supreme Court to overturn the 8th Circuit Court of Appeal’s ruling which denied Sholom Mordechai’s motion for a re-trial, and upheld the outrageous 27-year sentence.

• The 8th Circuit’s ruling rejected the defendant’s Rule 33 motion, based on newly discovered evidence (through a FOIA lawsuit), that the trial had been compromised by the lack of an impartial judge.

• The 8th Circuit insisted that they could not even consider the trial’s alleged flaws, because only new evidence that offered proof of the defendant’s innocence could be grounds for a retrial. That rigid stance in effect said that even if it were proven beyond a doubt that the judge or jury members were bribed, there would still be no legal recourse.

• The 8th Circuit’s position flies in the face of logic and justice, and conflicts with the law in other circuits, the attorneys argued in the cert petition. It so violates the bedrock constitutional right to a fair trial that it requires Supreme Court intervention. Read more ..


America on Edge

Why are We Americans so Confused?

August 24th 2012

lady liberty

When I was back in junior high school, there was a civics teacher who put forth the proposition that democracy depends on one simple principle: People are rational. Give them free access to information, and they’ll think things through logically to figure out what policies are best not just for themselves but for the whole nation.

The latest poll from the Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation gives some support to that proposition. 67 percent of this sampling of 3,130 Americans understand that “there are many goods and services which would not be available to ordinary people without government intervention.” Only 29 percent disagree.

As a group they are more worried about jobs and health costs than the federal deficit. 45 percent think Democratic economic policies help them; only 37 percent say that about the GOP.

To be fair, the group sampled was a bit more liberal than in most other polls. 34 percent identify as Democrats and only 25 percent as Republicans; 29 percent declared themselves liberal on most political matters, which is more than you see in most polls. They favor Obama over Romney by a solid margin, 50 percent to 43 percent. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Dempsey Takes Sides in SEALs v. Obama Battle Over Leaks

August 24th 2012

General Martin Dempsey

President Barack Obama's selection for the U.S. military's chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff surprised former military officers and pro-military conservatives when he decided to take sides in the heated political battle between the Obama administration and former members of the U.S. Navy SEALs, Delta Force and the Central Intelligence agency on board his flight returning from Iraq and Afghanistan on Wednesday night.

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey complained about former military personnel using "the uniform for partisan politics" and that such boldness may "erode the trust the American people have in their [own] military." While Gen. Dempsey answered a reporter's question regarding a group of Navy SEALs, who created a political action committee to combat the alleged leaks allegedly emanating from the Obama administration, Dempsey did not indicate what steps he's personally taken to prevent future leaks that special operations officers and enlisted men claim are emanating from the upper-echelon of the Obama White House. The chairman told reporters that he and his fellow commanders are "the stewards of the profession of arms, and must ensure service members don’t cross an important line." Read more ..


Ethiopia on Edge

Ethiopia Post-Meles: Washington Should Encourage Reforms

August 23rd 2012

Meles Zenawi of ethiopia

On August 21, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi passed away. Having come to power in 1991 following the overthrow of the communist Mengistu regime, Meles became a regional leader and a controversial partner to the United States. Meles’s autocratic tendencies and tight-fisted economic policies made him a divisive leader.

With his departure, the U.S. has an unprecedented opportunity to encourage democracy and economic reform and bolster the security partnership between the two nations.

The U.S. has an interest in preventing the establishment of safe havens for terrorism that can serve as a base for organized transnational terrorist campaigns against the U.S., its allies, and their interests. Ethiopia’s southern neighbor Somalia has turned into a hub for terrorists who have attacked U.S. partners in the region and expressed a willingness to strike the U.S. In response, the U.S. has developed a network of partners in the region to counter such threats; among them is Ethiopia. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

GM Goes from Bad to Worse Despite Obama Bailout

August 23rd 2012

Auto Bailout

Readers with long memories may recall that Charles E. Wilson, president of General Motors and nominee for secretary of defense, got into trouble when he told a Senate committee, "What is good for the country is good for General Motors, and what's good for General Motors is good for the country."

That was in 1953, and Wilson was trying to make the point that General Motors was such a big company -- it sold about half the cars in the United States back then -- that its interests were inevitably aligned with those of the country as a whole.

Things are different now. General Motors' market share in the U.S. is below 20 percent. It has gone through bankruptcy and exists now thanks to a federal bailout. But Barack Obama seems to think that it's as closely aligned with the national interest as Charles E. Wilson did. "When the American auto industry was on the brink of collapse," Obama told a campaign event audience in Colorado earlier this month, "I said, let's bet on America's workers. And we got management and workers to come together, making cars better than ever, and now GM is number one again and the American auto industry has come roaring back." Read more ..


Egypt and Israel

Countdown To Disaster With Egypt? Is This Already The EleventhHour?

August 23rd 2012

Muslim Brotherhood Marching

Israel Radio Arab Affairs analyst Eran Zinger reported during the noon news magazine program that in recent day Egypt has deployed anti-aircraft missiles near Israel's border in Egyptian Sinai without permission from Israel. Such equipment is prohibited in the area according to the Egypt-Israel peace
treaty. Suffice it to say that the Bedouins in Sinai that Egypt are ostensibly deploying forces to battle do not possess either helicopters or planes.

Egyptian President Morsy isn't just a chess player. He is a speed chess
player. He has achieved more to consolidate his power in a few weeks than his Turkish counterpart did in years. And he is not stopping anytime soon.

President Morsy is operating at a fantastic advantage. Thanks to years of experience interacting with Americans both as a graduate student and then as an assistant professor at California State University Northridge in the
early 1980's, he doesn't need to rely on advisors to figure out how to best manipulate the useful idiots in Washington. And despite whatever messages may be making their way from Jerusalem behind the scenes, Morsy also is observing that Israel appears to be determined to bend over backwards to avoid developments in Sinai leading to a confrontation. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Why The Kremlin Is Losing

August 22nd 2012

Kremlin

Remember when something called "the Family" dominated Russian politics and Boris Berezovsky looked invincible?

It wasn't that long ago. Just over a decade back.
 
In late 1999, I was having dinner in a Moscow restaurant with some colleagues and we noticed Berezovsky and some hangers-on a few tables away.
 
One colleague gestured to the uber-oligarch's entourage, which was flanked by the usual phalanx of bodyguards, and said: "Wouldn't you love to just approach him and ask: 'Boris Abramovich, what exact scheme are you working on right now?'"
 
It was conventional wisdom at the time that Berezovsky was the master of Russia's political universe. As the informal leader of the so-called "Family," the shadowy collection of tycoons, cronies, and bureaucrats surrounding the ailing President Boris Yeltsin, he had the Kremlin wired and was orchestrating the rise of Vladimir Putin -- who the media called "the Family's candidate." We assumed Berezovsky would keep Putin on a tight leash, too. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama Defends his National Security Record

August 22nd 2012

Barack Obama in Thought

President Barack Obama during a campaign appearance in Columbus, OH, yesterday mounted his own personal defense of his national security record after an organization of former Navy SEALs, Delta Force operatives and intelligence officers called on the Commander in Chief to stop the intelligence leaks allegedly emanating from his White House.

The Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund, Inc. also accused Obama of taking too much credit for the death of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden at the hands of Navy SEAL Team Six in their multi-media blitz. "I don't take these folks too seriously," Obama said. "One of their members is a 'birther' who denies I was born here, despite evidence to the contrary. You've got another who was a Tea Party candidate in a recent election."

The group of men, who possess impressive credentials, said they are a non-partisan group who are launching a media blitz, including television commercial and a 22-minute short film accusing Obama of leaking information to "the enemy" and taking undue credit for the May 2011 bin Laden operation. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Former SEAL Questions Obama's Citizenship

August 22nd 2012

Barack Obama

The chief spokesman of a group of former U.S. special operations and intelligence officers attacking the Obama campaign's national security record compared the president to former Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong. Ben Smith, a former Navy SEAL and spokesman for the supposedly bipartisan Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund, made the claim on his Facebook page shortly after the president's State of the Union address in January. "This speech was given by the Heir Communist-in-Chief Hussein Mao-bama," Smith wrote on the social networking website shortly after President Obama's address. 

Smith also said the president was "an impostor," a Muslim and a "Manchurian candidate" who should "go back to the country you were born in," according to the post. 

In previous posts, Smith noted the Obama administration was in the process of building a "caliphate through the incrementalism of Socialism," using to the term favored by al Qaeda and other terror groups regarding the establishment of a new worldwide Islamic empire. Such comments underscore the fund's recent efforts to discredit the Obama administration's defense and national security bona fides. The group, which is reportedly tied to Republican and Tea Party groups, issued a video charging the Obama administration with leaking details of sensitive national security operations and of using the mission targeting former al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden for political gain. Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

GOP Medicare Plan Means Older Americans Will Just Have to Pay More

August 22nd 2012

CIGNA building

When you look closely at GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s proposals to restructure Medicare, it’s clear he agrees with many health insurance company CEOs that Americans—especially older Americans—don’t have enough “skin in the game” when it comes to medical costs. If his proposal to largely privatize Medicare becomes a reality, those not already 55 and older will be putting far more “skin in the game” than current Medicare beneficiaries do, and they’ll be required to peel off increasing amounts of skin every year for the rest of their lives.

I can’t tell you how many times I heard my former CEO and other industry executives say that, in addition to the ever-increasing cost of a stay in the hospital, new drugs, and new medical technology, a big reason why premiums keep going up is because those of us who make a tiny fraction of what they make are not paying enough out of our own pockets (i.e., “skin”) for medical care.

They use that rather crude term when they talk to Wall Street financial analysts and policymakers to justify their strategy of moving more and more of us into what they euphemistically refer to as “consumer-directed” health plans that are in reality are high-deductible plans that require us to pay far more of our own money for medical care than we have had to pay in the past. Read more ..


The Violent Roads of Mexico

Harassment of Tourists by Mexican Police a New Reality South of the Border

August 22nd 2012

Mexico City mounted police

A friend and I had lunch in Ciudad Juarez last week. For a few bucks each, we savored different versions of sumptuous fish soup. Tasty and flavorful, the soup was as good- and much cheaper than the same food sold in Mexican beach resorts. Feeling fine, we paid the bill and headed out the door of the restaurant with a pair of satisfied stomachs.

Then we got a taste of the reality that many of the residents of the troubled border city experience on a routine basis. Strolling down Avenida Juarez, the main drag of the battered downtown tourist district, we were motioned aside by a group of three men who were wearing municipal police uniforms. Without any explanation, one of the officers demanded to search us.

Since the Mexican Constitution guarantees freedom of transit, and because the officer had not stated a reason for the requested search, I felt the order was out of line. But studying the looks of this particular trio of Ciudad Juarez’s finest, I judged it best not to challenge their command at the moment. So it was, “Up against the wall, mother..!!!”

One cop did the talking and searching while the others stood guard. The active one asked what we were doing in his city, and gave a blank look when we responded that I was a journalist and my friend an academic from the U.S. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Why Is Israel More Prosperous than the Palestinians?

August 22nd 2012

Tel Aviv Skyline

In almost 40 years of studying these issues, I’ve never seen a better case study of mass media bias and knee-jerk narrowness than an aspect of the current flap about what presidential candidate Mitt Romney said during his trip to Israel. I’m going to focus on a single point because it brings this problem into sharp focus.

If you truly understand what you are about to read, I don’t see how you can accord most of the mass media any credibility when it comes to Israel ever again. Briefly, Romney mentioned the gap between the Israeli and Palestinian economies—ironically, he vastly understated the gap—and attributed it to “culture,” by which he meant, as Romney has said elsewhere, such things as democracy, individual liberty, free enterprise, and the rule of law.

But I’m not talking about Romney here or the media’s critique of him. What is interesting is this: How do you explain the reason why Israel is so more advanced in terms of economy, technology, and living standards? The media generally rejected Romney’s explanation and pretty much all made the same point. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Clarify U.S. Policy on Afghanistan: Designate Haqqani Network Terrorists

August 21st 2012

haqqani terrorists

For the past two years, the Obama Administration has pursued on-again, off-again reconciliation talks with Taliban leaders in an effort to bring an end to the Afghan war. As part of this process, it has wrestled with how to handle the Haqqani network, a Taliban affiliate organization headquartered in Pakistan’s tribal border areas that has extensive influence in eastern Afghanistan and is responsible for some of the most vicious attacks against coalition forces.

Congress recently passed legislation, which President Obama signed into law on August 10, requiring the Administration to determine within 30 days whether the Haqqani network should officially be classified as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) and, if not, to explain its rationale. The decision will be watched closely in the region and will signal—to Afghans, Pakistanis, and terrorist leaders alike—the degree of U.S. commitment to uprooting terrorism from the region. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

GOP has Good Reason to Worry about Ryan on its Ticket

August 21st 2012

Juan Williams 02
Juan Williams

No one wants to say it out loud. But the political professionals are saying quietly that Mitt Romney conceded the presidential race by putting Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on his ticket.

The muzzle is on for good reason.

GOP strategist Mark McKinnon was hammered when he said out loud Romney’s pick of Ryan means the GOP ticket will “probably lose – Maybe big.” The Wall Street Journal belittled the former adviser to President George W. Bush for speaking out. They hilariously called him a member of the Republican “Bedwetter Caucus.” The problem with that putdown is that Democratic political insiders are saying the same thing – Ryan hurts Romney and helps President Obama.

So we have a bipartisan judgment.

Ryan simply comes with too much political baggage for a successful national presidential campaign. He does not help Romney to win Ohio, Florida or Virginia. His focus on budget cutting is out of step with the voters’ focus on creating jobs.

All of this is hurting Romney’s effort to win core constituencies, particularly senior citizens – but also moderate women and the large middle of the American electorate, independents. The best that can be said about the pick is that Ryan is extremely popular with the activist right-wing base. True believers who doubted Romney as a Massachusetts moderate are thrilled by Ryan’s presence on the ticket. What those conservatives do not seem to fully appreciate is that there is a whole other world outside of the House GOP caucus, the talk radio universe and the conservative blogosphere.

Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Hundreds of Thousands of Invalid Voter Registrations Uncovered by Attorney

August 20th 2012

Election ID Support

During an appearance on Geraldo Rivera's radio show on Friday, an attorney who gained notoriety investigating President Barack Obama's background told Rivera's audience that her analysis of California's voter rolls revealed more than 720,000 invalid voter registrations.

Orly Taitz told Rivera -- a newsman known to be a staunch pro-illegal alien advocate -- that she is working with a former North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) expert in digital databases to investigate complaints of fraudulent voter registration. According to the attorney, an examination of California's database revealed 723,620 voter registrations which are not valid because of missing birth dates on the forms.

"California's elections code 2150 and 2152 stipulate that an affidavit from an elector has to contain a valid birth date, valid country of origin, a Social Security number, drivers license or a number assigned to the voter if there is no Social Security number or Drivers License number," Taitz said. Read more ..


Education on Edge

Solving America's Mathematics Education Problem

August 20th 2012

Students

American students test poorly in mathematics compared to those in other developed—and in some cases, less developed—countries. While we have seen some signs of improved performance in recent years, these improvements are not yet evident among high school students. And the proportion of new college graduates who majored in math-intensive subjects has declined by nearly half over the past sixty years. Will the United States lose its edge in innovation as the math skills of our elite students atrophy? Will the average worker possess the training necessary to take advantage of technically demanding twenty-first-century job opportunities? Most important, why has the United States lost ground, and what course must we follow to gain it back?

This report summarizes recent research that yields important insights into America’s mathematics problem. Stated succinctly, the root of the problem is an excessive emphasis on equality in curriculum. Given the inherent variability in students’ math aptitude, equity can be achieved only by delivering a suboptimal education to at least some students.

A recent policy initiative undertaken by one of the nation’s largest and most successful school districts, Charlotte-Mecklenburg (North Carolina), illustrates the hazards of math acceleration. In 2002, the district joined a growing number of education agencies in promoting eighth grade algebra for a larger proportion of students. The push to accelerate algebra was based on a naïve interpretation of correlations between algebra timing and later success, ignoring the obvious counterargument that a propensity for future success drives early algebra taking, not the reverse. However ill-conceived the policy, though, the results are instructive: Read more ..


The Obama Edge

U.S. To Continue Pouring Money Into Palestinian Coffers

August 20th 2012

Palestinian Authority police

The Obama administration is seeking another $200 million to aid the Palestinians in the 2012 fiscal year, State Department officials said on Friday. But many Americans are uneasy about giving money to a group that has a history of embezzling millions -- perhaps billions -- of foreign aid cash; or worse, they use the money to purchase missiles, rockets, mortar rounds and other conventional weapons.

"We are working with the Congress to ensure continued U.S. support for the Palestinians, including 200 million dollars in direct budget support this fiscal year," the department said in response to the U.S. news media.

Last year, Washington gave the same amount of direct budget support to the Palestinian National Authority, which is claiming it's facing the worst financial crisis in years with a deficit of about $1.1 billion in its current budget. "Our view remains that our assistance to the Palestinian people is an essential part of the U.S. commitment to a negotiated two-state solution for Palestinians and Israelis, promoting a comprehensive peace in the Middle East," the State Department said. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

A Storied Presidency

August 19th 2012

Obama pensive with flag

In 1995, Barack Obama released "Dreams from My Father," a compelling memoir full of stories about his life that — though often not exactly true — persuaded many people that this young man had a great political future ahead of him.

Nearly a decade later, Obama introduced himself to the country with a stirring speech at the 2004 Democratic convention in which he conceded, “I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story ... and that in no other country on earth is my story even possible.”

“Even as we speak,” Obama declared as he strode the high road at takeoff velocity, “there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative-ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes.”

“Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America.” He insisted that we stop listening to the “pundits” who divide the country into red and blue states. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Paul Ryan's Medicare Plan Harnesses Consumer Power

August 19th 2012

Paul Ryan

The Medicare reform plan advanced by Rep. Paul Ryan is not just a good idea, it's essential both to restoring solvency to the federal government and to improving the nation's healthcare system. It's important to note that the proposal is bipartisan in nature. Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden joined with Ryan in offering it in December 2011. Earlier versions of the idea were supported by Democratic Sen. John Breaux and other many other Democratic members of Congress.

There are two basic choices for slowing the pace of rising costs in Medicare. The first option—the one embraced by the Obama administration—is to rely on the federal government to impose price controls and otherwise try to micromanage how healthcare is delivered to patients. This approach has been tried for the past four decades in Medicare, and hasn't worked. Read more ..



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