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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 ..


The 2012 Vote

A Victory for Election Integrity

August 19th 2012

Election ID Support

In a victory for election integrity, a Pennsylvania district court judge denied a preliminary injunction to stop Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law from going into effect. The law, passed in March 2012, minimally changes Pennsylvania’s election code to require citizens voting in person on Election Day to present photo identification. Acceptable forms of photo identification include IDs issued by the federal or state government, such as municipalities, accredited public or private schools, and care facilities. Citizens who cannot produce an approved form of ID may still cast a provisional ballot provided that the person delivers proof of identification within six days after the election. The law imposes a similar ID requirement for absentee ballots.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation is charged with issuing free identification cards. For those who cannot afford the minimal cost of supporting documentation, such as a birth certificate, their votes will still count if they sign an affirmation that they can’t afford the cost. The challengers claimed that many citizens will be disenfranchised or severely burdened by the photo ID requirement. At a trial in July, the challengers put forth testimony regarding the number of registered voters supposedly without certain types of photo ID (e.g., drivers licenses) as of June 2012, but others have noted that most of these voters have other approved IDs that they use to pass through airport security or get into government buildings. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Former Navy SEAL Team Six Commander Heads Anti-Obama PAC

August 18th 2012

Barack Obama in Thought

On Wednesday, a group, Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund, Inc., began airing political advertisements criticizing President Barack Obama's service as Commander in Chief. Now a former commander of Navy SEAL Team Six is leading a political action committee (PAC) with a simple mission: Defeat Barack Obama and his leaking White House. according to a press statement released on Thursday.

Ryan Zinke, a former commander of Navy SEAL Team Six, started a super PAC, Special Operations for America, which is dedicated to supporting Mitt Romney and slamming President Obama on leaks and on politicizing Bin Laden’s death. According to Mr. Zinke, these two super PACs are just the first salvo in what will be a sustained assault on the president by high-level ex-soldiers. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Romney's Latin America Policy: Where's the Beef?

August 18th 2012

Romney and Ryan--Virginia Announcement

GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has amassed a collection of headlines impugning his foreign policy credentials since his speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) convention and overseas trip. This publicity he has received all too characteristically crops Latin America from forecasts about what a Romney White House would mean for hemispheric policy issues. Still, as his sparse commentary on the region suggests, Latin America would not only remain out of frame, but out of focus should Romney secure the presidency.

In his lone reference to the region during the VFW address, Romney focused exclusively on ties between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Hezbollah. Such emphasis on terrorism in Latin America allowed Romney to incorporate the region into his broad global narrative: the world is “dangerous, destructive, chaotic” and it is America’s moral duty – no, its “destiny” – to safeguard freedom for all humanity. Though the escalating link between the South American cocaine trade and Middle Eastern terrorists marks a valid security concern, Romney has neglected the region’s geopolitical importance with those lean remarks. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

America Ready for Paul Ryan's Adult Conversation

August 17th 2012

Star Parker, CURE

There's a line of thinking on the political left that Mitt Romney served up a great softball in picking Paul Ryan as his running mate. According to Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page, "Ryan brings to the Romney campaign the Tea Party's style of magical thinking, a blissfully simplistic, ideologically driven world view that seems to think candidates can win votes by promising to reduce popular government services."

Republican candidates, they say, are ducking for cover to avoid being branded with budget reforms that Ryan, as chairman of the House Budget Committee, has proposed, particularly for Medicare and Medicaid.Vice President Joe Biden, eloquent as always, told a mostly black audience in Virginia that Republicans want to put "y'all back in chains."

Although Biden has taken flak for this nauseating remark, he should get credit for summing up how Democrats really think: that government running your life makes you free and that anyone who proposes freedom and choice wants to put "y'all back in chains."

Earlier this year, Douglas Elmendorf, director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, sent a report on the nation's budget to House Budget Committee chairman Ryan.

Here's what he said: "The explosive path of the federal debt that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects under what many observers would view as current policies underscores the need for policy changes to put the nation on a sustainable course.

"The aging of the population and rising costs for health care will push spending for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other federal health-care programs considerably higher as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP)." Elmendorf concludes that without major increases in revenues and/or substantial cuts in spending, "the resulting budget deficits will increase federal debt to unsupportable levels." Read more ..


Battle for Syria

Is Hillary Clueless or Cavalier? Neither Helps

August 17th 2012

Hilary Clinton

Last week in this space I wrote about Secretary of State Clinton's cavalier call for the people of Aleppo to rise up against the Assad regime.  When they did -- as when President Bush (41) called on the Shi'ites and Kurds of Iraq to rise up against Saddam in 1991 -- the U.S. declined to support the rebels, and the results were bloody.  It seemed that neither was aware of the impact the words of the government of the United States can have on people in distress.

The problem, actually, is different, as seen on Page 2 of the Style Section of The Washington Post (15 August).  It was just a little blurb in the "Names & Faces" column, noting that back in April, Secretary Clinton, "indulging in a bit of wishful thinking ... about the plight of blind dissident Chen Guangcheng," said, "You know, this is such a long flight, maybe they'll have the problem all worked out by the time we land.  Maybe all the problems everywhere will be worked out by the time we land."

The real problem is twofold -- first that the secretary of state of the United States begrudged the long flight that carried her to her duties and wished that those duties would be obviated by other people "working things out."  (Helpful hint to Mrs. Clinton: don't go everywhere; you didn't need more frequent flier miles than Madeleine Albright.)

Remember that in April, human rights activist Chen Guangcheng had been released from prison but was under house arrest and severe mental stress until he made a daring and dangerous escape from his residential prison to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.  The Embassy escorted him to a government-run hospital and accepted its dictate that American officials leave him there alone.  He spent several days isolated.  And she was complaining about the job of talking to his jailors. That's a small, nasty problem. Read more ..


Religion's Edge

If God Lived on Earth, People Would Break his Windows

August 17th 2012

Hareidi Violence

As is has been throughout history, when economic times become bleak, fingers start pointing toward the Jewish people.  It will often begin anonymously, first with outbreaks of anti Jewish "noise" and messaging in hurting communities, then the public rants by so-called scholars and community figures gain broader audiences; and it eventually gets mainstreamed into protected remarks and satirical comics in media offered as “legitimate” commentary; and then it moves up to public protests with public leaders leading the fight for imaginary justice from the evil Jews.

This is not meant as a scare, as there is no looming menace here in the United States; not to say that there are no troubles brewing in European regions that have high and growing Moslem populations.  Yet, the other day in a Cedarhurst commuter station of the LIRR, on a billboard that read “Jump Start Your Economy”, was the word “Jew” scrawled in graffiti.  Once again, it’s not major, and it is not as bad as seeing swastikas etched into synagogue doors, but we should be aware that there is an element that would associate the hurting economy with some sort of Jewish involvement. Read more ..


The Cyber Edge

President Obama May Bypass Lawmakers with Cybersecurity Executive Order

August 16th 2012

Data center computer corridor

Senate Republicans recently blocked cybersecurity legislation, but the issue might be revived by the White House, a federal law enforcement official said earlier this week. The Obama administration officials haven’t forgotten the power of an executive order signed by their boss that could be used to address cybersecurity if the Senate and House of Representatives fail to pass the requested bill.

The wide-reaching legislation, if it had passed, would have given government law enforcement and security agencies power to make decisions regarding the digital defense of critical infrastructure companies against cyber attacks. The Republican senators claimed they were uneasy about giving Washington even more power over the private sector.

“Many corporate security directors believe their own businesses are better able to protect themselves from cyber attacks. If the government wishes to assist, the Obama administration can offer grant money to upgrade cybersecurity programs,” said Thomas Whelan, a former corporate security director now a business consultant during a telephone interview. Read more ..


Broken Banking

Geithner Giving U.S. Taxpayer Info to Foreign Nations

August 15th 2012

Geithner

In reaction to the worldwide economic turmoil with governments squeezing every penny possible out of taxpayers, Swiss bankers find themselves in the position of actually enticing clients from emerging markets or face a "slow death" as the pursuit of so-called tax evaders increases by U.S. and European authorities, according to The American Banker on Thursday. And U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is at the forefront of chasing tax dodgers.

Few Americans are aware that their personal and financial information is being given to foreign nations by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service in the name of "getting Americans to pay their fair share." And the globalists in the U.S. government are happy to share Americans' confidential information, according to information from a political strategist and tax attorney. Read more ..


Faster and More Furious

In Wake of Fast and Furious, ATF Threatens Future Whistleblowers

August 15th 2012

Click to select Image

Fast and Furious is the scandal in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms encouraged the illegal sale of thousands of guns to Mexican drug cartels.  The guns disappeared into Mexico. Two federal agents (here & here) were slain by these weapons. According to Mexican officials, as many as 200 Mexican citizens have been killed.This scandal has reached into the highest levels of the Obama Administration.  [Read the report on the investigation into 'Fast & Furious' here.] Eric Holder is the first attorney-general in history to have been issued a contempt citation for refusing to cooperate in the investigation. The Justice Department has refused to enforce the citation.

We now know Holder lied before Congress in sworn testimony (here, here, here, here & here).  There's even a White House cover-up. There's more. Recently, we helped break the story in which the ATF director threatened agents.  It was ATF whistleblowers -- acting in accordance with federal law -- who reported Fast & Furious when their own agency ridiculed their concerns that lives could be lost.

Read more ..

Broken Banking

Shocking Revelations of Standard Charter Bank conspiracy with Iran

August 15th 2012

Standard charter bank

Americans are jaded by the size and shape of the financial crisis that ripped through banking in 2008. Bernie Madoff, AIG, "too big to fail," Goldman Sachs, subprime lending, unfathomable derivatives, and underwater mortgages make it hard to work up much steam on yet another banking story. And you could be forgiven for thinking a tome entitled "NY State Department of Financial Services in the Matter of Standard Chartered Branch, NY, NY" would be dull. But Benjamin M. Lawsky, superintendent of the NY State Department of Financial Services, has written the banking equivalent of pornography. (Words you never thought you'd read together, right?)

It is the disgusting description of how a British bank and its U.S. subsidiary conspired over a decade to allow Iran to evade U.S. banking sanctions, and how a well-known American consulting firm covered it up in an "independent report." Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

How the Affordable Care Act Reduces our Liberty

August 14th 2012

Obamacare Protest

With one to two weeks left before most schools begin their fall semester, there's still time left to squeeze in a bit more summer reading. So if health care policy is your idea of a beach read, grab a copy of "Why Obamacare is Wrong for America."

Authored by former OMB associate director Jim Capretta, American Enterprise Institute resident fellow Tom Miller, Heritage Foundation senior fellow Bob Moffit, and Galen Institute president Grace-Marie Turner, the book makes nuances of the debate over the Affordable Care Act (ACA) palatable to a lay audience by breaking down the law into eight pillars. This book nicely elaborates on the government takeover concerns I voiced in my earlier column.

The first two pillars are mandates on individuals (to obtain) and employers (to provide) health coverage. These are unprecedented. Most people can go without healthcare longer than they can make it without food. Yet, even for a necessity such as food, lawmakers do not impose any remotely equivalent restrictions on freedom of choice. Read more ..


Broken Government

GOP vs Tea Party on Dodging Doomsday

August 14th 2012

Juan Williams 02

Is there another Republican revolution taking place behind the scenes on Capitol Hill?

In the run up to the election, several Senate Republicans are openly talking about agreeing to tax hikes, or some revenue increases, to get a budget deal done. They see a political trap for the president. If he does not go along with the Republican plan—which uses formulas similar to the one set down by the independent Simpson-Bowles commission—the GOP senators envision voters blaming the Obama White House for failing to act in the national interest and reduce the federal deficit.

There is just one problem with this political strategy: The Senate Republicans first have to convince the Tea Party freshmen in the Republican-controlled House to approve of any deal that includes tax increases. Their best hope for persuading the House GOP to join the deal is the coming fiscal cliff of severe budget cuts that threatens to derail the nation’s fragile, slow-moving recovery. That day of doom is the year-end deadline for implementing the Budget Control Act (BCA) that Congress passed one year ago, and which is scheduled to make a merciless cut through federal spending at the end of the year.

But facing fiscal calamity has not helped to bring the House GOP to its senses in the past. Last year, House Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling without dramatic spending cuts to domestic social programs. Their refusal to perform this routine duty—to quite literally pay the nation’s bills—resulted in an unprecedented downgrade of America’s credit rating by Standard and Poor’s. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report last month that said lenders charged the federal government an extra $1.3 billion last year because of the debt-ceiling debacle. Read more ..


The Clinton Edge

Why America Loves the Clintons

August 13th 2012

Bill & Hillary Clinton

As the campaign from hell continues to promise voters four more years of what they detest no matter who wins, and politics in America is now in almost universal disrepute outside the circles of those paid to continue the status quo, and banking scandals continue, and virtually every major American institution is widely distrusted, consider this:

In a recent Gallup poll, the favorable rating of Bill Clinton was a towering 66 percent. In another recent poll the favorable rating of Hillary Clinton was an equally towering 66 percent. By contrast:

Public confidence in Congress is at levels comparable to the favorable rating of Saddam Hussein. Congressional Republicans are as popular as defective dog food. Congressional Democrats fare slightly better. They are as popular as average dog food, which is fine for the dogs but not great for the people.

Meanwhile, Congress leaves Washington for another long recess while farmers endure agony from the drought, drivers are punished by soaring gas prices and families are pained by another jobs report while nobody in Washington appears to give a damn about anything except blaming each other and telling angry voters why they are so wonderful. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama Bullied Automakers in Negotiations

August 13th 2012

Obama and Flag

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight released a biting report on Friday regarding the Obama Administration’s unusual and questionable practice of obtaining agreements from automakers for stricter mileage standards.

According to Rep. Issa, the Congressional report sheds new light on the extent to which the Obama Administration strong-armed auto manufacturers at the expense of consumer choice, safety and affordability. “In the wake of a massive taxpayer funded bailout of General Motors and Chrysler, the Obama Administration took aggressive action to force a rulemaking process that reflects ideology over science and politics over process and law,” Chairman Issa said in a statement.

“Pleas from career technical experts about passenger safety and consumer choice were ignored by the White House to appease overzealous environmental extremists as this process was forced through,” Chairman Issa noted. Read more ..


Venezuela on Edge

Chavez's Latest Tool for Voter Intimidation

August 12th 2012

Hugo Chavez red

With two months to go before Venezuela’s election on October 7, the regime of Hugo Chavez is exploring ways more foul than fair to secure a fourth term in office for the Comandante.

For the first time this year, the fingerprint scanners used in the past to verify voter ID will be connected to the electronic voting machines themselves. Because voters will have to press down a thumb in order to activate the ballot system, there are justified fears of an electronic record of every individual vote. For tyrants who occasionally allow the public a trip to the polling station, knowing who the dissidents are is both a nasty weapon and a powerful one; in the early 1980s, Chavez’s close friend Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean president, punished the rebellious voters of Matabeleland with a campaign of violence, public executions and enforced famine.

If the Chavistas are trying to sow fear in the hearts of Venezuelans tempted to vote for his arrival, the moderate leftist Henrique Capriles, they appear to be succeeding: “If the thumbprint makes the machine work, how do you know it doesn’t end up being recorded who you voted for?” asked Jacqueline Rivas, a 46-year-old housewife. Experts say there is no evidence the system has ever been used to reveal voters’ preferences, and most opposition leaders, who stand to suffer if supporters don’t vote, have been eager to assure that the system is safe. Read more ..



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