|Juan Williams||August 14th 2012|
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
|Brent Budowsky||August 13th 2012|
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
|Jim Kouri||August 13th 2012|
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
|Ben Cohen||August 12th 2012|
Cutting Edge Commentator
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 ..
The 2012 Vote
|Robert Rector and Andrew Grossman||August 12th 2012|
The Heritage Foundation
The welfare reform of 1996 stands as perhaps the most important entitlement reform in the nation’s history. Its successes stem from a core requirement that able-bodied parents must work, search for work, or train for work to be eligible for public assistance.
But now, under the guise of providing states greater “flexibility” in operating their welfare programs, the Obama administration claims unjustifiable authority to weaken or waive the work requirements at the heart of the reform law. There’s just one problem: The law is clear that those requirements can’t be waived.
The work requirement was no doubt the most controversial provision of the 1996 welfare reform. Even after President Clinton twice vetoed reform bills, Congress refused to budge on Section 407, which defines “Mandatory Work Requirements.” Clinton reluctantly signed the final “workfare” measure into law.
Fast forward to July 12, when the Obama administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued an “information memorandum” to state welfare-plan administrators regarding “waiver and expenditure authority.” Essentially, HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius contends that a separate provision gives HHS authority to waive the work requirement in Section 407 of the welfare-reform law.
Bear with us. We’ll try to keep the gobbledygook to a minimum. The HHS memorandum contained a single paragraph of convoluted legal analysis supporting this novel contention. It claims that because that other provision “authorizes waivers concerning Section 402,” and because Section 402 mentions Section 407, “HHS has authority to waive compliance with this 402 requirement and authorize a state to test approaches and methods other than those set forth in Section 407.” Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Shoshana Bryen||August 12th 2012|
Jewish Policy Center
With the rebels and the Syrian government both claiming the upper hand in Aleppo, the only truth on this side of the ocean is that the war is grinding up the city and its people. Ever wonder how Secretary of State Clinton feels about that?
Less than six months ago, Mrs. Clinton made the case for the United States not arming Syrian rebels about whom we know little. Speaking in Morocco, she said, “We really don't know who it is that would be armed,” noting that al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri had expressed support for the rebellion. “Are we supporting al-Qaeda in Syria?” she asked, not quite rhetorically. “Hamas is now supporting the opposition. Are we supporting Hamas in Syria?”
By itself, that is a good point. Its power is only slightly diminished by the recent revelation that the CIA has been on the ground trying to figure out precisely whom we would be funding if we were funding, and the further revelation that indeed we have been funding (with non-lethal aid) even before the CIA has gotten it figured out.
Mrs. Clinton went farther in the interview, however, than just stating policy that the U.S. was not going to arm rebels. Not at all rhetorically, she encouraged the civilian residents of Damascus and Aleppo to join an uprising she knew wouldn't have U.S. military support. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Wendell Potter||August 11th 2012|
If Americans who are embracing Rep. Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity”—and that now includes Mitt Romney—spent a few minutes reviewing a few recent research reports, they just might conclude that the Wisconsin Republican’s plan to reduce the deficit might better be renamed the “Path to the Poorhouse” because of what it would mean to the Medicare program and many senior citizens.
Ryan’s proposal, which will get new scrutiny now that Romney has made him his running mate, would end the current Medicare program for everyone born after 1956. It would replace Medicare with a system in which beneficiaries would receive a set amount of money from the government every year to buy coverage from private insurers. That money would go straight into insurance companies’ bank accounts, which would make them far richer and grant them even more control of our health care system than they already are. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Robert Rector||August 11th 2012|
The Heritage Foundation
President Obama has created a firestorm by overturning the work requirements of the popular 1996 welfare-reform law. Now his White House is bristling because Mitt Romney dares to point out that fact on the stump and in a new campaign ad. Obama’s move is only the latest step in a long history of liberal opposition to work requirements. The Left blocked welfare-reform efforts under both Presidents Nixon and Reagan, for example.
In 1996, a Republican Congress drafted a welfare-reform law — Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) — that for the first time established meaningful work standards for welfare recipients. President Clinton reluctantly signed this legislation. Ever since, Democratic leaders have attempted — unsuccessfully — to repeal welfare’s work standards, blocking reauthorization of TANF and attempting to weaken the requirements. Unable to eliminate “workfare” legislatively, the Left now acts contrary to the law and employs a bureaucratic maneuver to gut the work requirements. The Obama administration claims authority to grant waivers that allow states to skirt these requirements. Read more ..
Education on Edge
|Justin W. van Fleet||August 11th 2012|
The Brookings Institution
The stars of the global development galaxy infrequently align to provide the education sector with an opportunity to advance progress for girls and boys around the world. However, there is currently a unique opportunity to put forth a common vision to reinforce the Education for All (EFA) and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and to chart a forward-looking agenda for the post-2015 development goals that builds upon collective progress and lessons learned.
Three global policy windows are available to advance a common agenda:
1. Discussions and processes for establishing a new set of global development goals, following the expiration of the MDGs in 2015, are underway in the United Nations. Read more ..
The Olympic Edge
|Alexis Hamilton||August 10th 2012|
While the Olympics have injected much excitement into the dwindling days of our summers, many media outlets have given significant coverage to what some might see as the most unexciting aspect of these international games: taxes.
Politicians from both parties, including President Obama and Mitt Romney, leveled critiques at the United States' complicated "worldwide" tax system (which taxes money regardless of where an American earns it) because it will diminish the value of the prizes won by American Olympians.
The U.S. is one among a handful of nations that has this system; most other countries use a territorial system, meaning that income is taxed only one time, in the country where it is earned. Given that Britain agreed to exempt athletes who compete in the 2012 London games from paying taxes on their winnings, the majority of Olympic winners will take home their winnings tax-free. Read more ..
The Defense Edge
|Jim Kouri||August 10th 2012|
The liberal-left’s least favorite company, security contractor Blackwater, under its new corporate identity of Academi LLC, agreed on August 7th to pay more than $7 million in fines in order to settle federal charges regarding alleged arms smuggling and other crimes.
The documents. which were unsealed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Raleigh, North Carolina, stated that the company’s executives agreed to pay the fine as part of a deferred prosecution agreement to settle all 17 violations of law.
The agreement also acknowledges and references a $42 million settlement between the company and the Department of State as part of a settlement of violations of the Arms Export Control Act and the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations, according to officials at the Justice Department (DOJ).
According to DOJ documents, the list of violations includes the possession automatic weapons in the United States without registration, deceptive statements made to government firearms officials about weapons tranferred to the Kingdom of Jordan, and passing secret plans for armored personnel carriers to Sweden and Denmark without U.S. government approval. A separate violation entailed illegally shipping body armor to nations overseas. Read more ..
Religion on Edge
|Juda Engelmayer||August 10th 2012|
Cutting Edge Contributor
|An Eruv wire on an electric pole|
There probably is no better known statement that reveals racism in America than the phrase that begins, “Some of my best friends are …,” with the blank filled in with “Jews,” “blacks,” or some other such qualifier. It reeks of a closet bigot’s desperate attempt to backpedal on a comment or position regarding the inserted group that exposes him for what he really is. It is so widely known an expression for what it is, that when author Tanner Colby released his new book last month, “Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America,” readers and reviewers had no problem understanding the main point – that America still struggles with racism, even with an African-American president. Those seven words have become almost iconic in the annals of closet racism, but there is another such lurking out in our language.
It is not a mere phrase, but the actual name of an organization – a nonprofit, no less, and through its name, its founders reveal their true intent as much as “some of my best friends” does. The subtly subversive name of the group: Jewish People for the Betterment of Westhampton Beach. Read more ..
Tajikistan on Edge
|Zack Peterson||August 9th 2012|
When Tajik President Emomali Rahmon ventures from Dushanbe, it’s always a big deal. The streets are cleaned, the poems and songs of praise are practiced, and now, at least in the city of Kulob, people’s water-toting donkeys will be kept at home.
In preparation for President Rahmon’s upcoming visit to the southern city of Kulob, officials there, anxious to portray a prosperous, functioning municipality, are “asking” the city’s residents to keep their equine helpers away from the city wells. Due to a combination of high consumption and shoddy infrastructure, the city’s 100,000 or so residents have had to rely more and more on the traditional city wells for water during the summer months.
Water can be quite heavy, so many use donkeys -- the prices of which have also risen -- to transport large plastic jugs to and from the wells. The city officials have canvassed the city street-by-street telling residents to keep their donkeys home while the president surveys the city. Read more ..
The Weapon's Edge
|Patrick deHahn||August 9th 2012|
For many Americans, the use of armed drones is a necessity of our times. According to survey data, most see them as an integral part of the war on terror launched more than a decade ago in response to the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. On a global scale, however, Americans supportive of armed drone use, represent a minority viewpoint that is being increasingly challenged by those questioning both the ethics and the legality behind the use of such aircraft.
Officially defined as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), drones have many applications, including civilian, but are today primarily associated with their military purpose of targeting and killing those whom the U.S. government defines as terrorists or their supporters in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Armed drones were also in use in Iraq, but after American troops withdrew from the country late last year, the U.S. has reportedly limited the application of drones there to surveillance activities.
Unmanned aerial vehicle technology has been in the works for decades but became more refined in the 1990s. The first use of a drone in a targeted killing was recorded in Afghanistan in 2002. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Dick Morris||August 8th 2012|
The media is trying to create a sense of momentum and inevitability about the Obama candidacy. One benighted Newsweek reporter even speculated about a possible Democratic landslide. On Friday, I saw the real numbers. These state-by-state polls, taken by an organization I trust (after 40 years of polling), show the real story. The tally is based on more than 600 likely-voter interviews in each swing state within the past eight days.
The trend line is distinctly pro-Romney. Of the 13 states studied, he improved or Obama slipped in nine, while the reverse happened in only four. To read the media, one would think that Romney had a terrible month. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Romney is currently leading in every state McCain carried plus: Indiana, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Nevada, North Carolina and Colorado. If he carries these states, he’ll have 228 electoral votes of the 270 he needs to win. Read more ..
America and the Muslim Brotherhood
|Erick Stakelbeck||August 8th 2012|
The so-called Arab Spring has seen the Muslim Brotherhood rise to power in the Middle East and North Africa. But those aren’t the only regions where the group is spreading its influence: the Brotherhood has also been active in the West for decades. CBN News recently traveled to Europe to discover how the Muslim Brotherhood got here and what it has planned.
It’s an issue that continues to heat up on Capitol Hill. When Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and four other GOP House members called for an investigation recently into Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of the U.S. government, they were widely criticized, even by some of their Republican colleagues.
Yet documents captured by the FBI show cleary that the Muslim Brotherhood is active in the United States. And Egypt’s new president, Mohammed Morsi, reportedly joined the group while he was a student at the University of Southern California in the late 1970s and early 80s.
Establishing a Toehold
The Brotherhood’s presence in the West, however, goes back much further than that. CBN News recently visited the Islamic Center of Munich, which many consider the birthplace of radical Islam in the West. It was there that the Muslim Brotherhood first established a presence in the West and spread its tentacles throughout Europe and the United States. “Initially, the mosque was an idea of the West Germans, who also wanted to harness Islam for its political purposes in the Cold War,” said Ian Johnson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Mosque in Munich. “But the project was taken over by young students, mostly members or sympathizers with the Muslim Brotherhood.” Read more ..
The Obama Edge
|Arthur C. Brooks||August 7th 2012|
Within the space of just two weeks, Americans have witnessed two radically different philosophies about the free enterprise system from President Obama. In his notorious Roanoke, Va., speech of July 13, he said "If you've got a business—you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." That is, Americans have not fully earned their success.
Backpedaling after a public outcry, the president insisted he had been misinterpreted, and that he is fully committed to the values of competition, merit, and opportunity. In a speech to the National Urban League in New Orleans on July 25, he asserted that "America says we will give you opportunity, but you've got to earn your success." The sentiments expressed in these two speeches are inconsistent. To find the truth, we need to look at the administration's actions. As far as business is concerned, a great deal has been written about the myriad barriers the Obama administration has placed in the way of entrepreneurial success. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Shoshana Bryen||August 7th 2012|
The news is out -- President Obama is not just watching the gory events unfold in Syria. The president signed an intelligence finding permitting the CIA to help the opposition with $25 million's worth of non-lethal assistance, possibly including communications, logistics, and intelligence. Public acknowledgement of the finding follows a New York Times story that the CIA was "helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive weapons to fight the government ... and to keep weapons out of the hands of fighters allied with al Qaeda".
The Times added that "by helping to vet rebel groups, American intelligence operatives in Turkey also hope to learn more ... and establish new ties to fighters who may be the country's leaders one day." Learning on the job, are they?
Read more ..
Europe on Edge
|Daniel Hanson||August 6th 2012|
Mario Draghi emphatically says that, “the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro,” but mounting strains on euro member states must force us to ask if the cost is worth the benefit.
Preserving the euro as a single currency with its 17 members comes at an extremely high price. Economic, financial, political, and social burdens jeopardize the ideals held sacrosanct by Europeans. Paradoxically, by preserving the unity offered by the euro, European leaders are forging the type of disunity the euro was designed to eradicate.
The founding of the European Union marked a watershed moment in European history wherein the countries of Europe consciously ceded a small portion of their sovereignty for the expressed purpose of preventing political conflict, promoting liberal democratic conceptions of human rights, and creating efficient markets. As the euro project slogs onward, it undermines all three of these goals. Read more ..
The Defense Edge
|Dean Cheng||August 5th 2012|
The Heritage Foundation
In recent months, tensions have risen in the South China Sea as the ongoing territorial disputes between various Southeast Asian states and the People’s Republic of China have begun to boil. An April speech by Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie stating that the South Sea Fleet would be the vanguard of major new missions makes recent developments even more ominous. This situation raises real stakes for the United States, especially in the context of ongoing and potentially accelerating cuts to the defense budget.
Increasing Chinese Pressure
China has been steadily increasing pressure on its neighbors in the ongoing South China Sea dispute, employing a variety of means. In March, Chinese and Philippine fishing vessels converged on the disputed Scarborough Shoal, reinforcing each side’s claim to the area. Thinking they had a bargain to de-escalate the conflict, the Philippines pulled out its ships. Although the Chinese did not deploy naval ships to the waters, Chinese fishing boats and civilian law enforcement vessels remained, despite an announced Chinese fishing ban on the area. Read more ..
The Edge of Human Trafficking
The U.S. Justice Department once again failed to fulfill its mandate to prosecute criminal activity to the fullest extent of the law, a public-interest group dedicated to weeding out government corruption, fraud and waste noted on August 3. While the story received scant mention in the national news media, its shocking display of ineptitude by Attorney General Eric Holder and his staff should give pause to any clear-thinking American citizen, said political strategist and attorney Joseph Pankowsky.
"If this case -- which the DOJ dropped on July 21 -- and other similar cases are any indication of how the federal government plans to handle human trafficking prosecutions, the victims are in for horrors not seen since the days of slavery in the antebellum South," said Pankowsky.
According to the Inside-the-Beltway watchdog group Judicial Watch, "After spending millions of dollars to prosecute what it touted as the largest human trafficking case in U.S. history, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has suspiciously dismissed [the case] claiming that it lacked evidence to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt."
Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Star Parker||August 4th 2012|
Scripps Howard News Service
Support for same-sex marriage is now in the Democratic Party preliminary platform. Once approved by the full platform committee and voted on at the convention, same-sex marriage will have the party's formal support. But as Democrats institutionalize their support for same sex-marriage, their relationship with the party's most loyal constituency, black Americans, becomes increasingly uneasy. A new survey just released by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life shows 65 percent of Democrats support same-sex marriage compared to just 40 percent of blacks.
A group of 3,700-plus black pastors, the Coalition of African-American Pastors, under the leadership of the Rev. William Owens, has moved to formally oppose the Democratic Party and President Barack Obama on this issue.
The group is spearheading a "Mandate for Marriage" campaign to gather 100,000 signatures on a petition declaring support for traditional marriage. The petition also calls for Obama "to repudiate his assertion that gay marriage is a civil right."
These black pastors are not in the business of politics, nor are they policy wonks. They are driven by commitment to biblical truths and the direct challenge to and rejection of these truths by social acceptance of homosexual behavior and same-sex marriage.
They don't see biblical truths as academic points divorced from the practical realities of life. They see them as the rules that sustain life. And they see the crises spreading in their communities and in our nation as acceptance of these truths falling by the wayside. HIV/AIDS is devastating black America. Reading the grim statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention makes clear that this plague is driven, first and foremost, by homosexual behavior.
According to the CDC: "In 2009, African-Americans comprised 14 percent of the U.S. population but accounted for 44 percent of all new HIV infections. ... Black men accounted for 70 percent of the estimated new HIV infections among all blacks. ... Black men who have sex with men represented an estimated 73 percent of new infections among black men. ..." Research abounds showing the importance of intact traditional family life in the academic success of children and of overall economic health. Read more ..
|John Zimmer||August 4th 2012|
From RT and Agencies
Holding a baseball bat in your hand while talking on the phone about a delicate international issue means you really like the person you are talking to. At least, so says the President of the United States. The White House scrambled to explain the meaning behind a photo it posted online of President Obama holding a wooden club associated with either a popular American sport or mob violence, depending on personal preferences. Obama held the bat as he chatted on the phone with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday. The two were discussing the ongoing violence in Syria, in which both America and Turkey are backing the anti-regime opposition forces.
Reporters bombarded White House secretary Jay Carney on Monday with questions over possible hidden meanings in the photo of the bat-wielding Obama. Carney explained the photo by saying the president was a baseball fan and avid supporter of the Chicago White Sox. Turkish politicians were quick to seize on the picture and level harsh criticism at Turkey’s head of government. Read more ..
Africa on Edge
|Mwangi S. Kimenyi, Eric Aligula Maolo, Abdoulaye Diagne||August 3rd 2012|
On Tuesday, July 31, 2012, United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton embarked on an official visit to several African countries including Kenya, Malawi, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan and Uganda. The visit to South Sudan is particularly significant because Secretary Clinton will be the highest U.S. government official to make an official visit to this new country. This trip is likely to be Clinton’s last extended visit to Africa in her official capacity as secretary of state as she is expected to resign at the end of President Obama’s first term. The secretary’s visit comes at a time when the U.S. is increasingly seeking to deepen its engagement with Africa.
Given the extensive coverage of the secretary’s trip in terms of number of countries and regions visited, a wide range of issues of interest to U.S. and Africa will be part of the agenda. We highlight some of these issues that we consider a priority to both Africa and the U.S.
This heightened interest in Africa by the U.S. is, in part, a result of recent dramatic changes on the continent, such as rapid economic growth and improved governance, which have made Africa a much better place to do business. Read more ..
Media on Edge
|Rachel Ehrenfeld||August 2nd 2012|
London Evening Standard
London, the host of the 2012 Olympics, has long since won the gold medal as the capital of “libel tourism”. I was made aware of this in 2004 when a libel suit was brought against me and my book Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed — and How to Stop It, in London’s High Court. The suit was brought by Khaled bin Mahfouz — the Saudi plutocrat and libel tourist nonpareil.
Before his death in 2009, Mahfouz had brought or threatened to bring more than 40 similar lawsuits before that plaintiff-friendly court, and he was totally successful in silencing the critics of his infelicitous career, which had, it was claimed, included terrorist financing.
Mahfouz had several things working for him in London: he was rich and he was the former banker of the Saudi royal family with the tacit support of powerful Saudis. He was, moreover, the beneficiary of a legal system that gives the plaintiff an inordinate advantage. He didn’t have to prove that the allegations against him were not true. British libel law puts the burden of proving allegations with the defendant, not the claimant. Filing a suit, or just threatening to sue, was enough for him to win. In my case, since I refused to acknowledge the British jurisdiction over me, he won by default.
I countersued him in New York, arguing that enforcing the UK default judgment would violate my constitutional right to freedom of expression. When I found out that New York lacked a law to protect me, I turned to the state legislators, who passed the Anti-Libel Terrorism Law (aka “Rachel’s Law”) in May 2008. I went on to campaign for a federal law, and in a bipartisan unanimous vote, the US Congress approved the Securing the Protection of Our Enduring and Constitutional Heritage Act, which protects all Americans writers and publishers from the growing phenomenon of libel tourism, in 2010.
It was an important development. Mahfouz had used the libel-tourism tactic to bully more than 40 authors and a publisher into apologies for and retractions of similar exposés. While British libel laws were often used by the rich and famous to intimidate critics, the Saudi used them as a weapon against the American and Western media, and effectively prevented further exposés of Saudi and Gulf funders of terrorism. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Morton A. Klein, Michael Goldblatt, and Daniel Mandel ||August 2nd 2012|
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been assailed for saying at a fundraiser in Jerusalem that “culture” plays a large part in Israel’s superior “economic vitality” over the Palestinians, just as it does “between other countries that are near or next to each other. Chile and Ecuador, Mexico and the United States.” For this commonsensical statement of the obvious, he has been pilloried, not least by the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s Saeb Erekat, who described his remarks as “racist.”
There was, of course, no reference in Governor Romney’s comparison of Israel and the Palestinians to religion or ethnicity, let alone race. He referred to culture, which indeed makes a major difference, in this case and the others he cited. He was right to note that this has produced widely divergent results in economic performance between Israel and the PA. Read more ..
Israel and Palestine
|Shoshana Bryen||August 1st 2012|
Mitt Romney is being castigated for praising the culture that has allowed a democratic, (mainly) free market Israel, operating under the rule of law, to thrive amid decades of threat and periodic open warfare and a heavy defense burden. Actually, he's being castigated for what his praise of Israel implies or says outright about Israel's neighbors -- not only the Palestinians, but mainly them. So it is instructive to note the latest broadside by a West Bank youth group called "Palestinians for Dignity" (PDF).
PFD, which was instrumental in the protests against Mahmoud Abbas and PA corruption earlier in the summer, is now protesting the European Union's decision to upgrade a variety of trade and other ties with Israel. In its release, published by the Palestinian news agency Ma'an, the PDF announced: Barring meaningful action [to reverse the upgrade] the Palestinian youth movement will organize to protest the latest manifestation of EU complicity and to challenge its presence and operations in Palestine...This latest move by the EU is nothing less than outrageous... this duplicitous behavior epitomizes the reasons why the Palestinian people have no faith in the EU. Read more ..
Cutting Edge Commentator
Here’s a pretty gruesome story from Pakistan that began circulating on July 30:
At least 11 nurses, including three Christians, were poisoned at Civil Hospital Karachi for eating during Ramadan. During their afternoon break yesterday, the 11 nurses went to the hostel cafeteria for some tea and food. Rita, a Catholic nurse, collapsed first after drinking her tea. Now all the nurses are in the hospital’s intensive care unit, some in very serious conditions.
It was an appropriate day, then, for the State Department to publish its 2011 report on religious freedom around the globe. And the bottom line is that, throughout the Islamic world, as well as in the unreconstructed communist and authoritarian states, there’s precious little of it.
What kind of ranking does religious freedom hold in the conduct of American foreign policy? As of this morning, the State Department’s website had on prominent display the following declaration from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “For the United States, religious freedom is a cherished constitutional value, a strategic national interest, and a foreign policy priority.” No room for misinterpretation there, then. Read more ..
Israel on Edge
|Barry Rubin||August 1st 2012|
“Can’t anybody here play this game?” – Casey Stengel, great baseball coach
Stengel’s complaint is the precise description of Israeli politics nowadays. To a remarkable extent—and this has nothing to do with his views or policies—Bibi Netanyahu is the only functioning politician in Israel today. No wonder he is prime minister, will finish his current term, and will almost certainly be reelected in 2013.
Consider the alternatives. The number one such option is Shaul Mofaz who is head of Kadima. Mofaz was a competent general but is a dreadful politician. He may be the least charismatic man I’ve ever met. Tsippi Livni, his predecessor, was a disaster as leader of the self-described centrist party. Here is a list of her major failures:
• She did not take the opportunity to oust the smarmy party leader Prime Minister Ehud Olmert when the corruption charges against him piled up.
• She did a poor job in the dealing with the end-game in the Gaza war in January 2009.
• She mishandled the coalition negotiations when she did become acting prime minister, leading to the government’s fall. Read more ..
Healthcare on Edge
|Wendell Potter||July 31st 2012|
One of the reasons Americans seem so willing to tolerate the fact that 50 million of us are uninsured and almost 30 million more of us are underinsured is that most of us who have coverage assume we are OK. That nothing truly catastrophic will happen to us, and that, even if it did, our insurance policies will pay our bills and keep us whole.
Who would think that a decision to go see a movie on a Friday night could change our lives — and the lives of our families — forever? That we or a loved one, even with what we believed was decent coverage, might become a victim of violence that could leave us not only disabled for life but also potentially bankrupt and homeless?
That random act of violence in Aurora, Colo. earlier this month could have happened anywhere in America, of course — or in any other country, for that matter — but among the world’s developed nations, we live in the only one where the families of some of the injured would have to face begging for money to pay the doctors and hospitals and keep the sheriff and his foreclosure papers at bay. Talk about American exceptionalism. This is one area where, sadly, we truly are unique. Read more ..
Defense on Edge
|Peter W. Singer||July 31st 2012|
The Brookings Institution
As the threat of sequestration has grown closer, the level of noise surrounding the looming budget cuts has only grown louder. Last week, the volume reached a new level with the issue of a report prepared on the projected economic costs.
The report was prepared on behalf of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) by Stephen Fuller, a professor at George Mason University, and Chmura Economics & Analytics, a consulting company. It painted a particularly dismal picture of the jobs impact of the defense portion of the potential cuts. “A total of 1,090,359 jobs with a total labor income of $46.5 billion would be lost due to DOD budget cuts in FY 2012-FY 2013.” It then broke down the figures on a state by state basis, noting that such key election battleground state like Virginia and Florida would experience severe job losses (136,191 and 41,905) at a time of already worrisome unemployment.
The report landed like a bombshell. A range of newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post, directly quoted the report’s jobs findings, while cable and online networks such as CNN and Fox News also devoted significant coverage to the mind-boggling numbers. Similarly, policy leaders on both left and right cited it. For instance, both New Hampshire Senators Kelly Ayotte (R) and Jeanne Shaheen (D). And in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, timed the day following the report’s release, senior defense industry executives echoed the report’s apocalyptic numbers, which furthered its spread and assumption as fact. Read more ..
The Obama Edge
|The "Blind Sheikh" Omar Abdel Rahman|
Obama administration minions may have violated U.S. law last month by welcoming an Egyptian with ties to terrorism to the White House in order to lobby for the release of an imprisoned terrorist known as the Blind Sheik, claimed Rep. Pete King, current chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, in a statement on July 26.
Hani Nour Eldin -- an avowed member of Gama’a al-Islamiyya listed by the State Department as terror group -- was elected along with members of Islamist groups the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists to Egypt’s parliament.
"Eldin was put through a stringent vetting process before he was given a U.S. visa to enter the U.S. and then gain admittance to the White House," claimed Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who in the past has been criticized for her laxity in matters of national security.
But, according to Rep. King, the U.S. investigators involved in his vetting either ignored Hani’s Facebook page or didn’t check it at all. On Facebook he boasts of his membership in Gama’a al-Islamiyya. U.S. immigration laws require that both Secretaries of State and Homeland Security must authorize waivers before issuing visas to members of designated federal terrorist organizations, and they must notify the appropriate members of Congress. Read more ..
NATO on Edge
|Luke Coffey||July 29th 2012|
The Heritage Foundation
In light of the uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa, the continued threat in the region from al-Qaeda, and the nuclear threat and state-sponsored terrorism from Iran, many in NATO have rightly decided to place a renewed focus on working with regional partners on its periphery. NATO already has structures in place to better cooperate with partners in this part of the world, but little has been done to enhance these relationships.
NATO and Its Southern Periphery
NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept states that cooperative security is one of the alliance’s three essential core tasks. NATO carries out its cooperative security task with its southern partners through two mechanisms: the Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.
The Mediterranean Dialogue . Launched in 1994, the Mediterranean Dialogue forms the basis of NATO’s relations with its Mediterranean partners, which include Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia. Although these talks are normally done on a bilateral basis (“NATO+1”), on occasion this forum meets as “NATO+7,” placing Israel at the same table as some of its regional neighbors, where it would not otherwise be. Read more ..
Defense on Edge
|Daniel Halper||July 29th 2012|
No intellectually honest individual could examine the vast array of evidence and believe there has not been a spate of high-level national security leaks over the past months.
Intimate details of the SEAL team raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan have been consumed by millions of Americans watching cable television and reading newspapers, and, soon enough, it will be seen in Hollywood films. Folks around the world now know, without a doubt, that Americans coupled with Israelis have been waging silent cyber warfare against the Iranians, infecting Iranian computers with crippling viruses that have, by some estimates, slightly set back the mullahs' march toward achieving nuclear capability.
And readers of the New York Times now know that President Barack Obama keeps close tabs on the terrorist "kill list," even deciding which terrorist will next be targeted by the fine men and women of America's armed services. That sensitive information has been passed along from sources in the know to members of the media is without dispute a fact -- it is perhaps the least disputed fact of the questions currently being considered regarding the leaks. Read more ..
|Lanny Davis||July 28th 2012|
Early Friday morning in Aurora, Colo., we were reminded that there remains in the world the existence of pure, sociopathic evil — an inhuman monster who celebrates death and has no sensations from a beating heart of feelings, empathy or anything other than the glorification of death. The impulse to extrapolate, exploit and, yes, politicize such a tragedy is hard to overcome. As my Republican friend and fellow blogger Rich Galen wrote on Sunday night:
“I do not want to diminish, in any way, the gravity and horror of the event that occurred in Aurora, Colo., Friday morning … There are no easy answers. There are no black-and-white solutions. Sometimes bad people do bad things.”
Two men, however — one is our president; the other would like to be — came forward and reminded us who they really are and made us feel good about them, ourselves and our country again. President Obama, talking to what was supposed to be a political rally in Fort Myers, Fla., on Friday morning, about 11 hours after the tragedy, spoke the right words with the right tone and made us proud that he was our president, regardless of party or partisan loyalties.
“If there’s anything to take away from this tragedy, it’s the reminder that life is very fragile. Our time here is limited and precious. “My daughters go to the movies. What if Malia and Sasha had been at the theater? “There are going to be other days for politics. This, I think, is a day for prayer and reflection.”
About an hour later, on the East Coast in Bow, N.H., Mitt Romney said: “I stand before you not as a man running for office, but as a father and grandfather, a husband and American.” Romney also offered the serenity of a man of faith, and tried to provide a sense of hope even in the midst of the incomprehensible and senseless murders of innocent people. Read more ..
The Coal Problem
|Nicolas Loris||July 28th 2012|
The Heritage Foundation
For decades, coal has literally been the rock that has powered America with cheap, reliable energy. Yet the federal government is using every possible avenue to reduce coal’s role in American energy production by creating an environment in which coal production’s decline is inevitable. Congress should reform federal policies and regulations to enable the market—not federal politicians and bureaucrats—to determine the role of coal in U.S. electricity generation. This includes repealing, preventing, or freezing unnecessary regulations and empowering the states to appropriately balance economic growth and environmental protection.
Used to power nearly half of all electricity generation for years, coal is the single largest electricity source in America. With 497 billion tons of recoverable coal in the United States—enough to provide electricity for 500 years at current consumption rates—coal has the potential to be an important resource long into the future. Read more ..
The Obama Edge
|Secretary Hillary Clinton and assistant Huma Abedin|
Former Congressman Anthony Weiner's sex scandal may be nothing compared to a number of allegations that his Egyptian-born wife, Huma Abedin, has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and it's female off-shoot, the Muslim Sisterhood. Even more disturbing is the fact that Mrs. Weiner works closely with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and has access to confidential, even secret, intelligence, according to several homeland security experts.
A list of members of the Muslim Brotherhood’s secret women’s division, which is known as the Muslim Sisterhood, a/k/a the International Women’s Organization (IWO), includes the name of disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner's mother-in-law, according to a column written by Walid Shoebat and Ben Barrack.
The list, which was partially published by Al Jazeera and major Arab news outlets, has the name of Weiner's wife's mother, Saleha Abedin, on it, according to Shoebat and Barrack.
According to former U.S. federal prosecutor, Andrew McCarthy, Huma Abedin actively worked as an assistant editor for a publication headed by suspected al-Qaeda associate Omar Naseef. McCarthy gained national attention in his prosecution of the perpetrators of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Read more ..
Obama and Israel
|Shoshana Bryen||July 27th 2012|
Jewish Policy Center
As Governor Romney leaves for overseas travel that includes Israel, he doesn't have to be ready to solve the problems of the region, or have a "peace plan" in his pocket. A few basic principles -- previously observed by both Republican and Democratic presidents -- will serve him well.
1. Israel is a sovereign country. The government of Israel should not be asked (or told) to substitute American policy positions for its own positions. Whether on strategic or day-to-day issues -- including housing policy, blockades, and the disposition of checkpoints -- Israel is responsible for and to its citizens; the U.S. is not. If the Israeli government is wrong about a security matter, Israelis will pay the price; if the U.S. is wrong, Israelis will likewise pay the price.
2. Israel is our friend and ally. When the government of Israel makes a big decision, the U.S. doesn't have to agree with it -- and certainly can express itself (preferably privately) -- but under the terms above, the U.S. should plan to be helpful to the extent possible, even if it wasn't our idea. It's what allies do. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Daniel Halper||July 27th 2012|
No intellectually honest individual could examine the vast array of evidence and believe there has not been a spate of high-level national security leaks over the past months.
Intimate details of the SEAL team raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan have been consumed by millions of Americans watching cable television and reading newspapers, and, soon enough, it will be seen in Hollywood films.
Folks around the world now know, without a doubt, that Americans coupled with Israelis have been waging silent cyber warfare against the Iranians, infecting Iranian computers with crippling viruses that have, by some estimates, slightly set back the mullahs' march toward achieving nuclear capability.
And readers of the New York Times now know that President Barack Obama keeps close tabs on the terrorist "kill list," even deciding which terrorist will next be targeted by the fine men and women of America's armed services. That sensitive information has been passed along from sources in the know to members of the media is without dispute a fact—it is perhaps the least disputed fact of the questions currently being considered regarding the leaks. Read more ..
|Armstrong Williams||July 27th 2012|
Cutting Edge Conservative Commentator
Anyone who reads my columns can tell you that it is one of my mantras that politics should take up as little space in your life as possible. If it doesn’t, it’s only out of necessity occasioned by bad government, something we have in surplus.
A normal, healthy person with a functioning conscience should recoil with horror at the gruesome murder of a dozen Americans and the wounding of seventy others in a crowded movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. If you don’t feel that, there’s something wrong with you.
If your first reaction is, say, to get political, to condescend to our nation’s Founding Fathers about the fact that guns are instruments of violence, then there is most certainly something wrong with you. Sir Salman Rushdie, one of our greatest living novelists, contributed to the world this brilliant thought: “The ’right to bear arms’ is the real Bane of America.” It irks me even to have to repeat it. Who doesn’t joke around about a national tragedy a few hours after it happens?
His vulgarity was only matched by his pettiness. Rushdie went on to attack perfect strangers ad hominem for bringing up his transgression of basic decency. He mocked Michelle Malkin for her perfectly understandable outrage at his comments, and posted what only he must think are pithy comments, such as, “Don’t like puns? Fine. I don’t like guns.” Who doesn’t see an equivalence there?
One would think that a man who has been pursued for decades by the Iranian government for speaking freely about Islam would be a bit more charitable toward those with whom he disagrees. Instead, he revealed himself to have a personality and sense of humor as childish as his political beliefs, as selective and hypocritical a reverence for free speech as that of the Iranian government. It was an unwanted confirmation of what I had suspected from reading Mr. Rushdie’s previous commentaries about religion, namely that he seems to have stopped thinking about the big issues somewhere around his nineteenth birthday. Whatever will impress the cool kids at the Daily Show. Read more ..
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