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The Defense Edge

Is Obama Strong on National Security?

June 11th 2012

Obama in Iraq

Let me explain to you why the Obama Administration’s propaganda leak effort  to prove that the president is tough on national security is nonsense. Almost every example with two exceptions—a computer virus against Iran and regime change in Libya–revolves around the willingness to combat or kill al-Qaida leaders, including Usama bin Ladin.

There has never been any question but that the Obama Administration views al-Qaida as an enemy and a danger that should be wiped out. That isn’t the problem. The problem is that this is the only factor that in the world that this administration sees as a national security threat, since al-Qaida is eager to launch direct attacks against targets on American soil.

In contrast, though, the administration does not act against any other possible national security threat be it Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela, North Korea, China, Russia, Pakistan, Syria, Hizballah, Hamas, the Turkish Islamist regime, the Muslim Brotherhood, or anything else you can think of. The administration obviously has shown its belief that engagement, flattery, refusal to help their intended victims, and concessions can win over these enemies.  It has even tried to redefine the Taliban as a group that can be conciliated and given a share in a new Afghan government, despite its involvement in September 11! Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Obama Accused of Politically Motivated Drone Attacks

June 11th 2012

MQ-1 Sky Warrior drone

On Sunday, Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani accused Obama of ordering unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, strikes in his country to boost his political image.

More than a few political commentators and counterterrorism analysts on Sunday morning's television news shows spoke of President Barack Obama's abysmal week dealing with a lethargic economy, accusations of intelligence leaks and misstatements that provided ammunition for his opponents. But the criticisms didn't end there. Prime Minister Gilani's stated that Barack Obama is "using drone strikes in Pakistani tribal regions for political motives." The Prime Minister's verbal assault came a day after President Obama allegedly ordered a "sharp increase" in drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas aimed at killing members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Obama Gave Former ACORN Official $445 Million Taxpayer-Funded Gift?

June 11th 2012

Money Money Money

In a report released June 8, a government watchdog group revealed that the Obama Administration gave a former director at the scandal-ridden left-wing front group, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now--otherwise known as ACORN--nearly half-billion dollars to assist “struggling” homeowners in President Barack Obama's home state of Illinois. According to the public-interest group Judicial Watch, the former ACORN official, Joseph McGavin, will go from operating a corrupt leftist community group, that’s banned by Congress from receiving federal funding, to controlling over $445 million in U.S. taxpayer funds. "The money is part of a $7.6 billion Treasury Department program to help the “unemployed or substantially underemployed” make their mortgage payments," said Judicial Watch officials.

In this alleged corruption case, JW investigators discovered that a subcomponent of the state-run Illinois Housing Development Authority, known as the Illinois Hardest Hit Program, received a generous $445,603,557.00 Obama Administration gift of taxpayer cash. "It's always heartwarming to see progressives who are so generous and helpful to their fellow man. Of course, they're usually generous and helpful with other people's money. Read more ..

The Massacre in Syria

Syrian Massacre and After Massacre--Where are You Obama?

June 10th 2012


Another day, another massacre.

The reaction from Washington? Silence, or worse, more empty rhetoric.

Syrian forces killed at least 96 rebels and civilians Saturday and Sunday in attacks across the country. According to CNN: "random shelling tormented the Homs neighborhood of Talbiseh early Sunday, pausing every four minutes only to continue with artillery and mortars. The violence followed a particularly gruesome day across Syria, where at least 96 people were killed, opposition activists said." At the same time, the opposition Syrian National Council elected a new leader, a Kurdish exile who analysts say may unite Kurdish forces with the anti-Assad militia. The Syrian National Council named Abdul Baset Sieda, a Syrian native now living in Sweden, as its leader. Read more ..

The Iranian Threat

The Process Trap

June 9th 2012

ahmadinejad and zion

Few things ought to be as urgent as keeping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, yet the West – led from the front by the United States – has fallen into the "peace process" trap that considers talk to be progress and, once a conversation has begun, that there is nothing worse than stopping it. Iran understands this as a Western peculiarity, and has used it to cause a rift between Israel and the West; receive assurances that that military action is not in the offing; and begin a process that leaves the Islamic Republic in full control of its nuclear program for a negligible price.

Talk about your demands. Talk about what you've talked about. Talk about what you won't talk about. Talk about talking again. Talk again. Repeat.

Several months ago, the media was ablaze with war talk -– a potential Israeli strike against Iran, of course, but also the war between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and his former Mossad chief, Meir Dagan. While the PM was working to keep the threat of military action on the Western agenda, Dagan was announcing to the world that military action was a choice to which he was opposed. Time Magazine put "King Bibi" on its cover and said he was "unlikely to forge a peaceful path." Everyone seemed to know when Israel was going to "do it." Read more ..

Turkey on Edge

Turkish Muslims Insist on Converting World's Largest Church into a Mosque

June 9th 2012

Haghia Sophia

Ostensibly dealing with a building, a recent report demonstrates how Turkey's populace—once deemed the most secular and liberal in the Muslim world—is reverting to its Islamic heritage, complete with animosity for the infidel West and dreams of Islam's glory days of jihad and conquest. According to Reuters: Thousands of devout Muslims prayed outside Turkey's historic Hagia Sophia museum on Saturday [May 23] to protest a 1934 law that bars religious services at the former church and mosque. Worshippers shouted, "Break the chains, let Hagia Sophia Mosque open," and "God is great" [the notorious "Allahu Akbar"] before kneeling in prayer as tourists looked on. Turkey's secular laws prevent Muslims and Christians from formal worship within the 6th-century monument, the world's greatest cathedral for almost a millennium before invading Ottomans converted it into a mosque in the 15th century.

Hagia Sophia—Greek for "Holy Wisdom"—was, in fact, Christendom's greatest cathedral for a thousand years. Built in Constantinople, the heart of the Christian empire, it was also a stalwart symbol of defiance against an ever encroaching Islam from the east. After parrying centuries of jihadi thrusts, Constantinople was finally sacked by Ottoman Turks in 1453. Its crosses desecrated and icons defaced, Hagia Sophia—as well as thousands of other churches—was immediately converted into a mosque, the tall minarets of Islam surrounding it in triumph. Then, after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, as part of several reforms, Ataturk transformed Hagia Sophia into a "neutral" museum in 1934—a gesture of goodwill to the then triumphant West from a then crestfallen Turkey. Read more ..

The Education Edge

After Solving Student Loan Issue, Look at Costs

June 8th 2012

One Million Dollars

Among the many unresolved issues in Congress, the student loan matter looms large. If Democrats and Republicans don’t find a pay-for, student loan interest rates will double to 6.8 percent on July 1, hitting hard a group of people already staggering under loan burdens.

To be sure, artificially keeping rates low is not the best way to do things, but the larger set of problems is real.

Higher education costs keep rising at a rate faster than even health care inflation. The number of students dropping out and not graduating but still facing heavy loan burdens keeps going up as well. The number of higher-paying jobs, at salaries substantial enough that graduates can meet high loan payments, keeps going down. The number of young people with jobs where the take-home pay cannot begin to meet monthly loan requirements is burgeoning. And the problems clearly go beyond students themselves: Parents and even grandparents in many cases are facing bankruptcy because they have guaranteed the loans of their progeny. Read more ..

Counting Palestinians

Congress is Moving in the Right Direction on Palestinians

June 8th 2012

Palstinian refugee camp

One of Palestinian society's core beliefs is that at some point there will be a full return to the land they consider to be "Palestine," aka, the modern State of Israel. Their expectation and demand is rooted in the in UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 194 of December 1948, which stated that "refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date." This "right", though explicitly contingent on peace, has bloomed into an unconditional "right of return" for all refugees and their descendents, now in their third or fourth generation.

The "right of return" is, at the core, a rejection of any Jewish rights or sovereignty. But it is fashionable to disguise this reality in more palatable terms, including the improbable suggestion that in fact, Palestinian "return" would not challenge the Jewish demographic majority of the State of Israel.

Publicly UNRWA defines a Palestinian refugee as anyone whose "normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948 and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict." In reality UNRWA has continually expanded the definition to include "the children or grandchildren of such refugees are eligible for agency assistance if they are (a) registered with UNRWA, (b) living in the area of UNRWA's operations, and (c) in need." The best estimates are that perhaps 700,000 Palestinians became refugees in 1948-1949. By UNRWA's accounting, however, virtually every Palestinian born since that time is also a refugee. That number now reaches into the millions. Read more ..

Palestine on Edge

Where Did All the Billions of Dollars Given to the Palestinian Authority Go?

June 8th 2012

Salam Fayyad

Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Salam Fayyad says that his regime is short of funds. And meanwhile a reader asks me, "Can you please explain to me why 20 years after Oslo and billions in dollars in foreign aid, the Palestinian Authority (PA) still has not built modern hospitals? Or rather, why do the donor countries pour money down the PA drain without expecting even some face-saving results?”

Good question. Short answer: Swiss bank accounts. In other words, a huge amount of the money has been stolen. There is nothing more distasteful than rulers of a people–especially a poor people–who complain about their subjects’ suffering at the same time that they profit from it. Of course, when some foreign observer sees Palestinians in poor conditions they blame Israel, thus furthering the cause of the same leaders who, -by their intransigent policies, ensure that the situation continues. The personal wealth of PA “president” Mahmoud Abbas is estimated at $100 million. Add onto that millions of dollars for a large number of PA and Fatah senior officials and you get the idea.

I have seen the villas of the PLO leaders in Tunis and the PA leaders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. I have followed in detail the saga not only of Yasir Arafat’s personal stash but also how he used corruption to sustain his political control. And his heirs mostly continue to run the Palestinian movement. It is easy to forget that the PA has existed for 18 years and governed virtually every Palestinian there starting about 16 years ago. That’s a long time. And while Israel can be accused of harassment and putting up various roadblocks, its part in this problem has been limited. Indeed, Israeli action that have hurt the PA’s economy have arisen in direct response to episodes of terrorism, violent confrontation, and all-out wars started by the PA. Read more ..

Muslims and America

Memorial Day with Muslims in America

June 7th 2012

Mosque and crescent moon

Over the recent Memorial Day weekend, several thousand Muslims gathered in Hartford for the annual convention of the Islamic Circle of North America. ICNA was founded almost 40 years ago by Indian and Pakistani university students intending to return home. Most of them never did, but their organization still has ties to Pakistan’s Jama’at-I Islami, the Islamist party founded by Sayyid Mawdudi, one of the twentieth century’s most notorious Muslim intellectuals.

So this event featured much that would alarm or offend many Americans. Yet it also revealed how even Islamists here are adapting in ways that many of us would find encouraging, even gratifying. Nevertheless, these Islamists have yet to address the political realities of life in America. Read more ..

Broken Borders

Napolitano's Strategy to Protect Northern Border a Diversion

June 6th 2012

Canadian Border

President Barack Obama's Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, on Tuesday unveiled the DHS Northern Border Strategy (NBS), according to a statement obtained by the 14,000-member National Association of Chiefs of Police. But some security and law enforcement commanders believe it's nothing more than a political diversion.

According to Napolitano, the NBS is "the first unified DHS strategy to guide [her] department’s policies and operations along the U.S.-Canada border." She claims that it provides "a framework for enhancing security and resiliency" while expediting lawful travel and trade throughout the Northern border region.

"Acting as if she's tackling the Northern border fresh from her victory on our Southern border, Napolitano appears to have lost touch with the reality of America's border security debacle. It's as if there are two Americas: the real one, and the Obama administration's version," said political strategist Mike Baker. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Military Exercises and Political Correctness

June 6th 2012

F15 in Afghanistan

It can't be said that the U.S. is doing nothing about Syria. The administration created the "Atrocities Prevention Board," which failed the test at Houla. It is supporting the feckless Kofi Annan, who is adding to a resume that includes the genocide in Rwanda and massacres in Bosnia. It is beseeching the Russians, who decimated Chechnya and still own it, to help.

But is the U.S. also getting ready to ride to the rescue with Eager Lion 2012? One would hope not.

Eager Lion 2012 is a multinational Special Operations exercise that began in Jordan at the end of May. The planning started long ago; it wasn't organized against Syria—or Iran, for that matter. It was widely touted by the Americans. Major General Ken Tovo, head of the U.S. Special Operations Forces, told reporters in Amman, "The message that I want to send through this exercise is that we have developed the right partners throughout the region and across the world … insuring that we have the ability to … meet challenges that are coming to our nations." Read more ..

Greece on Edge

Eternal Greece: The Nation on the Ramparts of Europe

June 6th 2012

Greek and EU flags

Greece is where the West both begins and ends. The West -- as a humanist ideal -- began in ancient Athens where compassion for the individual began to replace the crushing brutality of the nearby civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia. The war that Herodotus chronicles between Greece and Persia in the 5th century B.C. established a contrast between West and East that has persisted for millennia. Greece is Christian, but it is also Eastern Orthodox, as spiritually close to Russia as it is to the West, and geographically equidistant between Brussels and Moscow.

Greece may have invented the West with the democratic innovations of the Age of Pericles, but for more than a thousand years it was a child of Byzantine and Turkish despotism. And while Greece was the northwestern bastion of the anciently civilized Near East, ever since history moved north into colder climates following the collapse of Rome, the inhabitants of Peninsular Greece have found themselves at the poor, southeastern extremity of Europe.

Modern Greece in particular has struggled against this bifurcated legacy. In an early 20th century replay of the Greco-Persian Wars, Greece's post-World War I military struggle with Turkey led to a signal Greek defeat and as a consequence, more than a million ethnic Greeks from Asia Minor escaped to Greece proper, further impoverishing the country. (This Greek diaspora in Asia Minor was a massive source of revenue until the Greeks were expelled.) Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

The Meaning of the White Vote

June 5th 2012

us voters

Quick. Thirty-two degrees. Hot or cold? It depends. In Fahrenheit, it’s literally freezing; in Celsius it’s sweltering. One hundred dollars. A lot of money or a little? A veritable fortune in Timor, where it’s a quarter of the average annual wage. In Manhattan, not so much. Numbers seem absolute, but they only have meaning in context.

So it is with poll data. Is 80 percent of the African-American vote a lot or a little? It sounds like a lot, but if you’re a Democrat heading into Election Day with just 80 percent support from African-Americans, you ought to be quaking in your boots — it’s rarely enough to win.

What gives these numbers meaning is two bits of context — how they compare to numbers in similar situations across time or space and how they compare to what one needs in order to emerge victorious. Yet rarely do pundits, or even pollsters, provide readers with the context they need to interpret poll numbers meaningfully. Our firm has routinely provided that context for years, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to folks crow about a candidate garnering 53 percent of the female vote, or 80 percent of Democrats, or leading independents by 5. None of that is good news if you need 58 percent of the female vote or 93 percent of Democrats, or a 10-point margin among independents to actually win the race. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

GOP Backing Down from Holder Contempt Resolution

June 5th 2012

Eric holder

While Rep. Darryl Issa (R-CA) is eager to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of congress for failing to provide all records and information regarding the controversial Operation Fast and Furious gun-smuggling fiasco, a number of GOP members of his committee appear to be getting "cold feet at the thought of going up against Holder," a law enforcement source in Washington, D.C. said on Sunday.

As a result Rep. Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, may not have the full support of his fellow Republicans in taking action against Holder and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and therefore he'll lack the votes to proceed with the contempt resolution and his investigation.

Operation Fast and Furious is blamed for, among other things, the death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and possibly the death of Immigration & Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata.

If passed by a House vote, the contempt citation would order the controversial Attorney General to deliver to the House Oversight Committee and to the Judiciary Committee thousands documents related to the probe of the gun-smuggling operation.

According to a source, too many Republican members on Issa's committee are fearful of pursuing the proposed action so close to the November elections. "Apparently some feckless GOP lawmakers are willing to allow Holder and his minions to escape any scrutiny or punishment for an operation that cost lives on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border," said former NYPD detective and military intelligence officer Mike Snopes, who has been following the aftermath of what he called a "blown covert operation." Read more ..

The Education Edge

Yale's Blunder in Singapore

June 5th 2012

Yale University

When the Yale College Faculty passed a resolution in April condemning the "lack of respect for civil and political rights in the state of Singapore, host of the proposed Yale-National University of Singapore College" and urged "Yale-NUS "to uphold civil liberty and political freedom on campus and in the broader society," Yale's president Richard Levin declared that the resolution -- passed in his presence and over his objection -- "carried a sense of moral superiority that I found unbecoming."

Levin then unbecame what he ought to be as president of a liberal-arts university by going to Singapore and giving a speech at the end of last month, the same month in which authoritarian corporate city-state had committed yet another of its abuses against basic civil liberties that have been monitored and condemned by many international observers and advocates -- liberties that, as the Yale faculty resolution emphasized, "lie at the heart of liberal arts education as well as of our civic sense as citizens" and "ought not to be compromised in any dealings or negotiations with the Singaporean authorities."

When Levin gave his speech touting the appointment of the ill-prepared but energetically pliable Yale professor Pericles Lewis as Yale-NUS' first president, Singapore had only recently prevented Chee Soon Juan, Secretary-General of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), from leaving the country to give a speech of his own at the Oslo Freedom Forum. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Lawmakers to Probe Suspicious Jobs Data at Obama's Labor Dept.

June 5th 2012

Barack Obama

In response to complaints by lawmakers and some news organizations, the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing on June 6 to examine the influence of Department of Labor staff, who are political appointees from the Obama Administration, statistics released to the media and public. The Committee, chaired by Rep. Darryl Issa (R-CA), will probe the Bureau of Labor Statistics processes for collecting and disseminating employment data, including unemployment figures and data regarding jobs created.

Among issues to be considered at the hearing is an April 10, 2012 order, which changes long-standing policy and requires news organizations that report on pre-released Labor Department data to use government-owned computer systems and software. The new policy has been strongly opposed by the Sunshine in Government Initiative, a coalition of media organizations that includes mainstream news organizations and the Online News Association.

Those expected to testify include representatives from Bloomberg LP and Reuters newswire, and the Committee also invited Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to testify, along with the acting head of BLS. However, Solis said she will not attend because of a scheduling conflict, according to SGI. Read more ..

Egypt on Edge

Egypt's Innocent Murderers

June 4th 2012

Bye bye Mubarak

“Bashar should abandon power and retire safely in Egypt. The general-prosecutor is murder-friendly,” a friend, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, told me as we watched former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s trial in the Police Academy’s criminal court. Although Mubarak and his interior (security) minister, Habib al-Adly, were handed life sentences at the conclusion of their trials, the generals who ran Egypt’s apparatus of repression as deputy interior ministers were acquitted.

Hasan Abd al-Rahman, head of the notorious, Stasi-like State Security Investigations (SSI); Ahmad Ramzi, head of the Central Security Forces (CSF); Adly Fayyid, the head of Public Security; Ismail al-Shaer, who led the Cairo Security Directorate (CSD); Osama Youssef, the head of the Giza Security Directorate; and Omar Faramawy, who oversaw of the 6th of October Security Directorate, were all cleared of any wrongdoing. Lawyers for Mubarak and al-Adly will appeal their life-sentences, and many Egyptians believe that they will receive lighter sentences.

The verdicts sent an unmistakable message, one with serious consequences for Egypt’s political transition. A spontaneous cry was heard from the lawyers and the families of victims when they were announced: “The people want to cleanse the judiciary.” Read more ..

The Education Edge

The Need for More STEM Workers

June 3rd 2012

Herschel Space Observatory

I’ve been enjoying Niall Ferguson’s new PBS series on the rise of civilization in Western Europe. One of the many lessons is that other societies—like China and the Ottoman Empire—were seemingly well positioned to lead the world into an industrial revolution, but at key points, their leaders rejected scholarship, scientific inquiry, and trade, while, haltingly, those things began to flourish in Western Europe, its universities, and its chartered commercial and learning institutions, like the Royal Society of London. As a result, non-western regions stagnated and missed out on economic development until much later.

Fortunately, the United States government, its businesses, and its people still place a high value on science. To give two examples, according to National Science Foundation statistics, 82 percent of Americans agree with the proposition that the federal government should fund basic scientific research, which is roughly unchanged since 1985. Only seven countries spend more on R&D as a share of GDP and none spend as much in total. Read more ..

Venezuela on Edge

Venezuela's Chavez Bans Gun Ownership and Sales

June 3rd 2012

Hugo Chavez infirm

In a move sure to make the American gun-control lobby green with envy and Second Amendment advocates wary, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's new gun law, which totally bans the commercial sale of firearms and ammunition to civilians, went into effect on Friday, June 1, a police source in Washington, D.C. informs. Until this ban became law, anyone in that South American country with a gun license could purchase firearms and ammunition from privately owned gun shops or sporting goods stores. With Chavez's new gun-control law, only the Venezuelan army, police officials and certain groups such as security and private detective firms are allowed to buy firearms, and then only from state-owned weapons manufacture

It's gun-control on steroids and its nationalizing the firearms industry. And I'm certain "American progressives are envious of both actions: banning gun ownership and nationalizing the gun industry," said the police source who requested anonymity. According to the Venezuelan news media, the gun ban is the latest attempt by the government to improve security and cut crime ahead of elections in October, but many suspect it's all part of Chavez's socialist plan. According to the Chavez government, Venezuela had more than 18,000 homicides in 2011, a much higher per-capita murder rate than the United States. Read more ..

The Education Edge

Where College Graduates Are--Degree Attainment in Metropolitan Areas

June 2nd 2012


"So if you haven't found a job yet: You're better off coming to the city than sitting on your parents' couch."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Remarks at the Cornell University 2012 Convocation, May 27, 2012

As another college graduation season draws to a close, today’s New York Times reports the results of a small analysis we conducted on college degree attainment rates in metropolitan areas. We examined the share of adults age 25 and over in the 100 largest U.S. metro areas who held at least a bachelor’s degree in 2010, versus in 1970. (The Times’ website provides a table with the key data.)

It suggests a centrifugal force that is concentrating the nation’s college graduates into a set of metro areas that, like Bloomberg’s New York, are pulling farther away from the pack. But first: Why is high college degree attainment important for a metropolitan area? The article notes that places in which lots of college graduates cluster exhibit patterns that, not surprisingly, are common to college graduates themselves: longer life expectancies, higher incomes, fewer single-parent families. Indeed, differences in adults’ rate of bachelor’s degree attainment explain nearly three-quarters of the variation in per capita income among metro areas in 2010. And higher regional income can translate into a higher tax base, better public services, and more private amenities. Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Obama's War for War's Sake

June 2nd 2012

Seal Team 6
SEAL Team 6

As he campaigns for reelection, President Obama periodically reminds audiences of his success in terminating the deeply unpopular Iraq War. With fingers crossed for luck, he vows to do the same with the equally unpopular war in Afghanistan. If not exactly a peacemaker, our Nobel Peace Prize-winning president can (with some justification) at least claim credit for being a war-ender.

Yet when it comes to military policy, the Obama administration’s success in shutting down wars conducted in plain sight tells only half the story, and the lesser half at that. More significant has been this president’s enthusiasm for instigating or expanding secret wars, those conducted out of sight and by commandos.

President Franklin Roosevelt may not have invented the airplane, but during World War II he transformed strategic bombing into one of the principal emblems of the reigning American way of war. General Dwight D. Eisenhower had nothing to do with the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb. Yet, as president, Ike’s strategy of Massive Retaliation made nukes the centerpiece of U.S. national security policy. Read more ..

The Arab Winter in Egypt

The Silver Lining in Egypt’s Presidential Race

June 1st 2012

Tahrir Square protest

Egyptians are still reeling from the results of the first round of voting in the country’s first freely contested presidential elections.  The outcome?  The Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi will now face former Mubarak prime minister (and fellow air force commander) Ahmed Shafiq in a run-off set for June 17. While there is apparent hopelessness over such a “nightmare scenario” outcome that pits a conservative Islamist against a former regime stalwart, there is a silver lining.

By and large, the elections shattered the myth that individual Egyptian actors, whether the powerful Muslim Brotherhood or the boisterous protesters of Tahrir, could achieve the goals of the revolution on their own. This realization may finally compel anti-regime forces from across Egypt’s highly fractured and polarized political landscape to work together toward a common cause, namely beginning the long, difficult task of rolling back a military regime that remains deeply entrenched. Read more ..

Turkey and Israel

Time for America to Stop Apologizing for Turkish Obstructionism

June 1st 2012

Turk flags

The week of May 21-25th, 28 NATO leaders gathered in Chicago for the first NATO summit in the United States since 9/11. While global attention was focused on the Alliance's impending withdrawal from Afghanistan, the summit also exposed underlying tensions, most notably the new French president's campaign promises "reevaluate" his predecessor's decision to reintegrate France into NATO's military command and accelerate the withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Turkey, NATO's sole Middle Eastern member and second largest military, blocked Israeli attendance of the summit--despite the presence of 13 other non-NATO partners--in an escalation of its six-year-old spat with the Jewish State. Originally a bilateral dispute, Ankara has now entangled NATO and, with it, the United States, blocking cooperation between two of the United States' most important alliances. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration's reaction has been to defend rather than curtail Turkish behavior, rewarding Ankara with sales of some of the most sophisticated arms in the U.S. arsenal. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

The Politics of Fear vs. the Politics of Hope

May 31st 2012

Barack Obama Israel speech

Within 24 hours over the holiday weekend, Democrats could read two starkly different messaging strategies for President Obama’s reelection campaign.

On Monday, May 28, Memorial Day, John Heilemann’s New York magazine article was headlined: “For Obama & Co., this time it’s all about fear.”
The day before, New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman wrote a column headlined: “Obama Should Seize the High Ground.”

Heilemann wrote:  “Though the Obamans certainly hit John McCain hard four years ago running more negative ads than any campaign in history, what they intend to do to Romney is more savage. They will pummel him for being a vulture-vampire capitalist at Bain Capital. They will pound him for being a miserable failure as governor of Massachusetts. They will mash him for being a water-carrier of Paul Ryan’s Social Darwinist fiscal program. … ‘He’s the ’50s, he is retro, he is backward, and we are forward, that’s the basic construct,’ says a top Obama strategist. ‘If you’re a woman, you’re Hispanic, you’re young, or you’ve gotten left out, you look at Romney and say, ‘This “f--king guy is gonna take us back to the way it always was, and guess what? I’ve never been a part of that. … ’ “Thus to a very real degree, 2008’s candidate of hope stands poised to become 2012’s candidate of fear. For many Democrats, this is fine and dandy, for they believe that in the Romney-Republican agenda there is plenty to be scared of.” Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Bain is Fair Game for Obama

May 31st 2012

mitt romney

The Obama campaign’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain are not attacks on free enterprise, capitalism or even private equity. 

Capitalism did not require Bain to issue debt that GS Steel could not afford to repay, mainly to put money in the pockets of Bain partners. Capitalism did not require Bain to take tens of millions in profits while workers lost their livelihoods. Private equity is not to blame for the company underfunding its pensions system and sticking the government with the bill.

Capitalism does lead to “creative destruction,” in Schumpeter’s famous phrase. Free enterprise does entail risk and the freedom to fail. Private equity exists to make profits. None of that is inherently evil.
The critiques are not focused on the system or the process, or even the failures themselves. Everyone is entitled to some. Rather, the doubts revolve around the decisions Romney made and the values those decisions reflect. And if candidates’ decisions and values are not appropriate considerations in an election, nothing is.  Read more ..

Islam on Edge

Muslims Demand DOJ Intervention in Tennesee Court that Halted Mosque project

May 31st 2012

No mosque in Murfreesboro

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on May 30 demanded that Attorney General Eric Holder and the U.S. Department of Justice protect the religious liberties of Muslims after a Tennessee judge's ruling prevented a mosque to be completed as a result of public outcry in Murfreesboro.

The judge ruled that proper public notice was not given for the May 2010 meeting that approved the site plan for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, near Murfreesboro, Tenn. He seemed to base his ruling on the fact that anti-Muslim bigots were able to manufacture a controversy over the construction of the mosque, the site of which has been the target of hate vandalism, said CAIR officials after the ruling.

"American Muslim constitutional rights should not be diminished merely because anti-Muslim bigots are able to manufacture a controversy about what would otherwise be normal religious activities," said CAIR Staff Attorney Gadeir Abbas. "If the Rutherford County Planning Commission does not immediately issue new permits for the mosque, we urge the Department of Justice to intervene in this case to support the religious rights of Tennessee Muslims," he stated in a media release on May 30. Read more ..

Counting Palestinians

UNRWA Reform

May 31st 2012

Palstinian refugee camp

For years we have been part of a small cadre of determined individuals who saw clearly the damage being done by UNRWA -- the UN Relief and Work Agency for Palestinian Refugees. Damage to prospects for peace in this region, and damage directly to Israel. There is so much wrong with this agency that it's impossible to document it all in this post. Suffice it to say the following:

UNRWA is the only international refugee agency in the world dedicated to one group of refugees -- the Palestinian Arab "refugees." All other refugees are tended to by the UN High Commission for Refugees. And what's astounding is that UNRWA's rules for "its" refugees are different from the rules for all those other refugees.

UNHCR works to get refugees resettled as quickly as possible -- even if the only alternative is settling them permanently in the place to which they had fled or to a third place -- so that they might get on with their lives. Read more ..

Counting Palestinians

Counting Palestine’s Refugees

May 30th 2012

Palestinian refugees

The fetid, dark heart of the Arab war on Israel, I have long argued, lies not in disputes over Jerusalem, checkpoints, or “settlements.” Rather, it concerns the so-called Palestine refugees.

So called because of the nearly 5 million official refugees served by UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) only about 1 percent are real refugees who fit the agency’s definition of “people whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict.” The other 99 percent are descendants of those refugees, or what I call fake refugees.

Worse: Those alive in 1948 are dying off and in about 50 years not a single real refugee will remain alive, whereas (extrapolating from an authoritative estimate in Refugee Survey Quarterly by Mike Dumper) their fake-refugee descendants will number about 20 million. Unchecked, that population will grow like Topsy until the end of time.

This matters because the refugee status has harmful effects: It blights the lives of these millions of non-refugees by disenfranchising them while imposing an ugly, unrealistic irredentist dream on them; worse, the refugee status preserves them as a permanent dagger aimed at Israel’s heart, threatening the Jewish state and disrupting the Middle East. Read more ..

The Farming Edge

Shallow-Loss Programs Could Leave Taxpayers in Deep Trouble

May 30th 2012

wheat fields

Imagine what would have happened if, at the peak of the housing bubble in 2006, Congress had passed a law guaranteeing that all homeowners could sell their property at close to its record price for the next five years, regardless of market conditions. In the wake of the housing bust, many homeowners would have been ecstatic about the program, but it would clearly have been outrageously expensive and unfair for taxpayers.

Yet this is effectively what Congress is gearing up to do for farmers by expanding so-called shallow-loss programs. While promising to do away with about $5 billion a year in direct subsidies — which even many farm lobbies know are no longer politically viable — advocates of shallow-loss programs are pushing them as essential emergency relief that is needed to protect America’s food supply.But shallow-loss programs are not really an essential safety net. They consist of a tangled web of distortions that could end up funneling even more than $5 billion a year to the agricultural sector that, for the most part, would end up in the hands of a relatively small group of wealthy farmers.

A shallow-loss program would also generate serious moral hazard incentives, distort planting decisions and damage our trade relations, and it could leave taxpayers on the hook for more than $60 billion over the next five years. No other business lobby in America would dare to ask Congress to effectively guarantee — at public expense — that industry revenues will never fall below 90% of record levels. Yet the farm lobby calls it “reform.” Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Al Qaeda’s "Final Trap" in Yemen Could be a Costly Demise Planned for U.S.

May 29th 2012

Yemen Crisis

Al Qaeda’s attack on Yemen’s capital, Sana, this week is a graphic demonstration that its franchise in Arabia is getting more dangerous, benefiting from the weakness of the Yemeni state. The U.S. is putting pressure on the jihadi network like never before, but al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) remains determined to strike us at home to drag us ever deeper into another quagmire in the Middle East.

The suicide bombing on Monday in Sana was the deadliest attack AQAP has ever carried out. It comes as government forces are trying to recover lost territory in southern Yemen that al Qaeda has seized since the Arab Spring came to Yemen a year ago.  AQAP using a cover name, Ansar al Sharia, has set up seven so-called emirates in southern Yemen in the last year where it can recruit, train, and prepare its fighters and suicide bombers to strike at home and abroad. AQAP even controls some neighborhoods in Aden, the south’s largest city and port. President Obama is rightly trying to put the Arabian Humpty Dumpty back together again in Yemen so Yemeni forces will be able to disrupt, dismantle, and destroy AQAP. It’s an ambitious strategy. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Trump, Romney's Surrogate, Goes on ‘Birther’ Offensive

May 29th 2012

the donald

While the Obama campaign actively works to tie Mitt Romney to the controversial “birther” assertions of Donald Trump, the real estate mogul and reality show host is ramping up his focus on the purported conspiracy ahead of a campaign fundraiser for Romney in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

“@BarackObama is practically begging @MittRomney to disavow the place of birth movement, he is afraid of it and for good reason,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday. “He keeps using @SenJohnMcCain as an example, however, @SenJohnMcCain lost the election. Don’t let it happen again.” An Obama campaign Web ad released Tuesday, called “Two Republican nominees,” shows then-presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) rebuffing statements from those who questioned then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama’s citizenship while on the campaign trail in 2008.

“As the Republican nominee, John McCain stood up to the voices of extremism in his own party,” text from the ad reads. “Why won’t Mitt Romney do the same?” the ad says, before launching into a montage of Trump questioning the president’s birthplace and citizenship.

Romney is scheduled to campaign with Trump at a fundraiser in Las Vegas on Tuesday, where donors can compete to win dinner with the host of “The Apprentice.” Romney told CNN over the weekend that he shouldn’t be held accountable for everything his surrogates say. “I don’t agree with all the people who support me, and my guess is they don’t all agree with everything I believe in,” he said. “But I need to get to 50.1 percent or more and I’m appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people.” Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Feed-in Tariffs: Solar Energy Bubble is FiT to Burst

May 29th 2012

Solar Senegal

Selling umbrellas in sunny Los Angeles? Sounds like a dumb way to make your first million. What about peddling solar panels in cloudy London? Take it to the bank. Just ask aspiring photovoltaic manufacturers in Britain, who are in full production now--after the UK, in April, signed up to the green fad du jour, feed-in tariffs, or FiTs. It's a subsidy scheme in which homeowners or small businesses that install solar panels or wind turbines are guaranteed fixed long-term prices to sell the power they generate back to the electric company.

In the right place and situation, FiTs and solar energy make sense. But renewable energy is not a virtue unto itself. FiTs are offered in 20 countries and 40-odd jurisdictions, from Ontario to Australia, China, and even Iran. With Barack Obama's green jobs push, it's red hot in the US. It has all the dressings of a no-lose proposition--creating new technology markets and green jobs by incentivising the public to generate carbon-less energy.

Now let's look at the murkier reality. Here's the argument for solar power: Germany. With a ban on nuclear energy, and dirty coal supplies dwindling, Germany became the first country to embrace FiTs, in the early 1990s. Renewables generated 14% of the country's electricity last year and make up 4% of Germany's GDP. As a result of the subsidies, Germany's installed solar power generation capacity increased by more than 60% in 2009 alone. "We are making a huge investment in the markets of the future," says environment state secretary Matthias Machnig. Read more ..

The Economic Edge

U.S. Government and Industry Collaboration is Required to Jump-Start Industry

May 29th 2012

Smog and Pollution3

U.S. factories produce about 75 percent of what the country consumes, but the right decisions by both business and political leaders could push that to 95 percent, say University of Michigan researchers.

However, a huge portion of U.S. manufacturing—as much as 40 percent—hangs in the balance and could either stay in this country or go elsewhere in the coming years based on policy decisions, they say.

According to Wally Hopp and Roman Kapuscinski of U-M's Ross School of Business, how the U.S. shapes education policy, worker training, the tax code, the regulatory environment and its relationship with Mexico will determine whether manufacturing continues to rebound or spirals into permanent decline.

Hopp and Kapuscinski are co-authors of "Manufacturing's Wake-Up Call," a study by U-M's Tauber Institute for Global Operations and consulting firm Booz & Company.

"This study says there's an opportunity," said Hopp, associate dean of faculty and research and professor of operations and management science at the Ross School. "U.S. manufacturing has declined, but we are not structurally out of the game. Manufacturing is still here, it's big, and it's helping us out right now. Are we going to line up enough factors to keep it here, or will we let it trickle away like we did during the lost decade of 2000-10?" Read more ..

UK on Edge

Muslim Community Hit by Child Rape Scandal

May 28th 2012

Sullen Woman

In spite of British politicians' and activists' adherence to a politically-correct orthodoxy, police officers and citizens are well aware of a rampant crime problem in the United Kingdom -- children being sexually abused by Muslim males -- according to several British news organizations this week. According to a source within the British law enforcement community, Muslim gangs frequently rape women, especially young girls, but cops are told to overlook the ethnicity and religion of perpetrators especially when the victims are white British citizens.

As frequently happens in the United States, Muslim groups are continuously making claims that their rights are being violated by police officers and intelligence officers with the U.K.'s MI5 (Military Intelligence Section 5) who conduct surveillance of terrorist suspects and criminal activity within the Muslim community. The "racial profiling" label is attached to any police or security activity that Muslims find uncomfortable, said the British source. "What recently occurred in New York City when the police officers were condemned by Muslim groups and liberal-left politicians also occurs in London and other British cities. It's difficult to combat terrorism in such an environment," said the source, a member of the Metropolitan Police Service who requested anonymity. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Warning Against Obama's Newest Big Brother Spy Program

May 27th 2012

Data center computer corridor

The US government has been building a top secret facility in Utah that will soon be spying on virtually everything you do. It’s a program that Congress killed in 2003 during the Bush administration because of public outcry. Apparently that outcry wasn’t enough to prevent them from spending $2 billion on project Stellar Wind and implementing it on Barack Hussein Obama’s watch.

Stellar Wind is the codename for the project which is being developed by the National Security Agency. The NSA is building a one million square-foot facility near Bluffdale, Utah to house the largest data capturing and storage monstrosity of its kind. It will cost the taxpayers $40 million a year just to pay the electric bill for the facility. When it goes online in September of 2013, you will no longer have any sort of privacy left.

The mainstream media has thus far ignored reporting on this story that was broken by Wired Magazine on March 15. According to the Wired story, the facility will capture and store every single private email that is sent from anywhere in the world. The contents of every cell phone call will be captured and recorded. Every bank transaction you make, every website you visit, every Tweet you send on Twitter, every book you purchase or check out at the library, every purchase that you make with a debit card, and so on, will be captured and stored by the NSA. Read more ..

France on Edge

The Jews, Israel and the New French President

May 26th 2012

French Presiident Francois Hollande
French Presiident Francois Hollande

The day following the French presidential election, I received a phone call: “This is the Haaretz newspaper, Tel Aviv. Apparently,” said a man speaking Hebrew, “you are a friend of François Hollande?”. “I know François Hollande for over twenty years”, I replied to him. “So,” asked the voice, “can you tell us if his election is good or not for the Jews?”

I burst out laughing: “You remind me of my grandfather Abraham when, during pre-war Poland, he once opened the Yiddish paper Der Haynt, and read that a lion had escaped from the Warsaw zoo. The first thing he was worried about was whether it was good or not for the Jews!”

I think Nicolas Sarkozy does not deserve the hostility he is overburdened with. Even if I believe that a democracy should change political parties once in a while, which is healthy. Read more ..

Marriage on Edge

The Baggage Adult Children of Divorce Carry

May 26th 2012

Clenched Fists

For those engaged in America’s culture wars, it is clear that the welfare of children is the battle ground of choice. We are barely out of the gate with civil unions and same-sex “marriages,” and we have been told, in defense of these new institutions—and with the help of Hollywood—that The Kids Are All Right. And if it be true that “by their fruits ye shall know them,” then, if the kids are all right, so must be their parents. But as we hurtle along in our social experiments, allaying our fears that children may not be getting the best deal in the new domestic arrangements, let’s pause for a moment and pay heed to the many children who, as adults, have come forward to say something about that older, accepted, and more or less “settled” issue: divorce.

Elizabeth Marquardt, author of Between Two Worlds (2005), Stephanie Staal, The Love They Lost (2000), Andrew Root, Children of Divorce (2010) and Susan Gregory Thomas, In Spite of Everything (2011), all have in common is a willingness to fully and honestly examine the perspective of an entire generation of children who experienced their parents’ divorce and have conducted their own hard-won research. Their forthright, painful stories challenge the entrenched doctrine that it is better for children to have a “good divorce” than a bad marriage. Living in the trenches, between two separated households, these authors have been able to put their fingers on what is essentially bad about divorce no matter how much their parents adhered to the norms of the “good” one—avoiding any public conflict, parting “amicably” and sharing the kids equally. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Bain of Our Existence

May 25th 2012

Obama: call me

Anyone who is already tired of hearing about Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital is welcome to leave the country and return after the November election. For those of us remaining here, President Obama has issued an unambiguous warning: There will be no escape. “This is not a distraction,” Obama said Monday of his campaign ads attacking Romney’s years at Bain. “This is what this campaign is going to be about.”

In closing the NATO summit in Chicago and discussing an end to the war in Afghanistan and the eurozone crisis earlier this week, Obama relished the chance to push back against criticism of his campaign’s ads featuring workers devastated when their companies were taken over by Bain Capital, and to assert that Romney’s private-equity prowess has hardly prepared him to rescue the economy.

“When you are president, as opposed to the head of a private-equity firm, then your job is not simply to maximize profits. Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot,” Obama said. Or in other words, “You’re so Bain, you probably think this economy is about you.” No, not at all, said Obama. “If your main argument for how to grow the economy is, ‘I knew how to make a lot of money for investors,’ then you are missing what this job is about,” he added. If that wasn’t perfectly clear to everyone, Vice President Biden said the following day of Romney’s private-equity experience, “[T]hat no more qualifies you to be president than being a plumber!” Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

The Campaign from Hell

May 25th 2012

Charles Schumer

Now here comes Grover Norquist, who compares the senior senator from New York to members of the political party of Heinrich Himmler and Adolf Eichmann.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) believes that when the land of the free and the home of the brave gives an American the gift of being able to use his talents to become an extraordinarily wealthy man, it is wrong for that person to renounce his American citizenship to avoid paying his fair share of taxes.

I cannot think of a proposal more worthy than the bill proposed by Sens. Schumer and Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) to redress this wrong. I believe the overwhelming majority of patriotic Americans would strongly agree with Schumer. Grover Norquist has every right to disagree and rise in defense of tax evaders who renounce their Americanism to avoid their taxes. He even has the right to compare Schumer to the party of Himmler and Eichmann. But I would propose that this is Exhibit A of what I call the campaign from hell, an intolerance and vindictiveness unworthy of our nation, in which one party is exponentially more guilty than the other. I cannot recall a time in American history when so many members of one party questioned the American citizenship or Christian faith of a president, and when so many leaders of that party were incapable of saying in clear and decisive terms that such attacks have no place in American politics. Read more ..

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