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The Traveler’s Edge

A Race to the Bottom for Airlines

January 3rd 2011

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

Considering how much I travel abroad and domestically constantly, I’m actually surprised how much I hate and resent the thought of flying. It’s not the fear of heights, or the turbulence, or even the perpetual fear of a terrorist attack. No, the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of airline carriers. Also, the utter agony and different standards for every airport of what can and can’t pass through security screening is baffling.

Think about it. Every major industry today is progressing. Auto manufacturers are building cars with better fuel economies, more room, and more horsepower and with fewer emissions. The same holds true for consumer electronics, power companies, phone carriers, freight rail, and trucking. Even the Postal Service seems to be trending in the right direction. Everyone—except the airlines.

If you don’t believe me, just ask yourself when was the last time you boarded a flight that wasn’t full to the gills? When did you actually have room in the overhead compartment to store your belongings? When do you last recall getting a meal or a cup of coffee without having to hand the flight attendant a major credit card? The seats are smaller and more uncomfortable, and certainly more dirty than they have ever been. Smell that foul stench coming from the back of the plane? It’ll pass. Want a blanket? That’s $5 please. Want to watch TV? Another $5 please. What’s next, a coin-operated toilet? Read more ..

Border War

Two Border Towns Divided by a Border and Crime Statistics

January 3rd 2011

Mexican Topics - Truncated border fence

Hugging a common land and embracing a sisterly river, El Paso and Ciudad Juarez are linked in a zillion ways.

But in 2010, the twin cities might as well have been on different planets. Depending on the press or law enforcement source, anywhere between 3075 and 3156 people were murdered in the Mexican city and the adjacent Juarez Valley. Of the victims, 304 or 306 were women, again depending on the source. In the state of Chihuahua, about 5,400 people- including more than 400 women-reportedly fell victim to homicide. Both the female murder toll and the overall homicide rate represent unprecedented numbers for Ciudad Juarez and the wider region south of the border. Read more ..

America and Venezuela

Uncle Sam and his Venezuelan Rival Should Lay Down Their Knives

January 3rd 2011

Latin American Topics - Obama and Chavez
Obama and Chavez

A recent visceral assault by the U.S. and Venezuela against each other, while engaging in what few would call traditional diplomatic behavior, has produced an ironic situation in which the two major victims of the fracas—Bernardo Alvarez, the current Venezuelan ambassador to Washington, and Larry Palmer, who was the U.S. ambassador-designate to Caracas—have been terribly misused by each side. Both are professionals who, throughout their careers, have been committed to dialogue and reconciliation. They both have been misused by local politicians with other fish to fry. When you have a volatile leader like Hugo Chávez, whose objectionable conduct has repeatedly proven to be more bark than bite, and an Obama administration in which a State Department PR functionary, P.J. Crowley, and some of his colleagues utter references to the Venezuelan leader that are more often than not little more than menacing threats, it makes for a volatile situation. Read more ..

The Tax Edge

Why the VAT Is Not Pro-Saving

December 27th 2010

Economy - Money Money Money

President Barack Obama’s unsustainable near-term fiscal policies are now preamble to the massive and longstanding long-term fiscal problems highlighted in the Bowles–Simpson Commission report, the Domenici–Rivlin report, and elsewhere. As Europe in similar straits is now demonstrating that, in the immortal words of Herb Stein, “what cannot go on forever won’t.”

The preferred solution to excessive deficits for those favoring big government is to turn to a value-added tax (VAT) for additional revenues. In making their case for a VAT, proponents often cite economic advantages of a VAT over an income tax as though the policy was to substitute the VAT for income tax rather than add the VAT. For example, one argument often raised in favor of the VAT is that it would improve the level of private saving. But given that the VAT is being proposed in addition to the income tax rather than as a substitute for it, this argument is flat-out false. Read more ..

The Koreas on Edge

Time to Stop Coddling North Korea

December 27th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

These are tense times on the world stage. Drip-drips of classified information strain already dicey relations between the U.S. and its allies. Russian spies are caught red-handed and swapped for others. Iranians negotiating with anyone bent on the destruction of Israel. And yet, the current conflict and on-again, off-again talks with North Korea make one long for the simpler days of Cold War era diplomacy.

A pattern is clearly forming with the North Koreans, and it does not favor peace-loving nations around the world, most notably the United States and South Korea.

Last month’s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island was just the latest in a string of actions by the Communist regime that signals either the country’s desperation, or desire to provoke its enemies, or both. The artillery barrage comes on the heels of a shocking discovery by an American scientist who was practically handed the keys to a new, advanced uranium-enrichment facility no one knew or thought could exist inside the dark Korean border. That follows the unprovoked sinking of a South Korean warship in March, leaving 46 sailors and crew dead. But wait—there’s more. Read more ..

Inside Jihadism

The Muslim Brotherhood and its Challenge to the World

December 27th 2010

Islamic Topics - Muslim Brotherhood Cairo
Muslim Brotherhood protest

The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is one of the most dangerous Islamic groups in the world today, not only because it supports terrorism—providing political and financial support for its Palestinian branch, Hamas, for example—but because it is part of a global Islamist network and promotes an ideology that encourages extremism and terrorism.

With branches in seventy countries and linked to major Islamic organizations, the MB has an extensive and well-financed network of educational, social, and cultural institutions which promote a strategic MB plan for Islamic dominance—not through violence, but integration, becoming part of the national social and political life, and the application of Sharia law. Read more ..

Religious Tolerance

Bishop Tutu is No Saint When it Comes to Jews

December 21st 2010

Africa Topics - Desmond Tutu
Bishop Desmond Tutu

Among the world’s most respected figures is South Africa’s Bishop Desmond. His recognizable face—with its ever present grin—has become a symbol of reconciliation and goodness. But it masks a long history of ugly hatred toward the Jewish people, the Jewish religion and the Jewish state. Bishop Desmond Tutu is no mere anti-Zionist (though Martin Luther King long ago recognized that anti-Zionism often serves as a cover for deeper anti-Jewish bigotry). He has minimized the suffering of those killed in the Holocaust. He has attacked the “Jewish”—not Israeli—“lobby” as too “powerful” and “scar[y].” He has invoked classic anti-Semitic stereotypes and tropes about Jewish “arrogance,” “power,” and money. He has characterized Jews a “peculiar people,” and has accused “the Jews” of causing many of the world’s problems. He once even accused the Jewish state of acting in an “unChristian” way. Read more ..

The Political Edge

Is Envy More Important than Prosperity?

December 21st 2010

Contributors / Staff - Star Parker
Star Parker

Congressman Anthony Weiner is making a name for himself. The New York Democrat wants taxes raised on wealthy Americans and is one of the more vocal opponents to the deal that would retain current tax rates for everyone.

"An estate tax cut for millionaires adds exactly zero jobs. A tax cut for billionaires -- virtually none," says Weiner. But what does Weiner know about job creation, about work, about being an entrepreneur? Looking over his resume, you see he's never held a private sector job. Right out of college, he went to work on the staff of then-Congressmen Chuck Schumer, followed by six years serving on New York's city council, and then ran for congress in 1999, capturing the seat he currently holds.

Mr. Weiner is a politically ambitious young man who has built power and career by confiscating and redistributing other people's money. Consider that the wealthy are that Weiner wants to punish. The death tax punishes the very behavior that defines the economic heart and soul of American prosperity. Thomas Stanley and William Danko wrote a book called The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy. Read more ..

Ground Zero on Edge

Beware of Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf and the PR Campaign that Supports Him

December 21st 2010

Islamic Topics - Feisel Abdul Rauf

A profile titled “A Gift of Reconciliation” in the New York Times Style Magazine is about none other than the man behind the mosque at Ground Zero. Brainwashing? You bet.

The propaganda campaign in favor of Islam is intense, subtle, clever, elegant, vulgar, massively well-funded, and incredibly well coordinated, synchronous, just like suicide bombings often are.

This “war by other means” is even more important, partly because it continues to “gentle” the West into submission by misinforming the public and partly because this kind of stealth warfare remains curiously and stubbornly below the radar of our intelligentsia and our media.

Let me say, as I always do, that most Muslims are not terrorists and are, themselves, in the clutches of very corrupt and evil leaders who are either old-fashioned tyrants or comprise a new form of totalitarian jihad. Some of the bravest Muslims in the world have been murdered by Muslim tyrants and terrorists, are sitting in Muslim jails, or are living in exile. However, the majority of Muslims have either been brainwashed or simply do not wish to risk their lives or those of their families by taking a stand against Islamic imperialism, colonialism, and intolerance.   Read more ..

Inside Africa

Ghana's Success Story Cut Short by World Bank

December 21st 2010

Africa Topics - Palm oil nuts
Palm nuts

Two decades ago, the rest of the world saw Africa as a hopeless continent. Today, Ghana is one of Africa's success stories. Its economy, spurred by a thriving private sector, has grown on average by over 6 percent a year for the past five years. A significant part of this growth has been fueled by the success of the country's palm oil industry, with over 300,000 hectares of land currently under cultivation.

Palm oil provides a major source of employment and revenue for Ghanaian smallholders, with 27,000 farmers engaged in the industry. The Ghanaian government recognizes the huge role palm oil plays in the economy, investing more than $3 million in the industry so far, and recently announcing a "master plan" to support expanded production.

Ghanaian ex-president John Kufuor left an important legacy for the country's palm oil community. President Kufuor selected an additional 300,000 hectares of land for oil palm expansion which will be developed over the next few years. This will meet both domestic and international demand, as the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) has noted a shortfall in supply up to a million tons for the economic sub-region.   Read more ..

Islam on Edge

Anwar Ibrahim’s Islamic Agenda

December 13th 2010

Arab Topics - Anwar Ibrahim

The list of prominent U.S. admirers of Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia’s former Deputy Prime Minister, on trial for corruption and sodomy, is impressive. Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, former President of the World Bank James Wolfensohn, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Letters of support on his behalf praise his leadership and fight “for international justice, peace and development.” Strangely, these prominent figures fail to notice that Anwar’s fight is not for democracy, justice and peace according to Western principles. Instead, his call is for democratization “on the platform of Islam.”

It is Anwar’s constant advocacy of Islamic rule that led the Qatar-based spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Yusuf Qaradawi, to join the defenders of the Malay politician. Read more ..

The Politcal Edge

Deriding the Middle

December 13th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

If there is one thing that we can count on from in immediate aftermath of an election, it is the annoying and unceasing bleating from the Left about the intelligence of the electorate. The electorate they are referring to is not America as a whole, it is the 35 percent of voters that are considered moderates.

From 2000–2005 the moderates were a bunch of crazy, inbred warmongers too stupid to know which party was actually looking out for them. 2006–2009, by contrast, was a time of rational enlightenment. The days following the elections of 2010 have brought a predictable chorus from the left. The moderates are now “insane, hormonal teenagers”, fools that are dooming America to finical insolvency because they do not want with yet another stimulus or ObamaCare. Talk about bi-polar.

Think about it for a minute. For 7 out of the past 11 years, the left has derided, in the most salacious terms possible, the voters most responsible for deciding the party in power. For all their complaints about the evil conservatives and Tea Partiers dumbing down America, promoting irrational choices and behavior, and lowering the public discourse; they are the ones slinging the most mud at a group of people that tend to represent the epitome of middle-class. How does show a wild swing of praise and criticism help the public discourse? Read more ..

The Political Edge

How the Internet Changed American Politics

December 13th 2010

Obama Admin Topics - Obama and Blackberry

Two years ago, the road to 2012 seemed like a cakewalk for President Barack Obama and an unreachable mountain for the Republicans. The roles haven’t quite reversed yet, but they are evening out. And like in the old Bob Hope-Bing Crosby  movies like “Road to Morocco” or “Road to Singapore,” the road to 2012 has turned into an absurdist journey. Not a traditional political journey, but a silly parody of it with very serious stakes.

American politics has changed so dramatically over the last several years that anyone who had been in a coma  would have trouble adjusting to this new world, in which the occupant of the Oval Office spends half his time abroad and the other half appearing on TV shows, and his likely opponent is doing her press releases via Facebook and has her own TV show. Most of the old taboos have been broken. From the dignity of the office to foreign money to the press corps, very little remains intact anymore. And a lot of this is collateral damage from the impact of the Internet on our political institutions.

The Internet has done two things. First, it undermined the existing system by creating faster and cheaper communication and organizational alternatives. Had the institutions adapted to it, the change would have been much less drastic. But that's not what happened. The media is the most obvious casualty of that failure to adapt, but the political institutions are next. Obama vs Palin is not a matchup that could have existed in the pre-Internet America. But the Internet has made grassroots organizing easier, and is tearing down the wall between the inner and outer circles of political parties. Obama and Sarah Palin are both beneficiaries of that. Read more ..

After the Holocaust

Holocaust Survivors Demand Justice and Dignity at Claims Conference

December 6th 2010

History-Genocide - Holocaust survivor

In November, the U.S. attorney in New York indicted 17 people for allegedly defrauding programs funded by Germany for Holocaust survivors and administered by the Claims Conference. Six of those charged were Conference employees, including some who supervised these very programs for many years.

It is terrible that anyone would steal money designed to assist Holocaust victims struggling to make ends meet, and the indictments are welcome. Yet this scandal comes as no surprise to Holocaust survivors who have been urging greater transparency and accountability in the handling of funds obtained from assets looted from Holocaust victims. Read more ..

The Political Edge

Charlie Rangel Should Leave the Congress on His Own Terms

December 6th 2010

Politics - Charles Rangel
Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY)

‘Tis the holiday season—a time to reflect on all that we have been blessed with here in America. And with those blessings, also the great responsibilities bestowed upon us, each according to the role our Creator has endowed. Soon, that paragon of virtues, the US House of Representatives will return to complete its unfinished business. One piece of such business the entire chamber, both Democrat and Republican, is dreading. For when People’s House reconvenes, it must publicly punish Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) for the several criminal acts he committed against the institution and his colleagues.

The technical term for this punishment is a “censure.” To the average American, however, Rangel may be getting off with nothing more than a slap on the wrist. Think about it- any other individual who concealed shady business deals, evaded paying taxes, and used his elective office to advance his own fame and fortune would be behind bars by now. But, the Congress treats its own differently. Read more ..

Romania on Edge

Romania: On a Voyage between Hope and Oblivion

December 6th 2010

Eurasian Topics - Romania elderly lady

As a Romanian with the perspective of someone who emigrated 18 years ago, I can also say that I remain confused each time I depart from my native land. It is a feeling that, frequently, I manage to hide when I return from there because it is difficult to share with my colleagues in Spain, where I now make my home.

Ten years ago, I wrote a doctoral dissertation on Romania’s transition and march toward integration into European and Atlantic structures. In the conclusions of my dissertation, I expressed my hope about the future of that country nestled in the Carpathian Mountains. I imagined a prosperous and free country, aligned with NATO and the European Union.  During the first decade of the second millennium, I viewed Romania with horror since, despite its integration into NATO and the EU, it has managed to slip into the past rather than advancing toward the future.

I love my country dearly, but at a distance. It is difficult to return and find it in ruins: a Romania from which its people continue to flee because of its paucity of opportunities, fair wages, and employment. If we cast a glance back at the events of 20 years ago, we will be reminded that Romania was an exception within the concert of Eastern European nations for the cruelty of the regime that lasted 25 years, as well as the regime that replaced it when it shot to death the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife without a semblance of a trial. All of these peculiarities have been closely studied, as well as the events of that bloody Christmas of 1989 that was broadcast around the world. Read more ..

Border War

Politics, Ignorance, and Geography Cloud US-Mexico Relations

December 6th 2010

Mexican Topics - Militia man patrol

Mexico and the border are once again big news. Stories fill the press about Michele Obama and Hilary Clinton traveling south of the border to show their support for an embattled government. Report after report comes in about the latest atrocities in the so-called narco-war. Journalists rush to the border to check on the “spill-over” violence which, contrary to the assertions of Arizona Senator John McCain and others who contend the US’ southern border is “out of control,” has yet to materialize in a systematic way.

If my sixth grade geography lessons serve me, it would appear the violence McCain refers to is on the other side of the border line in a country called Mexico. Indeed, given the level of violence in places like Ciudad Juarez and Reynosa, it is quite noteworthy how El Paso and other places on the US side of the border are actually far less violent than many communities in the interior of the US. Is anyone proposing to send troops to Albuquerque or Oakland? Read more ..

Mexico on Edge

Delving into Mexico's Past to Understand the Troubled Present

December 6th 2010

Mexican Topics - Alvaro Obregon, Pancho Villa, John Pershing
Alvaro Obregon, Pancho Villa, Gen. John Pershing

While the US busied itself preparing for the annual Thanksgiving feast, Mexico took a step back into its own history. November 20 marked the 100th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution, the world's first great socio-political upheaval of the last century, as well as the beginning of  a process that shaped the identity of modern Mexico.

The days preceding and following November 20 were filled with patriotic parades and displays of F-5 fighters over the capital, polemical fireworks in Mexico City, mountains of press commentaries, reruns of revolutionary-themed films, commemorative exhibits, debates over the roles of the Revolution's principal protagonists, and spots exalting the armed forces immersed in a so-called drug war that's claimed an estimated 28,000-30,000 lives since the end of 2006. In the "Middle Mexico" city of Aguascalientes, a stunning exhibit of the works of pre-revolution and revolution-era photojournalists portrayed the mass deportation of indigenous Yaquis in 1905, a female Zapatista military commander, the 1914 US attack on Veracruz and women demanding work in Mexico City. Many of the photos evoked images from contemporary, violence-ridden Mexico, though with different socio-historic texts. Read more ..

Politics on Edge

Charlie Rangel is Only a Symptom of a Much Larger Problem

November 29th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Star Parker

It's hard to conclude that Black Caucus Democrats are being sent back to Washington by large voting margins, year after year, because they are delivering such fine lives to their constituents.

New York's Charlie Rangel, convicted of eleven ethics violations -- the most ever found against any member of Congress -- was resoundingly re-elected, getting 80 percent of his district's vote.

After 40 years representing these folks, you can't conclude he was an unknown commodity. Granted, the conviction occurred after the election, but the charges were well publicized.

Has Charlie Rangel's leadership produced life so grand in Harlem that flagrant and persistent unethical behavior by their Congressman means nothing to its residents?

The national poverty rate is around 14 percent. In the 15th district of New York, Charlie Rangel's district, it's 24.3 percent. The child poverty rate is 30.9 percent. Whatever it is that Harlem voters find so attractive about Mr. Rangel, it's hard to conclude that quality of life is something they feel they owe to him. But let's think about this in a broader context.

Charlie Rangel is a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

There are now 41 House members who belong to the Caucus. In the most recent elections, 37 of them ran as incumbents and all regained their seats handily. The four seats that were vacated were easily captured by new black Democrats.

That's a 100 percent return rate. These Black Caucus Democrats recaptured their seats getting an average 75 percent of their district's vote. Read more ..

Zionism on Edge

The De-Zionization of Anglo-Jewry

November 29th 2010

Politics - De-zionization of anglo-jewry
Chaim Weizmann, left with Anglo-Jewish leaders

Chaim Weizmann would turn in his grave were he aware of the public attacks on the Israeli government by some in the UK Jewish leadership.

Mick Davis, the South African-born chief executive of the powerful mining group Xstrata, is chairman of Anglo Jewry’s United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA) - the principal fund-raising institution for Israel of the UK Jewish community.

He also heads a body known as the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) - essentially comprised of a group of wealthy British Jews and their acolytes who, by virtue of their financial largess, assume a dominant influence on many levels of communal life. Read more ..

Edge on Economic Crisis

So, You Didn’t Believe the “Recession is Over?”

November 29th 2010

Economy - Out of Business

When the government reported the “recession” had ended during the 2nd quarter of 2009 there were a number of skeptics mocking the “declaration.” And you, were probably one of them. However, so long as we measure economic growth on the quarterly production of “goods and services,” there’s little question the economy’s been on the upswing since mid 2009. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t feel like it. When the government announced 2.5 percent growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the 3rd quarter of 2010, it represented the fifth consecutive quarter of economic growth. Read more ..

BDS—Economic Jihad

Another Israel Divestment Hoax

November 22nd 2010

Corporate Logos - PGGM Building

When I read this report on the Electronic Intifada claiming that the largest pension fund in The Netherlands had divested from the Israeli companies in its portfolio, it struck me that the campaign to subject Israel to a regime of Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions—BDS for short—had hit a milestone. No longer, I said to myself, is this a matter of campus gesture politics. The long-awaited South Africa effect is finally manifesting. Then it occurred to me that the story might not be true. I contacted the fund’s managers, the Dutch company PGGM, and they confirmed my suspicions. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Iran's Double-Edged Sword

November 22nd 2010

Iran - Iran Nuclear Equipment

In a four-day journey at the beginning of November that took him through Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, and Benin, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki asserted that the United States was "displeased with the expansion of relations between Iran and African countries," and opined that while the U.S. had a "thirst for power," Iran practiced the subtler "power of logic." He described his top priority in Africa as "the exportation of technical and engineering services."

Less than two weeks later, Mottaki had to hastily return to West Africa to deal with the exposure by Nigerian authorities of another, more nefarious export: rocket launchers, grenades, and other illicit arms disguised as building materials and accompanied, apparently, by two members of the elite "Quds Force" unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Read more ..

China on Edge

Trade War with China Looms

November 22nd 2010

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

When times were good, it was easy for America to overlook the effects of China’s currency manipulation. U.S. unemployment hovered around 5 percent, and growth averaged about the same. Even though U.S. jobs got shipped overseas, cheap Chinese imports flooded the markets and softened the impact of declining consumer purchasing power. China helped to further bolster our consumption by purchasing more than a trillion dollars in U.S. debt.

Times have changed. With official unemployment hovering at around 10 percent, and inflation near zero, China’s currency manipulation poses a severe problem to the U.S. recovery. Cheap Chinese imports—made even cheaper by the subsidies China gives to its producers—prevent U.S. manufacturers from producing and selling goods in the United States. This makes a recovery in domestic employment all the more difficult.

It appears the two nations’ interests have diverged to the point where a trade war is almost inevitable. We see the opening salvos already. China’s recent announcement that it will restrict rare earth mineral exports is basically a move against Japan, a U.S. ally in the G-20 coalition of industrial economies. The Chinese premier is going around embracing the Greek government, offering to buy worthless Greek bonds—again to try to weaken the U.S. coalition within the G-20. In a further saber-rattling maneuver, China banned imports of chicken feet from the U.S.—a food considered a delicacy in China, but a useless byproduct of poultry production in the U.S. Read more ..

BDS - Economic Jihad

Foreign Entities Endanger Academic Freedom in the US

November 15th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Yitzhak Santis

Academic freedom is under attack by a foreign movement that seeks to separate universities in the United States, and the rest of the world, from one of the world’s most dynamic and creative academic cultures, the Israeli university and college system. The Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), based in Ramallah, seeks to cut Israeli academia off from the rest of human intellectual society. The damage to the cause of academic freedom and human development would be incalculable.

Recently, over three dozen Nobel Prize Laureates signed a letter sponsored by Scholars for Peace in the Middle East condemning PACBI’s efforts. In a rambling response, PACBI revealed its anti-democratic and anti-intellectual impulses:

“The protection of academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas cannot be the only norm dictating the political engagement of scholars … The aim of the academic boycott of Israel, in this context, is not to safeguard academic freedom as an abstract principle, but to obtain justice and fundamental rights for the Palestinian people.” Read more ..

Edge on the Mideast

Obama Administration Must reclaim World Leadership by Supporting Allies in Lebanon

November 15th 2010

Lebanon Topics - Lebanon Mosque

Just a few years ago, Lebanon appeared to be a foreign-policy success for the United States. Outraged by the brutal 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, likely at the hands of Syria and its allies, the Lebanese people, bolstered by international support, succeeded in expelling Syrian military forces and asserting Lebanese sovereignty for the first time in decades. Again in 2009, the Lebanese affirmed their support for the pro-Western ruling coalition, awarding it a solid majority of seats in parliament during the May general elections.

These days, however, the country looks headed for a frightening crisis. The March 14 coalition, as the ruling group is known, has been unable to capitalize on its popular mandate due to the overwhelming force wielded by Hezbollah, which is funded, trained, and armed by Iran and Syria. Read more ..

The Economic Edge

Obama Care is Killing Recovery

November 8th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

Six months ago, the Health Care Reform Act became law. Prior to its passage, Nancy Pelosi condescendingly announced, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” President Obama also assured Americans that health care “reforms … will finally reduce the costs of health care … Families will save on their premiums.” Contrary to the President’s assurance, unfortunately, the Health Care reform legislation is already causing a substantial increase in medical insurance premiums. We are also finding expensive provisions in this act that we did not know were there, including a hidden 3.8% sales tax on the sale of certain residential real estate and a burdensome IRS filing requirement on small business.

Based on anecdotal evidence from business owners, insurance brokers and the media, insurance premiums on policies renewed for 2010 and 2011 are increasing by 20–40 percent. These rising premiums are driven by mandated coverage which includes free or low cost preventive care, non-exclusion of children with pre-existing medical conditions, required coverage for children up to age 26, and elimination of lifetime medical reimbursement limits. Read more ..

Chile on the Edge

President Chinchilla: The “Puppet” Sets Her Own Agenda

November 8th 2010

Latin American Topics - President Chinchilla

On May 8th, 2010, Laura Chinchilla was sworn into office as the first female president of Costa Rica, following the second term of fellow National Liberation Party (PLN) candidate Oscar Arias. Chinchilla had been slated as a potential presidential candidate since 2008, when she resigned as Costa Rica’s vice president to begin her campaign. From the outset of her campaign, many assumed that she would simply adopt a number of Arias’s reforms and policies. During the presidential campaign, candidates made a point of portraying Chinchilla as Arias’s puppet—one commercial went so far as to make Chinchilla into a literal marionette, with strings held by Arias and other PLN members. Read more ..

Mideast Peace on Edge

Obama Midway in his Administration and Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations

November 8th 2010

Israel Topics - Obama Netanyahu Abbas1

Having reached the midway point of this term, the Obama administration is now at a logical time to evaluate where its effort in Israeli-Palestinian mediation stand, and to look ahead at prospects for the future.

The Obama administration inherited challenging conditions in 2009. The Bush administration's effort to define the Israeli-Palestinian endgame up front (in what is known as the Annapolis Conference) had come up short. Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert faced corruption charges and was ultimately forced to resign. Read more ..

London on Edge

The Mayor of Tower Hamlets

November 1st 2010

Politics - East End London Street Sign

One of the latest constitutional innovations in Britain is powerful directly elected “executive” mayors for the boroughs. The Mayor will control a large budget, and will serve a 4-year term, during which time the Council cannot remove the Mayor. He or she will be rather like the president of a small independent republic. This has immediately produced unintended consequences in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Read more ..

Israel on the Edge

Israel's Insistence on Jewish Identity is No Violation of Democratic Principles

October 27th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Mitchell Bard

The uproar over Israel's proposed loyalty oath for new immigrants has sparked renewed debate over whether Israel's insistence on being a "Jewish state" violates the principles of western democracy.  Critics claim that by identifying the country with Jewish symbols, such as the Star of David or menorah, having its national anthem relate to the Jewish yearning for a "return to Zion" and granting Jews automatic citizenship through the Law of Return, Israel is verging on theocratic ideals and rudely affronts its non-Jewish citizens.  Israel is not a theocracy, however; it is governed by the rule of law as drafted by a democratically elected parliament and enforced by a highly praised judicial system. 

Israeli law adheres to many Jewish religious customs and is largely informed by Jewish values, but this structure makes it no different than other democracies that shape themselves around Christian or Islamic traditions.  The Greek constitution outlines the country as an Eastern Orthodox state; Christian crosses don the flags of Switzerland, Sweden and Finland; the monarchs of the UK, Norway and Denmark head their respective national churches. In addition, Ireland has a law allowing immigrants of "Irish descent or Irish associations" to be exempt from ordinary naturalization rules while Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany and a number of other democratic states also have precedents strikingly similar to Israel's Law of Return. No one, though, claims that these countries cannot be democratic while also maintaining strong connections with their national heritage and religious core. Read more ..

Edge on Energy

A Quixotic Quest for Ethical Oil in Canadian Bitumen Deposits

October 26th 2010

Energy / Environment - Oil sand

Oil sands: satanic horror, or priceless jewel? To describe the extremes of the debate over Canada’s large bitumen deposits thus is barely to exaggerate the positions taken up by opponents and supporters of exploitation of this rising source of crude oil.

For environmentalists, oil sands, or as they are technically known, bituminous sands, are the epitome of everything they hate: big business, oil, greenhouse gas emissions, oil, water wasted and polluted, oil, governmental indifference or collusion, oil, threatened animals and trees -- oh yes, and oil as well. Read more ..

Midterm Elections

Why Nancy Pelosi Won't be Speaker in 2011

October 18th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

There’s an interesting storyline playing out in the corridors of the Capitol this week. Yes, Congress is in its fall recess, members having returned home for the last stretch of campaigning before that first Tuesday in November. But all is not so quiet on the Eastern Front; the Washington punditocracy is still flourishing, reading the tea leaves to discover the fate of every House and Senate incumbent.

What ultimately happens on Election Day will certainly impact the makeup of House and Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle. Many are speculating just how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will govern in a new era with far fewer Democrats and, most likely, a lost majority.

Last week, some Hill papers openly wondered what type of vengeance a scorned Pelosi would exact on those who dared to question her decisions and legislative strategies that put the rank-and-file in such dire straits.

Such predictions on Pelosi’s future behavior and how she’ll handle those unfaithful members are misguided and a waste of time. No matter what happens on Election Day—less than a month from today—Nancy Pelosi will not be Speaker of the House in 2011 and may not be leading Democrats in Congress at all. Read more ..

Energy and Power

The Utility Protection Racket: Death and Profits

October 18th 2010

Energy / Environment - electric power lines

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) is a multi-billion-dollar privately owned, publicly regulated utility whose main function is to make enormous profits for its shareholders at great cost to ratepayers. I know this to be true; I’m one of the ratepayers.

The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) permits PG&E to charge rates that are 30 percent higher than the national average. PG&E’s shareholders enjoy a guaranteed 11.35 percent yearly return on equity. That’s slightly higher than the 11 percent that swindler Bernard Madoff pretended to offer his investment victims. After Madoff was exposed, his victims were chided for not having realized that no one pulls down an 11 percent return year after year on the stock market. But PG&E investors take in more than that every year. And unlike Madoff, the company’s earnings are for real, guaranteed at a fixed rate of return, devoid of risk. Read more ..

Brazil on the Edge

Round Two is Coming in Brazil for Lula's Protogee Dilma Roussef

October 11th 2010

Latin American Topics - Dilma Rouseff and Lula
Dilma Youseff and President Lula da Silva

The October 3 election result in Brazil did not transpire in the way that polls had predicted. Until a week ago, it was widely assumed that Dilma Rousseff of the Worker’s Party (PT) was a shoo-in for victory in the first round of voting, following the endorsement of the widely popular incumbent President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. However, as results emerged it became clear that Rousseff had failed to reach the 50 percent of votes needed to take the presidency without a runoff. In the end, Rousseff won 47.6 percent of the vote, while José Serra, a veteran of the Social Democrat Party (PSDB) took second place with 32.6 percent, reflecting a setback for the Lula machine. Read more ..

Edge on Asia

A Monsoon Wedding at the Commonwealth Games in India

October 11th 2010

Asia Topics - Commonwealth Games Delhi

The 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, which began on October 3, have become the focus of international interest due to concerns over the safety and standard of the facilities and accommodation. About a year ago, the Chairman of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, Suresh Kalmadi, informed the world that the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi would be "memorable." With only a few days to go before the inauguration, it already is – but for all the wrong reasons.

The litany of woes afflicting the preparations for the Games– corruption, nepotism, inefficiency, serious budget overrun, corner-cutting, a shoddy end-product, terrorist attacks and exploitation of labour (including children)  – could be lifted straight from an obscure John Le Carré banana republic. Read more ..

The Economic Crisis on Edge

More Virtue, Not Less, May Be Necessary in a Down Economy

October 4th 2010

Economy - Paul Krugman

It would be foolish for me to pick an argument with Paul Krugman on economics. A Nobel Prize winner, he is one of the foremost economists in the world. But the statement in his latest New York Times column that “Economics is not a morality play” is not so much about economics as it is about ethics, and here is where I wish to engage him.

What exactly does he mean? Essentially, he wishes to disabuse us of the belief that economics is a “happy story in which virtue is rewarded and vice punished”. That much we must concede, together with most people who have ever given serious thought to ethics. In fact, ethics, as a philosophical discipline, began in ancient Greece as a reflection on the all too common experience of the triumph of evil over good. Read more ..

Midterm Electionbs on the Edge

Democrats Can Run But Can’t Hide from Ethics Charges this November

September 27th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong_Williams

Like many, I like to spend my summer months catching up on some good books and vacationing in Europe. Only this year, I’ve stopped reading fiction. Why bother when real life is so much more interesting? In fact, I think I’ll stop reading books altogether for the next several weeks. All I need are the latest editions of The Hill and the Washington Times to cover the scintillating scandals that have totally rocked Democratic Reps. Charles Rangel (NY) and Maxine Waters (CA). I know fiction writers are green with envy on these developing storylines.

The latest developments surrounding the Waters and Rangel cases have both looking like they will spend 2011 in retirement; perhaps even in the pokey if there’s another shoe that has yet to fall.

Both claim their innocence, with Rep. Rangel defiantly telling supporters and whoever will listen earlier this year at his annual mega-birthday bash that he will fight these allegations with every fiber of his being.

Has anyone seen this summer movie before? I have. Try 2006 when Republicans such as former Reps. Rick Renzi, Richard Pombo, Mark Foley, and others lined up to the microphones to declare their innocence. Instead of summarily removing them from office (or at least asking them to step down from running that year), Republican leaders whistled in the other direction, refusing to set an example. [I don’t remember; did Republican leadership not call for any of their resignations? Seems to me they might have belatedly called for Foley’s, but like I said, I’m not sure. Boehner publically asked Renzi to step down. Pombo and Foley were not publically asked.] Read more ..

America on Edge

Antoine Dodson has Left the Hood

September 27th 2010

Social Topics - Antoine Dodson

Just two months ago, Antoine Dodson was just scraping by and trying to support his family. Today he is an international Internet celebrity.

It all started when a Huntsville, Alabama, news crew taped an interview of the visibly upset Antoine about the attempted rape of his sister by an assailant in July. Antoine defended his sister, struggling with the assailant who then fled. Within hours, the video of the news was posted on YouTube. Millions have watched the original video while millions more have watched the auto-tuned remix. The song has taken on a life of its own and even cracked the Billboard Top 100 chart.

Profits from the YouTube videos, iTunes sales of the song, merchandise, and donations have been enough for Antoine, who supports his five brothers and sisters, to move himself and his family out of the “projects” and into a new house.

While the Dodson family has greatly benefited from the video, one has to ask why the Dodson video has become so popular. Read more ..

Inside Islam

Islamization and the Arab-Israeli Peace Process

September 20th 2010

Terrorism - Islamic Jihad

The Arab and non-Arab Muslim umma, or global community, vehemently denies pre-Islamic Jewish and ignores pre-Islamic Christian connections to all the territories that comprised historical Syro-Palestine—including Judea, Samaria, modern Israel within the 1949 armistice borders, and Gaza. This historical negationism is melded to Islam’s own theological supresessionism which abrogates Judaism and Christianity as deliberately corrupted, crude manifestations of the one true primordial monotheism, Islam. (See Koran 3:67—“No; Abraham in truth was not a Jew, neither a Christian; but he was a Muslim and one pure of faith [i.e., Islam]; certainly he was never of the idolaters.”) Such an eternal religio-political worldview should raise grave doubts about the prospects of negotiating a permanent peace settlement between the Israelis and the local Arab Muslim representatives of the global Islamic umma, the Palestinian Arabs. Read more ..

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