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Kicking our Oil Addiction

Saudis Believe Energy Independence is Nonsense -- But Why Must America Agree?

September 7th 2009

Arab Topics - Faisal
Saudi Prince Turki Al-Faisal

Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal, former ambassador to the United States, has a suggestion for America: drop this nonsense called energy independence. In a strongly-worded essay in Foreign Policy magazine, which coincides with the 150th anniversary of Edwin Drake’s discovery of oil in the United States, Turki lambastes American politicians for invoking energy independence, which “is now as essential as baby-kissing,” accusing them of “demagoguery.” For him, energy independence is “political posturing at its worst—a concept that is unrealistic, misguided, and ultimately harmful to energy-producing and consuming countries alike.” “Like it or not,” Turki concludes, “the fates of the United States and Saudi Arabia are connected and will remain so for decades to come.” (See a video clip here.)

We’ve heard these lines before each time the United States made progress toward lessening its dependence on oil. In February, for example, Ali al-Naimi, the Saudi oil minister, warned of a “nightmare scenario” if consuming countries made progress in the development of alternative fuels. A decade ago, his predecessor, Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, called technology “the real enemy for OPEC.” This is understandable. After all, no pusher wants to see his client circling around a rehab clinic. For Saudi Arabia, a world where oil plays a marginal role is the nightmarish materialization of the Saudi saying, “My father rode a camel, I drive a car, my son flies a jet plane, his son will ride a camel.”

More troubling is the parade of prominent Americans who deride the notion of energy independence, viewing it as jingoistic, unsophisticated, naive and misleading. One cannot doubt the patriotism of former CIA director John Deutch, who said “energy independence is not a constructive idea,” or former secretary of defense and energy James Schlesinger, who called it a “forlorn hope,” or Pulitzer Prize winner Daniel Yergin who referred to it as “pipe dream,” or Andy Grove, former chairman of Intel, who called the concept “a faulty goal,” or even the members of the Council on Foreign Relations energy security task force who went so far as to accuse those promoting energy independence of “doing the nation a disservice.” But just like Prince Turki, all of those distinguished Americans misunderstand what energy independence really is. As a result, they underestimate our ability to get there. Read more ..

Oil and Terrorism

Lockerbie: Compassion for Petrodollars

August 31st 2009

Arab Topics - Muammar Qaddafi with Flag
Col. Moammar Gadhafi

The release by Scottish authorities of convicted Libyan intelligence agent Abdel Baset al-Megrahi from prison has created one of the most negative emotional reactions in the United States and other countries. Moved by anger toward the injustice displayed by Scottish authorities to the families and survivors of the victims of the terror attack against Pan Am Flight 103, Americans and large segments of international public opinion are infuriated by the freeing of the convicted terrorist, even under the so-called Scottish legal values based on compassionate release due to terminal illness.

These exceptional stipulations, when applicable, are designed for criminal cases where one person killed another individual under complex circumstances. A sudden terminal illness is perceived as enough punishment by nature or the divine to grant a severely conditioned release to the family, without any affront to justice and pain to the survivors of the victim. Read more ..

Inside Africa

Clinton "Overwhelmed" by the Troubles in Congo--So are the People

August 24th 2009

Africa Topics - Congo rape victim

While Secretary Clinton was "overwhelmed" by what she saw in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), she said that it is ultimately up to the locals to sort out the violence committed against women and children. “I was overwhelmed by what I saw,” she said. “It’s almost impossible to describe the level of suffering.” These were the words of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after visiting the Mugunga displaced persons’ camp in eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo during the second week of August.

Mugunga is home to some twenty thousand refugees. It is a wretched place: makeshift hovels, smoke, dust, the stench of human waste and the pitiful tragedy of human suffering everywhere. To her credit, Secretary Clinton shrugged off fears for her security and insisted on making the trip to Goma (Kivu), where she also visited a hospital trying to cope with hundreds of rape victims. She met one woman, eight months pregnant, whose baby had been ripped out of her womb. Unfortunately most of the world media, including the US, omitted these significant details of her African safari. Read more ..

The Push for CNG

Oil Rich Iran Recognizes the Importance of CNG--Yet America Does Not

August 17th 2009

Energy Topics - Iran CNG

Ironically, the leader of the “Axis of Terror” looks to the very same abundant national fuel source for economic stability and environmental improvement that America continues to shun. 

Ironic indeed. For years, some of us in California have laughed whenever we see trucks full of tomatoes heading south on the interstate freeways, because within minutes we inevitably see another truck loaded with tomatoes heading north. You would think that the practical thing to do would be to just leave the tomatoes farmed in the south for those living in So Cal, and to leave those tomatoes farmed in the north for the northerners. Perhaps there are good reasons for this shell game; maybe the tomatoes ripen better in the hot sun of a long I-5 ride. Maybe it’s a way to jack-up the price of the produce by claiming higher transportation costs. Whatever, no one seems to know or have an answer.

There’s a similar shell game going on in America with oil and CNG (compressed natural gas) that no one in a responsible position seems to be willing or able to explain. Read more ..

Kicking Our Oil Addiction

Cash for Clunkers Demonstrates the Huge Potential for Alt Fuel Vehicle Technologies

August 10th 2009

Automotive - Toyota Prius PHEV

For a few years now, alt fuel experts have been preaching the urgent need for the quick adoption of alternative fuels, energy and vehicles; not so much because of the environmental issues, although that’s good too, but because we believe that it is through alternative technologies that the U.S. and world economies will find long term salvation. In short, we need the products that will be borne by an alternative fuel/energy revolution to provide millions of good paying jobs, along with the revenue streams that will open and pump money (with real profits) through the systems. What we’re now seeing through the Cash For Clunkers and similar scrappage programs abroad, in terms of stimulating the economy, is a failure to gain oil independence.

Imagine what would happen if, instead of encouraging trade-ins of one "gasoline-guzzler" for another or even a fuel-efficient one of 30 mpg,  the government instead granted incentives for trading in gasoline-guzzling vehicles for vehicles that use no gasoline at all (or at least no foreign oil), and dispense little-to-no harmful emissions. We would have a bonanza on our hands, the likes of which have never been seen in any gold or silver or diamond or oil rush.


Kicking Our Oil Addiction

Cash for Clunkers—A Historic Mistake

August 3rd 2009

Contributors / Staff - Edwin Black

This continuing coverage of America’s oil crisis arises from the The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.

The Cash for Clunkers program could have been a turning point for America’s movement to kick its oil addiction and promote alternative fuels. Instead, while it did incrementally improve some fuel performance with newer models, the program missed a historic opportunity to genuinely help the country switch off of oil. In many ways, this jobs program cum Detroit bailout masquerading as a fuel efficiency effort has condemned America to another decade of bad behavior by manufacturers and gas guzzlers.

The program could have subsidized the truly fuel-efficient cars such as the Honda Fit or Civic, the Toyota Prius, or the Dodge Caliber, and any other vehicle that achieved city mileage of at least 25 mpg. Or, it could have included any alt-fuel, alt-propulsion or multi-fuel vehicle such an electric, compressed natural gas (CNG), methanol or other biofuel vehicle regardless of the mileage. The program could have jump-started the mass conversion of oil-burning vehicles to CNG, electric or multi-fuel. Instead, Cash for Clunkers subsidized virtually anything on wheels, including some of the nation’s worst gas guzzlers, vehicles that now rate only a few miles above government mileage designations for highly taxable “gas guzzlers,” which is 15 or 16 mpg. The only requirement is that the new car exceeds the old vehicle’s mileage rating by only two to four mpg. So, some of the worst vehicles in America are now being taxpayer enabled in a recession. This includes the Honda Ridgeline, Honda Pilot, Cadillac SRX, and the 2009 GMC Canyon.

Under the rules, passenger cars receive a $3,500 voucher if the new vehicle performs just 4 mpg better and $4,500 if the new car rates at least 10 mpg more than the trade-in. But for sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks or minivans—the worst offenders—these gas guzzlers can fetch a $3,500 rebate if the new vehicle is rated just 2 mpg higher than the old vehicle. Read more ..

Obama Edge

Obama Healthcare Spells Uncertainty for Catholic Hospitals

July 27th 2009

Christian Topics - Catholic Edifice

Last fall, there was great concern among the United States Bishops about the possible passage of the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) and its threat to Catholic health care. President Obama had promised to sign FOCA during the campaign. If passed in the form it was most recently proposed, FOCA would have displaced current conscience legislation that protects Catholic hospitals from being forced to provide abortions. Some U.S. bishops indicated that passage of FOCA could result in the closure of Catholic hospitals.

FOCA was not passed, but the Obama administration has moved ahead with the rescission of the conscience regulations adopted in the waning days of the Bush Administration that reinforced current conscience clause protections. President Obama recently indicated to a group of Catholic leaders that he was in favor of robust conscience protection, but it is difficult to determine what this means in light of his actions. He has indicated that passage of FOCA is not a priority for him. And in fact there may be no need for a direct confrontation because he can achieve most of what FOCA would achieve by the passage of federal health care reform legislation. Read more ..

Iran’s Voter Revolt

Courage in Tehran

July 20th 2009

Iran - Iran Election Protest

"Our future society will be a free society and all the elements of oppression, cruelty and force will be destroyed."

Can you guess who said that? Was it Thomas Jefferson? George Orwell? A character in an Ayn Rand novel?

The answer is Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution—the man who established the "Islamic Republic" that has, for 30 years, existed through the very means he said would be destroyed.

So if there was one good thing to emerge from the Iranian regime’s violent crackdown on protesters in the streets in the past month, it was compelling evidence that the Islamic Republic is today really nothing more than a crude military dictatorship.

No government censor could stop, and no Western apologist could deny, the deluge of heart-searing images of Iranians standing in the streets, facing down armed government militias and chanting "Where is my vote?" Facebook updates, Twitter posts, YouTube videos—all of these new technologies helped Iranians communicate with each other and the outside world. Read more ..

Inside Latin America

An Apology to Honduras is in Order

July 13th 2009

Latin American Topics - Manuel Zelaya Rosales

The Obama Administration has made a name for itself by apologizing for a variety of American political decisions for which it was not responsible. It is much harder to apologize for your own mistake than to apologize for what other people did in other times.

But an apology is in order. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who plans to meet with former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya on behalf of President Obama, should apologize to him and to current Honduran President Roberto Micheletti.

I suggest something like this.

"On behalf of the President of the United States and myself, I apologize for having jumped to the conclusion that events in Honduras last week constituted a military coup. We should have taken the time to understand the legal and constitutional issues in play in Tegucigalpa and should not have pre-judged the outcome. Our knee-jerk decision to stand with Hugo Chávez, Daniel Ortega and Raúl Castro was based on our political proclivity, not on an informed understanding of the issue at hand.  Read more ..

After the Holocaust

Russia Must Return the Chabad Collection

July 5th 2009

Jewish Topics - Book room-Schneersohn books-Moscow
Seized Chabad Archive at Russian State Library

During the 1990s, the world was seized with stories of Nazi plunder and heirless property. Stolen bank accounts, looted artwork, confiscated real estate, and payments for slave labor were front-page headlines, the talk of Congressional hearings, and the subject of international diplomacy. By the end of the decade, billions of dollars had been returned to Holocaust survivors and their heirs.

Ten years later, the problem however, remains unresolved. Survivors received a measure of compensation for their loss and suffering, but some countries, like Russia, could have done more particularly by returning the vast collection of books and manuscripts of Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn. In late June, the international community met in Prague to discuss the continued restitution of Holocaust-era personal assets, cultural and religious objects, Jewish cemeteries, and other objects. Delegations from around the world attended, and at the end of the conference, a consensus document was issued concerning property. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Party of "No" To Bad Ideas--Especially Really Big Ones

June 29th 2009

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

In recent months, Democrats too often refer to the Republican Party as the party of “No;” especially no ideas. This sobriquet became the mantra of Democrats after the Republican members of Congress said “no” to the $750 billion unfunded stimulus package. Democrats claimed that Republicans presented no alternative ideas to alleviate the current economic crisis. This is incorrect. The Republicans presented a number of fiscally prudent ideas, but they were rejected by Congressional Democrats who continue to propose and pass fiscally improvident legislation. Given the fiscal irresponsibility of this legislation which adds to a record peace time deficit, Republicans in Congress have a duty to say “no” to these bad ideas. However, if Democrats care to jettison partisanship, there are a number of good Republican ideas to help the economy. 

First, a tax decrease or a direct distribution of federal money to taxpayers is a more efficient way to stimulate the economy than a hastily compiled $750 billion stimulus spending package.  Less than 20 percent of the present stimulus package will be spent in 2009 when the stimulus is most needed. 

On the other hand, $750 billion distributed directly to 300 million Americans as $2,500 cash would result in a much greater percentage of the money being spent in 2009.   Republicans proposed tax cuts and direct payments but the Democrats said no.  Republican should be proud to have been the party of “No” to the Democrat’s anemic stimulus spending idea. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Facing the Movements of Our World

June 26th 2009

Contributors / Staff - Micah Halpern headshot
Micah Halpern

Good movements or bad movements, ideological movements or religious movements, self help movements or mass demonstration movements—every movement needs an iconic leader; more precisely, every movement needs a face.

Americans join the army because Uncle Sam asks us to. Americans slim down because Tommy Lasorda, Valerie Bertinelli or Oprah asks us to. Our leaders shape our world by shaping our ideas.

We cannot understand Islamic terror, so we focus on Osama bin Laden. We cannot understand the complex tribal balance between Arab groups, so we focus on Saddam Hussein. We cannot understand Hezbollah, so we focus on Nasrallah. We cannot understand the thirst for freedom, so we focus on twenty-six year old Neda Agha-Soltan lying dead in the street. We cannot understand a government so willing to strip away the freedoms of its citizens, so we focus on Mir Hussein Mousavi.

We cannot understand; even our supreme leader, our president, does not completely understand, but we should try. The power of the events now unfolding in Iran has revealed the true Iran. The curtain has been lifted. We must allow the reality of life, governance, and religious control in Iran to take hold in our minds and in the minds of our leaders, decision makers, and the faces we look up to and follow.

The execution of Neda, shot through the heart by Iranian secret security sniper fire has outraged the world. Neda's death is proof positive that the leadership of Iran is not about to reform or liberalize. As that reality sinks in, we must also realize that no matter whom the elected face of government in Iran belongs to, nothing will change. Read more ..

North Korea's Nukes

China Holds the Key to the North Korea Problem

June 22nd 2009

Asia Topics - Kim Jong-il
Kim Jong-il and Hu Jintao

As the international community struggles to respond effectively to the missile tests recently launched by the North Korean government, critics have blamed the Security Council of the United Nations for failing to deter aggression and preserve world peace. That blame is misplaced. In this case, responsibility for controlling North Korea, and the ability to do so, falls squarely on China.

The way that the United Nations was originally designed explains why, today, China alone has the leverage needed to quell North Korea's nuclear ambitions. In failing to confront North Korea's decision to move the world closer to nuclear conflict, the Security Council is merely respecting the original intentions of its founders to allow each great power a comprehensive veto over any international action that might precipitate a world war. Read more ..

Pakistan on the Edge

Leadership Lessons Imran Khan Forgot

June 22nd 2009

Asia Topics - Imran Khan
Imran Khan

Pakistan desperately needs leadership. Imran Khan does not and cannot provide it.

Back in the mists of history (the mid-1990s), when the former cricket star used his popularity to found the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Pakistan Movement for Justice) Party, he seemed to have what it would take: a vision. Independence of outlook and (what is more) pocketbook, popularity, and a heart for investment and reform.

It was not hard to imagine him repeating his triumph at the center of a team leading Pakistan to triumph. Khan, a man with a colorful (in so many ways) personality who united the country behind his athletic achievements—it seemed a small leap to imagine him uniting the country behind his ideas. Given (pardon the pun), a sporting chance, he might have done it. Indeed, he might have taken valuable lessons from his spectacular cricket career about how to lead and how to succeed.

He did not.

The Obama Edge

An Open Letter to President Barack Hussein Obama

June 15th 2009

Contributors / Staff - Brigitte Gabriel picture
Brigitte Gabriel

Dear Mr. President: You face difficult challenges in matters such as achieving peace in the Middle East and protecting America from the threat of radical Islam and terrorism. These are challenges that have vexed past presidents, going as far back as our second president, John Adams. I have no doubt you appreciate both the gravity of these challenges and the enormous obstacles that exist to solving them.

I also have no doubt that you and your staff understood that, no matter what you said in your speech last Thursday in Cairo, there would be those who would take issue with you. That is always the case when attempting to solve problems that are as deep and emotionally-laden as these challenges are.

I am assuming it is your sincere hope that the approach you have chosen to take, as evidenced by what I'm sure was a carefully crafted speech, will ultimately prove successful. However, it pains me to say this, Sir, but, while you said in your speech that you are a "student of history", it is abundantly clear that, in these matters, you do not know history and thus, as George Santayana noted, you are doomed to repeat it. In doing so your efforts, however well-intentioned they may be, will not produce what you profess to hope they will produce.

A wise man once said that if you start with the wrong assumptions, no matter how logical your reasoning is, you will end up with the wrong conclusion. With all due respect Mr. President, you are starting with certain assumptions that are unsupported by history and an objective study of the ideology of political Islam. Read more ..

The Edge of Labor

Maquiladoras--American Industry Creates Modern-Day Mexican Slaves

June 8th 2009

Latin American Topics - Maquiladora map
Map of Mexico's maquiladora plants

American manufacturing industries do not belong to corporations alone and are a prized national asset. They have given us our high standard of living, our power and respect in the world, been a model for the rest of the world to imitate and allowed us to out produce our enemies during wartimes. Without them, America loses.

But from our nation’s first colonies, there have been opportunists who have exhibited a penchant for using racism, elitism and the rules of the market place jungle to exploit fellow human beings to enrich themselves. Wealthy southern plantation owners and other prosperous business leaders of their day introduced African slaves to the Colonies in the 1600’s. By 1860 the South had over 4 million slaves who were bought and sold at auctions like livestock. They labored in the fields and elsewhere-producing products for the benefit of their masters. They received no wages, were denied civil rights and they and their families were at the absolute mercy of those masters who owned them.

While slavery is illegal in the United States today, it does come in other forms. That same old U.S. entrepreneurial insatiability for financial gain, regardless of the human cost, is now being exported together with once middle class American jobs to other less fortunate nations. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Safe or Free?

June 1st 2009

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

“Better Red than Dead.” That was the effete refrain of liberals during the Cold War heyday. In other words, if the United States were required to choose, it should ape Communist tyranny rather than accept mortal risks in defense of freedom.  The United States rejected the liberal dogma. Soviet Communism died in 1991.

At present, a variation of the “Better Red than Dead” debate confronts the United States:  namely, “Better Safe than Free.” The argument is that it is better to be safe in vassalage to a secret, omnipotent government in which the President is the law than to enjoy the thrill and dignity of self-government, transparency, freedom, and checks and balances because of an arguably greater risk of a terrorist attack. The debate’s background is a post-9/11 environment of permanent war with international terrorism and a planetary-wide battlefield that authorizes the United States to employ deadly military force and military law everywhere in the world—including in the United States itself. Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s National Security Speech at the American Enterprise Institute last May 21 illuminates the debate.

Its leitmotiv was that after the hijackings and murderous abominations of 9/11, the Bush administration was tasked to do anything the President saw fit to make the United States less exposed to a second edition of 9/11, for example, vandalizing the United States Constitution in contradiction to20the President’s constitutionally required oath to defend and uphold the Constitution in all its moods and tenses. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Measuring Just How Stupid American Voters Actually Are

May 25th 2009

Social Topics - Ballot Box

Exactly one year ago this week the hardback of Just How Stupid Are We: Facing the Truth About the American Voter was published by Basic Books. Is the book still relevant? After Barack Obama's election friends emailed me wondering if I still believed the voters are uninformed. Didn't Obama's election mean they were pretty smart?

Alas, the answer is no, I believe. And I am baffled that anybody could reach a different conclusion after the campaign we lived through. The highlights of the 2008 election included controversies over Obama's bowling score, his middle name Hussein, and Hillary's crying. These were not exactly issues of much weight at a time when the financial collapse of the country was happening before our eyes. And yet they drew extended media commentary.

The media was to blame for the deplorable low quality of much of the campaign. But I am firmly convinced that you get the campaign you deserve. If that is so we should be asking ourselves why did we deserve the campaign of 2008? Was it not because the voters found it easier to debate issues like Obama's bowling score than the complicated questions involving high finance?


The Chavista Threat

Chavista Destabilization in Latin America Threatens the U.S.

May 18th 2009

Latin American Topics - Chavez and Morales
Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales

When President Barack Obama was criticized for his over friendly interaction with Hugo Chavez during the Summit of the Americas, he responded by saying that the U.S. has nothing to fear from a country that has an economy six hundred times smaller than ours.

This curious remark by our President brings another logical question to mind: how big is Al Qaeda’s economy in comparison to ours? It is likely that Al Qaeda’s assets are substantially smaller than oil-rich Venezuela’s. Likewise, Iran’s economy is not comparable to the American economy, even in a time of recession and economic crisis.

It is then logical to ask whether national or regional security is endangered in relation to economic capability or in an era of asymmetric wars. Does a country or an entity need to be economically or (even militarily) superior to those who oppose it in order to generate a situation of instability and threat?

The Obama Administration knows the right answer. Otherwise, the President and his national security team would not be so aggressively pursuing a war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. What this Administration most fears in that area of south-central Asia is the collapse of the state in Pakistan and the inability to produce governability in Afghanistan. Both countries are located thousands of miles away from the United States but still the U.S. government recognizes that a situation of anarchy or Taliban rule in both countries would lead to regional instability. where state authority vanishes, a real danger exists that nuclear weapons can be developed and that but terrorists and drug lords could take over. Read more ..

Inside Argentina

Honor, Shame and Duty: The Reality of Argentina's Tattered Armed Forces Today

May 11th 2009

Latin American Topics - Argentina military

It is no illusion that the tone and substance of the Argentine military seems to have deteriorated in the last several decades, from imprudently aspiring to control the nation in the 1970s and early 1980s (during which time it committed massive human rights abuses, rendering it the worst human rights violator in the hemisphere), to an ill-advised escapade in 1982 to re-claim the Falklands/Malvinas Islands from British jurisdiction. As a result of this veritable collapse, the Argentine military appears to have become a broken institution. The capstone on the various calamities debilitating the nation during recent times was the crippling influence of the 2001 meltdown of the Argentine economy, which crushed the entire nation, including its increasingly brittle security forces.

Two recent events can be seen as illustrating the skidding tendencies of the Argentine military and help to underscore its currently calcified condition. In early November, the Argentine federal police detained Jorge Antonio Olivera, a retired army major. He is accused of the "forced disappearance, kidnapping and torture" of Franco-Argentine citizen Marianne Erize in 1976 during the commencement of the country’s military dictatorship and the "Dirty War." This conflict unleashed the Argentine military against the nation with barbarous results, ending up in thousands of casualties. Almost at the same time in early November, London decreed a new constitution for the disputed Falklands.


American’s Economic Collapse

Wasting A Good Crisis: The Result May be $200 Oil

May 5th 2009

Energy / Environment - Oil Barrels

Rahm Emanuel’s famous quote regarding the current financial crisis,"Never let a serious crisis go to waste...it's an opportunity to do things you couldn't do before" was ignored last summer when oil prices reached $147 a barrel. The Obama Administration has taken advantage of the financial crisis to ram through their agenda which will add trillions to the National Debt. It will stimulate unions, bureaucrats, government employees, and defense contractors. It will do nothing to address the looming energy crisis which will sweep over the country shortly. Again, politicians and pundits will be shocked and astonished when oil soars. They will vilify oil companies, OPEC, and the dreaded speculators. Read more ..

Kicking our Oil Addiction

Imagine a World Without the Radical, Dictatorial Saudi Regime

April 27th 2009

Obama Admin Topics - Obama Bows to Saudi King
President Obama bows to Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah

The recent hullabaloo over Barack Obama's seeming bow before King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia centered mainly on the question of whether it was appropriate for a U.S. president to pay obeisance to a foreign dictator. But the real problem lies deeper than that. King Abdullah's alliance with the United States, combined with his oil wealth, has allowed his radical breed of Islam, Wahhabism, to flourish, poisoning the Middle East. With so much at stake, is it irrational to yearn for a world in which the Saudi regime just miraculously ceased to exist and there was no King Abdullah to bow to (or not) at all?

The House of Saud affects the world in three main ways: It is the world's largest producer of oil and holder of most of the market's spare production capacity; it acts as custodian of Islam's holy places and the religious center of Sunni Islam; and it maintains Wahhabism as a state-sponsored sect. When it comes to the first two elements, a world without the Saudi kingdom would not necessarily be a better one.  Read more ..

The Obama Edge

While Sebelius is Away, the Kansas Legislature Will Play

April 20th 2009

Obama Admin Topics - Kathleen Sebelius

While Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius was away in Washington awaiting confirmation as Health and Human Services Secretary, the boys of the Kansas legislature went at it once again. For the fourth time, they passed a bill to allow construction of two 700-megawatt coal-burning electric plants in southwest Kansas. Previously, Sebelius vetoed the bill and there weren’t quite enough votes to override. Apparently, hoping for an early cabinet confirmation, the coal plant boys were probably thinking, now that Mom’s away maybe we can get away with it.

Here is some news for you boys. Until she’s confirmed Mom can still veto. On April 13, Kathleen Sebelius once again exercised her veto power, declaring, “What was a bad idea last year is an even worse idea today.” In her veto message, Sebelius went on to predict that President Obama would move to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, which would put Kansas coal plants in a bad place. And sure enough, before the week was out, the Environmental Protection Agency ruled that carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases “endanger public health and welfare.” That sets the stage for regulating coal-fired plants and other sources of pollution under federal clean air laws.

A majority of Kansans, according to polls, would prefer to see the state’s wind harnessed instead of shipping in coal from Montana to make electricity for Denver, befouling Kansas skies in the process. The Kansas legislature will come back on April 29th to try to override Kathleen’s veto, but word is, they are 10 votes shy of doing it. Last time they were only three votes away. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Cost of a Global Empire--Dollars and Defense

April 13th 2009

Military - SoldiersInAfghanistan

Just when you think the U.S. government is beginning to make sense by withdrawing troops from Iraq, it makes the decision to shuttle 21,000 more troops into the Afghan calamity. At a cost of $3.2 billion per month, we will throw another $38 billion at another faraway country. Barack Obama is doing this to prove that he is a true statesman. The Soviet Union killed over 1 million Afghans, while driving another 5 million out of the country and left bankrupted and defeated after ten years.

Any doubt that the Military Industrial Complex is as strong as ever should be removed after examining Obama’s 2010 budget just put forth. It calls for 26 percent more in spending on Defense than President Bush spent in 2006. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, leaving the United States as the only remaining superpower on earth. Since 1990, the United States has depleted the U.S. Treasury of $7 trillion for spending on Defense. With no military on earth capable of challenging us why would there be a need to spend this much on the military? Over this same time frame the U.S. spent $360 billion on science, space & technology and $52 billion on energy, a mere 6 percent of the spending on killing machines.


After the Holocaust

IBM Should be Indicted in New York for Holocaust Genocide and its Nazi Nexus says ex-IBM employee from Poland

April 6th 2009

Contributors / Staff - Michael Zamczyk

This continuing coverage and reaction arising from the just-released book, Nazi Nexus: America's Corporate Connection's to Hitler's Holocaust (Dialog Press). Buy it here.

Since the publication of the book IBM and the Holocaust, I as a long-time IBM employee and now an IBM retiree, have been trying to get IBM to face its past and apologize for its complicity in helping Germany commit genocide. The best offer I have received thus far was the willingness for Samuel J. Palmisano, the IBM CEO, to meet with me and apologize verbally in private for the company’s role in providing the technology for Germany to perfect the round up of European Jewry and their final annihilation. Included in these round ups were my father and most of my family in Poland. It was not until recently that I came across a listing, which without question came directly from punch cards, of the registration of my family by the Germans. All vital information was included in this list, which also listed me. If for instance the Germans wanted a list of all males over fifty or children under ten, they would insert the cards and sort by the relevant fields. In minutes they could produce a list with the information needed to send children and all males over fifty to Auschwitz.

I was moved to write about this after reading the chapter on IBM in Edwin Black’s latest book Nazi Nexus, which provides the reader with an array of American corporate facilitator of the Holocaust. Chapter 5 offers a clear precise picture of IBM’s role in helping Germany eliminate Jews and other so-called subhumans or “untermenschen.” Unfortunately, neither Black nor Nazi Nexus provides any ideas of how IBM can be made to face their actions during the Third Reich. There is no question that there is enough circumstantial evidence to prove that IBM, with prior knowledge, supplied technology to Germany used to accomplish “The Final Solution.”

Since the statue of limitations does not apply to murder or genocide, it is time for the company to be indicted for complicity in murder. Since the decisions to supply the Third Reich with technology originated in New York, I think the US Attorney in New York should seek an indictment of IBM. I am convinced that a jury would find IBM guilty. IBM’s actions are a pure example of “profit over everything.” Actually it sounds better in German, “gewinn uber alles.”

Michael Zamczyk joined IBM in 1974 in the publishing group in California. Prior to retirement in 2003, he managed Business Controls, a multi billion dollar software division of IBM.

The Obama Edge

VA Proposal is Penny Wise and Plain Disgusting

March 30th 2009

Military - Soldier Crying

Many in defense community have remained silent about bank, automaker and insurance company bailouts with taxpayer dollars. But the new administration plan to save $540 million by forcing civilian insurance companies to cover claims by military veterans for service-related injuries is beyond the pale. For our government to propose such a scheme at the same time it is spending billions with not much accountability is disgusting.

The idea surfaced in testimony by Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki - a retired Army general who should know better. He told a Senate committee that the plan was "a consideration," and that "the VA's proposed budget for next year included it" as a way to increase revenue. But "a final decision hasn't been made yet."

President Obama, Secretary Shinseki and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel recently met with a group of veterans' organization leaders. The American Legion commander said he was "deeply disappointed and concerned" when the President reiterated the plan. Read more ..

Inside Latin America

Ukranian-style Civil Disobedience Now an Option for Venezuela

March 23rd 2009

Latin American Topics - Hugo Chavez waves
Hugo Chavez

In a referendum this past February 15th, Hugo Chavez managed to reverse the results of the previous December 2, 2007 vote by winning the constitutional right to be re-elected indefinitely.

Chavez won the referendum after running a campaign of intimidation and blackmail. Chavez does not govern democraticly. To the contrary he has abused state power and resources. He has used the instruments of government to harass unions, human rights advocates and has violated free speech. The state-owned oil-company, PDVSA and other state companies have been encouraged to intimidate employees so they would vote in favor of the referendum.
In last November’s municipal and local elections the opposition made some important gains including in the state of Miranda and the City of Caracas. Chavez reacted by removing some key social services such as health care from the jurisdiction of Miranda to the federal government and placed mobs in Caracas city hall that undermined the work of the newly-elected mayor of Caracas. Irregularities and other acts of electoral fraud were reported throughout Election Day. Read more ..

Israel and Hamas

Israeli Restraint & Palestinian Responsibility in the Gaza War

March 16th 2009

Israel Topics - Exhausted Israeli Soldier

I recently visited the World War II museum in New Orleans and was struck by the following description of the U.S. bombing of Japan:

On March 9-10, 1945, bombs incinerated 16 square miles and killed 100,000 civilians. In April, bombs destroyed 180 square miles, killed 300,000 people, and left 8.5 million people homeless. Throughout the war, the United States resisted bombing civilian areas. But with time, attitudes hardened. What once became unthinkable became a deliberate policy.

American history should be kept in mind when reports are issued about the behavior of Israeli forces during the war in Gaza with Hamas. Given this context, ask yourself what America would do if its cities were bombarded by 10,000 rockets and mortars over the course of three years. Do you think the response would be proportional?

Israeli soldiers at a staging area near Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel, Tuesday, December 30, 2008. Palestinians had sent a barrage of missiles deep into Israel the day before. Read more ..

Edge on Asia

China Will Never Follow the U.S. on Climate Change Policy

March 9th 2009

Environment Topics - China Urban Pollution

President Obama's emphasis on climate change has notable implications for U.S.-China relations. On her inaugural trip to Asia, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sought to expand the Sino-American Strategic Economic Dialog to include climate change among America's chief China policy priorities.

Making climate change a high priority is a mistake. It may inject unnecessary hostility into the already-strained bilateral relationship over what should be a secondary issue. And it rests on a faulty premise: Many argue that the PRC will make sharp cuts in carbon emissions but only if the U.S. does so first. This claim borders on nonsense. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Charles Freeman: Another Troubling Obama Nominee

March 3rd 2009

Obama Admin Topics - Charles Freeman
Charles "Chas" Freeman

Charles “Chas” Freeman is an appalling choice for Chairman of the National Intelligence Council. As president of the Saudi-funded Middle East Policy Council, Mr. Freeman functions as lobbyist, making his analysis suspect. And his analysis is, in any event, appalling. Gabriel Schoenfeld, in The Wall Street Journal’s “Opinion Journal,” reveals a once private 2006 Freeman internet post that Schoenfeld says “was provided to me by a former member” of a private site. Freeman is said to have written of the 1989 Chinese massacre in Tiananmen Square:

The truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud… I do not believe it is acceptable for any country to allow the heart of its national capital to be occupied by dissidents intent on disrupting the normal functions of government, however appealing to foreigners their propaganda may be.

What he has written about Israel, and reprinted from Walt and Meerscheim, is suspect because of his financial ties to the Saudis and appalling in its inability to differentiate between a Western democratic ally under siege from a combination of terrorists and the states that harbor and support them, and those very states and terrorist organizations.  This is a problem he shares with Samantha Power at the NSC. Read more ..

America's Economic Crisis

America's Economy Now Rests Upon a Burning Platform

February 23rd 2009

Energy / Environment - Burning Platform

David Walker served as Comptroller General of the United States from 1998 through 2008. Walker has been the lone voice in the wilderness for the last decade regarding our looming fiscal disaster. He is now the CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation and leader of the Fiscal Wake Up Tour. Walker warns: "The US government is on a “burning platform” of unsustainable policies and practices with fiscal deficits, chronic healthcare underfunding, immigration and overseas military commitments threatening a crisis if action is not taken soon”.

Years ago, as head of the General Accounting Office he would go before Congress and explain that the country needed to change course before we floundered in a “Perfect Storm” of debt. They listened to him respectfully and then proceeded to add $5 trillion to the National Debt in the next eight years. The borrowing binge is now entering a hyper-speed phase.

The $787 billion 1,074 page stimulus bill has been passed. President Obama signed it. It will have virtually no impact on the economy in 2009. The bill will stimulate nothing but the National Debt. Within months, plans for another stimulus plan will be pushed by the Democratic-led Congress because speed and the appearance of action are how politicians get reelected. 

Examine the numbers. The median value of a U.S. home in 2000 was $119,600. It peaked at $221,900 in 2006. Historically, home prices have risen annually in line with the CPI. If they had followed the long-term average, they would have increased by 17 percent to $140,000. Instead, they skyrocketed by 86 percent due to Alan Greenspan’s irrational lowering of interest rates to 1 percent, the criminal pushing of loans by mortgage brokers, the greed of investment bankers and the foolishness and stupidity of home buyers. It is now 2009 and the median value should be $150,000 based on historical precedent. The median value at the end of 2008 was $180,100. Therefore, home prices are still 20 percent overvalued. Long-term averages are created by periods of overvaluation followed by periods of undervaluation. Prices need to fall 20 percent and could fall 30 percent. You will know we are at the bottom when the top shows on cable are Foreclose That House and Homeless Housewives of Orange County. Read more ..

Genetic Edge

Dictators are Born Not Made, Suggest Geneticists

February 16th 2009

Nazi Era - Hitler Sepia

Researchers in Israel published a study in Genes, Brain and Behaviour in April 2008 about a gene called AVRP1, or what some have dubbed the “ruthlessness gene.” This human gene turns out to be short among the ruthless, cruel, and violent. Examples of these are Saddam Hussein, Mobuto Sese Soko, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, among others. The AVPR1 gene assists in the release of a hormone called vasopresine, which acts among the brain cells that control affect, socialization and altruism.

The study, conducted at Hebrew University in Israel, used 203 study subjects of both sexes who had inherited AVPR1 genotypes from their parents. They were introduced to a game called “The Dictatorship Game” to determine who among them was most willing to share in money that was distributed to each of the participants. It was thus that the study identified those who ended up with the most money were the very same who were short on AVPR1. Therefore, those with the most AVPR1 were the most altruistic, while those with the least may be those showing dictatorial tendencies.

Wikipedia--that vast and compendium of both useful information and un-useful mis-information in many languages--provides an extensive list of dictators of various countries whose names are found in alphabetical order. All of them are men who were to wield state power absolutely. The first on the list is Askar Akayev of Kyrgyzstan and the last is General Zia al-Huq of Pakistan. This incomplete list of modern dictators includes such luminaries as Francisco Franco, Roberto Viola, Idi Amin, Fidel Castro, Efraín Rios Montt, and of course Josef Stalin, Mao tse-tung, and Adolf Hitler. They range over the continents and apparent ideologies, from nationalism, National Socialism, Fascism, to Soviet Socialism. Read more ..

Edge on the Military

Defense Department and Experts Combat Rising Military Suicides

February 9th 2009

Military - Soldier Crying

The U.S. Army said the number of soldiers who committed suicide last year has increased for a fourth straight year. Army officials said despite an increase in funding for programs to help soldiers, they are having a hard time fighting the stigma attached to seeking professional help. 

At least 128 soldiers committed suicide in 2008, an increase from 2007 when a total of 115 suicides were recorded among active duty and those in the Army Reserve and National Guard. Officials said the number may go even higher pending the examination of 15 additional cases that could be self-inflicted.  

Highest Suicide Rate Since Vietnam War

This is the first time since the Vietnam War that the rate of suicide in the Army, about 20 deaths per 100,000 soldiers, has surpassed the civilian suicide rate.  Read more ..

Israel and Hamas

Israeli Writes an Open Letter to a Gazan: “I Am the Soldier Who Slept In Your Home”

February 2nd 2009

Israel Topics - Exhausted Israeli Soldier

Hello. While the world watches the ruins in Gaza, you return to your home—which remains standing. However, I am sure that it is clear to you that someone was in your home while you were away.

I am that someone.

I spent long hours imagining how you would react when you walked into your home. How you would feel when you understood that IDF soldiers had slept on your mattresses and used your blankets to keep warm.

I knew that it would make you angry and sad and that you would feel this violation of the most intimate areas of your life by those defined as your enemies, with stinging humiliation. I am convinced that you hate me with unbridled hatred, and you do not have even the tiniest desire to hear what I have to say. At the same time, it is important for me to say the following in the hope that there is even the minutest chance that you will hear me.

I spent many days in your home. You and your family's presence was felt in every corner. I saw your family portraits on the wall, and I thought of my family. I saw your wife's perfume bottles on the bureau, and I thought of my wife. I saw your children's toys and their English language schoolbooks. I saw your personal computer and how you set up the modem and wireless phone next to the screen, just as I do.


Israel and Hamas

Hamas and Israel--the Difference Between Life and Death

January 26th 2009

Terrorism - Jihadi Salute

Hamas is in a religious war with the Jews. The organization has repeatedly stated it will never except a Jewish state in the region and believes in a one state solution. Israel is interested in a diplomatic agreement to end the conflict with the Palestinians that will create a Palestinian state living in peace beside it.

Hamas believes in death. As one Hamas member told a journalist, "The difference between us and them is that they wait passionately for the day they can return home safely, while we bid farewell to our families and hope to die as martyrs." Indeed, Israelis believe in life.

Hamas stands behind civilians, using them as shields. Israeli forces stand in front of civilians to protect them.

Hamas leaders flee at the first sign of danger, abandoning their people to suffer the consequences of their actions. Israeli leaders are the first into battle to defend their citizens.

Hamas hopes that innocent Palestinians will die so the world will blame Israel for the bloodshed. Israelis do everything possible to ensure no innocent Palestinians will die - going so far as to warn their enemies before attacks, thereby losing the element of surprise - so they will not blame themselves for taking innocent lives. Read more ..

Surge Against Hamas

"Back to the Ovens," Ft. Lauderdale Hamas Protestors Shout at Jews

January 5th 2009

Palestine Topics - SF Anti-Israel Protest
One of Many Anti-Israel Protests over Gaza

Many residents in tranquil Ft. Lauderdale were shocked last week to see 200 to 300 rowdy Hamas supporters assembled downtown screaming for Jews to “go back to the Ovens.” It was part of a show of solidarity with Gazans now under siege during Israel’s campaign to root out the Hamas terrorist establishment there. A video blogger, captured the protest on a YouTube video.

(See the Ft. Lauderdale pro-Hamas video)

The rally began as Hamas supporters squared off against a handful of mostly youthful Israel supporters outside the First Baptist Church in downtown Ft. Lauderdale. It grew uglier as Hamas supporters became enraged at their presence and began shouting insults. "Your mother is a whore," screamed one, who then broke into "Nuke, nuke Israel. Nuke, nuke Israel," followed by "Go to hell; go to hell; go to hell!” Read more ..

Reader Poll

Sixty-eight Percent see more Mumbai-Style Terrorism Coming

January 5th 2009

TCEN Motifs - Poll Vote

Sictey-eight percent of respondents to an unscientific Cutting Edge News Reader Poll voted to predict the world would see more Mumbai-style terrorism. In response to the question: Do You Think The World Will See More Jihadi Infantry Invasion Forces? the results were:

  • 68 percent "Yes."
  • 11 percent "Not Sure"
  • 21 percent "No"

During the poll period, The Cutting Edge News recorded 816,312 hits. During the extended poll period, the ratio continued at the same level within a few percentage points.

Edge on Terrorism

Lockerbie Trial is an Historic Miscarriage of Justice

December 29th 2008

Terrorism - Lockerbie
Pan Am Flight 103 at Lockerbie

December 2008 has had more than its share of stories about miscarriages of justice. But little has been said the victim of what many see as the biggest miscarriage of justice in Scottish legal history: Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the man convicted of blowing up Pan Am Flight 103 en route from London to New York on December 21, 1988.

For many years, it looked as if there would be no trial over Lockerbie. British and U.S. governments believed Colonel Gaddafi would never hand over the two Libyan intelligence officers accused of the bombings, which some regarded as fortunate, as they believed the evidence against Libya would not stand up in a court of law.

But thanks largely to the persistence of Nelson Mandela, 12 years after the bombing a trial did take place. In exchange for the lifting of sanctions, Gaddafi handed over the two accused men and the Scottish court swallowed almost the whole improbable story. On January 31, 2001, Megrahi was convicted of the mass murder of 259 passengers and crew, as well as 11 people on the ground in the village of Lockerbie. He is now serving a life sentence in a Scottish jail. His co-accused, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, was acquitted. Read more ..

America's Economic Collapse

Madoff's Network Helped Him Target Jews

December 22nd 2008

Contributors / Staff - Ronald A Cass
Ronald A. Cass

Steven Spielberg. Elie Wiesel. Mort Zuckerman. Frank Lautenberg. Yeshiva University. As one reads the list of people and enterprises reportedly bilked to the tune of $50 billion by Bernard Madoff, I recalled a childhood in which my father received bad news by asking first, "Was it a Jew?" My father coupled sensitivity to anti-Semitism with special sympathy for other Jews. In contrast, Mr. Madoff, it seems, targeted other Jews, drawing them in at least in some measure because of a shared faith.

The Madoff tale is striking in part because it is like stealing from family. Yet frauds that prey on people who share bonds of religion or ethnicity, who travel in the same circles, are quite common. Two years ago the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a warning about "affinity fraud." The SEC ticked off a series of examples of schemes that were directed at members of a community: Armenian-Americans, Baptist Church members, Jehovah's Witnesses, African-American church groups, Korean-Americans. In each case, the perpetrator relied on the fact that being from the same community provided a reason to trust the sales pitch, to believe it was plausible that someone from the same background would give you a deal, that if offered by someone without such ties would sound too good to be true.

The sense of common heritage, of community, also makes it less seemly to ask hard questions. Pressing a fellow parishioner or club member for hard information is like demanding receipts from your auntit just doesn't feel right. Hucksters know that, they play on it, and they count on our trust to make their confidence games work. Read more ..

Edge on the Housing Crisis

What The Bible Says On Home Ownership And The Housing Crisis

December 15th 2008

Books - Holy Bible

In the wake of the mortgage crisis, a growing chorus of economists today questions the status of home ownership as the fulfillment of the American dream.  An argument supporting home ownership is found inof all placesthe Hebrew Bible.

Although usually read as part of a religious text, the Bible's economic prescriptions may be mined to recover the roadmaps by which past thinkers navigated, even if no longer fully applicable today.

Economic commentators Paul Krugman and James Surowiecki argue that the American dream increasingly ends with a rude awakening. With the market value of houses falling, many Americans are now trapped in mortgages that exceed the value of their homes. And for many more, they argue, the hassles of buying and selling a home make it harder for underemployed home owners to move to where the jobs are. Read more ..

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