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Inside Politics

Dogmatism of GOP's Base Leading Party Down a Dead-End Street

August 5th 2013

Juan Williams 02

The summer recess sends home 535 members of our nation’s wildly unpopular Congress.
Will members be told to do better at job creation and fixing the broken immigration system? Will voters get in their faces and say ‘Enough’ to meaningless votes over healthcare reform? It is not likely.

The old Pogo comic-strip zinger applies here: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

The heavily manipulated drawing of congressional districts over the last decade has created insulated pockets for dysfunctional political behavior. Most members of Congress face little criticism from people in their districts because those districts are increasingly limited to like-minded voters of the same party. And the political activists in those homogenized districts are often more polarizing than the people they send to Congress.

Only 16 House Republicans come from congressional districts that voted for President Obama. Among Democrats, there are only nine members who represent a district won by the Republicans’ last presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.

Thanks to an increase in Republican-led state legislatures over the last two years, the borders of several congressional districts nationwide have been redrawn to increase the odds that Republicans will retain control of those seats. One consequence is an increase in the racial imbalance in Republican congressional districts. In a nation that is more than one-third Hispanic, black and Asian, the voters in GOP congressional districts are on average 75 percent white. The Cook Political Report puts an even sharper edge on what ‘home’ means to members of Congress. There are almost no swing districts anymore. Read more ..

Inside Politics

A Divided GOP Will Fall

August 4th 2013

Capitol Hill

Buy a ticket and have a seat — the curtain is up on the GOP’s implosion as high-profile Republicans considered future leaders and presidential contenders insult and accuse each other, hurling enough cable news kindling around to not only break through the story of Anthony Weiner’s self-immolation but to make President Obama look like the grown-up heading into the budget battle this fall. This was no easy feat.

Forget conservative revolts on the farm bill or immigration reform; after a season of legislative avoidance, Congress will return in September to face deadlines for funding the government and raising the debt ceiling on which GOP division is nearly as stark as the divide between the two parties. What’s more, recent disagreements on national security policy have now split Republicans into two camps of hawks and doves. Read more ..

Defense on Edge

The Pentagon's Illusion of Choice: Hagel's 2 Options Are Really 1

August 2nd 2013

U.S. Naval Carrier

Yesterday at the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel unveiled the results of his Strategic Choices and Management Review (SCMR). The belated effort sought to think through the options — many unsavory — available to the military should sequestration and its $500 billion defense budget cuts remain law for the rest of the decade.

Secretary Hagel’s cafeteria menu of options for policymakers should sequestration continue is so unpalatable because this is not the first round of defense budget cuts. Sequestration’s $500 billion in Pentagon reductions come on top of the close to $1 trillion in military spending cuts already enacted under the Obama administration.

The bottom line of the Pentagon’s review: Secretary Hagel says the choice will be between a smaller and modern military or a bigger and older one. The harsh truth is that the result of sequestration will actually entail both: The US military is set to become both smaller and less modern in course of this defense drawdown. Readiness continues to fall under all options and scenarios, as well. Read more ..

The Iranian Threat

The Revolutionary Guard & The Iranian “Reformer”

In mid-July 2013 Revolutionary Guards Spokesman Ramazan Sharif gave an extensive, rare interview to the reformist daily Shargh.

 In the interview, the high-ranking officer discussed the Revolutionary Guards’ interaction with past governments, their involvement in politics and economy, the role they played in suppressing the 2009 riots, and their attitude towards president-elect Hassan Rowhani. Sharif denied claims of Revolutionary Guards support for Ahmadinejad and said that the organization faced greater difficulties than before during his presidency, concerning their involvement in economic projects. The spokesman rejected criticism leveled at the Revolutionary Guards over their growing involvement in politics and economy, saying that the organization intends to help the new government within the framework of the law. Read more ..

Israel and Palestine

Fixing Palestine

August 1st 2013

Palestinian Rock Attackers

The greatest success of the Arab States against Israel (there aren't many) has been to change the terms of reference. In 1947, the Arabs unanimously rejected the UN Partition Plan for Palestine and in 1948 attacked Israel, Goliath against David. Through 1956, 1967, and 1973 Israel was understood to be on the receiving end of the enormous wealth, fury and rejection of the Arab States -- hence the name, "Arab-Israel conflict." But with the exercise of the Arab oil weapon, international priorities were transformed; the first priority being not to irritate Saudi Arabia. The Arab States let themselves off the hook, passing the onus of rejectionist thuggery on to Israel, the Goliathite aggressor against the Davidish Palestinians. Now there is the "Palestinian-Israeli conflict," reflecting the preference of the Arab States and priorities of Washington.

To read the Washington newspapers this week, which are representative, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are meeting under the auspices of the American government to make Palestine. The Palestinians and Secretary of State John Kerry allowed it to be known that the Israelis were asked/pushed/threatened to provide a prisoner release, a settlement freeze, and a commitment to begin negotiations on the 1949 Armistice Line (the so-called 1967 border). The Palestinians were asked to provide... well, nothing, actually because that's not the issue. Read more ..

Paraguay on Edge

The Reasons Why Paraguay Should not Join the Pacific Alliance

July 31st 2013

Horacio Cartes Paraguay
President-elect Horacio Cartes of Paraguay

On May 23, 2013, Paraguay was accepted as an observing member of the newly formed Pacific Alliance at a summit of regional leaders in Cali, Colombia. Paraguayan officials have expressed confidence that entrance into the regional bloc will strengthen economic ties to global partners in Asia and Latin America and further stimulate the economy. But Paraguay’s problems, most notably the continued high level of economic inequality, will not be quickly remedied by an increase in exports of soybeans and other goods. In fact, entrance into the Pacific Alliance could well serve to exacerbate economic inequality, possibly even generating a land grab by Brazilian soybean farmers and agribusinesses in Paraguay that could push small holders off their plots.

While there are certainly advantages to joining the Pacific Alliance, doing so cannot, in the end, offer a one-step solution to what ails Paraguay. Incoming president Horacio Cartes would be well advised to instead focus on pushing through land reform for small holders and amending Paraguay’s regressive taxation system rather than entering into trade arrangements that are mainly designed to profit the already prosperous landholders. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Obama Says Pay Gap is 'Morally Wrong'

July 30th 2013


President Barack Obama is changing gears on the economy, highlighting income inequality as a growing problem in advance of pitched fall battles with congressional Republicans over funding the government and raising the debt ceiling. The focus is intended to make it easier for Obama to argue that new taxes on the rich — and not cuts to social spending — should be imposed to lower the deficit.

It also dovetails with Obama’s call for Congress to raise the federal $7.25 minimum wage and to end the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration. “This growing inequality is not just morally wrong, it’s bad economics,” Obama said in remarks last week in Galesburg, Ill., where he began a new push on the economy. “The income of the top 1 percent nearly quadrupled from 1979-2007, but the typical family’s incomes barely budged,” he said. Read more ..

Broken Economy

Fact-Free 'Middle Out Economics'

July 29th 2013


President Obama has finally stopped blaming George W. Bush for America’s current economic mess. Now it’s Ronald Reagan’s fault.

Obama didn’t use those exact words or make that explicit claim in his Knox College speech last week, but that’s the gist of it. The Great Recession and its slow-growth, high-unemployment aftermath are really just the culmination of three decades of pro-market economic policies that favored the rich at the expense of the middle class.

Here’s how Obama rewrites economic history: The shared national purpose of World War II was followed by a golden age of shared prosperity in the 1950s and 1960s. Unions were strong, taxes high, pension benefits guaranteed — thanks to a grand egalitarian bargain between Big Government, Big Business, and Big Labor. “But over time, that bargain began to fray,” Obama said. “Technology made some jobs obsolete. Global competition sent a lot of jobs overseas. It became harder for unions to fight for the middle class. Washington doled out bigger tax cuts to the very wealthy and smaller minimum-wage increases for the working poor.” And with the recession and financial crisis, Obama concluded, “the decades-long . . . erosion of middle-class security was suddenly laid bare for everybody to see.” Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Agitating for an American War in Syria

July 28th 2013

Click to select Image

Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, wants to go to war in Syria -- not with Syria, necessarily, but in Syria.  And it's not really war, although it involves weapons and American troops (in the air -- Sen. Levin has been very explicit about "no boots on the ground," as if American bombs are less war-ish than American infantry).  He and Senators John McCain and Robert Menendez aren't looking for victory, and they don't want the military to remove Assad from power.  But they're pretty sure that weapons could be useful somehow, used by someone -- maybe by barefoot Americans (no boots).  All this appears in their letter to President Obama urging "American leadership" in Syria. It is a stunning mess. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Al Qaeda Is Back

July 27th 2013

Bomb explosion

Two spectacular al Qaeda prison breaks in Iraq, freeing over 500 of its members in two separate prisons simultaneously this week, demonstrate the group is back with a vengeance. Al Qaeda’s Iraq branch is also the moving force behind the jihadist success in Syria. The resurgence of al Qaeda in Iraq has sobering implications for what is likely to follow the drawdown of NATO forces in Afghanistan for the al Qaeda mother ship in Pakistan.

The double jailbreaks at Abu Ghraib and Taji prisons were massive attacks. Suicide bombers, teams of attackers using mortars and small arms, and two dozen car bombs were used. The firefight killed over a hundred Iraqi guards. The attackers also had inside help within the Iraqi security forces. The attacks were the culmination of what al Qaeda in Iraq’s leadership had promised a year ago when it launched the “Breaking the Walls” offensive to free its prisoners from Iraqi jails.

Al Qaeda in Iraq, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, as it is officially named, was created by Abu Musab al Zarqawi in the wake of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. A Jordanian, Zarqawi had worked with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan before 9/11 and built many connections in Iraq in the months before the war. Within months of the occupation, his terror gang was killing American troops and Iraqi Shia and taking the country to civil war. Bin Laden publicly anointed him al Qaeda’s amir for the entire region including Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and even Turkey. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

How New International Law Undermines Democratic Sovereignty

July 26th 2013

Obama Bowed Head

Rarely does the U.S. Senate reject a treaty. But on December 4, 2012, it did just that, blocking ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities. President Barack Obama had argued that by joining, the United States would "reaffirm America's position as the global leader on disability rights" and help inspire other countries to improve their treatment of the disabled. Skeptics asked why ratification would prove more inspirational than the U.S. domestic laws already on the books. When skeptics also warned of the effect on U.S. sovereignty, supporters stressed that the treaty imposed no burdensome requirements. That was a peculiar argument, for if the treaty lacks substance, then there is no point in ratifying it, and if it makes substantive demands on the parties, then the concerns about sovereignty are well founded.

What little news coverage the Senate vote did garner tended to describe the treaty's supporters as sympathetic to the disabled and its opponents as insensitive. Little light was shed on why any senator would appear to subordinate the interests of the disabled to an ideological abstraction such as sovereignty. But what sank the treaty was not heartlessness, nor was it any abstract quibble. Rather, opponents were worried about something practical and fundamental: whether U.S. laws should be made by politicians held accountable to Americans through the ballot box or by unaccountable officials in multinational organizations. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

The EU’s “Eureka” Moment on Jihadists

July 24th 2013

Hezbollah rally

The news of Hezbollah’s “military wing’s” designation as a terrorist organization by the European Union made headlines in the U.S. and in Europe. The EU demands unanimity on such policy decisions. However, because only 22 of the 28 member states favored the listing of all of Hezbollah, the compromise was to designate only the “military wing” as a terrorist organization. Hezbollah, like all terrorist organizations, does not make such a distinction between its political, “charitable,” and “military” activities. They are one for all and all for one. Moreover, Hezbollah has publicly denied such a division of the organization.

In October 2012, Hezbollah’s second-in-command, Naim Qassem, declared in Beirut: ”We don’t have a military wing and a political one. We don’t have Hizballah on one hand and the resistance party on the other. Every element of Hizballah, from commanders to members as well as our various capabilities, are in the service of the resistance and we have nothing but the resistance as a priority.”

The EU’s willful blindness towards jihadist organizations, be they Sunni or Shia, is motivated by greed. Buying Iranian oil and gas and selling Iran “dual use” products, which are sanctioned by the U.S., has always had a priority over security. Read more ..

Broken Education

Failing Our Children

July 24th 2013

Student at Blackboard-Togo

America’s public school system has largely become a disaster. A few weeks ago, a listener of my radio show told me how her son had recently graduated high school and gone to college. He quickly discovered he could not keep up with the coursework because he could only read at a 6th grade level. This is not an uncommon occurrence. In fact, it is typical.

State and federal funding for schools is determined by how many kids pass, graduate, as well as score on standardized tests. Administrators are pressured to pass poor students to ensure funding. Teachers are pressured to go along and teach to the tests. Kids know they will be promoted to the next grade, so many choose the path of least resistance.

You are left with a multitude of young adults that are not prepared for higher education or the work force because they were never held accountable. There is plenty of blame to go around. We can start by looking at the failures of two groups at the top and bottom of the education debate: politicians and families. Read more ..

Israel on Edge

Israel in an Era of Decline American Influence in the Mideast

July 23rd 2013

Palestinians Villify Obama

The chaos gripping the Middle East, especially Syria, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, is leading to a surprising turnabout for many powers, in and outside of the region. Starting with the United States, long-time superpower in the region not since the British withdrawal in the 1950s and 1960s, now finds itself surprisingly powerless to deal with the "Arab Spring" or ongoing Islamist upheaval. In Libya, the decision to let the British and French lead the charge translated into U.S. weakness and powerless.

Once the powerful benefactor of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and its main supplier of military equipment ($40 billion of U.S. equipment) ever since Camp David in 1978, the United States finds itself sidelined in the current Egyptian showdown. Its support for Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi alienated its natural base (Christians, secularists, liberals and the old "deep Egypt") while underwhelming the Muslim Brotherhood when it failed to prevent the military, once a close U.S. ally, from ousting it from power. Read more ..

The EU and Israel

The Other Occupied Territories: Cyprus, Tibet and Kashmir

July 23rd 2013

Turk flags

What about Cyprus? That is just one of the questions that Israelis and Europeans should be pondering now that the European Union has again decided that it should dictate Israeli border and security policy.

Last week the European Union issued a ban on funding of, or cooperation with, any Israeli institutions that are shown to operate in what it calls the "occupied territories" – meaning the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria. Never mind that -- as Palestinian groups have already admitted -- the ban will affect Palestinians as much as Israelis. In its perpetual rush to find new double-standards to enforce, the EU has rushed straight in, regardless.

As one senior Palestinian Authority official said on the announcement of the news, many Palestinians in Ramallah and elsewhere will be just as affected by the EU's decision as their Israeli neighbors. The senior PA official was quoted saying:

"For our part, we approached a number of [European] Union officials, in the [Palestinian] Authority and also in Israel, to try and prevent the decision or at least to keep it unofficial," said the official, who declined to give his name. "It's not just Israeli companies that are going to be hit economically, it's also going to be disastrous economically and socially for the Palestinian community." Read more ..

Wall Street on Edge

Financial Reform, On a Roll

July 22nd 2013

Financial reform now protest

Five years ago, the financial crisis crushed the American economy and cost millions of Americans their livelihoods, their homes, and their savings. Two years later, passage of the Dodd-Frank Act, on July 21, 2010, laid the foundation for reform in key areas. Implementation is now at the three-year mark. Let’s take stock.

The Act created the authority to regulate Wall Street firms that pose a threat to financial stability, without regard to their corporate form, and bring shadow banking into the daylight; to wind down major firms in the event of a crisis, without feeding a panic or putting taxpayers on the hook; to attack regulatory arbitrage, restrict risky activities, regulate short-term funding markets, and beef up banking supervision; to require central clearing and exchange trading of standardized derivatives, and capital, margin and transparency throughout the market; to improve investor protections; and to establish a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to look out for the interests of American households. Read more ..

The Edge of Justice

The George Zimmerman Trial: Virtues of an Acquittal

July 21st 2013

trayvon martin protest nyc

The bottom line is that a boy, on the cusp of manhood, is dead; his only crime: wearing a hoodie while going out to buy a can of soda. Everything that followed is a footnote. There is nothing to celebrate here. The man who killed him is acquitted, although he behaved badly, ignored what the police told him, and appears to have been motivated by racial stereotypes if not racial hatred. He may also, in fact, have committed murder in the second degree or manslaughter, but he will not serve time if he has. Yet his trial and the verdict are not without their virtues.   

Chief among them is that legal justice has been done. It is easy to construct scenarios consistent with a guilty George Zimmerman. We have only Zimmerman’s word that Trayvon Martin turned on him or ambushed him, yet he refused to tell this tale under oath. Zimmerman’s claim that Martin pounded his head violently and repeatedly against the pavement such that he feared for his life seems inconsistent with the few bumps and scrapes on his head and the absence of any trace of his DNA on Martin’s fingernails, hands or body. If Martin was pounding Zimmerman’s head, he wasn’t aggressive enough to prevent Zimmerman from retrieving his gun and precisely, or with great luck, aiming it directly at Martin’s heart. The defense’s strongest evidence, testimony that Martin was on top of Zimmerman as they struggled, tells little of moment, even if it is accurate. Consider. You turn to confront a man who has been following you and is closing in. You see him reaching for a gun. You lunge at him to stop him from getting it, and your weight pushes him to the ground with you on top. Your position on top as you struggle does not mean you are the aggressor. Read more ..

Broken Elections

A System for Picking Best Presidential Candidates

July 20th 2013


You can get agreement from almost all points on the political spectrum that the worst aspect of our political system is the presidential nomination process. It is perhaps no coincidence that it is the one part of the system not treated in the Constitution.

That's because the Founding Fathers abhorred political parties and hoped that presidents would be selected by something like an elite consensus. But we have political parties, the oldest and third-oldest in the world, and they are not going away.

Surely a better system is possible. The current system of primaries, caucuses and national conventions is the result of reforms initiated by Democrats in the late 1960s and constantly fiddled with, mostly but not entirely by Democrats, ever since. The resulting system is replete with oddities. Nothing in the Constitution says that Iowa and New Hampshire vote first, but they do. Any politician thinking of ever running for president wouldn't dare suggest otherwise. Read more ..

Broken Economy

For the Last Time, Robots Do NOT Cause Unemployment

July 19th 2013

Robotic Orange Harvester

Parts of the nation’s commentariat have been seized, in recent months, with a nasty bout of technophobia. Technophobia is a psychological condition, but infectious. Hardly a week goes by without a new outbreak documented in another blog post or business column. To judge from the symptomatic hand-wringing the epidemic is spreading, we are on the verge of mass unemployment as work becomes increasingly automated.

Technophobia is an affliction we have yet to cure even after decades of evidence-based ameliorative efforts. We might not have expected much resistance to the disease in earlier times, before evidence accumulated that the fears it inspired were irrational. Back in 1930, a mind as brilliant as John Maynard Keynes was susceptible to the condition. Keynes sensed sickness in the air but misdiagnosed it as a feature of the capitalist economy: “We are being afflicted with a new disease of which some readers may not yet have heard the name, but of which they will hear a great deal in the years to come—namely, technological unemployment.” Read more ..

The World on Edge

INGOs' Insatiable Power Grab

July 18th 2013


The rapidly increasing role of nongovernmental organizations internationally (INGOs) has been a matter of concern for a very long time.

First and foremost, INGOs are responsible to no one. They are motivated by a group's interest and its financial and political backers.   Second, there are some 40,000 of them, each with its supposedly particular idea regarding the needs and priorities of an international civil society. Often, though, their ideas differ very little. Collectively, they've become a powerful force in international politics. Third, international civil society is infeasible. The world today as we know it is made up of some 200-plus independent and semi-independent countries and 40,000 INGOs. The 200-plus countries can't agree on much in political, social and economic matters. The addition of 40,000 more "interested parties" does not help. Read more ..

Broken Economy

The Next Shoe

July 17th 2013

Home Foreclosure

In the summer of 2005 I was invited to speak ­in relation to energy markets--at a conference in Lausanne convened by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy on the subject of 'Economic Terrorism'.  Essentially this conference concerned the resilience of financial rather than physical infrastructure to attack by terrorists using economic rather than physical means.

My message was that the existing market architecture concentrated risk in centralised organisations such as banks and clearing houses to an extent that was not appreciated. I made the wry observation that the only difference between a hedge fund and an economic terrorist was their motive.

In October 2008 the first shoe dropped.  Following the collapse of Lehman Brothers, which I regard as a milestone in the evolution of markets, we saw the financial system freeze up almost entirely. In fact, in the UK we came two hours away from the ATMs being switched off, and a day or so from what has been described as 'shopping with violence'. Read more ..

Broken Bookselling

Should We Even Care About Barnes & Noble's Survival?

July 16th 2013

Barnes and Noble Closing dated

Once upon a time, the book superstore elicited two major responses. One: I'm in heaven; here are more books I've ever seen in one place, ever! Two: This is hell on independent bookstores; it's a sad time indeed.

Today, everything's come full circle. Borders failed, and even though one huge rival was wiped off the map, Barnes & Noble is showing serious signs of losing to its aggressive competition.

Some investors may be studying Barnes & Noble as a value play, but they'd better think twice. Not only is the bookstore chain in big trouble, but if it fades from the scene, maybe in the long run, nobody would even really care. This is a story of more than a decade of disruptive change. It illustrates the economic theme of creative destruction, as painful as that may be. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

America Joins the Jihad

July 16th 2013


It is not just that the United States government has aligned itself with the avowed vanguard of Islamic jihad -- the Muslim Brotherhood [MB] -- or committed American troops to battle (in Libya, and maybe soon in Syria) to ensure the victory of al-Qa'eda-linked militias. It is not just that whenever an opportunity has arisen, as in Iran in 2009, or pre-and-post revolutionary Egypt, or the Syrian civil war, the U.S. deliberately has chosen to side with the forces of jihad and shariah law and against the voices of civil society and genuine democracy.

The current U.S. administration has actually managed to flip from one side to the other, from "for the people in the streets" to "against the people in the streets," as recently became evident in late June 2013, when protests mounted against the incompetent, oppressive regime of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Read more ..

Egypt's Second Revolution

Clashes leave More Dead and Injured in Egypt

July 16th 2013

Street Battle Civilians 6.2013

Egyptian officials say overnight clashes between security forces and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi have left at least seven people dead and 261 others injured. The fighting broke out late on July 15 and lasted into the early morning hours on July 16, mainly in central Cairo, as Morsi supporters continue to demand his return to power.

Police fired tear gas at the Morsi loyalists, who retaliated by throwing rocks. Demonstrators also blocked Cairo's Ramses Square and a bridge, drawing tear gas from security forces who pushed them back. Protesters held a sit-in outside the Rabia el-Adawiya Mosque in Cairo's Nasir City, a stronghold of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood. Leaders of the Islamist group have vowed to escalate their protests. Read more ..

The Edge of Justice

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

July 15th 2013


We the people should learn from the O.J. Simpson murder trial nearly 18 years ago and behave as civil Americans now that George Zimmerman has been set free in the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

When Simpson was acquitted on charges of killing Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, many people were outraged with that verdict. I was one of them. Did you see anybody burn down cities? Did you see any riots? Did you see any violence? No.  And the many Americans who now feel outrage over the Zimmerman acquittal should learn from how Americans behaved when Simpson was set free and we accepted the verdict. That's our jury system. It is the best in the world and it works well for all of us. We must respect verdicts by our jury system and move on, whether we accept them or not.

As the Florida jury deliberated the fate of Mr. Zimmerman in the death of the 17-year-old Trayvon, some Florida communities were already bracing for possible riots if the former neighborhood watch captain was acquitted.
However despite the whisperings of violence and riots, Americans of all stripes again showed that we can be civil and nonviolent in these tense and uncertain moments. And if anybody were to defy our system of justice with rioting, violence and burning, they should be arrested and punished to the full extent of the law — absolutely no exceptions.

The bigger social issue in this case is why 90 percent of young black men who are killed are the victims of other black men. This is much more of a social problem in America than whites or Hispanics killing blacks.  Read more ..

Afghanistan on Edge

Don't Give Up On Afghanistan

July 14th 2013

Afghanistan Fighters

The Obama administration is reportedly considering an accelerated pullout of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, followed by a "zero option" - the complete elimination of an American and, presumably, international military presence in Afghanistan after 2014. This is an understandable but unwise idea. Even raising it as a bargaining device is a mistake in our ongoing mission in Afghanistan - a place that President Obama clearly considers crucial to U.S. security, given that more than 60,000 U.S. troops are still there.

In fairness, the zero-option idea has appeal not only because the war has been long and frustrating but also because Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been so difficult to work with. Beyond all the past brouhahas over corruption, tainted elections and other matters, there is the burst of invective Karzai recently leveled against the United States over what he described as a duplicitous approach to negotiating with the Taliban. Karzai has criticized Washington and broken off negotiations about the long-term U.S. presence because, when the Taliban opened an office for exploratory peace talks in Doha, Qatar, last month, it again called itself the Government of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and otherwise sought to portray the new facility as a quasi-embassy for a government in waiting. Karzai decided that Washington was complicit because the Obama administration failed to prevent that outcome. Read more ..

Middle East on Edge

Taqiyya and Illusive Middle East Agreements

July 13th 2013

Abbas UN

The Quran-derived "taqiyya" concept is a core cause of systematically-failed U.S. peace initiatives in the Middle East; 1,400 years of intra-Muslim/Arab warfare and the lack of intra-Muslim/Arab comprehensive peace; the tenuous nature of intra-Muslim/Arab agreements; and the inherently shifty, unpredictable and violent intra-Muslim/Arab relations, as currently demonstrated on the chaotic, seismic Arab street.

The taqiyya concept constitutes Islam-sanctioned dissimulation, deception and concealment of inconvenient data, aimed at shielding Islam and "believers" from "infidels" and hostile Muslims. It is a tactic utilized by Muslims during times of strategic inferiority, intended to achieve provisional accords, only to be abrogated once conditions are ripe for vanquishing adversity.


Egypt's Second Revolution

The U.S. Gets a "Mulligan" in Egypt

July 12th 2013

Chief Justice + President Mansour

Egyptian Army Commander and Defense Minister Abdul Fattah al-Sisi was faced in Cairo with that experts say was the largest human gathering in history -- somewhere between 17 and 30 million people -- demanding a chance to redo the 2011 revolution. A "mulligan," so to speak. The military responded by removing Morsi and announcing that it would not rule, but rather manage a civilian-run transition.

The Obama administration should be pleased. Having made a mess of Egypt by abruptly withdrawing support from a longtime ally; by failing effectively to express its displeasure with 18 months of military rule that included the arrest of American and Egyptian NGO workers; and by accepting without comment Mohammad Morsi's power-grabs, increasingly heavy-handed imposition of Sharia law, and violence against minorities, the U.S. is essentially getting its own "mulligan." Read more ..

Turkey on Edge

Getting Erdoğan Wrong

July 12th 2013


In the aftermath of Turkey's urban uprisings, many have expressed bewilderment at Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's outlandish reaction. Whereas the Prime Minister had multiple opportunities to prevent the demonstrations from escalating, he never missed an opportunity to miss those opportunities, lashing out at foreign and domestic enemies for planning a protest movement that was so obviously spontaneous. As Erdoğan and his mouthpieces have blamed everyone from foreign media and airlines to the "interest rate lobby" and "Jewish diaspora," Erdoğan is rapidly becoming a liability to his foreign friends. President Barack Obama is sure to regret having mentioned Erdoğan as one of the five foreign leaders with which he has the closest "friendship and bonds of trust". Indeed, Erdoğan's Turkey has taken on an important role in Obama's policy toward the Middle East, and according to numerous sources, Erdoğan is among the foreign leaders Obama speaks with most frequently. But Erdoğan's authoritarianism is not new. Anyone watching Turkey for the past several years has had plenty of opportunity to see Erdoğan's slide. Did the White House not know or not care? And what should American policy toward Turkey be now? Read more ..

Inside South Africa

Mandela--A Life-Changing Experience

July 11th 2013


In February and March of 1990, I had a profoundly life changing experience.

At the time I was working for Robert J. Brown, former aide to President Nixon, as a VP for the international division of Mr. Brown's B&C Associates. The position required my spending many months in South Africa.

Never in my life had I felt and seen such racism. The raw ugliness of racism was laid bare in South Africa as I had, nor have to this day, ever seen in America. Blacks were treated as chattel and subhuman.

I was treated as such until they heard my accent or saw my passport. Suddenly, I was ok to the racist throngs and treated with all respect. Only my US passport differentiated me from other blacks, but apparently that was enough.

Very quickly, this exposure started to harden me and for the first time hate started to seep within my heart.

But then, on February 11, Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 years. Mr. Brown had been a friend to Mandela and his wife Winnie, and due to that friendship he arranged for me to be one of the first to interview Mandela and act as his personal secretary following his early release from prison. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Obama's Job Approval Ratings are Not Just Sagging, They are Down

July 10th 2013

Obama pensive with flag

The president’s poll numbers are no longer sagging. They’re just plain down. Looking at the Gallup poll’s daily tracking trend line of President Obama’s job approval, the president has been at 45 or 46 percent since the end of last month.

More importantly, he has been upside-down, with higher disapproval than approval, for six of the past eight tracks. Let’s put those numbers into context.

At no time in the first five months of the year was Obama upside-down for multiple days in a week. And during the same period, never did Obama’s approval drop to 45 percent. But in June, it tested that bottom in five daily tracks.

Will there be resistance at that level to dropping lower? Or is the core of Obama’s support — his base — still smaller yet, allowing his approval ratings to drop even more? I say he’ll test the low forties before the year is out, maybe even this quarter. What is going on? Read more ..

Broken Government

Grand Budget Bargain? No, Congress Would Prefer To Fight

July 9th 2013


Barring a miracle, budget bargains, either grand or petty, are not in the cards this year. The Congress would prefer to fight. It is happily at war with itself over immigration, student loan interest rates, the farm bill, energy policy and the like. The president has abandoned his charm offensive, and is chasing other butterflies.

With no other candidates in sight, it is not surprising that tax reform has re-emerged as the major economic issue in Washington.

In the Senate, Finance Chairman Baucus and his Republican counterpart, Sen. Hatch, announced that they would soon begin work on a tax bill. The Senators intend to start clean, with a bill stripped bare of all tax preferences. Senate Finance Committee members were warned that they would have to amend that bill with any preferences they wished to restore or add. Read more ..

Broken Government

Time for Reid to Go Nuclear

July 8th 2013

Juan Williams 02

With the July 4 recess over, the fireworks now begin for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
In the next month, the Nevada Democrat’s legacy as leader will be set with a decision on the so-called “nuclear option.”

Will he be the majority leader who allowed the Senate to sink into dysfunction in the face of Republican refusal to allow President Obama to select Cabinet members and judicial nominees? Or is he the majority leader who will be remembered for fighting back against the GOP’s strategy of obstruction through paralysis?

Time is running out for Reid to get any political value from calling for a vote to blow up the current 60-vote requirement to end filibusters. At the end of the month, the August recess will arrive and then comes September and the start of the Congress’ transition to the 2014 campaigns, further draining any remaining momentum from  Obama’s reelection victory.

So, in the next three weeks Reid will have no choice but to take action or accept defeat. Having passed its immigration bill, the Senate now gets back to its failure to confirm the president’s nominee to run the Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy, and his choice for Labor secretary, Thomas Perez. In addition, the president has a nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — Richard Cordray — also waiting for Senate attention. Last month, Obama forced the political world to look anew at the Senate’s inaction when he named three nominees to vacant seats on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Read more ..

Broken Healthcare

Hillary and Healthcare

July 7th 2013

Hillary Clinton in blue

As the chaos continues surrounding implementation of the new healthcare law, the 2014 election campaign begins and jockeying for the 2016 presidential campaign is underway, the two most intriguing political questions surrounding the healthcare law are these:

First, how will Democrats running for the House and Senate in 2014 discuss healthcare during the campaign

Second, if Hillary Clinton runs for president in 2016, how will she discuss healthcare going into the presidential campaign?

Let me begin with my conclusion. Democrats should not be trapped into defending the healthcare status quo. They should champion and defend the most effective and popular aspects of the law, and champion more aggressively than ever the more progressive (and popular) reforms that should have been included in the reform law but were not. Read more ..

Egypt's Second Revolution

The West Must Back the New Egypt

July 6th 2013

Chief Justice + President Mansour

The turnaround in Egypt is a once in a generation opportunity. Can Western, and Arab, leaders seize it?

The Egyptian army has ousted the elected Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohammed Morsi. Gigantic anti-Morsi demonstrations forced the hand of the armed forces. An interim, secular, government will take office, headed by the Chief Judge of the Constitutional Court. The parliament and the constitution are abolished. This is a huge setback for the Muslim Brotherhood and its Salafist allies. It is potentially a triumph for liberal, secular, Christian and mainstream Muslim Egyptians.

Now what? Egypt still faces a disastrous economic and financial crisis that cannot be put off for more than a few weeks at the most. It faces hunger, unemployment and social unrest. With the best will in the world the new government will have an almost impossible task before it. Some commentators have even suggested that it would be better if Morsi had survived, because then he and the Brotherhood would have been blamed for the collapse. Read more ..

Israel and Palestine

Kerry Stands a Chance with Israelis and Palestinians

July 5th 2013

John Kerry

In his latest round of talks culminating early this week, Secretary of State John Kerry spent close to twenty hours in separate meetings with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas. Afterward, he declared that "real progress" had been made and that the parties could be within grasp of launching final-status negotiations.

Kerry has visited the Middle East five times over the past few months, yet peace-process expectations have been low for each trip due to several factors: Although numerous polls clearly show that Israelis and Palestinians favor a two-state solution, each side has convinced the other that they do not, and that an agreement is therefore impossible at the moment. However, expectations are low during this round of behind the scenes wrangling.  Read more ..

Egypt’s Second Revolution

Why What Happened in Cairo Isn’t a Coup

July 5th 2013

Tahrir square at night

The Obama Administration has stated that the recent events in Egypt were a coup by the military, when this is not the case. What happened in Egypt was not a coup—it was a revolution by the Egyptian people.

In office for only one year, Morsi broke three key promises. The first promise was to restructure the constitution drafting assembly to include all sectors of Egyptian society, which he did not do.

The second broken promise was appointing three Vice Presidents including a Coptic, a woman, and a young revolutionary leader, which again he did not do.

The third broken promise was that he would form a national united government. One week after being in office he appointed a Muslim Brotherhood ally, Counselor Ahmed Mekky as Vice President. After that, he appointed another Muslim Brotherhood ally, Dr. Hisham Kandeel as Prime Minister of the new government. Read more ..

Broken Borders

Boehner's Dilemma

July 4th 2013

john Boehner

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is very likely to pass an immigration reform bill, but its content is unknown.

The Speaker’s desire to act on reform is based on a vocal consensus of the national Republican Party leadership that’s correctly advised him that the GOP cannot be the impediment that blocks reform. Stung by the overwhelming Latino vote for President Obama in 2012, all the Republican leaders grasp that the bill must pass in some form. It is important that Boehner remove the issue from the national stage by passing the bill and ending an irritant that keeps Latinos voting Democratic.

The perfect solution for Republicans is the approach charted by Texas Sen. John Cornyn: border security before immigration reform. Cornyn’s approach demands that the border be sealed before any legalization begins. He articulates conservative fears that amnesty will trigger its own flow of new illegal immigrants into the U.S. unless they are physically barred from entering. We do not need millions more in the purgatory of limbo waiting for Congress to act. Sealing the border needs to come first. Read more ..

Egypt's Second Revolution

After the Egyptian Coup, Uncertainty Reigns in the Muslim Brotherhood

July 4th 2013

Wounded Egyptian Protester

It is unclear what will become of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in the wake of the July 3 ouster of President Mohammed Morsi. In the short term, the world's oldest and largest Islamist movement will continue to denounce the coup and engage in protests which, coupled with the security crackdown on the Brotherhood, will likely result in violence. Eventually, however, the group will try to revive itself by re-assimilating into Egypt's political institutions, though it is in no hurry to attempt to reclaim the presidency.

On July 4, Egyptian security forces continued to hold members of the Muslim Brotherhood's leadership, particularly those affiliated with its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party. In addition to Morsi, who remains in what military authorities are describing as "preventative" detention, many key figures such as supreme guide Mohammed al-Badie; his deputy and the movement's top strategist and financier, Khairat El-Shater; and Freedom and Justice Party chief Saad El-Katatny have been taken into custody -- as have hundreds of others. Read more ..

Israel and Palestine

Kerry Stands a Chance with Israelis and Palestinians

July 3rd 2013

John Kerry

Kerry has visited the Middle East five times over the past few months, yet peace-process expectations have been low for each trip due to several factors:

Although numerous polls clearly show that Israelis and Palestinians favor a two-state solution, each side has convinced the other that they do not, and that an agreement is therefore impossible at the moment. For example, in a just-released joint poll by Hebrew University's Harry Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace and the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, 68 percent of Israelis and 69 percent of Palestinians said that the chances of establishing an independent Palestinian state next to Israel in the next five years are low or nonexistent. Both sides see past diplomatic failures as vindicating their prism of analysis, creating deep skepticism about the prospects for progress.

Netanyahu and Abbas have been hesitant. At a Likud Party meeting this week, Netanyahu declared that he did not want to publicly announce concessions because it would only weaken Israel's bargaining position. On a more basic level, both leaders are risk-averse; neither wants to get out ahead of the public or be branded as quixotic. They are also convinced that any progress would mobilize hardline elements within their own polity to take action against them. Thus far, they have preferred to let sleeping critics lie. Read more ..

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