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The Edge of Terrorism

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb: North African Menace

September 24th 2012

al Qaeda Fighters

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, long the global jihad’s weakest link, is now thriving across North and West Africa. Its exact role in the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 is still unclear. But the perception that it was involved in the revenge killing of an American ambassador is already developed in the jihadist underworld. 

AQIM was created about five years ago from the remnants of an Algerian terrorist group dating back to the 1990s. It started with a big bang, blowing up a United Nations building in Algiers. Then it faded into a small terror gang engaged in kidnapping and extortion in Mali, Niger, and other Saharan states. AQIM had no role in sparking the Arab Spring in Tunisia in early 2011. But it has skillfully exploited the chaotic openings that followed in Libya and Mali.

In northern Mali, AQIM is building a base for orchestrating more such carnage. AQIM has built alliances with other jihadist groups in Mali to take control of an area the size of France or Texas. European intelligence services are already detecting the migration of European Muslim jihadists to training bases in Mali, just as earlier generations of jihadis went to Pakistan and Afghanistan to train with al Qaeda’s core. Read more ..

Jordan on Edge

As Jordan Stumbles, the U.S. Response Is Crucial

September 24th 2012

King Abdullah of Jordan

Yesterday, Jordan's King Abdullah approved a new and restrictive media law only two weeks after implementing -- and quickly canceling -- fuel price increases nationwide. The ill-advised price hike, the widespread protests it sparked, and the latest palace initiative to police the internet all come at a particularly sensitive time for the kingdom. In addition to the refugees and security pressures associated with the Syria crisis, Jordan has been racked by demonstrations since December 2011 due to the slow pace of political reform, endemic corruption, and the anemic economy. While reinstatement of the fuel subsidy may temporarily mollify the restive population, the media law will only add to the growing list of popular grievances, further complicating Abdullah's efforts to preserve stability.

Over the past year and a half, protests have become a ubiquitous feature of political life in Jordan. Unlike in Tunisia and Egypt, where demonstrators demanded an end to unpopular authoritarian regimes, Jordanian protests have largely focused on electoral reform, official accountability, and economic relief, albeit laced with criticism of the monarchy. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Five Myths About the 47 Percent

September 23rd 2012

IRS building

1. Forty-seven percent of Americans don’t pay taxes.

The most pernicious misconception about people who don’t pay federal income taxes is that they don’t pay any taxes. That oft-heard claim ignores all the other taxes Americans encounter in their daily lives. Almost two-thirds of the 47 percent work, for example, and their payroll taxes help finance Social Security and Medicare. Accounting for this, the share of households paying no net federal taxes falls to 28 percent.

And those aren’t the only other taxes they bear. According to economic research, the corporate income tax discourages domestic investment; that depresses wages, so workers are effectively paying some of the corporate tax. More directly, many households pay federal taxes on gasoline, beer and cigarettes. And then there are state and local sales, property and income taxes — all of which are often less progressive than the federal income tax. Putting all these together, a family of three with an income of $30,000 would owe no federal income tax (in fact, they would get money back). But they could easily pay more than $4,500, or 15 percent of their income, in taxes. Read more ..

China Rising

How to Talk to China

September 23rd 2012

Chinese soldier at Tienamen Square

The policy of the Obama administration toward China has been a failure. Secretary Clinton’s recent trip was a reminder of this, because it was filled with friction and achieved very little. Here is an account from the Los Angeles Times: "In a short, frustrating visit to Beijing, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was stood up Wednesday by the future leader of China and delivered a stern lecture on China’s rights in the South China Sea…..During the third stop in her nearly two-week sweep of Asia, Clinton had hoped to meet with Vice President Xi Jinping, who is expected to get the nod next month to succeed Hu Jintao as China’s president. Xi also canceled meetings Wednesday with the Singapore prime minister and Russian officials, claiming a back injury. Nonetheless, the no-show at the session with Clinton was widely interpreted as a snub. Read more ..

The Arab Winter of Rage

Is There Really Democracy in the Middle East?

September 22nd 2012

Bahrain dead protester

As first Tunisia and then Egypt shed long-time dictators, the Obama administration drew parallels between the Arab Spring and the fall of the Berlin Wall. “In terms of moments in time when important democratic and economic transitions begin this is a comparable moment,” a senior White House aide declared on the sidelines of the May 2011 G8 Summit in Deauville, France.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeatedly described US strategy as based on America’s experience at the end of the Cold War. “We have a lot of experience around the world in helping countries that are moving to democracy, most recently after the fall of the Berlin Wall,” she told the Egyptian foreign minister last September.

Annoyed with analysts who suggested that Islamists might hijack the uprisings, Obama directed his aides to discount parallels to Iran and focus instead on comparisons to Eastern European transitions, the “People Power” revolution in the Philippines and the growth of democracy in his boyhood home of Indonesia. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Change of Fools

September 22nd 2012

Armstrong Williams Headshot

It's astounding how quickly things can change over four years. Many people have accused our President of not keeping any of his promises, but he has kept his promise to "fundamentally" change things. The history of this president is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

We no longer have a Triple AAA Credit Rating. That's a historic first. Just last week, the United States of America received another downgrade that the media largely ignored. Egan Jones cut its rating of the United States credit from AA to AA-. Do any Democrats remember what Standard and Poor's actually said when they downgraded us? They emphasized, not taxes on the wealthy, but reduction in spending, as gravely needed. Does the President think that this problem will magically go away? He has done nothing about this, and, sadly, I do not expect him to ever do anything about it.

We have lost respect in the eyes of many nations around the world. Even in comparison to the Bush Administration, which was, rightly or wrongly, despised at home and abroad by so many, the United States' reputation is in tatters. When did George Bush ever have eleven countries rioting outside American embassies?

The average family has lost 25-33% of their wealth. The President, of course, inherited a tough situation, but the recovery, as it turns out, has actually been worse to the average American than the financial crisis. Michael Fletcher of the Washington Post reports that "from June 2009 to June 2012, inflation-adjusted median household income fell 4.8 percent, to $50,964... Incomes have dropped more since the beginning of the recovery than they did during the recession itself, when they declined 2.6 percent." Yes, it's that bad. Read more ..

Religious Tolerance

HR 35 & the Boundaries of Academic Free Speech

September 21st 2012

Anti-Israel Protest at UC Irvine

No sooner had the California State Assembly voted on and passed House Resolution 35 (HR 35) that calls upon California public universities to “increase their efforts to swiftly and unequivocally condemn acts of anti-Semitism” than the University of California Students Association (UCSA), a system-wide student organization with representatives from each campus, hastily passed a resolution denouncing the resolution, contending that it compels educational institutions “to directly suppress legitimate criticism of Israeli policy and Palestine solidarity activism, and stifles robust political debate on public university campuses.”

Scheduled to be voted on the day before the Jewish holidays, and allowing no debate from pro-Israel students or those with opposing views, the UCSA resolution suggested that  “While HR 35 purports to oppose anti-Semitism, much of HR 35 is written to unfairly and falsely smear as ‘anti-Semites’ those who do human rights advocacy focusing on Israel’s illegal occupation, alleging that the UC faculty and staff involved in such work are motivated by anti-Semitism rather than by the political ideals of equality and respect for universal human rights they affirm, ideals UCSA and most California students share.”

Campus radicals who promote the Palestinian cause may purport to be guided by “political ideals of equality and respect for universal human rights,” but it will come as a surprise to no one that they are less than willing to extend those same rights and ideals of equality for Israelis or Jews, and for anyone on North American campuses—Jewish or not—who wishes to articulate his or her own support for the Middle East’s only democracy. Read more ..

The Arab Winter of Rage

Are Radical Imams Going to Redefine Freedom of Speech?

September 20th 2012

Alan Dershowitz

Now there are threats of violence directed against France for the publication of a cartoon depicting the prophet Mohammad in violation of Islamic law.  This is simply the most recent manifestation of a worldwide effort to censor freedom of expression and make it conform to the most radical interpretation of Islamic tradition.  The bounty on the head of Salman Rushdie was recently increased and this distinguished author remains in peril.  Theo Van Gogh was murdered for violating Islamic Law.  And numerous people have been killed as the result of cartoons being published in Denmark and a video shown on YouTube.

I have seen several minutes of the stupid little film that has, arguably, incited so much violence and the deaths of four distinguished public servants, including a United States Ambassador who was uniquely sympathetic to Islam and Arab interests.

There is nothing good that can be said about the low budget film.  It has little redeeming social value and the world would be a better place if it had never been made or shown.  Nevertheless, it would be wrong, and under American law unconstitutional, to censor or punish such despicable expression.  Freedom of speech means freedom for those who you despise, and freedom to express the most despicable views.  It also means that the government cannot pick and choose which expressions to authorize and which to prevent.

There are several exceptions recognized under American law to untrammeled freedom of expression. These include falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater, fighting words and speech that present a clear and present danger of inciting violence. Even if these exceptions were applied to anti-Islamic expressions that would not solve the problem. It is easy to argue that a video such as the one on YouTube could be banned without doing much damage to freedom of expression, but that would only be the tip of the iceberg. The radical Imams who incite the violence would not be satisfied until they could decide what could be seen and heard. Read more ..

The Arab Winter of Rage

How to Send Egypt a Message

September 20th 2012

Cairo embassy protest Sep 2012

The Morsi government is encouraging anti-American unrest; the Obama administration must now send a clear signal back.

The image of a black Al Qaeda flag flying above the United States Embassy in Cairo on Sept. 11 shocked Americans. It should have shaken the Egyptian Government as well. Egypt receives $1.5 billion annually from the U.S., and Washington is about to forgive $1 billion in the ailing state's debt.

But Egypt's government is charting a different course. Rather than denouncing the egregious violation of U.S. sovereignty, Egypt's ruling party, the Muslim Brotherhood, is doubling down. This Friday, the Brotherhood is slated to hold a mass demonstration just two blocks from the U.S. compound in Cairo. In Egypt and the U.S., the attack is widely being attributed to an obscure anti-Islamic movie. But in fact, Al Gamaa Al Islamiyya, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, announced weeks ago that it would protest in front of the U.S. Embassy on 9/11 to demand the release of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind cleric mastermind of the first World Trade Center Bombing in 1993. Read more ..

The Defense Edge

Obama, Romney Playing Same Defense

September 19th 2012

Kitty Hawk

The new turmoil in the Middle East, including the recent killing of our U.S. ambassador in Libya, has raised the profile, and the rhetoric, on foreign policy and national security in the presidential race.

But an examination of two central issues in the race, proper levels of U.S. military spending and the use of military force, suggests a more nuanced and intelligent debate between the two men. And the differences between them are far narrower than the rhetoric suggests:

Defense spending. President Obama wants to cut the size of the U.S. ground forces to nearly where they were just before 9/11. That is one way he will seek to save almost $500 billion over the next decade on defense costs. War costs would also decline as troops gradually leave Afghanistan. Obama strongly opposes further cuts, including the additional $500 billion over a decade that would result from so-called sequestration.

Mitt Romney, in turn, opposes that first $500 billion in 10-year cuts that the president favors (and opposes sequestration, too). He wants to increase the Navy shipbuilding budget to 15 ships a year from Obama's nine and keep ground forces near where they are, about 100,000 more troops than the president forecasts. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Romney Slammed for Telling the Truth--Do Palestinians Really want Peace with Israel?

September 19th 2012

Mitt Romney

There they go again.

In the latest version of "the-liberal-media-tars-a Republican-candidate-to improve-the-electoral-chances-of-Barack-Obama" Mitt Romney has been "outed" as saying (horror of horrors) that the Palestinians aren't really interested in making peace with Israel.

For the record, here's his statement at a May Florida fundraiser, first published by ultra-liberal Mother Jones magazine. Romney stated:

I'm torn by two perspectives in this regard. One is the one which I've had for some time, which is that the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace. And that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish. Now, why do I say that? Some might say well just let the Palestinians have the West Bank and have security and set up a separate nation for the Palestinians. And then come a couple of thorny questions. And I don't have a map here to look at the geography. But the border between Israel and the West Bank is obviously right there, right next to Tel Aviv, which is the financial capital, the industrial capital of Israel. The center of Israel. It's, uh—what? The border would be maybe seven miles from Tel Aviv to what would be the West Bank? Read more ..

The Winter of Arab Rage

How to Send Egypt a Message

September 18th 2012

Cairo burning US embassy

The Morsi government is encouraging anti-American unrest; the Obama administration must now send a clear signal back.

The image of a black Al Qaeda flag flying above the United States Embassy in Cairo on Sept. 11 shocked Americans. It should have shaken the Egyptian Government as well. Egypt receives $1.5 billion annually from the U.S., and Washington is about to forgive $1 billion in the ailing state's debt.

But Egypt's government is charting a different course. Rather than denouncing the egregious violation of U.S. sovereignty, Egypt's ruling party, the Muslim Brotherhood, is doubling down. This Friday, the Brotherhood is slated to hold a mass demonstration just two blocks from the U.S. compound in Cairo.

In Egypt and the U.S., the attack is widely being attributed to an obscure anti-Islamic movie. But in fact, Al Gamaa Al Islamiyya, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, announced weeks ago that it would protest in front of the U.S. Embassy on 9/11 to demand the release of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind cleric mastermind of the first World Trade Center Bombing in 1993. No doubt, the appearance of the video led to a spike in support for the Gamaa demonstration, notably among Salafists and Egypt's infamously drugged-up soccer fans known as "Ultras." Read more ..

The Obama Edge

The Myth of Barack the Liberator

September 18th 2012

Obama Pentagon

The anti-American violence spreading across the Middle East is not, as some suggest, blowback for President Obama supporting the overthrow of friendly dictators — irresponsibly pushing out autocrats who kept a lid on the forces of Islamic radicalism. The current unrest is indeed a result of Obama’s feckless policies in the Middle East — but overthrowing dictators is not one of them.

When tens of thousands of Egyptians poured into Tahrir Square last year to demand an end to dictatorship, the Obama administration stood with the Egyptian regime. Obama’s handpicked envoy, Frank Wisner, declared that Hosni Mubarak “must stay in office” to implement reforms. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the United States announced, “Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.” The hopes of ordinary Egyptians that Obama might stand with them soon gave way to disappointment and anger. Demonstrators began carrying signs that declared “Shame on you Obama!” and showed Mubarak depicted as Obama in his iconic “hope” image — with a caption that read “No You Can’t.” Read more ..

Winter of Arab Rage

Brace Yourself for More, but Panic is Not a Policy

September 18th 2012

Libyan rioters at US consulate Sep 2012 #1

With all the protests and violence in Arab and Muslim countries generated by a despicable and demeaning film about Islam, here is a sobering prediction: There will be more such films and clips, they will be even more provocative, and they will generate even more violent reaction among Arabs and Muslims. And no matter who is behind them, many will see the hands of Israel and the United States. Yet this is not time for panic but for steady and intensive diplomacy.

This is an easy prediction to make. In the era of the information revolution, any 12-year-old can produce a short film and post it online. There is no shortage of racists, bigots or individuals with sinister goals.

And consider this payoff of a relatively cheap product with minor efforts: disruption of regional and global priorities, affecting U.S. relations with Arab and Muslim countries, influencing internal dynamics in the Middle East and possibly even affecting the outcome of U.S. elections. It is too easy and too tempting, even for those with low personal stakes — and especially for those with higher stakes. Read more ..

Broken Education

Mayor Emanuel of Chicago Fights the Good Fight for Education Reform

September 18th 2012

Rahm Emanuel and Barry

The most consequential political fight in the United States took place in Chicago last week. The one-week teachers' strike continues for now, with a tentative contract yet to be approved by union members. But this titanic struggle is as important as the fight against racial segregation in the 1950s and 1960s.

It is time for all Americans, Democrats and Republicans, to stand up and fight for children desperate for good schools.
The beachhead in this war is in Chicago. Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) risked his political neck in a heroic fight to reform the nation’s third largest school system. The political risk is great because of the money the teachers’ union has invested in Democratic politicians. Add to the drama the fact that the nation is weeks from a presidential election. President Obama is another Democrat from Chicago. Emanuel is his former chief of staff. Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, used to be the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools. The Chicago trio has risked alienating the unions by championing national school reform. Read more ..

The Winter of Arab Rage

Libya’s Jihadist Minority

September 17th 2012

Libyan riot at US consulate Sep 2012 #3

“They are armed I am not going to fight a losing battle and kill my men over a demolished shrine,” said Fawzi Abd al-‘Aali, the former Libyan interior minister, before he “resigned” last August. He was referring to the armed Salafi groups that were accused of destroying Sufi shrines. One of the accused groups was the Ansar al-Shariah Brigade, which was quick to support the demolition, but denied any responsibility for it.

Ahmed Jibril, Libya’s deputy ambassador to London, has now accused the Brigade, headed by Muhammed Ali Al-Zahawy, of perpetrating the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, which killed the American ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and three other U.S. personnel, as well as Libyan guards. Others have quickly embraced and promoted Jibril’s allegation. But the picture is more complex. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Palestinian Statehood and Terrorism

September 17th 2012

Hamas Terrorists

As the Palestinian Authority continues to seek recognition by the United Nations as a "state," the world should consider the implications.

If the U.N. now recognizes Palestine as a state without requiring its leaders to negotiate a compromise peace with Israel, it would send a clear message to other groups seeking recognition and statehood: Terrorism will earn you the sympathy of the world and get you your way.

Palestinian terrorism has a decades-long pedigree that far predates Israel's nationhood. In 1929, Haj Amin al Husseini—the grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the official leader of the Palestinian people—ordered his followers to murder hundreds of elderly Jews in Hebron and other cities and towns where Jews had lived for millennia. During World War II, Husseini moved to Berlin where he met with Adolf Hitler and Adolf Eichmann. At Eichmann's trial for war crimes in 1961, it came out that Husseini had personally prevented nearly 1,000 Hungarian-Jewish children from being sent to neutral countries. Instead he insisted that they be sent to Auschwitz, where they died.

In 1948, Palestinians refused to accept the compromise two-state solution proposed by the U.N., and instead they engaged in the Arab states' genocidal war in which 1 percent of Israel's population, including many civilians, were killed.In 1968, a Jordanian-born Palestinian, Sirhan Sirhan, educated to hate anything associated with Jews or Israel, assassinated New York Sen. and presidential candidate Robert Kennedy. Five years later, Palestine Liberation Organization head Yasser Arafat arranged to have three American diplomats kidnapped and offered in exchange for Kennedy's assassin. When the U.S. refused to release Sirhan, Arafat personally ordered the torture and murder of the Americans. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

ObamaCare's Crucial Benefits

September 17th 2012

Obama in front of AMA

Politicians who are promising to repeal ObamaCare won’t find any evidence in the Kaiser Family Foundation’s analysis of health insurance costs that the law has caused premiums to skyrocket, as many of those politicians have contended.

On the contrary, premiums have increased on average only 4 percent over the past year, the lowest rate of increase in years, according to Kaiser’s 2012 Employer Health Benefits Survey, which was released last week. Double-digit premium increases were once the norm, especially during the George W. Bush administration. Premiums increased 10 percent in 2004 and 13 percent in 2003.

So the good news is that premiums increased only 4 percent. The not so good news is that, because of all those past double-digit increases, the average premium for employer-sponsored health coverage has reached a record high of $15,745. And because employers have been shifting more and more of the cost of coverage to workers, employees are now paying, on average, nearly 30 percent of that total, much more than they used to. The hike in worker contributions has far outstripped the overall rise in premiums.    Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Misplaced Blame for the Embassy Attacks

September 16th 2012

Libya protesters

An incendiary video about the prophet Mohammad, Innocence of Muslims, was blamed for the mob attacks on our embassies in Libya and Egypt (and, later, Yemen). In Libya, Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were murdered. The video stirred some passion here in America as well.

Over at MSNBC, a riot of consensus broke out when contributors Mike Barnicle and Donny Deutsch as well as University of Pennsylvania professor Anthea Butler all agreed that the people behind the video should be indicted as accessories to murder. “Good morning,” declared Butler, “How soon is Sam Bacile [the alleged creator of the film] going to be in jail folks? I need him to go now.”

Barnicle set his sights on Terry Jones, the pastor who wanted to burn the Koran a while back and who was allegedly involved in the video as well. “Given this supposed minister’s role in last year’s riots in Afghanistan, where people died, and given his apparent or his alleged role in this film, where . . . at least one American, perhaps the American ambassador, is dead, it might be time for the Department of Justice to start viewing his role as an accessory before or after the fact.” Deutsch helpfully added: “I was thinking the same thing, yeah.” Read more ..

The Economy on Edge

Move the Housing Market Forward: Return FHA to its Traditional Mission

September 16th 2012

Home Foreclosure

Set up in 1934, it insured fully amortizing 20 year term loans combined with a 20 percent down payment.  As a result homebuyers accumulated nearly 30 percent equity after 4 years without relying on inflation.  By 1954 the FHA had insured 2.9 million mortgages, yet had only paid claims on 5,712 properties for a cumulative claims rate of 0.2 percent.  Today the FHA has 7.5 million loans outstanding and pays 12,000 claims per month.  This is not your great-grandmother’s FHA.  

The FHA needs to return to its traditional mission of being a targeted provider of mortgage credit for low- and moderate-income Americans and first-time homebuyers. It performs a disservice to American families and communities by continuing practices that result in a high proportion of families losing their homes. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

America Should Not Be AWOL in the Middle East

September 15th 2012

Barack Obama in Thought

It should not require the murder of an ambassador and three of his American colleagues to inform the Obama administration that there are extremists in the new Middle East (as in the old), and that we have an interest in ensuring they find no purchase in the new Arab democracies of the region. Yet the history of American involvement in the region since the president reluctantly ordered the military into NATO's operations to support anti-Qaddafi rebels has been one of steady retreat.

It is not the job of the United States to reeducate the populace of the Islamic world, nor to rig voting to ensure the election of congenial dictators. It is the job of the United States to promote American values, and to reward those parties and those countries that honor those principles by protecting political and religious freedom, minority rights and free enterprise. The United States remains the most powerful nation in the world, notwithstanding efforts to absent ourselves from the global stage. We have ample tools -- in our diplomats, in our aid dollars, in our moral suasion and, yes, in our military might -- to help affect the course of events. Read more ..

The Emissions Edge

Prohibiting Compliance with the EU Emissions Trading Scheme: Not a Good Idea

September 15th 2012

airplanes shadows

On January 1 this year, the European Union included aviation within its cap-and-trade system (known as ETS), which prices carbon and caps the amount of CO2 that can be emitted annually. According to the legislation that extended the EU ETS to include CO2 emissions from aviation, all planes entering and departing EU airspace must now account for their CO2 emissions over EU airspace, the high seas and third country territories. Applying the EU ETS to both EU and non-EU airlines, however, has led to significant push-back from the U.S. Both U.S. Secretary of State Clinton and U.S. Secretary of Transportation LaHood have stated that they “strongly object on legal and policy grounds” to the application of the EU ETS to U.S. airlines and urged the EU to halt, suspend or delay its application.

Congress has also been actively involved, threatening to make it illegal for U.S. airlines to comply with the EU ETS. Prohibiting compliance with another country’s laws is something the U.S. rarely does – the two most significant cases related to laws prohibiting compliance with the South African apartheid regime and the 1973 Arab boycott of Israel. In both these examples, compliance by U.S. persons would have breached domestic U.S. anti-discrimination laws. The U.S. position could therefore be understood as an effort to prevent U.S. companies complying with the laws of regimes that were, from a domestic view point, not only illegal but also particularly morally repellant. Read more ..

Broken Labor

Chicago Strike Tell Us Answer is School Choice

September 14th 2012

Chicago Teachers

It says something about today's public education reality that the two sides in the teachers' union dispute in Chicago are the union and the mayor.

Allegedly, the point of schools is to educate children. But which side in this dispute has sole interest in children and their parents? The answer, of course, is neither side.

Unions are about the economic interests of the teachers. The mayor is about his budget and the economic interests of the city. No one solely represents the interests of the kids. It's not to say that the union or the mayor has no interest in the quality of education being delivered. But this is just part of their agenda. Do union members have to worry that their jobs will be gone if children don't get the best possible education? No. Does the mayor have to worry that his job will be gone or his career over if children don't get the best possible education? No. Read more ..

The New Egypt

The Proper U.S. Response to the Cairo Attack

September 14th 2012

Cairo burning US embassy

A handful of Republicans pushed Wednesday to cut off aid to Libya and Egypt. Fortunately, most Republicans and Democrats in Congress reject the idea. In Libya, the government is largely secular and pro-American. It is also weak and unable to preserve order against the many forces — from remnants of the Gaddafi era to radical Islamic militants — that challenge its authority. Cutting off support isn’t the answer. If anything, we should be increasing assistance, especially security assistance, to help Libyans make their country safer, for themselves and us.

The bigger and more important challenge is Egypt. The attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo were not carried out by or at the instigation of the elected Egyptian government. As The Post’s David Ignatius rightly points out, many of the protesters who stormed the compound Tuesday oppose the current government. But that government’s failure to protect the embassy, a core international obligation, and President Mohamed Morsi’s failure to condemn the attacks are worrisome. There is also reason to be concerned about the Morsi government’s policies more generally. The record is mixed. Read more ..

The Edge of Poverty

Poverty in the Midst of Abundance: Governance Matters

September 14th 2012

Kenya Poverty

In 1990, almost 600 million people lived on less than $5 a day in resource-rich countries. Today, it is estimated that poverty has increased to about 700 million people. Among this population, close to 300 million live in dire poverty, surviving on $2 a day or less. The majority of the poor in resource-rich countries live in Africa, where 80 percent of citizens in extractive-intensive countries live on under $5 a day, and over 50 percent live on under $2 a day.

In many countries the failure to harness natural resource wealth towards national well-being is in large measure linked to a failure of national governance. Of the hundreds of millions of citizens living on under $2 a day in resource-rich nations, 85 percent live in very poorly governed countries – countries which, according to the updated Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI), rate very poorly in corruption control and other governance dimensions.

The WGI organize and synthesize data reflecting the views and reports of tens of thousands of stakeholders worldwide, including respondents to household and firm surveys and experts from nongovernmental organizations, public sector agencies and providers of commercial business information. The newest WGI dataset being released is based on dozens of different data sources from over 30 organizations around the world, and aggregates the data from hundreds of disaggregated questions. The indicators cover over 200 countries between the mid-1990s and the present, thus also allowing observers to monitor country trends. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Hillary Clinton and American Sensibilities

September 14th 2012

Hillary Clinton

In an effort to protect the delicate sensibilities of Egyptian rioters who invaded the American Embassy and tore down the American flag, Secretary of State Clinton accepted at face value the claim that the rioters were just so outraged and horrified by an anti-Muslim movie that they couldn't control themselves.  While rejecting violence in a pro forma way ("There is never any justification..."), she went on to apologize for her nasty countrymen and to deplore them. "We condemn the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims." Later, on the State Department Twitter feed, "The U.S. deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others." And, "Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation."

As does our Constitutional commitment to free speech, including and especially speech that offends someone.  Americans should have two words for Secretary Clinton: "Piss Christ."  If you can't make yourself say them, try "Skokie." In 1987, American Andres Serranno produced a photograph of a plastic crucifix in a glass of his own urine.  His work was funded in part by the U.S. Government's National Endowment for the Arts. Read more ..

The New Egypt

Can Egypt Be Governed?

September 13th 2012

Mohamed Morsi Speaks at Press Conference

The Obama administration is baffled by the Egyptian government's response to the Sept. 11 attack on the American embassy in Cairo. It took President Mohamed Morsi two days to denounce the assault on the embassy, and even then he placed the blame on a hitherto unnoticed clip posted on YouTube rather than on the attackers. For two days after the flag-burning, Egyptian security was absent while demonstrators threatened the embassy. "A single security vehicle was imaged making an occasional and completely feckless foray through the gathering area, during the early morning of 13 September in Cairo. No Egyptian police or military or other security personnel were present," the Nightwatch letter observed Sept. 13. The Muslim Brotherhood called for mass protests against the Youtube clip, albeit "peaceful" ones.

Morsi's behavior raises questions about Egypt's governability. On the face of it, his actions seem puzzling. Washington has done everything possible to reach out to the Muslim Brotherhood. It called loudly for Hosni Mubarak's resignation when protests erupted in early 2011. It invited Brotherhood representatives to the White House last April, before Egypt's presidential elections. It backed Morsi's August 12 cold coup against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the firing of Gen. Tantawi and the old guard of the Egyptian military, and embraced Tantawi's successor Gen. El-Sisi, a Brotherhood member. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Iran Will Get the Bomb if You Don't Stop it Mr President

September 13th 2012

Iranian missile

So now the crisis in relations between President Obama and the state of Israel has finally blown publicly open. On the very anniversary of 9/11, the day when America learned firsthand a little of what Israel has been living through for more six decades after the enemies of civilisation set out to murder as many people as possible in New York and Washington DC order to destroy the US and the west, Obama has shown his anger at Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu by refusing to meet him when Netanyahu comes to the US at the end of the month to beg for decisive action to prevent a second attempted genocide of the Jews.

The reason for Obama’s ire? Netanyahu made a desperate statement earlier today which sharply -- if obliquely -- called the President to account. The reason for his desperation was that, after Israel had all but said it would refrain from attacking Iran’s nuclear plants if only the President would draw a‘red line’ in negotiations by threatening force if they failed, Obama had refused on the risible grounds that, according to Hillary Clinton, negotiations were ‘ the best approach.’ Read more ..

The Race for Natural Gas

Hydraulic Fracturing: Critical for Energy Production, Jobs, and Economic Growth

September 13th 2012

Fracking gas well

While Americans continue to be disappointed by dismal jobs reports and a high unemployment rate, one of the few recent bright spots in the U.S. economy has been energy production, particularly the shale oil and shale gas revolution. In fact, the Yale Graduates Energy Study Group calculated that in 2010 alone, the consumer surplus (the consumer savings or gain from reductions in price) from shale gas production was worth over $100 billion. The technological one-two punch of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing has created a remarkable energy boom and created hundreds of thousands of jobs in the U.S. The possibility of continuously low natural gas prices is turning the United States into a prime destination for chemical companies and other businesses that rely on abundant amounts of natural gas. While the energy development has been substantially positive, the process of hydraulic fracturing has come under scrutiny over concerns about contamination of drinking water, the use of chemicals, wastewater management, and the potential for causing earthquakes. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Will the Financial Markets be the Perfect Storm for Terrorists?

September 13th 2012

Frantic Wall Street denizen

Successive U.S. administrations’ failure to stop al-Qaida helped facilitate the 9/11 attacks. Targeting the World Trade Center, the symbol of U.S. financial might, bin Laden intended to destroy the U.S. financial markets and its economy. He failed. The markets survived.

However, bin Laden’s and other Islamists’ calls to destroy the U.S. economy, along with rapidly evolving technology, left the financial markets vulnerable. Over the past 11 years, the U.S. failed to prepare for another major war – one that is already under way, yet rarely recognized: financial and economic warfare.

Cyber attacks have been the focus for some time. Between October 2011 and February 2012, more than 500,000 cyber attacks on U.S. government and private industry, including 86 attacks on “critical infrastructure networks,” were detected. However, a July 2012 report by the Bi-Partisan Task Force, headed by Gen. Michael Hayden, concluded that these represented “a small fraction of ‘virtual, network type’ attacks against the U.S.” Read more ..

The New Middle East

Living in the Twilight Zone

September 13th 2012

Cairo embassy protest Sep 2012

What does it feel like to be surrounded by countries intent on wiping you off the face of the map? How do you cope with daily incitement of hate, challenges to your legitimacy, threats of boycotts, slanderous accusations and the attitude of fair weather friends? Imagine how it feels to be an Israeli tourist in a foreign land, knowing that lurking somewhere out there are groups of Islamic terrorists waiting, plotting and planning to target you and your family. What historical memories flash through your mind when you are advised that when walking through the streets of Europe you should not speak Hebrew and wear clothing identifying you as Israeli or Jewish? Do you have any idea what horrendous thoughts resurface when Holocaust survivors hear the air raid sirens sounding for a drill and what nightmares resurface when they are fitted with gas masks and anti chemical kits?

These questions and many more are in the forefront of my mind these days as we dwell in some sort of twilight zone between normality and potential chaos. As Iran races to the nuclear weapons finishing line, unhindered and undeterred by half hearted sanctions, its leaders continue to pour forth venomous poison against the Jewish State. Iran’s surrogates in Gaza, Lebanon and Syria, witnessing the USA Government’s extreme reluctance to take any meaningful action to deal with either the genocidal plans of Iran or the genocidal terror in Syria, are busy making their own threats against Israel, crystal clear. Taking their lead from a US President who would rather pontificate than act, the EU follows suit and instead concentrates its energies on trying to initiate boycotts of products from Judea, Samaria, the Golan and half of Jerusalem. The cynical hypocrisy of Russia and China elicits a collective yawn and the forthcoming UN General Assembly circus gears up for yet another bash Israel festival. Read more ..

The New Middle East

Is the Middle East Better Off Than Two Years Ago?

September 12th 2012

Libyan rioters at US consulate Sep 2012 #2

Our embassies in Libya and Egypt have been ruthlessly stormed--on the 11th anniversary of 9/11, no less. Four Americans, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, are dead, victims of what appears to be not some spontaneous protest but a well-coordinated, pre-meditated assassination by Islamic terrorists. Ambassador Chris Stevens' body was dragged through the streets of Benghazi following the attack--although some reports suggest the men dragging him were taking him to the hospital for help and not partaking in a triumphal repeat of Mogadishu '93 or Fallujah '04. That--and the circumstances surrounding Stevens' death--remain unclear as I write this. What is certain, however, is that the Obama administration's immediate, reflexive response was not to condemn the jihadists who perpetrated these vile acts but to castigate the filmmaker who supposedly incited them and preach about limits on free speech when it comes to Islam. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

High Stakes in Chicago

September 12th 2012

Teachers Strike
Credit: Chicago Teachers Union Local 1

Each year, the Chicago Public Schools system (CPS) spends over $13,000 per student in order to graduate 60 percent of its 400,000 students. In an attempt at reform, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has pushed to increase teacher accountability and extend the system’s school day, which at 5 hours and 45 minutes is currently the shortest of any city in the country. The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has responded with a tantrum and on Monday launched a strike that’s capturing election-season headlines.

The dispute has national import because its outcome will have national implications. The mayor, President Obama’s salty-tongued former chief of staff, is challenging the CTU to accept the same kinds of reforms that the president has championed, and the contretemps has highlighted the tension between teachers’ unions and Democratic reformers.

Unlike the many mayors, school boards, and superintendents who have folded at the first sign of union displeasure, Emanuel has stood tall. Even though this has meant possibly dragging the president into a nasty intraparty battle, Emanuel has sought to do right by Chicago’s students and taxpayers. Good for him. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Syria, Human Rights and the United Nations

September 11th 2012


As the world's leaders head to New York for their annual gathering at the United Nations General Assembly, much of the world's attention will be focused on the bloodletting in Syria and the ongoing stalemate that has prevented the world body from taking collective action. While Lakhdar Brahimi's mission on behalf of the U.N. Security Council and the Arab League to facilitate peace is admirable, he inherits a mandate that utterly failed, and conditions for peace have only gotten worse.

Despite the Assad regime's efforts to block and manipulate information about the conflict, we have reliable information that tells us he will go to the mat to outlast his opponents, both armed and unarmed. From the stream of refugees crossing borders into Turkey and Jordan, brave journalists who are risking their lives on the frontlines, everyday citizens armed with nothing more than a cellphone and a Skype connection, and U.N. monitors deployed to the field, the evidence is clear that civil war has been declared, and civilians are caught on the crossfire. The outcome of that war, it appears, will depend on which side is able to force a settlement that results in either the departure of Assad, or his retention of power for years to come. Hopes are dim, however, that the U.N. Security Council will do much given the continued intransigence of Russia and China and ambivalence of rising democracies like Brazil and India. Read more ..

Islam's War Against Christianity

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood And The Christian Copts

September 11th 2012

Coptic Girl

"Even the Western world realizes that Western civilization is unable to present any healthy values for the guidance of mankind."   Sayid Qutb, Islamist ideologue and Muslim Brother, "Milestones", 1960.

Without fanfare, on 8 September a delegation from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo met with mufti Abdel Rahman al-Barr, a senior member of the Muslim  Brotherhood Guidance Bureau. From an interview with the mufti they sought to ascertain the Ikhwan al-Muslimun's views on minority rights, specifically as they relate to Egypt's Coptic Christians.

According to an Ikhwan account reported in a Cairo media outlet, the U.S. delegation sought clarification of the "rights of Copts in Egypt."  Reportedly, of particular concern was the Coptic community's growing belief that Ikhwan rule would be so calamitous that there are "calls to migrate from the country to escape the Brotherhood."  In response, al-Barr discussed  (apparently in general terms) the rights of Christians and Jews, "and how the Brotherhood will determine these rights [in the aftermath of]  the 25 January  revolution." Read more ..

Remembering 9/11

Years After 9/11, U.S. Bound Cargo Remains Vulnerable to Terrorists

September 11th 2012

Twin towers burning

It's been eleven years since Islamic terrorists attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, yet the agency created to protect the nation from another strike is still asleep at the wheel, failing to adequately screen the enormous amount of cargo that enters the country each day, according to a government report. "Cargo containers that are part of the global supply chain — the flow of goods from manufacturers to retailers — are vulnerable to threats from terrorists [including weapons of mass destruction]," state the government analysts who assembled data for a congressional report.

It may seem unbelievable to most Americans that eleven years after the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, the vast majority of cargo containers entering the U.S. go unchecked. Incredibly, it's true and the alarming details are outlined in the GAO report published by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress. Unfortunately, no one in the Obama administration has addressed the GAO recommendations. Read more ..

Obama and Israel

Relying on U.S. Intelligence

September 10th 2012

Barack Obama Israel speech

Jerusalem and the resettlement of Palestinian refugees disappeared from the Democratic Party platform; language that characterized Hamas as unacceptable to the United States -- not only to Israel -- disappeared. Jerusalem is back. But the crucial part of the Democratic Party Platform for Israel is related only tangentially to Israel. It is about Iran:

(The) window for diplomacy will not remain open indefinitely and that all options -- including military force -- remain on the table. But we have an obligation to use the time and space that exists now to put increasing pressure on the Iranian regime...

The crucial questions are:
• How much time and how much space exist before the window slams on our fingers?
• What is the U.S. track record on recognizing, assessing and timing an emerging threat?
•  What is the consequence to us and to others if we miss?

The answers are not comforting. There were important intelligence misses -- Pearl Harbor, the 9-11 attack, Saddam's WMD, the outbreak of the Korean War, the third stage of North Korea's rocket capability, and the Russian atomic bomb among them. We knew about India's nuclear program, yet were surprised by the 1998 Indian nuclear weapons test, followed by a surprise Pakistani test emerging from a program we had been watching. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

We Can and Must Spend More on Military

September 10th 2012

Stennis B

With his acceptance speech this evening, President Obama has affirmed that this is a “choice” election, not a referendum on whether things are better or worse for Americans than they were for years ago, but whether we’ll be better off four years from now.

For most voters, that’s a question about the economy, or domestic affairs more broadly.  But it’s also a profound question about what role the United States will play in the world and, in particular, whether we will retain sufficient military power to sustain what remains – by any historical standard – a remarkably peaceful, prosperous and free world. Conventional wisdom in Washington has it that we are now in an “Age of Austerity” – at least when it comes to defense budgets – as though it were a geological fact rather than a political choice.

To be sure, the federal government’s finances are a mess.  But what’s destroying the balance sheet is the growth of entitlements and other forms of “mandatory” spending, not military spending.  The facts are that the Pentagon consumes about 20 percent of federal spending and less than 5 percent of gross domestic product; mandatory spending is about 60 percent of federal spending and getting close to 15 percent of GDP.  Thanks to slow economic growth and us aging Baby Boomers, those pie-slices are getting ever bigger.  The current defense budget debate is an example of looking through the wrong end of the telescope. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

A Stubborn Terror

September 10th 2012

al Qaeda Fighters

Eleven years after 9/11, al Qaeda is fighting back. Despite a focused and concerted American-led global effort—despite the blows inflicted on it by drones, SEALS, and spies—the terror group is thriving in the Arab world, thanks to the revolutions that swept across it in the last 18 months. And the group remains intent on striking inside America and Europe.

The al Qaeda core in Pakistan has suffered the most from the vigorous blows orchestrated by the Obama administration. The loss of Osama bin Laden eliminated its most charismatic leader, and the drones have killed many of his most able lieutenants. But even with all these blows, bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is still orchestrating a global terror network and communicating with its followers. Most importantly, al Qaeda’s allies in Pakistan, the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba, which attacked Mumbai in 2008, are under no pressure. They continue to enjoy the patronage of the Pakistani intelligence services. Lashkar-e-Taiba has a global network with cells in America, England, and the Persian Gulf. Just this summer, the Saudis arrested a key Lashkar operator planning a new mass-casualty attack and extradited him to India. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Former Actress and Michigan Governor Granholm's Masterpiece Performance

September 10th 2012

Jennifer Granholm
Jennifer Granholm at DNC.

Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm never met a stage she didn’t like. But she might have finally landed on one that got the best of her.

In a wild and rambling speech Thursday night at the Democratic National Convention, Granholm winked and swayed and waved her way through a series of statements that excited an audience of loyalists but was short on facts.

We can forgive DNC organizers for introducing her as the “governor of Michigan” and even bypass the Canadian and former governor’s amnesia about her lineage when she claimed she was “from the great state of Michigan.” Those are just nuances built in to a speech to help establish some connection with the people in the cheap seats. Read more ..

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