In her latest editorial, Jerusalem Post pundit Caroline Glick argues the U.S. has failed to identify strategic interests in Egypt— and questions what the next move will be if the Muslim Brotherhood becomes "the power behind the throne of the next regime." Here's an excerpt:According to a Pew opinion survey of Egyptians from June 2010, 59 percent said they back Islamists. Only 27% said they back modernizers. Half of Egyptians support Hamas. Thirty percent support Hizbullah and 20% support al Qaida. Moreover, 95% of them would welcome Islamic influence over their politics. When this preference is translated into actual government policy, it is clear that the Islam they support is the al Qaida Salafist version.
Eighty two percent of Egyptians support executing adulterers by stoning, 77% support whipping and cutting the hands off thieves. 84% support executing any Muslim who changes his religion.
When given the opportunity, the crowds on the street are not shy about showing what motivates them. They attack Mubarak and his new Vice President Omar Suleiman as American puppets and Zionist agents. The US, protesters told CNN’s Nick Robertson, is controlled by Israel. They hate and want to destroy Israel. That is why they hate Mubarak and Suleiman.
WHAT ALL of this makes clear is that if the regime falls, the successor regime will not be a liberal democracy. Mubarak’s military authoritarianism will be replaced by Islamic totalitarianism. The US’s greatest Arab ally will become its greatest enemy. Israel’s peace partner will again become its gravest foe....
Read the full editorial here.
January 31, 2011
January 25, 2011
Unlike Kevin McCullough who didn't care for the president's reference to Sputnik in the State of the Union, Joe Peyronnin, NYU journalism professor, appreciated the president's call for national innovation and development.
Writing for The Huffington Post, Peyronnin feels the president issued important challenges relating to clean energy and innovation. Here's an excerpt:President Barack Obama delivered an uplifting and hopeful State of the Union address to the nation that was long on innovation, education and infrastructure. The atmosphere seemed to reflect the mood in America and on Capitol Hill since the Tucson shootings.
In a bipartisan gesture, the president congratulated the new members of the 112th Congress, and newly elected House Speaker John Boehner. He then noted the Chamber's empty chair, "we pray for our friend Gabby Giffords." The members responded with a standing ovation.
The president said that "contentious debates" are good in a "robust Democracy." However the president's tone throughout was conversational and steady, rather than pointed. This was not the eloquent speech that the president is capable of delivering. Instead, he thoughtfully directed his remarks toward the future rather than focus on the past. "What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together," the president said referring to the evening's mixed seating arrangement, "but whether we can work together tomorrow."
His theme was, "We need to out innovate, out educate and out build the rest of the world." This line was welcomed with a standing ovation. Then the president followed with, "This is our Sputnik moment." Hopefully most of the 70 per cent of Americans not yet born when the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik satellite understood the message....
Read it all here.
What are your thoughts on President Obama's State of the Union?
Kevin McCullough, nationally syndicated host of "The Kevin McCullough Show," reviewed the president's State of the Union for Fox News. Here's what he came up with:Compared to his State of the Union speech a year ago, President Obama seemed almost humble, polite, somewhat bipartisan and he in stealth fashion switched some of his positions nearly 180 degrees. He should also be congratulated on not insulting the visiting members of the Supreme Court. But that's a pretty low bar all the way around when you consider it. And honestly, what else could he do?
What you saw was a presidential mea culpa, at least as strong of one as you will get from the current administration, and that wasn't all bad.
His best moment came early on: "What comes of this moment is up to us. What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow."
The devil will be in the details on most of what the president had to say tonight, but there is no denying the need for Americans to work together. What many may feel however is that we will need to work against the inclination to spend more.
His most hypocritical: "Thanks to the tax cuts we passed, Americans’ paychecks are a little bigger today."
These were tax cuts he opposed up until the very final moment when it became clear he had no real choice but to pass, largely because of an informed electorate. But the truth was he had desired to eliminate those cuts since his days on the campaign trail. His most sincere: "The world has changed."
As was evidenced in large measure by the weakened tone and voice of the chief executive.
His most patriotic: "What’s more, we are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea – the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny."
President Obama has struggled in past speeches with the ability to pronounce overtly patriotic rhetoric, but this line, one of the best of the speech genuinely summarizes the goals of the founders and would have resonated with the likes of past Presidents Reagan, Kennedy. Even Bush.
His most honest: "We need to take responsibility for our deficit, and reform our government."
At least he's now on the record. He realizes the deficit is voters' number one anxiety and he will bear great responsibility if he fails to act.
His most ridiculous: "This is our generation’s Sputnik moment."
This analogy was bad from the start. "Sputnik" was the failed first effort of the Soviets. Americans should not, and will not want a 'Sputnik moment'."
Read it all here.
Earlier today a White House official said President Barack Obama will propose a five-year freeze in non-security, discretionary spending during his State of the Union address. Much of the blogosphere and comment boards are already buzzing with speculation that the president's chief concern, the economy, will mean adopting policy that cuts funds from programs which benefit many Americans. Some think the president may "pivot to business" to create more jobs. Peter S. Goodman, for The Huffington Post, believes the president's proposal is nonsense. Here's an excerpt:
The official says the proposal will be part of the president's plans to reduce the deficit that he will outline in Tuesday's primetime address.
The word of the moment is "pivot." As in President Obama, when he addresses the nation tonight to fill us in on how things are going, will continue his supposed pivot toward business and job creation....
Read it all here.
Andrea Tantaros, conservative commentator and Fox News contributor, argues President Obama is far removed from centrist politics despite the expected tone of his State of the Union Tuesday evening. Here's an excerpt from Tantaros' Fox News column:If Obama’s inaugural address was any indication, expect a lofty oration that’s thin on details and heavy on the soaring rhetoric that helped propel the president into office. But don’t believe the spin that he’s moved to the middle. To win re-election, President Obama will, in true chameleon-like fashion, return to the man we met on the 2008 campaign trail, but only on the outside.Read it all here
We’ll hear him talk about the deficit and how we need to be more responsible with our spending. But listen closely, as he’s expected to discuss more spending disguised as education and infrastructure investment. First, the trillion dollar stimulus was intended to improve our infrastructure. That is, until the president admitted there is no such thing a "shovel ready" project. When it comes to education, bringing the cost of tuition down would be a more seductive theme, but in true liberal fashion, more spending is at the core of the president’s mission.
Obama will lecture us about jobs and how he is focused on creating employment opportunities, but this is the same promise he made in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Still our unemployment rate hovers above nine percent after two years of focusing on a largely unpopular health care push.
When Obama talks about jobs, he will do it while picking winners and losers. He’s in favor of green jobs, but won’t reduce the burden on business small or large. If he really were moving to the middle he’d endorse cutting corporate taxes instead of simply saying he'd look at it, and repeal the crushing taxes in the health care bill....
January 23, 2011
As expected, a major focus of President Obama's State of the Union will address his plans for job creation, deficit plans and health care.
An advance look at the president's focus for Tuesday's speech to Congress was released over the weekend to Democratic organizers.
Here's more from Jonathan Weisman for The Wall Street Journal:
In a videotaped message emailed to Democratic organizers, Mr. Obama laid out the main themes of his address, which will be delivered to a Republican-controlled House and a Democratic Senate struggling for comity. He said he would focus mainly on national competitiveness, economic growth and job creation.
Mr. Obama will also talk up what he will call "responsible" deficit reduction, according to a transcript of the video address to volunteers for Organizing for America, his grass-roots political organization. Republicans have said deep and immediate deficit reduction needed to shore up the nation's finances and foster economic growth....
Read it all here.
The GOP will be watching the president's address carefully, especially in relation to health care. Last week the House approved a measure to repeal Obama's health reform.
Charles Krauthammer had this message for the president in his Washington Post article Friday:
Suppose someone - say, the president of United States - proposed the following: We are drowning in debt. More than $14 trillion right now. I've got a great idea for deficit reduction. It will yield a savings of $230 billion over the next 10 years: We increase spending by $540 billion while we increase taxes by $770 billion.
He'd be laughed out of town. And yet, this is precisely what the Democrats are claiming as a virtue of Obamacare. During the debate over Republican attempts to repeal it, one of the Democrats' major talking points has been that Obamacare reduces the deficit - and therefore repeal raises it - by $230 billion. Why, the Congressional Budget Office says exactly that....
Read it all here.
Politics Daily's Walter Schapiro, who served as a speech writer to former president Jimmy Carter, speculates that common ground with Republicans will be one major theme of Tuesday's address. But Schapiro wonders if Obama will be able to rise above "buzz words and hackneyed phrases."A single White House speechwriter may have full rein in composing an inaugural address that strives for eloquence, or in crafting a presidential sermonette marking a national tragedy such as the Challenger disaster or the Tucson shootings. But a State of the Union inevitably is a bureaucratic document thematically marred by speechwriting by committee. Cabinet agencies pleading for a few sentences (marking, say, the recent passage of the food safety legislation) combined with the political necessity of pleasing constituency groups (prediction: Barack Obama will include a shout-out for immigration reform) help produce theme-less puddings of presidential prose.
As a former presidential speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, I am certain what the Obama wordsmiths first did to prepare for this year's address. They immediately went back and studied all the prior presidential State of the Unions that came on the heels of stunning rebukes at the polls....
Read it all here.
January 20, 2011
Yesterday, in symbolic move, the House approved a measure to repeal President Obama's health care reform initiative.
But some are wondering if the repeal vote even matters.
The measure is unlikely to win the necessary 60 votes in the Senate, and, even if it by some off chance it does, such a bill would very likely be vetoed by President Obama.
Still, with more than half of states suing over healthcare reform, will reform be overturned? 28 states are now opposed to the new health reform law, with Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Ohio, Wisconsin and Wyoming joining the Florida lawsuit that challenges the Affordable Care Act over its constitutionality.
Corey Boles for The Wall Street Journal writes that Republicans today began working on their own version of health care reform.
A day after they voted to repeal the Democratic health-care law, House Republicans began work on their version of a health-care overhaul, with top lawmakers offering early details of what GOP-led legislation could look like.
Chairmen of four of the most powerful House committees said Thursday they would each start working on aspects of health-care legislation that falls under their jurisdiction, although they provided little guidance for when legislation could come to the House floor.
Rep. John Kline (R. Minn.), the chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, said Republicans wouldn't be held to any "artificial deadlines" on the legislative effort.
Lawmakers said there was unlikely to be a single, comprehensive approach, as had been followed over the last two years by Democrats. Rather, there would be a series of smaller bills targeting specific areas of health care that Republicans want to overhaul....
Read the full report here.
But some say Republican opposition to President Obama's health care form is a misguided ploy.
Writing for The Huffington Post, Bob Cesca chastises Republicans for "symbolic nonsense" and argues that health care reform would actually lower the nation's deficit.
Considering that many of us on the progressive side of the political divide supported the health care law in part because it actually reduces the deficit, and considering that many of us on the progressive side of the political divide supported the stimulus and, within it, the largest middle class tax cut in American history, I'm getting a strong idea as to who is more interested in fiscal discipline and who isn't.
With this meaningless vote, not only have the Republicans proved themselves to be entirely disinterested in reducing the deficit, but they've also reinforced their obsession with bumper sticker slogans, self-contradictions and utterly nonsensical political gestures.
Here are two more fantastic examples of how Republicans seriously dislike health care reform, socialized medicine and "government-run" healthcare -- that is, until they actually need it....
Read the full article here.
Should health care reform be repealed? Why or why not?
January 16, 2011
For the first time since 1985, an Arab leader has been ousted due to public unrest. Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was president of Tunisia for 23 years, fled from the country on Friday.
Tunisia's unemployment level, estimated at 13.1 percent for 2011 despite economic growth, along with soaring food prices, escalated condemnation of government corruption.
Within a span of 24 hours, Tunisia had three presidents. Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi initially appointed himself as interim president, but on Saturday, Foued Mebazaa, former speaker of parliament, was officially sworn in as the president of the moment. It remains to be seen whether the North African nation will favor democracy in 60 days when elections are expected to be held. As riots and looting continue despite Ben Ali's departure, it's also unclear if Tunisia will be able to ward off anarchy.
But Michael J. Totten, writing for The New York Post, believes Tunisia has a real chance at democracy:
The regime may well survive with a different man at the helm. That’s how things stand today. Foued Mebazaa, Ben Ali’s former speaker of parliament, is in charge at the moment. A different secular police state altogether might come to power. A reactionary Islamist dictatorship is always a possibility after a Muslim country’s government falls. And maybe — maybe — a democratic system of sorts might emerge.
Unlike in war-torn Afghanistan or fanatical Saudi Arabia, Tunisian democracy is a real possibility. It’s a bit unlikely as it’s only one possible option of many, but it could happen. Mebazaa himself is now promising, perhaps even sincerely, “a better political life which will include democracy, plurality and active participation for all the children of Tunis.”
I’ve spent time in more than a dozen Muslim countries, eight of them Arab, and Tunisia is — or at least was before this month when things fell apart — one of the most advanced and stable. The majority of its citizens belong to a well-educated middle class, the infrastructure seems no worse than Europe’s, and a high percentage of women in the cities have discarded the veil and the headscarf and dress like Europeans. The latter may sound like a small thing, but in a Muslim country, it visually indicates how much women’s rights have advanced. The overwhelming majority live near the coast in cosmopolitan cities that have traded and been in cultural contact with Europeans for millennia. It’s not a Western country, but it fully belongs to the Mediterranean region and is oriented more toward the West than most Arab countries....
Read it all here.
January 13, 2011
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin continues to monopolize much of the media's attention in the wake of Saturday's shooting spree which targeted U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who suffered a critical head injury, and left six dead at a "Congress On Your Corner" event.
In a video statement, Palin argues the political left's response to the Arizona shooting has unfairly targeted conservatives, likening the response to "blood libel." Her comments, made a few hours prior to President Barack Obama's address in Tucson, immediately came under fire, prompting pundits to argue her timing was inappropriate.
The National Review's Matthew Cooper, however, argues Palin's remarks likening criticism from her opponents to blood libel were a deliberate attempt to rile Evangelical Christians. Here's an excerpt:
Some commentators speculated that Palin did not understand the import of what she was saying, an insensitivity magnified by the fact that Giffords is Jewish. "Perhaps Sarah Palin honestly does not know what a blood libel is or does not know of its horrific history," National Jewish Democratic Council CEO David Harris said in a statement. But, as is often the case, Palin is likely being underestimated and, perhaps, misunderstood. It's highly unlikely that she threw an incendiary term out there without knowing what it means, and it's even less likely she did so in an effort to promote anti-Semitism. Here' s another theory of the case: The former Alaska governor was likely trying to send a signal to her evangelical Christian supporters who are, in fact, deeply pro-Israel (although many Jews are wary of their support for the Zionist state, seeing them as more interested in the Rapture than a healthy Jewish nation). Palin was likely aligning herself with pro-Israel evangelicals by identifying with Jews, not by insulting them, although that was surely the effect given the widespread bristling at her remarks.
Read the full article here.
But Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, often referred to as America's rabbi, says that Palin's use of the term is acceptable. In The Wall Street Journal, Boteach argues the former governor has unfairly been criticized following the attack on Giffords. Here's an excerpt:
Despite the strong association of the term with collective Jewish guilt and concomitant slaughter, Sarah Palin has every right to use it. The expression may be used whenever an amorphous mass is collectively accused of being murderers or accessories to murder. The abominable element of the blood libel is not that it was used to accuse Jews, but that it was used to accuse innocent Jews—their innocence, rather than their Jewishness, being the operative point. Had the Jews been guilty of any of these heinous acts, the charge would not have been a libel.
Read the full article here.
What do you think of Palin's use of the term "blood libel" in her response to the Tucson shooting?
January 11, 2011
Read it all here.
Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is fighting for her life after a gruesome shooting Saturday morning that claimed at least five, including a child, and wounded several others.
A shooter allegedly approached a gathering at a Safeway Market with a semi-automatic handgun where Giffords was hosting a “Congress on Your Corner” event.
A 22-year-old male suspect, identified as Jared Lee Loughner, is in custody.
The Internet trail left by the alleged shooter provides insight, albeit minimal, into the mind of a madman. Loughner’s YouTube channel is filled with anti-government and anti-religion ramblings in which he attacks U.S. currency and belief in God. On the YouTube channel, Loughner lists “Mein Kampf” and “The Communist Manifesto” among his favorite books.
In one of many paranoid rants on YouTube, the alleged shooter says:
"I know who’s listening: Government Officials, and the People. Nearly all the people, who don’t know this accurate information of a new currency, aren’t aware of mind control and brainwash methods. If I have my civil rights, then this message wouldn’t have happen."
In yet another video, he says:
“Every United States Military recruit at MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) in Phoenix is receiving one mini bible before the tests. Jared Loughner is a United States Military recruit at MEPS in Phoenix. Therefore, Jared Loughner is receiving one mini bible before the tests.... I didn’t write a belief on my Army application, and the recruiter wrote on the application: None."
However, the U.S. Army released a statement which said Loughner never served in the military. According to the Army, the suspect attempted to enlist but was rejected for service. Due to the Privacy Act, the Army said it would not discuss why Loughner was rejected.
- Around The Web: Tucson Shooting Used To Score Political Points?
- Around The Web: Arizona Shooting Influenced By Toxic Political Rhetoric
January 7, 2011
Read it all here.
While many teachers complain about ill behavior of students, often linked to racial and ethnic tensions, one teacher in the San Fernando Valley has consistently proven to be a positive force in the classroom.
A little over two decades ago, Ulysses S. Grant High School was regarded as an excellent public institution. Since the 1990s the school’s reputation has drastically changed, largely due to ethnic tensions between Armenian and Hispanic students. These tensions have often resulted in gang violence or riots that are, invariably, picked up by local news stations.
In March 2005, one of the biggest fights on campus erupted into a full-blown riot involving over 200 students. In 2008, an Armenian remembrance event turned nasty when tensions again erupted due to a squabble between a couple of students of Armenian and Hispanic ethnic backgrounds, putting the school in “lockdown” mode.
Alumni from the school say they remember such ethnic tensions between Armenians and Hispanics existing in the early 90s. One of the first incidents of violence culminated in two stabbings and a shooting just outside the campus’ gates at the start of the academic year in 1994.
Peer mediation has slightly alleviated the situation, helping to connect fragmented communities at Grant High School. Yet much of the understanding and acceptance between students usually begins in the classroom.
“I don’t have a problem with behavior, I don’t know if it’s my personality,” said Barbara Novinger, an instructor at the school who has been at the campus since 1986.
Novinger remarked that a disconnect between students and teachers exists, but said it is the teacher’s job to reach out to their students.
With large class sizes and with some teachers at Grant having over 50 students in a classroom during one class period, the educational system is often likened to a machine in which teachers attempt to effectively lecture rowdy students and prepare them for standardized exams.
“It’s like a factory, you’re moving people through. I try to humanize [teaching] as best as I can,” explained Novinger.
As some students confessed, it’s much easier for the teachers to pop a film into the VCR than figure out how to control a room filled with resentful teenagers. But Novinger, who is among the most beloved and recognized teachers by her former students, has no problem controlling either Advanced Placement or ESL classes.
Her secret? Empathy.
January 6, 2011
At least 25 were killed and more than 90 injured when a car bomb went off in front of the Coptic Orthodox Church of the Two Saints in Alexandria during a New Year's Eve Mass. Eyewitnesses said some radical Muslims, apparently in support of the attack, started stepping on body parts covered with newspapers. Other witnesses said antagonists chanted "Allah Akbar" while bodies were moved inside the church. A sticker with the words "the rest is coming" was featured on the back of the car filled with explosives, according to victims.
The Assyrian International News Agency reports the Coptic community in Egypt is protesting and calling for more protection in the wake of the attack.
Protesters have also clashed with police in the aftermath of the terror attack.
Some analysts, such as John Adams, lament the lack of attention to both the historical and religious connection Coptic Christians maintain to Egypt. Adams argues that descriptions about Coptic Christianity are missing from most news reports along with information about the oppression of Egypt's Coptic minority, a religious minority encompassing roughly 10 percent of Egypt's 82 million population.