Saturday, September 29, 2012
by Arnold Ahlert
On May 7th, it was revealed that the Obama administration spent $8.35 billion on a “demonstration project” designed to postpone the vast majority of Obamacare’s Medicare Advantage cuts until after the election. On July 31st, it was revealed that the Labor Department warned defense contractors against notifying workers of impending layoffs before the election as well, despite the fact that it would require violating the law to do so. On September 21, it was revealed that a report on the Greek bailout will also be postponed until after the U.S. election. On September 13th, Fed Chief Ben Bernanke announced that he will be pursuing a third round of Quantitative Easing (QE3), once again under the auspices of “stimulating” the economy. The over-arching theme here is clear: anything that constitutes an “inconvenient reality” for this president, especially with respect to economics, will be delayed until after the election.
Thus, the president can continue to campaign on the “heartless” cuts a Romney administration will administer to healthcare in general, and seniors’ healthcare in particular, even as those same seniors remain oblivious to the reality that $7.4 billion will be cut from the Medicare Advantage program in 2013. As a result, enrollees will lose an average of $515 in benefits. Americans remain equally oblivious to the reality that family health insurance premiums have gone up by an average $2,730, despite a 2008 promise Obama made to lower premiums by $2500 by the end of his first term.
With respect to layoffs of employees who work in the defense industry, the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act is quite clear: employers are required to give employees 60 days notice before mass layoffs take place. As a result of the failure of the congressional super-committee to reach a budget deal during the debt ceiling negotiations last August, automatic cuts in defense spending, aka sequestration, are scheduled to kick in on January 2nd. If the WARN Act were enforced, thousands of defense employees would receive their layoff notices on November 3rd–three days before the election.
Enter the Labor Department, which released new “guidelines” on July 30th, in which the rationale for delaying the notices is the idea that “[A]lthough it is currently known that sequestration may occur, it is also known that efforts are being made to avoid sequestration. Thus even the occurrence of sequestration is not necessary foreseeable.” As a result it “would be inappropriate” to notify the affected workers. That would be the same Department of Labor which previously concluded it had “no administrative or enforcement responsibility under [the WARN Act]” and “cannot provide specific advice or guidance with respect to individual situations.” Apparently when there’s an election at stake, anything is possible, even if the rule of law is tossed aside in the process.
With respect to Greece and the rest of the European Union, keeping the welfare state scheme from imploding is a task becoming more daunting with each passing day. The Daily Mail reveals that Greece’s debt is double what that nation had previously claimed, standing at a staggering $25 billion. Greece denied the report, and the resulting disagreement had the desired effect: despite the European Commission wanting a final decision on a Greek bailout to take place at the next EU summit on October 18th and 19th, Germany insists that reliable figures needed to determine the next move won’t be available “until November.” Undoubtedly that means November 7th at the earliest.
Yet Greece is not the only EU nation that could upset the economic apple cart. Spain is on the verge of needing a bailout of its own, even as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy continues to insist that austerity programs contained in that country’s 2013 budget will be sufficient to weather the storm. What is being downplayed is the inconvenient reality that Spain’s 17 individual regions are not only awash in debt of their own, but that Catalonia, the nation’s richest region, wants to secede. Ironically, their reason for doing so mirrors the reason for current crisis: the wealthier EU nations (read: Germany) are reaching the point of exhaustion with respect to bailing out their profligate neighbors, despite the reality that the European Union will disintegrate without such bailouts.
That such bailouts are mathematically unsustainable in the long run? As long as the chaos, including violent strikes and riots taking place in both Greece and Spain can be contained until after November 6th, all is well. Unfortunately for Obama, an unnamed EU official revealed the subterfuge. “The Obama administration doesn’t want anything on a macroeconomic scale that is going to rock the global economy before November 6,” he said. “As far as European leaders are concerned, they don’t want Romney, so they’re probably willing to do anything to help Obama’s chances.”
So it is with respect to the most pernicious effort to delay economic reality, namely the third round of Quantitative Easing (QE3) engineered by Fed Chief Ben Bernanke. If the legions of Americans with little grasp of economic fundamentals (courtesy of the educational decline of our public schools) had even the faintest idea of what is really occurring here, Barack Obama wouldn’t stand a chance of being re-elected. In short, the Fed is now financing the government’s entire deficit by printing more money. This currency debasement–as in literally pushing the American dollar itself towards worthlessness–is the primary driver of higher prices Americans are experiencing, especially with respect to food and fuel. Yet thankfully for Obama, most Americans remain utterly oblivious to the distinction between rising prices and a falling dollar. Thus they can be demagogued into believing, for example, that higher gas prices are the result of “corporate greed” as opposed to the historic malfeasance being perpetrated by the Federal Reserve.
Yet while reality can be postponed, it cannot be denied. Even now, the occasional “brown shoot” rears its ugly head. Once again, economic growth estimates for the last quarter were revised downward, from the 1.7 percent originally reported, to 1.3 percent. Such numbers stand in stark contrast to the president’s promise of 3.2 percent growth in 2010, 4.0 percent in 2011, 4.6 percent in 2012. Even worse, durable goods orders plummeted 13.2 percent, representing the largest drop since January 2009. The growth numbers for July were revised downward as well, from 4.1 percent to 3.3 percent. And in a stunning development that portends where this nation is likely headed, 55 percent of business owners and manufacturers revealed they would not have stared their businesses in today’s economy. Sixty-nine percent of them cited President Obama’s executive branch and regulatory policies as the chief culprits for that reticence.
That’s today’s economy. Virtually every economic indicator shows that tomorrow’s economy–the one Americans will be faced with after the presidential election–will be far worse. Yet as long as it tanks after the election, Barack Obama can continue to peddle his economic, class-warfare snake oil to a public largely unaware how close to economic disaster America truly is. For an administration that can lie unabashedly about the terrorist execution of four Americans in Libya–even as a corrupt mainstream media take each “revision” in stride–keeping the true nature of the economy largely under wraps is a piece of cake.
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by Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presents diagram depicting Israel's red line regarding Iranian nuclear progress during address at the General Assembly on Thursday.
|Photo credit: AFP
U.S. officials reiterated Thursday the Obama administration's disagreement with Israel over the need to draw red lines for Iran to stop its nuclear program, just hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu implored world leaders at the U.N. to prevent Iran from reaching the final stage of uranium enrichment.
Amid still-simmering tensions between Washington and Jerusalem, U.S. officials underscored Netanyahu's non-confrontational tone toward U.S. President Barack Obama, and his expression of gratitude for the president's warning to Tehran on Tuesday. But the officials privately made clear that Washington remains opposed to Netanyahu's push for Obama to set a red line that Tehran must not cross if it is to avoid military action.
The White House also released a statement Thursday highlighting the shared interest Israel and the U.S. have in denying Iran a nuclear weapon and their close consultations on the matter. But the White House stopped short of saying Obama would give any ground on his resistance to setting a red line on Iran's nuclear program.
"As the prime minister said, the United States and Israel share the goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon," National Security Council spokesperson Tommy Vietor said. "The president made that clear to the world in his United Nations General Assembly speech this week. We will continue our close consultation and cooperation toward achieving that goal."
Earlier Thursday, in his speech to world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly, Netanyahu once again called on the international community to stop Iran's nuclear program before it becomes too late. Netanyahu held up a diagram of a nuclear bomb showing the uranium enrichment thresholds that Iran is allegedly trying to cross. "Now they are well into the second stage. By next spring, at most by next summer at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage," Netanyahu warned. "From there, it's only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb." The Israeli premier proceeded to draw a red line on the diagram marking the final stage, where Iran would reach 90 percent enrichment, saying Iran must not be allow to reach that level. Experts believe that Iran would have enough uranium at that point to quickly produce an atomic bomb.
Obama has not set an ultimatum nor a clear red line against Iran, despite public urging from Netanyahu over the past several weeks which has aggravated strains between the two leaders. Obama, seeking re-election on Nov. 6, opted not to meet Netanyahu on the latter's U.S. visit, which was widely seen in Israel as a snub. But the White House said the two leaders would speak by phone, likely on Friday. Obama was on Air Force One, returning from a campaign rally in Virginia, at the time of Netanyahu's U.N. appearance, and a White House aide said the president did not have a chance to watch the speech.
By referring to a spring or summer 2013 time frame for Iran to complete the next stage of uranium enrichment, the Israeli leader also seemed to dispel, at least for now, fears that Israel might strike Iran before the U.S. presidential election, now 40 days away. Netanyahu's speech sounded a relatively conciliatory note with respect to the ongoing disagreement with the U.S., and Obama for his tough stance on Iran. "I very much appreciate the president's position, as does everyone in my country. We share the goal of stopping Iran's nuclear weapons program," Netanyahu said in his address on Thursday. "Israel is [engaged] in discussions with the United States over this issue, and I am confident we can chart a path forward together," he said.
Netanyahu told the U.N. he believes that faced with a clear red line, Iran would back down in a crisis that has sent jitters across the region and across financial markets. "And this will give more time for sanctions and diplomacy to convince Iran to dismantle its nuclear weapons program altogether," said the prime minister, who later met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for 75 minutes.
Netanyahu's remarks were the closest he or any top Israeli official has come to publicly laying out precisely which Iranian actions could trigger an Israeli military strike on Tehran's nuclear infrastructure. In his speech, Netanyahu never explicitly said that if Iran crossed his red line, Israel would launch attacks against Iranian nuclear facilities, but he did seem to imply such a threat.
Iran, Netanyahu said, was well into what he defined as the second stage of enrichment — 20% purification — and predicted it would complete that stage by "next spring, at most by next summer, at current enrichment rates."
According to an August report by the International Atomic Energy Agency., Iran has stockpiled 91.4 kilograms (201.5 pounds) of the 20% material.
Some experts say Iran would need 200 to 250 kilograms (440 to 550 pounds) of such material for a weapon. Other experts suggest less might do it. Iran could potentially reach that threshold soon by producing roughly 15 kilograms (33 pounds) a month, a rate that could be speeded up if it activates new enrichment centrifuges.
According to the U.N. nuclear watchdog, around 25 kilograms (55.1 pounds) of uranium enriched to a 90% purity level would be needed for a single nuclear weapon.
Iran's U.N. mission, responding to Netanyahu's speech, accused him of making "baseless and absurd allegations" and said the Islamic republic "reserves its full right to retaliate with full force against any attack."
Iran called Netanyahu's visual tool "an unfounded and imaginary graph ... used to justify a threat against a founding Member of the United Nations."
Netanyahu's remarks also seemed to deliver a two-part message to the Obama White House — along with Iran's leaders, his most important audience — signaling that the prime minister wanted an end to the all-too-public war of words with Washington over Iran's suspected nuclear ambitions.
But they also showed he was not backing down from his insistence that harsher warnings must be delivered to Tehran.
In his own speech to the General Assembly on Tuesday, Obama said the United States will "do what we must" to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and that time is not unlimited for diplomacy to resolve the issue.
Britain, France, Germany, the United States, Russia and China have negotiated with Iran without success in one form or another for nearly 10 years to persuade it to halt its nuclear program in exchange for political and economic incentives.
Addressing the General Assembly on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said disagreement over Iran's nuclear program had reached "a new, crucial stage," and urged a diplomatic solution.
The six nations, whose foreign ministers met at the United Nations on Thursday, have held three rounds of talks with Iran this year without visible progress. A U.S. official voiced hope for a fourth round "in the not-too-distant future."
As if to highlight Netanyahu's concerns that tougher U.N. sanctions against Iran are unlikely due to Russian and Chinese resistance, the group failed to agree on any plan for further steps against Tehran, envoys said.
Seeking re-election, Obama has faced criticism from Republican challenger former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney that the president is being too tough with Israel and not tough enough with Iran.
Netanyahu spoke a day after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the General Assembly.
Ahmadinejad said on Monday he did not take seriously the threat that Israel could launch a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. He also said Israel has no roots in the Middle East and would be "eliminated."
Netanyahu has faced opposition within his cabinet and from former Israeli security chiefs to any go-it-alone attack on Iran. Opinion polls show Israelis are wary of any such strike by their military, whose capability of destroying underground Iranian facilities is limited.
Israel, believed to have the Middle East's only atomic arsenal, sees a nuclear-armed Iran as a threat to its existence and has expressed frustration over the failure of diplomacy and sanctions to rein in Tehran's nuclear activity.
Iran says it is enriching uranium only for peaceful energy and medical purposes, not for nuclear bombs.
Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff
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by Alana Goodman
President Obama has promised to bring the perpetrators of the Benghazi terrorist attack to justice, but over two weeks after the attack the FBI still hasn’t made it to Benghazi. According to the New York Times, it’s because the security situation in Benghazi is too unstable:
Sixteen days after the death of four Americans in an attack on a United States diplomatic mission here, fears about the near-total lack of security have kept F.B.I. agents from visiting the scene of the killings and forced them to try to piece together the complicated crime from Tripoli, more than 400 miles away.
Investigators are so worried about the tenuous security, people involved in the investigation say, that they have been unwilling to risk taking some potential Libyan witnesses into the American Embassy in Tripoli. Instead, the investigators have resorted to the awkward solution of questioning some witnesses in cars outside the embassy, which is operating under emergency staffing and was evacuated of even more diplomats on Thursday because of a heightened security alert.This is mind-boggling. We are talking about a terrorist attack, carried out on American soil, on the anniversary of 9/11. And yet the FBI can’t even carry out a full investigation. The Times reports that even if law enforcement officials are eventually able to make it to the consulate, the unsecured “crime scene” has been so badly trampled that it may be impossible to collect evidence to use against the terrorists.
Why has this failed to register as a major scandal with the political media? There is ample evidence that the Obama administration intentionally misled the public in the days after the attack — while it designated it as a terrorist attack almost immediately, the administration insisted for over a week that it was a spontaneous uprising. The White House vowed bring the perpetrators to justice, and yet they’re slow-walking an FBI investigation that’s hampered by security restrictions and a lack of access to physical evidence.
Then there’s this:
President Obama has said the United States will bring to justice those responsible for the attacks. But there is little appetite in the White House to launch drone strikes or a Special Operations raid, like the one that killed Osama bin Laden, in yet another Muslim country.
American officials would prefer that Libyan officials lead any military or paramilitary operation, or work alongside American investigators, to arrest any suspects. But the transitional Libyan government still does not command a meaningful national army or national police force.In other words, there’s a good chance many of the perpetrators will walk free. Instead of sending the FBI to sit around in Tripoli and wait for the transitional Libyan government to get its act together, perhaps what is needed is to send in the drones to pick these guys off. By the time the Libyans act, any chance of pinpointing the terrorists (and any evidence that could be used to try them in court) will likely be long gone.
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by Ed Lasky
Matt Damon, liberal actor and Obama supporter (a redundancy, I know), has landed funding for his latest movie venture: an attack on the phenomenally successful American effort to tap our vast natural gas and oil resources.
The Washington Free Beacon reports:
Matt Damon turned to oil-rich Middle East royalty to finance his film attacking domestically produced natural gas.
The environmentalist screed, Promised Land, received a chunk of its funding from the United Arab Emirates, an oil kingdom known for its lavish spending on man-made islands and the world's tallest building, according to the Heritage Foundation.
The creators of Promised Land have gone to absurd lengths to vilify oil and gas companies, as Scribe's Michael Sandoval noted Wednesday. Since recent events have demonstrated the relative environmental soundness of hydraulic fracturing - a technique for extracting oil and gas from shale formations - Promised Land's script has been altered to make doom-saying environmentalists the tools of oil companies attempting to discredit legitimate "fracking" concerns. ...
An ever-growing market for domestic fracking threatens dependence on foreign oil from the likes of UAE and OPEC.
A strong global market presence for American natural gas could also work to the UAE's disadvantage. The Arab nation ranks seventh worldwide in proven natural gas reserves. For instance, Japan's energy imports are expected to rise significantly over the next five years. The country is currently a major importer of UAE natural gas. If it decided to import more LNG from the United States to accommodate its increased energy demands, it could deal a blow to the UAE economy. ...
All of this suggests a direct financial interest on the UAE's part in slowing the development of America's natural gas industry. Pop culture can be a powerful means to sway public opinion. While Promised Land, like anti-fracking documentary Gasland, appears to inflate the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, it may have an impact on the public's view of the practice.I have previously written that George Soros, Obama supporter (and recent generous donor to the Obama super-PAC Priorities USA Action, whose controversial "Joe Stopic" hit piece on Mitt Romney has been excoriated for its lying by groups across the political spectrum) has also worked to impede fracking in America. As has his pet and heavily Soros-supported Moveon.Org group. So has Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's anti-American caudillo .
Soros, as have the oil-rich potentates in Abu Dhabi, has seen the virtue of propaganda in trying to derail America's drive to reduce our dependence on Arab sources of oil. He gave millions of dollars to the Sundance Institute that then promoted the movie "Gasland" -- another "documentary" that was conjured up false fears about fracking. Soros explained the reasons behind his donation, "documentary films raise awareness and inspire action".
The rulers of Abu Dhabi and George Soros are in synch: movies can be exploited as propaganda.
Clearly, it is in the interest of Arab oil powers to make us more dependent on them -- and soak Americans for as much as they can as we buy their oil and natural gas.
Barack Obama also seems to be in synch with them: his administration has worked to put numerous roadblocks in the way using fracking to tap our oil and gas . Should he win again expect even more actions (via the Department of Interior, EPA, Executive Orders and the like) that would lead to higher prices and more dependency on Arab oil powers.
Unions and the Obama campaign team have been trying to popularize the term "economic patriots" to describe those people who work to keep jobs in America. Given that the fracking boom is one of the few areas of strength in our economy and provides a huge number of Americans with high-paying jobs (as well as revitalizing communities across America) would George Soros, Matt Damon, and Barack Obama consider themselves economic patriots?
They should not because they are not.
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by Michael Widlanski
What do CNN, The Wall Street Journal, Bibi Netanyahu, a Lebanese website, and Mitt Romney all have in common?
They told some truths inconvenient for President Barack Obama. They are now enemies of hope, enemies of change. They are a big pain in the rear for the man who "leads from the rear" by leading with his rear.
President Obama thinks critics and foes need not only to be defeated, but to be crushed and shamed in the public square.
Obama and his team said CNN's reports on terror in Libya were "disgusting" and "indefensible," that Mitt Romney's comments on Obama's policy show that he likes to "shoot first and aim later," unlike straight-shooting, straight-talking Sheriff Obama.
Actually, CNN, Romney, The Wall Street Journal, Netanyahu, etc. all found or revealed facts showing that the Emperor of Hope and Change is naked -- not a wise anti-terror sheriff who got Osama bin Laden, but an inept and negligent custodian of U.S. national security who prefers to play golf or campaign in Vegas.
CNN and the Journal showed that President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lied when they said many times that the attacks on U.S. diplomats were protests over some film, when they said they had not been warned about terror attacks, when they said they had not apologized.
Obama, Clinton, and White House spokesman James Carney should indeed apologize -- to the American people who employ them. They also should apologize to CNN, the Wall Street Journal, and even Mitt Romney. The Obama team lied repeatedly and shamelessly about the true nature of the terror attacks.
They then tried to spin the story into a yarn about CNN or Mitt Romney violating the privacy of the dead Americans, especially Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Yes, there was a violation, and it appears that not only Ambassador Stevens's privacy was violated -- but not by CNN, by Romney, or by the Wall Street Journal.
The real story may be more like -- but far worse than -- Iran's kidnapping of U.S. diplomats in 1979. The Obama-driven narrative about how Libyans heroically rescued an ambassador suffering from smoke inhalation will not fly.
A Lebanese website and other media showed film and crowd comments that suggest that Ambassador Stevens was physically abused, perhaps sexually abused, in order to humiliate America. (The same thing happened to Gaddafi earlier in Libya, when he was marched through the streets before being killed.)
Media reports showed that the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya was well-planned. The U.S. was warned, there and in Egypt, about upcoming violence. Ambassador Stevens himself warned Obama and Clinton that al-Qaeda had targeted him. U.S. security personnel worried about hostile surveillance on the U.S. consulate in Libya.
Obama and Clinton insulted Romney for criticizing Obama's apology for a film that offended Muslims. But the film was an excuse, not a cause. These were pre-planned assaults on Americans on 9-11. The problem is not Romney, but the negligence of Team Obama, whose apology validated the phony narrative used by terrorists.
Obama and Co. have also vilified Israel and demeaned Prime Minister Netanyahu for showing how slowly Obama moved on Iran's nuclear bomb program. Netanyahu is not the problem, unless the problem is Obama's reputation rather than Iran's bombs.
All of these reports on Mid-East developments are intolerable offenses to the Obama administration, which likes to manage the public discourse more than any other U.S. government since Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew.
Like Nixon, Obama plays hardball. He quotes the line from the movie The Untouchables about gangsters in Chicago: "If he brings a knife, you bring a gun."
The Boys from Chicago are now acting like medieval monarchs, who executed messengers who brought them bad news.
Recently, Obama's senior political adviser, David Axelrod, tried to intimidate The Gallup Organization for publishing polls showing Obama's lead narrowing. The Obama Justice Department has found some reason to question Gallup. Last week, Gallup figures showed that the gap had actually closed entirely.
Obama has enjoyed very soft press coverage, full of tales of Obama's policy skills and adoring accounts of how he "engages" Iran, Syria, Islamist Turkey, and Egypt, getting the Islamic World to love America. Obama tried to charm Muslims, but Islamic foes were not charmed like a pack of fangless cobras used in old movies.
A more powerful and deeper truth has emerged. Obama's vision of "Arab Spring" and his entire vision for the Middle East have collapsed along with the web of lies built around them. Obama and Clinton are not Mid-East mavens. They are clueless.
True, as Obama might say, he did not build those lies by himself. Someone helped him. An adoring press corps helped him.
Let's give credit to those in the media who have returned to their jobs as watchdogs, not lap dogs. Let's not kill the messengers and hang them in the public square.
Dr. Michael Widlanski, an expert on Arab politics and communications, is the author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat, published by Threshold/Simon and Schuster. He was a strategic affairs adviser in Israel's Ministry of Public Security and teaches at Bar Ilan University.
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by Daniel Flynn
Mitt Romney is down in the polls. Mitt Romney’s supporters are down on the polls.
Rush Limbaugh dubbed two outlier polls favorable to the president as “bogus” and “irresponsible.” Dick Morris regards this year’s surveys as “unusually inaccurate.” He explains, “Most pollsters are weighting their data on the assumption that the 2012 electorate will turn out in the same proportion as the 2008 voters did. But polling indicates a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the president among his core constituency.” Breitbart.com’s John Nolte points out that in Florida, where Democrats enjoyed a 3-point advantage four years ago, CBS News/New York Times/Quinnipiac envisions Democrats reaping a 9-point advantage on Election Day. In the rustbelt states of Ohio and Pennsylvania, the CBS News/New York Times/Quinnipiac survey also expects Democrats to vote in heavier numbers than they did in 2008. Nolte explains that “polls are not only telling us that Romney is losing OH, PA, and FL by insurmountable margins; these polls are also telling us that Democrat turnout is projected to blow away every modern record.”
Consider the contrast. In Ohio, Romney either trails by 1 point (Rasmussen Reports) or by 10 (CBS News/New York Times/Quinnipiac). In Iowa, the president leads by 8 (NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist) and trails by 3 (Rasmussen Reports). In Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia Inquirer count put Obama 11 ahead; the Pittsburgh Tribune Review placed Romney two behind. To borrow industry jargon, the polls are not within the margin of error.
Susquehanna Polling & Research, which conducted the much-maligned Pittsburgh Tribune Review poll showing the Keystone State a neck-and-neck race, defended their methodology by noting the 6-point advantage it awarded Democrats within their current Pennsylvania poll, which is down just 1 point from the Democrats’ Election Day take in 2008. The polling group suggests that “perhaps the Phil Inquirer poll showing Obama winning by a bigger margin than he won by four years ago is the real outlier.”
The 2008 election was historic. Media outlets reminded us of this repeatedly in the months following it. Four years later, the 2008 election is no longer considered historic by many pollsters but the new normal. The record turnout of African Americans, the record Obama-McCain vote disparity among young people, and the unusually defeatist mood of Republicans made Election Day 2008 a once-in-a-lifetime event. By definition, a once-in-a-lifetime event doesn’t recur every presidential election. But several polls, NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist, Pew, and CBS News/New York Times/Quinnipiac being the most prominent, anticipate Democrat enthusiasm to top 2008.
Signs abound that this may be wishful polling. Barack Obama, who filled a football stadium of feverish fans in Denver four years ago, abruptly moved his 2012 convention coronation from the outdoor Bank of America Stadium (capacity: 74,000) to the indoor Time Warner Cable Arena (capacity 18,500). The Obama campaign garnered $37 million in merchandise sales in 2008.
According to USA Today, the campaign has ordered just $6.7 million worth of trinkets this time around. Celebrities, who in 2008 acted around Obama the way their fans act around them, no longer seem so star-struck. Singer Dave Matthews remarked that he would cast a “disappointed” and “slightly heartbroken” ballot for Obama, while actor Matt Damon said of the president: “I think he misinterpreted his mandate.”
They’ve lost that loving feeling. But it remains for several pollsters. Their models anticipate a more energized Democratic base than 2008. Or, as cynics believe, their models energize the Democratic base and suppress the Republican base.
Polls tell us as much about the pollster as about the polled. The objectivity of the results ultimately depends upon the objectivity, and discernment, of the pollster. Nobody knows which ones are wrong, but when competing polls show a ten-point spread between the candidates everyone can agree that somebody is wrong.
On the flipside, the reaction to polls also tells us as much about the responder as the poll. While the internals of several polls reveal bias toward the Democrats, the direction of nearly all national polls heads in the same direction: the president’s. Shooting the messenger only obscures Republican problems in effectively conveying their message. Stopping Obama’s Big Mo, rather than exposing Pew’s skew, should be the pressing concern for Republicans.
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by Khaled Abu Toameh
Abbas is trying to show the US and the EU that he is serious about fighting the Hamas in the West Bank, and that is why he deserves a state and more funding. What the Americans and Europeans do not know is that many of these detainees are released within hours or days.
The Palestinian Authority's duplicity -- which has become an integral part of the Palestinian Authority's strategy in dealing with both its people and Israel -- reached new heights last week when its leaders called for a "day of solidarity" with Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
As Palestinians in the West Bank took to the streets to express their support for the prisoners, Palestinian Authority, security forces waged a campaign of detentions of dozens of Palestinians suspected of being affiliated with Hamas and other groups.
While it is good of course, that the Palestinian Authority is arresting Palestinians affiliated with Hamas, the problem is that the Authority is also using this as an excuse to crack down on other political opponents, as well as journalists. Lawyers, human rights activists and families of those detained by the Palestinian Authority say they do not know why the Palestinian leadership ordered the clampdown. The timing of the arrests also seems problematic, especially as it came on the eve of of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's new bid for statehood at the UN General Assembly.
Abbas is trying to show the US and the EU that he is serious about fighting Hamas in the West Bank, and therefore deserves a state and more funding. What the Americans do not know is that many of the detainees are quietly released within hours or days. The Palestinian Authority's conduct should raise alarm bells in Western capitals. If anything these latest occurrences show once again that the Palestinian Authority's credibility remains questionable.
According to Palestinian sources, more than 100 Palestinians, among them journalists, researchers and political activists were rounded up by Palestinian security forces in less than 48 hours. The Palestinian Authority, for its part, said that the detentions were aimed at preventing Hamas from "spreading chaos and anarchy" in the West Bank. Except that as Palestinian security forces were rounding up the Palestinians, representatives of the Palestinian Authority were delivering speeches in the center of Ramallah and other Palestinian cities denouncing Israel for its refusal to release Palestinian prisoners.
Tayeb Abdel Rahim, a top aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, told supporters that Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails were denied many rights, and called for an international commission of inquiry to look into the conditions of the inmates. Abdel Rahim, however, forgot to tell his supporters that, as he was speaking, his security forces were also detaining 35 Palestinians who had just been released from Israeli prison.
Abdel Rahim also forgot to tell his supporters that a large number of Palestinians who are in Israeli prison were arrested thanks to security coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. In other words, information provided by the Palestinian Authority to Israel led to the arrest of many of the Palestinians for whose release Abdel Rahim is calling.
Moreover, the Palestinian Authority is well aware of the fact that Palestinians who are detained by Israel enjoy more rights than those incarcerated by the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank.
Human rights activists say that many of the Palestinians held in Palestinian Authority detention centers are denied most of their basic rights, including seeing a lawyer and family visitations. The Palestinian Authority also knows that were it not for Israel's continued crackdown on Hamas supporters in the West Bank, Palestinian leaders in Ramallah would not be safe. If anything is preventing Hamas from seizing control over the West Bank, it is Israel's security measures against the Islamist movement and its terror cells in that area.
Many Palestinians are convinced that the Palestinian Authority called for a "day of solidarity" with prisoners in Israeli jails to divert attention from its own detention campaign. The Palestinian Authority has never missed an opportunity to incite Palestinians against Israel. Each time Palestinian Authority leaders seek to avoid problems at home, they call for demonstrations against Israel, using the issue of settlements or prisoners as an excuse. This is done in the context of a long-standing policy of blaming Israel for all the miseries of the Palestinians.
The Palestinian Authority wants the Palestinians to divert all their energies and frustrations only toward Israel. Otherwise, the Palestinians might one day wake up and start demanding dangerous things from their leaders in Ramallah -- such things as such as reforms, accountability and democracy.
Khaled Abu Toameh
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by Douglas Murray
What on Earth do you have to do not to be considered an "ally" these days? Many Muslim countries complaining about "blasphemy" and "hurt feelings,' are themselves are rife with the vilest caricatures, programs, films and books — as the staple diet.The offer by Pakistan's railways minister, Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, for suborning the murder of an American amateur film-maker, of $100,000 of his own money for a murder – despite his colleagues' attempts to distance themselves - only reminds us of what a mess of untruths and half-truths we allow to persist.
For instance, there is the one about Pakistan being our 'ally'. Britain and the United States give many millions of dollars a year in aid to that country. More is always expected and promised. By 2015 the UK's aid budget alone could have doubled in a few years, with the UK sending £446 million a year to the country. There are almost no justifications for this. Corruption remains rampant, as does poverty, indoctrination, anti-Western propaganda, and more.
Minister Bilour's offer has apparently already been added to by a Lahore businessman who has popped an extra $400,000 into the murder kitty, pointing out that freedom of speech must not be used as an excuse to '"insult" Islam. For any sane person, the gut instinct to this is straightforward: "If that amount of cash is floating around then let them pay for their own aid programs and schools." Except that they don't, or can't, or won't. Which raises the much bigger question: What on Earth do you have to do not to be considered an "ally" these days?
Here is a possible initiative. Before each handing-over of any cheque, perhaps we might explain how much more might be done by, and how much more expected of, our "allies" in the way of not encouraging people to hate us. Because of one crummy internet film and a few French cartoons, we have all just been once again treated to hours of sermonising about what an insult all of this is (and in particular how it is felt as the most grievous insult by 1.3 billion or 1.4 billion or sometimes 2 billion Muslims worldwide, who are all said to feel exactly the same way all the time). And these lectures are not only from obscure clerics. They come from the leaders of some of our closest "allies," who claim that it is understandable when a film nobody has to watch is responded to with murder.
Perhaps rather than falling for the obscene pretense that a film-maker and a murderous mob are two sides of the same coin, we could make a more honest comparison. Such as, for instance, a truth that anyone who has ever travelled around almost any Muslim majority county will know: that they are themselves absolutely rife with the vilest caricatures, programs, films and books. And these are not one-offs. These are the staple diet. The works of Adolf Hitler and other anti-Semitic tracts are a mainstay of the bookshops in even some of the most 'advanced' Arab cities. I recall standing at Cairo station a couple of years back, searching the bookstalls for something to read on the journey. But there was almost nothing in the way of traditional train-reading fare. If you were into anti-Semitic conspiracy theories then you were set. If you wanted some texts about the awfulness of the Jews or the wondrousness of Hitler then you had arrived at the right place. But if you wanted a nice romantic novel or a comic novella then you were flat out of luck.
Over recent years MEMRI.org, Palwatch.org and a few other organizations have done an amazing job at waking people up to these facts. They have done so by capturing and translating many of the television programs which go down as prime-time viewing in exactly those countries which are now complaining about "blasphemy," "hurt feelings" and other declared outrages. As they have shown, Egyptian television has never had any problem staging the fraudulent ninteenth-century book -- taken in much of the Arab and Muslim world as irrefutable fact - The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion in various productions. Al-Manar television has never had a problem, anymore than have various Palestinian television channels, in pumping out the most straightforward hate-speech and incitement on a daily basis. Nor has the print press (which in these cases, unlike in the West, actually is government controlled) been any better.
Just take the last few weeks. Recently the excellent Tom Gross compiled a gallery of recent cartoons published in various Muslim-majority countries in the wake of the latest film controversy.They include examples from publications such as the Fars News Agency, Al-Bayan, Al Watan and Ar-Raya. That is, they are not only cartoons from state-run media in Iran, naturally, but also from Oman, Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia. In other words, not only in states that are stated enemies, but in those we tend to think of – in our soppy old way – as "friends." But as the Gross piece demonstrates, this is not "one-off" extremism': it is the norm – a perfectly acceptable mainstay of the mainstream papers in some of our most mainstream allies across the region.
Perhaps pointing out this ridiculous hypocrisy does no good to the people guilty of it. After all, we must remember, these opponents are people who say that unless we say that their religion is peaceful they will kill us. In Pakistan they include people who countered the Youtube film with a 'Love for the Prophet' day which ended in rioting, burnings and dozens of injuries and deaths. It is unlikely that sections among these people are any time soon likely to listen carefully, place one or both hands to their foreheads and say, 'Oh - I see!'
This is not only about them. It is about us. In America, Britain and the West we continue to go through the usual farces of international comity: state visits here, aid donations there. All just rubbing along nicely while we concede that every now and then the consulate or embassy will be burned to the ground, a minister will call for the killing of one of our citizens on our own turf. Our opponents lack many things, including any sense of irony. But has anybody other than us ever had so little common sense?
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.
by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi
The attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that led to the death of the American ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, illustrates that despite the poor performance of Islamists in the elections back in July, the country still faces a serious internal terrorist threat from ideological militants who either operate with freedom from central government control or have entered into the ranks of the new Libyan security forces.
I had already warned about the latter phenomenon in particular as regards attacks on Sufi shrines in Tripoli and Zintan that were suspected to be the work of members of the security forces.
Concerning the assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, two American intelligence officials revealed to the Daily Beast that members of an Islamist militia known as the February 17th Brigade were responsible for safeguarding the consulate, but apparently stepped aside in anticipation of the attack, possibly on the urging of an Islamist politician.
The Libyan government is now trying to integrate this militia -- along with another by the name of Rafallah al-Sahati -- into the security forces by appointing army colonels to lead them, but such a move is not likely to do away with the problems posed by these Islamist militants.
On the contrary, they will simply use their new positions to push their own agendas, just like the Islamist members of the security forces who have desecrated Sufi shrines.
There is also the potential here to trigger some infighting among the new security forces. The greatest risk is in the east of the country where Islamist influence is strongest, even as Islamism may not necessarily be the dominant political force on the ground.
Indeed, the Libya Herald recently reported that clashes broke out in the eastern town of Marj among members of the new National Army, with no fatalities but several wounded and requiring treatment in the local hospital. While it has not been fully ascertained what caused this infighting, it is not unreasonable to point to politicization of the ranks of the security forces.
On the other hand, a possible mitigating factor exists in the fact that there is a good deal of local resentment against Islamist militants in particular, as evinced by a demonstration in Benghazi numbering some 30,000 protestors, who denounced the attack on the U.S. consulate and called for the disbanding of militias throughout the country. Commentators like Michael Young of the Beirut-based Daily Star interpreted the success of the assault as evidence of widespread anti-American sentiments in Libya. Yet the large demonstrations in opposition to the attack -- as well as a subsequent assault by several hundred protesters on the headquarters of an Islamist militia known as Ansar al-Shariah (suspected of links to the assault on the consulate), which then evacuated its bases in Benghazi -- illustrate that this assessment is not wholly accurate. At least in Benghazi, there is still considerable gratitude to NATO for its aid in the downfall of the Gaddafi regime.
In a way, the backlash was predictable, for a precedent existed in Rajma -- a town located some 50 km southeast of Benghazi -- where residents repelled an assault on a Sufi shrine by Salafists, without the aid of the security forces. However, in Benghazi itself, members of the security forces took advantage of the anti-militia sentiment and thus gained control of the bases evacuated by militias that were that were the targets of protesters' anger.
Yet I say "possible mitigating factor" because there are two further considerations to bear in mind. First, the anti-militia sentiment displayed by the protesters could create a security vacuum, entailing attacks on militias who have no links to Islamists and are innocent of any wrongdoing (as has already happened), and on members of the security forces who may be wrongly suspected of aiding militias or Islamist militants. Second, the militias that have disbanded have not necessarily given up their weapons. They could instead decide to operate underground as small insurgent units.
In short, what emerges from an analysis of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the aftermath is neither a simplistic narrative of an imminent Islamist takeover nor a Manichaean story of a heroic victory for moderate Muslims against Islamists in Libya.
Rather, it is evident that the problem of infiltration of the security forces by ideologues still exists. When we also consider the potential for the anti-militia violence of protesters to become too generalized and the fact that disbanding does not automatically translate to giving up one's weapons, it is logical to conclude that a serious terrorist threat within the country is likely to persist for a minimum timescale of months to come, with low-level violence in the form of insurgent bombings and shootings, mob attacks, and internal clashes among the security forces.
Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi is a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Source: http://spectator.org/archives/2012/09/28/libya-in-the-aftermath; http://www.meforum.org/3346/libya-aftermath
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.