According to the Economist, Britain’s Conservative Party is in trouble. Citing a poll by YouGov for the Institute for Public Policy Research, a Labour think tank, it argues that because 42 percent of British voters would “never” back the Tories, this places them in the unenviable position of having “the smallest pool of potential supporters of any major party.” Thus, David Cameron failed to win an outright victory in 2010 because his party hadn’t “sufficiently softened its reputation,” a problem that has only been exacerbated by its emphasis since 2010 on austerity, an emphasis reiterated at last week’s Conservative Party Conference by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.
The Economist has been singing this same song for over a decade: the Tories need to become more liberal, less Euroskeptic, and generally nicer, if they are to beat a Labour Party that will not be run forever by the unappealing Ed Miliband. The problem with this wisdom is it’s not supported by electoral history. Take the figure of 42 percent die-hard opposition, or its arithmetical converse of 58 percent maximum support. In 1983, when the SDP-Liberal Alliance qualified as a major party, Margaret Thatcher (a happy birthday to Lady Thatcher today) won 42.4 percent. On the other side of the aisle, when Blair’s Labour Party crushed the Tories in 1997, it received 43.2 percent of the vote.
It isn’t just a few crackpots engaging in anti-Semitism incidents at the Occupy Wall Street protests. Apparently, the main organizer behind the movement – Adbusters editor Kalle Lasn – has a history of anti-Jewish writing.
Back in 2004, he wrote a highly controversial Adbusters article entitled “Why Won’t Anyone Say They Are Jewish?”which peddled some of the more feverish theories about American Jews, neoconservatism, and the Bush administration (emphasis added):
Many universities believe they provide a forum for elite and cutting edge debate, but grow frustrated when the loudest and most expert campus voices fail to break out of the ivory tower to influence real policy with their writing.
I once belonged to an academic listserv in which professors would complain that the New York Times or Washington Post had refused to publish their op-ed or letter to the editor. They would use the listserv to send their unsuccessful submission—all 2,800 unfocused words of it—to their friends and colleagues.
A few months ago, I had dinner with a journalist who knows President Obama somewhat well and admires him in several respects. He told me something that didn’t particularly surprise me – but which was useful to have confirmed. This person’ said Obama is enormously thin-skinned, he remembers and keeps track of negative things said and written about him, and he is a person filled with many more grievances and resentments than one might imagine. He feels sorry for himself – and he is inclined to lash out, in his own emotionally contained way, at even slight criticisms.
I was reminded of that conversation in hearing this exchange between Ed Henry of Fox News and the president.
Margaret O’ Brien Steinfels, co-director of the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture, is no useful idiot. But with a lot of hard work she might one day achieve that upgrade in status. She should know it takes more than leftist anti-American and anti-Israel sentiment to give America’s enemies a proper boost. Consider Steinfels’s latest attempt, over at the blog of Commonweal, in a post titled, “51st: U.S. Iran policy in the hands of Likud–or maybe Peter Sellars?”
The arrest by the FBI of an Iranian-American used car dealer, Mansour J. Arbabsiar, for plotting to kill the Saudi Ambassador and blow up the Israeli embassy in Washington, while also setting up a deal between Mexican drug dealers and an officer in Iran’s Quds force, begins to sound like a plot for a Pink Panther movie. And perhaps it is, what with the plot provided by the FBI and fed to Arabsiar by a drug-dealer FBI informant. The improbability of the whole thing isn’t stopping the Amen Corner in our Congress calling for punitive actions against Iran, including booting out their ambassador….Is this a trade for Israel not bombing Iran (with the Bunker Busters we gave them)–at least not in October!
My colleague Sadanand Dhume moonlights as a columnist for the Wall Street Journal‘s Asia edition and is, hands down, the go-to expert on all things India and Pakistan. It’s already Friday there, and in Friday’s paper, he has an important column on India’s approach to Israel and the Palestinians. He explains:
Instead of throwing its weight behind Israel—a natural ally with whom India shares more interests than it does with almost any other country—the left-leaning Congress Party-led government in New Delhi has publicly backed Palestinian brinkmanship on the statehood issue… Since taking office in 2004, Mr. Singh’s United Progressive Alliance government has halted what had been an upward swing in India-Israel ties by effectively starving them of public affirmation.
As Abe wrote earlier this week, anti-Semitic incidents have been a dark trend at the Occupy Wall Street protests. The Emergency Committee for Israel highlights several of the assaults in its latest web video, and combined with the haunting music and approving quotes from Democrats it makes for a very powerful and disturbing message:
My AEI colleague Maseh Zarif has done yeoman’s work to parse through the criminal complaints and various documents to establish a time line of the alleged Qods Force plot to target the Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C.
It’s worth bookmarking as a reference, as the debate about what the plot means and who is responsible is bound to continue for weeks to come.
It’s good to see Congress passed the free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama by overwhelming bipartisan majorities. The only question is: What took so long? The accords with South Korea and Panama were finished in 2007, the one with Colombia in 2006. So why are we only now ratifying them? Every year we waited was one more year of delayed economic benefits and lost jobs–in particular when it comes to trade with South Korea, the world’s 14th largest economy. It’s not as if labor unions, which are always (myopically) opposed to free trade, could not have been appeased; Congress also approved a benefit program for workers who lost their jobs to foreign competition.
Someone with a conspiratorial frame of mind might speculate that Obama waited this long to make sure there was no chance of a left-wing primary challenger. Or maybe he just got desperate enough to generate any spark of jobs creation for such an anemic economy. Or perhaps his well-advertised friendship with South Korean president Lee Myung-bak, who is now visiting the U.S., was the deciding factor. Whatever the case, it’s nice that the president and his party finally got behind the free trade consensus which has dominated U.S. politics for more than half a century.
Herman Cain is surging into the top rank in enough polls that it can’t be dismissed as a statistical fluke. That last link, to a Public Policy Polling’s survey from yesterday, is probably the most surprising, showing Cain with an 8-point lead on Romney.
But as with any swift political rise, there’s always an excellent chance it could come crashing down to Earth tomorrow — especially when you consider the flightiness of GOP voters at the moment:
Early on in Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s premiership, he bent over backwards not only to repair Turkey’s traditionally dicey relations with Syria, but also to promote Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Erdoğan, for example, invited Bashar to vacation in Turkey as Erdoğan’s personal guest, and when tensions rose between Syria and Lebanon during Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution, Erdoğan put Turkey more in Syria’s camp than in Lebanon’s.
Things appeared to turn, however, as Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on demonstrators accelerated and grew steadily bloodier. Erdoğan on several occasions gave Syria ultimatums to stop and reform or face a cut-off of Turkey’s ties. Too often in Western capitals, Turkey seeks benefit from such rhetoric no matter what the reality of its policy. There was the case, for example, of the forcible return allegedly by Turkey of a Syrian opposition defector to Syria. Now, despite the crackdown and Turkish ultimatums, a Turkish minister is assuring the public that trade with Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria is actually increasing. According to a Turkish wire service:
And if you count the money raised for the Democratic National Committee – which Obama and the media do – the total comes to $70 million raised for the campaign and DNC combined. It’s certainly better than the $55 million estimate the Obama campaign floated around to lower expectations recently, but it falls short of the $86 million the campaign and DNC raised last quarter:
Exceeding the expectations some Democrats had set, the Obama re-election campaign raised $42.8 million in the period running from July through the end of September, an Obama campaign aide told CNN.
In this Wall Street Journal oped, Reuel Gerecht blows out of the water the usual excuse offered for Iranian misconduct: We can’t be sure that senior leaders actually approved the thwarted operation to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington. After all there is no smoking gun—no intercepted recording of Qods Force leader Qasim Soleimani telling Supreme Leader Ali Khameini, “OK, boss, we’re gonna’ waste that Saudi so-and-so on the Great Satan’s home turf.” The same excuses were always offered for the misconduct of the Soviet Union: Surely Stalin, or Khrushchev, or Brezhnev, did not know what was being done in his name! It’s actually the old trope of blaming the king’s advisers, not the king, as a way of excusing top-level transgressions. But it’s not terribly persuasive. As Gerecht writes:
Lord help Qasim Soleimani—the man who likely has control over the Revolutionary Guards’ elite dark-arts Qods Force, which apparently orchestrated this assassination scheme—if he didn’t clear the operation with Khamenei. He will lose his job and perhaps his life. For 20 years, Khamenei has been constructing a political system that is now more submissive to him than revolutionary Iran was to Khomeini.
As Herman Cain’s poll numbers have vaulted him into the top ranks of the potential Republican nominees, his 9-9-9 plan for taxation is getting new attention. It’s politically potent, because it’s easy for the average voter to get a handle on and, well, it’s a plan. None of the other candidates have one, just political bomfog about being in favor of tax reform, a nip here and a tuck there for the current tax code. But as I suspect the people know and the chattering classes don’t want to know, the tax code cannot be reformed. Any changes just add to its monstrous and deeply corrupt complexity. It will be a dead weight on the American economy until it is replaced with a brand new tax system.
The first phase of the 9-9-9 plan would lay a 9-percent flat income tax on both corporations and individuals, with only a charitable-donation deduction beyond the personal deduction in the latter. It would also institute a 9 percent sales tax on all goods and services. It would eliminate capital gains taxes, double taxation of dividends (they’d be a deduction against corporate income taxes), and the payroll tax. There would be additional tax goodies for businesses and people living in certain “empowerment zones,” presumably areas of high unemployment and low incomes. The second phase would be simply a “fair tax”—i.e. a national sales tax high enough to replace the corporate and personal income taxes. In other words, the 9-9-9 plan would phase into a TK plan. Just replace the TK—a strange editorial term for “to come”—with whatever number would work. Unfortunately, there is not an economist in the world who could tell us what that number should be.
Targeted sanctions came into vogue largely because of the backlash against the broad-based sanctions which the Clinton administration had imposed on Iraq. Throughout both the Bush and Obama administrations, the White House has sought to ratchet up pressure on Iran by targeting specific individuals and companies involved with proliferation or the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The latest instance of this, in the wake of the alleged Iranian plot against the Saudi ambassador in Washington, is the Treasury Department’s designation of several individuals as well as its slapping of sanctions against Mahan Air, a carrier it accuses of ferrying terrorist operatives and supplies.
While such narrow sanctions have symbolic value, the problem is how easy it is to avoid them: There has been much written in Iran’s domestic press with regard to privatization inside Iran. Privatization and the replacement of subsidies with cash payments have been Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s flagship economic proposals. Many of the state-owned industries designated for privatization have their initial public offerings on the Tehran Stock Exchange. Unfortunately, the buyers there are seldom individuals but rather Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) banks or businesses. In effect, the Islamic Republic plays an elaborate game of three-card monte: They can shift shell companies faster than the U.S. Treasury Department let alone the United Nations Security Council can designate them. If the White House and State Department are going to ensure that Tehran hears the message that they have crossed a line, it now becomes essential that sanctions give Iran less leeway: It’s time to truly sanction Iran’s Central Bank.
Back in May, media mogul and top Democratic bundler Haim Saban blasted Obama’s Israel policy and said he had no plans to fundraise for his reelection bid. So it’s no surprise that Mitt Romney’s campaign is reportedly swooping in to court Saban, according to the New York Post:
Mitt Romney’s camp has its eye on an endorsement from top Democratic donor and “Power Rangers” creator Haim Saban, who told us the GOP presidential front-runner is a “worthy candidate.” Sources say the ex-Massachusetts gov’s team is working on scoring an A-list endorsement from the Jewish advocate and entertainment billionaire who has donated heavily to Dems.
The good folks at the New York Times often shrug their shoulders and ask, “Who, us?” whenever anyone suggests that they infuse their news section with bias or when they are questioned about the ethical choices their journalists make regarding the subjects they cover. Well, here’s a doozy: Several years ago, Artin Afkhami, while working at the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a group which lobbies against sanctions on the Islamic Republic, wrote a piece in which he falsely summarized an event and even fabricated a quote, which he attributed to me in order to suggest I took a position that I had never advocated. The event had been videotaped, and I challenged Afkhami to source his quote or retract it, but he did not. Nor could Afkhami source the quote to any previous writing, because I had never advocated pre-emptive war against Iran, as he claimed.
I noted subsequently that the New York Times had hired Afkhami from NIAC even though the paper itself labeled NIAC an advocacy organization. Diane McNulty, executive director, for community affairs and media relations a the New York Times responded, “Artin Afkhami has worked for The Times part time, on a freelance basis, providing translations of articles and speeches and monitoring news reports from Iran. He does not write for The Times. We are reviewing his other affiliations to determine whether any of them pose the possibility or the appearance of a conflict.” Alas, it seems that he now does write for the New York Times, about the country for whom he once lobbied. Artin Afkhami may have matured from his days at NIAC, but he certainly hasn’t retracted and corrected the quote he never was able to support. It seems that after almost a decade, the Grey Lady has learned neither the lessons of Jayson Blair, nor understood why an increasingly broad array of policymakers questions their agenda even on hard, international news.