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  #1  
Old Friday, April 17, 2009
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Default Editorial: Washington Times

North-South Korea complex hurt by hostilities

By CARRIE SHEFFIELD on April 10, 2009

SEOUL | Managers of the Kaesong industrial park, a joint venture just north of the heavily armed border separating North and South Korea, are struggling with its mission to promote peace through economic development.

North Korea's weekend test of a multistage rocket is one of several recent actions by the isolated nation casting doubt on its ability or willingness to deal with the outside world.

A worker from South Korea remains in a North Korean prison after more than a week, accused of verbally insulting the North's communist leaders while at the Kaesong complex.

North Korean officials rejected a plea by Hyundai Asan President Cho Kun-shik last week to visit the prisoner, according to the South Korean Arirang News service. South Korean diplomats also have been denied access to the prisoner.

North Korean officials have given assurances that the prisoner would be kept safe, but they say no one can visit him until their investigation is complete.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak called Tuesday for the release of the detained Kaesong worker, identified by the surname Yoo in local press reports.

"His firm must demand [his release] more actively from the North, and the government must work with the international community, if necessary, to resolve the issue at an early date," Mr. Lee told his Cabinet.
In another incident, North Korean officials recently detained hundreds of South Korean workers at the Kaesong complex, apparently as an indirect protest against joint U.S.-South Korean military drills in the South. The South Koreans, most of whom are managers, were released after several days.

At least 93 South Korean firms have factories that employ tens of thousands of North Korean workers at Kaesong - a project organized in 2004 by Hyundai Asan, an arm of the auto and industrial giant Hyundai Group.

The complex produces mainly textiles, electronics and domestic housewares. The idea of a joint venture funded by South Korea to provide jobs for impoverished North Koreans was conceived by Hyundai's founder, the late Chung Ju-yung.

Mr. Chung, originally from North Korea, hoped to create an economic and cultural pipeline between the two Koreas to promote eventual unification of the divided peninsula.

Hyundai Asan has invested about $2 billion in the Kaesong project, but But Byun Ha-jung, a general manager with the company, recently told a group of visiting scholars from Harvard University that the project goes beyond business.

"We are not just following the money, but in our mind, we are doing something for this nation. Of course, the money is important, but sometimes it's not the first thing," Mr. Byun said.

"We have some kind of belief and faith that we will keep doing this."
The incidents at Kaesong reflect a broader surge in tensions between North Korea and nations in the region, including the United States, which has troops based in South Korea and Japan.

The North went ahead Sunday with its rocket launch, defying international pressure. The North also has imprisoned two American journalists, claiming they illegally crossed the North Korean-Chinese border.
The Kaesong factories employ about 38,000 North Koreans. Hyundai Asan also funded a tourism facility elsewhere along the border that was shuttered in July after North Korean guards shot and killed a South Korean tourist.

"Our mission is survival until the situation of the two Koreas is getting better," said Jang Hwan-bin, senior vice president at Hyundai Asan. "The goal is to narrow the economic gap within the South and North, but that goal should be proceeded by the government. We are a business enterprise, so we have to make a profit."

Kim Yong, a North Korean defector who settled in the South decades ago, said he doubts whether Kaesong will contribute much to economic development in North Korea.

"Symbolically, I think the Kaesong industrial complex has its own meanings," he said.

Oh Joon, a deputy minister at the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said China will play a big role in the future of the divided peninsula.

"It will depend a lot on China's perception of a unified Korea," Mr. Oh said. "If they can assume a unified Korea will not be hostile to China, then they can live with that. We are trying to make sure to our neighboring countries that a reunified country would be in the interest of all our neighbors."

Source: Washington Times
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Pakistanis see aid pledge as political boon

By Raza Khan

THE WASHINGTON TIMES Saturday, April 18, 2009

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan | Industrialized nations Friday pledged more than $5 billion in new aid to Pakistan - a development Pakistanis say has as much political as economic significance in bolstering a beleaguered civilian government.

Ashfaq Hassan Khan, a former chief economic adviser in Pakistan, told The Washington Times that the funds pledged at a conference in Tokyo, which include $1 billion from the United States over two years, were a "significant achievement."

"Firstly, Pakistan got $5.28 billion instead of $4.25 billion, which it asked for from the friends of Pakistan. ... Secondly, the pledges have come as a big message from the world that it is genuinely interested in Pakistan's stability and progress and it is willing to cooperate.

"I think the announcement of assistance to Pakistan is more of a political importance than it is of economic significance."

The pledges reflect international concern about expanding Taliban influence in Pakistan. Militants exploiting economic discontent and unemployment have moved in recent months far beyond tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan to Punjab, Pakistan's most populous state.

Earlier this week, President Asif Ali Zardari agreed to the implementation of Islamic law in the scenic Swat Valley, only 100 miles from the capital, Islamabad. On Thursday, authorities released on bail Maulana Abdul Aziz, the leader of Islamabad's militant Red Mosque, despite charges related to a 2007 siege at the mosque that led to the deaths of at least 100 people.
The cleric defiantly returned to the mosque Friday and urged the implementation of the Shariah law across the country.

"I tell you that you should be ready to make sacrifices for Islam," he told an audience that spilled into surrounding streets. "What we have seen in Swat and the tribal areas is the result of the sacrifices at the Red Mosque: the students, the people who were martyred."

In approving new aid at the Tokyo conference, "the participants ... noted concern about the security situation in Pakistan and the impact on development, the investment climate and growth," co-chairs Japan and the World Bank said in a statement.

Aid is to be targeted at health, education, governance and building democracy.

Pakistan is also seeking to build hydroelectric dams, roads and other projects aimed at improving security along the Afghan border.

Zafar Moeen Nasir, chief economic researcher at the state-run Pakistan Institute of Developmental Economics in Islamabad, said the new aid would help compensate Pakistan for $35 billion he said had been lost due to the country's participation in the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda.
"I think the pledges at Tokyo are indications that U.S. and other friends of Pakistan want Pakistan to be a stable country," he said.

However, Abdul Mateen, a former Pakistani diplomat at the United Nations, said he was not optimistic that the money would solve Pakistan's fundamental economic problems.

"Aid and assistance is only good if it is spent productively, as it generates resources, skills, learning and so on," he said. "Unless it leads to development, the aid or loan is dysfunctional. The pledges made at Tokyo for Pakistan would give the country relief and even growth but would not insure development, which is badly required."

Since he unveiled it last month, President Obama's new strategy on Pakistan and Afghanistan has received a mixed reception from leading political and military analysts in Pakistan.

Most say the "Af-Pak strategy" improves on past U.S. policy by paying equal attention to Pakistan's social and economic development as well as its military prowess, but some complain that the main focus remains U.S. security.

Leading political and security analyst Hassan Askari Rizvi welcomed the emphasis on building the capacity of Pakistani institutions.
"The strategy calls for continued improvement of socioeconomic conditions in Pakistan so that extremists and terrorists have less space to encroach upon," Mr. Rizvi told The Times. "The American administration is trying to complement the use of force with socioeconomic diplomacy."
He said the Obama strategy is also better than past policies because it is the product of more consultation with Pakistanis at both official and non-official levels.

The new policy pledges $1.5 billion in annual economic aid to Pakistan for five years to improve infrastructure and education. The State Department said Friday the $1 billion pledged in Tokyo is a "down payment" on that aid, which must be approved by Congress. The money, the State Department said, is slated "to build schools, roads and hospitals; help farmers improve their ability to raise crops and deliver them to the marketplace; stimulate new energy infrastructure; and strengthen Pakistans democracy."

Shafqat Mahmood, a former Pakistani senator who is now a popular newspaper columnist, said the motive remains securing the American homeland as well as U.S. forces in South Asia and the Middle East from Muslim extremist attacks. Pakistan will get assistance only if it implements U.S. aims, he said.

"It is not radically different strategy as may be perceived," he said. "Rather, its focus is quite narrow. It means Americans think foreign elements are there and Pakistan must ensure that they should not be a threat to U.S. interests in the region."

Tahir Amin, chairman of the International Relations Department of Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, agreed.
The new policy "is still focused on military force and drone attacks," he said. "The most sad aspect of the Obama strategy is that it is focused on American interests without taking into consideration that of Pakistan. It seems the strategy calls for imposing an American mission on Pakistan while it has put the Kashmir issue on the back burner."

Mr. Amin said the fallout of the new strategy would be negative for both the U.S. and Pakistan.

"Intending or otherwise, the implementation of Obama strategy would push Pakistan towards chaos as acts of terrorism would proliferate in length and breadth of the country, and this has very much started happening. For Americans, it would cultivate far deeper antagonistic feelings in Pakistan."
Retired Lt. Gen. Talat Masood, a well-known security analyst, said the most important aspect of the shift is that "Pakistan has been looked at as part of a much greater zone of conflict, not as an individual issue." He said the strategy also shows more sensitivity to Pakistani concerns over U.S. infringement on its sovereignty.

Frequent air strikes by U.S. drones targeted at al Qaeda and Taliban militants inside Pakistan close to the Afghan border have been a source of tension between Islamabad and Washington. While Pakistani leaders decry such raids in public, officials in both capitals suggest there is a tacit agreement to allow them.

"Unless Pakistan establishes its own sovereignty by taking decisive action against terrorists and insurgents, Americans cant be blamed of trespassing our sovereignty," Mr. Masood said.
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Default HANSON: Our new sort of war



HANSON: Our new sort of war

Pretending it's something else is dangerous


By Victor Davis Hanson
Sunday, April 19, 2009

President Obama proclaims no more of former President George W. Bush's "war on terror," even as he silently keeps most of it in place. The result is as confusing as it soon will be dangerous.

In these first 100 days of his presidency, Mr. Obama has promised that the Guantanamo Bay detention facility will be closed within a year. He has assured us wiretapping and overseas rendition are under re-examination.
The Obama administration also has been busy tweaking terminology in an effort to put a kinder, gentler face on the war. There is no longer a "global war on terror." It has been replaced by an "overseas contingency operation."

Nor are there any longer "unlawful enemy combatants" in Guantanamo Bay. Apparently, the terrorists there are merely "detainees."
According to Janet A. Napolitano, the new secretary of homeland security, there is not even "terrorism" but "man-caused disasters." At least that's the term she used in recent testimony before Congress.
With words like "war," "enemy" and "terror" removed from official usage, perhaps Americans will be convinced there are no such unpleasant realities.
Mr. Obama also has made an effort to apologize to key allies, rivals and enemies. He has told receptive Europeans that we have been arrogant and dismissive. The Turks were encouraged to hear that America "still struggles with the legacy of our past treatment of Native Americans." The Russians were assured we were pushing a "reset" button in our foreign policy.
The president also has sent envoys to a hostile Syria and a video expressing past American culpability in hopes of starting afresh with Iran.
At various times in interviews and lectures, Mr. Obama has reminded the world that the United States alone has dropped an atomic bomb, that it has been unnecessarily provocative toward Muslims, that it has a shameful record of slavery and racial discrimination and that almost everything Mr. Bush did was wrong.

There is a problem with all this. While our well-meaning president is apologizing, employing euphemisms and promising not to be Mr. Bush, his government is still also blowing apart suspected jihadists in Pakistan.
We are sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan in efforts to destroy Taliban insurgents. The Obama administration has dropped the earlier rhetoric of a quick, unilateral withdrawal from Iraq. Instead, he has embraced Gen. David H. Petraeus' plan of leaving slowly as events on the ground dictate.

In other words, our new "overseas contingency operations" seem similar to Mr. Bush's old "war on terror." Guantanamo Bay will still be open for at least a year. The Obama administration cannot find a country that wants back its expatriate terrorists - nor a legal solution to try terrorists caught without uniform on the battlefield who may not be fully protected under the Geneva Convention.

The new administration even has gone to court to protect the Bush-era wiretapping policies. And it has specifically retained the rights to use overseas renditions of suspected terrorists. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

More important, those who commit "man-caused disasters" are still busy. Iran brags that it has stepped up weapons-grade nuclear enrichment. The Taliban has promised a new offensive. Baitullah Mehsud, the head of the Taliban in Pakistan - who is suspected of engineering the assassination of Benazir Bhutto - just boasted, "Soon we will launch an attack in Washington that will amaze everyone in the world."

Despite American apologies and softer language, radical Islamists still think we are at war - and that they can defeat us. In short, we are in a new, surreal - and dangerous - phase of the old war, doing enough killing to enrage our enemies even as we act sometimes as if we are not.
Mr. Bush may have railed against "Islamic terrorists" and been ridiculed as a cowboy, but he at least prevented another Sept. 11-type attack. Plus, we knew we were in some sort of war.

Fighting a clear war against enemies is dangerous. Clearly, not fighting a war against enemies may be more dangerous. But sort of fighting a war while acting as if we are sort of not may be the most dangerous thing of all.

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.
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Default DE BORCHGRAVE: Saving America's future




Borrow-and-spend no longer viable

By Arnaud de Borchgrave

Thursday, April 23, 2009

COMMENTARY:


From right to left, Washington's think tank senior economic fellows agree the capitalist system is broken.

But few agree on what comes next. Borrow-and-spend must now give way to save-and-invest. Clearly, the mammon of profits-before-people has been knocked off its pedestal. Borrowing $2 billion to $3 billion a day from other countries (mostly China) to maintain the world's highest standard of living, based on conspicuous consumption at a time of growing world shortages, is no longer viable. New York's Federal Reserve says the United States borrowed $4.4 trillion in the first six years of this decade to finance its current account deficits - 85 percent of total net borrowing worldwide.
Obama administration palliatives, according to Bloomberg, now total a little more than $8.5 trillion ($300 billion on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, American International Group Inc., and Bear Stearns & Co. Inc. (now part of JP Morgan); $300 billion on Citigroup Inc.; $700 billion on the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP); $800 billion on Fed-directed asset-backed debt-purchase programs; $2.3 trillion on Fed commercial paper programs; and $2.2 trillion on other Fed lending and government commitments).
The buy-on-rumor-sell-on-news speculators are understandably confused. They read - or more likely hear - that banks are still holding the bad assets that the original $700 billion TARP was supposed to buy. Thus, the new "Plan B" may include going back to "Plan A," this time around forcing the government to actually buy those bad assets.

Despite all this, the public is assured the stimulus package of $787 billion will eventually revive the U.S. economy. And when it does, says Money Morning, mourning will be declared as the hugely inflated bubble in Treasuries bursts.

Meanwhile, "Saving America's Future," as spelled out by 24 of the nation's most illustrious names (12 from each party) in "A Challenge to the American People," released by the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress (CSPC), warns that worse news is yet to come because today's economic reality is "only the tip of the iceberg." And if we do not act now - in everything from "structural challenges in financing our government" to "ensuring quality public education, competing globally for jobs, extending health care while reducing its cost," and much more - "a far greater crisis awaits below the surface and threatens to sink our ship of state."

Clearly, the United States cannot continue building up the national debt, now almost $11 trillion, when "the government has committed to over $56 trillion in liabilities and unfunded promises," says one of the key findings. The nation's physical infrastructure "is crumbling around us ... neglected ... to such a degree that it would cost $2.2 trillion just to bring it up to 'good' condition."

While the economy was losing 23,000 jobs each day, pushing unemployment above 8 percent, the highest in 25 years, household net worth decreased $11.2 trillion (in 2008 alone). During the last year, says the CSPC report, about $50 trillion in the value of financial assets, equivalent to one year of the world's gross domestic product, was destroyed, shrinking the world economy in 2009 for the first time since World War II. The value of equities in retirement plans dropped by $4 trillion in a year.

The tax code contains 3.7 million words, and "current fiscal and financing practices are unsustainable." The federal government is "increasingly dysfunctional," say CSPC's 24 wise men and women, "politically and ideologically divided, shortsighted, compartmentalized, bureaucratic and arcane. Both major political parties seem unable to agree on the approaches necessary to address the structural challenges confronting the country. To make matters worse, these impediments to effective leadership seem to be growing by the day."

America is widely acknowledged as having one of the worst K-12 education systems in the world, yet it spends more on it per student than all but two other nations, says CSPC. More than 1.2 million American students drop out of school every year - or 6,000 every school day. And only 56 percent of students who enroll in four-year colleges after high school manage to earn a bachelor's degree.

"The more our children are exposed to our educational system, the more poorly they perform on international tests," said the report. And as President Obama said before the joint session of Congress, "This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow."

Addressing energy dependence and the environment, the report says the United States, the world's largest energy consumer, produces 10 percent of the world's petroleum but consumes 24 percent. The International Energy Agency forecasts world demand for energy could grow by 45 percent by 2030. "The time has arrived to shift the country's energy signature toward clean energy sources, greater levels of domestic supply, and increased innovation. At the same time, sustained investment is required across the entire energy spectrum, and around the world, to avoid new oil supply and price shocks over the next decade."

"Modernizing America's Infrastructure" produced a "D" on the most recent report of the American Society of Civil Engineers and now requires $2.2 trillion over five years to shore up more than 25 percent of the nation's bridges that are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

Deficient roads cost the economy $78.2 billion in time and fuel. The cost of aviation delays will rise from $9 billion to $30 billion by 2015. But the stimulus package contains billions of infrastructure spending, including $27.5 billion for highway construction; $16.5 billion to modernize public infrastructure; $18 billion for clean water, flood control and environmental restoration; and $17.7 billion for transit and rail.

As for modernizing the U.S. military, the emergence of a global multipolar system out to the year 2025 will be a "relative certainty," according to the latest National Intelligence Council assessment. Shrinking economic and military capabilities may force the United States into a difficult set of trade-offs between domestic and foreign policy priorities," the CSPC study concludes.

America is faced with three options - Business-as-Usual; Muddle-Through; "Transformational" Future. The first means that each American's share of the federal financial burden, currently $184,000, will continue to grow.
Muddling through will postpone the toughest challenges - i.e., health care reform - to where we need to be today to a dangerous future of social upheaval.

Transformation will require citizens to shed their role as spectators and demand that their leaders "set aside short-term interests and take bold, nonpartisan steps, promoting the spirit of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship" that has carried the United States for 233 years.
Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.
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Polish economics


Thursday, April 23, 2009

President Obama's model for spending the nation out of recession is Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. A better example is the Reaganite bearing of post-communist Poland.
In the midst of the global financial crisis, Poland's economy is forecast to grow by almost 1 percent. According to business economists and the Economist magazine, Poland likely will be the only European country with a growing gross domestic product in 2009. Germany's GDP is expected to shrink by more then 5 percent, Britain's by almost 4 percent, France's by 3 percent and the Czech Republic's by 3 percent. With a projected GDP drop of about 3 percent, the United States doesn't look any better.
Poland stands out because of its commitment to free-market policies. Facing down the global economic crisis, leaders in Warsaw have slashed marginal tax rates, cut government spending and temporarily suspended some government regulations.
On Jan. 1, Poland cut its top marginal tax rate from 40 percent to 32 percent - and that's just a start. Last year, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced plans to move to a flat-tax rate of 19 percent in 2010 or 2011. What Poland understands is the importance of the marginal tax rate. The less you take from each additional zloty (the Polish currency) that people earn, the harder they work, the more they invest and the bigger the economic pie becomes.
Contrast Polish common sense with President Obama, who says ever-more government spending is the solution. According to him, "Economists on the left and right agree that the last thing the government should do during a recession is cut back on spending." Poland apparently found contrary advice from other economists. As revenue has fallen, the Polish government has done precisely what Mr. Obama says not to do: cut back on government spending. Warsaw lowered government spending by 6 percent this fiscal year, while Mr. Obama's budget is scheduled to soar by 32 percent.
Poles who suffered under communist central planning don't believe more government is the answer to an ailing economy. An old Polish proverb warns: "Do not push the river, it will flow by itself." That's one of many lessons Mr. Obama and his advisers could learn from this rare, growing European nation.
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MALKIN: Tolerance in the age of Obama

Not overflowing with the milk of human kindness

By Michelle Malkin

Saturday, April 25, 2009


COMMENTARY:
They told us if Barack Obama was elected, the nation would come together. Souls would be fixed. Spirits would be healed. Public discourse would be elevated. Welcome to civility and tolerance in the age of Obama.
Celebrity leech/trash blogger Perez Hilton took to the Internet and TV to humiliate a beauty-pageant contestant who gave what he considered an offensive answer about gay marriage. Mr. Hilton, inexplicably serving as a judge for the Miss USA contest, asked Miss California, Carrie Prejean, whether she supported the legalization of gay marriage. Miss Prejean respectfully answered: "I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that's how I was raised." Mr. Obama, by the way, defines marriage the same way Miss Prejean does.

No matter. Mr. Hilton immediately lambasted Miss Prejean as a "dumb ..." in a viral YouTube video he taped after the pageant Sunday night. He apologized the next morning for the attack, then retracted his apology, then escalated his divisive rhetoric.

Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Hilton told an MSNBC female anchor that he was thinking of an even more vulgar epithet as he listened to Miss Prejean's answer. The female anchor said nothing.

Basking in his new role as thought and speech enforcer, Mr. Hilton told CNN's Larry King that beauty-pageant contestants must bow to the tolerance mob: "Yes. I do expect Miss USA to be politically correct."
Apparently, the Miss USA organizers agree. Instead of apologizing for Mr. Hilton's vile behavior, the pageant director of the Miss California contest, Keith Lewis, sent a note to Mr. Hilton throwing Miss Prejean under the bus: "I am personally saddened and hurt that Miss CA USA 2009 believes marriage rights belong only to a man and a woman. ... Religious beliefs have no place in politics in the Miss CA family."
But gutter profanity and misogyny do?

Some other examples:

• At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill last week, former Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo came to speak against legislative proposals to provide illegal-immigrant students in-state tuition discounts not available to law-abiding Americans and legal immigrants.

Protesters at the institution of higher learning responded by blocking Mr. Tancredo with massive banners and screaming, "No dialogue with hate." Adults in the room stood by while students smashed a window a few feet from where Mr. Tancredo stood. Physically threatened, Mr. Tancredo was forced to leave without delivering his remarks.

According to campus reports, leftists had prepared for a week to mount a speech-squelching demonstration. The same thuggish tactics have been used at Columbia, Georgetown and Michigan State universities to shut down speakers who support strict immigration enforcement. The UNC administration apologized for the students' tantrum but took no steps to examine its own culpability for fostering a climate of intellectual vandalism and intolerance.

• The nightly airwaves turned into a soft-porn cesspool last week as liberal journalists derided and slimed hundreds of thousands of "tea party" protesters across the country who oppose reckless taxing and spending by both major political parties. Award-winning CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, mimicking his bottom-of-the-barrel competitors at MSNBC, smugly indulged in sexual puns about "teabagging." MSNBC devoted the entire week to sophomoric sexual slang and innuendo with references to "nuts," former Republican Rep. Dick Armey and "full-throated" protesters.
And White House adviser David Axelrod calls the tea party folks "unhealthy"?

Speaking of unhealthy, angry white liberal actress Janeane Garofalo venomously played the race card: "It's about hating a black man in the White House. This is racism straight up and is nothing but a bunch of teabagging rednecks." The theme was echoed by Jeffrey Kimball, a professor emeritus of history at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, who castigated the "extreme right" for organizing against Mr. Obama because "he's black and he's liberal."

Tell that to the thousands of activists in South Carolina who practically booed and heckled white Republican Rep. Gresham Barrett off the stage at a tea party in Greenville April 17 for supporting the trillion-dollar Troubled Asset Relief Program and embracing the pork-laden stimulus law after voting against it. "Go home!" they shouted. The only color that mattered to protesters: the red ink of government debts.

But in the age of Obama, there's no room for such nuance and inconvenient truths. A decent young woman is a "dumb ..." for holding the same view of marriage as the Obamessiah. A conservative campus speaker is bullied as a hatemonger by wild-eyed hatemongers. A grass-roots movement is debased as a bunch of racist vulgarians by a media mob of racists and vulgarians. Civility and tolerance have taken a left-hand turn down a one-way street. So much for changing course.

Michelle Malkin is author of "Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild."
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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Death to Israel?

By KEYA DASH

Friday, May 15, 2009



As a Muslim-American, I am deeply offended by Arnaud de Borchgrave's long rambling piece ("Jordan's king warns of war," Commentary, Wednesday), which takes the stereotypical pro-Arab line. In his largely irrelevant piece, only toward the end does the Belgian oracle expose something conclusive: his anti-Israel tone about how things are essentially hopeless because of Israel. So The Washington Times runs yet another piece with a clearly anti-Israeli tenor and, again, it's Mr. de Borchgrave's handiwork.

Not only does he write in the 12th paragraph that "words alone won't change Israel," he suggests in the following paragraph a "thunderclap heard around the world" to compel change: He proposes that the Obama administration manipulate U.S. aid to Israel. Yes, pulling the rug out from under an ally on the front lines is, at least, a thunderclap the world will note - especially in the caves where al Qaeda's executive offices are located.

Of course, Mr. de Borchgrave doesn't have any similarly clever suggestions to compel the Palestinians to do anything differently. Not only has the writer saddled Israel solely with the need to change - but with his silence, he ratifies Palestinian behavior.

The piece implies Iran is a threat only to Israel. Incredibly, the writer doesn't even acknowledge the threat nuclear mullahs pose to civilization. That's disingenuous and designed to deflate any real move to oppose Iran's nuclear program.

Mr. de Borchgrave also omits key facts, such as Jordan's vast majority Palestinian population. Inclusion of this fact would put the Jordanian king's words into perspective for your readers.

Most shocking of all, the author echoes in his conclusion paragraph an Arab journalist's call that the only way to "defeat them [Israel]" is if Arabs, Christian and Muslims unite.

There are many other unfair or outright wrong statements in the piece, but I think the inaccurate title is the biggest disservice to your readers. The author probably ought to have called it "Death to Israel," based on the only conclusion in the piece.

Mr. de Borchgrave rightly points out that bad habits are difficult to break, so I suggest that he start with his own anti-Israel habit.
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Old Saturday, May 23, 2009
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BERTINI / GLICKMAN: Making farms flourish

Time to regrow U.S. leadership on food

By Catherine Bertini and Dan Glickman |
Saturday, May 23, 2009

Americans are generous in a crisis, both here and abroad. No nation is swifter to respond, no people are more giving than Americans when a tragedy strikes. Today, a silent tragedy is sweeping the global south. More than 1 billion people are hungry because of a shortage of food. Most of those people are small farmers and their families living in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

This crisis, and it is a crisis, must be met, for it has profound social, economic and security implications for the United States and the rest of the world.

The good news is the crisis can be abated. What is needed is leadership. And at a time when the world is expecting the United States to re-engage with the international community, a renewed commitment to alleviating hunger and poverty gives America the opportunity to reintroduce itself to the world as a force for positive change.

President Obama has indicated his support for such an effort, for he pledged - at the recent meeting of the Group of 20 richest countries - to increase U.S. support toward agricultural development to $1 billion by 2010. It will take strong and sustained presidential and congressional leadership to turn the new president's words into actions and to create a long-term strategy for America to take the lead in reducing global hunger and poverty.

Currently, the architecture of U.S. foreign assistance is deeply flawed. Despite the link between global poverty and farming, the United States spends 20 times more on food aid to the regions in crisis than on helping farmers there grow their own food.

Aid is critical, but, incredibly, our funding to build agriculture in developing countries has plummeted 85 percent since the 1980s. The U.S. government agencies that once made the "green revolution" possible no longer have the mandate or resources to help developing nations raise farm output and incomes.

What went wrong? In part, we were lulled into a false sense of security by progress after the green revolution. Although that revolution significantly reduced poverty in East Asia, Southeast Asia and parts of South Asia, it did not reach sub-Saharan Africa or the poorest parts of South Asia.
We also assumed commercial agriculture could boost food output in Kenya, Bangladesh or India, yielding higher incomes and lower food prices. But it was small farmers living largely outside the market economy, with little access to the resources to enable them to produce a marketable surplus, who were hungry and poor. These circumstances leave more than 700 million people struggling to survive.
The United States is uniquely suited to support international efforts for agricultural development: It has the strongest agricultural research, education and extension system in the world.

We should use these strengths in our foreign policy and renew our commitment to alleviating global hunger and poverty by making agricultural development central to our foreign assistance. A new report of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs lays out several steps to achieve this:


  • • The president should put agriculture clearly on the global agenda of the administration and Congress, increasing assistance and providing affirmative leadership at the level of the National Security Council as part of a broader "soft power" approach to diplomacy.
  • • We should strengthen the U.S. Agency for International Development and expand funding for institution-building partnerships in agricultural education, extension and research, especially in sub-Saharan Africa with strong support for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. The Lugar-Casey Global Food Security bill is an excellent vehicle for this critical step.
  • • The United States should work through the Millennium Challenge Corp. and World Bank to invest in neglected agricultural infrastructure in the developing world, targeting the needs of small farmers.
  • • We should listen to what developing countries say they need, paying particular attention to the roles and needs of women, who provide the majority of agriculture-sector labor in the world.
  • • The president and Congress should continue to work with other nations to reform and modernize global agricultural subsidies that make it difficult for farmers in developing countries to build economically viable agricultural systems.
  • • The United States should ensure that in addition to humanitarian needs, food aid should make an investment in child nutrition and local economies through buying more food aid locally.
What is the cost? These proposals are not part of the chorus of multibillion-dollar "asks" deafening Congress. The Chicago Council report estimates it will cost about $1 billion annually, just 4.5 percent of our current assistance budget, to begin to make agriculture a central part of foreign assistance.
What is the result? If the United States begins making these modest investments in agriculture this year to the most needy parts of Africa and Asia, at least 280 million people will be lifted from poverty by 2020.

Mr. Obama's intent to increase support for agricultural development is a critical step in the right direction. The only thing between success and failure is sustaining this leadership. What better way could there be for the Obama administration to reintroduce America to the world?


Catherine Bertini was the executive director of the United Nations World Food Program (1992-02). Dan Glickman was U.S. secretary of agriculture (1995-2001). They were co-chairs of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs' Global Agricultural Development Project.
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Old Sunday, May 24, 2009
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Democrats hang fire on guns

The party in power is split on new controls


Friday, May 22, 2009

There is one thing that can be said of President Obama with certainty -- his election has had a phenomenal effect on gun sales.

Across the country, ammunition prices are soaring and many guns are in short supply as weapons fly off the shelves at stores. This is a telling economic indicator about consumer confidence as many Americans stock up for fear that the end is nigh. It's also a logical reaction to gun-owner fears that Democrats will implement far-reaching new gun controls. There is cause for concern. Leaders in the Obama administration and Congress have stated that they plan to limit what guns Americans can buy and that guns should be registered.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Feb. 25 that, "As President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi poured fuel on the fire five weeks later by admitting that Democrats want to register guns. "It's a Democratic president, a Democratic House," she said on ABC's "Good Morning America." "We don't want to take their guns away. We want them registered."

The gun controllers are at odds with public opinion. Despite Americans constantly being bombarded with attacks on guns by an anti-gun media, Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll, notes that "Attitudes toward gun control have become more conservative, people not wanting gun control." A Gallup poll released April 8 shows that only 29 percent of Americans support banning handguns. According to Gallup, "the latest reading is the smallest percentage favoring a handgun ban since Gallup first polled on this nearly 50 years ago."

Popular support for the Second Amendment isn't lost on all congressional Democrats. On May 12, 27 Senate Democrats voted with 39 Republicans to end a ban on law-abiding citizens carrying legal firearms in national parks. The amendment was attached to unrelated legislation to regulate credit cards. The same tactic was used Feb. 26 when an amendment striking down most of the District's gun-control laws was attached to a Senate bill giving the District a vote in Congress. Twenty-two Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, voted for this amendment, which passed 62-36.

It's too early to celebrate Democratic respect for gun rights. Some Senate Democrats who voted for the national park amendment complained that they were painted into a corner on the issue. Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, the party's chief vote counter, told National Public Radio last week that they were concerned about "how many more times they'd have to face such votes." Democrats are torn between their constituents' support for gun rights and an Obama administration committed to gun control.

__________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ _


LOZANSKY: Is NATO disrupting Russia 'reset'?

Caucasus role risks antiterror support

By Edward Lozansky

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Only a couple of short months after the United States and Russia exchanged encouraging remarks about resetting troubled relations, the two countries find themselves again at odds over Georgia. Last week, NATO began monthlong military exercises in Georgia that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has called an "open provocation."

It's unfortunate that these current NATO exercises have the capacity to disrupt much broader strategic interests that the United States and Russia have in common, most notably the mutual fight against al Qaeda. At stake are strong U.S.-Russian cooperative efforts in defeating al Qaeda and stopping its encroachment into the Central Asian and Caucasus regions.
Although NATO describes the exercises, run by its Partnership for Peace program, as routine and small-scale (only 1,000 soldiers or so will take part), Russia credibly argues that, less than a year after its war with Georgia, any NATO training there is confrontational. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made Russia's concern very clear, saying it was "dangerous to appease the current Georgian regime, which has in no way abandoned attempts to solve its problems via militarization and the use of force." Other countries originally planning to participate in the NATO exercises seem to think so as well. Armenia, Kazakhstan, Serbia and Moldova have already pulled out of the exercises.

The rise of Islamic fundamentalism is a threat not only to the United States and Russia, but to many other countries as well. Handling this threat requires a joint Herculean effort similar to, or perhaps even more substantial than, the anti-Nazi alliance during World War II. This time, the task is more complicated. We face dedicated and hardened fanatics without a centralized government, using different warfare techniques, and working through numerous cells that enjoy support - even if just moral support - throughout the world.

In Pakistan, considered a U.S. ally, al Qaeda and other terrorist groups feel comfortable enough to plan and execute major terror attacks and disrupt supply lines to U.S. and NATO forces, sometimes with a helping hand from Pakistani security services. So working together has taken on new importance, especially as NATO seeks Russian cooperation in the war in Afghanistan, and the West seeks Moscow's help with Iran's nuclear program.

It is the West's goal to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda, and it is in Russia's strategic interests to join the West in this fight. Working together toward this goal is an area where "pressing a reset button" in bilateral relations could bring quick results. Russia has allowed nonlethal supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan through its territory, a vital complement to the existing supply route through Pakistan.

However, this is not enough. Russia could and should do much more - for example, allow the transit of military hardware through its territory, urge the former Soviet southern republics and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to contribute to this effort, and permit the United States to use Russia's military base in Kant as a replacement for the loss of the Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan.

The current Afghan government would welcome the supply of familiar Russian weapons and training by Russian instructors, as was done for the Northern Alliance during the first, successful war against the Taliban in 2001 and 2002.

After Sept. 11, 2001, when he was president, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin offered America sympathy and solidarity not only with words, but with deeds. Russia contributed more to the defeat of the Taliban than any other U.S. ally, including NATO members.

And how did former President George W. Bush show Russia his gratitude for the relatively easy victory? Abrogation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty without so much as consulting Russia, a decision to place components of a missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, and NATO expansion into Russia's backyard.

Any one of those things would greatly diminish Russia's appetite for helping the United States. However, the Kremlin should look at this from another perspective. For argument's sake, let's suppose America is defeated in Afghanistan. This would mean Russia would be left one on one with the Taliban and al Qaeda on its southern border, holding the potential for some 20 simultaneous Chechnya-like conflicts in or near Russia's territory. Would Russia be able to manage all these conflicts by itself?

With such compelling, mutual interests at stake for the United States and Russia, it is time the two countries make serious efforts to reset relations. Strained relations between the two will only embolden their mutual enemies, endangering not only themselves, but the rest of the world as well. All these strategic interests are being undermined by the lack of sensitivity toward Russia's security concerns that NATO has shown by holding military exercises in Georgia.

An early wrap-up to NATO's activities in Georgia - a nation engrossed in internal political turmoil - would go a long way toward restoring confidence within Russia that NATO and the United States are willing to consider Russia's legitimate national-security interests.

Edward Lozansky is president of American University in Moscow.
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Old Monday, May 25, 2009
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WISHING: Enduring American principles

The need to understand our own cause in any conflict

By Lee Wishing

Monday, May 25, 2009

"Based upon our observations of American soldiers and their officers captured in this war, the following facts are evidenced," a foreign intelligence officer wrote. "There is little knowledge or understanding, even among United States university graduates, of American political history and philosophy ... of safeguards to freedom; and of how these things supposedly operate within their own system."

Believe it or not, those words weren't written by an al Qaeda operative. They were written during the Korean War (1950-53) by the chief intelligence officer of the Chinese People's Volunteer Army in North Korea. In a 1957 response to those remarks, political theorist and historian Russell Kirk wrote, "Many Americans are badly prepared for their task of defending their own convictions ... against the grim threat of armed ideology. ... And in our age, good-natured ignorance is a luxury none of us can afford."
As we pause this Memorial Day to honor those who died to preserve our freedom, it's a good time to take stock of the threats to our nation. I believe the greatest threat is internal decay caused by a lack of knowledge of those things that make America great.

The Chinese officer's gloating inspired Mr. Kirk to write a primer on American political, economic and civil principles titled "The American Cause." Mr. Kirk defined the American cause as "the defense of the principles of a true civilization. This defense is conducted by renewing people's consciousness of true moral and political and economic principle." He continued, "The American cause is not to stamp out of existence all rivals, but simply to keep alive the principles and institutions which have made the American nation great."

America's modern enemies might have rejoiced in data released last fall by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute demonstrating that 71 percent of Americans in its survey failed a basic civic-literacy test with an average score of 49 percent. Incredibly, the average elected official in the sample scored just 44 percent.

On May 16, I heard a stirring commencement address by Judge Alice M. Batchelder of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals advocating the form of education Mr. Kirk supported - education that will turn back the wave of national civic ignorance and strengthen our country. Following that address, a lawyer and I discussed the deplorable treatment of the U.S. Constitution by the executive and legislative branches of the federal government that led to the approval of a 2009 budget deficit of $1.84 trillion. "Grotesque," the lawyer lamented.

We talked about how many of the world's countries have had multiple constitutions while America has had only one. We concluded that America operates from a new unwritten or "parallel" constitution that allows the government to spend whatever it desires without restraint by constitutional, moral or economic principle.

This new constitution, birthed by civic illiteracy, is fostering the decay of a great nation - $60 trillion in deficits and unfunded liabilities, a failing education system, breathtaking federal government interference in business, an out-of-control Federal Reserve that is putting the American dollar and the world's economic system at great risk, and social programs that promote family breakdown and dependence on government.

Governments in Washington and in many state capitals want even more.
Mr. Kirk's book was written as an intellectual bulwark against the foreign threat of Soviet communism. He was concerned that we could not defend ourselves from foreign enemies unless we understood what we were defending. "Our danger at home is that a great part of the American people may forget that enduring principles exist," he said, foreshadowing today's striking civic illiteracy. "Our danger abroad is that the false principles of revolutionary fanaticism may gain such an influence as to wound us terribly."

I wonder where Mr. Kirk would think the greatest immediate threat to America lies today. Is it al Qaeda or is it a domestic menace in the form of elected officials and bureaucrats whose actions demonstrate they know and care very little about the American cause? I think it is the latter. A country that has lost touch with its core principles is threatened more by constitutional decay than by foreign radicals flying airplanes into skyscrapers. Unfortunately, the domestic threat of civic illiteracy makes foreign threats more potent.

There is hope, of course. But it will require work. The task Mr. Kirk assigns us is "to keep alive the principles and institutions which have made the American nation great." These principles include religious, political and economic liberty - and institutions including limited constitutional government and strong churches and families. The educational institutions that give me the most hope are the private Christian schools, classical Christian schools, home-schooling families and private colleges that have a hefty Western civilization curriculum viewed through the lens of Scripture.
There is hope in America because a vigorous remnant of institutions is working to preserve our core principles. We should enlist in their work.
As we prepare to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country this Memorial Day weekend, let us fulfill our duty to the American cause. Mr. Kirk says, "We do not need to invent some new theory of human nature and politics; but we do need, urgently, to recall to our minds the sound convictions that have sustained our civilization and our nation. Our enemies, no matter what resources they may have, cannot defeat us if we are strong in our own principles."

Lee Wishing is administrative director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College in Pennsylvania.
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