Daily Archives: 12/29/2011

Opinion: Swing State Job Trends Point to Trouble for Obama

Catherine Hollander Writes: Jobless rates and their pace of improvement in seven battleground states have predicted the winner of the last three presidential contests involving an incumbent, a National Journal analysis reveals. While other factors are always at play in presidential elections, the correlation is worth considering. It shows that unemployment rates in these states may need to not only improve, but also to keep pace with the national average for an incumbent president to take that state’s electoral college votes.

That spells trouble for Obama in 2012, if the historical trend and current economic projections hold.

The unemployment rates in seven critical states – Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia – include some of the worst in the country. They are unlikely to show significant, or even statistically meaningful, improvement over the next year and most will fall demonstrably short of the improvement in the United States overall.

The single exception might be Florida, which should see its unemployment rate decline slightly more than the national average – or down 0.8 percent from the fourth quarter of 2011 to the fourth quarter of 2012 compared with the country’s anticipated 0.1 percent drop, according to December data provided by Moody’s Economy.com.

Business is Strong Between Israel and… Gaza!

AP Via Boston Globe Reports: Each day, dozens of trucks move food, consumer products and industrial materials into the Gaza Strip at this heavily fortified crossing, in an odd arrangement that has turned Israel into a key supplier to a territory governed by its bitter enemy Hamas.

Despite frequent fighting along this volatile border, business at the Kerem Shalom crossing has picked up greatly over the past year and a half, though it remains a fraction of historical standards. Israel says it plans a further expansion here by mid-2012.

The activity here shows how the fates of Gaza and Israel remain intertwined, six years after Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from the seaside strip.

Kerem Shalom — the sole cargo passage into Gaza — is an economic lifeline for the territory’s impoverished 1.6 million people, providing the vast majority of consumer goods.

For Israel, it is a key tool in maintaining a tense truce that has largely held up since a devastating Israeli military offensive in Gaza three years ago. With clashes regularly taking place along the volatile border, critics also accuse Israel of using commerce to control and even punish the area.

Kamil Abu Rukun, the senior Israeli Defense Ministry official who oversees all of the country’s border crossings with the Palestinians, rejected such notions. He said the development of the cargo terminal is a shared Israeli and Palestinian interest, and that security concerns are the main factor limiting trade.

“These people have been connected to us for many years, with economic and business ties,” he said. “For humane and humanitarian reasons, we think we must let them get what they need.”

Increased prosperity in Gaza could also reduce militant activity, he said. “I believe that people who can make a decent living think about making a living and not about other things,” he said.

This thinking represents a dramatic, if reluctant, turnabout by Israel, which along with Egypt clamped a tight blockade on Gaza after Hamas overran the area in June 2007. The blockade was meant to weaken Hamas, but didn’t.

While the embargo crippled parts of Gaza’s economy, Hamas deepened its control, in part by smuggling goods and weapons through hundreds of tunnels under the border with Egypt that continue to thrive.

Israel changed its policy toward Gaza after a deadly June 2010 raid on an international flotilla trying to bust the blockade. Under heavy criticism, Israel lifted all restrictions on consumer goods, though it kept a ban on materials like cement and metals that it says could be used by Hamas to build fortifications or aid attacks on Israel.

Egypt’s Military Forces Raid 3 Democracy-Promoting Groups Backed by U.S.

NYT Reports: Egyptian security forces stormed the offices of 17 nonprofit groups around the country on Thursday, including at least three democracy-promotion groups financed by the United States, as part of an investigation that the military rulers say will reveal foreign hands in the recent outbreak of protests.

In Cairo, heavily armed men wearing the black uniforms of the central security police tore through boxes, hauled away files and computers and prevented employees from leaving offices of two of the American groups, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, which are affiliated with American political parties and financed by the United States government. The security forces also raided the offices of the Washington-based Freedom House.

The raids were a stark escalation in what has appeared to be a campaign by the country’s military rulers to rally support by playing to nationalist and anti-American sentiment here.

“General prosecutor & central security stormed N.D.I. office in Cairo & Assiut,” an employee of the National Democratic Institute wrote in a text message from inside its offices. “We are confined here as they’re searching and clearing out office.”

A man, who identified himself as an official with the public prosecutor’s office but declined to give his name, stood outside the offices of the International Republican Institute in the Dokki neighborhood. He refused to answer questions about the raids but said, “Don’t worry, we’re not going to arrest them.”

Perry: Future of My Candidacy Is Up to God

National Journal Reports: If Rick Perry drops out of the Republican presidential race after the Iowa caucuses, blame it on God.

“That’s God’s will,” Perry told a reporter when asked if there was any outcome on Tuesday that would cause him to end his presidential bid. “There might be an outcome that he decides that I wouldn’t go on.” But he’s hoping that the big man will be there for him on Jan. 3. When asked by the same reporter if God was caucusing, Perry responded, “Pretty sure He will be.”

The Texas governor wasn’t leaving everything to God, though. Moments before, at a coffee shop in Washington, he took rival Rick Santorum to task for supporting earmarks while he was in Congress.

“Rick Santorum is a friend–and, I mean, I’ve got great respect for him–but when he talks about fiscal conservatism every now and then, it kind  of leaves me scratching my head because he was a prolific earmarker; and  as we talk about the things that are wrong with Washington, D.C., these  earmarks are a great example of how runaway spending has occurred,”  Perry said.

Karl Roves Predictions for 2012

Karl Rove wrote for the Wall Street Journal a list of predictions for 2012, and here they are:

As New Year’s approaches, here are a baker’s dozen predictions for 2012.

• Republicans will keep the U.S. House, albeit with their 25-seat majority slightly reduced. In the 10 presidential re-elections since 1936, the party in control of the White House has added House seats in seven contests and lost them in three. The average gain has been 12 seats. The largest pickup was 24 seats in 1944—but President Barack Obama is no FDR, despite what he said in his recent “60 Minutes” interview.

• Republicans will take the U.S. Senate. Of the 23 Democratic seats up in 2012, there are at least five vulnerable incumbents (Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Pennsylvania): The GOP takes two or three of these. With the announcement on Tuesday that Nebraska’s Ben Nelson will retire, there are now seven open Democratic seats (Connecticut, Hawaii, North Dakota, New Mexico, Virginia, Wisconsin): The GOP takes three or four. Even if Republicans lose one of the 10 seats they have up, they will have a net pickup of four to six seats, for a majority of 51 to 53.

• Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Harry Reid or both will leave the Democratic leadership by the end of 2012. Speaker John Boehner and Senator Mitch McConnell will continue directing the GOP in their respective chambers.

• This will be the fourth presidential election in a row in which turnout increases. This has happened just once since 1828, from 1928 through 1940.

• In 2008, voters told the Pew Poll that they got more election information from the Internet than from daily newspapers. Next year, that advantage will grow as the Internet closes in on television as America’s principal source of campaign news.

• After failing to win the GOP presidential nomination, Ron Paul will not run as a third-party candidate because that would put his son, Rand Paul, in an untenable position: Does the Republican senator from Kentucky support his father and effectively re-elect Mr. Obama, or back his party and defeat him?

• Mr. Obama’s signature health-care overhaul, already deeply unpopular, will become even more so by Election Day. Women voters are particularly opposed to ObamaCare, feeling it threatens their family’s health.

• Mr. Obama may propose tax reform, attempting to use it to appeal both to his liberal base (a question of fairness) and independents (a reform to spur economic growth). This will fail, but not before boosting Mr. Obama’s poll numbers.

• The Obama campaign won’t corral high-profile Republican endorsements—as it did in 2008 with former Secretary of State Colin Powell—with the unimportant possible exception of former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel. It will also make a special effort to diminish the GOP’s advantage among military families, veterans and evangelicals, with the last a special target if Republicans nominate Mitt Romney.

• Despite an extraordinary amount of presidential time and involvement, Team Obama will fall as much as $200 million short of its $1 billion combined fund-raising target for the campaign and Democratic National Committee. Even so, Mr. Obama and Democrats will outspend the GOP nominee and Republicans. This won’t necessarily translate into victory: John Kerry and Democrats outspent President George W. Bush and Republicans in 2004 by $124 million. Groups like American Crossroads (which I helped found) will narrow the Democratic money advantage.

• Scandals surrounding the now-bankrupt Solyndra, Fannie and Freddie, MF Global and administration insider deals still to emerge will metastasize, demolishing the president’s image as a political outsider. By the election, the impression will harden that Mr. Obama is a modern Chicago-style patronage politician, using taxpayer dollars to reward political allies (like unions) and contributors (like Obama fund-raiser and Solyndra investor George Kaiser).

• To intimidate critics and provoke higher black turnout, Democrats will play the race card more than in any election since 1948. Witness Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent charge that criticism of him and the president was “both due to the nature of our relationship and . . . the fact that we’re both African-Americans.”

• The economic recovery will continue to be anemic, leaving both unemployment and concerns about whether the president is up to the job high on Election Day. Because of this, Mr. Obama will lose as his margins drop among five groups essential to his 2008 victory—independents, women, Latinos, young people and Jews. While he will win a majority from at least three of these groups, he won’t win them by as much as he did last time.

Predicting the future is always dangerous but conservatives believe in accountability, so let’s see how well I do a year from now.

Opinion: In U.S. Primaries, Neither Israel nor Palestinians Win

Natasha Mozgovaya Writes: One of last events in Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s  barnstorming tour of Iowa wil be a meeting with members of the Jewish community at a Des Moines deli on Sunday. So far, Republican candidates have held no events specifically for the Jewish community in that state, which on Tuesday will kick off the process of selecting the party’s candidate for president. Iowa’s population of three million includes only about 7,500 Jews, and most of them are Democrats.

Bud Hockenberg, a prominent Iowan Republican political activist and self-described “fourth-generation Jew in Des Moines,” seems to enjoy the disproportional attention his state gets during the elections. For years, Iowa was considered a “red” state. But now it is split between the Democratic east and the Republican west. And even the Republican race here is unusual this year, due to the high proportion of undecided voters – about 60 percent.

This year, Hockenberg noted, social conservatives are “divided between three or four candidates.” Additionally, these conservatives might be more pragmatic this time. In 2008, “conservatives who care about faith, who care about marriages, who are against abortion … if you disagreed with them, they would not vote for you,” he said. “This time, they have such a distrust of Obama that they have this ‘ABO’ – ‘Anyone But Obama.’”

The caucuses are a complex process in which only about 80,000 to 130,000 Iowans participate. They last two and a half to three hours, and the results are announced that same evening.

“The importance of Iowa is in so-called ‘retail politics,’” Hockenberg said. “Candidates have to meet people and their records are very carefully examined. For example, Ron Paul – recently it came out he is against Israel, and not concerned about Iran. These two positions will weaken him.”

Hockenberg dismissed claims that Israel shouldn’t be an issue in these elections.

“I can understand the attitude of Israeli officials that it’s better to be under the radar, and ‘let’s not make it an issue,’” he said. “But it is an issue, because there is some concern about the attitude of Obama’s administration toward the State of Israel. There are Republicans such as myself that feel he is not supportive and that it might cause a decline of support for the State of Israel. That’s the reason it’s being raised.

“The Israeli ambassador has to stay neutral, of course, but his country needs strong support of Israel by the U.S. mainstream population. And there is the reason that is always mentioned: that Israel is strategic ally, it provides significant military technology to the U.S., and now with the Muslim Brotherhood strong in northern Africa, the only country that is safe for stationing military equipment and personnel is Israel.

“Israel will be an issue in this campaign, with this administration’s record. Whether it’s good or bad, history will have to decide.

“Besides, there are 40 million Christian evangelicals in America, out of a population of 300 million. And their belief is that Judaism is the root and Christianity is the branch that grows from the root, and the root is the Jewish State of Israel. If there is no Israel, how can their faith be redeemed?”

VA GOP Will Require Voters to Sign Loyalty Oath Before Voting in March 6 Primary

BG Reports: The state Republican Party will require voters to sign a loyalty oath in order to participate in the March 6 presidential primary.

Anyone who wants to vote must sign a form at the polling place pledging to support the eventual Republican nominee for president. Anyone who refuses to sign will be barred from voting in the primary.

During a brief meeting Wednesday at the state Capitol, the State Board of Elections voted 3-0 to approve three forms developed by the election board’s staff to implement the loyalty pledge requested by the state GOP.

Campaign Ad: Newt – in his Own Words – is One Big Mistake

H/Y NYT:

Report: Pelosi Daughter Says Mom Wants to Leave Congress

News Busters Reports: Despite the left’s newfound embrace of class-warfare and the politics of  envy, in the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats are being led by one of  the richest people in America, Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco. That may not be a  long-term trend, though, if you consider what her daughter, a journalist and  documentary film-maker, said recently–that her  mother wants to leave Congress:

She would retire right now, if the donors she has didn’t want her to stay  so badly. They know she wants to leave, though. They think she’s destined for  the wilderness. She has very few days left. She’s 71, she wants to have a life,  she’s done. It’s obligation, that’s all I’m saying.

That’s quite a stunning thing for a member of Congress’s daughter to say  about her, particularly to conservative journalist, Jeffrey Scott Shapiro,  writing at Big Government. It’s starting to look as though Pelosi may retire  should Democrats do poorly in the 2012 races.

Iran Says it ‘Spotted’ a US Aircraft Carrier in its Wargames Zone

AFP Via Breitbart Reports: A US aircraft carrier entered a zone near the Strait of Hormuz being used by the Iranian navy for wargames, an Iranian official said Thursday amid rising tensions over the key oil-transit channel.

“A US aircraft carrier was spotted inside the manoeuvre zone… by a navy reconnaissance aircraft,” Commodore Mahmoud Mousavi, the spokesman for the Iranian exercises, told the official IRNA news agency.

The Iranian aircraft took video and photos of the US vessel, he added.

The US aircraft carrier was believed to the USS John C. Stennis, one of the US navy’s biggest warships.

US officials announced Wednesday that the ship and its accompanying battle group moved through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow stretch at the entrance to the Gulf that is the world’s most important choke point for oil shipments.

After warnings from the Iranian government and navy this week that Iran could close the strait if threatened by further Western sanctions, the US Defence Department warned Wednesday that such actions “will not be tolerated.”

The United States maintains a navy presence in the Gulf in large part to ensure oil traffic there is unhindered.

14 Muslim Leaders Plan Boycott of Friday’s Breakfast Hosted by Mayor Bloomberg

NYT Reports: A group of Muslim leaders plans to boycott Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s annual interfaith breakfast on Friday to protest what it calls the unfair surveillance of Muslims by the New York Police Department.

In a letter sent to Mr. Bloomberg on Wednesday, 14 Muslim leaders said they would not attend the breakfast because of what they described as “very disturbing revelations” about the city’s treatment of Muslim New Yorkers. They were referring to a series of articles released by The Associated Press beginning in August that detailed the use of undercover officers and informants to gather and maintain information about political activity among Muslims in circumstances in which there was no indication that crimes had occurred.

The mayor and the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, strongly denied the accusations in the articles, saying the department did not target Muslims but simply followed leads.

The letter writers, who included clergy members, a professor at Fordham University School of Law and the president of the New York chapter of the Council on Arab-American Relations, seemed to find this response frustrating.

“We are deeply disturbed that to date we have only heard your words of strong support for these troubling policies and violations of our rights,” they wrote to the mayor. “We are equally disturbed by Commissioner Kelly’s denials of what we know to be true as verified by the leaked documents.”

The writers requested a meeting with the mayor “at the earliest possible date” to discuss the issue of surveillance of Muslim communities.

Hezbollah, Israel Have No Interest in New War

The Daily Star Reports: The escalating violence in Syria and renewed speculation of an imminent  attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities have the potential to bring Hezbollah  and Israel closer to war in 2012 than at any other time since the last one ended  five years ago.

Yet despite the uncertainties surrounding a volatile and rapidly changing  Middle East, as well as the feverish military preparations undertaken by both  sides since 2006, neither Hezbollah nor Israel seek another conflict at this  time, especially not one that promises to be the most destructive either has  ever experienced.

Hezbollah is far stronger military than it was five years ago and appears  determined next time to go on the offensive and wage a war without restraints,  which could include missile volleys striking Israeli cities and incursions into  Israel by land and sea, as hinted at on occasions by Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah,  Hezbollah’s secretary-general.

By comparison, Hezbollah fought in a defensive and reactive capacity in  2006, hoping to bring the war to an end as quickly as possible before too much  damage was inflicted on its military infrastructure. Despite Hezbollah’s  impressive performance against the Israeli military in 2006, it was not a war  that the party wished to fight. Hezbollah’s secret and skillfully camouflaged  military infrastructure of tunnels, bunkers and firing positions in the southern  border district built over the previous six years was compromised and most  subsequently abandoned. Furthermore, battlefield tactics and previously unseen  weaponry (such as the Noor anti-ship missile used to disable an Israeli naval  vessel) were prematurely exposed. Since then, Hezbollah has had to recruit and  train fighters, redeploy its forces, build new front lines and develop fresh  battle tactics to try and stay one step ahead of the Israelis.

(Read More)

Russia Says Gitmo, Wrongfull Death-Row Convictions in US are Human Rights Violations

CBS Reports: Russia’s Foreign Ministry has attacked America’s human rights record in its first report on injustice elsewhere in the world, offering examples such as the Guantanamo Bay prison and wrongful death row convictions to paint the U.S. as hypocritical for lecturing other nations on the subject of rights.

“The situation in the United States is a far cry from the ideals that Washington proclaims,” says the report released Wednesday.

Moscow has previously reacted angrily to the accusations of human rights breaches that the U.S. State Department has leveled at Russia in its annual reports. The State Department has expressed concern about the violent attacks on rights activists and journalists in Russia, most of which go unpunished. It also has criticized abuses in Russia’s Caucasus, including extrajudicial killings, kidnappings and torture.

The 90-page Russian report slams EU nations, Canada and Georgia, but reserves its longest section of 20 pages for what it says are violations by the United States. The report does not cover Asia, Africa or the Middle East, other than a five-page section criticizing the NATO operation in Libya.

‘Stealth’ Campaign Promotes Ron Paul in Florida

Scott Powers at the Orlando Sentinel Reports: U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, the grumpy old man of the Republican presidential field, is benefiting from a stealth campaign in Florida that could make him a surprise contender in the Jan. 31 primary, especially if he wins Tuesday’s Iowa caucus.

Paul, R-Texas, lacks the formal Florida political organization of other GOP candidates, notably Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich. His campaign rarely hosts high-profile fundraisers, campaign events or public announcements here, and responds to local media inquiries even more rarely.

Yet two grass-roots groups operating largely below the radar in the Sunshine State have helped mobilize thousands of volunteers who have opened several offices, including bases in Orlando, Miami, Palm Beach County and Tampa.

Campaign for Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty are established nationally as nonprofit “social-welfare organizations.” Campaign for Liberty (C4L) has opened shop in 24 Florida counties, spanning 16 congressional districts. YAL is the college version, with chapters on 11 campuses, including the University of Central Florida. They push Paul’s agenda, and members go out and organize for Paul.

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