November 22nd, 2010
by Elad Benari
(Israelnationalnews.com) As speculation in the United States is rampant on whether former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin will take a shot at the President’s seat in the 2012 elections, a poll conducted by an American political website shows that Palin might have a good chance of winning should she run.
The poll, which was conducted by political journal Politico and published on its website, shows that 53 per cent of respondents believe that Palin would win a presidential match-up against President Barack Obama, while only 35 per cent of respondents believe that Obama would win. 4 per cent believe that it is better to wait and see what the 2012 landscape looks like, while 7 per cent responded that neither Palin nor Obama should win. The results are based on 58009 votes in the poll that was conducted online.
Politico conducted the poll after Vice President Joe Biden said on Thursday during an interview with CNN’s Larry King, that he believes that Palin has “a good chance” of winning the GOP's presidential nod in 2012. At the same time, Biden added that he also believes that Obama “would be in good shape” for reelection.
“Were I a Republican senator or a Republican political leader, I would look and say, ‘Wait, she's got a good chance of getting the nomination,’” Biden told King. “My mom used to have an expression, ‘Be careful what you wish for, Joe, you may get it.’ So I never underestimate anyone. But I think, in that race, it would be a clear, clear choice for the country to make, and I believe President Obama would be in very good shape.”
Palin, meanwhile, has told ABC’s Barbara Walters as part of an interview that will air on December 9 that she is considering running for the Republican presidential nomination. Palin added that if she wins the Republican nomination she could defeat Obama.
In a short clip from the interview released by ABC News, Palin says: “I’m looking at the lay of the land now, and ... trying to figure that out, if it’s a good thing for the country, for the discourse, for my family, if it’s a good thing.”
When Walters asks Palin: “If you ran for president, could you beat Barack Obama?” she responds with “I believe so.”
Palin is considered to be pro-Israel and as recently as last week told 85 GOP freshmen Congressmen in an open letter that “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, not a settlement.”
“You can stand with allies like Israel, not criticize them,” wrote Palin. “You can let the President know what you believe… and stick to the principles that propelled your campaigns.”
Palin has also spoken out against the planned mosque on Ground Zero in New York and was one of the first public figures to do so.
November 22nd, 2010
By Robert J. Samuelson
Monday, November 22, 2010; The Washington Post
America's budget problem boils down to a simple question: How much will we let programs for the elderly displace other government functions - national defense, education, transportation and many others - and raise taxes to levels that would, almost certainly, reduce economic growth? What's depressing is that this question has been obvious for decades, but our political leaders have consistently evaded it. This includes and indicts Democrats, Republicans, conservatives, liberals and every president since Jimmy Carter, particularly Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, who clearly understood the problem.
Our political culture prefers delusion to candor. Liberals would solve the budget problem by taxing the rich and cutting defense. Think again. The richest 5 percent already pay about 45 percent of federal taxes; they may pay more but not enough to balance the budget. Defense spending constitutes a fifth of federal spending; projected deficits over the next decade are similar. We won't shut the Pentagon. Republicans and Tea Partyers think that eliminating "wasteful spending" would allow more tax cuts. Dream on. The major spending programs, Social Security and Medicare, are wildly popular with roughly 50 million beneficiaries.
Now come Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, co-chairmen of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, with a plan. It would freeze government salaries for three years, increase the gasoline tax by 15 cents a gallon, and slowly raise Social Security's eligibility ages for early retirement and full benefits. These ages are now 62 and 66; they would go to 64 and 69 around 2075. Sensibly, changes wouldn't start until 2012 to avoid threatening the economic recovery.
Unfortunately, the plan has much wishful thinking. It would cap federal spending at 22 percent of the economy (gross domestic product) and taxes at 21 percent of GDP. These targets represent modest increases over averages for 1970 to 2009: 20.7 percent of GDP for spending; 18.1 percent for taxes. But maintaining the targets assumes that health-care costs - the largest factor expanding spending - slow significantly. Bowles-Simpson has few proposals to make that happen.
We need something more powerful: budget changes that redefine government to reflect today's social and economic realities. Longer life expectancies justify raising eligibility ages for Social Security faster than Bowles-Simpson suggests. Wealthier retirees should pay more for Medicare. Somehow we need to control health spending. We should eliminate programs that are ineffective or serve narrow interests: farm subsidies, Amtrak and others.
To understand our predicament, glance at the table below. It shows federal taxes and spending as a share of GDP for 2006 (the last "normal" year before the slump) and projections for 2020 and 2035. The Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid forecasts - reflecting current benefits - come from the Congressional Budget Office. Other spending categories are held constant as a share of GDP. There's no room for big emergencies or new programs. Though crude, the resulting numbers capture the mounting pressures.
The federal budget as share of GDP
|Social Security Medicare,Medicaid||8.3||12.4||17.1|
It's scary. From 2006 to 2035, federal spending goes from 20 percent of GDP to almost 29 percent. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (including Obamacare) account for all the increase. The reasons: More elderly people and climbing health costs. In 2035, the 65-plus population will be 93 percent larger than in 2010. Paying for bigger government would require a tax increase of about 50 percent. If we want to avoid a tax increase - while honoring existing Social Security and health-care benefits - we'd have to cut all other programs by about 80 percent. (And these figures are probably optimistic, because interest on government debt is assumed to remain low.)
The problem is not reducing the deficit. It is controlling spending in a way that seems socially just, economically sensible and politically tolerable. If we are honest - neither party has been - it means asking how much we allow benefits for the old to burden the young through higher taxes, lower public services, slower economic growth and weakened national security.
Any genuine debate must be wrenching because government has promised more than it can realistically deliver, and lower benefits or higher taxes will leave many feeling (justifiably) mistreated. No one would be happy. Liberals would have to accept sizable benefit cuts; conservatives, tax increases.
Recognizing this logic, America's leaders have averted their eyes and held their tongues. President Obama continues this inglorious avoidance. His Obamacare actually made matters worse by increasing the least controllable spending. The initial reception to Bowles-Simpson has been predictably tepid. But even if it passed Congress, it would be only a first step.
November 22nd, 2010
November 22nd, 2010
The O-Team: Where Overkill Is Underrated
November 22nd, 2010
German tourist attraction shuts down Closure reflects growing terrorism fears
By Erik Kirschbaum
BERLIN, Nov 22 (Reuters) - The Reichstag in Berlin was abruptly closed to tourists without prior bookings on Monday after reports of a plot by Islamist militants to attack Germany's historic parliament building.
The shutdown of the majestic structure's modern glass cupola and rooftop terrace reflected growing worries about terrorism in a country that until now has been mostly spared from violence and largely unperturbed by security fears.
One of Germany's most popular tourist attractions, the 19th century Reichstag is visited by some 3 million people each year. Only small groups with advance bookings were allowed past police barricades as thousands of others were turned away.
"It's unfortunate, but I'm sure police have their reasons," said Peter Kalle, 50, a Bavarian tourist, as he and his family were denied entrance on a rainy day. "It's sad, but dealing with the terrorist threat is more important than sightseeing."
A spokesman for the Reichstag offered no explanation but said the closure would last "until further notice". About 60 armed police were stationed around the building.
Der Spiegel magazine reported on Saturday that a jihadist living abroad had informed authorities of a plan for armed militants to enter the Reichstag and open fire. Police played down the report, saying there were no concrete details.
The scare nevertheless prompted officials to announce last week they were raising the national security alert, Der Spiegel said. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said last Thursday authorities were on guard against threats of an armed attack of the kind that killed 166 in the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008.
Heavily armed police in bulletproof vests have since been a fixture at rail stations and airports across Germany. Local media coverage of the security threat has become intense.
"We want to live freely and without fear in Germany," Chancellor Angela Merkel said at the weekend. "No terror threat is going to stop us from that."
The Reichstag was damaged by an arson attack in 1933 that was used by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler as a pretext for assuming dictatorial powers. It was badly damaged in World War Two.
Kalle and other tourists standing outside the Reichstag security fence agreed that worries about terrorism had grown in Germany. De Maiziere had long played down the threat of attacks, but this month has issued repeated warnings.
"It's annoying as I was looking forward to going inside but it's better to close it than have something happen," said Paul Huxen, 25, a London graphic designer. "They're not overreacting. In England if there were a threat, we'd close it down as well."
Tatiana Montelonch, 22, from Spain, added: "I feel quite safe in Berlin, safer than in Spain. The possibility of a terror attack here doesn't want to enter my mind."
The leaders of the 9/11 attacks on the United States in 2001 were students based in Hamburg. In 2002, 14 Germans were among 20 killed in a suicide attack on a synagogue in Tunisia.
Earlier this year, three Islamist militants behind a foiled 2007 plan to attack U.S. targets in Germany with car bombs were jailed for plotting what the judge called a "monstrous bloodbath".
Other Reuters stories
(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)