SINGAPORE -- While the U.S. unemployment rate "dropped" to 7.7 percent last month -- a figure even The Washington Post acknowledged was due "...in large part because the labor force fell by 350,000..." -- here in this modern and prosperous city-state of slightly more than 5 million people, unemployment is practically nonexistent.
A taxi driver tells me, "Everyone here works." With unemployment at an astonishingly low 1.9 percent, he is nearly right.
"You gotta have hope; mustn't sit around and mope." -- "Damn Yankees"
Sitting in the room at the Jack Kemp Leadership Award dinner last week, listening to Senator Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, and Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican and of late the GOP vice presidential candidate, I sensed more than a generational shift in party leadership.
An Internet search is inconclusive as to where the phrase "no skin in the game" originated. Some ascribe it to the late columnist William Safire; others to investor Warren Buffett. Politicians often use the phrase to justify policies to their liking. It can also be applied to the latest in a long list of their outrageous behaviors, as well as to those of President Obama.
Like an increasing number of politicians, the president has never served in the military, nor has he ever run a business. He has never headed a company that needed to make a profit (and thus employ people who create things people wish to purchase). He has likely never had to produce a balance sheet. His entire career -- and that of too many other politicians -- appears to have been about redistributing other people's money and organizing "communities" to receive government benefits.
The opening scene-setter for the 1996 film "Independence Day" might serve as a metaphor for what Egyptians could face if a draft constitution written by a panel dominated by Islamists and based on Sharia law wins approval in a referendum: "A loud rumble is heard. Suddenly, we are covered in darkness as the shadow engulfs us. Only the image of our Earth hangs in the air, until a huge silhouetted object suddenly blocks our view."
Egypt could well embrace the dark side (to mix movie metaphors) and become the region's biggest force for extremism, just ahead of the Wahaabists in Saudi Arabia, though Iran with its race toward nuclear weapons poses the most immediate danger.
Congress returned to "work" this week (now there's a laugh) to complete its lame-duck session before taking another holiday. Spending other people's money is a taxing experience.
Their task is to avoid the "fiscal cliff," a geological construct of their own making. It doesn't take a genius to predict both parties will try to do two things: (1) reach an agreement that will allow each side to take some credit and (2) require those who work for a living to pay government more while they come up with phony, or inconsequential spending "cuts."
The diplomatic hosannas for Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi following his brokering of the recent ceasefire between Hamas and Israel were still being heard even as the former head of the Muslim Brotherhood started behaving like a pharaoh. Morsi "temporarily" seized new powers that, among other things, forbid judicial review of his policies.
What ought to amaze us is how many times Western and especially U.S. diplomats have gone to the Arab-Muslim well, believing they will find something different at the bottom. Egypt, Hamas and even Iran string us along like a cad with a bevy of women in his orbit because we refuse to acknowledge their true intent.
Conservatives have been dreaming that a political reincarnation of Ronald Reagan would lead them to an electoral promised land. I never put my faith in such a possibility, because the past is a dangerous place in which to live. Reagan never lived in the past, though he learned from it.
Yet among the contemporary political figures that closely represent the substance and style that made Ronald Reagan who he was is Senator Marco Rubio, Florida Republican.
The resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus over an extramarital affair has raised and will continue to raise a number of questions.
First among them (OK, maybe not first, national security being more important, but stay with me) is why should he have resigned? I am always amused when journalists use the words "sex scandal" when writing about such things. Having abandoned most standards for what used to be called "upright behavior," culture now "tsk-tsks" when someone is caught in a compromising position.
"The color of the world is changing day by day." -- "Les Miserables," the musical
A look at the electoral map indicates the Republican Party won in square miles. Unfortunately for them, electoral votes, not landmass, won President Obama a second term. Analysis from the Center for Responsive Politics estimated that total spending on federal elections would peak at nearly $6 billion, an all-time record. This spending included ads that carpet bombed swing states; yet we are still an almost equally divided nation. But America is rapidly changing.
Presidential elections decide only who wins the White House and a congressional majority. They don't by themselves solve the nation's problems. George W. Bush had a majority Republican Congress and did little with it. President Obama had a majority Democrat Congress during his first two years in office, but appeared to let ideology trump solutions, causing additional harm to the economy.
What will happen if Mitt Romney wins the White House, but Democrats maintain a Senate majority? Even if Romney wins (likely) and Republicans capture the Senate (unlikely) and maintain their House majority (likely), will real change take place? Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called Mitt Romney's appeal for bipartisanship "laughable" and said he would block Romney's "severely conservative agenda." We can guess what Reid's agenda will be if Democrats maintain their Senate majority.
On MSNBC's Ed Schultz program Friday night, the former chief of staff for Colin Powell, retired Army Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, said, of the Republican Party, "My party is full of racists ... and the real reason a considerable portion of my party wants President Obama out of the White House has nothing to do with the content of his character, nothing to do with his competence as commander in chief and president, and everything to do with the color of his skin ... that's despicable."
Wilkerson's allegation followed his former boss's endorsement of President Obama for a second term. The history of racism has certainly stained both parties and there are racist Democrats and racist Republicans, but when the race card is played this close to the election, I suspect the pro-Obama forces are sensing trouble.
After watching the third presidential debate, are you clear on America's foreign policy? I thought not. That's because there appears to be no singular foreign policy, rather a series of foreign policies, which must be tailored to fit each nation.
I expected Mitt Romney to go after President Obama on his most recent foreign policy failure, the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans were killed, including the U.S. ambassador. The president had no explanation as to why there was inadequate security in Benghazi, preferring instead to say only that we are "going after the killers." Romney refused to press him on it. Some may have viewed this as a missed opportunity, but I think it was designed to show Romney's restraint and to counter the "do you want to get us into another Middle East war?" charge.
Former South Dakota Democratic Senator George McGovern, who died Sunday, had all manner of evil said about him because of his opposition to the Vietnam War. He was called unpatriotic, disloyal, an appeaser and an enabler of communism. Those were the printable slanders.
Many conservatives at the time believed in the "domino theory," that if South Vietnam fell to the communists, all Asia would follow. That proved untrue. McGovern was eventually vindicated in many minds about America's involvement in Vietnam.
Had Vice President Joe Biden behaved toward Sarah Palin in their 2008 debate the way he behaved toward Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan in their debate last Thursday, he might have been denounced as a patronizing misogynist.
In his debate with Ryan, the vice president was merely a jerk.
The hottest ticket on Broadway continues to be "The Book of Mormon," a musical that pokes fun at the Mormon faith in particular and Christianity in general. It is also full of profanity and blasphemy. If there was a show called "The Book of Muhammad," the Eugene O'Neill Theatre probably would have been burned down by now. New Yorkers are selective when picking their targets.
Now there's a new musical called "Scandalous," about a colorful, some would say corrupt, evangelist named Aimee Semple McPherson, founder of the Foursquare Church. In the early part of the 20th century, Aimee was more famous than any TV evangelist today. She combined a considerable amount of show business with an equal amount of religiosity and packed them in at her Angelus Temple in Los Angeles, which remains in operation today, long after her death.
Mitt Romney's main advantage in his first debate with President Obama on Wednesday may be that the president will be speaking without a teleprompter. His second advantage is the president's record and how he has failed to fulfill many of his promises.
While the president will probably recycle his class warfare themes, Romney should focus on the president's domestic failures and on Republican initiatives that have worked in the past. We Americans didn't just crawl out of a cave. There is history.
NEW YORK -- Prior to leaving Egypt for the United Nations General Assembly, Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Morsi told The New York Times the United States needs to "fundamentally change" its approach to the Arab world. That includes, he said, showing greater respect for Arab values, as well as helping to build a Palestinian state.
Is there an Arab equivalent for the Yiddish word "Chutzpah"? It isn't the policies and attitude of the United States toward the Arab world that need changing. It's the attitude and policies of the Arab world that need to change. For a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, who still subscribes to the group's radical beliefs, to blame America for problems in the Arab world is like blaming the mirror for what it reflects.
TAMPA, Fla. -- This week when Mitt Romney strides to center stage to deliver his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, he might draw inspiration from an unlikely source: the song "I Am What I Am" from the musical "La Cage Aux Folles."
One of the chief complaints from voters about politicians is that they too often package themselves disingenuously to get elected, only to reveal their real agenda after they've won. That is what President Obama did in the 2008 campaign when he styled himself as a unifier who wanted to bridge the partisan divide by saying, "...we are not a collection of red states and blue states. We are the United States of America." He then governed more like he was in Soviet America with redistribution of income and more centralized power in Washington.
It's trapping season. The targets are Republicans, whom the Democratic-friendly media (the trappers) hunt in order to smear -- especially the Romney-Ryan ticket -- forcing them off message.
The bait in the latest case is the issue of abortion in cases of rape. The hunter's target was Rep. Todd Akin, a Missouri Republican, who is running for the Senate against Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill.
When women complain about men who can't commit, they can thank -- or blame -- two people: Playboy magazine publisher Hugh Hefner and the former editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, Helen Gurley Brown, who died this week at age 90.
Brown was the flip side of Hefner, offering women permission, even encouragement, to embrace a female version of Hefner's freewheeling "Playboy philosophy" of unrestrained sexual pleasure. Brown and Hefner offered one-way tickets to fantasyland, a journey supposedly without cost to a destination seemingly without consequences.
Last Thursday's Wall Street Journal editorial "Why Not Paul Ryan?" made the case for his selection as the Republican vice-presidential nominee in this statement: "Romney can win a big election over big issues. He'll lose a small one."
After Ryan's serious proposal to restructure Medicare -- which virtually everyone knows must be reformed -- the response from Democrats was an unserious TV ad, which showed a Ryan look-alike pushing an old woman in a wheelchair over a cliff.
To call Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid a "mad dog," as Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank did, is an affront to the canine community and those suffering from legitimate mental illness. Reid was completely sane when he spread hearsay about an anonymous Bain Capital investor who allegedly told him Mitt Romney paid no taxes for 10 years.
Doesn't Reid, a Mormon like Romney, subscribe to the prohibition in the Ninth Commandment: "Thou shall not bear false witness"? He appears to pay no political price because he's a Democrat and unlike Joe McCarthy, to whom some are comparing him, no prominent fellow Democrat or top media figure has asked Reid the question put to the commie-hunting McCarthy by attorney Joseph Welch in 1953: "Have you no sense of decency, sir?"
PLYMOUTH NOTCH, Vt. -- Two of my pundit colleagues -- David Brooks of The New York Times and Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal -- have written about this "boring" and "inconsequential" presidential campaign.
Perhaps the reason is that we've heard it all before. "There is nothing new under the sun," wrote the author of Ecclesiastes, but that doesn't mean old ideas that worked in the past can't be updated and applied to our time.
The Obama re-election team must be in panic mode. The president is stuck in a virtual tie with Mitt Romney in some polls and behind him in others, so in desperation it has reached out to the Big Dog, Bill Clinton, for help.
Clinton will speak next month at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., in a Wednesday night position often reserved for the vice presidential nominee. Obama and Clinton have not had the most cordial relationship, but when you're drowning, your feelings about the lifeguard matter less than his ability to keep you afloat. And Obama is a sinking man.
Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy is in hot water with the LGBT community because he committed the cardinal sin in an age of political correctness: Thou must not speak ill of anything gays, lesbians, bisexuals or transgenders wish to do.
In an interview with the Baptist Press and later on a Christian radio program, Cathy, whose father, the philanthropist Truett Cathy, founded the company, defended marriage between a man and a woman and when asked about the company's support of traditional marriage said, "Guilty as charged. We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit." Cathy believes American society is rotting (and where is evidence to the contrary?) because the country has turned away from God.
By now the script should be familiar. A bombing or a mass shooting occurs and the media immediately look for a simple cause. Invariably, they turn to talk radio or some other conservative pit of "intolerance."
Within recent memory are tragedies like the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the 1999 massacre at Columbine, the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings and the 2011 shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others in Tucson. Some politicians and liberal interest groups have sought to link these and other violent incidents to the far right. There have also been incidents when some conservatives have tried to blame other tragedies on "liberals" "secularists" and abortion.
Stephen Covey, the management guru who died this week, would have had a hard time selling his books in Benjamin Franklin's America, or Abe Lincoln's. His best seller "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" would have been considered a self-evident truth, one drummed into earlier Americans by schools, churches and the Puritan ethic.
Today, Covey's thoughts about how to become a success by applying principles with a proven track record seem innovative and cutting edge. His work is a rebuke to the notion that government can do it all for you.
Mitt Romney's speech to the NAACP convention in Houston was -- according to one's political perspective -- a "calculated move on his part to get booed..." to help his white base (Rep. Nancy Pelosi), or a presentation to "independent thinking adult citizens" whom he treated as equals (Rush Limbaugh).
Having an adult conversation in a racially and politically polarized age is nearly impossible, especially when our current political culture does not require a solution to problems, only the use of rhetoric and symbols to gain political power.