Woman Linked to Petraeus Is a West Point Graduate and Lifelong High Achiever


WASHINGTON — Paula Broadwell, whose affair with the nation’s C.I.A. director led to his resignation on Friday, was the valedictorian of her high school class and homecoming queen, a fitness champion at West Point with a graduate degree from Harvard, and a model for a machine gun manufacturer.

T. Ortega Gaines/The Charlotte Observer, via Associated Press

Paula Broadwell, who wrote a biography of David H. Petraeus, moved into public view on Friday after an affair with Mr. Petraeus was uncovered.

It may have been those qualities — or a lifetime of achievement that included being state student council president, all-state basketball player and orchestra concertmistress in her native North Carolina — that drew the amorous attention of David H. Petraeus, the nation’s top spy and a four-star general, as the two spent hours together for a biography of Mr. Petraeus that Ms. Broadwell co-wrote.

Ms. Broadwell’s name burst into public view on Friday evening after Mr. Petraeus resigned abruptly amid an F.B.I. investigation that uncovered evidence of their relationship.

But Ms. Broadwell was hardly shy about her interactions with Mr. Petraeus as she promoted her book, “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus,” in media appearances earlier this year. She had unusual access, she noted in promotional appearances, taping many of her interviews for her book while running six-minute miles with Mr. Petraeus in the thin mountain air of the Afghan capital.

Ms. Broadwell said in an interview in February that Mr. Petraeus was enjoying his new civilian life at the C.I.A., where he became director in September 2011. “It was a huge growth period for him, because he realized he didn’t have to hide behind the shield of all those medals and stripes on his arm.” Ms. Broadwell was 39 at the time.

Her biography on the Penguin Speakers Bureau Web site says that she is a research associate at Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership and a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. She received a master’s in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

A self-described “soccer mom” and an ironman triathlete, Ms. Broadwell became a fixture on the Washington media scene after the publication of her book about Mr. Petraeus, who is 60. In a Twitter message this summer, she bragged about appearing on a panel at the Aspen Institute, a policy group for deep thinkers.

“Heading 2 @AspenInstitute 4 the Security Forum tomorrow! Panel (media & terrorism) followed by a 1v1 run with Lance Armstrong,” she wrote. “Fired up!”

On her Twitter account, she often commented on the qualities of leadership. “Reason and calm judgment, the qualities specially belonging to a leader. Tacitus,” she wrote. In another message, she said: “A leader is a man who has the ability to get other people to do what they don’t want to do and like it. Truman.”

She also used her Twitter account to denounce speculation in the Drudge Report that Mr. Petraeus would be picked as a running mate by Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for president.

Married with two children, she was described in a biography on the Web site of Inspired Women Magazine as a woman who has been a high achiever since high school.

The biography says that Ms. Broadwell received a degree in political geography and systems engineering from West Point, where she was ranked No. 1 over all in fitness in her class. She benefited from a different ranking scale for women, she told a reporter this year. But “I was still in the top 5 percent if I’d been ranked as a male,” she said.

The official Web site for Ms. Broadwell’s book was taken down Friday, but comments from her echoed across the Internet.

“I was driven when I was younger,” she was quoted as saying on the Web site noting her induction into her high school’s hall of fame. “Driven at West Point where it was much more competitive in that women were competing with men on many levels, and I was driven in the military and at Harvard, both competitive environments.”

“But now,” she is quoted as saying, “as a working mother of two, I realize it is more difficult to compete in certain areas. I think it is important for working moms to recognize that family is the most important.”

On “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart summed up Ms. Broadwell’s book by saying: “I would say the real controversy here is, is he awesome or incredibly awesome?”A short time later, Ms. Broadwell challenged Mr. Stewart to a push-up contest, which she won handily. Mr. Stewart had to pay $1,000 to a veterans’ support group for each push-up she did beyond his total. Ms. Broadwell said he wrote a check for $20,000 on the spot.

On Friday evening, her house in the Dilworth neighborhood of Charlotte, N.C., was dark when a reporter rang the doorbell. Two cars were in the home’s carport and an American flag was flying out front.



Manila Hospital, No Stranger to Stork, Awaits Reproductive Health Bill’s Fate


Jes Aznar for The International Herald Tribune

Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Manila delivers more babies than any other facility in the Philippines. 

MANILA — In the main ward at Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, 171 women and nearly as many newborns share fewer than 100 beds. Dozens more expectant mothers line the street outside, some sleeping on the sidewalk while waiting to get in.

The women, most of whom cannot afford to give birth at a private hospital, move through a type of controlled chaos from the street, to the labor room, to the delivery room, to the maternity ward and back out the door, usually in less than 48 hours.

“It’s a never-ending story, 24 hours a day, every day,” said Dr. Romeo Bituin, who added that the government-run maternity hospital was legally required to serve as a safety net for the poor. “We can’t reject patients. If we turn them away, where will they go?”

After years of discussion in the Philippine Congress, the House of Representatives finally decided in August to end debate on a reproductive health bill that would subsidize contraception and require sex education in the Philippines, a country with one of the highest birthrates in Asia. If it passes in the House, which returned to session on Monday, the bill will also need to be approved by the Senate.

The bill’s proponents, led by President Benigno S. Aquino III, who has made the issue a priority of his two-year-old administration, say the measure will give poor women a chance to have fewer children and rise out of poverty. Opponents, backed principally by the Roman Catholic Church, say the bill is out of step with the moral tenets of the overwhelmingly Catholic Philippines and argue that a high birthrate lessens poverty.

“Our country’s positive birthrate and a population composed of mostly young people are the main players that fuel the economy,” said Jose Palma, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

Whether it is a bane or a boon, the birthrate in the Philippines — 24.98 out of 1,000 people, compared with 13.7 in the United States — is not a matter of statistics at Fabella. It is a matter of logistics.

The hospital, in a former prison between a public market and the city jail, delivers more babies than any other facility in the Philippines. Last year, 17,639 babies were born there.

The women are allowed into the hospital only when they are ready to give birth. After the birth, they sleep two to a bed in the maternity ward. If they have a healthy delivery without complications, they are sent home after one day.

“We don’t have the capacity to let them come in early or stay long after delivery,” said Dr. Marie Pacapac, a spokeswoman for the hospital. “Our delivery room fills up.”

The hospital averages about 60 deliveries a day in the summer and about 80 deliveries in a 24-hour period during the peak delivery season, September to December.

Fabella, which accepts pregnant women that other facilities reject, charges 3,000 pesos, about $70, for a normal delivery. Women who cannot afford that pay whatever they can. Some babies have been delivered for 100 pesos, about $2.40, while some expectant mothers show up at the hospital without a single peso, hospital officials said.

Most of the women who deliver at Fabella have never had any sexual or reproductive health education — which is rarely taught here — and many cannot afford to buy contraception, said Dr. Bituin, who noted that these issues would be addressed by the pending legislation.

“These women will use birth control pills, they will use condoms, but they can’t afford them,” Dr. Bituin said.

“If they received these things for free, they would use them, and fewer of them would end up here,” he said. “We are just the last step in the process. We need to advocate reproductive health in the community at the grass roots. The church is already there spreading their message through services every Sunday.”

The hospital does offer family planning information, but budget constraints prevent it from giving patients contraceptives, said Dr. Esmeraldo Ilem, the facility’s head of family planning services.

“Family planning in the Philippines is not about population control,” Dr. Ilem said. “It is a health intervention. We are focusing on women who are too young, too old, too poor or too sick to have babies but their situation does not allow them to stop.”

That description could be applied to Jelly Galia, a 44-year-old with seven children who was in the main ward after her eighth child died shortly after birth the night before.

Sitting on a bed surrounded by women nursing their newborns, Ms. Galia said she lived with her children in a slum. Her husband is an unemployed taxi driver, and her family has no income.

“I don’t want to have any more babies,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes. “I would take the pills, but we don’t have money to buy those. We’ll try ‘control,’ ” she said, using the local term for abstinence.


Filipino Politics is a Deeply Corrupt Family Affair

Soon they'll all be in the Senate

Soon they’ll all be in the Senate

And President Aquino is right at the front

Congressional and other elections looming in the Philippines next year may provide some clue to how far governance reform has progressed so far under President Benigno S. Aquino III. Nominations are in a so it is possible to discern a little of the future. It is a depressing spectacle.

These elections may tell us about the chances of governance gains being sustained by his successor. Sadly the nation has a long history of improvement, such as under President Fidel Ramos, only to be undone by successors Estrada and Arroyo. Unless Aquino goes into this election cycle with an comprehensive reform agenda for the second half of his presidency the chances are high that history will repeat itself.

The recent rise in foreign perceptions of the Philippines owes much to Noynoy’s efforts to improve governance by appointing mostly honest and competent people to key positions and addressing head-on the corruption and politicization of the Supreme Court. Although he gives scant impression of being either dynamic or decisive, his firm stances of the Reproductive Health bill and in facing China over the Panatag shoal and West Philippine sea have been rewarded with a high level of popular approval.

Aquino’s economic policies have differed little from Arroyo’s but the emphasis on education, health and support for the poorest has had some impact. But so far Philippines’ growth continue to be driven mainly by the impact of remittances and earnings from business processing outsourcing rather than by a sustained rise in the level of investment in badly needed infrastructure.

Tax collection remains a struggle with corruption and smuggling of both exports and imports defying good intentions. Indeed increased trade with China may even have increased the smuggling and illegal mining problems.

The persistent current account surplus, low interest rates and firm peso gain applause as signs of strength of stability, which impresses foreign investors but also reflects the inadequate level of investment. What remains lacking is the domestic and foreign investment that could broaden the economic base and create jobs for a working age population still expanding at over 2 percent a year.

Infrastructure badly lags even Indonesia and in a country of 90 million people no amount of outsourcing can compensate for lack of growth in labor-absorbing manufacturing. That the Philippines lags so badly both on economic and many social development goals is primarily a function of weak governance, whether high level corruption at the center, dominance of regional power and privilege by family dynasties, or the lack of a nationwide bureaucracy with strong traditions and systems. Entrenched interests keep out competition by manipulating the political system.

In short there is only so much that a president, however honest and determined, can do. Which brings us to the role of the coming elections. Thus far it is a depressing spectacle – and one on which Aquino has shown no sign of leadership. Nominations for the Senate show that the dynastic tendencies of politics are being strengthened at a time when power should be shifting to new entrepreneurs and those linked the new middle class emerging from outsourcing and professionals returning from overseas employment.

The Aquino clan is itself the worst offender, offering up two relatives including one who has never run for any public office but who thinks the name and looks is sufficient. Next up is vice-president Jejomar Binay, who not only has his own eyes set on the presidency in 2016 – even though he would then be 73 years old – but is backing his daughter for a senate seat even though she too has no experience of lower level election of administration.

Then there are the Estradas. Former President Estrada’s son Jinggoy is already in the Senate and may well be joined by his brother JV Ejercito, who has changed his name to Estrada to improve his prospects. (Ejercito was the family name. Estrada was the former president’s stage name). Name usage is also the game for the son of 88-year old Senate President and one time Marcos defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile. He has identical initials to his father.

Two relatives of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo are also contenders, so that clan may well join the descendants of former presidents Marcos and Osmena in the 24-person law-making body. Sons of senators Angara and Villar are also bidding to replace their fathers.

Things are not much better for the competition for seats in the House of Representatives, where two or three families continue to dominate in many provinces and even large urban areas. Currently, according to one estimate, in 40 percent of provincials congressman and governors are related, and 50 percent of both are related to previous holders of these officers.

New national heroes cannot resist trying to use name recognition to create a political dynasty. Thus the boxer Manny Pacquiao is not content with being a congressman – though he hardly bothers to attend – but is backing his wife for a vice-governorship.

Dynastic hope has even been taking over some of the congressional seats elected on a national basis and reserved party lists. These were included in the 1986 constitution in an effot to broaden the base of representation including providing space for marginalized and worker and leftist groups such as Bayan Muna. But it has largely been taken over by representatives of the rich and powerful. Thus Arroyo’s rich husband Mikey is there to represent security guards.

This time around the Commission of Elections, once in the pocket of the incumbent presidents, is taking a stance, weeding out many of the groups through which dynasties have flourished. But is difficult and controversial process and suggests to some reformers that the party list system has failed in its purpose and should be abolished.

But the real scandal of the dynasty issue is that dynasties are supposed to be outlawed by the constitution. The state “must prohibit political dynasties as defined by law.” But there is no law and not much prospect of one in the near future.. A bill to establish one is held up in a Senate committee and is unlikely to see the light of day before next year’s election which seems set to increase the dynast hold.

Some argue that Comelec should take up the issue itself to enforce a constitutional provision which the lawmakers have avoided. But it unlikely to be so bold.

Another needed reform is to get rid of the pork barrel system of proving government largesse to senators and congressmen allegedly for specific works projects. But for the center it is a means of buying congressmen’s votes and for the legislators a way of getting kickback from the contractors employed for the projects. So while Aquino preaches anti-corruption at the top, he still carries on with a pork system which is institutionalized corruption masquerading a development spending.

For sure there is a groundswell of opinion against dynasties and pork. But nothing is likely to happen unless the president takes a lead. But he has shown scant interest in constitutional issues, including changing the constitution itself. Many believe that the current two tier legislature and the system of national election of senators contribute to corruption and to long delays in legislating. It encourages name-driven politics and has led to political parties being no more than temporary alliances of convenience with no real policy platforms or national agendas.

Different ideas for change are bandied around but again nothing will happen without leadership. As it is, nationalist economic clauses in the 1986 constitution have become a tool for entrenched interests to keep out foreign competition as well as ensure that legislation and taxation provisions are favorable to them.

It is not certain whether any president can push through changes which would fundamentally improve standards of governance. But such are needed if the nation is to cease to be a semi-feudal state ruled by a self-perpetuating elite and with a system which continues to fail to bring significant progress to the mass of people millions of whom are undernourished and millions more dependent on the remittances by hard working family members.

Aquino must stop basking in approval for what he has achieved and lay out a radical reform agenda which can underwrite his achievements so far. An attack on dynasties would be a good place to start.


Breivik should have been executed, says Turkish PM


AA Photo


AA Photo

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the prison sentence given to Norwegian mass murderer Andres Breivik was not enough, daily Hurriyet has reported.
Erdoğan said the criminal should have been given the death penalty instead to ensure peace for the victims’ family.
“I asked them, I was curious. How can someone who has killed 77 people be sentenced to 21 years in prison? I was told that he will not be out again, that something would be found at the end of the 21 years to keep him in for another 21 years,” Erdoğan said.
“But how can I be sure of that?” Erdoğan asked. “Yes, the death penalty was removed from Europe, but has it left America, Japan and China? Then there is a justified cause for the death penalty to remain.”
“I don’t believe that [the victims’ families] are in peace when someone who murdered 77 people can just walk around freely,” Erdoğan said. “We have to re-check ourselves. We have to put ourselves on the scale of justice again, so that humanity could find peace.”

Assad: Erdogan thinks he’s Caliph, new sultan of the Ottoman

Assad: Not a civil war, terrorism my enemy, no regrets for now

In an exclusive interview with RT, President Bashar Assad said that the conflict in Syria is not a civil war, but proxy terrorism by Syrians and foreign fighters. He also accused the Turkish PM of eyeing Syria with imperial ambitions.

Assad told RT that the West creates scapegoats as enemies – from communism, to Islam, to Saddam Hussein. He accused Western countries of aiming to turn him into their next enemy.

While mainstream media outlets generally report on the crisis as a battle between Assad and Syrian opposition groups, the president claims that his country has been infiltrated by numerous terrorist proxy groups fighting on behalf of other powers.

In the event of a foreign invasion of Syria, Assad warned, the fallout would be too dire for the world to bear.


‘My enemy is terrorism and instability in Syria’

RT: President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, thank very much for talking to us today.

Bashar Assad: You are most welcome in Damascus.

RT: There are many people who were convinced a year ago that you would not make it this far. Here again you are sitting in a newly renovated presidential palace and recording this interview. Who exactly is your enemy at this point?

BA: My enemy is terrorism and instability in Syria. This is our enemy in Syria. It is not about the people, it is not about persons. The whole issue is not about me staying or leaving. It is about the country being safe or not. So, this is the enemy we have been fighting as Syria.

RT: I have been here for the last two days and I had the chance to talk to a couple of people in Damascus. Some of them say that whether you stay or go at this point does not really matter anymore. What do you say about this?

BA: I think for the president to stay or leave is a popular issue. It is related to the opinion of some people and the only way can be done through the ballot boxes. So, it is not about what we hear. It is about what we can get through that box and that box will tell any president to stay or leave very simply.

RT: I think what they meant was that at this point you are not the target anymore; Syria is the target.

BA: I was not the target; I was not the problem anyway. The West creates enemies; in the past it was the communism then it became Islam, and then it became Saddam Hussein for a different reason. Now, they want to create a new enemy represented by Bashar. That’s why they say that the problem is the president so he has to leave. That is why we have to focus of the real problem, not to waste our time listening to what they say.


‘The fight now is not the president’s fight – it is Syrians’ fight to defend their country’

RT: Do you personally still believe that you are the only man who can hold Syria together and the only man who can put an end to what the world calls a ‘civil war’?

BA: We have to look at it from two aspects. The first aspect is the constitution and I have my authority under the constitution. According to this authority and the constitution, I have to be able to solve the problem. But if we mean it that you do not have any other Syrian who can be a president, no, any Syrian could be a president. We have many Syrians who are eligible to be in that position. You cannot always link the whole country only to one person.

RT: But you are fighting for your country. Do you believe that you are the man who can put an end to the conflict and restore peace?

BA: I have to be the man who can do that and I hope so, but it is not about the power of the President; it is about the whole society. We have to be precise about this. The president cannot do anything without the institutions and without the support of the people. So, the fight now is not a President’s fight; it is Syrians’ fight. Every Syrian is involved in defending his country now.

RT: It is and a lot of civilians are dying as well in the fighting. So, if you were to win this war, how would you reconcile with your people after everything that has happened?

BA: Let’s be precise once again. The problem is not between me and the people; I do not have a problem with the people because the United States is against me and the West is against me and many other Arab countries, including Turkey which is not Arab of course, are against me. If the Syrian people are against me, how can I be here?!

Bashar Assad speaking with RT′s Sophie Shevardnadze
Bashar Assad speaking with RT’s Sophie Shevardnadze

‘Syria faces not a civil war, but terrorism by proxies’

RT: They are not against you?

BA: If the whole world, or let us say a big part of the world, including your people, are against you, are you a superman?! You are just a human being. So, this is not logical. It is not about reconciling with the people and it is not about reconciliation between the Syrians and the Syrians; we do not have a civil war. It is about terrorism and the support coming from abroad to terrorists to destabilize Syria. This is our war.

RT: Do you still not believe it is a civil war because I know there are a lot who think that there are terrorist acts which everyone believes take place in Syria, and there are also a lot of sectarian-based conflicts. For example we all heard about the mother who has two sons; one son is fighting for the government forces and the other son is fighting for the rebel forces, how this is not a civil war?

BA: You have divisions, but division does not mean civil war. It is completely different. Civil wars should be based on ethnic problems or sectarian problems. Sometimes you may have ethnic or sectarian tensions but this do not make them problem. So, if you have division in the same family or in a bigger tribe or whatever or in the same city, it does not mean a civil war. This is completely different and that is normal. We should expect that.

RT: When I asked about reconciling with your people, this is what I meant: I heard you say on many different occasions that the only thing you care about is what the Syrian people think of you and what Syrian people feel towards you and whether you should be a president or not. Are you not afraid that there has been so much damage done for whatever reason that at the end of the day Syrians won’t care about the truth; they will just blame you for the carnage that they have suffered?

BA: This is a hypothetical question because what the people think is the right thing, and regarding what they think, we have to ask them. But I don’t have this information right now. So, I am not afraid about what some people think; I am afraid about my country. We have to be focused on that.

RT: For years there have been so many stories about almighty Syrian army, important and strong Syrian secret services, but then we see that, you know, the government forces are not able to crush the enemy like people expected it would, and we see terrorist attacks take place in the middle of Damascus almost every day. Were those myths about the Syrian army and about the strong Syrian secret services?

BA: Usually, in normal circumstances when you have the army and the secret services and the intelligence, we focus on the external enemy even if we have an internal enemy, like terrorism because the society is helping us at least not to provide terrorist’s incubator. Now in this case, it is a new kind of war; terrorism through proxies, either Syrians living in Syria or foreign fighters coming from abroad. So, it is a new style of war, this is first and you have to adapt to this style and it takes time, it is not easy. And to say this is as easy as the normal or, let us say, the traditional or regular war, no, it is much more difficult. Second, the support that has been offered to those terrorists in every aspect, including armaments, money and political aspect is unprecedented. So, you have to expect that it is going to be a tough war and a difficult war. You do not expect a small country like Syria to defeat all those countries that have been fighting us through proxies just in days or weeks.

RT: Yes, but when you look at it, I mean on one hand, you have one leader with an army, and he orders this army go straight, go left, go right and the army obeys. On the other hand, you have fractions of terrorists who are not unified and have no one unified strategy to fight you. So, how does that really happen when it comes to fighting each other?

BA: This is not the problem. The problem is that those terrorists are fighting from within the cities, and in the cities you have civilians. When you fight this kind of terrorists, you have to be aware that you should do the minimum damage to the infrastructure and minimum damage to the civilians because you have civilians and you have to fight, you cannot leave terrorists just killing and destroying. So, this is the difficulty in this kind of war.

Bashar Assad speaking with RT′s Sophie Shevardnadze
Bashar Assad speaking with RT’s Sophie Shevardnadze


Without foreign rebel fighters and smuggled weapons, ‘we could finish everything in weeks’

RT: You know that the infrastructure and economy are suffering; it is almost as if Syria is going to be fall into decay very soon and the time is against you. In your opinion, how much time do you need to crush the enemy?

BA: You cannot answer this question because no one claimed that he had the answer about when to end the war unless when we have the answer to when they are going to stop smuggling foreign fighters from different parts of the world especially the Middle East and the Islamic world, and when they are going to stop sending armaments to those terrorists. If they stop, this is when I can answer you; I can tell that in weeks we can finish everything. This is not a big problem. But as long as you have continuous supply in terrorists, armaments, logistics and everything else, it is going to be a long-term war.

RT: Also, when you think about it, you have 4,000 km of loosely controlled borders, so you have your enemy that can at any time cross over into Jordan or Turkey to be rearmed, get medical care and come back to fight you!

BA: No country in the world can seal the border. Sometime they use this word which is not correct, even the United Stated cannot seal its border with Mexico for example. The same can be applied to Russia which is a big country. So, no country can seal the border. You can only have a better situation on the border when you have good relations with your neighbor and this is something we do not have at least with Turkey now. Turkey supports more than any other country the smuggling of terrorists and armaments.

Bashar Assad speaking with RT′s Sophie Shevardnadze
Bashar Assad speaking with RT’s Sophie Shevardnadze


‘The Syrian Army has no orders to shell Turkish land’

RT: Can I say to you something? I have been in Turkey recently and people there are actually very worried that a war will happen between Syria and Turkey. Do you think a war with Turkey is a realistic scenario?

BA: Rationally, no I do not think so – for two reasons. The war needs public support and the majority of the Turkish people do not need this war. So, I do not think any rational official would think of going against the will of the public in his country and the same for the Syrian people. So, the conflict or difference is not between the Turkish people and the Syrian people; it is about the government and officials, it is between our officials and their officials because of their politics. So, I do not see any war between Syria and Turkey on the horizon.

RT: When was the last time you spoke to Erdogan and how did the talk end?

BA: May 2011, after he won the election.

RT: So, you just congratulated him, and it was the last time

BA: Yes and it was the last time.

RT:  Who is shelling Turkey? Is it the government forces or the rebels?

BA: In order to find the answer, you need a joint committee between the two armies in order to know who shells who because on the borders you have a lot of terrorists who have mortars; so, they can do the same. You have to go and investigate the bomb in that place itself and that did not happen. We asked the Turkish government to have this committee but they refused; so, you cannot have the answer. But when you have these terrorists on your borders, you do not exclude them from doing so because the Syrian army does not have any order to shell the Turkish land because we do not find any interest in this, and we do not have any enmity with the Turkish people. We consider them as brothers, so why do it; unless that happened by mistake, then it needs investigation.

RT:  Do you accept that it may be mistakenly from the government forces?

BA: That could happen. This is a possibility and in every war you have mistakes. You know in Afghanistan, they always talk about friendly fire if you kill your soldier; this means that it could happen in every war, but we cannot say yes.

Bashar Assad speaking with RT′s Sophie Shevardnadze
Bashar Assad speaking with RT’s Sophie Shevardnadze


‘Erdogan thinks he is a Caliph’

RT:  Why has Turkey, which you call a friendly nation, become a foothold for the opposition?

BA: Not Turkey, but only Erdogan’s government in order to be precise. Turkish people need good relations with the Syrian people. Erdogan thinks that if Muslim Brotherhood takes over in the region and especially in Syria, he can guarantee his political future, this is one reason. The other reason, he personally thinks that he is the new sultan of the Ottoman and he can control the region as it was during the Ottoman Empire under a new umbrella. In his heart he thinks he is a caliph. These are the main two reasons for him to shift his policy from zero problems to zero friends.

RT:  But it is not just the West that opposes you at this point; there are so many enemies in the Arab world and that is to say like two years ago when someone heard you name in the Arab world they would straighten their ties, and now in the first occasion they betrayed you, why do you have so many enemies in the Arab world?

BA: They are not enemies. The majority of Arab governments support Syria in their heart but they do not dare to say that explicitly.

RT: Why not?

BA: Under pressure by the West, and sometimes under pressure of the petrodollars in the Arab world.

RT:  Who supports you from the Arab world?

BA: Many countries support Syria by their hearts but they do not dare to say that explicitly. First of all, Iraq which played a very active role in supporting Syria during the crisis because it is a neighboring country and they understand and recognize that if you have a war inside Syria you will have war in the neighboring countries including Iraq. I think there are other countries which have good position like Algeria, and Oman mainly and there are other countries I would not count all of them now but I would say they have positive position without taking actions.

RT: Saudi Arabia and Qatar, why are they so adamant about you resigning and how would an unstable Middle East fit their agenda?

BA: Let’s be frank, I cannot answer on their behalf. They have to answer this question but I could say that the problem between Syria and many countries whether in the Arab world or in the region or in the West, is that we kept saying no when we think that we have to say no, that is the problem. And some countries believe that they can control Syria through orders, through money or petrodollars and this is impossible in Syria, this is the problem. May be they want to play a role. We do not have a problem, they can play a role whether they deserve this or not, they can play a role but not to play a role at the expense of our interests.

RT: Is it about controlling Syria or about exporting their vision of Islam to Syria?

BA: You cannot put it as a government policy sometimes. Sometimes you have institutions in certain country, sometime you have persons who try to promote this but they do not announce it as an official policy. So, they did not ask us to promote their, let’s say, extremist attitude of their institutions but that happened in reality whether through indirect support of their government or through the foundation from institutions and personnel. So, this is part of the problem, but when I want to talk as a government, I have to talk about the announced policy. The announced policy is like any other policy; it is about the interest, it is about playing a role, but we cannot ignore what you mentioned.

RT:  Iran which is a very close ally also is exposed to economic sanctions, also facing a threat of military invasion. If you were faced with an option to cut ties with Iran in exchange for peace in your country, would you go for it?

BA: We do not have contradicting options in this regard because we had good relations with Iran since 1979 till today, and it is getting better every day, but at the same time we are moving towards peace. We had peace process and we had peace negotiations. Iran was not a factor against peace. So, this is misinformation they try to promote in the West that if we need peace, we do not have to have good relation with Iran. There is no relation; it is two completely different subjects. Iran supported Syria, supported our cause, the cause of the occupied land and we have to support them in their cause. This is very simple. Iran is a very important country in the region. If we are looking for stability, we need good relations with Iran. You cannot talk about stability while you have bad relations with Iran, Turkey and your neighbors and so on. This is it.

Bashar Assad speaking with RT′s Sophie Shevardnadze
Bashar Assad speaking with RT’s Sophie Shevardnadze


‘Al-Qaeda’s final aim is an Islamic emirate in Syria’

RT:  Do you have any information that the Western intelligence is financing rebel fighters here in Syria?

BA: No, so far what we know is that they are offering the know-how support for the terrorists through Turkey and sometimes through Lebanon mainly. But there is other intelligence, not the Western, but the regional intelligence which is very active and more active than the Western one under the supervision of the Western intelligence.

RT: What is the role of Al-Qaeda in Syria at this point? Are they controlling any of the rebel coalition forces?

BA: No, I do not think they are looking to control; they are looking to create their own kingdoms or emirates in their language, but they mainly try now to scare the people through explosions, assassinations, suicide bombers and things like this to push the people towards desperation and to accept them as reality. So, they go step by step but their final aim is to have this, let’s say, Islamic Emirate in Syria where they can promote their own ideology in the rest of the world.

RT: From those who are fighting you and those who are against you, who would you talk to?

BA: We talk to anyone who has genuine will to help Syria, but we do not waste our time with anyone who wants to use our crisis for his own personal interests.

RT:  There has been many times…not you but the government forces have been accused for many times of war crimes against your own civilians, do you accept that the government forces have committed war crimes against their own civilians?

BA: We are fighting terrorism. We are implementing our constitution by protecting the Syrian people. Let’s go back to what happened in Russia more than a decade ago when you faced terrorism in Chechnya and other places; they attacked people in theaters and schools and so on, and the army in Russia protected the people, would you call it war crimes?! No, you would not. Two days ago, Amnesty International recognized the crimes that were committed few days ago by the armed groups when they captured soldiers and executed them. Also Human Rights Watch recognized this. Human Rights Watch recognized more than once the crimes of those terrorist groups and few days ago it described these crimes as war crimes, this is the first point. The second point, if you have an army that committed a crime against its own people, this is devoid of logic because the Syrian Army is made up of Syrian people. If you want to commit a crime against your people, then the army will divide, will disintegrate. So, you cannot have a strong army while you are killing your people. Third, the army cannot withstand for twenty months in these difficult circumstances without having the embrace of the public in Syria. So, how could you have this embracement while you are killing your people?! This is a contradiction. So, this is the answer.

Bashar Assad speaking with RT′s Sophie Shevardnadze
Bashar Assad speaking with RT’s Sophie Shevardnadze


‘I must live in Syria and die in Syria’

RT: When was the last time you spoke to a Western leader?

BA: It was before the crisis.

RT:  Was there any time at which they try to give you conditions that if you left the post of presidency then there will be peace in Syria or no?

BA: No, they did not propose it directly, no, but whether they propose that directly or indirectly, it is a matter of sovereignty; only the Syrian people will talk about this. Whoever talks about this in the media or in a statement directly or indirectly has no meaning and has no weight in Syria.

RT: Do you even have a choice because from what it seems from the outside that would not have anywhere to go. Where would you go if you want to leave?

BA: To Syria. I would go from Syria to Syria. This is the only place where we can live. I am not a puppet. I was not made by the West to go to the West or to any other country. I am Syrian, I was made in Syria, I have to live in Syria and die in Syria.


‘I believe in democracy and dialogue – but we must be realistic’

RT: Do you think that at this point there is any chance for diplomacy or talks or only the army can get it done?

BA: I always believe in diplomacy and I always believe in dialogue even with those who do not understand or believe in it. We have to keep trying. I think that we will always achieve a partial success. We have to look for this partial success before we achieve the complete success. But we have to be realistic. You do not think that only dialogue can make you achieve something because those people who committed these acts they are of two kinds: one of them does not believe in dialogue, especially the extremists, and you have the outlaws who have been convicted by the court years ago before the crisis and their natural enemy is the government because they are going to be detained if we have a normal situation in Syria. The other part of them is the people who have been supplied by the outside, and they can only be committed to the governments which paid them the money and supplied them with the armament; they do not have a choice because they do not own their own decision. So, you have to be realistic. And you have the third part of the people whether militants or politicians who can accept the dialogue. That’s why we have been in this dialogue for months now even with militants and many of them gave up their armaments and they went back to their normal life.

Bashar Assad speaking with RT′s Sophie Shevardnadze
Bashar Assad speaking with RT’s Sophie Shevardnadze


‘The price of a foreign invasion will be more than the world can afford’

RT:  Do you think a foreign invasion is imminent?

BA: I think the price of this invasion if it happened is going to be more than the whole world can afford because if you have a problem in Syria, and we are the last stronghold of secularism and stability in the region and coexistence, let’s say, it will have a domino effect that will affect the world from the Atlantic to the Pacific and you know the implication on the rest of the world. I do not think the West is going in that direction, but if they do so, nobody can tell what is next.

RT:  Mr. President, do you blame yourself for anything?

BA: Normally you have to find mistakes you do with every decision, otherwise you are not human.

RT: What is your biggest mistake?

BA: I do not remember now to be frank. But I always, even before taking the decision, consider that part of it will be wrong but you cannot tell about your mistakes now. Sometimes, especially during crisis, you do not see what is right and what is wrong until you overcome the situation that you are in. I would not be objective to talk about mistakes now because we still in the middle of the crisis.

RT:  So, you do not have regrets yet?

BA: Not now. When everything is clear, you can talk about your mistakes, and definitely you have mistakes and that is normal.

RT:  If today was March 15, 2011, that is when the protest started to escalate and grow, what would you do differently?

BA: I would do what I did on March 15.

RT: Exactly the same?

BA: Exactly the same: ask different parties to have dialogue and stand against terrorists because that is how it started. It did not start as marches; the umbrella or cover was the marches, but within those marches you had militants who started shooting civilians and the army at the same time. May be on the tactical level, you could have done something different but as a president you are not tactical, you always take the decision on a strategic level which is something different.

RT: President al-Assad, how do you see yourself in ten-years’ time?

BA: I see myself through my country; I cannot see myself but my country in ten-years’ time. This is where I can see myself.

RT: Do you see yourself in Syria?

BA: Definitely, I have to be in Syria. It is not about the position. I do not see myself whether a president or not. This is not my interest. I can see myself in this country as safe country, stable country and more prosperous country.

RT:  President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, thank you for talking to RT.

BA: Thank you for coming to Syria, again.

Almaty Blooms as Oasis of Luxury on Silk Road


09 November 2012 


Boutiques have opened in the Esentai Mall to attract wealthy customers.

Lena Smirnova / MT

Boutiques have opened in the Esentai Mall to attract wealthy customers.


ALMATY, Kazakhstan – A Friday-night traffic jam consisting of bumper-to-bumper German luxury cars and only one scratched-up Lada — with a hood that didn’t fully close — exemplifies the startling economic growth of this former Silk Road stopping point.

While the Lada kept driving, many of the expensive vehicles were turning into the parking lot of Almaty’s first luxury mall, whose grand-opening celebration was a glittery affirmation of growing opulence in the oil-rich state.

Where wealthy locals previously trudged through the city’s low-comfort airport to head for fashion boutiques in Russia, Europe and the United Arab Emirates, now they can go across town to the Esentai Mall, which opened last month and promises to help make the city a high-end retail mecca for all of Central Asia.

And since such posh guests had waited so long for the chance to spend big locally, it was only fitting to begin the opening ceremony with an apology.

“We were hoping to be with you earlier. We’re sorry we’re late,” said Turkish-born Burak Oymen,

of Capital Partners, which developed the Esentai Park complex. Oymen started the company with a partner, Kazakh mogul Serzhan Zhumashov.

Construction on the 52,000-square-meter mall started in 2006, but the 2008 global economic downturn put the project on hold, and work resumed only in early 2011.

Capital Partners invested $450 million to build the mall, which is a mixed-use complex and includes a five-star hotel, office towers and high-end apartments selling for $6,000 per square meter.

Oymen expects the retail center, which has both luxury and mass-market brands, to draw 10 million to 12 million people in the first year. His overall confidence is high.

“We’re not limited to Kazakhstan,” Oymen said. “We work in other markets. We work globally, but we continue to come back and invest here on a large scale because it makes commercial sense.”

Jackpot on the Silk Road

The Esentai Mall is not the only luxurious element of Almaty. The former capital is a so-called “presidential town,” where top politicians make use of a palace and ordinary visitors can book a room in a hotel topped with a giant golden crown. On the city’s outskirts, the fitness club Luxor offers its members access to an ice rink, spa complex, VIP areas and indoor and outdoor pools. HSBC provides wealth-management services to international businessmen, while the Intercontinental and soon-to-be opened Ritz-Carlton hotels promise a comfortable overnight stay.

Most of the designer luxury brands in Esentai are making their first Central Asian appearance. The elite roster includes Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Dolce and Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, Stella McCartney, Lanvin and Saks Fifth Avenue, which boasts a children’s designer section.

These are not the first boutiques to open in Kazakhstan. Like any fashion-conscious city, Almaty has a shopping road whose windows display Swarovski, Rolex and Carolina Herrera merchandise. The difference this time is that the brands are opening their own boutiques instead of working through franchises, Oymen said.

Austrian jeweler FreyWille worked with Kazakh customers through a local distributor for more than seven years before opening its own outlet in the mall. The company is also looking into opportunities in Astana, the city 1,000-plus kilometers to the north that became the nation’s political capital in 1997.

“We see great passion of the [local] audience toward beauty, fashion, luxury, art. Our clients understand what they want,” said Olga Kuzmina, international area manager for FreyWille.

Newcomers to the Kazakh retail market share this enthusiasm.

“We have had very good success already with Kazakh customers purchasing in our stores all over the world, and thus, looking to the development of the city of Almaty, we felt it was time to enter directly in the market,” said Eduard Faure, general manager of Louis Vuitton in Eastern Europe.

Faure added that Kazakhstan appealed to the brand because it is a “country of genuine nomadism,” which matches up well to Louis Vuitton’s passion for travel.

Most of the luxury brands represented at Esentai Mall have stores in Moscow and sometimes in the Russian regions, but Saks Fifth Avenue skipped this step. Its three-floor outlet at Esentai is its only facility in the former Soviet Union.

“Kazakhstan, with its rapidly expanding affluent population, is a great fit for Saks Fifth Avenue,” said company spokeswoman Julia Bentley. “Saks is able to provide an unparalleled offering of luxury goods in the new location.”

Regional Appeal

The country’s population of 16 million includes an economic elite that is small compared with Russia’s but significant by the region’s standards. The country has five billionaires and 12,000 millionaires, of whom 140 are worth at least $30 million each.

Luxury-goods suppliers are looking beyond the country’s borders to target wealthy customers farther along the Silk Road and beyond.

The historical silk route that linked trade points across the Afro-Eurasian landmass runs through Almaty and is nicknamed the Tashkent Road. It connects the city to the capitals of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

Though Almaty is also only a three-hour flight from northern India and western China and four hours from Moscow, there is no intention to lure these foreign customers into Central Asia, but Esentai Mall can serve as a complete shopping destination for locals, Oymen said.

Stereotypes and Surprises

Until 2006, most of the world knew Kazakhstan as the home of the Soviet Union’s Baikonur Cosmodrome, but the Hollywood film “Borat” brought an unwelcome infamy to the former republic.

“I know how kind Kazakhs are and how young of a society this is, how young of an independent state this is,” Oymen said. “I wish they’d chosen a target other than Kazakhstan, and I wish they’d chosen a name other than Borat, because it’s so close to my name.”

Despite the unwelcome media coverage, the country is now getting recognition as a financial center of Central Asia and outpacing Russia in terms of business-climate ratings.

According to the World Bank’s Doing Business ranking, Kazakhstan came in 49th out of 185 countries in 2013, up seven spots from 2012. The country jumped 30 spots in terms of climate for starting a business, to 25th place, and got its best scores in the categories of protecting investors and taxation policy, at 10th and 17th places, respectively.

In comparison, Russia was 112th in the overall rankings. It came in 117th in terms of protecting investors and 64th in taxation.

Political stability has helped private investors get their foot in the door. The country’s first and only president,Nursultan Nazarbayev, who tends to put economic growth ahead of political reform, has led Kazakhstan for more than 20 years, introducing free-market reforms and increasing oil exports.

In the 19 years since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan has attracted $122.2 billion in foreign investment, though most of this was in the oil-and-gas sector, according to the U.S. Department of State.

As in Russia, the oil wealth is not spread equally, but ordinary Kazakhs are also getting some of the share. Kazakhstan’s GDP per capita has doubled since 2006 and came in at $11,245 in 2011, according to the World Bank. Russia is slightly higher, at $13,089 GDP per capita for the same year.

This success and stability leads to a sense of patriotism, even from foreign investors.

“I’m a fan of Kazakhstan, and I think that Kazakhstan is the most promising country among the CIS countries,” Oymen said. “I think so because of the economic fundamentals. I think so because of the nature of the people here.”


Duma Lawmaker Slams U.S. Vote as ‘Unfair’


09 November 2012 | Issue 5010


Central Elections Commission Chairman Vladimir Churov pointed to violations and archaisms in U.S. election law in an article recently published in Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

Andrei Makhonin / Vedomosti

Central Elections Commission Chairman Vladimir Churov pointed to violations and archaisms in U.S. election law in an article recently published in Rossiiskaya Gazeta.


A prominent State Duma lawmaker who observed the United States presidential election lambasted the vote as “systemically unfair” and riddled with organizational shortcomings.

Ilya Kostunov, a deputy for the governing United Russia party, told The Moscow Times on Thursday that large-scale voter disenfranchisement and lax identification procedures rendered the American system more prone to violations than the Russian one.

“In Russia there are institutions that protect from voting fraud; in the U.S. there are no such institutions,” Kostunov said in a telephone interview. As examples he pointed to Russia’s strict voter identification rules and the installation of web cameras in all of the country’s more than 90,000 ballot stations for the presidential election in March.

He also said an individual vote is more important in Russia because the voting system is direct. The U.S. president is elected indirectly by the 538 members of the electoral college.

Kostunov, a former Nashi commissar who made headlines in past months with bills that would label foreign-funded media outlets “foreign agents,” was speaking after returning from Annapolis, Maryland. He and three other Duma members were sent to the U.S. as short-term election observers for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

He said that while he did not see voting fraud with his own eyes, soft voter identification rules meant that double voting was a possibility. He also noted that the use of voting machines jeopardized confidentiality. “I saw polling station workers telling voters how to vote, and everybody could see for whom they voted,” he said.

The OSCE, a security watchdog that comprises 57 European and Central Asian states plus the U.S. and Canada, sent 44 long-term observers and an over-100-person short-term mission of parliamentarians to monitor the U.S. vote.

In separate reportsWednesdayandThursday, both missions expressed concern over voter registry accuracy and criticized the fact that some 4.1 million Americans were ineligible to vote because they lived outside the 50 states and that another almost 6 million U.S. citizens could not vote due to a criminal conviction.

Kostunov called these numbers “very serious” indicators that the U.S. system does not support fair elections.

The OSCE regularly sends observer missions to Russia and has questioned the fairness of the presidential vote and the December Duma elections. Kostunov said the organization’s reports about his country were overly politicized and emotionally charged.

The deputy’s words echoed earlier accusations from Central Elections Commission head Vladimir Churov, who last month called the U.S. electoral system flawed and undemocratic. Churov took the brunt of allegations of massive vote fraud, which triggered unprecedented anti-government protests in the past year.

Kostunov acknowledged that there was a lack of voter confidence in Russia. “Yes, there is a crisis of trust,” he said, “however, not in the electoral system but more broadly in the political system.”


Read more:http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/duma-lawmaker-slams-us-vote-as-unfair/471209.html#ixzz2BjE0qCxM
The Moscow Times

How the GOP Got Stuck in the Past


The finger-pointing misses a bigger truth: Republicans have become estranged from modern America. Why fixating on the old glory days is bogging down the party’s future.

by  | November 11, 2012 10:48 PM EST

Illustration by Mark Weaver. Source Photo: David Goldman / AP (Romney)

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Don’t tell me it was close. Don’t blame it on Hurricane Sandy or Gov. Chris Christie. When eco­nom­ic conditions are as bad as they were in 2012 and the incumbent wins anyway, that’s not “close.” That’s the challenger party throwing away a sure thing.

After-the-fact finger pointing and blame shifting will miss the bigger truth. The Republican Party is becoming increasingly isolated and estranged from modern America. In the quarter century since 1988, there have been six presidential elections. Only once—once!—did the Republican candidate win a majority of the popular vote, and then by the miserable margin of 50.73 percent.

We Republicans may console ourselves that we did win two big victories in the recent past, 1994 and 2010. But those were off-year elections, when 60 percent of America stays home, and those who do turn out are the wealthier, the older, and the whiter. Exit polls indicate that 34 percent of the 2010 electorate was over age 60; in 2012, only 15 percent of voters were older than 65. The Republican success in those elections only underscores the bigger problem: the GOP is rapidly becoming the party of yesterday’s America.

The ratification of the Obama agenda will understandably enrage and depress conservatives. Yet if there is any lesson conservatives ought to have learned from the past four years, it is the danger of succumbing to angry emotion. We’ve had four years of self-defeating rage. Now it’s time for cool.

Nostalgia for a misremembered past is no basis for governing a diverse and advancing nation. (Eric Thayer / Reuters-Landov)

Those who would urge the GOP to double down on ideology post-2012 should ask themselves: would Republicans have done better if we had promised a bigger tax cut for the rich and proposed to push more people off food stamps and Medi­caid? Would we have done better if we had promised to do more to ban abortion and stop same-sex marriage? If we had committed ourselves to fight more wars? To put the country on the gold standard? Almost half of those surveyed on voting day said they wanted to see taxes raised on Americans earning more than $250,000. Exit polls do tend to oversample Democrats, but the tax result is consistent with other polling that has found that even Republicans would prefer to raise taxes on the rich than see cuts in Medicare.

Some combative conservatives may wish that Mitt Romney had talked more about the various plots and conspiracies they believed Obama to have launched upon the land: Fast & Furious, ACORN, Pigford, U.N. bike lanes, Obama’s imagined plan to abolish the suburbs. But while this kind of angry talk may gain eyeballs on Hannity, it’s not the stuff that swings undecided voters in Colorado and ­Virginia—­especially not the women voters who formed 53 percent of the electorate on Tuesday; or the moderates, men and women, who formed 41 percent of it; or the nonreligiously observant, who formed three quarters of it. Only 34 percent of the vote Tuesday was made up of white men. The share of the vote that was made up of older, conservative white men must have been much smaller still. Fox Nation never was more than a very tiny slice of the American nation, and it was only sad self-delusion that ever led anyone to think otherwise.

And deep down, we all know it.

Yet if we know that extremism is dangerous, why do we see so much of it?

Victorious presidential candidates have always spoken to the entire country and promised to represent all Americans. “I ask you to trust that American spirit which knows no ethnic, religious, social, political, regional, or economic boundaries; the spirit that burned with zeal in the hearts of millions of immigrants from every corner of the earth who came here in search of freedom.” That’s Ronald Reagan, accepting the Republican nomination in 1980. The tragedy of the modern Republican Party is that it remembers Ronald Reagan’s lyrics—the specific policies he recommended for the problems of his time—but has lost his music.

At a time when the need to broaden the party’s appeal seemed overwhelmingly compelling, Republicans narrowed their appeal to the most ideological fragment of the conservative base.

The Mitt Romney who began seeking the presidency in the early 2000s—the savior of the 2002 Olympics, the author of Romneycare, the man who’d redirected Boston’s “Big Dig”—was exactly the candidate the Republican Party needed by 2012: competent, managerial, pragmatic. Unfortunately, in the interval, Romney had been refashioned into something very different—to the point where nobody knew really what he was; to the point where even he may no longer have known.

Half a decade ago, many leading Republicans urged a rethink of their party’s direction. After the 2008 election, such calls for rethinking were shelved in favor of the back-to-basics message of the Tea Party. But now, post-2012, it’s time to return to the path of reform and rethink what Republicans and conservatives explored in the later Bush years.

As the GOP relies more heavily on less- educated voters, it finds itself relying on a class of people who have lost ground economically. Those voters understandably tend to mistrust business.

The emergency phase of the Great Recession has ended. We are moving into a phase of economic growth, but a growth that will not restore Americans to their prior prosperity for a very long time—let alone bring new progress. What will conservatives say in the months and years of reconstruction ahead? What ideas and what hope can we offer a battered and pessimistic country?

“Your answers are so old I’ve forgotten the questions.” That was the retort from a famous ex-communist to a much younger man who presumed to lecture him about Marxism.

If conservatives are to succeed in the century ahead, they need to rethink what conservatism means in a time as far removed from Ronald Reagan’s as Reagan’s was from World War II.

In 1980, the U.S. and its core allies produced half the planet’s output. As things are going, that group of democracies will do well to produce even one third in the 2020s. Back then, the U.S. was threatened by a great military adversary. In the 21st century, the U.S. faces an economic and technological rival for the first time since 1917.

In 1980, the gap between rich and poor had only just begun to widen from its narrowest point of the whole 20th century. Today, the typical worker earns less than his counterpart of 1980, middle-class incomes are stagnating, and wealth and power have concentrated to a degree that would startle even the Astors and the Vanderbilts.

In 1980, presidential elections were publicly financed, and post-Watergate reforms tightly governed congressional elections. Today, the post-Watergate reforms have collapsed, and presidential elections are increasingly financed by small numbers of extremely wealthy individuals who can bend the political system to their will.

In 1980, middle-class Americans regarded economic progress as the norm, and tough times as the exception. Today, a plurality of non-college-educated whites say they expect their children to be no better off than they are themselves.

In 1980, this was still an overwhelmingly white country. Today, a majority of the population under age 18 traces its origins to Latin America, Africa, or Asia. Back then, America remained a relatively young country, with a median age of exactly 30 years. Today, over-80 is the ­fastest-­growing age cohort, and the median age has surpassed 37.

In 1980, young women had only just recently entered the workforce in large numbers. Today, our leading labor-­market worry is the number of young men who are exiting.

In 1980, marriage remained the norm among heterosexuals and unimaginable for homosexuals. Today, a majority of American women are unmarried, and same-sex marriage is on its way to becoming the law of the land.

In 1980, our top environmental concerns involved risks to the health of individual human beings. Today, after 30 years of progress toward cleaner air and water, we must now worry about the health of the whole planetary climate system.

In 1980, 79 percent of Americans under age 65 were covered by employer-­provided health-insurance plans, a level that had held constant since the mid-1960s. Back then, health-care costs accounted for only about one 10th of the federal budget. Since 1980, private health coverage has shriveled, leaving some 45 million people uninsured. Health care now consumes one quarter of all federal dollars, rapidly rising toward one third—and that’s without considering the costs of Obamacare.

These realities do not dictate any particular political choice. But they do shape the menu of choices that will be available to political actors, as well as the range of outcomes that are achievable.

For example: it’s certainly possible for Republicans to choose to be a white person’s party. If we do so choose, however, we are also choosing to be an old person’s party. Since the elderly receive by far the largest portion of government’s benefits, an old person’s party will be drawn by almost inescapable necessity to become a big-government party. Indeed, that is just what happened in the George W. Bush years: Medicare Part D and all that.

In the Obama years, the GOP rebelled against Bush-era big government. But because it remained an old person’s party—more so than ever—the only way to reconcile the voting base and the party’s ideology was to adopt Paul Ryan’s budget plan, which loaded virtually all the burden of fiscal adjustment onto the young and the poor. And that of course intensified the party’s dependence on the old, white voters who set the cycle in motion in the first place.

Another example: the GOP’s social conservatism has increasingly repelled college-educated voters. In 1988, college-educated whites voted for George H.W. Bush over Michael Dukakis by a margin of more than 20 points. In 2008, John McCain bested Barack Obama among college-educated whites by only 2 points. As the GOP relies more heavily on less-educated voters, it finds itself relying on a class of people who have lost ground economically. Those voters understandably tend to mistrust business. It’s an odd predicament for the party of free enterprise to base itself on the most business-skeptical voters—a predicament that cost Romney dearly in the industrial Midwest.

What do we stand for? For Republicans, the Tea Party was the beginning of that rendezvous. It must not, however, be the finale. It cannot be the finale. The outpouring of anguish and anxiety that characterized the Tea Party should command attention. Yet nostalgia for a misremembered past is no basis for governing a diverse and advancing nation.

The central divide in American politics is the same as the divide in almost every advanced democracy on earth: between one party more committed to private enterprise and another party more supportive of the public sector. These parties may be called Conservative and Labour, Christian Democrat and Social Democrat, Gaullist and Socialist. By comparison with some other democracies—in fact, by comparison with most other democracies—the purely ideological differences between the parties in this country are relatively narrow. Yet the political game is played in this country with a vehemence and recklessness unseen almost anyplace else in the democratic world.

If the parties are to serve the country for which they profess such patriotism, they must step back from the brink.

On the Republican side, the road to renewal begins with this formula: 21st-century conservatism must become economically inclusive, environmentally responsible, culturally modern, and intellectually credible.

I can remember a Republican Party that was not backward-looking. I can remember a Republican Party excited by science and its possibilities. I can remember a Republican Party that regarded those Americans who thought differently not as aliens and enemies, but as fellow citizens who had not yet been convinced of the merit of our ideas.

When I began to pay serious attention to politics, it was the Democratic Party that housed all that seemed most obsolete and reactionary in American politics: urban machines that misgoverned troubled cities; industrial unions that looked to trade protectionism to maintain their advantages, foreign-policy experts who saw the next Vietnam in every challenge to U.S. power, members of Congress who dispensed expensive favors as if nothing had changed since 1965, writers and thinkers still dazzled by the Bright Tomorrow promised by revolutionary socialism.

Where the airports were new, where the businesspeople wore casual clothes, where young people were getting married and buying homes—anyplace the future seemed nearest—there, the party of Reagan was strongest. Where the good old days had ended with the Japanese surrender, where the pay phones were broken, and where aldermen were indicted—there you found the Democratic strongholds.

In those days, it was the Democratic Party that fought internal battles over the need for change: Gary Hart, Les Aspin, and other “Atari Democrats” (as they were called back when Atari was a cool, new brand) vs. Walter Mondale, Tip O’Neill, and other machine pols who sneered back, “Where’s the beef?”

Yet in the end, it was the Atari Democrats who won. A century before, a great British conservative, the Marquess of Salisbury, warned, “The commonest error in politics is sticking to the carcass of dead policies.” The Democrats of the 1980s and 1990s had the courage and honesty to identify which of their policies had died and then ruthlessly discard the carcasses. It falls to modern conservatives now to heed Salisbury’s advice: to abandon what is obsolete—and to meet the challenge of the new.


Who’s Skewed Now? Beaten GOP Wakes Up to the Real America

  • To all those ultraconservatives who were convinced that America would never reelect a “lazy” “Kenyan” “socialist” “fraud”:

America is not what you think it is.

Voters at the polls
A voter at the Salem Baptist Church, on Nov. 6, 2012, in Sparta, Va. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

I understand how you’re feeling right now. Betrayed. Bewildered. Indignant. You woke up on Election Day believing certain things. Scratch that. You didn’t believe. You knew. You knew that Barack Obama wasn’t who he said he was. Some of you “knew” he was Muslim; others “knew” he was born in Africa. A majority “knew” he was a socialist. Many of you even “knew” his deeper, darker secrets.

But whether you knew all of this stuff or just some of it, the thing you knew most of all was that Obama’s demise was at hand. The end of Obama was nigh. You knew, asGQ’s Reid Cherlin reported last summer, that Mitt Romney would deliver “not merely a 51–49 win but a run-the-table walloping that will send Obama into the history books as an undisputed calamity for America.” The country would not be fooled again. To you it was clear that “Obama was ‘crashing before our eyes,’” as New York’s Jonathan Chait wrote, “his administration ‘entering his pitiful phase,’ Americans turning against him in a ‘harbinger of doom.’ In an eerie replay of the Carter administration … the economy was dragging him down and, to make matters worse, he was ‘a very bad politician.’” All of this was self-evident. Obvious. You knew Obama would lose.

And when the polls suggested that Obama had a better chance of winning than Romney, you knew the polls were wrong. They were oversampling Democrats. They weren’t factoring in Romney’s advantage among independents. They were part of a vast left-wing media conspiracy to depress GOP turnout. To really know how America was going to vote on Election Day, you had to “unskew” the polls by reweighting each pollster’s sample to include more Republicans—and thus better reflect what you knew to be the true composition of America. Once unskewed, the polls reinforced what you knew all along: that Romney was destined for a landslide.

But then, on Tuesday night, the results came rolling in. Suddenly Obama had won every single swing state except North Carolina: Florida by 1 point; Ohio by 2; Virginia by 3; Colorado by 4; Iowa by 5; and New Hampshire by 6. Somehow he had clobbered Romney by 126 votes in the Electoral College and more than 2.5 million in the popular count. On Monday, you knew that America would never reelect the president. And then on Tuesday, America did.

So what happened? Logically, it could only be one of two things: either you misjudged Obama or you misjudged America. I know, at this point, that the first option is a nonstarter. For a true ultraconservative like yourself, the idea that you might be wrong about Obama—that the president is just a human politician you happen to disagree with, rather than, say, some sort of malevolent alien life form—is unthinkable. So that leaves the second option. You must have gotten America wrong somehow.

The so-called Real America—the America the ultraconservatives like to imagine we live in—is now a Minority America. That is quantifiable.

I know this is an uncomfortable notion. Honestly, I don’t expect you to agree. But here’s the thing: the election—the unskewed, unspinnable, undeniable accumulation of votes cast by your fellow Americans—is all the evidence you need. The election is proof that America is not what you knew it to be, at least not anymore. Your America never would have reelected the creator of Obamacare. It never would have reelected the man who announced our Afghanistan withdrawal date. Same goes for the guy who spent hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to stimulate the economy and prop up the auto industry; who presided over a period of record unemployment and rising national debt; who came out in support of gay marriage.

But, again, America did just that. Could it be, then, that the America you knew—the America some of you have called the Real America—is not the Real America after all?

What if your Real America is an illusion? A big, glassy, Truman Show bubble? A blinkered fantasyland where everyone agrees with you, where everyone thinks like you, from Rush on the radio to Sean on Fox; from the columnists at WorldNetDaily to the chain letters in your inbox; from one corner of your homogeneously redrawn congressional district to the other? Our modern media culture is so potent, pervasive, and personalized, and our political landscape so segregated, that it is now possible for a person to go through life rarely, if ever, hearing an opposing point of view. You were so sure your America was the real America because you never encountered any evidence to the contrary—not on TV, not on the radio, not online, and not in your community.

The 2012 election should burst that bubble. Returns like Tuesday’s make it hard to keep on choosing your own reality. The numbers are the numbers. Americans voted for gay marriage in Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota. They voted for legal marijuana in Colorado and Washington. They voted for a lesbian in Wisconsin—the first openly gay senator in U.S. history. And they voted against evangelical Tea Partiers in the very winnable states of Indiana and Missouri.

But above all else, Americans voted for Barack Obama. Again. Not because they were duped by the hopey-changey rhetoric of a fresh-faced celebrity but because they believed, after four years of watching him in action, that he deserved a second term more than Romney deserved a first. As the NBC political team wrote Wednesday morning, 2012 was a ticking demographic time bomb that blew up in the GOP’s face: “Obama carried a whopping 93% of black voters (representing 13% of the electorate), 71% of Latinos (representing 10%), and also 73% of Asians (3%). What’s more, despite all the predictions that youth turnout would be down, voters 18–29 made up 19% of last night’s voting population—up from 18% four years ago—and President Obama took 60% from that group.” Sure, Romney won white voters. He won more white voters than Ronald Reagan in 1980. But it wasn’t enough.

The results of the 2012 election are not ambiguous. The so-called Real America—the America the ultraconservatives like to imagine we live in—is now a Minority America. That is quantifiable. Meanwhile, the America that achieved a majority on Tuesday is something bigger. More inclusive. More progressive. More modern. It is the real Real America, like it or not.

So now all of you ultraconservatives have a choice. You can continue to cocoon yourself off from reality and pretend, despite what happened Tuesday, that America ends at the edge of Fox News; that it reaches only as far as Rush’s radio signal. Or you can accept that America is a lot larger than that.

If you stick to the first path, you will suffer more losses like Tuesday’s.

I hope you don’t. I hope you finally free your party’s brightest minds—your Marco Rubios, your Mitch Danielses, your Jeb Bushes—to pursue policy solutions that are designed to pass and work in America as it is.

You don’t have to agree with Obama or pander to liberals. The country will be better off, actually, if you don’t. But the goal should be to convince the Real America that you’re right. To do that, you have to acknowledge that the Real America exists—and that you alone are not it.

Ukraine’s Ultranationalists Show Surprising Strength at Polls

KIEV, Ukraine — The last time Oleg Tyagnibok was a member of Ukraine’s Parliament, his colleagues kicked him out over a fiery speech in which he described how Ukrainians, during World War II, bravely fought Muscovites, Germans, Jews “and other scum,” and then used slurs to refer to the “Jewish-Russian mafia, which rules in Ukraine.”

Sergey Dolzhenko/European Pressphoto Agency

Oleg Tyagnibok, head of Ukraine’s Svoboda party, speaking to supporters in downtown Kiev on Tuesday.

Eight years later, Mr. Tyagnibok is preparing to return to Parliament, not as a lone member of a broader coalition, as he was when he was ejected, but as the leader of Svoboda, the ultranationalist, right-wing party that will control 38 of 450 seats, or about 8.5 percent of the national legislature.

Svoboda’s surprising show of strength in the Oct. 29 election — polls had predicted that the party would fail to meet the 5 percent threshold to enter Parliament — has stirred alarm, including warnings from Israel about the rise of anti-Semitism and xenophobia in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic and a place with a firsthand knowledge of ethnic violence and genocide.

But in an interview in the downtown office building that Svoboda shares with an insurance company and a dental clinic named Smile, Mr. Tyagnibok said that fear of his party was misplaced and the accusations of racism and extremism unfounded.

“Svoboda is not an anti-Semitic party,” he said, seated behind a desk, a sport jacket stretched by his barrel-sized chest, his huge hands folded in front of him, speaking slowly and firmly in Ukrainian. “Svoboda is not a xenophobic party. Svoboda is not an anti-Russian party. Svoboda is not an anti-European party. Svoboda is simply and only a pro-Ukrainian party. And that’s it.”

Of course, that was not it.

Mr. Tyagnibok was just beginning to demonstrate the smooth charm that has helped Svoboda, which means “Freedom,” build support beyond its traditional stronghold in the Ukrainian-speaking west.

Tall, with beefy good looks, Mr. Tyagnibok, 44, who is a urological surgeon by training, has used his party’s pro-Ukrainian message to tap into frustration over the country’s stalled economy and growing disillusionment with the government of President Viktor F. Yanukovich.

From Mr. Tyagnibok’s frequent appearances on television talk shows, emphasizing national sovereignty and warning of encroachment by neighboring Russia, most viewers might never discern that some of his party’s members are unabashed neo-Nazis, while others shun the label but nonetheless espouse virulent hatred of Jews, gays and especially Russians.

Researchers who specialize in extremism say it is a talent shared by other leaders of far-right parties and has helped bring them into the mainstream in many European countries, including Hungary, Poland and Romania.

“This is a common phenomenon within these parties, that they have a front-stage image and a backstage agenda,” said Andreas Umland, an expert at the National University in Kiev. “The internal discourse, from what we can only suspect, is much more radical and xenophobic than what we see.” He added, “This is all much more radical.”

In the interview at his office, Mr. Tyagnibok said Svoboda’s message was only positive. “We do call ourselves nationalists,” he said. “Our view is love. Love of our land. Love of the people who live on this land. This is love to your wife and your home and your family. So, it’s love to your mother. Can this feeling be bad?”

“Our nationalism does not imply hatred to anybody,” he continued. “We formed a political party to protect the rights of Ukrainians, but not to the detriment of representatives of other nation.” He added, “So, if you ask about philosophy to be explained in two words: We are not against anyone. We are for ourselves.”

For a long time, they were for themselves and mostly by themselves. In the previous parliamentary election, in 2007, Svoboda received less than three-quarters of 1 percent of the vote, and that was an improvement. Until 2004, Svoboda was called the Social-Nationalist Party, which critics said was just a word flip of its true ambitions.

Born in Lviv, sometimes called the capital of the western, Europe-oriented Ukraine, Mr. Tyagnibok said he was raised to hate Communists, in part because his paternal grandfather was a victim of oppression under Stalin. He got his start in politics as a student organizer in the late 1980s, attended medical school and has been a member of the nationalist party from its inception in the early 1990s.

He served six years in Parliament, from 1998 until he was ejected in 2004. In 2001, with Ukrainian voters growing increasingly frustrated with the status quo, Svoboda made major gains in local and regional elections. Some voters who supported Svodboda said they believed that the party could present the strongest challenge to President Yanukovich. Many said they did not view the party as extreme.

“Those people who supported Svoboda in these elections, they don’t support racism, anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism,” said Vyacheslav Likhachev, who monitors extremism for theEuro-Asian Jewish Congress. “They support Svoboda because every vote for Svoboda was a vote against the ruling government.”

Still, Mr. Likhachev said, Svoboda’s rise was not a positive development for Ukraine. “It is bad for society,” he said.

In the days before the vote, Mr. Tyagnibok signed an agreement to work with other opposition parties, including the Fatherland party of the jailed former prime minister, Yulia V. Tymoshenko. Ms. Tymoshenko, who was barred from the ballot this year, recently began a hunger strike to protest what she said was fraud in the elections.

Mr. Tyagnibok’s ties to Ms. Tymoshenko and former President Viktor Yushchenko date to before Ukraine’s Orange Revolution in 2004, which Mr. Tyagnibok and other nationalists supported. Critics of the alliance say that it will give Svoboda more power than it would have on its own, and grant it further legitimacy as a mainstream faction.

Although his occasional use of ethnic and religious epithets is well documented — there was the 2004 speech to supporters, and in 2005, his public signing of an open letter to President Yushchenko and others demanding an end to “criminal activities of organized Jewry in Ukraine” — Mr. Tyagnibok called the allegations of hate speech “a fantasy and a serious exaggeration.”

The general prosecutor charged him with inciting ethnic hatred, but the case was dropped after the Orange Revolution. “In 2004, I was accused of anti-Semitism, but I won in all the court cases,” Mr. Tyagnibok said.

Mr. Tyagnibok said nationalist parties were enjoying a renaissance in Europe because of the Continent’s financial problems, as well as conflicts with Muslim immigrants in countries like Italy, France and Spain. “Europe is change,” he said. “Economic failures make people look for reasons.”

But he said it was all for the best. “In our view the ideal is to see Europe as one big flower bed full of different flowers, with Ukraine as one of the most beautiful flowers in it,” Mr. Tyagnibok said. “It has its own scent, its own beauty. It is different from other flowers, but it is in the same flower bed.”

He waved away any thought of nationalist strife. “Just imagine one nationalist talking to another nationalist,” he said. “There should be no problems between them. Everybody respects their interests, and everybody understands we live in one big world.”