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Healthy Edge

Physicians Should Focus on Patient Outcomes instead of their Wallets

December 9th 2013

Those wanting an expanded governmental role and those opposing it are fighting the wrong battle in the wrong way. The battle over a national healthcare policy has raged since the early 1990s. It has always been about coverage, liability, and finance, never about care protocols and patients. If making health affordable is everyone’s stated goal then why not focus on the actual care, health, and wellness of Americans?

America remains the best place on Earth to have an acute illness or shock-trauma injury. Our nation’s emergency rooms and first responder protocols are unequaled. Princess Diana may have lived had her car accident happened in New York City instead of Paris. America’s diagnostic methods and equipment are unequaled. That is why patients from all over the globe seek answers to complex symptoms by visiting the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins, Sloan Kettering and countless other world class facilities. Read more ..

Japan on Edge

Japan's Unseen Revolution

December 9th 2013

Rising Sun Shinto Island

In a world of moldering journalism, nothing quite equals the inadequacies of Japan reporting. Despite this short shrift, Japan remains the United States' most important relationship in Asia -- especially as China is increasingly seen as an adversary and with an unpredictable North Korea.

It is an important trading partner -- $170 billion through October this year with a $61 billion deficit in Japan's favor. Even though that is dwarfed by China's $468 billion for the same period, with a staggering $268 deficit in Beijing's favor, it has heft beyond the numbers. Japan is rapidly becoming a major scientific center with the third largest budget for research and development at $130 billion with 677,731 world-class researchers. Most important, Japan's civil society, despite its unique characteristics, is a major partner in the world democratic alliance. Read more ..

The Defense Edge

Pentagon Moves Slowly in the Right Direction

December 8th 2013

Chuck Hagel

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel made headlines Wednesday when he unveiled a plan to shrink his office by about 200 employees and reduce its budget by about 20 percent over the next five years.

The plan was billed as the first step in a larger effort to reduce the Department of Defense’s headquarters budgets by 20 percent. As the Secretary is leading by example in cutting costs and personnel, the announcement is an important step in the right direction. However, despite this good news, the Pentagon still has a long way to go in restructuring its costs away from bureaucratic bloat and towards hard combat power.

For one, the Pentagon must reverse years of backwards priorities. Since entering office, the Obama administration has set in motion a plan to shrink the active duty military (mostly in the Army and Marine Corps) by about 7 percent, while at the same time growing the Pentagon’s civilian workforce by about 13 percent. Read more ..

Significant Lives

The Day I Met Nelson Mandela: A Life-Changing Experience

December 6th 2013

Click to select Image

In February and March of 1990, I had a profoundly life-changing experience.

At the time, I was working for Robert J. Brown, former aide to President Richard M. Nixon, as a vice president for the international division of Mr. Brown’s B&C Associates. The position required my spending many months in South Africa. Never in America, before or since, had I felt and seen such racism, raw and ugly, as was laid bare in South Africa, where blacks were treated as chattel and subhuman.

I was treated that way myself until they heard my accent or saw my passport. Suddenly, I was OK to the racist throngs and treated with all respect. Only my U.S. passport differentiated me from other blacks, but apparently that was enough.

Very quickly, this exposure started to harden me and for the first time, hate began to seep within my heart. Read more ..

Transparency in Government

Costa Ricans' Political Enthusiasm Dampened by Corruption Woes

December 6th 2013

Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla

Along with Costa Rica current slow economic growth, many Costa Ricans are also discontented with rampant corruption that has affected the country’s entire civic society. On November 11th, Fulton Armstrong, an experienced analyst of Inter-American policy and a highly regarded CLALS Research Fellow at American University, posted a blog in which he provided an insightful analysis of Costa Rica’s stumbling political system.

Although Costa Rican officials present their country as a democratic success, Mr. Armstrong responded by writing “Costa Rica is approaching February’s presidential and legislative elections with a distinct lack of enthusiasm, if not with dread.” Many Costa Rican citizens are using the elections as an opportunity to manifest their large-scale discontent, through massive protests,with the government’s inability to adequately provide for the nation’s dispossessed and address the country’s runaway corruption cases. 

President Laura Chinchilla contends that her government is now clean and that it has taken giant steps in curbing corruption, yet some local polls find that 95 percent of the population believe that many officials within her administration are corrupt. Read more ..

The Media on Edge

A Press Shield Law's Strange Bedfellows

December 3rd 2013


Luckily, previous 'Free Flow of Information' bills went nowhere. But a new one is picking up steam. Why?

Anyone looking for proof that bad policy begets more bad policy need look no further than the all-too-aptly-named Free Flow of Information Act of 2013. The bill may be taken up on the Senate floor as early as this week.

The proposed legislation has had predecessors that failed to become law: the Free Flow of Information Acts of 2007, 2008 and 2009. Each, like the current bill, was said by its proponents to provide urgently needed protection for reporters seeking to shield confidential sources from discovery through federal subpoenas-thereby promoting disclosure of important information, particularly from government whistleblowers. Each of those earlier bills was firmly opposed by members of the intelligence community, including by me when I served as U.S. attorney general in 2007-09. We thought that the bills were not merely unnecessary but also a potential source of mischief that would empower those who lost policy arguments within the government, or who were simply out to do harm, to leak with impunity. Read more ..

Broken Philanthropy

The Dark Background of American Philanthropists

December 1st 2013

Philanthropy has many wonderful qualities — and never tires of proclaiming them, for one quality it sorely lacks is humility. It regularly thumps itself on the back, for instance, for devoting some $300 billion a year to good causes. And though philanthropic spending on social causes is dwarfed by that of the government, foundations proudly claim that dollar for dollar their spending is in fact more effective than the government’s. While government tends to stick with the safe and the routine, philanthropy regularly and energetically seeks out the next new thing; it claims it is at the cutting edge of social change, being innovative, scientific, and progressive. Philanthropy, as legendary Ford Foundation program officer Paul Ylvisaker once claimed, is society’s “passing gear.”

Indeed, philanthropy increasingly prides itself on its ability to shape and guide government spending, testing out potential solutions for social problems and then aggressively advocating for their replication by government. Any employee of a philanthropic organization can immediately tick off a list of major accomplishments of American foundations, all of which followed this pattern of bold experimentation leading to government adoption.

For example, Andrew Carnegie’s library program pledged funding to construct the buildings, if the local municipalities would provide the sites and help pay for the libraries’ operation. The Rockefeller Foundation funded a moderately successful hookworm abatement program in the southern United States, which strongly involved local governments. The Ford Foundation’s “gray areas” project in the 1960s experimented with new approaches to urban poverty that then became the basis for the Great Society’s War on Poverty. Read more ..

Uruguay on Edge

Uruguay's First Lady Should Condemn All Perpetrators of Political Violence

November 30th 2013

Click to select Image

In an October 3 interview with The Associated Press, Uruguayan First Lady and former guerrilla activist Lucía Topolansky was asked about the past justification for the execution of unarmed prisoners at the hands of urban guerrillas, known as Tupamaros, during their turbulent uprising against the Uruguayan government in the 1970′s and 1980′s. Topolansky, while being detained at the hands of the military junta (1973-1985), replied, “[h]istory is what it is. We are not going to go back and analyze it.”

While there is no denying that egregious human rights violations were systematically perpetrated by Southern Cone military regimes, Topolansky’s rather lukewarm and evasive remark echoes sentiments often resorted to by supporters of the regional dictatorships that sprung up in order to combat guerrilla movements throughout the 1970′s and 1980′s.  Read more ..

After the Holocaust

Nazi Gun Bans Precipitated Infamous 'Kristallnacht'

November 30th 2013

Parabellum Luger 9mm

This month marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Night of the Broken Glass, or Kristallnacht, the Nazi pogrom against Germany’s Jews in November 1938. Historians have documented everything about it except what made it so easy to attack the defenseless Jews without fear of resistance. Their guns were registered and were easily confiscated in the weeks before the onslaught.

How this was possible can be seen through the eyes of one of the countless victims, who happened to be a renowned German athlete. Alfred Flatow won first place in gymnastics at the 1896 Olympics. In 1932, he dutifully registered three handguns as required by a decree of the Weimar Republic. The decree also provided that, if “public safety” so required, the guns could be confiscated. Officials gullibly neglected to consider that only law-abiding citizens would register, while political extremists and criminals would not. But the interior minister warned that the gun registration records must be carefully secured so they would not fall into the hands of extremist elements. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Obamacare is Driving Costs Up, Not Down

November 30th 2013


The past two months have laid bare the emptiness of the president’s most prominent Obamacare promises.  Millions are losing the plans they have and like against their wishes, contrary to the president’s oft-repeated pledge.  And those being forced into Obamacare could lose access to the doctors and hospitals they trust, also contrary to assurances from the president.  The evidence demonstrating that these commitments cannot be met is so overwhelming that even the administration has abandoned defense of the president’s previous statements.

But there’s still one claim the Obama administration hasn’t yet admitted will not come true, which is that Obamacare will drive overall health costs down, rather than up.  More precisely, the administration continues to insist that the law is responsible for slowing the pace of rapidly rising health costs and will continue to slow the growth of such costs in the future, with great economic benefits for families and the entire country. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Human Rights Groups Criticize U.S. Drone Strikes

November 29th 2013

MQ-1 Predator Drone

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW), two influential human rights organizations, released separate reports on Tuesday criticizing the Obama administration's use of drones in the fight against al Qaeda terrorists. The reports detail instances of where secret drone strikes killed civilians and violated international law in Pakistan and Yemen.

Amnesty International's investigation into nine strikes in Pakistan's North Waziristan region between January 2012 and August 2013 finds civilians were disproportionately killed by U.S. drone attacks. In one incident, Amnesty reported that the U.S. killed 18 laborers as they waited to eat dinner. According to locals, who often fear of reprisals from Taliban in the area, the men were not engaged in militant activities. Amnesty believes more justification, other than "association" with a terrorist group, is needed to carry out a strike. "[We have] serious concerns that this attack violated the prohibition of the arbitrary deprivation of life and may constitute war crimes or extrajudicial executions," said the report. HRW focused on six drone strikes in Yemen in which 57 civilians were killed. Read more ..

The Way We Are

The Curse of Longevity

November 28th 2013


The Social Security Act was passed in 1935 guaranteeing retirement pensions to all Americans over the age of 65. Sounds like a good deal… except for the fact that the average American life expectancy back in 1935 was 61.7 years. FDR and his administration were as far-sighted as any politician in America, meaning not-at-all. Everything was supposed to remain the same so their plan would work perfectly -- get the young and poor to pay for the federal pensions of the old and wealthy.

As time marched on, access to food and healthcare, as well as the automation of labor, granted longevity to even the poorest in America. In 2010, the average lifespan was 78.7 years. The number of centenarians (people over 100 years old) in the US that year was more than 53,000. Interestingly enough, there were more centenarians in 2010 then there were Social Security recipients in 1937, the first year benefits were distributed. Those first recipients received a total of $1.278 million in 1937. The Class of 2010 centenarians had received no less than $18 billon at the time of the 2010 census. That is $18 billion -- with a B.

There is absolutely no way that FDR thought social security would pay 53,364 people a monthly stipend for over 35 years. Less than 1 percent of the U.S. population was 65 or older in 1940; by 2011, that figure had exceeded 18 percent. To give those percentages a number, 222,488 people in 1940 versus over 56 million in 2011.

The lifespan of the average American in 1935 was already unprecedented in the history of the world. In 1900, the average lifespan was 31 years, which was the norm for every advanced civilization at their peaks. Hobbes may have been describing the State of Nature when he said life was “… nasty, brutish, and short,” but it just as much describes life in civilization until the last half of the 20th Century. Read more ..

Antisemitic Europe

How Fear of Muslims Leads to Hatred of Jews in Europe

November 27th 2013

When European history teachers omit the Holocaust from their curriculum, they do not do this because they hate their Jewish students more than their Muslim students. They omit it because they are afraid of their Muslim students. They might also believe they do it to be "nice," but then how come this same "niceness" is not afforded to the Jews?

In the "Stockholm Syndrome," now seen, ironically, in Sweden, victims start bonding with their abusers in the wish that if they share the same values as their abusers, their abusers might stop abusing them. "We must be open and tolerant toward Islam and Muslims because when we become a minority, they will be so toward us." — Jens Orback, former Swedish government minister. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Obama's Deal with Wayward Iran is a Losing Proposition

November 26th 2013

“Always believe the threats of your enemies, more than the promises of your friends,” Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel has said.

This wise advice is becoming a cold reality for many of America’s longtime allies in the Middle East amid an unprecedented breakdown in U.S. foreign policy and credibility in the region.

Indeed, America’s allies in an extremely volatile part of the world have been left stunned by a foreign policy – from Egypt to Syria and now to Iran -- which has been bumbling at best and damaging at worst. This foreign policy fumble has serious long term implications for U.S. national security.

But today, with Iran within reach of the technical capacity to build a nuclear weapon, the U.S. itself is nearing a point of no return. There is grave concern in Congress, (and across America) that an emerging agreement being brokered by the U.S. and world powers with Iran in Geneva will irrevocably weaken sanctions against Iran without doing anything about the infrastructure of their nuclear program. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Iran's Nuclear Warhead Design Survives New International Deal

November 25th 2013

Iran Missiles

While the world’s leaders are still coming to grips with the enrichment aspect of the Obama Administration's new deal to curtail Iran’s nuclear weapons program, no one has noticed that Iran's warhead and delivery program remains untouched. Despite Tehran's protestations that it has no intention of ever creating a nuclear weapon, Iran, in fact, has been developing a warhead for some fifteen years. That design is now near perfect.

Compare Iran’s nuclear weapons program to the use of gunpowder. One stuffs gunpowder into a bullet, loads it into a rifle, and then finds a marksman who can hit the target. Iran has nearly mastered all those steps-- but in nuclear terms. Read more ..

The JFK Edge

For JFK -- USA in Space

November 24th 2013

Astronaut Hall of Fame

Let’s look beyond the repellant spectacle of politics in Washington, reflect on a president who rallied America to greatness and consider how we can bring his legacy alive in our generation.

We should put the space program back at the center of American life. Let’s begin a national discussion to decide the next great mission for NASA. Then, let’s mobilize the nation again, inspire the young again and make great things happen again.

Greatness is not defined by lowering our standards, expectations or ambitions. Patriotism is not defined by lowering our political discourse to a dialogue of defamation. Americanism is not defined by blaming others for failure or inventing excuses for mediocrity.

A recent Gallup poll found President John F. Kennedy to be the most admired recent former president, with 74 percent of the nation calling him an outstanding or above average leader. Kennedy stands for the America we can be and want to be.  Read more ..

The Way We are

Remembering Our Simple Blessings

November 21st 2013


This column is dedicated in remembrance of a holiday that encourages us to take a step back in order to gain clarity and perspective when giving thanks for all the blessings we have come to adore. In what might seem like a time of such frivolous peril, America has a plethora of great accomplishments to be thankful for. We are thankful that in lieu of our devastating unemployment increases, loss of faith in Affordable care, and what has matured into a series of mass-shootings and terror throughout 2013, we are perhaps stronger as a nation now than ever.  Despite all the negative images we read about America abroad, we're still the envy of the world with some of the finest collegiate institutions in the world, the best doctors and hospitals and the freedom of speech and choice which is second to none on the planet.  We should be thankful to those families that have endured challenging marriages, but found the will to endure to raise their children in a two parent household.
 Just recently, we celebrated Veterans Day by honoring the soldiers that have answered the call to service and who have ever so bravely fought to protect our freedom; the dedication ceremony in remembrance of The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial celebrating all of his progress; and our economy which remains strong and continues to grow.  The list goes on.

We cannot control what talents we have, only that we must recognize and nurture them in others and ourselves. We all have something we can do well, but we were not all meant to be successful business owners, great athletes, artists or inventors. But by developing our own particular talents to their maximum, we can find success and happiness even without fame and fortune. Read more ..

The Iranian Threat

Iran's Presence is Multifaceted and Reaches Remote Places in Latin America

November 20th 2013

AMIA bombing 1994 and cop

Early this year the Argentine prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, disclosed a 500-page document of evidence of Iran’s terrorist networks in Latin America. It included a number of countries, among which were Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guyana, Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, and Uruguay. Iran’s activities in some of these countries are carried out with the direct or indirect support from the local government.

For example, in my last article, I described the role played by the Surinamese president in the trafficking of drugs, as well as the strengthening of relations with Iran. Suriname received US $1.2 million to purchase tractors, and direct flights between the two countries were established.  A question I asked in that article was: Could these flights possibly be used to transport weapons or other materials, such as uranium, to Iran? Read more ..

Israel and America

Obama's Fight with Israel: This Time It's Serious

November 20th 2013

Netanyahu and Obama

America and Israel are in uncharted waters. Just eight months since President Barack Obama visited Israel on the first foreign trip of his second term in an attempt to patch things up with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the two close allies are at odds once again -- this time over a proposed "first step" nuclear agreement with Iran. Washington and Jerusalem eventually will find a way to move beyond this titanic clash, but no kiss-and-make-up effort can erase the scars that will be left behind.

The current crisis is already one of the biggest U.S.-Israel blowups, ever -- and it could get worse before it gets better.

Not since Menachem Begin trashed Ronald Reagan's 1982 peace plan has Israel so publicly criticized a major U.S. diplomatic initiative. In a rousing speech in Jerusalem on Nov. 10, Netanyahu even called on leaders of American Jewry to use their influence to stop what he called a "bad" Iran deal. Read more ..

The Middle East on Edge

A Proven Security Strategy to End Crisis in the Middle East

November 19th 2013

7.2.2013 Egypt Protests

A new technology of defense is now available that has been scientifically shown to prevent war and create peace by harnessing the deepest level of nature's functioning.

War is ultimately a human problem requiring a human solution. Experts in the field of conflict resolution maintain that the underlying cause of war is accumulated "social stress" - i.e., mounting political, religious and/or ethnic tensions between rival factions in critical hotspots throughout the world. As social stress builds, divisions grow stronger, groups take sides, diplomats become unable to resolve differences, and enemies arise within or outside the nation. Military force may then be invoked to protect the country, resulting in armed conflict and unpredictable outcomes. But even if conflict temporarily solves the problem for the victor, the social stress remains, fueling future cycles of conflict. In contrast, the absence of collective stress translates into the absence of tension between competing sides, thereby reducing the probability of hostilities. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

No Executive Order Gun Control . . . Please!

November 18th 2013


Secretary of State John Kerry signed the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty against the clear wishes of the U.S. Senate-there were 51 votes against it last March. Now it will be important for the Senate to refuse to ratify this ill-advised treaty which is not in our national interest and could lead to unwelcome constraints, enforced by international bodies, on our Second Amendment Constitutional rights.

On the heels of his brilliant effort in setting up Russia's President Vladimir Putin to lead in accounting for and eliminating the chemical weapons of its ally Syria (stay tuned) and setting the stage for Iran, another Russian ally, to continue its development of nuclear weapons while its new "moderate" President Rouhani thumbs his nose at U.S. interests, Secretary of State John Kerry signed the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). This Treaty, which is not consistent with U.S. interests, would empower an international body to inject itself in the activities of American citizens in ways that could lead to a loss of our Second Amendment rights. Read more ..

Broken Healthcare

Separating Myth From Reality On Obamacare

November 17th 2013

File folders

My heart sank when I got an email late last month from my friend Robert, who has been battling multiple sclerosis for the past decade. He wrote to tell me that he was among the many Americans who in recent weeks received letters from their insurance companies saying that their policies won’t be available next year.

Insurance companies are sending those letters primarily because the policies they will no longer offer don’t provide enough coverage — or have deductibles that are too high — to comply with the Affordable Care Act. In many cases, however, the policyholders getting those letters are simply victims of a business practice insurers have engaged in for years: discontinuing policies because they’re no longer sufficiently profitable.


Education on Edge

What the Obamacare Debacle Tells Us About Common Core

November 15th 2013

school kids

Newspapers and cable news are overflowing with stories of Obamacare's disastrous rollout. Shutting down HealthCare.gov to fix crippling "glitches," President Obama's broken promises, increased rates, dropped coverage – all of these feel like they've come out of nowhere. Where was the advanced warning? Shouldn't we have seen this coming? Clearly, those who were supposed to play a watchdog role dropped the ball.

There are important lessons here for another bold, national effort – the Common Core reading and math standards in K-12 schooling. Introduced in 2010 and adopted by more than 40 states with little notice, the Common Core has since rocketed into the popular imagination. Headlines are filled with tales of angry public meetings and legislative clashes in places like Florida, New York and Georgia. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Political Correctness is back with a New Name: Bullying

November 14th 2013


Over the past few years bullying has become a hot topic of conversation. Perhaps I should amend that: bullying has become a hot topic in the media as it has been pushed by progressives to force mainstream acceptance of their agenda.
The bullying I am talking about is not the big kid pushing around the little kid or the Steubenville, Ohio rape case. The acts of bullying that are making headlines are about words and feelings. Many times it is used as a catch-all for anyone that challenges the leftist ideas—suspending kids for expressing their religious views or making a “gun” with their pointer finger and thumb.
You will recognize that many similarities between the new anti-bullying trend today the political correctness (PC) movement in the ‘90’s. This is just the latest example of a repressive movement aiming to stifle any and all dissent.
 In 1949, George Orwell wrote the ground-breaking book 1984. In it he described the idea of Newspeak—a state created language intended to restrict man’s ability to describe his own thoughts and feelings. One particular aspect of Newspeak was the idea of Thought crime—harboring unspoken thoughts that could be deemed contentious or “anti-social.” Lacking the words to express displeasure was not enough; you could be arrested for thinking inexpressible notions.
In America circa 2013, your own intentions do not matter if you express any idea that can be construed as “hate speech.” Intentions only matter when you enact the leftist idea of what is good even if it destroys people’s lives. According to the American Bar Association, “hate speech” is speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Nuclear Peace With Iran in Our Time: Is This Our Chamberlain Moment?

November 13th 2013

Alan Dershowitz

The deal that has been offered to Iran—to soften some sanctions in return for a promise by the mullahs to preserve the status quo with regard to their nuclear program—does not serve the interest of peace.  This is not to discourage further diplomacy and negotiation, but it is to underline what Secretary of State John Kerry has said:  namely that a bad deal is worse than no deal.  This is a very bad deal for America, its allies and peace.

Diplomacy is better than war but bad diplomacy can cause bad wars. The US is leading the noble efforts, stalled for the moment, to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough in our determination to prevent Iran from developing, or having the capacity to develop, nuclear weapons. There is little dispute about this essential goal: virtually everyone agrees that a nuclear armed Iran would pose unacceptably grave dangers to the United States and its allies.

Nor is there much controversy over the preference for “jaw jaw” over “war war” as Winston Churchill once put it. But the understandable concern, expressed by Israeli, French, Saudi and some other leaders, is that the Iranian leadership is playing for time—that they want to make insignificant concessions in exchange for significant reductions in the sanctions that are crippling their economy. Their goal is to have their yellow cake and eat good food at the same time. These leaders, and many experienced nuclear and diplomatic experts, fear that a bad deal, such as the one that secretary Kerry seemed ready to accept, would allow the Iranians to inch closer to nuclear weapons capacity while strengthening their faltering economy. The net result would be a more powerful Iran with the ability to deploy a nuclear arsenal quickly and surreptitiously. Read more ..

Obama and Israel

On Open Letter to Kerry

November 11th 2013

John Kerry

Dear Sec of State Kerry. After listening to you declare repeatedly over the past weeks that "Israel's settlements are illegitimate", I respectfully wish to state, unequivocally, that you are mistaken and ill advised, both in law and in fact. Pursuant to the "Oslo Accords", and specifically the Israel-Palestinian Interim Agreement (1995), the "issue of settlements" is one of subjects to be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations. President Bill Clinton on behalf of the US, is signatory as witness to that agreement, together with the leaders of the EU, Russia, Egypt, Jordan and Norway.

Your statements serve to not only to prejudge this negotiating issue, but also to undermine the integrity of that agreement, as well as the very negotiations that you so enthusiastically advocate. Your determination that Israel's settlements are illegitimate cannot be legally substantiated. The oft-quoted prohibition on transferring population into occupied territory (Art. 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention) was, according to the International Committee Red Cross's own official commentary of that convention, drafted in 1949 to prevent the forced, mass transfer of populations carried out by the Nazis in the Second World War. Read more ..

Inside Politics

House in Play in 2014

November 8th 2013


Even though we are a year away from the midterm elections, and much can and will happen in that time, as of right now, the House is in play. It’s all in the data, and the multitude of polling shows House Republicans scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Thanks to heavy gerrymandering, the calculation isn’t as simple as “the winner is the party that gets the most votes.” If that were the case, Nancy Pelosi would be wielding the Speaker’s gavel today. After all, Democratic House candidates logged more than 1.3 million more votes than Republicans in 2012. Despite losing the House popular vote, Republicans thwarted genuine democracy by scoring a 34-seat advantage in the chamber.

Clearly, Democrats need to significantly outpoll Republicans in order to have a chance at retaking the House. How significantly? A statistical analysis by Daily Kos Elections finds that Democrats would have a 50-50 chance of winning back the House if they were to win the House popular vote by 6 points. They would be virtually guaranteed the majority if they can win it by 9 points. The Cook Political Report pegs the number at 6-7 points via a simple calculation: Dems need to pick up 17 seats next year, and Republicans won that 17th seat by 6.8 points in 2012. Sam Wang at the Princeton Election Consortium thinks that number is just 4-5 points. Read more ..

Broken Healthcare

Obamacare Outlaws Policies that Are Essentially Worthless

November 8th 2013

Kathleen Sebelius

As I watched Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius being grilled by members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week, it was immediately clear to me just how many of them are in the pockets of the industry I used to work for.

Former colleagues of mine undoubtedly had a hand in writing the members’ comments and questions. Their behavior showed just how much more willing they are to protect the profits of health insurers than protect the health and financial well- being of their constituents.

I got the same treatment from many of those committee members when I provided testimony in March — or tried to. I had been invited to talk about the business practices of insurers — practices that have contributed to the rising number of uninsured and underinsured Americans. Among them: refusing to sell policies to millions of us because of preexisting conditions and charging exorbitant premiums for skimpy coverage to others. 

When I tried to tell the tale of a Florida woman who died of cancer last year because she was priced out of the market and was unable to buy coverage at any price, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from my home state of Tennessee, cut me off. She clearly had no interest in hearing about Leslie Elder or anything else I had to say. Instead, Blackburn held forth for more than five minutes and gave me all of 20 seconds to respond. Read more ..

The Way We Are

RACE: The Virtues of Tolerance and Patience

November 7th 2013


One of the great moral issues of our time is almost never discussed as such in a reasonable, productive way. Sure, we talk about it often. As a matter of fact, hardly a day goes by without it coming up on one of the major cable news channels or talk radio shows across the nation. It divides Republicans and Democrats and polarizes the parties more than almost anything else I can think of. And very few who discuss it, do so in a way that makes sense.

I’m talking about racism, and not the mere existence of racism, because as long as we’re mortal human beings, racism will always exist. The moral issue of racism I’m concerned with here is how poisonous conversations about it have become, to the point where taking a public-policy position, even on something entirely unrelated to race, is seen through the prism of skin color.

That’s not to say that no one takes the problem of true racism seriously. No doubt many in this country do. Democrats are convinced it’s the overriding “issue” or “problem” of our day; although deep down, behind closed doors, it’s probably more a function of good retail politics for them, a means to rallying their base and maintaining a constituency, than it is a truly systemic crisis, much less a serious moral concern. Republicans are just as guilty of failing to see it as a moral crisis. They’re the ones always on the defensive as alleged racists and respond mostly in talking-point fashion to attacks by Democrats. I guess that’s just “politics as usual.”

But it shouldn’t be. Racism is not just a question of good or bad politics, not just a matter of scoring or losing points in the fight for votes from a constituency. It has profound moral implications, because those who exploit race appeal to the baser, primal aspects of human nature, which pit people against one another in ways we ought to have left behind in the Stone Age. Read more ..

The Way We Are

A Lack of Social Mobility May Foretell Rising Class Warfare

November 6th 2013

People lined up for jobs

I am going to write about John Rawls, the great liberal philosopher. But bear with me: I am also going to consider how much tax people want to pay. Rawls first: in 1971, the quiet, unassuming Harvard professor published a dry treatise, A Theory of Justice. Such a book might hope for a few thousand sales. In this case, it sold in the hundreds of thousands. It was a philosophical blockbuster.

Rawls' elegant thesis rested on an intuitive idea: a fair society is the one we would invent without knowing what position we will occupy within it. Decisions about tax, welfare, social insurance are made, in his thought experiment, by rational individuals acting behind ‘a veil of ignorance'. Rawls also gave pro-government liberals a firmer foundation on which to stand in their battles with the supply-siders in the 1980s. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

A Dishonest Presidency

November 5th 2013

Obama in front of AMA

The Wall Street Journal broke the news this weekend that, even as President Obama was telling the American people they could keep their health plans, “some White House policy advisors objected to the breadth of Mr. Obama’s ‘keep your plan’ promise. They were overruled by political aides.” Overruled by political aides? This is simply damning.

It’s not easy to get a lie into a presidential speech. Every draft address is circulated to the White House senior staff and key Cabinet officials in something called the “staffing process.” Every line is reviewed by dozens of senior officials, who offer comments and factual corrections. During this process, it turns out, some of Obama’s policy advisers objected to the “you can keep your plan” pledge, pointing out that it was untrue. But it stayed in the speech. That does not happen by accident. It requires a willful intent to deceive. Read more ..

The War on Terror

America's Allies, Adversaries and the Right to Self-Defense

November 5th 2013

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Critics of those who defend the free world from its adversaries accuse governments and security forces of wiretapping public figures, including friendly governments, and of conducting drone-executed targeted killings as an accepted form of warfare.

But is anyone looking at who, exactly, is criticizing the Western world's actions that defend it against terrorism? Do they really believe that terrorism can be successfully fought without violence? Criticism, even if justified, can sabotage a just battle and people's right to self-defense.

According to the Arabic proverb, "If you honor and respect a noble man, he will become your friend, but if you honor and respect a villain, he will rise up against you."

One view of diplomacy, deemed misguided by leaders such as Churchill, is to abandon one's friends and court one's enemies in the assumption that the friend is yours and will not abandon you. The United States deserted the Shah for the Ayatollah's Revolutionary Guards; it abandoned Mubarak for the Muslim Brotherhood Islamist Mohamed Morsi, and it has abandoned Iraq and Afghanistan to domestic chaos, growing terrorism and the approaching Islamist takeover. Read more ..

Broken Education


November 4th 2013

Boycott Israel

In 1915, John Dewey of Columbia University and Arthur Lovejoy of Johns Hopkins University came together with other educators to establish the American Association of University Professors, an organization designed to preserve academic freedom and professional values.

The association's 1915 Declaration of Principles set the guidelines for the foundation of what academic freedom should be stating that, "the freedom of the academic teacher entail[s] certain correlative obligations ... . The university teacher ... should, if he is fit for his position, be a person of a fair and judicial mind; he should, in dealing with such subjects, set forth justly, without suppression or innuendo, the divergent opinions of other investigators ... and he should, above all, remember that his business is not to provide his students with ready-made conclusions, but to train them to think for themselves."  Read more ..

Broken Intelligence

Overstepping Boundaries

November 3rd 2013

Angela Merkel

Remember “Reach out and touch someone?” Well, President Obama did reach out and touch someone. The problem is, the person he touched just happened to be Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany. And she’s not happy about it.

When she learned from Der Spiegel that the National Security Agency had been tapping her personal cellphone, Merkel was so pissed she called Obama immediately and told him to knock it off. She’s probably even more upset now — it was reported over the weekend that we’ve been tapping her private phone since 2002, before she became chancellor, that spying operations are run from the rooftop of the American Embassy, less than 800 yards from the Chancellery, and that Obama was told about the practice in 2010 and did nothing to stop it. Read more ..

Broken Healthcare

Obama's 16 Words

November 2nd 2013

Obamacare Protest

Remember George W. Bush’s “16 words” in his 2003 State of the Union address making the case for military action in Iraq? Sen. John Kerry charged that Bush “hoodwinked the American people.” Sen. Hillary Clinton said Bush “misled” the country. And Sen. Barack Obama accused the White House of “shading intelligence reports to support its case.”

Well, now it seems President Obama has his own 16 words to answer for: “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan.” (Actually, it was a little more than 16 words if you include what the president said next: “Period. No one will take it away. No matter what.”)

Obama attempted to move the goal posts in his speech in Boston’s Faneuil Hall Wednesday, declaring that if you like your current health plan, “For the vast majority . . . you can keep it.” Sorry, he didn’t say “the vast majority” back in 2009. He said you can keep your plan. Period. No matter what. Read more ..

Broken Government

Food Stamp Scandals

November 1st 2013

Homeless in Cheap Motels

Nov. 1, 2013 — a date that will live in infamy — will bring a new monthly jobs report proving that the pain of the jobless is continuing unabated, as a cruel cut in the food stamp program is slated to take food off the tables of hungry children, elderly and disabled Americans.

While the Dow Jones industrial average soars to record highs and American elites prepare to celebrate a prosperous holiday season, it is a scandal that the jobless remain jobless, the hungry are becoming more hungry and official Washington is doing nothing.

It is scandalous that the hungriest Americans have been discarded from our public discourse and abandoned as nonpersons in our policy debates. They are treated like the disappeared in Pinochet’s Chile and the tortured in Stalin’s Gulag. They suffer in silence while politicians and the media ignore them. Read more ..

Financing the Flames

Financing the Flames on a Scorched Budget

October 31st 2013

Nabi Saleh Villagers with Rocks

Our country is wracked by one budget crisis after another. When the IRS permits an organization to enjoy 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, every American must pay the difference. Knowledgeable tax experts tell us that for every one million dollars in donations received by a 501(c)(3) charity, $440,000 of it is subsidized by US taxpayers. That is why we must ensure that taxpayer dollars going to activities in Israel are working to achieve peace and reconciliation—which remains an American priority in the Middle East.

But now we learn in a powerful new book, Financing the Flames: How Tax-Exempt and Public Money Fuel a Culture of Confrontation and Terrorism in Israel, by New York Times bestselling investigative author Edwin Black, that some of the biggest tax-exempt organizations operating in Israel are doing the opposite. Black cites prominent critics in Israel who say these organizations are devoted not to charitable works but to political turmoil and confrontation between Palestinians and Israelis. And this agitation is powered by US taxpayer money. Read more ..

Broken Government

Regime Change - Home Edition

October 31st 2013

People lined up for jobs

A poll of 1,504 adult Americans taken nationwide earlier this month (Oct. 9-13) by the respected Pew Research Center found that just 14 percent of us are satisfied with “the way things are going in this country today.”

At about the same time, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found similarly that only 14 percent of U.S. adults feel that “things in the nation are generally headed in the right direction.”

For both organizations, those are historically low figures.
Yes, things have been bad for some time now, but lately they are getting absolutely, positively worse. Let’s be honest — if we saw these sorts of numbers in a developing nation or Third World country, we’d be thinking that regime change or worse lies ahead. Numbers like these signal that a governmental collapse, military coup, civil war or worse could be in the offing. Read more ..

France on Edge

Anti-Semitism Goes Mainstream in France

October 30th 2013

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"You show that it is possible to be of the Jewish faith without being completely disgusting." — Standup comedian Sebastian Thoen introducing Elie Semoun on Canal Plus TV.

When a leading Jewish organization complained about "a dangerous trivialization of anti-Semitism," the President of the TV channel responded by saying that the Jewish community had "no sense of humor."

When a leading Jewish organization complained about "a dangerous trivialization of anti-Semitism," the President of the TV channel responded by saying that the Jewish community had "no sense of humor."

A few weeks ago, when French Jewish actor Elie Semoun was a prime-time guest on one of the main French television channels, Canal Plus, the words of Sebastian Thoen, a standup comedian who introduced him may have been meant to be to be laudatory, but took quite a different turn: "You never plunged into communitarianism [Jewish activism] ... You could have posted yourself in the street selling jeans and diamonds from the back of a minivan, saying 'Israel is always right, f*** Palestine, wallala.' You show that it is possible to be of the Jewish faith without being completely disgusting." Read more ..

Justice on Edge

The Supreme Court and the Perils of Advocacy Science: Examples from the Schuette Oral Argument on Affirmative Action

October 29th 2013

Supreme Court at the 2010 SOTU

The Supreme Court has a history of getting itself in trouble when it too readily turns to social science and statistics to bolster its legal decisions. The oral argument in the recently submitted Schuette case offers two examples of how the Court may be led astray. Citing the work of UCLA law professor Richard Sander, who submitted an amicus brief in Schuette, Chief Justice Roberts suggested that maybe in banning affirmative action Michigan’s voters were acting in the interest of the state’s minorities and saving them from the harm of “academic mismatch.” Later Michigan’s Solicitor General John Bursch, responding to a question about the harm to diversity that the ban on affirmative action is likely to bring about, gave answers that can only mislead a conscientious Court.

The mismatch hypothesis that Roberts is willing to buy has an intuitive appeal. It makes sense that students admitted to competitive schools with academic credentials (mainly test scores and grades) considerably lower than those of their peers would feel overmatched and flounder as a result, and affirmative action students get, on average, worse grades than their peers. Read more ..

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