The Battle For Syria
Kofi Annan was jointly-appointed by the UN and the Arab League this February as their
envoy to Syria.
The horrors currently unfolding in Syria offer further proof of what might reasonably be described as Kofi Annan’s law of international relations: Wherever Kofi Annan turns up, bloodshed is sure to follow. During and after his scandal-ridden decade as UN secretary-general, Annan smoothed the ruffled feathers of brutal dictators like Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Kim Jong Il in North Korea.
In October 1995, Annan remained at the UN’s peacekeeping helm as Serb forces seized control of the Srebrenica enclave in Bosnia, slaughtering the entire male population, including young boys. When he stepped down from the secretary-general’s post in 2006, he lambasted not Russia or China—the two states that did the most to prevent the UN’s lofty human rights principles from actually being implemented—but the United States, for allegedly “seeking supremacy over all others.”
Despite this shameful record, the UN and the Arab League jointly appointed Annan as their envoy to Syria in February of this year, as Bashar al Assad’s assault upon his own people grew in intensity. Sure enough, with Annan on the spot promoting a six-point peace plan that Assad assented to in public but violated on the ground, the “violence”—a lily-livered euphemism for the carnage orchestrated by the Damascus regime—got worse. Read more ..
If you think the idea of privatizing Medicare has gone away, that the health insurance industry has thrown in the towel on one of its biggest goals, there was fresh evidence last week that you would be wrong.
As I wrote more than a year ago — when Rep. Paul Ryan (R.-Wis.) unveiled his plan to replace the Medicare system with one that would essentially be run by private insurers — Democrats would be foolish to think that Ryan couldn’t get the public to support the concept. I noted then that insurers would be investing heavily in efforts to convince people that Ryan’s plan represented the only way to save the Medicare program from insolvency.
One of the tried-and-true tactics insurers have used many times to influence public opinion is the enlistment of “third-party advocates” to disseminate industry talking points. Last week an industry friend in high places — Thomas Scully, who headed the Medicare program during much of the George W. Bush administration — weighed in on the matter. It is only a matter of time, Scully told Kaiser Health News, before politicians on both sides of the aisle endorse Ryan’s proposal of providing Medicare beneficiaries with a set amount of money every year to buy coverage from private insurers. Read more ..
Labor on Edge
|Juan Williams||June 4th 2012|
Ann Coulter on the right and Rachel Maddow on the left agree Wisconsin’s vote this Tuesday on recalling Gov. Scott Walker is going to have national implications. They’ve got that right.
If Walker wins, it will encourage Republican governors around the nation to enact more laws that diminish the power of public worker unions. Those efforts usually involve stripping unions of collective bargaining rights in an effort to shut off the money flowing from unions to Democrats.
Since the 2010 midterm elections, GOP governors have been intent on closing off the flow of cash from taxpayers to public sector unions which then support Democratic candidates.
In trying to choke the life out of unions, those governors have had varied degrees of success. But if Walker wins, governors like Michigan’s Rick Snyder, Ohio’s John Kasich and Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett will find new pockets of money and political support for their anti-union fight.
By the same logic, if the unions cannot defeat an unpopular GOP governor whose policies have threatened their power – and their very existence in one of the most pro-union states in the country - Republicans and Democrats alike will perceive them as weak. The state’s labor unions – including the AFL-CIO, AFSCME and the SEIU – could not get their favorite candidate, Kathleen Falk, nominated as the candidate to run against Walker. That was a loss among fellow Democrats. Meanwhile the unions are being outspent by Walker’s camp, which is playing with a bankroll of $30 million compared to his challenger’s $4 million. The Democratic Party and left-wing groups have not matched the financial punch from the right. Read more ..
|Kevin A. Hassett, Dean Baker||June 4th 2012|
The American economy is experiencing a crisis in long-term unemployment that has enormous human and economic costs. In 2007, before the Great Recession, people who were looking for work for more than six months—the definition of long-term unemployment—accounted for just 0.8 percent of the labor force. The recession has radically changed this picture. In 2010, the long-term unemployed accounted for 4.2 percent of the work force. That figure would be 50 percent higher if we added the people who gave up looking for work.
Long-term unemployment is experienced disproportionately by the young, the old, the less educated, and African-American and Latino workers. While older workers are less likely to be laid off than younger workers, they are about half as likely to be rehired. One result is that older workers have seen the largest proportionate increase in unemployment in this downturn. The number of unemployed people between ages 50 and 65 has more than doubled. Read more ..
Economy on Edge
|James Sherk and Rea Hederman, Jr.||June 3rd 2012|
Analysts expected a slow but steady employment report in May. The actual employment report was considerably worse than expected. Employers created only 69,000 net jobs, and the unemployment rate edged up to 8.2 percent. Revisions also showed that employers created 49,000 fewer jobs than originally estimated in March and April.
Coupled with the recent downward revision to GDP estimates by the Bureau of Economic Analysis and rising unemployment insurance claims, this report suggests the labor market recovery is approaching stall speed. The European economy is also sliding into a deeper crisis. Given all of this economic news, the U.S. economy cannot afford the massive tax hikes scheduled for the end of this year. Congress should act quickly to prevent massive tax increases—a genuine Taxmageddon—from further weakening the labor market. Read more ..
Israel on Edge
|Juda Engelmayer||June 2nd 2012|
Cutting Edge News Contributor
On Sunday, June 3, 2012, those who live in the tri-state area will have the opportunity to publicly celebrate the State of Israel’s first 64 years as New York City hosts what has become a tradition over the last 48 years — the Salute to Israel Day Parade (sorry, I mean the Celebrate Israel Parade; more below on why the name change).
The parade is the largest gathering of Jews outside of Israel to celebrate the forming of the Jewish state. In the past, it was arranged by the Israel Tribute Committee with respect and dignity. This year, however, some of that respect and dignity may be diminished. Not only will school groups, Jewish organizations, synagogues of all stripes, Zionism-inspired artists and the like proudly proclaim their love for Israel, but this year’s parade will also see people marching who stand accused by some of actively working to undermine Israel. It matters little whether the accusation is true or not; this is a case in which perception counts more than reality. Read more ..
|Wendell Porter||June 1st 2012|
When members of Congress who led the effort to overhaul the U.S. health care system saw the public option slipping away, some of them suggested that a viable alternative would be the fostering of nonprofit health insurance CO-OPs (Consumer Oriented and Operated Plans) throughout the country.
I was among the many who belittled the idea. Having spent two decades in the health insurance industry, I knew how difficult it is for even the biggest insurers to establish a presence in markets where one or two other insurance firms dominate. And there are hardly any markets left where that is not the case.
The barriers to entry in any given market are so high that the only way insurers have been able to establish much of a foothold where the don’t already have a presence is to acquire one or more existing companies. Aetna became a big player in Philadelphia, for example, only after it bought U.S. Healthcare several years ago.
If you don’t have a sizable membership base, it is difficult to negotiate rates with doctors and hospitals that are as favorable as those that bigger insurers can get. If you have to pay providers more than your competitors, you will have to charge your customers higher premiums. It is almost impossible to grow your membership if you have to price your premiums higher than your competitors. It’s a chicken-and-egg thing and why we have seen such rapid consolidation in the insurance industry. And it’s why I was skeptical that start-up non-profit CO-OPs would have a snowball’s chance. Read more ..
The Arab Winter in Egypt
|Raymond Ibrahim||June 1st 2012|
The Free Gatestone Institute
According to the popular Egyptian website, El Bashayer, , the Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate, just declared that he will "achieve the Islamic conquest (fath) of Egypt for the second time, and make all Christians convert to Islam, or else pay the jizya," the additional Islamic tax, or financial tribute, required of non-Muslims, or financial tribute.
In a brief report written by Samuel al-Ashay and published by El Bashayer on May 27, Morsi allegedly made these comments while speaking with a journalist at the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, adding "We will not allow Ahmed Shafiq [his contending presidential candidate] or anyone else to impede our second Islamic conquest of Egypt."
After his interviewer pointed out that the first Muslim conquest of Egypt was "carried out at the hands of Amr bin al-As [in 641]," he asked Morsi, "Who will the second Islamic conqueror be?" Morsi, replied, "The second Muslim conqueror will be Muhammad Morsi," referring to himself, "and history will record it." Read more ..
Israel on Edge
Next week will mark the forty fifth anniversary of one of the greatest periods of drama in Israel’s history, the Six Day War. Mortal danger was overcome in a victorious routing of Israel’s enemies, however amid the jubilation, was born the bastard child of foreign interests and youthful Israeli naiveté, the ‘Land for Peace’ concept.
Just nine days following the termination of hostilities, the National Unity Government of Israel voted unanimously to return the Sinai to Egypt and the Golan Heights to Syria in return for peace agreements. Following Israel’s lead, the United Nations Security Council quickly drafted Resolution 242 broadening the ‘Land for Peace’ concept to include ‘territories occupied in the recent conflict’ which was adopted unanimously on November 22nd 1967.
From that moment on, this concept has served as the basis of most all diplomatic discussion pertaining to the cessation of hostilities in the region. Yet almost half a century later, while much land has been surrendered, there is still no peace. Recent developments in Egypt have placed the oft touted Begin-Sadat ‘Land for Peace’ success case study on very thin ice. Read more ..
Israel and Palestine
|Jerry Auerbach||May 31st 2012|
No Israeli policy is more incessantly vilified than settlement in Judea and Samaria, the biblical homeland of the Jewish people. Nonetheless, ninety years of international law sustains it.
In 1920 the League of Nations, building on Lord Balfour’s Declaration three years earlier, adopted a resolution at San Remo calling for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” The Mandate for Palestine, approved by the League Council two years later (and by the United States in 1924), assured “the establishment of the Jewish national home” there. The British Mandatory Administration, according to Article 6, “shall encourage . . . close settlement by Jews on the land.”
But where was “Palestine”? To placate the Hashemite sheikh Abdullah, Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill set aside the territory east of the Jordan River for the kingdom of Trans-Jordan. Reduced to one-quarter of its original size, Palestine now comprised only the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. There the right of close settlement by Jews remained protected under international law. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Brent Budowsky||May 31st 2012|
It is far too early to predict the election returns for November. Forecasts today are subject to dramatic change based on events yet to happen, but: If the election were held today I now believe Mitt Romney and the Republicans would win it because more of their voters would be motivated to vote and more of their large donors are motivated to donate. Romney would win the White House with a narrow victory. Democrats would gain House seats but fall short of regaining control. Even if Senate Democrats retain nominal control they would not be able to pass significant legislation without the permission of ever-filibustering Republicans. At least one of the liberal Supreme Court justices is likely to leave before the end of the next president's term, and if that president is Romney, the right could control the court for a generation.
I believe these outcomes would be a disaster for America. I will do what I can to oppose them in columns and in a 5,000-word e-book I am writing that will put the consequences of the election in brutally stark terms that I hope will energize supporters of the president and Democrats. But I believe today that the most likely outcome is a Romney victory, and warn the president and all Democrats of the grave consequences of the current enthusiasm gap among large donors and grassroots voters.
Which brings me to Karl Rove, who has inspired the wealthy donors of the ideological right, the Republican Party and many of the most corrupted and powerful special interests who will donate between $1 billion and $1.5 billion before the carnage of this campaign is fully done. The inability of Democrats to play in the same league as Karl Rove financially is a humiliating debacle that might be unprecedented, measured by comparing wealthy donors of one party to wealthy donors of the other, in the history of presidential politics. This parallels an enthusiasm gap of voters that creates what I believe is the current Republican edge in the election. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|James Phillips||May 30th 2012|
The United States joined many Western nations in expelling Syrian diplomats yesterday in a coordinated reprimand of the Syrian government, which has stepped up its bloody repression of its own people. Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and Australia also joined a growing list of countries that have expelled Syrian diplomats.
The expulsions came after the U.N. Security Council on Sunday condemned the massacre of at least 108 Syrians, including 49 children and 34 women in Houla, a bastion of support for the Syrian opposition.
Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan met with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad yesterday and expressed “grave concern” about the escalating violence. Annan desperately is seeking to salvage his own increasingly irrelevant “peace plan” that Assad ostensibly agreed to six weeks ago, but still has failed to implement. The Annan plan’s illusory cease-fire unfortunately gave the Assad regime cover to continue its campaign of intimidation. Read more ..
Cuba on Edge
The Heritage Foundation
Mariela Castro Espin, daughter of Cuban dictator Raul Castro and director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), used a visit to the U.S. to criticize American policy and endorse President Obama. Last week, Castro received a U.S. visa for the first time in 10 years to attend the Latin American Studies Association Conference in San Francisco.
This at a time when Cubans who speak up against the misery, hopelessness, and repression on the island are repeatedly jailed, harassed or, like dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez, denied authorization to travel. Castro called those who support preserving the Cuban embargo until there is real democracy on the island “a Cuban mafia” and a “small group of delinquents” with ‘no scruples.” Castro defended the rights of all Americans to travel to Cuba but said nothing about the onerous controls and denial of exit visas routinely practiced by the Cuban regime. Castro has also been an active spokesperson for the Cuban regime in challenging the legality of the conviction and imprisonment of five Cuban intelligence operatives in Florida in the late 1990s. Read more ..
Turkey and Israel
World Jewish Daily
Official Israeli reaction to Turkey's vicious insult has been notably defiant. Former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi dismissed the indictment with utter contempt. "From the moment the affair broke out, I chose to stand up in every forum, often alone, to defend the IDF soldiers who performed their duty on the field for the Israeli nation," the former chief of staff noted. "If the price for standing my ground is that I can't visit Turkey – I'll pay that price too." Ashkenazi stated that he hopes "common sense" would prevail.
A foreign ministry official who spoke anonymously to Haaretz laid the blame squarely on Turkey's Islamist president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who he said is "systematically killing relations between the two states." The official further stated that the indictment constitutes a "tailspin" in Turkish-Israeli relations. It is a sad thing to watch an entire society collapse into madness and, as a result of wanton hatred and racism, disconnect itself completely from reality. Read more ..
The Problem of Coal
|Rep. David B. McKinley||May 29th 2012|
Today our nation faces an economic climate in which our national debt is headed toward a record $17 trillion dollars. If we continue on this path, America will meet the fate countries like Greece, Italy and Portugal are now facing. Let’s put this into terms to which we all can relate: $17 trillion is a debt that exceeds all the worth of our country’s production. If our government’s spending were like that of a family, the collection calls and overdue bills would have long ago caused families to cut spending. The country’s financial woes are severe and we don’t need to make it worse.
Consequently, the last thing we need is to add hundreds of thousands of workers to the unemployment lines and an increase in road, bridge and infrastructure costs. That’s what is being predicted to happen if coal ash is designated as a hazardous material by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Since 2009, the EPA and Obama Administration have been preparing a regulation to treat coal ash as a hazardous material. Such a move would increase the costs of building roads and bridges by $110 billion dollars, according to the American Road and Transportation Builders’ Association and, as stated in the Veritas Economic Report, the decision would cost the American economy 316,000 jobs. Read more ..
Russia on Edge
|Brian Whitmore||May 29th 2012|
Let's take a brief trip into an parallel universe. At the September 24 United Russia congress, Dmitry Medvedev announces -- with Vladimir Putin's blessing -- that he will seek a second term as president. Putin, for his part, announces that he will step down as prime minister after the 2011-12 election cycle, but cryptically adds that he will remain in politics in some yet-to-be-determined capacity.
Just over a month later, in the December 4 State Duma elections, United Russia hangs on to its majority by a thread, but the big story of the day is that the newly configured Right Cause party, under the leadership of billionaire oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, comes in a very strong third, just behind the Communists. The new Duma would have five parties, United Russia in the center, Right Cause on the center-right, A Just Russia on the center-left, and the Communists and Vladimir Zhirinovsky's LDPR on the flanks. Prokhorov, who enjoyed strong support from the growing urban professional class, is immediately touted as the leading candidate for premier. Read more ..
The Race for Evs
|Mark J. Perry||May 28th 2012|
It's tempting to call the shameful taxpayer subsidy for electric cars - vehicles that are unaffordable for all but a small number of wealthy Americans - this nation's costly little secret. But it's no secret, and that's the real shame. It's obvious now that electric vehicles can't compete with gasoline-powered cars, even with generous government subsidies.
And for years automotive engineers have documented that the performance of electric vehicles - particularly their short range and battery uncertainty under real traffic conditions - falls short in virtually every aspect. What's truly shameful is that such disparities have done nothing to change policy. Subsidizing electric vehicles has been a devil's bargain, making the development of other alternative technologies like conventional hybrids and advanced gasoline engines more difficult. Since 2008, taxpayers have spent or provided loan guarantees of $6.5 billion for electric vehicles. That includes $2.4 billion for battery and electric drive component manufacturing, $3.1 billion in loan guarantees for electric vehicle projects, and $1 billion in tax credits for the vehicles. Read more ..
America's Leading Edge
|James Colbert||May 28th 2012|
American Exceptionalism began when 56 brave patriots signed the Declaration of Independence, and has continued with the many thousands of Americans who paid the ultimate price to preserve the freedoms that make ours the greatest nation in the world. On Memorial Day, we remember and honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our nation. In recent years, Americans have developed a renewed sense of appreciation for members of our Armed Forces. Spontaneous displays of affection and heartfelt thanks are witnessed at airports and around the country that are indicative of a renewed spirit of gratitude and respect toward our troops. This holiday is the time for us to reconnect with our country's history and our national values by honoring those who selflessly gave their lives for those cherished ideals.
To the generations of American warriors who drew their last breaths at Khe Sanh, the Chosin Reservoir, Normandy, and on hundreds of other battlefields, we have added the patriots of this century's battles in Iraq, Afghanistan, The Philippines and other terrorist-infested regions. Our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen have died to prevent tyranny from spreading to America's shores. No one should ever forget that right now brave Americans are far from home serving our country, sacrificing and in some cases dying to preserve our freedoms and way of life. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Michael Barr||May 27th 2012|
When financial giant JPMorgan Chase recently revealed that it had lost far more than $2 billion in a credit derivatives trade gone wrong, the news sent a clear message: Opponents of financial reform are wrong. Without the Dodd-Frank Act and the global reforms being led by the United States, the financial sector would go back to its old ways, eventually putting taxpayers and the economy at grave risk of harm.
Yet for the presumed GOP nominee Mitt Romney, the news sent a very different message. He repeated his call to repeal Dodd-Frank, though it made the system stronger, and though JPMorgan’s revelations demonstrated the need for robust rules.
Romney and many Republican lawmakers seem intent on going back to the financial casino that led to the worst economic crisis in 80 years. The financial industry has spent far more than $100 million trying to roll back Wall Street reform. Romney, meanwhile, has been clear about what he wanted to get rid of — a comprehensive financial reform package that passed Congress and was signed by the president. Yet he makes only the vaguest of promises about what he might do instead.
Romney’s reaction is the equivalent of putting out a small fire in your house, then deciding that the lesson is you need to stuff your house with matches, throw out your fire extinguisher and cancel your fire insurance. And doing all this after the house nearly burned to the ground less than four years ago. Read more ..
Latin America on Edge
|W. John Green||May 27th 2012|
When Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner recently expropriated the Spanish oil company YPF, condemnation quickly blared out from the usual quarters. In a subsequent piece for the Washington Post, Juan Forero declared that the Latin American “radical left” is at a “crossroads,” and rounded up a posse of commentators to articulate some fairly predictable claims. Arturo Porzecanski, an Uruguayan economist at American University, asserted that “Populism is running out of gas in Latin America.” Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue characterized policies in Argentina, Venezuela, and Ecuador as attempts to scrape the bottom of the populist/leftist policy barrel, and as signs that such movements are “in disarray.” Rather than standing at a simple crossroads, however, the Latin American Left most recently finds itself deep within a labyrinth of winding policy paths, and has set out to explore many of them simultaneously.
In the early 1990s, the lords of policy dwelling in the capitals of the Western Hemisphere declared a “consensus” about how to correct what Teddy Roosevelt might have called “chronic wrong-doing” in Latin America. These grandiose sins included populist and leftist politics, government interference in the sacred marketplace, and the economic nationalism of import substitution industrialization, among others.
Such policies, it was argued, resulted in political and social instability, inflation, and reactionary military regimes. This new general understanding, known as the “Washington Consensus,” championed neoliberal market “reforms” (a euphemism for privatization), and repeatedly insisted on the superiority of free trade policies. The neoliberal champions of the market also defended a bloodless and “institutionalized” version of democracy to provide “good governance.” The discussion was supposed to be over forever, amen. Read more ..
|Sheldon Freilich||May 27th 2012|
Cutting Eedge contributor
There has been a huge clamor over the use of Title VI. Let’s clear the air and explain what it really means to educational institutions. The 1964 Civil Rights Act was landmark legislation that prohibited major forms of discrimination: Race, color, religion or national origin. Its Title VI provision bars violations based on race, color, or national origin (religion is excluded), and programs that receive federal funding (such as schools) can lose funding for violations. Both K-12 schools and colleges and universities depend on federal funds.
The Federal Commission on Civil Rights said that campus anti-Semitism is a “serious problem” and the U.S. Office of Civil Rights (OCR) should protect college students from anti-Semitic and other discriminatory harassment by vigorously enforcing Title VI.” Yet, ominously in 2007, OCR said that it would not respond to a complaint filed by Jewish students at the University of California, Irvine, alleging severe, pervasive and persistent anti-Semitic harassment, intimidation and discrimination, because it “lacked jurisdiction” - because Title VI excluded religion as a protected class.
In 2010, persistent Jewish activism resulted, after a six-year campaign, with the U.S. Department of Education announcing that Title VI will be interpreted and enforced so that Jewish students will be protected from anti-Semitic discrimination under Title VI. The Zionist Organization of America should be applauded for leading this important fight. Read more ..
|Alexander Joffe and Asaf Romirowsky||May 26th 2012|
Palestinian identity is founded in on three parts. One is that resistance to Israel is permanent and holy. Another is that Palestinians are, individually and communally, refugees, made so at the hands of Israel. The third part is that the world, specifically the United Nations and Western countries, must support these refugees until they can return to a future Palestine and to homes in what is now Israel.
Since 1950 the vehicle for Palestinian refugees to be supported has been the U.N. Relief and Works Agency. Costing almost $1 billion per year, with funding provided by the U.S. and European states, UNRWA is an open-ended, educational, social welfare system for millions of Palestinians, primarily in the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. But in what sense are any of these individuals refugees?
Publicly, UNRWA defines a Palestinian refugee as anyone whose "normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948 and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict." Read more ..
Israel on Edge
The anniversary of Israel’s Six Day War not only commemorates an unlikely military victory, resulting in the Jewish liberation of Jerusalem, Hebron and other ancient Jewish cities, but also one of the last modern day catalysts of near universal Jewish self-regard.
Just recently I heard a Siberian Jew reminisce about just how proud he felt, “our heads were held high,” he said. Words that are routinely used to describe this period include; euphoric, hope and confidence. “The Jewish explosion of pride came in the wake of the Six Day War of 1967,” wrote Patrick Ercolano in a Baltimore Sun column.
These sentiments do not appear to have been confined geographically, nor even politically, for the most part. They were not limited to Zionists, and impacted all Jews of many stripes and orientations. This unified high was a product of a victory, a hard fought vanquishing of sworn enemies, beaten into retreat and respectful submission; an absolute triumph over a mortal threat.
Forty-five years later, some feel that 1967 was a plateau in terms of global positive appreciation for the Jewish state and its position in the world. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren bemoans, “Why has Israel’s image deteriorated?” and “why have anti-Israel libels once consigned to hate groups become media mainstays? How can we explain the assertion that an insidious “Israel Lobby” purchases votes in Congress, or that Israel oppresses Christians?” Read more ..
The Obama Edge
|Newark Mayor Cory Booker|
Winston Churchill captured what this presidential election is about when he observed, "The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries."
It's why the young black Democratic mayor of Newark, N.J., Cory Booker, got high-level repudiation from the Barack Obama campaign, including from the president himself, when he insolently suggested that Bain Capital, the investment firm once headed by GOP nominee-apparent Mitt Romney, might actually do positive things.
Booker, an Obama campaign surrogate, went off script on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday when he refused to justify a campaign attack ad depicting the evils of Bain. "I'm not about to sit here and indict private equity," he said. "To me, it's just we're getting to a ridiculous point in America, especially that I know I live in a state where pension funds, unions and other people are investing in companies like Bain Capital. If you look at the totality of Bain Capital's record, they've done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses."
After campaign heavy-hitters criticized him, Booker qualified his remarks. But his "MTP" comments were unmitigated heresy driving to the core of the Obama campaign message. The narrative, telescoping the theme of four years of this presidency, says that the American economy collapsed because of unbridled capitalism. To recover, the narrative continues, we must allow all-knowing, all-powerful, but compassionate political leadership in Washington to rearrange the American economy and make sure businesses never steamroll Americans again. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Brent Budowsky||May 26th 2012|
|Grover Norquist Photo Credit: Bbsrock|
Now here comes Grover Norquist, who compares the senior senator from New York to members of the political party of Heinrich Himmler and Adolf Eichmann.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) believes that when the land of the free and the home of the brave gives an American the gift of being able to use his talents to become an extraordinarily wealthy man, it is wrong for that person to renounce his American citizenship to avoid paying his fair share of taxes. I cannot think of a proposal more worthy than the bill proposed by Sens. Schumer and Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) to redress this wrong. I believe the overwhelming majority of patriotic Americans would strongly agree with Schumer. Grover Norquist has every right to disagree and rise in defense of tax evaders who renounce their Americanism to avoid their taxes. He even has the right to compare Schumer to the party of Himmler and Eichmann. But I would propose that this is Exhibit A of what I call the campaign from hell, an intolerance and vindictiveness unworthy of our nation, in which one party is exponentially more guilty than the other. I cannot recall a time in American history when so many members of one party questioned the American citizenship or Christian faith of a president, and when so many leaders of that party were incapable of saying in clear and decisive terms that such attacks have no place in American politics. Read more ..
The Arab Winter in Egypt
Despite the relative openness and unpredictability of Egypt's first post-Mubarak presidential election, the outcome will likely solidify two worrisome trends. First, radical ideologies will increasingly dominate Egyptian politics, steering the country in a theocratic, anti-Western direction. Second, Egypt may become more politically unstable, with the new president struggling against other power centers, including the military and the Islamist-dominated parliament.
The election is shaping up to be a competition between former Mubarak regime members and Islamists. Of the thirteen candidates, four are considered true contenders: former Arab League secretary-general Amr Mousa, who served as Hosni Mubarak's foreign minister from 1991 to 2001; former air force commander Ahmed Shafiq, who served as Mubarak's last prime minister; Muhammad Morsi, who chairs the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party; and former Brotherhood Guidance Office member Abdel Monem Abouel Fetouh, who was ousted from the group last year when he announced his candidacy against the organization's wishes. (A fifth candidate, former Nasserist parliamentarian Hamdin Sabahi, finished second in the expatriate voting that concluded last week, but he is considered a long shot.) Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Michael Beckel||May 24th 2012|
Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United ruling in 2010, many Democratic lawmakers and advocacy groups have proposed constitutional amendments to overturn the controversial decision — or attempt to curb its impact. But not everyone who disagrees with the decision thinks that’s the right approach to reducing corporate influence in politics. Opponents of the decision — which held that unlimited expenditures by corporations to independently advocate for or against federal candidates did not pose a threat of corrupting politicians — gathered at a forum Tuesday in Washington, D.C.
There, the case was decried as a “product of judicial activism” by Kent Greenfield, a law professor at Boston College Law School. And Jamie Raskin, a Democratic state senator in Maryland who is also a law professor at American University’s Washington College of Law, said the ruling has helped move the nation toward a government “by, of and for the corporations.” But while both Greenfield and Raskin railed against the threats they see from the influence of corporate money in elections, the men were in opposite corners about whether a constitutional amendment was the best way to fight it. Read more ..
|Brent Budowsky||May 23rd 2012|
First things first. In a column I wrote a few months ago I advocated that the United States and others initiate a joint action to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, among other things. Since then I have advocated this behind the scenes, advocate this again today, and believe there is a fair chance it happens. This would support a lower price for oil, help stimulate the American economy, help stimulate the European economy and increase the prospects for a diplomatic solution with Iran.
Beyond this, I believe events have proven both Al Gore and Jimmy Carter correct. Gore is right that we need new sources of energy and an all-out campaign to reduce the dangers of climate change. Carter is right that we must reduce our dependence on oil with the passion, focus and commitment of what Carter called the moral equivalent of war, which also lessens the danger of real wars. Read more ..
Another round of talks will take place between the United States, its negotiating partners in the P5+1 mechanism and Iran on May 23. While the venue of Baghdad is interesting -- and useful for an Iraqi government that would like to showcase its return to normalcy -- this round of talks will not be decisive. Nor should anyone expect that after two rounds of talks, Washington will suddenly be able to overcome its differences with Iran regarding nuclear ambitions.
This is not to say that Washington can afford to approach the talks with Iran without a sense of urgency. Iran continues to enrich uranium and has probably already accumulated four or five bombs' worth of material, and the United States has no interest in allowing this to continue under the guise of ongoing talks. Nor, of course, do the Israelis have such an interest. On the contrary, they fear Iran could drag out such talks to the point where, because of the depth, breadth, and redundancy of the Iranian nuclear infrastructure, Israel could lose its military option for setting back the Iranian nuclear program. Furthermore, no Israeli leadership is likely to accept the reality that it has surrendered its military ability to deal with an existential threat. Read more ..
The Obama Edge
|Mike Brownfield||May 22nd 2012|
Back in 1982, President Ronald Reagan decided not to sign a treaty known as “Law of the Sea” (LOST), a United Nations convention that would raid America’s treasury for billions of dollars, then redistribute that wealth to the rest of the world by an international bureaucracy headquartered in Kingston, Jamaica. But today, the Obama Administration has revived that treaty, and tomorrow Senator John Kerry (D-MA) will hold hearings designed to illustrate its supposed benefits and generate support for its ratification. Without a doubt, Reagan’s decision should stand, and LOST should remain relegated to the trash bin of history.
The rationale for LOST is that it supposedly brings order to the world’s oceans, defines the rights and responsibilities of nations as they navigate and conduct business across the seas, protects the marine environment, and allows for the development of natural resources of the deep seabed. On the surface, these all sound like worthwhile goals. The thing is, the United States doesn’t need to join another United Nations treaty to make it happen.
For more than 200 years before LOST was adopted in 1982 and for 30 years since then, the U.S. Navy has successfully protected America’s maritime interests regardless of the fact that the United States has not signed on to the treaty. The United States’ navigational rights and freedoms have been secure, and they are best guaranteed by a strong Navy. Read more ..
JointMedia News Service
It’s been quite the month for the Iranian regime. Following a mid-April round of talks over its nuclear program with the European Union’s Foreign Policy chief, Catherine Ashton, the mullahs were basking in newly found credibility. The talks were “constructive and useful,” Ashton said, adding that any agreement would respect “Iran’s right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.”
Nobody doubts that the Iranians are shrewd negotiators. The diplomatic twists of the last few years prove that the regime has genuine expertise when it comes to using procedural wrangling as a delaying tactic. Leading up to the latest nuclear talks on May 23 in Baghdad, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it best: “It looks as though [the Iranians] see the talks as another opportunity to delay and deceive. Iran is very good in playing this kind of chess game.”
Away from the glare of the Baghdad parley, there is a different story percolating, one that hasn’t received anywhere near the kind of attention given to the nuclear talks, but which offers another telling illustration of how Iran’s leaders have become masters of deception. Read more ..
The Defense Edge
|Matthew Spalding||May 21st 2012|
Throughout history, as in many other parts of the world today, political rule was the privilege of the strongest or the most powerful. Property was the possession of kings, barons, and lords. Each was born to his or her destiny, and almost all were subject to someone else.
America is different because it is uniquely dedicated to the universal principles of human liberty: that all are fundamentally equal and equally endowed with unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Our government exists to secure these God-given rights, deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed. Our Constitution limits the power of government under the rule of law, creating a vigorous framework for expanding economic opportunity, protecting national independence, and securing liberty and justice for all.
In his Farewell Address, George Washington wrote that early United States foreign policy was designed “to gain time for our country to settle and mature its recent institutions, and to progress, without interruption, to that degree of strength and consistency, which is necessary to give it, humanly speaking, command of its own fortunes.” But then, as well as now, we could not command our fortunes in the world, protect national independence, and secure liberty without first providing for the nation’s security. Read more ..
Cuba on Edge
May 20 marks 110 years of Cuba’s independence from Spanish rule and America’s temporary occupation of the island. It also marks more than 53 years since Cuban revolutionaries—led by Fidel Castro (1927– ) and his brother Raul (1930– )—toppled the Batista regime and installed a one-party, Communist dictatorship on the island. The revolutionary generation of the Castro brothers is on the verge of extinction. A difficult period of succession or transition looms. Failure to stand with the advocates of genuine economic and political change in Cuba and to press for a policy of true transition and genuine democracy could condemn yet another generation of Cubans to lives without freedom, opportunity, or hope.
The object of the Cuban regime under Raul Castro is to engineer a succession capable of carrying Cuba’s revolutionary model forward into the post-Castro era. The succession model will reserve political power and central control of the economy for the dictatorship and its supporters while reducing the scope of the state’s role in the economy. The regime calculates that it will be able to survive future economic tests by allowing a closely regulated private sector comprised of small-scale farmers, service providers, and the self-employed. There are currently 181 carefully prescribed categories, none of which involves larger enterprises, information technology, or professional services. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|William A. Galston||May 20th 2012|
The working assumption of many political commentators in Washington is that politics is more polarized than it has been in decades and that it’s the Republican Party’s rightward drift that’s to blame. The evidence bears this out—in part. But it also suggests a more complex story.
First, the electorate has polarized. Over the past two decades, the public’s ideological self-description has changed significantly. In 1992, when Bill Clinton campaigned for president as a reform-minded New Democrat, fully 43 percent of adults thought of themselves as moderate, compared to 36 percent conservative and 17 percent liberal. As the 2012 election got underway, the picture looked quite different. Moderates had declined by 8 points, to 35 percent, while conservatives and liberals had each gained 4 points, to 40 and 21 percent respectively.
As Alan Abramowitz has recently shown, a similar shift occurred among voters in presidential elections. In 1972, fully 71 percent placed themselves at or near the ideological midpoint, compared to 29 percent at or near the extremes. By 2008, the share of the electorate at or near the mid-point had fallen by 17 points—to 54 percent—while the share at the extremes rose to 46 percent. Read more ..
The Edge on Terrorism
|Morgan Lorraine Roach and Ray Walser, Ph.D.||May 20th 2012|
In the past twenty years, the African continent has made progress toward democratic governance. Civilians now govern many countries once under military rule; political parties have emerged in what were previously single-party states; observance of civil liberties and political rights has strengthened; and inter-state conflict has diminished. However, some African countries have bucked this trend and either maintained an undemocratic status quo or plunged into chaos. Somalia, more so than any other African state, continues to be synonymous with intractable anarchy—a well-earned distinction, given that, for two decades, Somalia has lacked a functioning central government while serving as a haven for terrorism and piracy.
Since the infamous Battle for Mogadishu in 1993, the United States has constrained its engagement in the Horn of Africa. While Somalia’s challenges impact the United States, it is not considered a U.S. foreign policy priority—an unfortunate relegation that has undermined national security. With the United States and its allies under constant threat from terrorists, Somalia poses an international security risk not only to U.S. interests in the region, but also to the broader international community. Piracy, another condition of Somalia’s failed state status, imperils the flow of commerce and costs the shipping industry and consumers billions of dollars per year. Furthermore, the ongoing anarchy has prevented the Somali people from receiving the most basic services. Read more ..
The Economic Edge
Conventional wisdom says that Congress and the President will get nothing done in 2012 until after the elections. Conventional wisdom appears to be at least mostly correct, but in one respect Congress should not fall prey to conventional wisdom: preventing Taxmageddon. Too much is at stake for families, jobs, and restoring limited government: Congress should heed the advice of House Speaker John Boehner (R–OH) and Senator Jon Kyl (R–AZ) to act before the November election—and preferably this summer—to prevent Taxmageddon, the nearly $500 billion tax hike bearing down on America’s families and businesses.
One of Washington’s most apt expressions is the “lame duck Congress.” This is a failed or feckless Congress that must finish its work for the year after an election. Having squandered the 10 preceding months, and with almost two years to go before another, Congress then finally takes on the tough jobs it should have completed earlier. In a lame duck, Members who have retired, Members who have been defeated, and others who have moved on to other offices must finally complete the nation’s business in an environment of holiday- and transition-laden chaos. Conventional wisdom says that Congress will wait until the lame duck to finish its work on spending bills, short-circuiting a sequester that would devastate national security spending, likely yet another debt ceiling vote, and preventing Taxmageddon.
Read more ..
The Defense Edge
|Shoshana Bryen||May 18th 2012|
NATO's snub of Israel -- a "major non-NATO ally" and member of NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue -- in its Chicago summit this weekend was simply waved away. "Israel is neither a participant in ISAF nor in KFOR (Afghanistan and Kosovo missions)," said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Israel didn't belong there, and that's that. In the same press conference, however, Rasmussen acknowledged that thirteen other "partner" nations would attend because "[i]n today's world security challenges know no borders, and no country or alliance can deal with most of them on their own." Perhaps he, or someone, believes that Israel has nothing to contribute to meeting "today's security challenges."
Pundits quickly assumed that Turkey -- a full NATO member -- had vetoed Israel's participation, as it vetoed IDF participation in NATO exercises in the Mediterranean. Rasmussen denied it--and maybe he's right, because that's not the only place where Israel is having trouble with its presumed military partners.
The Obama administration claims a special relationship with Israel. The State Department says the "security relationship with Israel is broader, deeper, and more intense than ever before." Assistant Secretary of Sate Andrew Shapiro told a Washington audience, "One of my primary responsibilities is to preserve Israel's Qualitative Military Edge [QME][.]" QME is generally defined as Israel's ability to defeat any likely constellation of conventionally armed adversaries. Read more ..
|Christopher Hale||May 18th 2012|
Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good
Last Thursday, JP Morgan Chase's CEO Jamie Dimon announced that the company lost $2 billion in a risky trading scheme that had been implemented over the past few months. Mr. Dimon has long opposed increasingly strict government regulations of banking practices but, to his likely dismay, this latest blunder has reignited the debate on how strict government regulation should be.
Mr. Dimon, in an attempt to send a clear message about the company's ability to address the issue internally, has taken decisive action. He forced the early retirement of Ina Drew—the executive who oversaw the faulty trading strategy--and appointed industry expert Mike Cavanagh to ensure that the organization’s risk is handled appropriately.
For Wall Street critics, however, the move was not sufficient. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said this incident showed why it is necessary “to fully implement Wall Street reform.” Sadly, the moral dimension of this banking mishap is strangely missing from the media’s post-fall out discussion. As we learned so profoundly during the 2008 financial crisis, the victims of big banks’ poor trading practices are not simply the direct investors of those particular banks.With the size and complexity of world financial markets, the victims are often far away from the initial decisions. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|William J. Astore||May 17th 2012|
Now that Mitt Romney is the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, the media is already handicapping the presidential election big time, and the neck-and-neck opinion polls are pouring in. But whether President Obama gets his second term or Romney enters the Oval Office, there’s a third candidate no one’s paying much attention to, and that candidate is guaranteed to be the one clear winner of election 2012: the U.S. military and our ever-surging national security state.
The reasons are easy enough to explain. Despite his record as a “warrior-president,” despite the breathless “Obama got Osama” campaign boosterism, common inside-the-Beltway wisdom has it that the president has backed himself into a national security corner. He must continue to appear strong and uncompromising on defense or else he’ll get the usual Democrat-as-war-wimp label tattooed on his arm by the Republicans.
Similarly, to have a realistic chance of defeating him -- so goes American political thinking -- candidate Romney must be seen as even stronger and more uncompromising, a hawk among hawks. Whatever military spending Obama calls for, however much he caters to neo-conservative agendas, however often he confesses his undying love for and extols the virtues of our troops, Romney will surpass him with promises of even more military spending, an even more muscular and interventionist foreign policy, and an even deeper love of our troops. Read more ..
The Media on Edge
|Ronn Torossian||May 16th 2012|
|Vogue Story now removed from its website|
The U.S. Public Relations industry is one which is very high profile, but is a tiny, close knit industry, with only perhaps 75 American PR firms having more than 50 employees (i.e. enough scope/influence to represent a foreign government or foreign interests). Over lunch this week, one of my peers, who like me, owns 1 of the 25 largest US PR Agencies
explained why his firm would no longer work with Jewish organizations and Pro-Israel concerns. He explained there is simply too much money working for Arab organizations and interests, and between front groups, organizations and projects from a business perspective he was no longer working for Pro-Israel or Jewish organizations. It’s a trend which will grow – and will see Arab interests even more positively portrayed in American media.
In the latest news, Bahrain in the last 12 months has hired at least ten public relations companies since last year. Yes, you read it right – 10 – including Qorvis, the Washington company hired by Saudi Arabia to salvage that kingdom's reputation abroad after the 9/11 terrorist attack. The regime of Bahrain which tortures its own citizens has an awful human rights record and doesn’t recognize the existence of Israel, also hired Joe Trippi, former campaign manager for Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential bid, Sanitas International, whose partner Christopher Harvin is a former Bush White House aide. Read more ..
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