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Education on Edge

Poor Students Can’t Afford Teacher Strike

September 11th 2012

Teachers Strike
Credit: Chicago Teachers Union Local 1

Ninety-three years ago yesterday, the Boston police force went on strike, leaving the city unprotected while the state scrambled to find replacements. Governor Calvin Coolidge’s declaration of support for the city—he said that “There is no right to strike against the public safety, anywhere, anytime”—established his national reputation that ultimately led to the presidency.

Public outrage at labor actions that compromise public safety has historically been a bipartisan affair.  Coolidge was a Republican but his actions earned the respect of Democratic President Woodrow Wilson, who hailed his re-election as Massachusetts governor as “a victory for law and order.” Nearly 20 years later, President Franklin Roosevelt shared his view that a strike by public employees of any sort is “unthinkable and intolerable.” Read more ..


Remembering 9/11

Killing Osama’s Body—But Nurturing His Dream

September 11th 2012

WTC on Fire (credit: Macten)

Finding and bringing the perpetrators of 9/11 to justice by any and all legitimate means became the centerpiece of American national security policy after that fateful day in 2001. “Bring bin Laden to justice or bring justice to bin Laden” sat atop the list of US national security priorities irrespective of who was President, which party held sway in Congress, or which Hollywood actor might be opining at any given moment in time. “Finding bin Laden” wasn’t a political football. It was an obligation that superseded the economy, entitlements, the national debt, and unemployment rate in importance. The entire US defense complex, Intelligence and Homeland Security establishments were mobilized to find Osama bin Laden after 2001.

Eichmann eluded justice after 1945. It wasn’t the first Government of the State of Israel, but one that came decades later that apprehended the Nazi war criminal. Apprehending Eichmann was a permanent institutional objective. Law enforcement and justice agencies sometimes bring criminals to justice many years after they have committed their crimes.

Such was the case with bin Laden. American intelligence located him and top decision makers authorized the operation to get him. It didn’t matter where he was. The American people wanted him brought to justice. The mandate to find, capture, or eliminate him wasn’t a privilege. It was an obligation delegated to the Chief Executive by the American people. Operational mechanics notwithstanding, there was one and only one option to choose from. Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

Why Traditional Medicare Must (and Will) Be Reformed

September 10th 2012

Obamacare Protest

Medicare must undergo structural reform. Its deficiencies undercut patients’ comprehensive and integrated care while increasing costs and generating debt. Medicare’s inadequate benefit package causes big gaps in coverage, requiring patients to buy costly supplemental insurance. Its outdated administrative payment system routinely overpays and underpays for benefits and services; such price distortions are worsened by narrow special-interest lobbying, an avalanche of red tape, and massive cost shifting to patients in private health plans.
Altogether, these structural flaws result in a substandard insurance program that generates unsustainable costs and a crushing debt. Medicare’s four-part complexity contributes to confusion among patients, inefficiency among providers, and higher costs for taxpayers. Care is chopped up and fragmented, reimbursed under an old and complicated fee-for-service payment system created in the 1960s that has long since disappeared from the private sector. Read more ..


The Economy on Edge

Great Stagnation or Leap Forward? Place Your Bets

September 10th 2012

Out of Business

Over the last 18 months, a debate has raged about what the future will look like.  Will the innovation and rapid economic growth that Americans have enjoyed over the past two centuries continue? Or have we plateaued and are we now entering a period marked by persistent anemic growth and less rapid technological change?

On one side you can find economist Tyler Cowen, author of the best-selling e-book The Great Stagnation; investor/entrepreneur/intellectual Peter Thiel, who wrote an influential essay in National Review called “The End of the Future”; and now comes economist Robert Gordon, author of a new paper “Is U.S. Economic Growth Over? Faltering Innovation Confronts the Six Headwinds.”  In case you couldn’t tell from the titles, these are the pessimists about the future.

On the other side you’ll find Eric Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, authors of Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy; Mark Mills, author of a much-discussed essay “The Next Great Growth Cycle”; Singularity theorist Ray Kurzweil; and Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist and the Wired cover story “Apocalypse Not.” Read more ..


Holland on Edge

Former Maoists Stalk Dutch Election

September 10th 2012

Ballot Box

Like bees swarming to a honey pot, Europe’s extremist parties have wasted no time in seizing upon the Eurozone crisis to garner an electoral boost. In Greece, back in June, an assortment of unreconstructed communist and neo-Nazi parties won 101 out of 300 possible seats in the election. Next week, it’s the turn of the comparatively sensible (and far more prosperous) Dutch to decide whether they want a government based on prudence, or one based on protest.

Although a small majority of Greeks opted, at the very last moment, for a center-right coalition, political debate in the run-up to their election was dominated by talk of an extremist victory. That has also been the case in The Netherlands. For weeks, the Dutch press has been ruminating on the likelihood that the far left Socialist Party will triumph on September 12.

It’s certainly been a heady period. Just a year ago, Emile Roemer, the leader of the Socialist Party, would have been pleased with a mention of his name in the media, never mind the following encomium from the pages of The Economist, whose correspondent described him as an “eternally smiling man who casually shrugs off euro-zone rules on budget deficits and promises to preserve the generous Dutch welfare system.” Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Clinton Sees No Need for "Red Lines" or Deadlines on Iran

September 10th 2012

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton

Contrary to recent media reports, the U.S. will not be setting out any "red lines" on the Iranian nuclear program. It had been previously reported that the Obama administration was planning to announce a series of conditions under which America would take or support military action against Iran, mainly to assuage Israeli concerns that they would have to go it alone against the Islamic republic. On Sunday, however, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that, while America is watching Iran "very carefully," the administration is "not setting deadlines" for Iran.

"We’re convinced," she said: "that we have more time to focus on these sanctions, to do everything we can to bring Iran to a good-faith negotiation. It’s a very challenging effort to get them to move in a way that complies with their international obligations. But we believe that is still by far the best approach to take at this time."

Despite this, Clinton did acknowledge Israeli concerns, noting that the country feels it is "right in the bull’s-eye, so to speak." It feels that it would be an existential threat if Iran were a nuclear-weaponized state, and no nation can abdicate their self-defense if they feel that they’re facing such a threat. This final statement could be interpreted as an endorsement or at least an understanding of possible military action by Israel. Nonetheless, Clinton's statement represents a serious setback for the Netanyahu government, which was hoping to use the threat of an Israeli strike to push the international community toward more serious action against the Iran threat. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

The Democratic Platform and Israel: What Does It Really Say?

September 10th 2012

Obama and Netanyau

Many political criticisms, particularly during an election year, are subjective and can be challenged. Has something been taken out of context? A claim misunderstood? A word twisted? What’s special about analyzing the Democratic Party platform over Israel is that it is easy to take the text and show how support for Israel has been reduced, in some cases shockingly so.

This is the draft platform and it was written by experts. The problem is the identity of those experts. This platform is a combination of “we love Israel” rhetoric (put in by the politicians?) with some serious policy problems (put in by their advisors?).

The Democratic response has been denial. Oh, no, there is nothing new or different and the platform corresponds with standard U.S. policy. The first half of that statement is a lie; the second half is technically true but in some ways it shows the replacement of the traditional over-promising on Israel to what might be called the standard historical State Department line. The base line, then, has been pulled back. If you start out promising the kid a pony you’ve got to produce something impressive; if your initial offer is a text on grammar one can expect less to be delivered in the end. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Welfare Work Requirements: Vague Replacement of Work for Welfare

September 9th 2012

Obama

In July, the Obama Administration waived the core work requirements of the historic welfare reform law of 1996, which law required a portion of the able-bodied recipients in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program work or prepare for work as a condition of receiving aid. The new bureaucratic directive from Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared that in the future, neither states nor TANF recipients would have to obey these workfare requirements. It replaces those work requirements with new, vague standards devised by HHS without any congressional input, such as “employment exits” and “universal engagement.”

The mainstream press has defended this illegal waiver,declaring that the Obama Administration merely wants to “tweak” the law’s work standards. But the Obama policy does not “tweak” the work provisions in the law. In fact, it does not just weaken the law’s work requirements; in many cases, the policy would bypass those work requirements entirely. The HHS directive establishing the new policy repeatedly asserts that the Administration will exempt states from the law’s “work participation requirements” and replace those work requirements with new standards devised by HHS without any congressional input. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

Obama Administration Still Cannot Say Where Jerusalem Is.

September 9th 2012

Obama-Peres

A day after the Democratic party rammed through an amendment to its platform to retain its previous reference to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell  refused to acknowledge the city as the capital of Israel upon being questioned  by a reporter. Below is a transcript of the exchange that took place today at around noon during the State Department daily press briefing.

QUESTION: On Israel?

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: Which city does the U.S. Government recognize as the capital in the – Israel?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, as you know, longstanding Administration policy, both in this Administration and in previous administrations across both parties, is that the status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in final status negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. So that’s longstanding Administration policy and continues to be so. Read more ..


The New Egypt

America’s Policy Reversal toward the Muslim Brotherhood

September 8th 2012

Mohamed Morsi - Vivat Rex

America used to be acknowledged as a beacon of democracy, a defender of values, a bridge-builder between people and nations, and an example for the entire world to emulate. In the Middle East, this image of America is unfortunately quickly losing its place in the hearts of democracy lovers and peace makers of this tortured region.

In early 2011, political observers noted that the Obama administration had begun to reverse decades of mistrust and hostility towards the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). This reversal was carried out with full knowledge that Brethren policy calls for the imposition of the Islamic Shari’a on Christians and liberal Muslims who reject this policy as tyrannical. Their organizational creed says it all: “Allah is our objective, the Qur’an is our law, the Prophet is our leader, Jihad is our way, and death for the sake of Allah is the highest aspiration.” Even the MB emblem appears to encourage military Jihad, consisting of two swords and the Qur’an. This would probably be acceptable in a homogeneous Muslim Society like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), but it is certainly not the case in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Facebook Fails A Review for Digital Hate

September 8th 2012

The Online Hate Prevention Institute recently reported a number of antisemitic images to Facebook using the regular reporting facility available to all users. Every one of our reports was swiftly reviewed and swiftly rejected. Facebook is making a serious effort to respond faster to complaints, but this is meaningless if the response is to invariably reject the complaints. There is also no appeal and we have no details of any internal review process – if there is one, Facebook is welcome to share details to reassure us.

There is no way of knowing what is going on at Facebook, but three possibilities suggest themselves: (1) Facebook is giving control of the review process to a group of died in the wool racists, (2) Facebook review staff are well intentioned but seriously ignorant about hate speech, (3) Facebook as policy is doing everything it can in order to normalise the presence of hate speech on its platform. Either the recruitment process is serious flawed, or the training provided to staff is seriously inadequate, or something is rotten at the core of Facebook. OHPI believes that these examples are exceedingly clear demonstrations of racism. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Two Huge Flaws in the Legend of the Clinton Economy

September 7th 2012

Obama Clinton
Credit: Washington Free Beacon Staff

Two inescapable flaws mar the Clinton economic legend. One is conveniently papered over; the other conveniently forgotten. Even so, a flawed legend is better than the economic reality President Obama’s policies have produced, so it is no surprise the sitting President has outsourced his economic messaging to the former President.

The first flaw, described here is that President Clinton raised taxes and the economy boomed. The flaw in the narrative is it ignores the passage of time—four years, to be exact. The timeline matters. Clinton raised taxes in 1993 just as the economy was set to take off from a recession, and instead job and wage growth sputtered for four years. The famous Clinton era boom started four years after the tax hike, in 1997, and was triggered at least in part by the Republican tax cut of that year. Four years may seem like a detail, but details like this matter. Read more ..


The Economy on Edge

The Job Market Has a Case of the Blahs

September 7th 2012

Unemployed Claimants

The sluggish labor market recovery continued in August, with employers adding 96,000 to their payrolls. This rate of job gain is approximately fast enough to keep pace with the growth of the working-age population. If maintained over several months, however, it is too slow to put a dent in the nation’s unemployment rate. For the 30th consecutive month private payrolls grew, increasing 103,000. Since the turnaround in private payrolls began in March 2010, private employers have added a total of 4.63 million workers to their payrolls, for an average gain of 154,000 workers a month. In 24 of the 30 months since March 2010, however, government payrolls declined. Last month they fell another 7,000. The good news is that this is a slower rate of decline than we have seen during most of the recovery. Read more ..


Obama and Israel

Dershowitz Blames "Rogue" Democrats for DNC Jerusalem Debacle

September 6th 2012

Obama-Limo

As President Obama prepares to accept the Democratic nomination for his second term in the White House on Thursday night in North Carolina, one of the United States’ most vocal supporters of Israel is calling on Obama to reaffirm his party’s entire platform language on Israel from 2008, and vowed to fight “rogue elements” within the Democratic party who seek to end the positive relationship between the U.S. and Israel.

After failing to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city in their initial 2012 platform, which prompted a sharp rebuke from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the Democrats reinstated language on the issue from their 2008 and 2004 versions, however Dershowitz said that his party did not go far enough.  Isolating Hamas until it renounces terrorism, solving the Palestinian refugee crisis through a Palestinian state alone, and affirming that a two-state solution could not realistically force Israel back to its borders of 1949 should be publicly endorsed by President Obama within the coming weeks, after statements on these issues were also left out of the Democratic platform this year. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama, Biden Fail to Mention GM Outsourcing to Indonesia

September 6th 2012

Chevey

On Labor Day, during a campaign visit in Detroit, Vice President Joe Biden boasted that had President Barack Obama not intervened with a huge bailout to General Motors, the company's plants would have been shutdown and thousands of employees thrown out of work. However, during this week's Democratic Party Convention Biden and Obama failed to announce GM's planned outsourcing to Indonesia and other nations .

According to a press statement from the Indonesian branch of General Motors, the firm had allocated some $150 million to build a production facility in Bekasi, West Java province in Indonesia. The new plant is scheduled to open and begin building automobiles sometime in 2013.

"The construction of the new plant began in August in Bekasi," Marketing Director of General Motor Indonesia (GMI), Yuniadi Hartono, said. The new GM plant is expected to produce more than 40,000 cars each year and will employ 800 new workers. The workers will be trained with skills and production technical aspects that fit with international quality standards, according to GM.

They will undergo the training programs in GM production facilities across the world, tapping the knowledge about high-quality car production and how to expand the firm's businesses. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Running Scared?

September 6th 2012

Armstrong_Williams

After a well-executed Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., it is now time for the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

The Democrats are already responding to the Republican convention, and changing their speaker lineup: According to Donovan Slack of Politico, the Democrats are adding women and minorities to their roster, which I take to mean that the Republican convention was effective. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s speech was presidential—it wouldn’t be hard to imagine her giving that if she were the nominee. Just as stirring was that of Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. Some left-wing critics noted that the RNC stage was more diverse than the RNC delegation; I ask, would you prefer it the other way around?

I’m afraid that that’s the case with the Democratic National Convention. As Matt Yglesias tweeted, “[the] DNC lineup exaggerates whiteness of the party relative to its actual voting base.”

One good way to judge the confidence of a campaign is to note how often it uses ad hominem attacks. The more ad hominems, the less confident they must be. The Democrats’s schedule of speakers is interesting. Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker is scheduled to speak on the first day of the convention. I will be interested to see the reaction to his speech, because Mr. Booker reminds me a lot of a younger President Obama. He is young, black, and at least pays lip service to healing the partisan divide in this country. His speech will be a test of whether the country is jaded with this sanctimony yet. Read more ..


The Economy on Edge

The Accounting Trick That Will Haunt Public Pensions

September 6th 2012

union protest

State and local government employee pensions around the country are significantly underfunded. The Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB), which is the closest thing that comes to a regulator of public pensions, tells them, through its accounting rules, that the single best thing pensions can do to improve their funding is to take greater investment risk. Economic theory, accounting rules applied to virtually all other pension plans, and plain common sense strongly disagree. GASB rules cause U.S. public pensions both to vastly understate their true liabilities and to take excessive investment risk, putting in danger both government budgets and the economy as a whole. With pension liabilities breathing down the necks of state and local governments around the nation, it is time for bond rating agencies to expose what GASB rules sweep under the rug.
Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Party Time in Charlotte, With Corporate Cash Present

September 6th 2012

obama and biden

After a week of political pageantry and Republican politics in Tampa Bay, the spotlight turns to Democrats this week, as they kick off their own party convention in the battleground state of North Carolina. Readers know all too well what that means: It's party time. Sunlight Foundation's Political Party Time Blog estimated that Republicans held upwards of 200 fundraisers during their stint in Tampa Bay. But that doesn't hold a candle to the Democrats' itinerary: politicians, lobbyists and other interest groups have 400 such events planned this week in Charlotte, according to Party Time. Themes range from a how-to on formal dining etiquette to one event called Nuns on the Bus. That's right: nuns. On the Bus.
 
That event is sponsored by a Catholic social justice group called Network, which just finished promoting a nine state bus tour to "highlight the work of Catholic Sisters, meet the people they serve and learn about the harm that would be caused by the Ryan/House federal budget cuts."
Read more ..

Romney Calls DNC a 'Celebration of Failure'

September 6th 2012

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney blasted the first day of the Democratic convention on Wednesday, saying that the effort by his political rivals was "so far a celebration of failure."

Romney and his allies have pounced on Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's comments over the weekend that Americans are not better off than they were four years ago. The top Democratic surrogate has since walked back those remarks, and officials with the Obama campaign have contended this week that Americans are better off under Obama's presidency.

But the Republican nominee brushed aside those assertions in an interview with Fox News, noting that the "better off" message hasn't been expressed from the stage in Charlotte, N.C. "You know no one in the convention so far has had the temerity to say that people are better off in America because they realize that’s not the case," Romney said. "The convention so far is a celebration of failure." Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama Deserves Four More Years

September 5th 2012

Obama

My grandfather used to say, “Don’t tell me your priorities. Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you your priorities.” So, let’s compare the Obama-Biden record in three critical areas — Medicare, taxes and veterans — with what is in the Romney-Ryan budget.

First Medicare, where there is perhaps no better contrast and choice facing Americans. President Obama and Vice President Biden want to ensure Medicare is solvent for generations to come.

The president has ended excessive subsidies to insurance companies and eliminated waste, fraud and abuse, adding eight years of solvency to Medicare. He has also helped seniors in the Medicare prescription drug doughnut hole to pay less for their prescription drugs, and the doughnut hole will be closed by 2020. On the other side, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher program, taking guaranteed benefits away from seniors and increasing Medicare recipients’ costs by $6,350 per year. If that is not bad enough, Medicare would be bankrupt by the end of their first term. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Labor Unions Force at Democratic National Convention

September 5th 2012

James Hoffa

As the Democratic Party conducts its official business at the convention in North Carolina on Tuesday, union officials and delegates from labor organizations in both the private and public sectors descended on the city of Charlotte in large numbers that included stalwarts such as SEIU's Andy Stern and AFL-CIO's Richard Trumka.

The goal of labor leaders is, of course, the re-election of President Barack Obama, but it's also about garnering more power in order to increase its membership numbers. For example, while unions have requested waivers for Obamacare, they were completely onboard with passing the unpopular health care law for Americans. Read more ..


Europe on Edge

Can Europe make it all the way to November?

September 5th 2012

French Economic protest

The European debt crisis took a breather in the summer months as thinner markets and promises of central bank intervention from both the U.S. and Europe bolstered equity prices.
The Obama administration has to be quietly hoping this rally continues, as the contagion from Europe has the potential to reduce already paltry domestic economic growth. If Europe can hold together the current status quo until November, Obama's economy might look reasonable, but it seems unlikely that Europe has that long.

As the calendar turned to September, Europe's debt crisis began to flare up almost immediately. New data from the ECB shows that funding costs for businesses in the European periphery are at the highest level in a half decade. Meanwhile, Moody's lowered the debt rating outlook for the EU on September's first day of trading. Neither story implies good things for the already-depressed and uncompetitive economies of the southern portion of the continent. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Christians Persecuted and Tormented in Egypt as $1 Billion Flows

September 5th 2012

Coptic Girl

Egypt’s so-called Arab Spring quickly turned into a Christian winter following the political rise of Islamists and increased assaults on Christians and churches. As a result, an estimated 100,000 Christians have fled or are preparing to flee the country, according to a report by International Christian Concerns on Monday.

Calls for Christians to be killed with some of them reportedly crucified on trees are the new reality of the Egyptian government under a Muslim Brotherhood president and a legislature run by not only the Brotherhood but also the extreme Islamist Salafists, according to a separate report by the British human rights group, the Barnabas Fund.

According to the London-based, non-partisan Barnabas group in an alert, Egyptians have witnessed an increase in brutality, mostly against Christians and dissenters, with President Mohammed Morsi emboldening Islamists who were previously constrained by Egypt's now ousted President Hosni Mubarek. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

An Alternative to Obama’s Failure on Syria is Needed

September 4th 2012

Syrian Rebels in Aleppo

The number of people killed in Syria will soon reach genocidal levels. Tens of thousands of civilians, including children, women and the elderly, have been massacred by the Assad regime since spring 2011. That jihadi militias are present and have perpetrated war crimes of their own is not under dispute, but it would be a grossly inaccurate to say that a majority of the anti-Baathist demonstrators want a Taliban-style emirate. This political reality is easily grasped by seasoned observers and expert analysts, but it still manages to elude prevailing international perception.

The conflict in Syria is having significant regional and international repercussions because it is a catastrophic human tragedy. This fact alone obliges the International Community to step or an entire population could be eradicated. International law, indeed, the UN Charter itself, demands intervention by the IC. A coordinated strategy is needed to rescue millions of innocent civilians trapped in this widening conflict. Read more ..


The US and Russia

Russia, Unfortunately, is Still Russia

September 4th 2012

Vladimir Putin seriously

Before the pundits start telling you the Romney campaign stepped into a time-warp on the subject of Russia, it's worth considering what adviser Rich Williamson said and what it means.  "They're trampling civil rights," and "they're our foe," and "they've chosen a path of confrontations, not cooperation."  Pierre-Richard Prosper, another campaign adviser, added that "rule of law" has evaporated.

They might also have noted that Russia has staked its position as the guardian and defender of Syria.  And that Putin has announced an upgrade in Russia's nuclear arsenal that caused Poland to consider its own missile defense system.  (President Obama canceled plans for interceptors in Poland as part of his early "reset" of relations with Putin.)

Russia is asserting its interests the way large, dictatorial, and resource-rich countries do.  The problem for President Obama -- which the Romney people can reasonably point out -- is that Putin's definition of Russia's interests doesn't correspond with the administration's desire for "reset."  Jailing rock singers for "hooliganism" and businessmen for "corruption," stealing elections, murdering journalists and dissidents, eviscerating reliable civil and contract law, and protecting murderous dictators makes it hard for President Obama to claim that the only thing wrong with U.S.-Russian relations was the previous U.S. president. Read more ..


The Euro on Edge

Mario Draghi’s Guns of August

September 3rd 2012

French Economic protest

August has been a dangerous month in European history, but this year it could be the turning point for the eurozone – and perhaps for the world economy. On July 26, Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank, declared that his institution would do “whatever it takes” to preserve the euro, and added: “Believe me, it will be enough.”

Draghi’s strong – indeed, unprecedented – statement was widely interpreted as signaling that the ECB would soon revive its bond-purchase program, focusing on Spanish debt in particular. Stock markets around the world soared. Jens Weidemann of the Bundesbank immediately expressed reservations, but the next day German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande issued a joint statement expressing their determination “to do everything in order to protect the eurozone.”

I recently argued that the ECB, working with the nascent European Stability Mechanism (ESM), was the only institution that could save the eurozone. It could do so by buying Italian and Spanish bonds in the secondary market with the pre-announced intention of keeping their sovereign interest rates below a certain threshold for a certain time. Read more ..


Costa Rica and Nicaragua

Fallout from Costa Rican Road Construction Project the Latest in Corruption Allegations

September 3rd 2012

daniel ortega
Daniel Ortega

The fallout from a 2010 incident over a historical territory in dispute between  and Costa Rica continues to be a compass of relations between the administrations of Costa Rican president Laura Chinchilla and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega. The dispute is heavy on nationalistic sentiment but littered with corruption and administrational malfeasance.

The latest development comes as Chinchilla presently faces a hearing on her contracting the construction of a large, costly transportation route known as Ruta 1856, straddling a sizable swath of the Nicaraguan border. As a result, los ticos (as Costa Ricans are commonly known) have good reason to question their government’s commitment to transparency and accountability, which inherently suggests it has none. Indeed, Chinchilla’s term continues a long line of Costa Rican presidencies ending in indictment.

In October of 2010, when Nicaragua began dredging the Río San Juan’s sediment deposits on the Isla Calero’s river delta, it hardly registered even as a blip on the international radar until Nicaraguan workers began felling trees and dumping residue on the island at the mouth of the Caribbean Sea. As Nicaraguan soldiers entered the territory claimed by Costa Rica, an alarmed San José interpreted the act as an “invasion” and cited evidence of such crimes as well as environmental concerns over the river’s diversion into their neighbor’s territory. Read more ..


The Edge of Justice

DOJ Drops Criminal Investigation of CIA

September 2nd 2012

Prison bars

After more than three years, agents from the Central Intelligence Agency are discovering that they can breathe easier after Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama Justice Department dropped their far-reaching investigation of CIA interrogators who aggressively questioned terrorist detainees without bringing criminal charges against them, a national security has stated.

The termination of the Obama administration's CIA probe was announced late-Thursday/early-Friday to coincide with the much-anticipated GOP convention speeches by mega-star Clint Eastwood, Sen. Marco Rubio and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. "It's another embarrassment for the Obama-Holder attack team and they wanted to avoid full media coverage," said political consultant Michael Baker. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama’s Regulatory Agenda Goes Undercover

September 2nd 2012

Obama and Flag

Throughout President Obama’s tenure, the number and cost of major regulations has approached record levels—exceeding $46 billion in new annual costs during his first three years. The impact has been economically crippling, of course, notwithstanding the administration’s boasts of regulatory benefits. Yet the White House seems rather shy of late about its hyperactive rulemaking, all of the president’s promises of transparency be damned.

Here it is almost September, and the administration has failed to publish its spring 2012 Regulatory Agenda as required by law. The compendium of planned regulatory actions is required each spring and fall under the Regulatory Flexibility Act as well as Executive Order 12,866, which originated with President Clinton and was reaffirmed by President Obama last year. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Ryan and his Panicky Critics

September 2nd 2012

Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan’s speech accepting the Republican party’s nomination for vice president was everything that could have been hoped for by the Romney campaign and more. It made the case against President Obama in devastating terms — using humor and memorable line after memorable line to drive home the main point that the president has been a miserable failure in office. The speech is likely to have lasting impact in this campaign.

Which perhaps explains the panicky reaction of the mainstream press and Ryan’s liberal critics. Almost from the moment Ryan finished his speech, apologists for the president (including the Washington Post) have come out swinging, quite plainly indignant that Ryan landed so many punches when the usual media filters couldn’t stop him. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

International Security Advisory Board’s Misplaced Focus

September 1st 2012

Iran centrifuges

The U.S. and its allies face many grave dangers today, including the spread of ballistic missiles and nuclear know-how. The International Security Advisory Board (ISAB), designed to provide independent analysis and advisement regarding such issues for the Secretary of State, recently published a report titled “Mutual Assured Stability: Essential Components and Near Term Actions.” The report’s recommendations, however, are almost exclusively focused on improving relations with Russia and largely ignore the risks associated with a nuclear North Korea and Iran. Such an omission is dangerous.

The report does not fully address issues specified in the Terms of Reference by then-Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher. Of the six issues specified, ISAB focuses on only one: “The possible components of mutual assured stability and what the United States would need to see happening to have the confidence to consider very low numbers and, eventually, agree to the elimination of nuclear weapons.” Remaining points are related to international cooperation, nuclear reductions management and conditions for the nuclear-free world, possible tensions between nuclear reductions and effective deterrence, stabilizing factors outside of deterrence, and U.S. force structure supporting deterrence. Read more ..


America on Edge

Anti-Chemical Alarmism Spreads to Your School

August 31st 2012

Student Backpack

Today’s toxic headline: a plastic gun is pointed at your children and it looks like SpongeBob, Hello Kitty and Dora the Explorer. Campaigning NGOs and many journalists share a not-so-attractive sensibility: they are often uncomfortable with complexity. Dividing the world, and prickly science policy issues, into black and white makes for exciting narratives. Unfortunately it’s invariably wrong, authoritarian and, as Freud would say, crazy (“neurosis is the inability to tolerate ambiguity”).

That’s certainly the case in today’s anti-science campaign du jour: a ferocious attack on the harmless backpacks, book covers and lunch boxes that your children tote to school.

The hysteria kicked off earlier this week with a news conference organized by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice starring anti-chemical flack Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) at which the CHEJ released a guide ominously titled, “Hidden Hazards: Toxic Chemical Inside Children’s Vinyl Back to School Supplies”.

“These dangerous chemicals manufactured by ExxonMobil have no place in our children’s school supplies,” said Mike Schade, CHEJ’s “Markets Campaign Coordinator” who orchestrated the media blitz. The non-profit, composed almost entirely of fulltime campaigners, has one lone non-PhD scientist on staff—with no research expertise in this area. Read more ..


The Race for EVs

Israel’s Better Place Electric Car Network Bleeds Capital

August 31st 2012

Better Place

Last month Israel’s Better Place rolled out their all-electric vehicle network to the Israeli public with much fanfare. Of the hundreds of civilians that bought the cars, warm reviews of excitement ensued. Pictures and photo ops were maximized. Since opening the car sales channel to the public the number of Better Place cars on the road now exceeds the number of Better Place cars being driven by company employees. The company also released news that it had set an electric car distance world record, garnering some fresh enthusiasm for the business.

But a new report warns that the company is seriously bleeding cash, suggesting it’s light years away from putting 10,000 cars on the road – its break even point.

Even after recent news of a $40 million Euro loan,  in order to set up a network in Denmark and continue deployment in Israel, the company is ripping through cash. Much of it being spent on PR, public education and wrapping.

Will the Better Place car network and its rechargeable battery stations survive the long-term? I have a feeling that unless it starts to make its car the much cheaper alternative to driving a petrol-powered car in Israel, it will not. The Renault cars aren’t attractive, or different looking. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Clint Eastwood Tells America: "Let Him Go."

August 31st 2012

Clint Eastwood at Tampa Convention
Clint Eastwood Grilling an Imaginary Obama in Chair

Actor and director Clint Eastwood tried a risky and sometimes awkward 10-minute routine Thursday before the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla., that involved several minutes of him pretending to ask questions to a non-present President Obama, though he won big applause for lines saying it's time for him to leave office.

"When somebody does not do the job, we got to let him go," he said near the end of his remarks, to rowdy applause. "We own this country," he added. "Politicians are employees of ours. They're just going to come around and beg for votes every few years, it's the same old deal." Before grilling an invisible Obama in an empty chair, Eastwood said he was initially fine with Obama's election, but that the state of the economy made him sour on the president.  Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

UN Blames Only Israel for Gaza's Inviable Future

August 31st 2012

Gaza Qasam Rocket

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) held a conference on August 27th entitled “Will the Gaza Strip be Viable in 2020?” The conclusion, predictably, was that the Israeli government was fully responsible for the difficult human living conditions in the Gaza Strip and that the Gaza population will face a real disaster on all levels by 2020 if the Israeli “siege” were not immediately ended.

In attendance at the Israel-bashing conference were the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator, Maxwell Gaylard, Director of UNRWA operations in Gaza Robert Turner, and UNICEF Special Representative in the Palestinian Territory, Jean Gough.

Gaylard said that the Gaza population is expected to expand by a half million, reaching 2.1 million in 2020, while access to water and electricity, education and health resources will get worse over the same period, unless major remedial action is taken immediately. Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

Health Insurers: Mind your own business!

August 30th 2012

Obamacare Protest

You may have received a refund check in the past few months from your health insurer. This is not your individual reward for staying healthy; it is your insurer's punishment for making too much money because you did.

Obamacare includes what the health care technocracy calls the "MLR rule" - minimum requirements for medical-loss ratios - or the percentage of premiums collected by health insurers that must be spent on medical care or refunded. The inverse of the MLR is the percentage spent on administration and marketing, and earned as profit. Obamacare sets minimum MLRs of 80 percent for individual and small group plans, and 85 percent for large groups.

Aside from its obvious populist appeal, this profit regulation mechanism signifies a belief, now enshrined in legislation, that health insurance markets do not work. Without such a rule, the architects of Obamacare believe, insurers can name their prices, however inflated, and we all just pay. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

EPA Gives Chinese Millions for Green Projects

August 29th 2012

Obama with baseball bat

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, while campaigning in Tampa just before the RNC convention that began on Tuesday, outlined his energy and environmental plan that he claims will achieve energy independence by the year 2020. And he noted his plan doesn't include millions of U.S. dollars for the Chinese. He proposed opening new areas for offshore oil drilling, starting in Virginia and the Carolinas, and by empowering the states. He also noted that the Obama Environmental Protection Agency's statutes and regulations would be removed or loosened to green-light more coal production and other industry priorities, and the United States would reach agreements for energy production with Canada and Mexico, including the building of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Possibly the most important Romney energy proposal is removing Obama's "EPA fangs" and his internationalist green programs, said several Romney supporters.

For example, in a transaction by the Obama White House that's sure to anger most Americans -- if the news media ever bother to tell them -- the People's Republic of China and other nations get millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to help with their so-called green projects. The outrageous part of the story is that the U.S. is indebted to China for almost a trillion dollars, according to a vocal critic of outsourcing on Friday. Read more ..


The Race for Natual Gas

Hydraulic Fracturing: Critical for Energy Production, Jobs, and Economic Growth

August 29th 2012

Fracking gas well

While Americans continue to be disappointed by dismal jobs reports and a high unemployment rate, one of the few recent bright spots in the U.S. economy has been energy production, particularly the shale oil and shale gas revolution. In fact, the Yale Graduates Energy Study Group calculated that in 2010 alone, the consumer surplus (the consumer savings or gain from reductions in price) from shale gas production was worth over $100 billion. The technological one-two punch of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing has created a remarkable energy boom and created hundreds of thousands of jobs in the U.S. The possibility of continuously low natural gas prices is turning the United States into a prime destination for chemical companies and other businesses that rely on abundant amounts of natural gas. While the energy development has been substantially positive, the process of hydraulic fracturing has come under scrutiny over concerns about contamination of drinking water, the use of chemicals, wastewater management, and the potential for causing earthquakes. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Physicians' Group Will Barnstorm Conventions With Truth-Telling On Obamacare

August 29th 2012

stethoscope

As the Republican convention gets underway today in Tampa, we can expect to hear the politicians and delegates gathered there — including GOP nominee Mitt Romney — rail against “Obamacare”, insisting that what we need instead of a “government takeover of health care” is “patient-centered” care, although what that would look like hasn’t been disclosed.

If recent statements by Romney and his VP pick Paul Ryan are an indication of the rhetoric we’ll likely hear, get ready for speech after speech telling us that Obamacare will “cut” $716 billion from Medicare and cost small businesses a bundle. In anticipation of these sorts of misrepresentations, doctors from all over the country — all members of a four-year-old organization called Doctors for America — have traveled to Florida to serve as a truth squad. And while they’re dispensing facts, they’ll also be providing more than a little free care. When the GOPers leave the Sunshine State, the doctors will hop on a bus and head to Charlotte to try to persuade the politicians and delegates who will gather there that they need to start aggressively defending the reform law. Read more ..


Israel's Looming Attack

Debating What to Do About Iran

August 29th 2012

F21 kfir jet

Almost everyone seems to agree that the Iranian nuclear weapons project should be stopped. Preferably through economic sanctions against Iran, but if that doesn't work, then military means will have to be used. But if a military operation is required, should it be carried out by the United States or Israel? Everyone in Israel seems to prefer that the operation be carried out by the United States, but what if the Americans delay in making a decision?

That's where the disagreement begins: Should Israel go ahead on its own, without U.S. approval, should it wait for U.S. approval before taking action, or should it just leave things to the United States, trusting that the Americans will take the necessary action at the appropriate time?

No matter who strikes first Israel's civilian population will be subjected to tens of thousands of rockets launched from Lebanon by Hezbollah in retaliation for a military strike against Iran. Hezbollah's response - on orders from Tehran - can be considered a certainty. But the extent of the damage caused to life, limb and property in Israel is not at all certain. Read more ..



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