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The 2012 Vote

Campaigner in Chief

September 27th 2012

Barack Obama in Thought

With one week until the first critical presidential debate and just five weeks until the election, President Obama is so confident of victory he no longer feels compelled to show up at work and do his job. As polls show him solidifying a significant lead in the battleground states that will decide the election, Obama distanced himself from numerous crises abroad by refusing to meet with his counterparts from the Middle East — the presidents of Israel, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt and Libya — as unrest, terrorism, war or the threat of war threaten their countries, the entire region and the security of the United States as well.

Grim stuff, to be sure, but Obama and his team would rather focus on the good news, and send Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to honcho such tense and somber discussions. After all, Obama is up in every poll, in every state that matters, and has succeeded in complicating Mitt Romney’s path to 270 electoral votes in ways neither campaign ever expected. Support for Obama is surging in surprising ways, as he has not only erased the advantage Romney had on the question of who was better prepared to fix the economy but watched as economic optimism and confidence that the country is now on the right track reach their highest levels in years. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama Could Prevent a Made-in-Washington Recession

September 26th 2012

Obama Campaign 2012

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) forecasts a recession for 2013. Forecasters rarely anticipate a recession. Almost by definition, recessions surprise. Some unexpected force or forces conspire to so disrupt the economy that it contracts.

What makes this recession different, and predictable, is that the disruptive force is Washington policies and, even more, Washington behaviors—policies and behaviors for which the nation can thank the Congress and especially President Obama. The policy is Taxmageddon. The behavior is intentional, insistent inaction. The consequence is recession. The response should and will be outrage.

This recession is not yet inevitable. Though Congress has recessed until mid-November, President Obama could and should immediately call it back to finish its bare minimum tasks for the year. At no time this year has President Obama made the resolution of Taxmageddon a priority, and in this he has joined with Congress in a conspiracy of inertia. But time remains to change course, to prevent the recessionary job loss and wealth destruction threatening the nation. If a slowdown or even a recession unfolds as CBO predicts, the blame will lie with President Obama. As he said in his recent 60 Minutes interview, “I think that, you know, as President I bear responsibility for everything, to some degree.” Absolutely. Read more ..


Broken Healthcare

The Great Pharmaceutical Scam

September 26th 2012

Pills

Eight years ago, I was emailed by a whistle-blower at the big Indian pharmaceutical company Ranbaxy who claimed that the company had falsified data on drugs destined to be purchased with U.S. tax dollars. Most of the problems were with HIV medication sold to Western donors for use in Africa. But the more I probed, the more problems I found.

I was obviously not alone in my concerns. In 2010, after several years of investigations, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) restricted the sale of some 30 Ranbaxy pharmaceuticals in U.S. markets. This was embarrassing for all concerned because Ranbaxy had been granted the exclusive six-month generic license to produce Lipitor, Pfizer's blockbusting anti-cholesterol drug, when it came off patent last November.

Ranbaxy says it has cleaned up its act, and perhaps it has. But the case raises a broader question -- one likely to become increasingly troubling as emerging-market pharmaceutical companies that manufacture generics expand their market shares in both developed and developing countries: How can we know for certain? Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Obama in Denial about Islam's War against the United States

September 25th 2012

Professor Obama at work

The Obama administration was wrong when first it said that what happened in Cairo and Benghazi was a spontaneous gush of righteous Muslim indignation. After days of insisting that a snippet of YouTube trash was responsible -- not U.S. policy and certainly not the U.S. government -- and that Susan Rice had better intelligence than the president of Libya and Jay Carney had magic insights, the administration backtracked and called it terrorism. Mr. Carney now says it is "self-evident" that the attacks were terrorism.

Wrong twice; the attacks were acts of war against Americans on American soil. The distinction is important if we plan to protect ourselves and our interests.

Benghazi was well-planned and executed with weapons that require military training. The Washington Post had one of the best reports:

The attackers stormed the main building and set it on fire. One U.S. official described the militants striking the front of the building first, distracting security, while a second group struck then from the rear. Many people escaped and fled to an annex to the east. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Romney’s ER Care

September 25th 2012

ER Entrance

For months, Mitt Romney’s strategy has been to attack the specifics of President Obama’s policies while offering none of his own. On healthcare reform, Romney continuously says he would repeal ObamaCare while awkwardly trying to Etch A Sketch away from the similar plan he championed as governor of Massachusetts, or “RomneyCare,” on which the president’s Affordable Care Act is based. Facing dropping poll numbers and ongoing criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike about the need to offer specifics, Romney finally told us how he would deal with the more than 48 million Americans without health insurance: Get thee to an emergency room!

Responding to a question from CBS’s Scott Pelley on “60 Minutes” this weekend about whether the government has any responsibility to provide healthcare for those who don’t have it Romney said, “Well, we do provide care for people who don’t have insurance, people — we — if someone has a heart attack, they don’t sit in their apartment and die. We pick them up in an ambulance  and take them to the hospital and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care.” In other words, forget about having access to affordable preventive care, mammograms, check-ups or blood pressure monitoring to prevent a heart attack, just go to the emergency room when it happens. Romney’s response also falsely assumes that all of the uninsured live in neighborhoods where one can actually get an ambulance in timely manner. Read more ..


Arab Winter of Rage

Riots, Rage, Videos, Politics, and Free Speech

September 25th 2012

Cairo burning US embassy

How should Americans, and the U.S. government, react when some statement (in a book, video, tweet, or whatever medium) is made that insults a religion–and violence follows?

Even this soon after the events of the last two weeks some conclusions can be drawn.

First, there should be absolutely no compromise on the issue of freedom of speech. To many Americans this will seem obvious, but there is a huge drive around the world to prevent and criminalize any criticism of religion. As Salman Rushdie, who has lived under threat of death for his book Satanic Verses, recently said: “I think it’s very important that we hold our ground. It’s very important to say, ‘We live like this.’” And as that New York Times interview notes, Rushdie has been living in the United States because we have indeed held that ground when many other countries have ceded it.

Second, the United States government should not apologize for stupid or offensive comments made by private citizens. Here again Rushdie is right: “It’s not for the American government to regret what American citizens do. They should just say, ‘This is not our affair and the [violent] response is completely inappropriate.’” The reaction of our government in the recent case was wrong, and made us look fearful and weak. For one thing, I don’t believe such apologies work, and there is no evidence they did in the recent cases. But beyond the question of efficacy is the question of fairness and fear. Read more ..


Mexico on Edge

Women and Girls 'Disappeared' in Central Mexico

September 24th 2012

Mexico crosses

Long touting the central Mexican state of Queretaro as a tranquil enclave, local officials are now on the defensive in the aftermath of growing reports of missing girls and women hitting the national press. State Attorney General Arsenio Duran Becerra was quoted this week acknowledging that investigations proceed in an undisclosed (and disputed) number of cases that could involve human trafficking.

Still, Duran insisted, the issue of disappearance does not signify an “important problem” for a state that until now has not suffered the levels of violence witnessed in other regions of the country. Situated about three hours north of Mexico City, Queretaro has attracted a battery of foreign-owned factories in recent years.

Duran told non-governmental organizations this month that his office has “active reports” of 53 disappeared women in Queretaro, including 48 minors. The state attorney general’s office (PGJQ) maintains a web page that lists nine missing males (including three juveniles), three adult females and 15 underage females. Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage

It's Not Just the Sparks That Caused This Fire in the Middle East

September 24th 2012

Yemeni Protestor

Precisely eleven years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the question of U.S. relations with Islamic countries and communities is once again at the top of the foreign policy agenda. As violent anti-American protests rage around the world, the Obama administration has focused on safeguarding U.S. citizens and installations on one hand, and seeking to dampen the fury of the protests on the other by pointing out that the U.S. government had nothing to do with the anti-Islamic video that ignited this burst of anger.

While this immediate focus on quelling the crisis is prudent, the U.S. response cannot stop there. While the video in question may have catalyzed these protests, it cannot accurately be described as the cause of them. In any event, any effort to quash future provocations of this sort is bound to be futile -- given the ease by which such media can now be produced and distributed -- as well as profoundly contrary to the American belief in the right to free expression.

Read more ..

The Weapons Edge

The Folly of the State Department’s Assessment of U.S. Arms Control Compliance

September 23rd 2012

ULA Atlas V liftoff, June 2012

The State Department recently released its 2012 report, Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments, or Annual Compliance Report. It informs Congress and the public about how the United States and other countries are fulfilling their multilateral and bilateral treaty obligations regarding arms control and nonproliferation.

Regrettably, the report is not an objective assessment of U.S. or foreign compliance with these obligations. Accordingly, it serves to undermine the legitimacy and effectiveness of the arms control process.

Policy Preferences Versus Objective Truths

The State Department wants to extend its own policy preferences to the compliance reporting process, even for America’s compliance with its treaty obligations. The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) are two prominent examples. A disconnect exists between the report’s assertion of U.S. NPT compliance and the Administration’s interpretation of the treaty’s requirements. During the 2010 NPT review conference, the Administration reinterpreted the U.S.’s obligations by raising the lesser treaty provision related to negotiations on both nuclear disarmament and complete disarmament (Article VI) to equal status with the treaty’s purpose of nonproliferation. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

White House Displays Rapid Fire Flip-Flops on Libya

September 23rd 2012

Libyan rioters at US consulate Sep 2012 #2

After almost one week of blaming the terrorist attack of a U.S. consulate in Libya and the killing of the American ambassador on an obscure YouTube.com video and denying a terrorist connection to the attack, the President Barack Obama, the White House and the Obama administration on Thursday and Friday slowly changed their tune with a near-perfect example of a political flip-flop.

The administration on Thursday slowly moved away from their first report and talking points about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi calling it "a spontaneous reaction" to an anti-Islamic movie, and the allegation that the attack was a terrorist act planned in advance was unlikely. "The Obama administration were certain that most of the mainstream news media would echo the 'party line' but they weren't able to prevent people such as Fox News Channel's top national security correspondent, Catherine Herridge, who exposed the deceitful comments emanating from the White House and the State Department," said former U.S. Marine scout-sniper and NYPD sergeant Harold McCallister. Read more ..


Costa Rica on Edge

New Corruption Allegations Emerge about Costa Rican President

September 22nd 2012

Broken Road

The fallout from a 2010 incident over a historical territory in dispute between Nicaragua 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. Read more ..


The Edge for Food

Scientist Savages Study of Monsanto's Genetically Modified Corn

September 22nd 2012

Iowa corn field

Are GM foods harmful or nutritionally less beneficial when compared to conventional or organic foods? Scientists and regulators almost universally say “no.” That’s why a study published this week claiming that GM corn causes cancer in rats is creating such a furor. What’s the story behind the story? Jon Entine, executive director of the Genetic Literacy Project, reports.

Does Monsanto’s Roundup Ready corn (Europeans call it maize) cause health problems? It’s a reasonable question. It’s been asked and answered, at least to the satisfaction of most researchers.

There have been more than 100 peer-reviewed studies over the years—many by independent, non-industry scientists—that have demonstrated the safety of GM crops and food. This study by a team of French researchers in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology is the first to seriously challenge the scientific consensus—and its release comes just in time to play a disruptive role in the upcoming California vote on Proposition 37, which would require mandatory labeling of all food products that include any biotech component. Read more ..


Education on Edge

Innovation Is the Key to Better Education

September 22nd 2012

School kids

In the modern economy, innovation drives growth. From the telegraph to the telephone to the Internet, new technologies increase productivity and allow Americans to prosper. But while innovation has revolutionized the American economy as a whole over the last century, the education sector has benefitted relatively little from these advances.

Although computers and Smartboards are becoming increasingly common in the nation’s classrooms, over the past three decades average math and reading test scores of American seventeen-year-olds have remained largely unchanged. Meanwhile per-pupil spending has almost doubled. This increase in spending partially reflects that schools must compete to hire college-educated teachers in a labor market where well-educated workers command higher and higher salaries, but it also indicates that innovation and increases in productivity have occurred faster and been more effective in the broader economy than in the field of education. Read more ..


Africa on Edge

The Human Development Cost of the King of Swaziland’s Lifestyle

September 22nd 2012

airplanes shadows

I have now had it with the extravagancies of the King of Swaziland—King Mswati III. Aside from accumulating a “bevy” (for no better word) of 14 wives—plus or minus a few, but who is counting—he has taken on an obnoxiously luxurious lifestyle, including a large fleet of the most expensive vehicles (some said to cost up to $500,000), many expansive mansions and, to crown it all off for the good king, a top-of-the-line personal jet. The lifestyles of his ever-increasing household —thanks to the frequent addition of young wives—dwindles that of many Western millionaires and is financially supported by the poor people of Swaziland. In the recent past, the king and his fun-loving entourage have taken expensive trips oversees to visit other royals and to luxurious resorts abroad. His wives frequently tour Western countries for shopping sprees. King Mswati III is, to an extent, following the footsteps of his father King Sobhuza II who had accumulated 70 wives and over 200 children. Mswati is only 44 years old and, at this rate, he is likely to surpass his father in the department of wife accumulation. For an impoverished country like Swaziland, the behavior of the king resembles that of a roving bandit—one who has no interest in the welfare of the citizenry. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

A Time for Truth, Not Word Games

September 21st 2012

Star Parker

Perhaps now, in the wake of the heat that Mitt Romney is taking over the leaked 4-month-old "47 percent" video, he can better appreciate the position of Todd Akin, the conservative Missouri congressman running for U.S. Senate. Romney is being accused of writing off "47 percent" of voters as not paying taxes and "dependent upon government," who "believe government has a responsibility to care for them."

Of course Romney's words, recorded behind closed doors at a fundraiser, were not, as he admitted, well chosen. No candidate would call half the electorate deadbeats. But when Missouri Senate candidate Akin used the unfortunate phrase "legitimate rape" in answering a question about his pro-life stand, the leadership of his own party pulled the rug from under him, despite his immediate clarification and apology.

Akin had a significant lead over his Democratic opponent, incumbent Claire McCaskill, before his own party wrote him off for his bad phrasing.  Now Democrats are having a field day trying to nail Romney for his bad phrasing.

Only 30 percent of Americans, according to a recent Gallup poll, are satisfied with the way things are going in the nation. Our nation, dangerously, and many fear fatally, is losing its way. The greatest concern for all at this critical time should be truth. Not word games. It is fair to say that at this moment Republicans are in a state of disbelief. With things this bad, with Americans this dissatisfied, with a president whose performance has been this dismal, how can this presidential race even be close? Yet it is. It appears that, in the true spirit of Groucho Marx, Barack Obama has said, "Who are you going to believe -- me or your own eyes?" And half the people are choosing him over their own eyes. Barack Obama has charisma. Mitt Romney doesn't. And this poses a great challenge to the Republican candidate. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Muslim Carnage: Appeasement and the Lessons of History

September 21st 2012

Isi Leibler headshot

There is an iron law in history. Appeasing xenophobic movements or totalitarian regimes invariably lead to disaster, encouraging escalating demands to levels which either culminate with surrender or make armed conflict inevitable. Had Chamberlain not continued appeasing the Nazis, we may have avoided World War II or at least been better prepared and substantially reduced casualties. President Reagan, besmirched by liberals as a warmonger, assumed a hardline position against Soviet expansionism which led to the collapse of the Evil Empire. His philosophy, reflected in the following extracts from the 1964 speech (click here to listen) which launched his political career, resonates eerily with our current situation:

“There is no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there is one guaranteed way you can have peace – and you can have it in the next second – surrender.

Every lesson in history tells us that the greatest risk lies in appeasement, and this is the specter our well-meaning liberal friends refuse to face – that the policy of accommodation is appeasement, and it gives no choice between peace and war, only between fight and surrender. If we continue to accommodate, continue to back and retreat, then eventually we have to face the final demand – the ultimatum. And what then?... You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. If nothing in life is worth dying for, when did this begin – just in the face of this enemy? Or should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery under the pharaohs?...

The martyrs of history were not fools, and our honored dead who gave their lives to stop the advance of the Nazis did not die in vain. Where then, is the road to peace? It is a simple answer. You and I have the courage to say to our enemies “there is a price we will not pay”, “there is a point beyond which they must not advance”… We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on Earth, or we will sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness." Read more ..


Palestine and Israel

Who Violated the Oslo Accords?

September 21st 2012

Mahmoud Abbas and Big Bro Arafat

The month of September plays a central role in the Hebrew calendar, roughly correspondending with the holiday month of Tishrei. It also occupies a central place in Israel's collective political experience: On Sept. 13, 1993, the Oslo Accords were signed.

Recently, we learned that chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that "the Palestinian leadership is considering abrogating the Oslo Accords because Israel has sabotaged all peace efforts." The main reason, according to Palestinian Authority leaders, is economic - the financial document signed during those days in Paris that hinged the Palestinian economy to the Israeli economy in certain areas is the root of all the difficulties, and should therefore be nullified.

Why is there a need to abolish the entire agreement over this? Have these accords not already been annulled a number of times in the past? Did the Palestinians ever intend to honor them? After all, did the Oslo Accords alter our lives in the region in any decisive manner? They stipulated that Israel and the PLO mutually recognize each other and prescribed a series of steps to be taken by both sides; essentially they "promised" a new future for both peoples, who live in the same territory, because the PLO under Yasser Arafat's leadership promised to renounce violence. Really? Read more ..


The Obama Edge

As Middle East Policy Crumbles, Obama Defense: It's Not a Revolution, It's a Video

September 21st 2012

Libyan rioters at US consulate Sep 2012 #1

So now we have the answer of the “best and the brightest” expressed in the most explicit terms by American leaders and the mass media. The problem in the Middle East is not mass revolutionary Islamist movements seeking to mobilize the masses, seize state power, expel U.S. influence, overthrow all non-radical regimes, wipe Israel off the map, and transform their own societies through Sharia dictatorships, despite the fact that they have been working on this project for a very long time and discussed it openly in thousands of articles, speeches, rallies, terrorist attacks, and other actions.

Oh, no, the problem is that a guy in California made a video on You-Tube that nobody ever saw. Therefore the main task is to apologize, explain, and keep trying to make friends with the ideologically determined revolutionary Islamists who take each concession as help toward their winning and see every American vacillation as a weakness that urges them toward more aggression. These are people who never lack an excuse to kill you. Read more ..


Media Bias

Does AP stand for 'Associated Propaganda'?

September 20th 2012

Associated Press

Associated Press told the story this way:

"PARIS -- A small package bomb exploded inside a kosher grocery store in a Paris suburb Wednesday, wounding at least one person...The reason for the attack was unclear, but it rattled nerves amid global tensions surrounding a U.S.-produced film insulting to Islam. The French grocery store attack came a few hours after a satirical French weekly published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, prompting anger from French Muslim groups."

So many odd thoughts in so little space, but the oddest thought of all is that something other than anti-Semitism was grounds for an attack on Jews in a Jewish place.

"Global tensions surrounding a U.S.-produced film insulting to Islam." This is, simply, a lie. It has become clear since last week that armed and radical groups had threatened American facilities in Egypt and Libya prior to 11 September. According to Fox News, DHS issued a warning to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo that, "an 'unidentified user' on an Arabic-language forum posted the statement 'inciting Egyptians to target the U.S. Embassy, indicating the U.S. Embassy shouldn't remain in Egypt' until Omar Abdel-Rahman ... is released." Read more ..


Inside Islam

“Islam’s Savior” or Muslim Brotherhood’s Heir?

September 20th 2012

Tariq Ramadan

As the Muslim Brotherhood tightens its grip on Egypt, Western governments are trying to get a handle on this powerful group: Is it a radical jihadist movement or a voice for reform that opposes violence?

Muslim activist Tariq Ramadan is facing those same questions. His family lineage gives Ramadan instant credibility among Islamists. Ramadan’s grandfather, Hassan al-Banna, founded the Brotherhood. His father, Said Ramadan, helped lead the movement in Europe. Tariq has been accused of carrying on that tradition, but in a recent interview, he denied any involvement with the Brotherhood.

“I’m not a member,” he said. “I never was a member, so this is something also which is known.” Still, he praises his forefathers’ work and has said there is “nothing in this heritage” that he rejects. Read more ..


Iran on Edge

Cleric Beaten Up By 'Badly Veiled' Woman

September 20th 2012

Iranian women with mobile
Typical Modern Iranian Women

"I politely [told] her to cover herself up," said Hojatoleslam Ali Beheshti, an Iranian cleric in the city of Shamirzad in Semnan Province, describing a recent encounter with a woman he believed was improperly veiled. "She responded to me by saying: 'You [should] close your eyes.'"

The cleric, who spoke to the semi-official Mehr news agency, said he repeated his warning to the “bad hijab” woman, which is a way of describing women who do not fully observe the Islamic dress code that became compulsory following the 1979 revolution.

"Not only didn’t she cover herself up, but she also insulted me. I asked her not to insult me anymore, but she started shouting and threatening me," Beheshti said. "She pushed me and I fell to the ground on my back. From that point on, I don’t know what happened. I was just feeling the kicks of the woman who was beating me up and insulting me." He said he was hospitalized for three days following the attack.

I’m not a supporter of violence, but as a woman who grew up in Iran and was harassed many times for appearing in public in a way that was deemed un-Islamic, I understand the frustration that woman in Semnan must have felt and why she lashed out at the cleric. Read more ..


America on Edge

Balance between Personal and Government Responsibility

September 19th 2012

Unemployed Claimants

The media is full of commentary about Mitt Romney’s suggestion that people who do not pay income taxes are lacking in personal responsibility.

My view is that personal responsibility matters. In fact, Governor Romney has cited more than once a Brookings study (done with my colleague Ron Haskins). The study shows that if you do just three things: stay in school at least through high school, don’t have a child until you’re married and over 21, and work full-time, your chances of being poor are only 2 percent and your chances of joining the middle class are 74 percent.

We should expect and encourage this kind of behavior. It is necessary but it is not sufficient. The larger society, including government, has a role to play as well. Are children born to irresponsible parents to blame for their lack of opportunity? Are adults who can’t find a job during a recession at fault? Are the seriously disabled or the frail elderly supposed to fend for themselves There was a lot of talk at both the Republican and the Democratic conventions about the American Dream. The difference was that Republicans celebrated the Horatio Algers among us – the Mark Rubios who have pulled themselves up from modest beginnings. Democrats also lauded the upwardly mobile but with a recognition that a Pell Grant to go to a community college or free access to contraceptive services can make a difference. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008 Set to Expire

September 18th 2012

National Security Agency
National Security Agency

Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives reauthorized the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA), which expires at the end of the year. The Senate will take up the measure shortly. James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), and U.S. Attorney General (AG) Eric Holder have informed leaders in Congress that reauthorizing the FAA is “the top legislative priority of the national Intelligence Community,” and national security officials from the previous Administration have testified in favor of reauthorization.

FAA Remedied Defects in FISA
Enacted in 1978, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) created a secret national security court to review wiretap applications for national security investigations conducted in the U.S. that involve foreign powers or their agents. With FISA, Congress recognized the need to distinguish between rigorous judicial review of intelligence surveillance efforts in the U.S. (where the Fourth Amendment applies) and allowing the government to conduct surveillance overseas (where the Fourth Amendment does not apply) without judicial oversight. Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

Fiscal Cliff and the Healthcare Edge

September 17th 2012

medicine and money #2

Newspapers and airways are chock full of warnings about the fiscal cliff the country is getting ready to topple over when scheduled tax increases and spending cuts kick in on January 1, 2013. Standard macroeconomic models, such as those employed by the Congressional Budget Office, predict a contraction in GDP in the first half of 2013 if Congress does not act. But the impact will not be delayed until then. It has started already.

The large and increasing uncertainty about the future of federal fiscal policy is causing the economy to slow even before we reach the edge of the fiscal cliff. Last week's weak jobs report is one broad-based indicator of this trend, but a clearer example of the economic impact of policy uncertainty lies in the health care sector.

Apart from the future effects of health care legislation on health care spending and costs, near-term fiscal policies are stunting the sector. Physician reimbursement in Medicare is scheduled to be cut 27 percent on January 1, 2013, when the current "doc fix" expires. Congress has almost always intervened to avoid these recurring cuts, but the uncertainty still looms, and if Congress does act, other health care providers may be forced to endure cuts to offset the budget impact. Read more ..


Jewish Refugees from Arab Lands

Undermining the Jews of the Arab World

September 17th 2012

Expelled Jews from Arab countries

If you’re looking for an online aggregator of Israel-bashing articles, you could do a great deal worse than visit Open Zion, the website edited by the darling of America’s Jewish far left, Peter Beinart. All the obsessions of today’s anti-Zionists are neatly organized there, in the form of hand-wringing tracts about Rachel Corrie’s death, Israel’s resemblance to apartheid South Africa, and the dangerous refusal of Israel and the United States to acknowledge that Iran’s rulers really are reasonable people.

This week, I spied a new theme. An article by Hussein Ibish, a Senior Fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, caricatured the legitimate claims for justice of those Jews who were expelled from Arab countries as the latest trick on the part of the Israeli government. (Ibish, it should be added, is regarded by many supporters of Israel as a rare voice of sanity among the chorus of increasingly whacky anti-Zionists. However, as his piece on the Jews of the Arab world demonstrates, Ibish is far better at convincing people that he’s an original thinker than he is at original thinking.) Read more ..


The Winter of Arab Rage

The Abandonment and Violation of Christopher Stevens

September 17th 2012

Amb. Christopher Stevens, killed in Libya #1

By obsessing over the 14-minute YouTube Muhammad video and its maker, the mainstream media ultimately exonerates the inexcusable and murderous response of the Islamic world.

There is only one question: did those who make this movie break any law?  No, they did not—and so the matter should end there, and the media should move on.  Focusing on those who did not break any American laws as a way to take the focus off those who murdered and initiated an act of war against the United States is not only misleading; it validates and gives Islamic blasphemy laws precedence over American freedoms.

Worse, even if making movies deemed offensive to Muslims was illegal in the U.S., the fact is, these embassy attacks, which “coincidentally” began on September 11, have nothing to do with the movie.  On September 10, I wrote an article titled “Jihadis Threaten to Burn U.S. Embassy in Cairo.” The demand that the U.S. release its imprisoned jihadis, including the Blind Sheikh, was behind these threats.  There was no mention of  “offensive movies.” My source, El Fagr, an Arabic website, reported all this on September 8. Read more ..


Obama and the Middle East

Obama's Middle East Policy in Perspective

September 16th 2012

Obama

The partisan furor over President Obama's Middle East policy strikes me as misplaced. While there is plenty to debate in foreign policy, and even more to debate on economic matters - which are themselves central to America's future global role - the allegations of supposed Obama apologies do not hold water.

I say this as someone who was dubious about Mr. Obama's big promises during his 2007/2008 campaign. The talk of reconciling with dictators, stemming climate change, making a big dent against global poverty, working towards a nuclear-free world, achieving Middle East peace, and healing the broader breach with the Islamic world was unrealistic and, for me at least, overdone.

In fairness, the big vision did help Obama get elected, and did excite the world at large about his presidency. But that also set up false expectations around the world about what he could really do. And that has led to disappointment, especially in the broader Middle East (in Europe, Obama is still popular; in much of Asia, President Bush was never so unpopular or the U.S. stock so low prior to Obama's inauguration). Throughout the Islamic world, the president's and Obama's standing as measured by public opinion polls is similar to George W. Bush's. That is surely a disappointment. Read more ..


The Economy on Edge

The Fed Doubles Down

September 15th 2012

Federal Reserve

The FOMC statement released Thursday amounts to an extraordinary upgrade in the intensity of the Fed’s effort to ignite higher growth and reduce unemployment.  The new “conditional” approach — call it CA — to monetary policy aims at enabling the Fed to affect real variables like the level of unemployment by pre committing it to further action if goals are not met and pre committing it to maintain a highly accommodative policy stance (zero interest rates and QE) even after the economy starts to improve.

The new approach has been hinted at for years in academic papers presented at the Fed’s annual Jackson Hole Conference and elsewhere. The new approach was forcefully expressed at this year’s conference in a paper presented by Michael Woodford, a former Princeton colleague of Chairman Bernanke, and the September 13 FOMC statement clearly reflects to influence of Woodford’s analysis. See “Methods of Policy Accommodation at the Interest-Rate Lower Bound” presented at the Jackson Hole Symposium August 31-SEptembere1, 2012. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Defense Jobs Already Being Lost to Sequestration

September 14th 2012

F-35 Military Plane

Last week, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget was required by law to report to Congress about how sequestration will be implemented. The late report may be made public today.

In the meantime, the defense industry, which employs over one million Americans, is left to guess just how badly its workers are going to be hit when sequestration takes effect in 2013. And the rumor mill is churning. I’m hearing that the White House budget guidance will be thin and largely lacking in new or substantive details.

If that’s the case, the president’s vagueness will likely be motivated by the same “concern” (read: politics) that led the Department of Labor to issue guidance on the WARN Act layoff notices to industry earlier this summer. Remember, the WARN Act requires defense companies to give 60 days notice to employees they’re planning to lay off. But the Labor Department, which has no jurisdiction over WARN Act notifications, decided it should issue a guidance memo to defense contractors telling them that they really weren’t required by law to notify employees of prospective layoffs… and especially not if those notices were going to go out the week before the election. Of course, it’s the federal courts, not Labor, that adjudicate whether employees’ rights have been violated. Read more ..


Obama and Egypt

Egypt Kicks Sand in Obama's Face; Obama Gives Money, Arms, and Apologies

September 14th 2012

African soccer

Rather than expose the phony excuse for the demonstration and condemn the Egyptian government’s behavior, the U.S. government groveled. It issued statements in English apologizing for the fact that someone had exercised his right of free speech within its country. The tweets it sent out in Arabic were even worse, pitiful pleas of the we-are-on-your-side-against-this-terrible-Islamophobia variety. And will Egypt’s failure to protect the embassy - because it is on the side of America’s enemies - have any effect on the Obama administration’s helping the Egyptian government get two German submarines (against Israel’s efforts), taking $1 billion off Egypt’s debt, and having a nice meeting with the visiting Egyptian president (while refusing to meet Israel’s prime minister, this supposedly super-pro-Israel president)? You know the answer.

This is a policy of institutionalized cowardice unprecedented in U.S. history. Read more ..


The U.S. and Libya

Could Obama Have Prevented the Benghazi Attack?

September 14th 2012

Libyan rioters at US consulate Sep 2012 #1

On September 11, the New York Times chose to run an op-ed attacking President Bush for not preventing the attacks of September 11 charging that Bush had intelligence about Al Qaeda’s intentions that should have led him to act. The same question should now be asked about Obama in the wake of the devastating attack in Benghazi, the brutal murder of a US Ambassador and other Americans. It should especially be asked considering that Obama has been skipping half his intelligence briefings.

The Government Accountability Institute, a new conservative investigative research organization, examined President Obama’s schedule from the day he took office until mid-June 2012, to see how often he attended his Presidential Daily Brief (PDB)—the meeting at which he is briefed on the most critical intelligence threats to the country. During his first 1,225 days in office, Obama attended his PDB 536 times—just 43.8 percent of the time. During 2011 and the first half of 2012, his attendance became even less frequent, falling to just over 38 percent. By contrast, Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush almost never missed his daily intelligence meeting. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Keystone a Key Ingredient Missing from Obama’s Economic Recovery Recipe

September 13th 2012

Keystone Pipeline

President Obama’s State of the Union address laid out his long-term economic recovery plans, which he claims will “work for everyone, not just a wealthy few.” That is, unless it is the pipeline construction business. President Obama’s politically intoned decision to reject TransCanada’s permit application to construct a 1,700-mile pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to Texas refineries last week sent a clear message that special-interest demands are more important than more energy and much-needed job creation.

Despite the Department of State’s (DOS) finding that Keystone XL would pose no significant environmental threat, environmental activists’ relentless opposition persuaded President Obama to deny the permit application. Congress should recognize the findings in the DOS Final Environmental Impact Statement and authorize the application submitted by TransCanada on September 19, 2008. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Is any Party Truly the Party of the Jewish People?

September 13th 2012

Obama -Jewish Meeting 0347 lo-res
Jewish roundtable with President Barack Obama

With the conventions behind us and about 50 days left, the candidates are looking to garner whatever swing voters they can to firm up the election. Not surprising, Florida is a swing state, and appealing to Jewish voters there could prove crucial to an election victory. Yet, even with the Republican Party claiming that it may gain as much as 30 percent of the so-called Jewish vote this year (not much to brag about, really), the majority of voting Jews still seem to migrate to the Democrats. It begs the questions: Why do Jews seem more comfortable within the Democratic Party? What is it about the changing times that have some people fearing a slow migration of Jews toward the right?

I have heard an argument from people who are fairly smart, well studied, and truly committed to the Jewish religion that “the GOP of the last 20 years is evil incarnate. No question about it!” I was shocked that anyone who disavows racism, embraces the doctrine of open-mindedness that is often associated with the liberalism most Democrats champion, could generalize like that about a party of people in a manner they would abhor if it were aimed at other groups of people. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Romney's Uphill Road

September 12th 2012

Ask Mitt

After a long, lovely hiatus, marred only by too little real vacation, it’s an opportune moment to examine just where the race for president stands as we enter the contest’s final weeks. For many months, the commentariat has wisely warned observers to pay no attention to the early polls — I even argued here that too much focus on early polling could lead to a net loss of knowledge about the race. No longer. It’s time to discard that advice and start paying attention.

Why? Because history, albeit an imperfect guide, suggests that polls are starting to have real predictive value. In 13 of the last 15 presidential elections, the leader after the two conventions has gone on to win the popular vote on Election Day. The two remaining cases found the candidates tied after the conventions, with victory going to the candidate who led going into the conventions. Read more ..


Mexico on Edge

Presidential Victory in Mexico: Introduce Critical reforms

September 12th 2012

Enrique Pena Nieto

The Federal Electoral Tribunal confirmed Enrique Peña Nieto as winner of the Mexican presidential elections on August 31. This followed accusations that Peña’s party, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) had bought votes and illegally used campaign funds. While the decision failed to address the question of whether the July 1 election was legitimate and free, the seven justices on the Electoral Tribunal concluded unanimously that there was insufficient evidence to prove fraud. President Felipe Calderon’s Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) party accepted the tribunal’s decision despite its finish in third place. Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador of the leftist Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD) rejected the tribunal’s decision and called upon his followers to protest with a national rally on September 9. An estimated 38,000 people turned out for a peaceful rally in Mexico City, and the following day Lopez Obrador gracefully left the PRD party to reunite with his personal followers in the Movimiento Nacional de Renovacion (MORENA). Read more ..


Healthecare on Edge

The Medicare Distortions

September 11th 2012

Medical bag

In the last three weeks, President Obama and his apologists have been incredulous that the Romney-Ryan campaign would have the audacity to attack them over Medicare. How dare they? That’s what we do, not them!

As my colleague Yuval Levin has already explained, these Democrats don’t seem to realize that Obamacare changed everything. The new health-care law cut Medicare by $716 billion over a decade to partially finance the cost of expanding entitlement benefits for other Americans. Put simply, Medicare was squeezed to grease the way for the president’s main first-term ambition — enactment of a government takeover of American health care. That’s a fact, and it’s one that doesn’t sit well with many voters, especially seniors. Romney and Ryan are helpfully reminding the electorate about this matter, as they should.

Those coming to the president’s aid in this debate — and the usual suspects have certainly stepped up to the plate, including Paul Krugman, Peter Orszag, Laura D’Andrea Tyson, and most recently former president Bill Clinton — have offered up a number of different arguments on the president’s behalf, some based on defending his record, and others aimed at changing the subject to the supposed defects of the Romney-Ryan Medicare reform plan. Read more ..


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 ..



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