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Healthcare on Edge

The End of Welfare Reform As We Know It

July 21st 2012

Work training

The Obama Administration made yet another end run around Congress last week—this time, to gut the successful welfare reform law of 1996. If this is allowed to stand, it will mean rewinding years of progress that lifted millions out of poverty.

Before the 1996 reform, welfare was a one-way handout: Government mailed checks to recipients who did nothing in return. The new program the reform law established, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), changed all that. It required able-bodied welfare recipients to work, prepare for work, or at least look for work as a condition of receiving aid. Welfare reform turned “welfare” into “workfare.”

At the time, liberals denounced the new law and predicted dire consequences for America’s needy. They said the reform would do “serious injury to American children” and “substantially increase poverty and destitution.” There was “absolutely no evidence that this radical idea has even the slightest chance of success,” they said, crying that “No piece of legislation in U.S. history has increased the severity of poverty so sharply.” Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

Obama Pans the Private Equity that Will Save Our Lives

July 21st 2012

Obamacare Protest

Today, most patients needing long-term dialysis no longer get it in hospitals but go to less costly, more convenient outpatient clinics. Routine problems like hernias are fixed in outpatient surgery offices; while complex issues like cancer are handled in specialized centers with expertise to better manage these problems, at lower cost.

These and other innovations in delivering medical care, from the advent of outpatient rehabilitation to creation of the first HMO, were pioneered in the last few decades through a common origin: they were incubated in start-ups that were headed by entrepreneurs and backed by venture capital.

Advances in the way that health care services are delivered, most now taken for granted, arose the same way as progress in other spheres of commerce -- as a result of innovators who risked capital in search of profits. These new ideas are essential if we're going to solve our long-term fiscal woes by increasing productivity in the healthcare sector to get more medical care for each dollar we spend. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

What Comes After Assad in Syria?

July 20th 2012

President Bashir al-Assad of Syria

The fighting and bombings in Damascus suggest the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is finally coming to an end. It will likely be ugly and dangerous. Some kind of international peacekeeping force is probably going to be needed, perhaps sooner rather than later.

The brutal and violent civil war between Assad loyalists and the rebels has served to inflame bitter sectarian tensions in Syria. Many Sunnis hated the long dominant Alawite minority and its Christian supporters before the conflict began in March 2011. After all, Bashar’s father, Hafez al-Assad, killed up to 20,000 Sunnis in Hama in February 1982. It was an appalling mass slaughter. The legacy of Hama terrified Syrians for 30 years. After the many massacres of the last year, the Sunni desire for revenge has only become stronger.

So, paradoxically, one of the priorities of the international community after Assad falls will be to protect the Alawite community and its allies from vengeance. Most live along the mountainous coast bordering the Mediterranean Sea, and they may try to set up a ministate there, an Alawi fortress to protect themselves. Read more ..


Books on Edge

Memo to DOJ: Drop the Apple E-Books Suit

July 20th 2012

E-book readers

Recently the Department of Justice filed suit against Apple and major publishers, alleging that they colluded to raise prices in the digital books market. While the claim sounds plausible on its face, the suit could wipe out the publishing industry as we know it, making it much harder for young authors to get published.

The suit will restore Amazon to the dominant position atop the e-books market it occupied for years before competition arrived in the form of Apple. If that happens, consumers will be forced to accept whatever prices Amazon sets.

All of us will lose the vibrant resources a diverse publishing universe provides. As Scott Turow, president of the Author's Guild, has explained, the Justice Department's suit is "grim news for everyone who cherishes a rich literary culture." These losses will be particularly felt in New York, which is home not only to many publishers, but also to a burgeoning digital innovation industry. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Republicans Slam Obama on Syria After Defeat of UN Resolution

July 19th 2012

Bombing Hits Syria March 18 2012

Republican lawmakers renewed their criticism of President Obama's handling of the crisis in Syria after a U.S.-backed sanctions resolution failed again at the United Nations.

Thursday's vote was the third time that Russia and China had vetoed sanctions against President Bashar Assad's government since a revolt against his regime erupted 17 months ago. Senate hawks have been pushing the Obama administration to arm the rebels or take other unilateral measures to stop the bloodshed and replace Assad.

“And the President watches the massacre continue...,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Forces Committee, said in a tweet. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who is viewed as a contender to be Mitt Romney's running mate, also expressed his disapproval. “UN Security Council vote on Syria shows that the need for US leadership is more urgent than ever,” he wrote in a tweet. “Now is not the time to lead from behind.” Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Romney's Taxes: Tell it Early, Tell it All, Tell it Yourself

July 19th 2012

Ask Mitt

Yes, Gov. Romney — that subtitle to my memoir concerning the rules we learned the hard way at the Clinton White House in 1996-98 about getting the truth out yourself proactively, even if it is a bad-news story, applies to you and the issue of your tax returns.

Yes, Gov. Romney — that subtitle to my memoir concerning the rules we learned the hard way at the Clinton White House in 1996-98 about getting the truth out yourself proactively, even if it is a bad-news story, applies to you and the issue of your tax returns.

It applies to everyone facing bad news — in business, politics and life. The only exception is if putting the facts out can land you in jail. In that case, I recommend forgetting about crisis management rules and relying on the advice of a good criminal lawyer. If you stay where you are, you are defying history — in both parties. As my favorite source of truth, Glenn Kessler, pointed out in his Monday “Fact-Checker” column for the Washington Post, virtually every other presidential candidate in both parties going back to FDR released many years of tax returns when they ran for president against the incumbent. Why wouldn’t you too? Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Labor Department: Disappointing 'Green Jobs' Creation

July 18th 2012

Solyndra HQ 02

The U.S. Department of Labor promised Americans it would train close to 125,000 Americans for new "green jobs," but less than half that number actually received any training. Of those, about 8,000 were placed in jobs, yet only 1,300 workers had jobs lasting more than six months, according to the Obama Labor Department's own internal study that's been all but ignored during the current election cycle.

The Solyndra scandal ignited a firestorm on Capitol Hill among congressional leaders who chastised President Barack Obama for responding to an economic recession with a failed “green energy subsidy experiment.” But the firestorm seems to have been extinguished by Democrat Party operatives and their allies who've infiltrated the news media in order to prop up a failed president, claims a political strategist and attorney, Michael S. Baker. Read more ..


America on Edge

Bring Back the American Dream? It’s Not That Hard.

July 18th 2012

Graduates

Restoring opportunity in the United States is not terribly complicated. It will require an activist government and individual responsibility. That means a strong focus on job creation right now, combined with efforts to reduce debt, improve education, and strengthen families over the longer-run.

Success on these fronts is undermined not by a lack of knowledge about what to do, but by partisan arguments that ignore the kind of common-sense consensus that might otherwise prevail.

An update of my earlier work on economic mobility in the US, coauthored with Julia Isaacs and Ron Haskins and recently released by the Pew Charitable Trusts, confirms that there is less economic mobility in America than many believe, especially at the top and bottom of the distribution of income and wealth. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Sodomy "For the Sake of Islam"

July 17th 2012

Hamas head

As a possibly convenient way of rationalizing what one desires while still being able to feel "pure," anything and everything that is otherwise banned becomes permissible. All that supposedly matters is one's intention, or niyya. --

Not only did the original "underwear bomber" Abdullah Hassan al-Asiri hide explosives in his rectum to assassinate Saudi Prince Muhammad bin Nayef—they met in 2009 after the 22-year-old holy warrior "feigned repentance for his jihadi views"—but al-Asiri apparently had fellow jihadis repeatedly sodomize him to "widen" his anus in order to accommodate the explosives— all in accordance with the fatwas [religious edicts] of Islamic clerics.

A 2010 Arabic news video that is making the rounds on the Internet gives the details. Apparently a cleric, one Abu al-Dema al-Qasab, informed jihadis of an "innovative and unprecedented way to execute martyrdom operations: place explosive capsules in your anus. However, to undertake this jihadi approach you must agree to be sodomized for a while to widen your anus so it can hold the explosives." Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

Why Insurers Want ObamaCare’s Medicaid Business

July 17th 2012

obamacare

The House of Representatives voted for the 33rd time last week to repeal ObamaCare, and for the 33rd time it was an exercise in futility. The Senate will ignore the House vote and allow the reform law to move forward, just as the Supreme Court did last month.

House members are well aware of all that, so the vote was all for show. And GOP leaders have no intention of repealing the Affordable Care Act because their friends in the health insurance industry are counting on major provisions of the law going forward, especially the expansion of Medicaid. Don’t be fooled by Republican governors like Florida’s Rick Scott and Texas’s Rick Perry, who are saying they’ll opt out of the Medicaid expansion now that the Supreme Court says that’s allowable. When the Feds start doling out billions in 2014 to bring an additional 16 million Americans into the Medicaid program, they’ll be on board. Trust me.

Want proof that Big Insurance has figured out how to make a lot of money off reform? WellPoint announced on July 9 that it will pay nearly $5 billion to buy the country’s largest private Medicaid managed care company, AmeriGroup. Rest assured that lobbyists for WellPoint and other firms wanting to get their hands on that new Medicaid money will have a “here’s how it has to be” talk with their buddies on Capitol Hill. Read more ..


Middle East on Edge

Israel is in Good Shape Because So Many Others Decided Not to Be

July 17th 2012

Israel Airport

The more I think about Israel’s security situation at this moment, the better it looks. Obviously, this is counter-intuitive given the media bias, academic distortions, and campaigns for sanctions of various kinds. And, of course, Israel starts from a basis of facing far more security challenges than any other modern state. Still, by Israeli standards, the outlook is good.

On the surface, the “Arab Spring” along with the surge of revolutionary Islamism certainly looks bad but let’s examine the shorter-term implications. By reentering a period of instability and continuing conflict within each country, the Arabic-speaking world is committing a self-induced setback. Internal battles will disrupt Arab armies and economies, reducing their ability to fight against Israel. Indeed, nothing could be more likely to handicap development than Islamist policies.

While one shouldn’t depend too much on expecting Arab regimes to be too busy dealing with domestic transformation to want to stage foreign adventures against Israel, this is far more true than in past decades. And even if they would like to attack Israel they are less able to do so effectively given their disrupted societies, weakened armies, uncertain alliances, and lack of Western sponsorship. Read more ..


Education on Edge

Like Charter Schools, Britain's Academies Aim High

July 17th 2012

British public school

Seventeen seventy-six is a number with great resonance for Americans, but you wouldn’t expect it to be featured on a British-government website. But there it is, on the home page of the United Kingdom’s Department of Education: “As of 1 April 2012, there are 1,776 academies open in England.”

“Academies,” as you might expect, means something different in Britain than in the United States. They are, approximately, what we would call charter schools. And there are 1,776 of them largely because of the energy and determination of British education secretary Michael Gove.

Britain, like America, has gotten pretty dismal results for years from its public schools — “state schools,” in their terminology. (British “public schools” are expensive boarding schools; they include Eton, which produced David Cameron and twelve other prime ministers, and Fettes, its Scottish equivalent, which graduated former prime minister Tony Blair.) Read more ..


The Gender Edge

Whiny Women Unite

July 17th 2012

Rosie riveter

Gender politics suck. First, we get the whiny litany from Anne-Marie Slaughter about how this 50-speech-a-year, former policy planning director, Princeton dean and mom can’t have it all. Thanks Anne-Marie. Who has it all? Then we get this tripe from some Progressive Policy Institute woman who’s grumpy there aren’t more women at think tanks. Even at the “venerable” Brookings Institution, she moans, there aren’t too many women; but (duh) “right-wing think tanks” are the “worst offenders.” We “look like the membership of Augusta National.” Oh please. I won’t speak for Heritage, but at AEI, we don’t give a damn what your gender or your color is; we don’t care how you put on your pants in the morning, whether you wear a skirt, or if you once played French horn in a Barcelona band. (OK, that’s unacceptable.)"We care about the work people do, the quality of the product, the difference we can make in Washington and for the nation."

We care about the work people do, the quality of the product, the difference we can make in Washington and for the nation. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Will U.S. Suffer Tragic Consequences with Iran?

July 16th 2012

Strait of Homurz1
Strait of Hormuz

Whenever faced with a rogue nation, the United States more often than not bends to the will of the United Nations or other entity that favors economic sanctions. This holds true for the current Administration of President Barack Obama as evidenced this week when he gave American and foreign companies waivers so they might continue their business relationships with Iran. With the recent three-day testing of missiles by the Iranian military, the world has been put on notice that this Islamofascist nation will continue to be the fly in the ointment for world peace.

The United States National Security Strategy recently acknowledged that the U.S. faces challenges from Iran, including Iran's proliferation efforts and involvement in international terrorism including Iranian intelligence officers in South America and its proxy army Hezbollah in the Western Hemisphere. To address these concerns, the United States employs a range of tools, including diplomatic pressure, a military presence in the Gulf, and economic sanctions. Read more ..


Islam in the Americas

Sweet Deals for China and Pan-Islamism South of the Rio Grande

July 15th 2012

Raul Castro and Hu Jintao
Raul Castro and Hu Jintao

A real sweet deal last week featuring interest-free loans between China and Cuba is redoubling the influence of president Hu Jintao in Latin America and the Caribbean. While little talked about here, Chinese news agencies were reporting widely on their government’s fawning over Cuban president Raul Castro, in his first official visit to China to meet Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao.

In Beijing, China agreed to support Cuba’s development of technology and health services and Hu also called for more cooperation in trade, energy and biotechnology and promised to open a zero percent interest line of credit to support Cuban agriculture. Trade between China and Cuba has grown from $590 million in 2004 to $1.8 billion in 2010, making China now Cuba’s biggest trading partner after Venezuela.

With Beijing showing Iran-friendly Cuba as its regional face card, the China-Cuba alliance could disrupt the space where Israel and China operate their sensitive military and high tech channels, which are always a bone of contention with Washington. From Mexico southward, the adoption of Cuba by China also complicates relations between Tel Aviv and South American nations who host large Jewish populations and officially support nuclear cooperation with Tehran and Havana under the aegis of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Read more ..


Latin America on Edge

Bringing an End to Banana Republics and their Banana Oil

July 15th 2012

BAnanas and guns

Central America, Ecuador, and Colombia supply the majority of the bananas to the United States. The region’s banana industry features an oligopic market dominated by three U.S.-owned multinational corporations, Chiquita (formerly United Fruit Company), Dole (formerly Standard Fruit Company), and Del Monte. From their massive plantations spread throughout Latin America, this “Wild Bunch” controls 65 percent of the world’s banana exports. The companies’ large size and ability to produce bananas very cheaply have allowed them to dominate the world market. Unfortunately, small-scale Latin American banana producers and plantation workers bear the cost of these low prices.

History: Bananas in Latin America

The Portuguese introduced bananas to the Western Hemisphere in the 1500s and began cultivating them in Brazil. Bananas existed in relative obscurity until the 1880s, when Jules Verne published a detailed description of the fruit in “Around the World in Eighty Days,” sparking an insatiable demand in North America and Europe. The Boston Fruit Company (later United Fruit Company), aided by its “Great White Fleet,” was the first corporation to export bananas cultivated in Latin America around the world, and held a complete monopoly of the market until the establishment of Standard Fruit Company in 1924. Both companies were notorious for vertical integration and often maintained production monopolies in their geographic zones of cultivation. Read more ..


Israel and America

Has Israel been Frozen Out by Obama?

July 15th 2012

Obama and Israel

Top security experts in Israel are worried about the Obama Administration’s attitude to radical Muslim governments in the region and by Obama’s willingness to freeze Israel out of two recent high-level counter-terror conferences.

Israel broke the back of Arab suicide terror attacks in 2002, reducing them to near zero, but the US did not invite Israel to a counter-terror conference in Turkey last month, nor to a similar parley in Madrid last week, apparently to placate the Islamist government of Turkey, which has itself supported the Hamas terror group in Gaza. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Fast and Furious, Middle East Style?

July 15th 2012

Bombing in Syria Mar 2012

Here’s still another of a series of self-serving leaks from the Obama Administration. In this case, however, different from the half-dozen previous examples, it reveals something very important about policy. Call it, “Fast and Furious, Middle East Style.”

In the Fast and Furious operation, the U.S. government funneled weapons to Mexican drug gangs. Now it is funneling weapons to anti-American, antisemitic, radical forces in Syria. That is, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. I am certainly not saying all the arms are going to that movement’s cadre and units they control. Yet what we know gives us ample reason to believe that it is the biggest beneficiary.

Suppose that there was one Mexican drug gang that was a bit more brutal. Would Fast and Furious then have been a great idea because it left that one out of the weapons’ distribution? No.

Yet that is precisely what is happening in Syria. Read closely the New York Times article on this matter because it reflects the precise information leaked by “American officials and Arab intelligence officers.” Read more ..


Warped Priorities

Kudos To Nike For Dumping Penn State Following Its Crisis PR Debacle

July 14th 2012

Penn State Nike

Nike rightfully removed Joe Paterno’s name from the child-care center named after him at their corporate headquarters, and Cars.com and Sherwin-Williams also dumped their sponsorship of Penn State.  Decent people everywhere should stand up and demand that many more follow Penn State.

Early Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky said “Silence is Despicable”, and as Penn State was silent, the  crisis PR situation which Penn State faces is about as bad as it gets. Penn State University leaders knowingly covered up the crimes and disgusting deeds of former football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, the child molester.  Administrators, including Joe Paterno were complicit in the silence.

The report says that the powers that be at Penn State did what they did "to avoid the consequences of bad publicity." Allow kids to be molested and avoid media? Penn State's values can’t be any clearer than that. Penn State needs to remove the Joe Paterno statue immediately and send the message that they won’t honor people who are aware of child molesters and do nothing about it - regardless of what they do in sports. They should also suspend the football program for a few years - focus on other matters instead of sports. There's plenty of education needed at this supposed “school of higher learning.” Read more ..


America on Edge

No Dissent

July 14th 2012

Armstrong_Williams

How foolish does the media look after weeks of demagoguery, now that the Court has issued two huge victories for the Left in one week? Leftists, you will recall, made outrageous accusations against the Supreme Court-the institution that, since the 1950s, more than any other, has forced godless nihilism upon our country, and then, following stare decisis, reinforced it—before they even heard these latest cases. Left-wingers like Ezra Klein accused the Court of politicking for Republicans to get them elected; President Obama—a constitutional law professor, as we’ve been reminded a zillion times in the past five years—called striking down a statute “passed with a strong majority” (read: party-line vote passed on reconciliation) “unprecedented.”

Even after a major victory for the statists, centralizers such as the New Yorker, E.J. Dionne, the Atlantic, and others made ad hominem attacks on Senior Associate Justice Scalia. His crime? Mentioning the executive branch’s decision not to enforce immigration laws in the context of a case about the executive branch not enforcing immigration laws. How dare he! Even when you lose, you’re not safe if you disagree with leftists.

The thing we conservatives hoped for was to strike down the decision on the terms on which it was offered: as an extension of the commerce clause. But that would have provided little legal bulwark against future government depredations, and would have given untold momentum to President Obama’s reelection; there would’ve been no end of unsubstantiated, heated, over-the-top rhetoric about “judicial activism” and “conservative battering rams.” What Roberts did was, ultimately, much more powerful and—dare I say it—much more conservative: Read more ..


Middle East on Edge

Does Power Really Moderate Radicals?

July 14th 2012

Behead those who say islam is violent

Julius Caesar:
Let me have men about me that are fat; Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o’ nights:
Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.

Marc Antony:
Fear him not, Caesar; he’s not dangerous; He is a noble Roman and well given.

– William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

Caesar, of course, was right in being suspicious and Marc Antony was wrong. Result: Caesar murdered; civil war; tens of thousands killed; Marc Antony dead. Makes you think. Or at least it should.

An interesting and important question about the Middle East (and one can treat it on a global level, too) is whether being in power or running in an election inevitably moderates those who are radicals. It is automatically accepted by many people that this is so. Yet an examination of evidence shows such behavior more rare than common.

Let’s begin by pointing out that some of the problem is the unthinking transference of things that might be true in private and personal life into the political sphere. As individuals mature and have experience, they often become more moderate. And there are many cases of individual politicians “selling out” and abandoning more militant ideas to become corrupt. Yet neither case necessarily applies to systems, movements, or ideologies.

Even more questionable is the view that the difficulties of having to make decisions in government forces leaders to become more responsible. For example, they learn that money is not unlimited and therefore priorities must be set. Supposedly, they say to themselves: Hey, collecting the garbage and fixing the potholes is what’s important, forget about all this silly stuff about fundamentally transforming society, imposing the Sharia, destroying Israel, or chasing America out of the Middle East. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Why Romney Isn't Trusted

July 13th 2012

mitt romney

The demand is growing for Mitt Romney to disclose the 23 still-secret tax returns he turned over to the McCain campaign in 2008. Don’t worry. If the unpleasant details aren’t released by Romney soon, they will almost certainly be bannered as “breaking news” by a leading newspaper or television network, sourced from “well-placed Republicans” who supported McCain in 2008.

The Romney campaign raises profound questions for voters and the media. Voters do not like or trust Mitt Romney. Political commentators should thoughtfully consider why. The presidency is the most important job in the world. Commentators should question whether Romney’s career suggests that he possesses the qualifications of political integrity, compassion for all Americans, and decisiveness of command to be president and commander in chief.

Jon Huntsman called him the well-lubricated weathervane. Rick Perry, among others, has called him a vulture. More than one senior figure in his party has accused him of lying. Several GOP primary opponents said he cheated in dirty campaign ads. A growing list of Republicans have called on him to disclose his tax returns. Primary opponents warned he could be hiding harmful truths therein. His own staff called him the Etch A Sketch candidate. These are serious charges. They come from Republicans.
Read more ..


The New Egypt

Calls Begin to Destroy Egypt’s Great Pyramids

July 12th 2012

Pyramids

According to several reports in the Arabic media, prominent Muslim clerics have begun to call for the demolition of Egypt’s Great Pyramids—or, in the words of Saudi Sheikh Ali bin Said al-Rabi‘i, those “symbols of paganism,” which Egypt’s Salafi party has long planned to cover with wax. Most recently, Bahrain’s “Sheikh of Sunni Sheikhs” and President of National Unity, Abd al-Latif al-Mahmoud, called on Egypt’s new president, Muhammad Morsi, to “destroy the Pyramids and accomplish what the Sahabi Amr bin al-As could not.”

This is a reference to the Muslim Prophet Muhammad’s companion, Amr bin al-As and his Arabian tribesmen, who invaded and conquered Egypt circa 641. Under al-As and subsequent Muslim rule, many Egyptian antiquities were destroyed as relics of infidelity. While most Western academics argue otherwise, according to early Muslim writers, the great Library of Alexandria itself—deemed a repository of pagan knowledge contradicting the Koran—was destroyed under bin al-As’s reign and in compliance with Caliph Omar’s command. However, while book-burning was an easy activity in the seventh century, destroying the mountain-like pyramids and their guardian Sphinx was not—even if Egypt’s Medieval Mamluk rulers “de-nosed” the latter during target practice (though popular legend still attributes it to a Westerner, Napoleon). Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Using Intelligence and Military Means to Bolster Diplomacy with Iran

July 12th 2012

Israeli Jet Diving

With the latest round of nuclear diplomacy ending inconclusively last week, the United States and the EU are poised to impose a new round of sanctions on Iran. Given Tehran's large cash and gold reserves and still-substantial oil income, however, sanctions alone may not make the regime more flexible in negotiations. To bolster diplomacy, and thereby diminish the prospects of military confrontation, the United States must intensify intelligence operations and use the military instrument in ways it has not been willing to thus far.

Since taking office, the Obama administration has been extremely reticent to employ the military instrument in dealing with Tehran, largely to avoid undermining nuclear diplomacy or sparking an unintended conflict. To its credit, the administration has built up the military capabilities of U.S. allies in the region, filled gaps in U.S. defenses in the Persian Gulf, and defined red lines regarding the use of force. Yet these steps do not seem to have altered Tehran's threat calculus. If diplomacy is to succeed, the United States must do just that. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Vocal Antisemite and former Obama Local Campaign Manager Seeks Missouri State Office

July 12th 2012

PBObama contemplative

A Democratic Party caucus chairman and former Barack Obama campaign manager, MD Rabbi Alam, is not only running for secretary of state in Missouri, he is also an unabashed 9/11 Truther who believes that no Jews were killed during the al Qaeda attacks on the United States in 2001. “Why [was] 9/11 was a official holidy [sic] for all jewish [sic] people worked in the the [sic] WTC? Was 9/11 a conspiracy??” Alam wrote on a discussion forum online. “Tell me how many of the Jewish people died on the 9/11 tragedy?” he added.

The Free Beacon, a daily internet publication that interviewed the candidate at length, confronted Alam with State Department statistics showing that between 200 and 400 Jews, in addition to five Israelis, were killed on September 11. Alum questioned the validity of the numbers and stuck to his own beliefs.

But what is more startling, political strategists point out, is how someone with Alam’s views was able to climb the ranks of the Democratic Party so quickly. Alam, who also served in the U.S. military, is chairman of the National Democratic Party Asian American Caucus (NDPAAC) and he worked as a “satellite campaign manager” on the 2008 campaign that elected President Obama to office. And less than a year ago he received an invitation to the White House as a thank you. Alam also has known ties to radical Muslim clerics with extreme anti-Israel views. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Perils and Pitfalls of Ad Testing

July 11th 2012

Obama Campaign 2012

Over the next 113 days, lots of campaigns will be looking at lots of ads — nearly $10 billion worth, according to some estimates — trying to decide which are effective and which aren’t, which are worth airing and which shouldn’t be broadcast. The evidence suggests they will often be wrong, especially if they rely on instinct or focus-group testing.

A recent experiment demonstrates again that neither professionals nor the public (who constitute focus groups) can predict which ads will work and which won’t. Researchers from the Universities of Michigan and Oregon, as well as UCLA, asked members of the target population to rate the effectiveness of three anti-smoking ad campaigns. The semi-focus group consistently ranked ad campaign “B” as far and away the most effective, “C” as least effective, with A in between. Industry experts (akin to campaign consultants) ranked B and C as more effective than A. Read more ..


Kenya on Edge

Financing for a Fairer, More Prosperous Kenya

July 11th 2012

Kenya Poverty

Most governments around the world would declare their adherence to the principles of fairness and equity. But how should principles inform practical policies for allocating public spending? That question was at the heart of a two-day seminar held last week in Naivasha, Kenya.

Organised jointly by the Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of State for Development of Northern Kenya and other Arid lands, and the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA), and facilitated by the United Nation’s Millennium Campaign, the Naivasha seminar, Financing for a Fairer, Prosperous Kenya, addressed an ongoing public debate prompted by the adoption of a new constitution in 2010. The outcome of that debate will have profound consequences for poverty reduction in Kenya – and the issues raised have a resonance far beyond Kenya’s borders.

Adopted in 2010, the Kenyan constitution is a remarkable document. It shifts the locus of political authority away from what has been a highly centralized state toward 47 devolved counties. It enshrines far-reaching provisions on social and economic rights, including a new bill of rights. And it includes an injunction requiring all layers of government to apply the principle of “equitable sharing” to public spending, with an emphasis on “the need for affirmative action in respect of disadvantaged groups and areas.”

There are compelling grounds for policymakers in Kenya to prioritize greater equity. Wealth disparities are marked. The Gini co-efficient for wealth distribution is 0.44, which is higher than in neighboring countries like Ethiopia and Tanzania. Economic growth has been skewed toward urban centers and a narrow band of commercial farming areas, with the World Bank estimating that 80 percent of economic activity is generated in just half of the new counties. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Obama's $1 Billion Campaign War Chest a Media Pipedream?

July 10th 2012

Obama and Flag

Last year, a number of news outlets heralded the prediction that in his re-election bid in 2012 President Barack Obama's campaign would raise "an unprecedented" $1 billion in campaign contributions, but in the month of June the Obama re-election team was beaten for the second month in a row by Republican challenger Mitt Romney's team in the race for garnering campaign cash.

On Monday, Obama's re-election campaign claimed it raised a whopping $71 million in June. However, the Romney campaign brought in $106 million, in large part due to the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the unpopular Affordable Care Act, known to Americans as Obamacare.

While June's $71 million is touted as being the best fundraising month for Obama and the Democratic National Committee, Mitt Romney's fundraising is said to be astounding considering in May he also beat Obama in the race for cash by hauling in $77 million to Obama and the DNC's $60 million. Read more ..


Broken Government

Crack! Crumble. Capitol Needs Fixing

July 9th 2012

capitol building night #2

In December 1863, at the end of the bloodiest year the nation had ever seen, a different kind of struggle was ending in the nation’s capital. There, despite the grim march of war just miles away and the temptation to put every available resource into the war effort, the Statue of Freedom was hoisted atop the 8 million-pound cast-iron Capitol dome. It is said that President Lincoln drew inspiration from watching the dome rise, seeing in it a metaphor for a union that would not perish from the earth.

For a century and a half, the Capitol and its dome have served as a symbol of American democracy around the world, one of the most instantly recognizable structures on the planet, and as a stately backdrop to inaugurations, celebrations and state funerals. In a 2007 survey by the American Institute of Architects, the public ranked it as their sixth favorite piece of architecture in America.

Yet the dome is showing its age; cracks and leaks have formed, risking not only the beauty and integrity of the structure, but the safety and well-being of the thousands of people who work in and visit the Capitol every day. These problems will not go away by themselves. As Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers testified before the House Appropriations Committee last February, “The longer Capitol renewal projects are delayed, the conditions in these facilities will continue to deteriorate; deficiencies will grow more and more serious, and ultimately more costly to repair.” That is why the House’s recent approval of a legislative branch appropriations bill that blocks funding for dome repairs is so troubling. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Romney at the NAACP

July 8th 2012

mitt romney

It’s an awkward time for former Gov. Mitt Romney to address the NAACP — whether it’s because of the “complicated” relationship between the African-American community and the Republican Party, or the voter ID laws implemented across our country by Republican-led legislatures and governors that will disenfranchise millions of minority voters in the 2012 election, or even the audience that, while polite, is also likely skeptical of Republican policy ideas in light of the disappointment of “No Child Left Behind” that followed former President George W. Bush’s soaring rhetoric about the “soft bigotry of low expectations” and fears about the impact of the GOP-backed budget by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan (R) that could have devastating effects on communities of color.

Still, Romney walks into the room with a unique opportunity, steeped in his family’s credibility and the increasing diversity of the Mormon Church, to connect with the audience. Read more ..


After the Holocaust

Jewish Organizations and Others Must Stop Interfering With Holocaust Survivors’ Rights

July 7th 2012

Concentration Camp Survivor

The JTA recently published an op-ed by Menachem Rosensaft which gratuitously offers an “alternative” to the legislation that Holocaust survivors and children and grandchildren of survivors are seeking in Congress.  The bills Rosensaft patronizingly calls “well-intentioned” are necessary to restore our rights to go to U.S. courts to recover insurance policies sold by Allianz, Generali, AXA, and other global insurers to our parents and grandparents which the companies dishonored after the Holocaust.

We don’t know who Mr. Rosensaft claims to represent in making this suggestion, but it most certainly is not speaking for Holocaust survivors or the families of Holocaust victims.   We can speak and act for ourselves, and we demand the right to do so. This is something that over 100 members of Congress, on a bi-partisan basis, who are co-sponsoring HR 890 and S. 466, understand.

Let’s remember what this problem is all about. Insurance policies—private contracts that our parents and grandparents paid for with the sweat of their brows. Contracts that the companies charged and accepted money in exchange for the promise to pay our parents and grandparents if something happened, and needless to say our families did lose everything.  Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

Translating the Insurance Industry's Feel-Good Rhetoric

July 6th 2012

medicine and money #2

Health insurers avoided their worst case scenario last week — the prospect of the Supreme Court striking down the individual mandate but letting the rest of the health care law, especially profit-threatening consumer protections, go forward. Now the industry can focus on a goal it has had all along: getting rid of those pesky consumer protections.

That goal was clear to me from the reaction statement issued by America’s Health Insurance Plans. The statement was jam-packed with feel-good phrases like “secure and affordable,” “peace of mind,” and “choice and competition.” Allow me to provide an interpretation of what AHIP, the industry’s biggest PR and lobbying group, was really saying and really planning. After twenty years as an industry PR guy, I’m all too familiar with prose written to obscure intentions.

Sentence by sentence, here’s what AHIP’s communications people crafted as soon as they realized the industry would not have to go nuclear to wipe out ObamaCare — that instead, it could conduct a stealth ground war to get rid of everything in the law that might threaten profits. Read more ..


Palestine on Edge

Yasir Arafat is Still Dead: Can we Relax?

July 5th 2012

Yasir Arafat tomb

Yasir Arafat is still dead. True, he was once alive. I sat across from him in his Gaza office, for example. And he even had a copy of my history of the PLO on his bookshelf so he must have been of sound mind at the time. It’s not my fault. I told him to start jogging and cut down on sweets. But he didn’t listen. On November 4, 2004, he died, a fate he previously delivered to thousands of far more innocent people.

The effort now by various Palestinian factions to imply Israel killed him is the funniest thing in the Middle East since the U.S. director of national intelligence’s congressional briefing when he said the Muslim Brotherhood was a secular democratic organization. What’s dismaying is how much play Western media are giving this charge as if it should be taken seriously. When the West behaves in this way it signals at the least a dangerously naive credulousness and at worst a profound anti-Jewish and anti-Israel complex. The New York Times and Washington Post take this nonsense seriously. Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

Roberts Acted to Preserve the Legitimacy of the Supreme Court

July 4th 2012

Justice Roberts
John Roberts

I'm not going to pretend that I know exactly why Chief Justice John Roberts left the four other Republican appointees on the Supreme Court and joined the four Democratic appointees to uphold the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act -- after all, after seventy-five years, we still don't know exactly why Chief Justice Charles Evan Hughes broke with the four implacably conservative members of his Court and, bringing Owen Roberts with him, joined three liberal justices to uphold landmark New Deal legislation. Still, I would be very surprised if (John) Roberts was not moved by the same concern for legitimacy of the institution over which he and Hughes have presided. Although he could not bring Justices Alito, Kennedy, Scalia or Thomas with him, he nonetheless avoided what Jeffrey Rosen of the George Washington University Law School called on Thursday’s Diane Rehm Show “the kind of partisan, polarized, five-to-four, Republicans-versus-Democrats” outcome that was the great “fear of many people who care about the bipartisan legitimacy of the Court.”

Roberts, no less than Hughes, has had a life “spent in work conditioned upon respect for the courts.” He clerked for two eminent federal judges, Henry Friendly and William Rehnquist, he worked in the Solicitor General’s office; he became one of the leading Supreme Court advocates of his generation while at the law firm of Hogan & Hartson, and he served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. While his nomination as Associate Justice was pending, Rehnquist died, and President George W. Bush named him to succeed his judicial mentor as Chief Justice. After his confirmation, Roberts told Rosen, in an interview published in The Atlantic, that in times of great political division, “[t]here ought to be some sense of some stability, if the government is not going to polarize completely. It’s a high priority to keep any kind of partisan divide out of the judiciary as well.”

Read more ..

Obama and Israel

Obama Administration Stabs Israel in the Back

July 4th 2012

Obama AIPAC

The Founders in their wisdom divided the powers of government; some to the Executive, some to the Legislative. The power of the purse went to Congress; diplomacy to the Executive.

How that shakes out matters to the U.S. and our democratic allies.

The democracy of Israel, for example, had a good week with Congress. The Senate adopted, by unanimous consent (and 69 sponsors), a bill increasing coordination in the fields of missile defense, homeland security, energy, intelligence and cyber-security. It also called for enhancing Israel's qualitative military edge (QME), a difficult-to-measure state of affairs, but a concept that friends of Israel appreciate. The House already passed its version of the same legislation.

The practicality of the bill is striking: do things, share things, develop things, produce things, and protect things. These are security enhancements that can only be done with an ally. Congress wants to do them with Israel. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Congressional Black Caucus Makes Wrong Call

July 3rd 2012

Eric holder

When the House voted Thursday to find Attorney General Eric Holder in criminal contempt of Congress, members of the Congressional Black Caucus walked out.

Why is the Black Caucus trying to make this about race? It's about Holder's refusal to turn over Justice Department documents requested by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in its investigation of the "Fast and Furious" operation.

Fast and Furious was a "gun-walking" operation conducted by the department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. ATF would allow known smugglers to purchase arms from dealers in Arizona, intending to trace them to their destination with operatives in drug cartels in Mexico.

Before the vote, the Black Caucus' chairman, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., appeared on CNN calling the House contempt vote "silly and detrimental to one human being." On MSNBC's "Politics Nation," he told host Rev. Al Sharpton, "This is partisanship at its most base level." Sure, it's an election year. And if you had to stretch to appreciate the complaint against Holder being made by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House committee doing the investigation, you might buy Cleaver's claim that this was just Republican political grandstanding.

But you don't have to stretch to appreciate the case against Holder. It seems pretty clear that Fast and Furious was a botched operation. The ATF lost track of some 2,000 weapons that disappeared into the hands of criminals in Mexico. In December 2010, weapons traced to this operation were found on smugglers who murdered U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry. Others were tied to the murder of at least 200 Mexican citizens. Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

Access to AIDS Testing

July 2nd 2012

HIV/AIDS

As the Supreme Court upheld ObamaCare last week, the AIDS Memorial Quilt returned to Washington, D.C., for the first time in 16 years, and a new study from the D.C. Department of Health showed that African-Americans — consistent with national trends — are more likely to be infected with HIV/AIDS, with rates of heterosexual African-American women in D.C.’s poorest neighborhoods nearly doubling in two years, while an estimated 20 to 30 percent of the District’s HIV-positive population are unaware they are infected.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates there are 1.2 million people living with AIDS in the United States, and that one five don’t know they are positive. While 56,000 Americans are infected with HIV every year, nearly half of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses are in the southern states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee; the South leads the nation in the number of people living with and dying from AIDS. Read more ..


Inside America

Reclaiming Beaches for the People on the Fourth of July

July 1st 2012

Click to select Image

During these dog days of summer, millions of Americans will flock to the nation’s shores for comfort and relief. Who will go, where they will go, and who they can expect to find there speaks volumes about class in America. Now more so than ever, the distribution of people on America’s beaches each summer mirrors those bar graphs that illustrate the distribution of wealth in the nation as a whole. Long stretches of shore are the exclusive dominion of America’s super rich. A substantial segment is fenced off for the enjoyment of a shrinking upper middle class who can still afford to go on vacations or own second homes. What little remains is for the rest of us; and of that, a dwindling amount could be considered safe for bathing.

My neighborhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for instance, hugs the western shore of Lake Michigan. Yet few of my mostly white, well-to-do neighbors can be found bathing or picnicking on this urban shoreline (voted for the second year in a row as one of the nation’s most polluted). Those of us who can afford to will rent a cottage along a secluded, sometimes privately owned, beach, or stay in an expensive seaside hotel in one of America’s vacation destinations, where the price of admission includes exclusive access to a spacious, well-manicured beach. Meanwhile, our neighborhood beach plays host to the city’s working poor, mostly black and Hispanic, who come despite the occasional water quality alert, and despite the sorely neglected state of the beach itself, another victim of our city’s struggle to maintain basic public services in our age of austerity. Read more ..


Heathcare on Edge

Health Care Ruling Is Less Liberal Than It Looks

June 29th 2012

Justice Roberts

Democrats celebrated the Supreme Court decision upholding President Obama’s health care law. Commentators focused on the surprising support by Chief Justice John Roberts for the individual mandate and the victory for Democrats.

But beneath the surface, the ruling is less liberal than it looks. Two provisions limit the scope of the law’s impact. First, the Medicaid ruling limits the power of the federal government to encourage states to extend medical care. This gives states the authority to resist national efforts to expand health insurance coverage for the uninsured. With the dire fiscal straits of many states, many places will be unlikely to extend coverage and the result will be fewer uninsured will receive coverage than was expected when the legislation passed.

Second, although Chief Justice Roberts supported the constitutionality of the individual mandate, his opinion limited the ability of the federal government to regulate interstate commerce through tactics other than taxes. This part of the decision will restrict the ability of future Congresses to regulate commerce.

As with many policy decisions, the ultimate assessment of the court’s decision is in the details. Liberals should applaud the overall decision, but fear how the ruling with affect health care implementation.   Read more ..


Inside Mexico

In Mexico's Presidential Debates, New Perspective Yield Same Electoral Results

June 29th 2012

Mexican students

The Mexican presidential elections on July 1 appear to be a fait accompli for front-runner Enrique Peña Nieto of The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), who currently enjoys a 15 percent lead in the polls. However, beneath the illusion of a smooth return to the party’s traditional position lie the significant political actions of the student-led Yosoy132 movement. Peña Nieto currently leads well ahead of Josefina Vazquez Mota, a head of the ruling National Action Party (PAN), Andrés Manuel López Obrador or AMLO (The Party of the Democratic Revolution) and Gabriel Quadri de la Torre (The New Alliance Party).

According to the Consulta Mitofsky polling firm, only one third of Mexican voters appear to be interested in the political debates, reflecting wide spread disillusionment with the Mexico’s political situation. The political efforts of Yosoy132 have the potential to reverse this political apathy. A little over a month ago, 132 students started the Yosoy132 movement in Mexico City in an effort to promote the democratization of media and communication channels, thus nurturing a thoughtful and informed vote. National networks did not plan to broadcast the debates until Yosoy132 protested the lack of coverage. Read more ..



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