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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 ..


Paraguay on Edge

The Lugo Case and its Discontents: A Symptom of Regional Pathology

June 29th 2012

Fernando Lugo

The ouster of Paraguay’s president, Fernando Lugo, after a brief impeachment and the reactions it has generated provide a lot of food for thought. The event that took place in Paraguay disclosed a number of problems that not only concern Paraguay, itself, but the region as a whole.

I am in agreement with all those who claim that the impeachment process by the Paraguayan Senate was too fast and did not allow Lugo the opportunity to properly defend himself in what was supposed to be a fair congressional trial.

It is interesting to note that had Paraguayan democracy been a parliamentary system, the same action would have constituted a vote of non- confidence in the prime minister who would have had to step down immediately. In other words, in a parliamentary system the ouster of Lugo would have constituted a legitimate step. Historically, in countries such as Italy, this case has been the rule rather than the exception. One of the problems in the Latin American presidential system is that presidents historically have had more power than Congress—and have used it and abused it. This is very much in contrast with the American system where presidential powers are more limited. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Iran Declares War Against the Jewish People

June 28th 2012

Alan Dershowitz

The Iranian government, long known for its Holocaust denial and anti-Zionism, has now declared war against the Jewish people.  In a speech delivered in Tehran, Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi accused the Jewish people of spreading illegal drugs around the world, killing Black babies, starting the Bolshevik Revolution and causing many of the world’s other ills.  His “proof”:  “The Islamic Republic of Iran will pay for anyone who can research and find one single Zionist who is an addict.  They do not exist.  This is the proof of their involvement in drugs trade.”

There are, of course, numerous addicts among Jews and Zionists, as there are among all groups.  Israel has several treatment centers for drug addicts as do Jewish communities throughout the world.  He also cited “proof” that the Jews caused the Bolshevik Revolution:  not a single Jew was killed during that Revolution.  Of course, thousands of Jews were murdered during the Bolshevik Revolution as well as during Stalin’s purges in the decades following the establishment of the Soviet Union. Read more ..


Broken Government

As Goes the Supremes' Healthcare Ruling, so Goes President Obama

June 28th 2012

Obama at peace

The Supreme Court’s healthcare ruling on June 28 will deliver a definitive judgment on President Obama’s effectiveness as a leader. If the law is upheld, Obama’s victory — which came after he ignored the counsel of those who argued for a more incremental approach — will be preserved and bolstered. But if the law is struck down or gutted, it will provide ammunition to those who argue Obama’s aloofness and relative lack of experience in Washington policymaking amount to debilitating weaknesses.

Republicans like strategist Ron Bonjean are eagerly hoping the second scenario comes to pass because of its implications for the 2012 election: It would suggest to voters, perhaps more strongly than anything else in his first term as president, that “while he campaigned as an outsider, he did not know how to make the change he promised from the inside,” Bonjean said.

But political scientist Norman Ornstein noted that the reverse was also true. “A victory won’t end the contentiousness” over the specifics of the law, he said, but “it will be a vindication” for Obama’s leadership abilities and style.

These tensions are especially pivotal in Obama’s case because he has long sought to make a political asset out of his lack of connection to Washington culture. His desire to distance himself has often carried a note of visceral disdain.

Even during his 2008 primary battle with then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Obama asserted time after time that long service in the corridors of power did not lead to wisdom, but to a kind of groupthink. Read more ..


The Way We Are

The Entrepreneur’s Ambassador

June 28th 2012

Armstrong_Williams

The Jamaican Ambassador to the United States, Audrey Marks, announced this year that she would step down from her position to return to the business world-a decision that reminded me of what our priorities as free people ought to be.

Here is someone who was the first woman to achieve one of the most important and most coveted diplomatic positions in her country; she chose to leave her position not because anything was wrong with it or unsatisfying, but because she wanted to return to her other successful life as an entrepreneur. She is a well-respected mother; a woman of immense integrity, character, keen intellect, class, and grace—all qualities of a natural diplomat. But I had to ask: why stop doing something that you’re so good at?

It reminded me of what we conservatives believe at a foundational level: while public service is noble, it is equally noble to pursue success in the private sector because everyone benefits from good products, good service, and increased productivity. It reminded me that the diplomacy is the servant of government, and that government is the servant of free people.

She’s got the right priorities, and always has. The respect and admiration among her colleagues in the diplomatic and entrepreneurial community is unprecedented.

Audrey Marks became Jamaica’s tenth Ambassador to the United States in May 2010. Her background is entirely in business, as she holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica, and Nova University. She went on to found Paymaster Limited, a multi-transaction company. The company has spawned others, and served millions of people around the world. Read more ..


Mexico on Edge

Mexico's Nascent Youth Movement Forges Ahead during Election Year

June 27th 2012

Mexican students

The impact of a social movement can often be gauged not only by the societal reception it gets, but also by the reaction it engenders. And Mexico’s “ I am 132 Movement” is no exception.

Born only several weeks ago as a Mexico City protest of private university students against the media imposition of presidential candidate Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and Green Party (PVEM) electoral alliance, the movement has since spread to large cities and small towns across the country. In the Pacific coast tourist town of Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, an estimated 250 young people and their supporters took to the streets earlier this month to demonstrate against Pena Nieto and to call for the democratization of an electronic media dominated by two networks, Televisa and TV Azteca.

“This was the first march that was done by young people in the history of the municipality,” Alondra Garcia, 132 organizer, told Frontera NorteSur. Acknowledging that members of anti-Pena political parties participated in the action, Garcia nonetheless rejected charges by Pena’s PRI party that the 132 Movement is a front for rival candidates, especially the Progressive Movement’s Andres Lopez Obrador. Read more ..


The Race for Natural Gas

An Expanded Natural Gas Focus Is No-Brainer

June 27th 2012

Fracking gas well

I was going to write this week about the post-Supreme Court landscape on health care policy, but the court’s schedule took that one off the table. I thought about covering the farm bill saga or the transportation bill debacle or the showdown over student loan rates or even the court’s decision on union dues that took a narrowly drawn case and had a five-vote majority trample precedent to establish its own political preferences.

But I decided to write about energy, motivated in part by a Floyd Norris column last week in The New York Times about the compelling reasons to have a major program promoting natural gas vehicles. We have abundant natural gas, which is far cleaner than oil and could provide a better balance over the long term than electric vehicles. But there is no infrastructure to support natural gas cars and trucks in a major way. Norris makes the case for a federal program to help create that infrastructure, which means things such as natural gas stations along highways. Read more ..


The Economic Edge

A New Measure of Consumption Inequality

June 26th 2012

Unemployed Claimants

In recent times, the debate surrounding middle-class welfare has tended to focus on the issue of income inequality. In a popular 2006 paper, economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez use tax return data from the Internal Revenue Service to suggest that income inequality has widened significantly over the period 1913 to 2010. Another frequently cited statistic is that in 2010, approximately half of all reported income went to the top 10 percent of earners.

We argue in this paper that income data are not the best measure of overall welfare. What matters for household well-being is consumption, since households are better able to smooth consumption rather than income over their lifetime. To that end, we use two alternative sources of data to assess changes in consumption inequality. Our first source, the Consumer Expenditure (CEX) Survey, shows aggregated changes in consumption expenditures for households at all levels of the income distribution. Using these data, we find that consumption inequality has increased only marginally since the 1980s. Read more ..


Broken Government

Plot Theory Full of Holes

June 26th 2012

Darrell Issa and Eric Holder

Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), along with the National Rifle Association, Rush Limbaugh and others, are trying to save Americans from an evil plot. Forget the economy. They believe the administration’s “Fast and Furious” gun-tracking program was used to flood Mexico with guns from America, foment violence and create political pressure to re-instate the assault weapons ban and weaken Second Amendment rights.

Over the weekend, Issa reaffirmed that belief on ABC’s “This Week” but admitted there is no evidence of such a plot or a White House cover-up of Fast and Furious. Back in April, Issa suggested the lack of evidence is the “smoking gun,” saying in an interview: “Could it be that what they really were thinking of was in fact to use this walking of guns in order to promote an assault weapons ban? Many think so. And [the administration] hasn’t come up with an explanation that would cause any of us not to agree.” Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Staying Out of Syria

June 25th 2012

Homs Ablaze June 8 2012

Here are the questions on Syria: what is the American obligation? What is the American interest? What is the American capability?

There is no obligation. Where there is a treaty, the United States has an obligation to spend American blood and treasure. The seriousness of the commitment is why Congress has to ratify a president's desire to create new ones. "Responsibility to Protect" (R2P) doesn't exist. It was created as a stick with which to beat people into using the military for non-strategic purposes and used to justify the president's desire to join the French and the British in/over Libya without engaging in a discussion of war powers or treaty obligations. It worked, but the attempt to pursue American obligations based on the emotional tug of potential victims has failed in the face of more than 12,000 actual dead people.

It surely is in the U.S.'s interest to discomfit Iran, Hezb'allah, and Russia. Overthrowing Assad would do that, but continued fighting does it as well. No country in the region wants to be Russia's friend as heterodox Shiite Alawite Assad kills Sunni children. Iran and Turkey have fallen out over it. Iran may not get along with a replacement Syrian government, but the current one isn't much of an ally, either. Hezb'allah fears the next war with Israel because it won't be able to resupply overland and because Syria won't be the threat behind the curtain. Hezb'allah fears the seepage of sectarian fighting into Lebanon as well. Read more ..


The Economy on Edge

Beyond H-1B: Other Avenues to Adding Skilled Workers

June 25th 2012

Students

Last Thursday, presidential candidate Mitt Romney announced his new “softened” immigration plan, and called for lifting the cap on visas for high-skilled temporary workers. This year, the H-1B high-skilled worker visa cap was reached within two months after the application period opened. Changing those limits would require an act of Congress--unlikely in the current political environment.

With gridlock in Washington acting as a constant barrier to comprehensive change, a piecemeal approach to reform has already entered the conversation--and it may hold promise. President Obama recently issued a directive to halt deportation of young immigrants brought to the United States illegally—a small step toward the goals of the much more extensive DREAM act.

So, can something similar be done for high-skilled immigration? One route is to simply adjust Optional Practical Training (OPT)--a program that allows foreign students holding F-1 visas to work for a limited period of time while waiting to receive temporary worker visas. This program was originally designed to provide relief for foreign students with pending H-1B visa petitions by allowing 12 months of work authorization while they wait.

In 2008, when the H-1B cap was reached within one day after the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began accepting applications, President Bush extended F-1 visas an additional 17 months for foreign students who graduated with bachelors, masters, or doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.  Earlier this month, President Obama recently maintained Bush’s 29 month OPT term limit for STEM fields and increased the number of fields eligible for extension. Read more ..


The Afganistan War

Exiting Afghanistan: A Regional Approach

June 24th 2012

Brit with Afghani Soldier

Now that the dust has settled on the Chicago Summit, it might be time to see what truly emerged from all the noise and celebration about the cooperation among NATO allies and with Afghanistan. One issue got lost in that hoopla: Afghanistan’s regional context.

As NATO troops come home, a diplomatic strategy for the region must be put into place. It isn’t a stable Afghanistan that is key to generating regional stability and prosperity — rather, the opposite is true: if the region cooperates to maintain wider stability, then Afghanistan stands a better chance of becoming stable and prosperous.

Interestingly, even the Chinese seem to have understood this issue. According to a Reuters report out of the recent Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit, President Hu Jintao told the official People’s Daily, “We will continue to manage regional affairs by ourselves, guarding against shocks from turbulence outside the region, and will play a bigger role in Afghanistan’s peaceful reconstruction.” He added: “We’ll strengthen communication, coordination and cooperation in dealing with major international and regional issues.” Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

GOP Kingmakers Make Their Case for Romney's Best 2012 Running Mate

June 23rd 2012

Marco Rubio

Mitt Romney has kept his cards close to the vest about who he'll pick for his presidential running mate — but that hasn't stopped a number of Republican kingmakers from saying who they think Romney should pick.

A number have mentioned Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) as their top choice. Others mentioned at least once include GOP Sens. Rob Portman (Ohio) and Rand Paul (Ky.), Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R).No one touted former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), who has loyally worked for Romney since his own campaign ended and is said to be in the running. Here's a list of some top Republican movers and shakers — and who they want to see as Romney's vice presidential pick. Read more ..


Broken Government

Pessimism Growing on Deal to Avert Deep Cuts to Pentagon Spending

June 23rd 2012

Pentagon aerial shot

Lawmakers are struggling to head off $500 billion in automatic defense cuts before the end of the year despite a shared desire in both parties to reverse them.

Key senators on defense issues are beginning to press for action now on sequestration and have started meeting in small groups to try and find some way to cancel, delay or otherwise avoid the reductions to the Pentagon budget. But the two sides have yet to find much common ground on alternative cuts to federal spending, or even on the proper size and cost of the military itself.

The failure of the supercommittee last year set in motion the $1 trillion in automatic cuts to defense and non-defense spending. At the time, the consensus was that the two sides would likely come together on an agreement to change the policy in the lame-duck session after the election. But some lawmakers are growing pessimistic about the chances for addressing the issue this Congress. House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), who has a bill to delay sequestration for one year, told reporters Thursday that the idea of a lame-duck deal was always far-fetched. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Shielding Privileged Executives from Consequences of Their Actions

June 22nd 2012

Eric holder

So President Obama has now asserted executive privilege in the congressional investigation of “Operation Fast and Furious.” Executive privilege is an important constitutional power that protects the office of the president from legislative encroachment. It is essential to the separation of powers — but it is not carte blanche for presidential secrecy. A president must have a legitimate reason to assert executive privilege; it cannot be used for the purpose of hiding wrongdoing by administration officials, especially to block a contempt citation.

Fast and Furious was a “felony stupid” law-enforcement operation that wound up putting thousands of weapons into the hands of dangerous criminals and major drug cartels. It continued until January 2011, when two weapons that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) had allowed across the Mexican border were found at the murder scene of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry. As testimony from several ATF whistleblowers showed, letting weapons “walk” was against all ATF rules and procedures— the Justice Department drums into all prosecutors the rule that you never let guns or drugs get away from you in any undercover operation.  Read more ..


Judaism on Edge

A Fanaticism that will only Lead to Peril

June 22nd 2012

Haredi Violence

Is it just me or is there indeed more discord within the Jewish community than in recent times?  Jews proclaim with fervor "Kol Yisrael arevim zeh la-zeh” that every Jewish soul is responsible for every other.  Yet it seems as if there are more internal challenges now than in recent memory: bitter rivalries that could make instances of persecution by gentiles seem as mere playground brawls. It is hard to imagine that anyone really believes peace and harmony for Israel and Jews worldwide is possible while they violently disagree with one another more than they do with any other people - even the Palestinians.

You need only to look at the huge wasted opportunity and money spent on the so called Asifa (gathering), to enact an Internet ban for religious Jews.  The effort that cost more than $2 million and brought ultra orthodox Jewish men together, mostly by coercion, to hear unscripted and uncoordinated messages about why the Internet was evil.  Rather than demand that people take personal responsibility for one’s actions, the weak leadership would just turn off progress and the future to preserve their failed policies of poor education, abject naivety and searing control that dictates marital prospects, communal acceptance and even much needed financial support.  

Curiously enough, as the Hebrew and Arabic language share common roots, the late Palestinian terrorist leader Yasser Arafat used a similar name for his Palestinian political and military organization in 1958 called Al-Asifa (The Gathering).  In the 1960s and 1970s, it trained terrorist and insurgent groups and began a jihadist movement that has only grown, splintered and become even more global, fanatical and deadly. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

President Obama, Interrupted

June 21st 2012

Armstrong_Williams

President Obama’s latest refusal to execute the laws is granting de facto amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants under the age of thirty. Every American, no matter their race, should be furious at him for this.

It comes at a time of a level of long-term unemployment for legal Americans under thirty never before seen. The Obama generation—Gen 44—has paid the heaviest price of all for Obama’s policies. They are the ones who cannot find jobs right now, who are delaying the most important moments of their lives—weddings, mortgages, children—because of a crushing decline in income and household worth, and, worst of all, who will “never get out until [they] pay the last penny.”

Any businessman will tell you that when you borrow, ultimately, you are borrowing from yourself. When you save, you pay your future self. When a country does it, one generation takes from another. The young have gained absolutely nothing from the Obama presidency, but they have already paid five trillion dollars to their elders, whether or not they know it.

Obama’s amnesty decree also comes after four years of taking the black vote for granted. The president again panders to yet another group. Black Americans, and in particular young blacks, have the highest unemployment rates of any group in the country. And now the president wants to allow young illegal immigrants to openly break the law, and also receive the largesse of affirmative action that they never fought or suffered for. It’s another in a long line of insults to their community, after having promised so much as a candidate. Read more ..



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