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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 ..


Broken Government

Defeat of Healthcare Law Would Further Erode Voters’ Trust in Supreme Court

June 21st 2012

Juan Williams 02

Every political strategist working the fall elections sees a game changer coming by the end of the month. That’s when the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of President Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act.

The Democrats have a nuclear option in this political game if the high court throws out the healthcare law as unconstitutional. That blowup-the-system button, not pushed since FDR’s attempt to stack the court with Democrats during the New Deal, is for Obama to use the bully pulpit of the White House, and the national stage of a presidential campaign, to launch a bitter attack on the current court as a corrupt tool of the Republican right wing. It is a move that could energize Democrats and independents even as Republicans celebrate a major legal victory.

Some Democrats, sensing a political windfall, can’t wait to start the offensive.

Nebraska’s Sen. Ben Nelson, a retiring Democrat, sent out a news release last week condemning the “activist Supreme Court,” for potentially dismantling the healthcare law. The senator said without the new law, health insurance premiums will be “skyrocketing,” and endanger “healthcare for more than 100,000 Nebraska kids with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma or diabetes.” That protest comes from a conservative Democrat who held back his vote for the bill until the White House awarded his state a special Medicaid deal. The deal was rescinded—but not before the GOP memorably labeled it an attempted bribe, “The Cornhusker Kickback.”

Now even Nelson is climbing the political ramparts on the side of the Democrats. Read more ..


Education on the Edge

What Businesses Can Do—Beyond Corporate Philanthropy—to Support Global Education

June 21st 2012

school kids

The B-20, the private sector forum that feeds into to the G-20, has been quite active in developing thematic task forces and recommendations for government and business to contribute to global economic growth and social development. However, in the final set of top-line policy requests for the G-20, there is no serious inclusion of investments in education and learning to advance economic growth and social development. Given that quality education is a core component for sustained economic growth, I am surprised by the “light touch” attention it receives in the B-20’s recommendations.

Maybe businesses did not give these recommendations to the G-20 because they have a lot of work to do themselves. While evidence last year showed that corporate social investments and philanthropic contributions to education in developing countries are relatively small, short-term, uncoordinated and not directed to address the needs of the most marginalized, many companies are working to improve the effectiveness of these activities. Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

UnitedHealth Group’s Misleading Promises

June 21st 2012

Pills

Several years ago, when I was still a health insurance company PR guy, I was accused by a furious CNBC producer of withholding important information when I cajoled her into having my CEO on “Squawk Box” to talk about some new initiative we were rolling out. “You played us like a Stradivarius!” she screamed at me when she realized that while my CEO was fielding softball questions from her show’s host, our chief financial officer was signing off on a disclosure the company was obligated by the SEC to make by the close of business. Because the news we had to announce was so bad it would have a “material effect on earnings” (translation: cost shareholders a bundle), the big bosses ordered us to wait until after the New York Stock Exchange closed at 4:00pm—and many hours after the Squawk Box interview—to release it. They wanted to postpone the trauma it would cause the company.

Sure enough, when the markets opened the next morning, the company’s stock price began a long slide. The CEO was quoted in the bad-news news release about how the company was taking steps to make sure nothing like that would ever happen again, a statement written for him by the company’s lawyers and PR people, but he was nowhere near a TV camera. Every time he was asked for an interview, we “declined” to make him available. We were not about to make him answer what we referred to as “rude” questions from a reporter.

That episode came to mind as I read story after story in the mainstream media last week about the decision by UnitedHealth Group to “honor” some of the provisions of ObamaCare even if the Supreme Court declares the law unconstitutional. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Nonprofits Outspent Super PACs in 2010, Trend May Continue

June 20th 2012

Bundles of Money

While super PACs were cast as the big, bad wolves during the last election, the groups were outspent by “social welfare” organizations by a 3-2 margin, a trend that may continue amid reports that major donors are giving tens of millions of dollars to the secretive nonprofit groups.

A joint investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and the Center for Responsive Politics has found that more than 100 nonprofits organized under section 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code spent roughly $95 million on political expenditures in the 2010 election compared with $65 million by super PACs.

Nearly 90 percent of the spending by these nonprofits — more than $84 million — came from groups that never publicly disclosed their funders, the joint analysis of Federal Election Commission data found. Another $8 million came from groups that only partially revealed their donors. Unlike the nonprofits, super PACs are required to release the names of their contributors.

In terms of party allegiance, conservative “social welfare” groups outspent liberal groups $78 million to $16 million, nearly 5-to-1, according to the analysis. So far in the 2012 election cycle, super PACs have far outspent nonprofits, thanks mainly to candidate-specific committees that were active during the GOP primaries. Super PACs have spent more than $120 million compared to about $9 million by 501(c)(4)s. But with clearly defined candidates for both the White House and in most congressional races, nonprofits are expected to become more active.  Read more ..


The Obama Edge

A Nation of Paper and Not of Men

June 19th 2012

Latinos vote obama

In continuing the dramatic shift from American constitutional democracy to rule by executive fiat that has marked his tenure, President Barack Obama now claims that the illegal aliens, to whom he purports to grant what effectively is amnesty, are "Americans ... in every single way but one - on paper." That is false. They are not Americans under the only thing that matters, the thing the Obama administration has chanted like a mantra - while riding roughshod over - since its very first day in power: the rule of law.

The Constitution and congressional statutes are written on parchment. That is the only relevance of "paper" in this equation - as the "hard copy" of our social contract and of the laws enacted pursuant to it. Under the Constitution, Congress, not the president, is endowed with such a power: "To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization."

Congress exercises this power by passing laws. Under the Constitution, which Obama took an oath to preserve, protect, and defend, and under the laws it is his duty to execute faithfully, illegal aliens - no matter how sympathetic their plight, no matter how blameless they may be for the illegality of their status - are not citizens of the United States. They are not Americans. Period. It is not "paper" that separates them from our body politic, it is the law, of which Obama is supposed to be servant, not master - as I argued in this September 2011 essay for The New Criterion: "The Ruler of Law - On ‘Justice' in the Age of Obama." Read more ..


Broken Borders

More Than Just "Administrative Relief" for the Immigration Dreamers

June 18th 2012

statue of liberty

Last week, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced big news: Effective immediately, eligible undocumented youth are granted deferred action from deportation (a form of administrative relief).

This important and sensible step by the Obama administration provides immigrants under the age of 30 who have been in the United States for at least five years and are currently enrolled or have graduated from high school or have been honorably discharged from the U.S. military and do not have a felony or misdemeanor the right to live and work in the United States.  This change in policy is similar to the proposed Dream Act that would have offered legal status and a path to citizenship for the same population that was blocked by Congress in 2010.

With no hope at the end of the term for congressional action on immigration reform, this action is being lauded by immigrant advocates and supporters.   For the most part, these youth were brought to the United States as young children by their parents and have grown up and been educated in U.S. communities.  By their own accounts, they feel very American, and many have few ties to their country of birth. Read more ..


Greece on Edge

Greeks Avoid Triggering Immediate Disaster

June 18th 2012

PARTHENON

Europe dodged a bullet yesterday, as Greek voters narrowly resisted the temptation to elect a government committed to ripping up the agreement with Europe which provides funding for much of their budget. Instead, New Democracy, the center-right party, should be able to form a coalition government with a narrow majority, with the participation of the other traditionally dominant Greek party, the socialist party PASOK. (It is a sign of how far they have fallen that the two parties gained only a bit over 40% of the vote when, for years, they garnered about three-quarters.)

Greeks are torn between several profound but conflicting feelings. On the one hand, they hate the austerity measures contained in the agreement with the “troika” of institutions that provide the bailout funding. They also are very disappointed in the two traditionally dominant parties that got them into this mess and remain quite flawed. These factors pushed many voters to go with Syriza, a coalition of left-wing parties led by the charismatic Alexis Tsipras. Syriza promised to force sharp changes in the agreement with the troika. Read more ..


Broken Government

GOP Using Leaks as ‘Distraction’ from Important Issues

June 17th 2012

Barack Obama in Thought

A senior White House adviser called continued discussions of the recent national security leaks “distractions” Sunday. “An investigation’s been announced,” Obama adviser David Plouffe said on Fox News Sunday.

"Let that investigation proceed, rather than turning into this in a some game of distraction, because what we really need to focus on here is we have to fight against al Qaeda, we have to continue the progress we made," he added. "We also have to turn our attention as forcefully as we can to the economy and creating jobs." Plouffe accused Republicans of using the incident to publicly damage the president and said the public should focus on important issues such as the economy and allow the investigation to unfold.
He assured the cooperation of the White House, saying “everyone is going to participate,” but declined to comment how the president would specifically respond to investigators. Plouffe emphasized that “the president wants this investigation to be as thorough as possible.” Read more ..


Broken Economy

How Taxmageddon Will Impact You

June 17th 2012

One Million Dollars

“I’ve said that this is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and I believe it,” President Obama told an Ohio crowd yesterday. Indeed it is—because in a sluggish economy, American taxpayers are about to be clobbered by the largest tax increase in history.

Starting January 1, 2013, Americans will face a $494 billion tax increase, the highest ever in one year. According to The Washington Post, congressional aides started calling it “Taxmageddon”—a chilling reference fit for an apocalyptic nightmare. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has warned that it will be a “massive fiscal cliff” for the economy.

How will this affect you? Heritage has a new Taxmageddon page that shows the impact of these tax hikes on individuals. It includes an interactive map where you can click on your state to see what the average tax increase will be, based on the average income of taxpayers in your state. Read more ..


Jewish Refugees from Arab Lands

Remembering the Expulsion of 860,00 Jewish from Arab Lands

June 16th 2012

Click to select Image

On June 17, 2012, Iraqi Jews will commemorate the 71st anniversary of the Farhud – the riots that took place on Shavuot in 1941. In the riots, reminiscent of Kristallnacht in Germany, 137 Jews (180 or more according to some sources), men, women and children, were murdered, hundreds more wounded and much Jewish property looted. The memory of the riots remains fresh in the minds of Iraqi Jews. This year’s ceremony will be held in the Babylonian Jewry Center in Or Yehuda and will be attended by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.

The attacks occurred without provocation. The Jews, who had lived in Arab lands for thousands of years, did not declare war on their hosts. They never fought against them, as the Arabs in mandatory Palestine fought against the Jewish settlements and afterwards against the nascent Jewish State of Israel. The world has heard a great deal about the injustice visited upon the Palestinians, under the code name Nakba, or “catastrophe,” but knows almost nothing about the crimes committed against Jews in Arab lands. What happened in these countries was in effect ethnic cleansing. Read more ..


Honduras on Edge

What Will it Take to Reform the Corrupt Police Force in Honduras?

June 16th 2012

Honduras police firing line

In a highly controversial move, the newly minted chief of Honduras’ national police force, Juan Carlos Bonilla Valladares, has announced that 4,000 police officers will be discharged from the force in an attempt to purge it of the endemic corruption and impunity that has plagued the country. This decision follows last week’s swearing-in of Bonilla, commonly known as ‘El Tigre,’ and last month’s firing of Ricardo Ramirez del Cid due to allegations linking him to the killing of Alfredo Villatoro. Reports claim that police were involved in the murder of Villatoro, a close confidant of President Porfirio Lobo.

These recent sordid events have two main implications. Bonilla has had his own issues with corruption and impunity, which should cast immediate doubt on the integrity of the purge. More immediately, the loss of a large quantity of police officers in Honduras may have devastating consequences for the security of Hondurans.

President Lobo has received some praise for this appointment. Long-time critic of Honduras’ human rights record Ramon Custodio has said that Bonilla’s appointment sends the right message about the president’s commitment to fighting crime. The new chief has been given a formidable amount of power, as demonstrated by the dismissal of the 4,000 officers, as well as his ability to dismiss any member of the national police who refuses to undergo a background check. Read more ..


Education on Edge

Sad News for Global Education and the Millennium Development Goals

June 16th 2012

Girls School in Sudan

The UNESCO Institute for Statistics and the Global Monitoring Report recently released new numbers for out of school children. According to the data, 61 million children of primary school age were not in school in 2010. At first glance, this seems like an improvement over the 67 million kids reported out of school in 2009. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

If you take a look at the footnotes, you find that UNESCO used new UN Population Division data to calculate the number of out-of-school children.  Using the new calculations, UNESCO had previously revised the 2009 statistic down to 61 million. While we should be outraged that we are only able to analyze education statistics that are two years out-of-date, we should be more outraged about what this says about our commitment to education: it is stagnating and declining. Read more ..


America on Edge

Richard Nixon's Biggest Crime Was not Watergate

June 15th 2012

Richard Nixon in History
 Anna Chennault, Richard Nixon, Nguyen Van Thieu (l-r)

On the thousands of hours of White House tapes Richard Nixon secretly recorded, you can hear him order exactly one burglary. It wasn’t Watergate, but it reveals the real root of the cover-up that toppled a President.

On June 17, 1971, (one year to the date before the Watergate arrests, by impure coincidence) Nixon ordered his inner circle to break into the Brookings Institution. “Blow the safe and get it,” the president said. “It” was a file of secret government documents on the 1968 bombing halt.

“What good will it do you, the bombing halt file?” asked National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger seconds after the president ordered his top aides to commit a felony.

“To blackmail him,” Nixon replied. President Lyndon Johnson had halted the bombing of North Vietnam less than a week before Election Day. Nixon claimed LBJ did it for political reasons, to throw the election to his vice president, Hubert Humphrey.

Kissinger knew better, since he had inside information about the talks. Having worked on an abortive bombing halt deal for Johnson in 1967, Kissinger used his connections with LBJ’s negotiators then to gain access to the Paris talks in 1968 -- access he used as a secret informant to the Nixon campaign.

“You remember, I used to give you information about it at the time,” Kissinger reminded the president. “To the best of my knowledge, there was never any conversation in which they said we’ll hold it until the end of October. I wasn’t in on the discussions here. I just saw the instructions to [Ambassador Averell] Harriman,” the chief U.S. negotiator in Paris. (Kissinger’s words on tape contradict his later claim that he didn’t even have access to classified information at the time.) Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Auto Bailout Was Really Just a UAW Bailout

June 14th 2012

Obama pensive with flag

President Obama told the United Auto Workers (UAW) in February not to listen to critics of the auto bailout who said union members “made out like bandits—that saving the auto industry was just about paying back the unions.” “Really?” Obama said. “I mean, even by the standards of this town [Washington], that’s a load of you-know-what.” New research from Heritage labor economist James Sherk proves that it was, in fact, a load of truth.

The Treasury Department estimates that taxpayers will lose $23 billion on the auto bailout. Sherk and co-author Todd Zywicki find that none of these losses came from saving jobs, but instead went to prop up the compensation of some of the most highly paid workers in America. "We estimate that the Administration redistributed $26.5 billion more to the UAW than it would have received had it been treated as it usually would in bankruptcy proceedings. Taxpayers lost between $20 billion and $23 billion on the auto programs. Thus, the entire loss to the taxpayers from the auto bailout comes from the funds diverted to the UAW." They write. Read more ..

Broken Government

Obama Snubbed Me, says McCain

June 14th 2012

John McCain

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said this week that President Obama never made a sincere effort to reach out to him after the 2008 election. McCain was once seen as a potential ally of Obama. But far from becoming a partner — as the left hoped for and the right feared — McCain has turned into one of Obama’s thorniest adversaries.

“Let’s get real here,” McCain said. “There was never any outreach from President Obama or anyone in his administration to me.” McCain disputes the notion that he has rejected entreaties to cooperate with the White House because he is bitter from his defeat four years ago. He said he expressed eagerness to work with the president on immigration reform and the line-item veto, but has been left out in the cold.

McCain, the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, also said Obama failed to consult with him on national-security issues. “He never asked for advice on national-security nominees,” McCain said. Some Republicans thought the Arizona Republican would emerge as a bipartisan dealmaker who could help Obama achieve his goal of bringing Democrats and Republicans together to address major policy problems. Read more ..


Broken Government

Compromise Only as Good as the Purpose, Result

June 14th 2012

Obama and Flag

Compromise has always been a holy word for the Washington establishment. But against the backdrop of ever-increasing anxiety over our fiscal dysfunction, most particularly the next budget showdown, the word has taken on a tone of anger, desperation and even panic.
But in all its usages these days, "compromise" remains a word for bludgeoning Republicans. "Congress isn't just stalemated, it's broken, experts say," proclaims the typical headline, this one in The Miami Herald. And the experts say it's all the Republicans' fault.
"The challenge we have right now is that we have on one side, a party that will brook no compromise," President Obama explained at the Associated Press Luncheon in April. The Republicans' "radical vision," Obama insisted, "is antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity." The speech was hailed as a "thunderclap" by the editors of The New York Times because Obama signaled he was done asking Republicans to put their "destructive agenda" aside. "In this speech, he finally conceded that the (Republican Party) has demonstrated no interest in the values of compromise and realism." Read more ..

Venezuela on Edge

Ailing President Chavez Unleashes Anti-Semitism against Non-Jews

June 13th 2012

Hugo Chavez infirm
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez

Recently, Henrique Capriles, the youthful governor of Miranda state in Venezuela, launched his campaign to rid the country of Hugo Chávez at the presidential election scheduled for October this year. Joined by thousands of supporters, the newly minted candidate led a six-mile procession through the capital city, Caracas. Their final destination was the office of the national election board, where Capriles formally registered his candidacy.

The march showcased Capriles, whose Jewish origins have been mercilessly attacked by the Chavistas, as the anti-Chávez—not just figuratively, but literally as well. By marching for a long distance over a short space of time, Capriles wanted his fellow Venezuelans to see him as the picture of health, in marked contrast to the ailing Chávez. For more than a year now, Chávez’s physical condition has been subjected to the sort of rolling speculation typically reserved for dictators. Until June 9, Chávez had released virtually no information about the terminal cancer he is widely believed to be suffering from. Then, one day before the Capriles march, he summoned journalists to his presidential palace to tell them, “I feel very good.” The following day, Chávez held a buoyant election rally of his own. Read more ..


Latin America on Edge

Canada and the U.S. Increasingly Isolated by Latins Influenced by Ecuador and Venezuela

June 13th 2012

Hugo Chavez sick
Hugo Chavez

The 42nd General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) took place in Cochabamba, Bolivia on June 4, 2012. Again the coming together of all the nations of the Western Hemisphere was effectively used by the Bolivarian countries to weaken the OAS Democratic Charter and reduce the influence of the United States. As during the Summit of the Americas this past April, Venezuela and its allies in the Bolivarian alliance insisted on the inclusion of Cuba. One after another ALBA country helped put an end to the summit without any resolution. This is a continuation of the Bolivarian policy of sabotaging what they consider to be American-dominated traditional institutions. The Summit of the Americas and the OAS General Assembly belong to the same category. Concurrently, new inter-American institutions are being created that exclude the United States and Canada.

What happened at the OAS General Assembly was another very sophisticated step. It went beyond sabotage. It is important to analyze every step in order to understand what actually happened in Cochabamba. Bolivian president, Evo Morales opened the assembly by launching an attack on Chile. He demanded that Bolivia be given a territorial exit to the sea along with sovereignty over such territory. Chile has offered an exit to the sea to Bolivia but without conceding sovereignty over the territory facing the sea. Morales’s intention was to internationalize an issue that was being conducted bi-laterally. Morales is supported by Chavez who has been inciting Bolivia against Chile for a long time. The idea was to create pressure on Chile by a coalition of the left, radicals and moderates alike, to take advantage of the historical revisionist mood prevailing in the region.

It is also important to point out that Chile stands as a “in your face” symbol to the Bolivarian countries since that country is where neo-liberal policies showed significant success. Neo-liberalism is strongly rejected by the ALBA countries. Read more ..


Broken Borders

The Harder Fix on Immigration is About More Than Skills

June 12th 2012

Sailors and Marine in citizenship ceremony

It’s been five years since we seriously attempted to reform U.S. immigration policy. Since then, partisan politics and extremist views have hijacked any sensibility on the topic, both in Congress and in many states and communities across the country. Five years ago, the Great Recession and housing crisis hadn’t yet wreaked economic havoc, crushing businesses, swelling unemployment, and threatening millions of homeowners. Back then, we had a lot less to worry about.

Reflecting those dramatic changes, immigration to the United States has slowed, but bitter immigration debates continue as economic anxiety grows. The quest for job creation, innovation and high-skills has us looking at the growing number of international students differently these days, including the ones from countries that are now our greatest competitors. In the past, we were more likely to send them home. Today, we’d like to encourage more highly-educated immigrants to stay here and contribute to our own economy. Read more ..


Spain on Edge

Europe’s Spanish Bank Rescue: One Step in the Right Direction

June 12th 2012

Euro Bills

Let’s give one cheer for Europe’s announcement of a rescue for Spain’s banks. In some ways it is very good news that leaders of the eurozone have agreed to pump as much as 100 billion euros (about $125 billion) into the Spanish government’s fund for bank rescues. At the most basic level, this is money that Spain needs and will be able to borrow from its neighbors at low cost rather than expensively from the financial markets. As important, it begins to break the links between the governments of troubled eurozone countries and their often equally troubled banks by moving, very modestly, towards a so-called “banking union” to supplement the monetary union. In Greece, Ireland, Spain, and elsewhere, fiscal problems of the national governments have harmed the banks and troubles at the banks have harmed their governments, in a vicious circle. Interposing the strength of the eurozone as whole is important.

The political and psychological benefits of the agreement are also important. This substantial act of solidarity may help restore confidence that the eurozone leaders will do what needs to be done in a time of crisis. Further, it sends a signal to the Greek voters that they should not count on being able to coerce the rest of the eurozone into completely rewriting the current bailout agreement by making explicit and implicit threats to bring down the rest of the monetary union through financial contagion. (Changes should be made in the agreement, but they will not be nearly as extensive as the more radical Greek voices demand, nor should they be.) There is now probably at least a modestly greater chance that the more reasonable parties will win in the June 17 elections in Greece, avoiding the worst risks of a showdown between that country and the rest of Europe. Read more ..


Election 2012

Two Elections that Shook the American Polity and Labor movement

June 12th 2012

Reform San Diego pensions

Last Tuesday, June 5, two elections delivered brutal blows to unions and their progressive allies. Neither was in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin results were bad enough. Scott Walker’s widely-watched recall campaign pit organized labor against a phalanx of incredibly wealthy private donors, led by the billionaire who’d financed the swift-boating of John Kerry in 2004.

In the end Walker didn’t simply survive the recall. He won by a larger margin than he had when he was elected governor in 2010. He did considerably better in urban areas, where his percentage of the vote shot up by a startling eight percentage points. He even gained ground in union households. There’s no doubt about it. In Wisconsin labor had suffered a tough, tough defeat.

But there were also a number of mitigating factors that helped to explain the unions’ poor showing. Money, of course: thanks to his donors’ deep interest in public affairs, Walker was able to spend seven times more than his opponent, Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett. The national Democratic Party did almost nothing to counter the right’s onslaught; Bill Clinton put in an appearance, but Barack Obama didn’t. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Is Obama Strong on National Security?

June 11th 2012

Obama in Iraq

Let me explain to you why the Obama Administration’s propaganda leak effort  to prove that the president is tough on national security is nonsense. Almost every example with two exceptions—a computer virus against Iran and regime change in Libya–revolves around the willingness to combat or kill al-Qaida leaders, including Usama bin Ladin.

There has never been any question but that the Obama Administration views al-Qaida as an enemy and a danger that should be wiped out. That isn’t the problem. The problem is that this is the only factor that in the world that this administration sees as a national security threat, since al-Qaida is eager to launch direct attacks against targets on American soil.

In contrast, though, the administration does not act against any other possible national security threat be it Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela, North Korea, China, Russia, Pakistan, Syria, Hizballah, Hamas, the Turkish Islamist regime, the Muslim Brotherhood, or anything else you can think of. The administration obviously has shown its belief that engagement, flattery, refusal to help their intended victims, and concessions can win over these enemies.  It has even tried to redefine the Taliban as a group that can be conciliated and given a share in a new Afghan government, despite its involvement in September 11! Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

Obama Accused of Politically Motivated Drone Attacks

June 11th 2012

MQ-1 Sky Warrior drone

On Sunday, Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani accused Obama of ordering unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, strikes in his country to boost his political image.

More than a few political commentators and counterterrorism analysts on Sunday morning's television news shows spoke of President Barack Obama's abysmal week dealing with a lethargic economy, accusations of intelligence leaks and misstatements that provided ammunition for his opponents. But the criticisms didn't end there. Prime Minister Gilani's stated that Barack Obama is "using drone strikes in Pakistani tribal regions for political motives." The Prime Minister's verbal assault came a day after President Obama allegedly ordered a "sharp increase" in drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas aimed at killing members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Obama Gave Former ACORN Official $445 Million Taxpayer-Funded Gift?

June 11th 2012

Money Money Money

In a report released June 8, a government watchdog group revealed that the Obama Administration gave a former director at the scandal-ridden left-wing front group, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now--otherwise known as ACORN--nearly half-billion dollars to assist “struggling” homeowners in President Barack Obama's home state of Illinois. According to the public-interest group Judicial Watch, the former ACORN official, Joseph McGavin, will go from operating a corrupt leftist community group, that’s banned by Congress from receiving federal funding, to controlling over $445 million in U.S. taxpayer funds. "The money is part of a $7.6 billion Treasury Department program to help the “unemployed or substantially underemployed” make their mortgage payments," said Judicial Watch officials.

In this alleged corruption case, JW investigators discovered that a subcomponent of the state-run Illinois Housing Development Authority, known as the Illinois Hardest Hit Program, received a generous $445,603,557.00 Obama Administration gift of taxpayer cash. "It's always heartwarming to see progressives who are so generous and helpful to their fellow man. Of course, they're usually generous and helpful with other people's money. Read more ..


The Massacre in Syria

Syrian Massacre and After Massacre--Where are You Obama?

June 10th 2012

syria-killing

Another day, another massacre.

The reaction from Washington? Silence, or worse, more empty rhetoric.

Syrian forces killed at least 96 rebels and civilians Saturday and Sunday in attacks across the country. According to CNN: "random shelling tormented the Homs neighborhood of Talbiseh early Sunday, pausing every four minutes only to continue with artillery and mortars. The violence followed a particularly gruesome day across Syria, where at least 96 people were killed, opposition activists said." At the same time, the opposition Syrian National Council elected a new leader, a Kurdish exile who analysts say may unite Kurdish forces with the anti-Assad militia. The Syrian National Council named Abdul Baset Sieda, a Syrian native now living in Sweden, as its leader. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

The Process Trap

June 9th 2012

ahmadinejad and zion

Few things ought to be as urgent as keeping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, yet the West – led from the front by the United States – has fallen into the "peace process" trap that considers talk to be progress and, once a conversation has begun, that there is nothing worse than stopping it. Iran understands this as a Western peculiarity, and has used it to cause a rift between Israel and the West; receive assurances that that military action is not in the offing; and begin a process that leaves the Islamic Republic in full control of its nuclear program for a negligible price.

Talk about your demands. Talk about what you've talked about. Talk about what you won't talk about. Talk about talking again. Talk again. Repeat.

Several months ago, the media was ablaze with war talk -– a potential Israeli strike against Iran, of course, but also the war between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and his former Mossad chief, Meir Dagan. While the PM was working to keep the threat of military action on the Western agenda, Dagan was announcing to the world that military action was a choice to which he was opposed. Time Magazine put "King Bibi" on its cover and said he was "unlikely to forge a peaceful path." Everyone seemed to know when Israel was going to "do it." Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

Turkish Muslims Insist on Converting World's Largest Church into a Mosque

June 9th 2012

Haghia Sophia

Ostensibly dealing with a building, a recent report demonstrates how Turkey's populace—once deemed the most secular and liberal in the Muslim world—is reverting to its Islamic heritage, complete with animosity for the infidel West and dreams of Islam's glory days of jihad and conquest. According to Reuters: Thousands of devout Muslims prayed outside Turkey's historic Hagia Sophia museum on Saturday [May 23] to protest a 1934 law that bars religious services at the former church and mosque. Worshippers shouted, "Break the chains, let Hagia Sophia Mosque open," and "God is great" [the notorious "Allahu Akbar"] before kneeling in prayer as tourists looked on. Turkey's secular laws prevent Muslims and Christians from formal worship within the 6th-century monument, the world's greatest cathedral for almost a millennium before invading Ottomans converted it into a mosque in the 15th century.

Hagia Sophia—Greek for "Holy Wisdom"—was, in fact, Christendom's greatest cathedral for a thousand years. Built in Constantinople, the heart of the Christian empire, it was also a stalwart symbol of defiance against an ever encroaching Islam from the east. After parrying centuries of jihadi thrusts, Constantinople was finally sacked by Ottoman Turks in 1453. Its crosses desecrated and icons defaced, Hagia Sophia—as well as thousands of other churches—was immediately converted into a mosque, the tall minarets of Islam surrounding it in triumph. Then, after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, as part of several reforms, Ataturk transformed Hagia Sophia into a "neutral" museum in 1934—a gesture of goodwill to the then triumphant West from a then crestfallen Turkey. Read more ..


The Education Edge

After Solving Student Loan Issue, Look at Costs

June 8th 2012

One Million Dollars

Among the many unresolved issues in Congress, the student loan matter looms large. If Democrats and Republicans don’t find a pay-for, student loan interest rates will double to 6.8 percent on July 1, hitting hard a group of people already staggering under loan burdens.

To be sure, artificially keeping rates low is not the best way to do things, but the larger set of problems is real.

Higher education costs keep rising at a rate faster than even health care inflation. The number of students dropping out and not graduating but still facing heavy loan burdens keeps going up as well. The number of higher-paying jobs, at salaries substantial enough that graduates can meet high loan payments, keeps going down. The number of young people with jobs where the take-home pay cannot begin to meet monthly loan requirements is burgeoning. And the problems clearly go beyond students themselves: Parents and even grandparents in many cases are facing bankruptcy because they have guaranteed the loans of their progeny. Read more ..


Counting Palestinians

Congress is Moving in the Right Direction on Palestinians

June 8th 2012

Palstinian refugee camp

One of Palestinian society's core beliefs is that at some point there will be a full return to the land they consider to be "Palestine," aka, the modern State of Israel. Their expectation and demand is rooted in the in UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 194 of December 1948, which stated that "refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date." This "right", though explicitly contingent on peace, has bloomed into an unconditional "right of return" for all refugees and their descendents, now in their third or fourth generation.

The "right of return" is, at the core, a rejection of any Jewish rights or sovereignty. But it is fashionable to disguise this reality in more palatable terms, including the improbable suggestion that in fact, Palestinian "return" would not challenge the Jewish demographic majority of the State of Israel.

Publicly UNRWA defines a Palestinian refugee as anyone whose "normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948 and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict." In reality UNRWA has continually expanded the definition to include "the children or grandchildren of such refugees are eligible for agency assistance if they are (a) registered with UNRWA, (b) living in the area of UNRWA's operations, and (c) in need." The best estimates are that perhaps 700,000 Palestinians became refugees in 1948-1949. By UNRWA's accounting, however, virtually every Palestinian born since that time is also a refugee. That number now reaches into the millions. Read more ..


Palestine on Edge

Where Did All the Billions of Dollars Given to the Palestinian Authority Go?

June 8th 2012

Salam Fayyad

Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Salam Fayyad says that his regime is short of funds. And meanwhile a reader asks me, "Can you please explain to me why 20 years after Oslo and billions in dollars in foreign aid, the Palestinian Authority (PA) still has not built modern hospitals? Or rather, why do the donor countries pour money down the PA drain without expecting even some face-saving results?”

Good question. Short answer: Swiss bank accounts. In other words, a huge amount of the money has been stolen. There is nothing more distasteful than rulers of a people–especially a poor people–who complain about their subjects’ suffering at the same time that they profit from it. Of course, when some foreign observer sees Palestinians in poor conditions they blame Israel, thus furthering the cause of the same leaders who, -by their intransigent policies, ensure that the situation continues. The personal wealth of PA “president” Mahmoud Abbas is estimated at $100 million. Add onto that millions of dollars for a large number of PA and Fatah senior officials and you get the idea.

I have seen the villas of the PLO leaders in Tunis and the PA leaders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. I have followed in detail the saga not only of Yasir Arafat’s personal stash but also how he used corruption to sustain his political control. And his heirs mostly continue to run the Palestinian movement. It is easy to forget that the PA has existed for 18 years and governed virtually every Palestinian there starting about 16 years ago. That’s a long time. And while Israel can be accused of harassment and putting up various roadblocks, its part in this problem has been limited. Indeed, Israeli action that have hurt the PA’s economy have arisen in direct response to episodes of terrorism, violent confrontation, and all-out wars started by the PA. Read more ..


Muslims and America

Memorial Day with Muslims in America

June 7th 2012

Mosque and crescent moon

Over the recent Memorial Day weekend, several thousand Muslims gathered in Hartford for the annual convention of the Islamic Circle of North America. ICNA was founded almost 40 years ago by Indian and Pakistani university students intending to return home. Most of them never did, but their organization still has ties to Pakistan’s Jama’at-I Islami, the Islamist party founded by Sayyid Mawdudi, one of the twentieth century’s most notorious Muslim intellectuals.

So this event featured much that would alarm or offend many Americans. Yet it also revealed how even Islamists here are adapting in ways that many of us would find encouraging, even gratifying. Nevertheless, these Islamists have yet to address the political realities of life in America. Read more ..


Broken Borders

Napolitano's Strategy to Protect Northern Border a Diversion

June 6th 2012

Canadian Border

President Barack Obama's Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, on Tuesday unveiled the DHS Northern Border Strategy (NBS), according to a statement obtained by the 14,000-member National Association of Chiefs of Police. But some security and law enforcement commanders believe it's nothing more than a political diversion.

According to Napolitano, the NBS is "the first unified DHS strategy to guide [her] department’s policies and operations along the U.S.-Canada border." She claims that it provides "a framework for enhancing security and resiliency" while expediting lawful travel and trade throughout the Northern border region.

"Acting as if she's tackling the Northern border fresh from her victory on our Southern border, Napolitano appears to have lost touch with the reality of America's border security debacle. It's as if there are two Americas: the real one, and the Obama administration's version," said political strategist Mike Baker. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Military Exercises and Political Correctness

June 6th 2012

F15 in Afghanistan

It can't be said that the U.S. is doing nothing about Syria. The administration created the "Atrocities Prevention Board," which failed the test at Houla. It is supporting the feckless Kofi Annan, who is adding to a resume that includes the genocide in Rwanda and massacres in Bosnia. It is beseeching the Russians, who decimated Chechnya and still own it, to help.

But is the U.S. also getting ready to ride to the rescue with Eager Lion 2012? One would hope not.

Eager Lion 2012 is a multinational Special Operations exercise that began in Jordan at the end of May. The planning started long ago; it wasn't organized against Syria—or Iran, for that matter. It was widely touted by the Americans. Major General Ken Tovo, head of the U.S. Special Operations Forces, told reporters in Amman, "The message that I want to send through this exercise is that we have developed the right partners throughout the region and across the world … insuring that we have the ability to … meet challenges that are coming to our nations." Read more ..


Greece on Edge

Eternal Greece: The Nation on the Ramparts of Europe

June 6th 2012

Greek and EU flags

Greece is where the West both begins and ends. The West -- as a humanist ideal -- began in ancient Athens where compassion for the individual began to replace the crushing brutality of the nearby civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia. The war that Herodotus chronicles between Greece and Persia in the 5th century B.C. established a contrast between West and East that has persisted for millennia. Greece is Christian, but it is also Eastern Orthodox, as spiritually close to Russia as it is to the West, and geographically equidistant between Brussels and Moscow.

Greece may have invented the West with the democratic innovations of the Age of Pericles, but for more than a thousand years it was a child of Byzantine and Turkish despotism. And while Greece was the northwestern bastion of the anciently civilized Near East, ever since history moved north into colder climates following the collapse of Rome, the inhabitants of Peninsular Greece have found themselves at the poor, southeastern extremity of Europe.

Modern Greece in particular has struggled against this bifurcated legacy. In an early 20th century replay of the Greco-Persian Wars, Greece's post-World War I military struggle with Turkey led to a signal Greek defeat and as a consequence, more than a million ethnic Greeks from Asia Minor escaped to Greece proper, further impoverishing the country. (This Greek diaspora in Asia Minor was a massive source of revenue until the Greeks were expelled.) Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

The Meaning of the White Vote

June 5th 2012

us voters

Quick. Thirty-two degrees. Hot or cold? It depends. In Fahrenheit, it’s literally freezing; in Celsius it’s sweltering. One hundred dollars. A lot of money or a little? A veritable fortune in Timor, where it’s a quarter of the average annual wage. In Manhattan, not so much. Numbers seem absolute, but they only have meaning in context.

So it is with poll data. Is 80 percent of the African-American vote a lot or a little? It sounds like a lot, but if you’re a Democrat heading into Election Day with just 80 percent support from African-Americans, you ought to be quaking in your boots — it’s rarely enough to win.

What gives these numbers meaning is two bits of context — how they compare to numbers in similar situations across time or space and how they compare to what one needs in order to emerge victorious. Yet rarely do pundits, or even pollsters, provide readers with the context they need to interpret poll numbers meaningfully. Our firm has routinely provided that context for years, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to folks crow about a candidate garnering 53 percent of the female vote, or 80 percent of Democrats, or leading independents by 5. None of that is good news if you need 58 percent of the female vote or 93 percent of Democrats, or a 10-point margin among independents to actually win the race. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

GOP Backing Down from Holder Contempt Resolution

June 5th 2012

Eric holder

While Rep. Darryl Issa (R-CA) is eager to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of congress for failing to provide all records and information regarding the controversial Operation Fast and Furious gun-smuggling fiasco, a number of GOP members of his committee appear to be getting "cold feet at the thought of going up against Holder," a law enforcement source in Washington, D.C. said on Sunday.

As a result Rep. Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, may not have the full support of his fellow Republicans in taking action against Holder and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and therefore he'll lack the votes to proceed with the contempt resolution and his investigation.

Operation Fast and Furious is blamed for, among other things, the death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and possibly the death of Immigration & Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata.

If passed by a House vote, the contempt citation would order the controversial Attorney General to deliver to the House Oversight Committee and to the Judiciary Committee thousands documents related to the probe of the gun-smuggling operation.

According to a source, too many Republican members on Issa's committee are fearful of pursuing the proposed action so close to the November elections. "Apparently some feckless GOP lawmakers are willing to allow Holder and his minions to escape any scrutiny or punishment for an operation that cost lives on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border," said former NYPD detective and military intelligence officer Mike Snopes, who has been following the aftermath of what he called a "blown covert operation." Read more ..



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