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The Edge of Justice

Six Amicus Curiae Urge Supreme Court To Hear Rubashkin Case

May 14th 2012

Sholom Rubashkin
Sholom Rubashkin

In a sign that the Sholom Rubashkin case continues to roil the highest ranks of the nation’s legal community, six amicus briefs from prestigious legal organizations and renowned legal authorities have called on the Supreme Court to grant the Rubashkin case a hearing.

The briefs are from former Solicitor General Seth Waxman, joined by 86 former DOJ officials and federal judges; the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; The Washington Legal Foundation; The Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers; a group of 40 legal ethics professors; and the Justice Fellowship. Legal observers say it is unusual for so many amicus briefs to be filed at the “cert petition” stage, before the Supreme Court has granted a hearing.  The issues of misconduct and gross sentencing disparity in the case were apparently so disturbing, they compelled legal advocacy groups and ethics experts to file earlier, to urge the Supreme Court to grant a review.

Experts who have read the briefs and noted the signatories’ names say the briefs are not merely casual expressions of support from prominent people. They are passionate and persuasive arguments that harshly criticize the rampant injustices in the case. They raise an alarm about the setting of dangerous precedents unless the injustices are remedied. Taken together, the six amicus briefs hammer home a sense of outrage in top echelons of the legal community over the apparent disregard for judicial ethics and fair play that  drove the misconduct in the Rubashkin case. Read more ..

Russia on Edge

Putin Without a Plan

May 13th 2012


Remember Putin's Plan? It was all the rage during the 2007-08 election cycle when billboards sprung up around Moscow touting how it would lead to "Victory For Russia."
It was never exactly clear what the plan was, but it made for a useful meme as Putin was preparing to temporarily turn the presidency over to his handpicked interim successor, Dmitry Medvedev.
The hype about Putin's Plan and the hysteria surrounding the over-the-top "national leader" campaign that materialized around the same time appeared to be an effort to reassure the elite and the public that Russia's hard won stability and newfound prosperity would not evaporate due to a meager presidential transition.

Sure, Putin was leaving the Kremlin in a formal sense, but he was letting it be known that he remained in charge and had a vision of where he wanted to take the country.
So with the Medvedev interlude over and Putin sworn in for another six years in the Kremlin, it is worth revisiting whether or not he does in fact still have a plan.
The idea that Putin had some kind of master plan has long been something of an obsession for Kremlin watchers, myself included, as we tried to discern whether he had a strategy for Russia's long-term political and economic development.

Here's how I described the apparent blueprint toward the end of Putin's first stint in the Kremlin in an October 2007 piece: "At the heart of that strategy is the establishment of an enduring political system -- a centralized, authoritarian, vertically integrated and unitary executive that can manage a thorough and comprehensive modernization of Russia." Read more ..

Broken Government

Republican Extremism has Checked Compromise, Crippled Congress

May 12th 2012

Juan Williams 02

We now have history’s first draft of the story of this Congress. There is so much political fog right now that it is hard to get a clear view of the reason for the dysfunction on Capitol Hill. But three new books take a step back to get a clear look at the fray, and all three conclude that no-holds-barred, right-wing politics is to be blamed.

Two congressional scholars, Thomas Mann of Brookings and Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, authored the first book—It’s Even Worse Than It Looks. They write that today’s Republican extremism has led Congress to be more dysfunctional than at any time after the Civil War. The second book is journalist Robert Draper’s Do Not Ask What Good We Do, a tragic account of far right-wing House freshmen engaging in tantrums and bullying Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). The third book, The Passage of Power, is the latest volume by President Johnson’s biographer Robert Caro. It covers LBJ’s transition from his time as Senate majority leader to the White House as the powerful Democrat negotiated with Republicans to pass critical defense, highway construction and civil rights laws.

In today’s Congress that kind of compromise is “near impossible,” Caro is telling interviewers, due to Senate Republicans’ use of the filibuster to block all legislation from President Obama and the Democrats. Caro calls the GOP action “unconscionable.” And in sharp contrast to the GOP’s constant criticism of Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Caro is of the opinion that LBJ’s successor as the leader of Senate Democrats is doing a “terrific job” of dealing with “near impossible circumstances.” Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Mr. Hope and Change

May 12th 2012


Thales of Miletus, considered one of the first philosophers in history, said, perhaps jokingly, that hope is the most abundant thing in the world, because even when you have absolutely nothing, hey, at least you still have hope.

We’re not seeing a whole lot of hope coming out of the Obama campaign this time around, despite whatever Thales might have said. Remember the good old days, when Senator Obama—without the gray hair!—analyzed for us the concept of hope, its very definition, its meaning, waxing poetically on this magical substance that he had invented and was now selling for 5 trillion borrowed dollars?

“Hope is not blind optimism. It's not ignoring the enormity of the task ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. It's not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it. Hope is the belief that destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by the men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.”

What’s curious is that insisting on something despite all evidence to the contrary sounds a lot like blind optimism and ignoring the roadblocks that stand in our path. Regardless, why we need a United States Senator to explain for us what hope means, or how any of this stream of words might bear on policy is still a complete mystery to everyone who was paying attention in those heady days, five trillion dollars ago. Read more ..

The Iranian Threat

Shiites, Sunnis and Israel

May 11th 2012

Iranian clerics

It has become obvious that the central axis of conflict in the Middle East today is no longer the Arab-Israeli conflict, but rather the conflict within Islam between Sunnis and Shiites. This war lies behind the ongoing bloodbath in Syria, which pits the Alawite regime, backed by Shiite Iran, against the Sunni Muslim majority of Syria, backed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

For many years, the Sunni-Shiite war also fed the internal conflict in Lebanon, in which the Shiites emerged victorious through Hezbollah. The Sunni-Shiite struggle was also behind the Shiite insurrection in Bahrain against its Sunni rulers, and it explains a good part of the civil war in Yemen where Zayidi Shiites have been battling the country’s Sunni-led government. Looking at the mounting tensions in the Middle East, Mohammad Kharroub, a columnist for the Jordanian daily al-Ra’I, wrote this month about the possibility of a full-scale war breaking out between the Sunnis and the Shiites. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Obama Should Practice What He Preaches on Food Security

May 11th 2012

PBObama contemplative

U.S. President Barack Obama has invited a number of African leaders to join the upcoming G8 summit for a discussion on food security in the continent, White House announced on Monday.  But experts say Obama has failed to address food security at home. They will join leaders at the G8 summit at Camp David on May 19 for "a discussion session on accelerating progress towards food security in Africa," said the statement.

The G8 summit is due to be held at Camp David in Maryland on May 18 and 19, the White House said in a statement. Unfortunately, in a biting reprimand from the Pew Health Organization, officials claim that President Obama has failed to address agroterrorism and food security concerns here in America.

Only months after the Obama Administration boasted of enacting “sweeping” legislation to protect the nation’s food supply, experts at a federal symposium revealed that half of what Americans eat comes from foreign countries not covered by the FDA-enforced measure, according to a public-interest  group based in Washington, D.C. This situation leaves the nation vulnerable to bioterrorism via tainted food, according to experts participating in the FBI’s International Symposium on Agroterrorism. The annual event, that took place in Kansas City last month, hoped to help protect the world’s food supply from terrorism through information-sharing and collaboration among governments, the private sector and academia, states a Judicial Watch report.   Read more ..

America and Israel

Making Iron Dome a Joint U.S.-Israel Missile Defense System

May 10th 2012

Iron Dome

After initially omitting funding for Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system from its budget request, the Obama administration is now backing Congressional efforts to vastly increase funding for the successful system. The House Armed Services Strategic Forces subcommittee has voted to allocate $680 million, which would allow Israel to cover the entire country against the missile threat from Gaza, the Sinai, and from southern Lebanon.

However, instead of an additional booster to speed up national deployment-the U.S. invested an initial $205 million two years ago-Congress and the Administration should go one step further, as a recent news report has suggested, and transform Iron Dome into a jointly owned and managed U.S.-Israeli defense system. Doing so would be a bold and mutually beneficial symbol of the closeness and importance of the U.S.-Israel strategic alliance. Joint U.S.-Israel ownership of such a game-changing technology would have multiple useful effects. For Israel, it would signal American resolve in Israel's battles against Iranian proxies Hamas and Hezbollah. Read more ..

Broken Healthcare

Exposing the Medicare Double Count

May 9th 2012


One of the enduring mysteries of President Obama's health law is how its spending constraints and payroll tax hikes on high earners can be used to shore up Medicare finances and at the same time pay for a massive new entitlement program. Isn't this double counting? The short answer is: Yes, it is. You can't spend the same money twice. And so, thanks to the new health law, federal deficits and debt will be hundreds of billions of dollars higher in the next decade alone. Here's how it works. When Congress considers legislation that alters taxes or spending related to Medicare's Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, the changes are recorded not just on the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund's books, but also on Congress's "pay-as-you-go" scorecard.

The "paygo" requirement is supposed to force lawmakers to find "offsets" for new tax cuts or entitlement spending, and thus protect against adding to future federal budget deficits. Putting the Medicare payroll tax hikes and spending constraints on the "pay-as-you-go" ledger was instrumental in getting the health law through Congress, because doing so fostered a widespread misperception that the law would reduce future deficits.

The Edge of Justice

ICEgate--High Ranking Intel Officials Linked to Palestinian Money Laundering

May 9th 2012

Euro money

What at first appeared to be government officials involved in embezzlement to the tune of more than a half-billion dollars now appears to be also connected to a Palestinian money-laundering operation, according to several Law Enforcement Examiner sources.

A top U.S. intelligence chief pleaded guilty last week as a result of a far-reaching federal fraud investigation that nabbed a total of five members of the Department of Homeland Security and may be connected to funneling money to a Palestinian ring, according to a report obtained by the National Association of Chiefs of Police and the Law Enforcement Examiner. 

James M. Woosley, the acting director of intelligence for DHS's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) pleaded guilty to defrauding the government of more than $180,000 in a scheme involving fraudulent travel vouchers, and time and attendance claims, according to court documents. The 48-year old former resident of Tucson, Arizona, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to a charge of conversion of government money, according to the Department of Justice. Read more ..

Broken Healthcare

Meet the Obamacare Mandate Committee

May 9th 2012


Offended by President Obama's decision to force health insurers to pay for contraception and surgical sterilization? It gets worse: In the future, thanks to ObamaCare, the government will issue such health edicts on a routine basis—and largely insulated from public view.This goes beyond contraception to cancer screenings, the use of common drugs like aspirin, and much more.

Under ObamaCare, a single committee—the United States Preventative Services Task Force—is empowered to evaluate preventive health services and decide which will be covered by health-insurance plans. The task force already rates services with letter grades of "A" through "D" (or "I," if it has "insufficient evidence" to make a rating). But under ObamaCare, services rated "A" or "B"—such as colon cancer screening for adults aged 50-75—must be covered by health plans in full, without any co-pays. Many services that get "Cs" and "Ds"—such as screening for ovarian or testicular cancer—could get nixed from coverage entirely.

Healthcare on Edge

False Quick Fixes for American Health Care

May 8th 2012

medicine and money

You’ve heard it before: Let’s deep-six ObamaCare and replace it with a trio of sure-fire free-market solutions to the problems that plague our health care system. All that’s really needed, we’re told, is to pass tort reform; allow insurance companies to sell policies across state lines; and encourage people to set up health savings accounts.

Here’s the problem: there is mounting evidence that all three of these strategies not only are ineffective but may actually be making matters worse.

Let’s start with those health saving accounts (HSAs), which folks can establish if they enroll in a high-deductible health plan. With backing from the Bush administration and the insurance industry, Congress passed legislation in 2003 to encourage people to enroll in high-deductible plans by giving tax-exempt status to the money policyholders contribute to their HSAs to cover out-of-pocket expenses.

Proponents argued that Americans would be more prudent “consumers” and take better care of themselves if they had to spend more of their own hard-earned money for health care and their insurers had to spend less. HSAs, they said, would bring down the cost of care because people with more “skin in the game” would shop around for doctors and hospitals that charged less.

It sounded good. But one of the reasons I left the insurance industry was because of irrefutable evidence that high-deductible plans were great for insurance firms but not so great for many of the people enrolled in them. Here’s what I mean: the median household income in this country is less than $52,000 a year (lower than it was 10 years ago after accounting for inflation), meaning that most families simply don’t have the cash after paying the mortgage and buying groceries to fund an HSA. Read more ..

Religious Tolerance

American Educational Institutions on Notice to Protect Students from Bigotry

May 8th 2012

California anti-Israel rally

At long last an attempt is being made to curtail blatant anti-Semitic commentary at American universities. The Israel Law Center warns that universities "may be liable for massive damage" if they fail to prevent anti-Semitism on campus.

The center sent hundreds of letters to university presidents drawing a line in the sand. This Israel civil rights center is carrying out this campaign in response to an alarming number of incidents against Jewish and Israeli students at U.S. universities.

A center's lawyer, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said, "Anti-Israel rallies and events frequently exceed legitimate criticism of Israel and cross the line into blatant anti-Semitism, resulting in hateful attacks against Jews." A student at Rutgers, to cite, one example, said he was called "a racist Zionist pig" in a public Facebook posting. That comment was made when the student questioned a Student Assembly decision to donate money to the Palestine Children's Relief Fund, a nonprofit organization with ties to the Holy Land Foundation, a foundation that has funded Hamas - a recognized terrorist organization. Read more ..

Europe on Edge

The Meaning of May’s European Elections

May 7th 2012

Greek Protesters

The results of recent elections in six European countries, particularly France, Greece and Germany, bode poorly for satisfactorily resolving the European Union’s ongoing financial and political crisis. Moreover, from the U.S. perspective, the left turns in France and Greece mean more difficult times ahead for our own anemic economic recovery, and our continuing efforts to lead NATO and other allies in the struggle against Iran’s nuclear weapons program and international terrorism.

Instant analysis: France Although incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy’s defeat at the hands of Socialist François Hollande had been consistently forecast in public opinion polls, the final result was much closer than expected. Nonetheless, Sarkozy’s fall almost certainly means that France’s domestic policies, and its position in European deliberations over the future of the Euro, the common currency of seventeen European Union (EU) members, will shift decisively left. Read more ..

The Arab Winter in Egypt

The American Media Gets an Egyptian Presidential Candidate All Wrong

May 7th 2012

Abouel Fotouh
Abdel Monem Abouel Fotouh

Egyptian presidential candidate Abdel Monem Abouel Fotouh was a leading force in the militant Islamist student movements of the 1970s; one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s point men for aiding the mujahideen in Afghanistan during the 1980s; and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Office for twenty-two years. It should not have come as a surprise that he has earned the endorsement of Egypt’s most influential Salafist organizations, al-Dawa al-Salafiyya and its political arm, the Nour Party, as well as the backing of U.S.-designated terrorist organization al-Gama’a al-Islamiya

But American media has had a tough time acknowledging the dispiriting truth that Egypt’s presidential race is now a contest between theocratic Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi and Abouel Fotouh on the one hand, and autocratic former Mubarak regime officials such as Amr Moussa and Ahmed Shafiq on the other. Instead, the country’s major newspapers have gone out of their way to designate a hero. The Wall Street Journal thus whitewashed Abouel Fotouh as “relatively liberal,” while the New York Times dubbed him a “liberal” outright. Any judicious reading of Abouel Fotouh’s record would contradict these characterizations.

Abouel Fotouh’s reputation as a “liberal Islamist” is largely the product of his views on political inclusion. As he notes in his memoirs, he has long advocated for the right of women to run for political office, and he similarly supports Christians’ right to run for president. These stances put him at odds with his more fundamentalist colleagues in the Muslim Brotherhood, including Brotherhood presidential candidate Morsi, and it was one of the reasons for his ouster from the organization’s Guidance Office in 2009.

But it was not the primary reason. As Abouel Fotouh told me during a March 2011 interview, his disagreements with the other Guidance Office members were mostly about the organization’s dictatorial internal structure, which he wanted to reform by instituting term limits. “I left because I pushed for an amendment that people can only stay in the Guidance Office for eight years, and I asked thirteen other members to [leave the Guidance Office] as well,” he said. “But they refused.” Yet despite his falling out with the Brotherhood’s brass over this administrative matter, Abouel Fotouh remained quite committed to the organization: he was a member of the Brotherhood’s Shura Committee—its 100-member policy-making body—for another year-and-a-half, and was among the Brotherhood’s most visible advocates to the international community during the January 2011 revolt that toppled Mubarak. His ultimate departure from the Brotherhood in the summer of 2011 was similarly not because of ideological disagreements, but strategic ones: the Brotherhood leadership vowed not to nominate a presidential candidate, but the ambitious Abouel Fotouh declared his candidacy anyway. Read more ..

The Race for Natural Gas

Little Light but Lots of Heat in the Fracas over Fracking

May 7th 2012

Fracking gas well

Al Armendariz, the top Environmental Protection Agency official in the oil-rich Southwest region, resigned from his post, effective April 30. It’s the latest twist in the never-ending and increasingly ugly fracking fracas. A two-year old video had surfaced last week (and since pulled) featuring Armendariz comparing his “philosophy of enforcement” to Roman conquerors, who would find “the first five guys they saw and they’d crucify them. And then you know that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.”

Certainly, it’s incumbent upon regulators to apply the best standards of science in unmasking wrongdoers. But crucify? Especially on an issue in which politics play such a large role? Unfairly or not, these comments raise troubling questions about the degree to which the EPA is committed to independent scientifically grounded oversight, or whether personal or political agendas will drive policy. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Obama's Foreign Policy Fiasco was Long in the Making

May 6th 2012

Obama meditates

The Obama foreign policy lynchpin known as “engagement” has run into one more eminently predictable quagmire in the case of c. State Department officials knew full well that five seconds out of American custody and into Chinese hands they could not guarantee Chen a thing.

So what did they do? They took a man who had suffered years of Chinese human rights abominations and in less than one week they asked him — of their own admission — over and over: What do you want to do now? What do you want to do now? What do you want to do now?

It is hardly a surprise that eventually they got the answer they wanted — the response that made their life a whole lot easier given Chinese banquets for visiting Obama emissaries were waiting and Hillary Clinton was coming to town. And yet astoundingly Obama officials expect us to believe that the atmosphere at the embassy was one of “no pressure.”

With Chen reportedly out of the embassy just a few hours after Clinton’s arrival, the image of the bum’s rush surely comes to mind. Read more ..

Russia on Edge

Move Russia’s Capital from Moscow to Siberia?

May 6th 2012


Sergei Shoigu, the newly appointed governor of the Moscow Region, recently proposed that Russia move its capital to Siberia. Shoigu, a native of the Buddhist majority republic of Tuva, just north Mongolia, may have been playing to his home audience. The idea was immediately squelched, and the Moscow regional assembly -dutifully approved Shoigu’s appointment to run Russia’s richest region.

Vladimir Putin now returns to the Kremlin to rule Russia from an ancient capital that is now under siege by the modern automobile. I have visited some of the world’s planned capitals. So I can say the idea of take a capital out of an old city is a good one. I first visited Brasilia in 1976 when red dust marked the walls of Oscar Niemeyer’s futuristic government buildings. Brasilia was a bold statement by the leaders of a people who had clung to the Atlantic coast for five centuries. By moving the capital 1,200 kilometers into the interior, Brazil’s leaders refocused the nation toward its western frontier. Half a century after the move, Rio de Janeiro has recovered from the loss of its capital status – and is far better off without it.

Similarly, the construction of Islambad in the 1960s drew Pakistan’s focus away from the coast, where the first capital was located, in Karachi. Ditto Abuja. By creating a new capital in Nigeria’s interior, Africa’s largest nation has drawn economic activity out of Lagos, on the coast. Both are reasonably functional capitals in fairly chaotic countries.

By moving Russia’s federal capital to Novosibirsk, Russians would finally take their eastern vocation seriously. A few years ago, China displaced Germany as Russia’s biggest trading partner. If Peter the Great founded St. Petersburg as Russia’s “Window on the West”, Vladimir Putin could elevate Novosibirsk to Russia’s “Window on the East.” Read more ..

Azerbaijan on Edge

Azerbaijan 'Has Free Media, Doesn't Need World Press Day'

May 6th 2012


A ritual press conference at the UN produced some unexpected hilarity as journalists grilling the Azerbaijani ambassador on press censorship found out he didn't know that it was World Press Freedom Day. Ambassador and current Security Council President Agshin Mehdiyev quickly covered up the gaffe, claiming that Azerbaijan doesn't need to mark World Press Day on May 3, due to its unrestricted media coverage.

A journalist at the briefing, where Mehdiyev was laying out the Security Council agenda for the month, asked if Azerbaijan was celebrating World Press Freedom Day. After a pause, Deputy Permanent Representative Tofig Musayev jumped in: "We don't have any public holiday or any specific date celebrating it, but we know that, if there is a, if I'm not mistaken, there is an international day of freedom of expression...." Several journalists said in unison, "It's today." Musayev faltered, then said, "Oh. It's today, by the way. Sorry." Mehdiyev jumped in: "Congratulations! As we have a free press we don't need to specify a day," he said, before having a good belly laugh. Read more ..

Islam on Edge

American Diplomats Aware of the Rise of Eurabia in 1974

May 5th 2012

Interior of church in Spain that was a mosque
Cathedral of Cordoba, Spain.

I came across a State Department memo from the U.S. embassy in Madrid , dated September 19, 1974 (1974 Madrid 05880), declassified June 30, 2005. This document reveals that the U.S. was fully aware of the advent of "Eurabia," precisely as self-characterized in an official European socio-political journal bearing the title Eurabia. It seems serendipitous in the midst of Geert Wilders' visit to the U.S. warning of the consequences of Europe's ongoing Islamization.

Eurabia was the title of a journal published in the mid-1970s by the European Committee for the Coordination of Friendship Associations with the Arab World. Eurabia's editor was Lucien Bitterlin, president of the Association of Franco-Arab Solidarity; the journal was published jointly by Euro-Arab associations in London, Paris, and Geneva. Eurabia served as a Euro-Arab Dialogue mouthpiece.

The formal Euro-Arab Dialogue (EAD) created an alphabet soup of European Community -- and, later, European Union -- funded organizations charged with planning joint political, cultural, social, industrial, commercial, and technical-scientific projects. It also rapidly spawned a European Parliamentary Association for Euro-Arab Cooperation, whose members represented a broad spectrum of European Community political groups. Biannual Euro-Arab Parliamentary meetings convened alternately in Europe and the Arab nations. Roughly 100 European and Arab members of their respective parliaments attended, along with observers from the European Community/European Union Commission, the Arab League, and other international organizations. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

New Questions Raised Over Aaron Schock's Fundraising Efforts

May 4th 2012

Aaron Shock and Mens Health
Aaron Shock and Mens Health

Two $25,000 donations during the final days of a hotly contested Illinois primary are raising more questions about whether super PACs — the political committees that have seen a flood of money from millionaires and billionaires — are being used to circumvent campaign contribution limits. Back in March, sophomore Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) wanted to help his friend and fellow Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger survive a rare incumbent-on-incumbent primary by sending some money his way.

Many members of Congress have “leadership PACs” set up for just this purpose — they direct funds from the PACs to their fellow representatives in hopes of earning support for senior leadership positions. Thanks to redistricting, Kinzinger, rather than face an easy primary, found himself facing 10-term Rep. Don Manzullo. Schock’s leadership PAC gave Kinzinger’s campaign $5,000 for the primary fight — the maximum allowed contribution. But Schock also managed to direct 10 times that much toward efforts aiding his buddy with help from the super PAC, earning the ire of campaign finance watchdogs.


The 2012 Vote

Marco Rubio and the DREAM Act

May 3rd 2012

Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL)

Marco Rubio, Florida Republicans’ golden politician, has served as the state’s Junior Republican Senator since November 2, 2010. Born into a Cuban immigrant family, Rubio himself has weighed in with his opinion on the immigration reform issue.

On April 1, 2012, he was interviewed on Fox News by Juan Williams regarding the status of the Development Relief and Education measure for Alien Minors, (DREAM ACT), a bill which was first introduced in 2001 and then effectively tabled by Congress since December. The proposed law would provide permanent residency to a certain category of undocumented immigrants, who either have graduated from a U.S. high school, or have been accepted into an institution of higher education, or who have completed two years of military service. The law would affect an estimated 65,000 students, who have grown up in the U.S. It is meant to address the latter’s effective lack of official legal status which prevents them from attending college or acquiring legal employment. It is scandalous that children who have spent a major part of their lives in the United States, and who speak English as their first language, should be considered as illegal immigrants. Indeed, to make certain that the undocumented students are familiar enough with the American society, one of the Dream Act prerequisites is that they entered the United States before the age of 16 and having spent at least five consecutive years living in the U.S. These immigrants have made the same investment in American society and have the same cultural roots as native born children, and therefore should be treated in the same fashion. Read more ..

Broken Government

Tax Extenders Review Needs a Framework

May 3rd 2012

US Paper Money

The House Ways and Means Committee is performing an important public service in laboriously working through the “tax extenders.” Specifically, the Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures under Chairman Pat Tiberi (R–OH) is compelling supporters to come forward and make the case why their provision merits extension.

The exercise is long overdue, but going forward the process requires a proper choice. If the choice is simply whether to continue any or all of the 64 provisions listed by the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) as expiring in 2011 or 2012, then even the least defensible of provisions will find defenders, and the only real opposition will come from those who have an affinity for the principles of sound tax policy. History suggests the outcome of such a contest at least nine times out of 10, which is why the list is so long today and its review so rare. Congress needs a more relevant, more critical choice. Read more ..

Broken Government

Fisker Electric Car: A Green Energy Failure?

May 2nd 2012

Click to select Image

The residents at Boxwood, Stanton, Brandywine Springs and other surrounding communities may have lost the opportunity to get back to work at a nearby automobile assembly line.

Many of these residents were among the work force at the General Motors Boxwood Road plant outside Wilmington, Delaware. The plant was closed in July 2009 as part of the GM bankruptcy orchestrated by the Obama Administration. The Boxwood plant produced the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky roadsters. GM shed the Pontiac and Saturn (as well as Saab and Hummer) nameplates as part of the company's bankruptcy reorganization.

Three months after the closing, Vice President Joe Biden visited the Boxwood plant. He announced $529 million in taxpayer guaranteed, low-interest Department of Energy loans to the California-based "green energy" auto manufacturer Fisker Automotive. In return Fisker would establish a vehicle assembly operation at the plant in Biden's home state. Biden promised, "This is seed money that will return back to the American consumer in billions and billions and billions of dollars in good new jobs." The vice president was joined by Delaware Governor Jack Markell (D), U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D) and then-U.S. Representative Mike Castle (R). About 1,000 United Auto Workers stood in as the political and literal background for Biden's announcement. Biden also promised that the plant would be turning out 100,000 cars a year by 2014. Read more ..

Afghanistan on Edge

Lessons from the Fall of Saigon

May 1st 2012

helo going off uss okinawa during saigon evac
Helicopter being pushed off the deck of the USS Okinawa during
the evacuation of Saigon (credit USMC)

The 37th anniversary of the fall of Saigon is a good time to review the utility of American security promises—including those purchased with American blood—to countries fighting ideologically based insurgencies.

There were 540,000 Americans in Vietnam at the peak of the U.S. part of the war in January 1969. Precisely four years later, in January 1973, the Paris Peace Accords were signed, and the U.S. promised continuing support to South Vietnam, where nearly 2.6 million Americans had served and more than 58,000 had died. Eight months later, Congress voted to halt all combat operations, and by December, only 50 American military personnel were left in the South. President Nixon resigned in July 1974, and two weeks later Congress reduced aid to South Vietnam by one third. In late December, the North attacked positions in the South. In January 1975, the cross-border invasion began. The North Vietnamese military expected the war to take two years. On 21 January, President Ford told a press conference the U.S. was unwilling to re-enter the war. Three months and nine days later, Saigon fell.

Phuoc Long in January; An Loc, Ban Me Thuot, Quang Tri, Tam Ky, Hue, Chu Lai, and Danang in March; Qui Nhon, Tuy Hoa and Nha Trang on April 1; Xuan Loc held out almost two weeks; Saigon was encircled on the 27th, and three days later, the war was over. For the South Vietnamese, there was much more horror to come as they fell into the clutches of people who despised their beliefs and their way of life—into the clutches of violent ideological communists. An estimated 1 million people were imprisoned without formal charges, 165,000 died in “re-education camps,“ and 2 million impoverished and miserable people fled the country. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Obama Administration Weakens Initiative that Identifies Criminal Aliens

April 30th 2012

Aliens busted

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on April 27 implemented several changes to weaken their Secure Communities Program, an initiative that keeps American neighborhoods safe by identifying illegal and criminal immigrants in police custody who have been arrested and fingerprinted, according to House GOP lawmakers.

Among these changes, ICE will not take enforcement action against those charged with minor traffic violations if they have not been previously convicted of other crimes. This means that an illegal immigrant previously arrested for a serious crime, such as murder or rape, but not convicted would be cut loose under ICE’s new policy.

ICE also indicates that it could punish states and localities that are serious about the enforcement of federal immigration law by reviewing the number of illegal immigrants identified by Secure Communities in each jurisdiction and possibly taking action if the number is too high. Read more ..

Broken Banking

Volcker Rule May Make the Financial and Banking System Riskier

April 30th 2012

Bundles of Cash

By now, it should be clear even to casual observers that the Volcker Rule, which was intended to limit the “risky” activities of banks by banning them from certain types of transactions, will be nearly impossible to implement without severe unintended damage to the U.S. financial system and many other types of businesses both here in the U.S. and overseas.
Even though the Federal Reserve now says that banks will not have to fully comply with it until July 2014, they will have to show “good faith planning efforts” to prepare for full compliance in the interim.

Combined with the continuing confusion about what the Volcker Rule will actually prohibit, the rule will continue to cause serious uncertainty about the structure and services provided by banks for at least the next two years. Since neither the banks nor the regulators have any idea what the final regulations will say, they will have no idea what constitutes good faith efforts to comply. Because of the continuing confusion and its effects on the financial system, Congress should immediately begin a serious re-examination of the Volcker Rule’s likely effect both in this country and abroad and repeal it as quickly as possible.

Broken Healthcare

Putting Our Premiums Into Medical Care, Not Profits

April 30th 2012

medicine and money

The recent news from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation that health insurers will have to send rebate checks totaling more than $1.3 billion to Americans this summer was especially gratifying to me. It more than justified my decision three years ago to clue members of Congress in on how insurance companies have systematically been devoting ever-increasing portions of our premium dollars to rewarding their shareholders and top executives.

Following my initial testimony in June 2009, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and other lawmakers drafted language for the health care reform bill requiring insurance firms to spend at least 80 percent of what we pay in premiums on actual medical care. Despite an intense lobbying effort by insurers, the language emerged unscathed in the final bill. That defeat for the insurance industry is turning out to be a big win for consumers.

One of the reasons I decided to testify in the first place was to explain why Americans are getting far less value for the premiums they pay than they were a few years earlier. As I told members of the Senate Commerce Committee, which Rockefeller chairs, for-profit insurers are under intense pressure from both shareholders and Wall Street financial analysts to show that the portion of their policyholders’ premiums they used to pay claims during the preceding quarter was less than the amount they paid during the same period a year earlier.

I explained that even profitable companies can see sharp declines in their stock prices within minutes if shareholders and analysts are disappointed in an obscure measure called the medical loss ratio (MLR). The MLR is the ratio between what a company actually spends on medical care and what it has left over to cover sales, marketing, underwriting and other administrative expenses, and, of course, profits. The less a company spends on care, the more is available to reward shareholders. That’s why insurers consider the money they spend on our care to be a loss. Read more ..

Broken Peace Process

Mideast Peace Process to Nowhere

April 29th 2012

Abbas Hillary and Bibi

Something has gone horribly wrong with the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's recent decision not to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is only the latest example and reason for the widespread pessimism about its trajectory. The so-called Middle East conflict has grown more rather than less intractable since Palestinian and Israeli leaders began their efforts to resolve it through negotiations. Indeed, almost two decades of negotiations have failed to convince Palestinian and Israeli leaders of a way to share the land and its resources. And in fact the core of the conflict is more about co-existing on the same land than just dividing it. Perhaps the realization of how many dreams would remain unfulfilled if the compromises necessary for an agreement were struck convinced politicians on both sides that resolving the dispute would be more costly and unpopular than perpetuating it.

Perhaps, both sides have clung more tightly to their national narratives than to proposals to be exchanged for concessions because discussions, themselves, disclosed the gap, not so much between the two sets of negotiators, but rather between reality and the dreams ordinary Palestinians and Israelis have been encouraged to imagine of the final resolution. At the very least, national narratives give Israelis and Palestinians a clear definition of their collective identities even if they lock them into their confrontation. Read more ..

Broken Banking

Banks Not Lending—and Not Letting Credit Unions Lend

April 28th 2012

Loan applcation denied

Small businesses account for 60–65 percent of jobs created during an economic rebound. However, hiring continues to be abysmal in large part due to the inability of small businesses get adequate access to capital for investing and expanding operations. In this upside-down real estate market, depressed home prices mean that small business proprietors cannot get home equity loans, forcing them to go to banks for capital. But the banks aren’t lending. Last year, banks rejected 60 percent of small business loan applications, and they reduced small business loans by 20 percent during the last recession.

On the other side, credit unions increased loans by 40 percent during the last recession, but their lending has been capped by an outdated law that suppresses small business access to capital and deters smaller credit unions from serving these businesses. To fix this, Congress is considering the Credit Union Small Business Lending Bill, S.2231, which raises the current credit union lending cap from 12.25 percent to 27.5 percent of assets. For small businesses, increasing the lending cap means more capital; for workers, it means more jobs; and for the economy, it means more investment and increased economic output. The increased lending is predicted to generate $13 billion in investments and 140,000 new jobs, as well as produce other significant indirect benefits to the overall economy. Read more ..

The Middle East on Edge

Europe Systematically Appeasing Arabs at Israel’s Expense

April 27th 2012

hassan nasrallah - hezbollah
Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah

Except for a brief period in the 1950s and early 1960s, Europe has based its Middle East policy (and foreign policy elsewhere) on a crude form of realpolitik that has left Israel in the lurch several times. European politics have always been Machiavellian, based on a raw form of realpolitik. Thus, even when members of the EU supported Israel for a brief but crucial time in the 1950s and early 1960s, support was based purely on state interest.

After Abdul Nasser took over Egypt in 1953, Great Britain, France, and Israel all perceived the pan-Arabism that Nasser championed as a threat. The three, each for its own reason, joined forces in the 1956 Sinai Campaign—the Europeans to ensure free access to the Suez Canal, Israel to ensure its security from the growing threat posed by Egypt, which had become a base for infiltrators and a client state for mass quantities of East European arms. For a period of time, France and Israel even developed an extraordinarily close relationship in the 1950s and early 1960s, against the backdrop of France’s war in Algeria , when some of the strategic interests of the two countries merged. And in the 1950s, German reparations also helped build the State of Israel. Read more ..

Healthcare on Edge

A Supreme Decision is Coming Soon

April 27th 2012


If the Supreme Court declares the individual mandate in the ACA—ObamaCare—unconstitutional, can it sever the mandate from the remainder of the bill? If it can’t, the entire legislation is declared null and void. If this is the eventual outcome, Congress must commence from square one again. If the mandate isn’t severed, the United States has an incredible healthcare nightmare that awaits. For example the provision requiring Insurance companies to sell health insurance to those with preexisting conditions will significantly increase the cost of their policies. This cost increase will drive healthy individuals out of the insurance market. This In turn will drive prices much higher and cause a death spiral for insurance companies.

In order to rationalize the constitutionality of Obamacare, its proponents must rely on the Commerce Clause. Beginning with Gibbons v. Ogden in 1824, the Supreme Court has granted Congress increasing powers to regulate states and individuals under the implicit authority of the Commerce Clause; often with the assistance of the “necessary and proper” clause.

However, the Commerce Clause has never been interpreted to give Congress the authority to require individuals not engaged in some activity to purchase a specific product or service. If Congress can compel Americans to purchase health care insurance, can it also compel them to purchase GM electric cars, organic food, or specific clothing? Can Congress compel businesses to hire certain employees, produce certain products, or charge below-market prices? If the Supreme Court ratifies the constitutionality of Obamacare under the Commerce Clause, it must also define the limits of the Commerce Clause. Otherwise, the Federal Government will have unlimited power over the American people. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Timing of Gingrich’s Exit from Race Has Observers Scratching their Heads

April 26th 2012

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich will exit the presidential race—but not until the end of April, raising eyebrows about what exactly the former Speaker hopes to achieve in his final days on the campaign trail.

The conventional wisdom is that Gingrich is taking some kind of strange victory lap, gathering family and supporters in North Carolina for a final hurrah before exiting stage right. But Gingrich is also looking to position himself as an influential figure at this summer’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., repair some of the relationships he has strained through the bruising GOP primary process and work to settle the massive debt his campaign has accrued in recent months.

There’s another reason Gingrich might be opting to stretch out his farewell—his final week of campaign events includes a lot of fun. Stops include a baseball game where Gingrich will throw out the first pitch, a visit to the base of a NASCAR racing team, and a tour of a North Carolina zoo. For Gingrich, it might just be the last chance to enjoy the trappings of the campaign trail. “We’re going to stay very, very active,” Gingrich told supporters in North Carolina on Wednesday. “We’re working out the details of our transition and will have information for the press over the next couple of days.” He added, “I am committed to this party. I am committed to defeating [President] Obama. We’re will try to find ways to be helpful.”

Gingrich aides say that the candidate hopes to have a prominent speaking spot at the convention and help shape the party’s policy platform. “Newt is committed to helping the Republican Party take back the White House and help Speaker Boehner maintain the Republican majority in the House, along with winning back the Senate, because a governing coalition of Republicans is as important as just winning the presidency,” said Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond. Read more ..

The War on Drugs

Bolivia's Evo Morales says 'Yes' to Coca but 'No' to Cocaine

April 26th 2012

Evo Morales coquero
President Evo Morales of Bolivia

At last month’s meeting of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, Bolivian President Evo Morales made headlines by dramatically brandishing a coca leaf he had apparently smuggled into the Austrian city between the pages of a book. The coca leaf, which is the unrefined source of cocaine and is considered an illegal substance under the UN’s 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, holds special significance for the Bolivian leader. A former cultivator of the plant himself, Morales swept into the presidency in 2006 with the backing of Bolivia’s cocaleros movement, a syndicate of coca-growers unions Morales has helmed for decades.

The standard-bearer of his own political party, the Movement Toward Socialism (Movimiento al Socialismo, MAS), Morales has faithfully conformed to the MAS platform. His tenure has seen the establishment of an intensely nationalistic, left-leaning government whose ambitions lie in the installment of a uniquely Bolivian brand of “Andean capitalism,” and whose support base is firmly rooted in Bolivia’s largely agrarian indigenous population. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Muddy Mobile Graphics Waters Dead Ahead

April 25th 2012

HTC thunderbold droid phone

A core is not a core when it comes to graphics.

When it comes to mobile SoCs generally, chips with two CPU cores are better than those with one, four cores are better than two, and so on. But not so with the GPU. What Qualcomm calls a graphics core is different from what Nvidia or someone else calls a GPU core. So when Huawei boasted at Mobile World Congress this year its K3V2 mobile SoC with 16 Vivante GPU cores will blow away the competition, well, according to Qualcomm’s Tim Leland: take it with a grain of salt.

The problem is that there’s no clean way to compare graphics performance, which is rapidly becoming the center of competition in mobile systems. Indeed the graphics part of mobile SoCs is growing faster than any other part of the chip. Apple’s latest iPad showed that mobile design these days is all about the graphics and what they can deliver in display and photo resolution.

So what’s an OEM to do? Hire a grad student to sort through the dozen or so relevant graphics benchmarks, run them on all the key chips and do a multivariate analysis of the results. That’s Tim’s advice anyway. Read more ..

Healthcare on Edge

Health Insurance Company Shareholders Not Pleased with Ther CEOs

April 23rd 2012

David Cordriani Cigna CEO
Cigna CEO David Cordriani

One of my responsibilities when I was head of corporate communications at Cigna was to help ensure that the company’s annual meeting of shareholders ran smoothly and, if at all possible, attracted no negative publicity. I always dreaded the annual meeting because you really never knew if one or more disgruntled shareholders might show up and ask rude questions of the CEO. But during all of my years of helping plan those meetings, we had an unblemished string of non-events. We considered the meetings marathons if they lasted more than 15 minutes. Most of them were considerably shorter. Over the course of 10 years, I only recall two reporters who felt compelled to attend, and one of them got stuck in traffic and missed the whole thing.

Some of my peers at other health insurers were not that lucky, but relatively few of the big-profit insurers have had to cope with contentious shareholder meetings.

It is clear those days are over. Some investors are now beginning to question how those companies make the billions of dollars in profits they report every year, especially with the ranks of the uninsured continuing to swell, how they spend policyholders’ money to influence public policy and whether their CEOs are truly worth all they are being paid. Read more ..

War Against the Weak

California and Its Gender-selective Abortions

April 22nd 2012

Post Aboriton Women

On April 11 the Daily Mail in the UK reported on the case of a little girl in India, killed by her father simply because she was a girl: “For about a week, she tried hard to hold on and fight hard. But allegedly brutalised by her father for being born a girl, she stood little chance. Baby Neha Afreen died after a cardiac arrest in a government hospital in Bangalore on Wednesday morning. The three-month-old baby was admitted to the Vani Vilas Hospital on Thursday night, April 5, with a severe head injury, dislocated neck and bite and burn marks on her body.”

While sex-selective abortion and female infanticide is a common occurrence in India and other countries, there is now evidence that sex-selective abortions have gained a foothold in the United States. On December 11, 2011, Forbes magazine published an article entitled “America’s Male Only Child Policy?” which began “Where are all of the girls? Two Columbia University researchers, Douglas Almond and Lena Edlund, were poring over U.S. Census data when they noticed a statistical anomaly: Americans from China, Korea, and India have relatively few daughters.

“Almond and Edlund quickly realized that they were looking at a statistical impossibility—a famine of females. It simply couldn’t be random chance. You can’t flip a coin and make it come up tails this many times in a row. “They published their findings in the peer-reviewed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “We find that the sex ratio of the oldest child to be normal, but that of subsequent children to be heavily male if there is no previous son.” The natural ratio of boys to girls at birth is 1.05:1. Among people of Chinese, Korean or Indian descent, the distribution of boys to girls fell in the normal range for the first child. But the second is child is much more likely to be a boy; the ratio of males to females was 1.17, Almond and Edlund note. For the third child, the distribution tilts even more male—boys outnumbered girls by 50% (1.51:1) if there was no previous son.” Read more ..

Significant Lives

Charles "Chuck" Colson Passes--Watergate Conspirator and Influential Evangelical Christian

April 21st 2012

Chuck Colson
Charles Colson

Charles Colson, a special counsel to President Richard Nixon during the Watergate era, died at the age 80 on April 21. 'Chuck' Colson, who once said he would run over his grandmother to get Nixon re-elected, went to prison for his role in a Watergate-related case. He joined fellow conspirator G. Gordon Liddy in prison. After their release, both would go on to success in media ventures.

Colson helped run the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP) when it began gathering intelligence on political rivals, such as Eugene McCarthy and James McGovern. The arrest of five of their employees burglarizing the Democratic National Committee offices in 1972 set off the scandal that led to Nixon's resignation in August 1974.

The Washington Post described Colson in 1972 as “one of the most powerful presidential aides, variously described as a troubleshooter and as a 'master of dirty tricks.' '' Colson pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and served seven months in prison in Alabama. Read more ..

The Iranian Threat

Don't Throw Iran's Democrats under the Bus

April 21st 2012

Iran protest

In pursuing a nuclear deal with Tehran, Obama is betting against the future.

You wouldn't know it from following the news, but the nuclear impasse is not the only issue dividing Iran and the United States. In his latest message to the Iranian people on the occasion of their festival Nowruz in March, U.S. President Barack Obama emphasized another: human rights. After describing at length how "the Iranian people are denied the basic freedom to access the information that they want," he announced measures to penetrate "the electronic curtain that is cutting the Iranian people off from the world."

It's difficult, by contrast, to find any mention of Iran's human rights record in the many background briefings and on-the-record comments by officials of the P5+1 - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States -- ahead of Saturday's negotiations with Iran in Istanbul. Proposals for how to resolve the nuclear standoff pour forth from pundits, but few if any include suggestions for what to do about Iran's jailing of journalists, execution of hundreds of people per year, persecution of religious minorities, or other human rights problems. Read more ..

Broken Immigration

Supreme Court Immigration Showdown: Why States Can Enforce Immigration Laws

April 21st 2012

Click to select Image

On April 25, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case with significant implications for immigration policy and enforcement well beyond the immediate statute at issue. Arizona v. United States is a challenge to much of the state enforcement scheme of Arizona Senate Bill 1070 (S.B. 1070), which was enacted to detect and address illegal immigration in Arizona. The passage of S.B. 1070 created a media frenzy and led some immigrants’ rights groups and even one Member of Congress to call for economic boycotts in Arizona. Just weeks after S.B. 1070 was passed, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice was considering filing a lawsuit against Arizona. Yet during a congressional hearing on May 13, 2010, Holder admitted that he had not read the 17-page bill.

After two years of legal action, the narrow legal issue before the Supreme Court is whether Arizona’s law is preempted by federal immigration law—not whether it violates equal protection or federal civil rights laws. Nevertheless, the preemption issue remains an important one that will largely determine the range of options states have to assist in federal immigration enforcement actions. Read more ..

Obama and Israel

Obama Administration Must Stop Funding Palestinian Authority

April 21st 2012

Obama and Israel

The U.S. funding policy towards the Palestinians could best be described by Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

In the last five years, the U.S. government has poured at least $4 billion in aid to the Palestinians, with very little to show in return – except more terror and corruption. Time has now long come to ask whether the U.S. should continue funding at all. In a virtually unprecedented move, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton overruled a House Foreign Affairs Committee hold on $59 million in funding to the Palestinian Authority (PA), thus blatantly disregarding the integrity of Congress. Read more ..

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