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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 ..

The Obama Edge

FBI Implements Obama's Politically Correct Counterterrorism Training

April 21st 2012

NYPD and flag

Under the watchful eyes of President Barack Obama, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is revising its counterterrorism training programs by removing all references to Muslims and Arab-Americas that are said to be offensive to civil-rights groups such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the American Civil Liberties Group (ACLU), a federal law enforcement stated. According to the anonymous source, Senator Dick Dubin, an Illinois Democrat, has pushed for this far-reaching change as well as other fellow Democrats who are allegedly kowtowing to the large Muslim population in their states. The FBI boasted to the U.S. Congress that it's academy in Quantico, Virginia removed all mentions of Islam that are viewed as offensive to Muslims, along with language saying that agents had the ability to suspend the law and impinge on the freedoms of others in the course of investigations. Sen. Durbin sent a letter to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller earlier this week about the FBI's training program and course materials used at its National Academy. Read more ..

The Middle East on Edge

Europe Cannot Be an Even-handed Mediator in the Middle East

April 20th 2012

EU flag

Beside a poor record in solving problems as colonial powers, member states of the EU would make poor facilitators in the Middle East for several reasons, including their dependence on Arab trade and Arab oil.

As an alliance of 25 western-European nations, the EU has staked out a position as one of the four players of the so-called Quartet, which seeks “to promote a just, comprehensive, and lasting settlement of the Middle East conflict.” The other Quartet members include the United States, Russia, and the United Nations, the last largely controlled by the Third World.

Europeans and Jews share a host of cultural values and economic bonds, but the relationship is anomalous in that it includes a strong economic partnership and a weak political partnership. Centuries of European antisemitism culminated in the Holocaust, made possible not only by the rise of Nazism in Germany, but by the acts of other European countries as well—acts of commission and omission.

Two years after World War II, European nations supported the UN plan calling for a Jewish state, support that reflected both a sense of guilt toward the Jews and national interests. Although every Arab state rejected Israel’s right to exist, Western Europe forged diplomatic and economic relations with Israel. Britain and France even established strategic relations with Israel in the early 1950s when Britain sought to regain control over the Suez Canal from Egypt. Read more ..

Edge of No Return

It’s the Real Thing: The One Sided Right of Return

April 19th 2012

Coca Cola Egypt - 1950's
Coca Cola Plant Circa 1950s while Bigio was Landowner

In 2001, Hussam Khader, a Fatah leader, said of Yasser Arafat’s last negotiations with then President Bill Clinton, “If Yasser Arafat or any other Palestinian leader were to relinquish the right of return, I would lead the revolt against him.” This supposed right, one sided as it might be, is the stated reason why the Oslo Accords failed, and is something that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert amazingly offered in a rejected last ditch effort to hand over 97 percent of Judea and Samaria and the Golan Heights in exchange for peace.

The Arabs claim that the the right of return is an individual right, enshrined in international law, which no international or national leader can sign away. This right, however seems only enshrined on a one-way street for Palestinians. For Jews, there is no such right, nor any major calls for justice to be served on the behalf of Jews who were forcibly kicked out of Arab lands after the British and French Mandates created the Arab states of Syria, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and so on, following the end of World War I. Read more ..

Mexico on Edge

Families Mourn as Hundreds 'Disappear' in northern Mexico

April 19th 2012

Mexico crosses

The new top law enforcement official for the northern Mexican border state of Coahuila said this past weekend that 1,700 people have been forcibly disappeared in the entity since 2000.

At a press event attended by Coahuila Governor Ruben Moreira Valdez, the state’s newly-named attorney general announced that committees will be formed to investigate the disappearances. The working groups will count on the participation of law enforcement, the official state human rights commission and victims’ relatives, said new State Attorney General Homero Ramos Gloria.

“We have all the intentions of quickly showing results in the search for the disappeared,” Ramos said.

The figure of 1,700 forcibly disappeared people greatly surpasses the estimated 600-1100 people who are still missing from the Mexican government’s national campaign against guerrilla opponents and dissidents during the late 1960s and 1970s. Nationwide, as many as 20,000 people could have been forcibly disappeared in the so-called narco-violence that’s swept Mexico in more recent years.

The Coahuila state government’s announced initiative on disappeared persons followed a long campaign by FUUNDEC (United Forces for Our Disappeared), an association of victims’ relatives, as well as a visit last year by a United Nations delegation probing the local human rights situation. Read more ..

The Edge of Terror

Elites Failing America in Battle against Terrorism

April 18th 2012

edward said
Edward Said

It’s the first rule of war: know your enemy. Yet the U.S. government refuses to use terms like “jihadists” or “radical Islamists” to describe the terrorists who attack us. According to some in the media, the war against Islamic jihadists doesn’t even exist. When agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Amine El Khalifi recently for plotting to blow up the U.S. Capitol, most media reports identified him as simply a “Moroccan man.”

Entire news reports about El Khalifi’s case made no mention of the fact that he was Muslim. Neither did a top U.S. Justice Department official who labeled the al Qaeda admirer as merely “homegrown violent extremist.” Again, no mention of Islam, even though El Khalifi had prayed at a Washington-area mosque just moments before driving a van he thought was packed with explosives to the Capitol.

“He was obviously affiliated with the Islamic jihad,” Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., said. “And what’s very clear is that had he succeeded, the coverage would have been different.”

“But wouldn’t it be better if we had media coverage that talked about the potential of what could happen so we could prevent it?” she asked. Bachmann said that political correctness takes over in mainstream reporting on Islamic terrorism. “The world is being turned upside down because of radical Islam and our media is refusing to tell the story. … They come from a decidedly leftist world view and a secular—almost anti-secular, in a way, because they’ve embraced such a radical world view—and they impose that filter through every subject they touch,” she continued. “Unfortunately, this subject concerns our very survivability as a people.” Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Spinning Polls on Obama’s Jewish Support

April 18th 2012

Prez Obama at AIPAC 2012

Anyone who believes the hype over the recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute suggesting that Jews don’t consider Israel an important factor in their vote hasn’t spoken to any Jews in the last three years. And anyone who buys the spin from the survey that American Jews are showing strong support for President Obama is simply ignorant of electoral history.

Putting aside what looks to be a liberal bias in the response group (44 percent identified as liberal or very liberal) and questions (which focused on religious and social issues rather than security and peace issues), the fact that Jews, like most Americans, would say the economy is the most important issue in this election is unremarkable. The more interesting question would be how many of these Jews are assimilated, disinterested in politics, or have little knowledge or interest in Israel, because answers to these questions would probably also put the results in a proper perspective.

Two hints that this sample is unrepresentative and includes those less likely to consider Israel important are the finding that 60 percent of those polled don’t belong to synagogues and 64 percent never visited Israel. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Eichmann and the Clintons in Jerusalem

April 17th 2012

Hillary Clinton and Shimon Peres
Secretary Hillary Clinton and Israeli President Shimon Peres

“Kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history and religion.”Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem.

It might be seen in hindsight that in Desert Storm, George H.W. Bush was in fact bringing a final end to World War II, as Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party was an organism directly related to the Nazi movement, mentored by the Third Reich and modeled on its terror tactics. In hindsight it seemed odd that H.W., honored veteran of that conflict, didn't end it there but left it standing, leaving the dirty deed to the next generation. Likewise below, at Temple Mount, where the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was first mentored by Adolf Eichmann. As Saddam and George W. Bush were second generation agents to their political parties and purpose, so was the Grand Mufti’s nephew, Yasser Arafat, left to finish the work hatched literally in Hitler’s ovens by his uncle who was based in Berlin from 1942 to 1944. “Allah in heaven, Hitler on earth,” was the popular Arab phrase at the time. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Between War and a Warm Embrace

April 16th 2012

Obama in front of AMA

A lick of historicism would serve the Obama administration well in its much-too-friendly relationship with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and other manifestations of the Arab uprising.  There is a political space between going to war with countries that do not share our democratic norms and principles, and embracing them as if they did -- or could.  The United States has experience standing in that space.  We did it and we won the Cold War.

The U.S.-Soviet face-off involved two powerful countries standing for two powerful and irreconcilable ideologies: one free, one not; one with individual rights and liberties, one without; one with a belief in entrepreneurial capitalism, one state-driven.  We won and they lost in part because people had faith in one and not the other.

The MB and its Shiite counterparts, like the early Soviets, believe their own ideology and promote Islamic society based on God's requirements for man.  In Egypt and elsewhere they are well-organized and well-funded, and they reject Western political, moral, and social standards.  Their belief in an expansionist Islamist revival and expressed religiosity resonate with poor, rural, and conservative people for whom the West is a great unknown. Read more ..

American Edge

Beware the Corporate-Educational Complex

April 16th 2012

Bill Gates and Melinda Gates
Bill Gates and Melinda Gates

Sometimes we can learn lessons from history–if we are paying attention.

In January 1961, as he completed his second and final term as President of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower gave a farewell address to the nation. It was a remarkable and prescient speech in many ways, especially given that Eisenhower was a West Point graduate, a retired five-star general, a military hero in command of all Allied troops in Western Europe during World War II, and personally a very conservative man.

In the speech, Eisenhower warned the American people of the growing power of a “military-industrial complex,” an alliance of the military with defense contractors that he saw as a threat to democracy.

Democracy in the United States is now under a similar assault from an education-foundation-political-industrial complex. This complex takes many forms, but its primary goal is to shape state and federal educational policy in a way that maximizes private corporate profits. Read more ..

Washington Edge

Congressional Dems and GOP are On the Road to Nowhere

April 16th 2012

Broken Road

Republicans and Democrats are hurtling toward a fiscal cliff, and neither side wants to take the plunge.

In less than nine months, Bush-era tax rates are scheduled to expire, hiking rates for the middle class as well as top income earners. At the same time, automatic spending cuts will kick in. The combination, coupled with the expiration of the payroll tax cut and other factors, would constitute a blow that analysts say could imperil the economic recovery and send America crashing back into recession.

That gives both parties an incentive to reach a deal to avert disaster and, with Tax Day approaching, millions of taxpayers a reason to hope that their bill could look awfully similar this time next year. “I think the specter of a fiscal contraction that’s north of 3 percent of GDP should get even the most dysfunctional of Congresses’ attention,” said Jared Bernstein, former economic adviser to Vice President Biden. 

Even so, practically no one in Washington believes an agreement will come together until an expected lame duck session after the November election upon which all political eyes are focused. And the results of that campaign will also have a big impact on the end-of-year tax debate Read more ..

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