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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side, credit unions increased loans by 40 percent during the last recession, but their lending has been capped by an outdated law that suppresses small business access to capital and deters smaller credit unions from serving these businesses.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 ..

Islam on Edge

Ten Questions for the Council on American Islamic Relations

April 15th 2012

Click to select Image
CAIR leaders Nihad Awad - left, Ibrahim Hooper - right

The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has launched a propaganda campaign attacking a state legislative initiative that is designed to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans, including Muslims. That initiative is known as American Laws for American Courts (ALAC). CAIR claims this bill would have the opposite effect — infringing upon Muslims’ and others’ right to freedom of religion. CAIR’s real motivation, however, is not to safeguard the U.S. Constitution, but rather to promote the insinuation here of Shariah, a totalitarian Islamic political-military-legal doctrine. Shariah requires and enforces discrimination against women, children, homosexuals, atheists, members of other religions such as Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians, as well as Muslims who repudiate the dictates of that doctrine.

A review of the actual language of the American Laws for American Courts legislation shows that CAIR is deliberately and falsely characterizing it as anti-Shariah. As we shall see, ALAC is not targeted at either Shariah or Islam. Unlike a constitutional amendment to the State of Oklahoma’s constitution that was approved in 2010 by seventy percent of the voters, neither term is mentioned anywhere in ALAC’s bill language. (A complete comparison can be found here: http://www.americanthinker.com/2011/09/american_laws_for_american_courts.html_.) ALAC’s very different approach was vindicated when the Council on American Islamic Relations succeeded in challenging the Oklahoma amendment on the grounds that it singled out Shariah law and therefore was ruled unconstitutional. Read more ..

Healthcare on Edge

Justice Scalia Jokes in the Face of the Grim Reality of American Health Care

April 14th 2012

RAM clinic
credit: Remote Area Medical

Since Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia clearly isn’t going to take the time to actually read the health care reform law before he decides whether or not it’s constitutional, maybe he and a couple of his buddies on the High Court can catch a screening of “The Hunger Games”, the movie about children battling each other to the death in a dystopian, futuristic America, renamed Panem.

“You really want us to go through these 2,700 pages?” Scalia asked during arguments on the constitutionality of the law last week. “Is this not totally unrealistic? That we are going to go through this enormous bill item by item and decide each one?” He joked that spending time to read the Affordable Care Act before the Court decides its fate would put him in danger of violating the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Funny, Judge.

Cruel and unusual punishment is crucial to “The Hunger Games,” but it only lasts 142 minutes and no one in the audience gets hurt, mitigating anybody’s risk of violating the Constitution. The movie portrays a government completely disconnected from the people who struggle every day for the most basic elements of survival, including medical care. Only the wealthy residents of the Capitol have access to hospitals and modern medicine, which, fortunately for them, seems to have a cure for everything. Read more ..

Edge of Islam

Toulouse Terrorist Mohammed Merah: A Monster from the Sickness in Islam

April 14th 2012

Mohamed Merah, Toulouse shooter
Mohammed Merah

Mohammed Merah, killed at age 23, is infamous as the author of the slaughter of Jewish children at the school of Toulouse (France), on March 19, and a few days earlier the killing of French paratroopers in Montauban. Besieged by police for hours in the house where he was imprisoned, he died in shoot-out on March 22.

Abdennour Bidar is a French Muslim philosopher[1], I have had the joy of knowing. On 23 March, he published an article in the newspaper "Le Monde", entitled: "Merah, a monstre issu de la Maladie de l'Islam (Merah, a monster created by Islam's illness)." Given its importance, I would like to present it here.

"When the killer of Toulouse and Montauban was identified as' Salafi jihadist '... the declarations made by Islamic dignitaries in France were careful to avoid any' amalgam 'between the radicalism of this individual and the peaceful nature of France's Muslim community to "clearly" distinguish between Islam and Islamism, Islam and violence. "

However, a serious question remains: "On the whole, can the religion of Islam be declared alien to this type of radical action? ... Or perhaps, is this gesture the extreme expression of an illness within Islam itself?". Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

"Occupy Obamacare' PAC attacks Healthcare Plan in Bizarre Videos

April 14th 2012

Barack Obama

A former supporter of President Barack Obama, angered by Obama’s signature health insurance overhaul, wants to turn the election season into a horror movie with the aid of a super PAC. Last week, Glenn Morton, a 41-year-old health insurance broker and failed congressional candidate who lives in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C., launched a low-budget super PAC called “Occupy Obamacare.” The group’s nascent YouTube channel features “Dr. Obamacare” wearing a zombie mask and carrying a scythe with a skull. (Dr. Obamacare also has his own Twitter feed.) Apparently, the Obama zombie is meant to be a physical manifestation of Obama’s Affordable Care Act. In one video, Dr. Obamacare appears in a dark tunnel and warns “If you don’t do as I prescribe, I’ll be extracting the maximum penalty” — before repeatedly slashing with his scythe.

In another, the zombie Dr. Obamacare appears at a tea party rally wearing a bloody white coat and summons a bolt of lightning to strike down former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain as he urges the crowd to repeal the president’s health care plan.

“I’m going to run a whole campaign around this one law because I know I have a better solution,” Morton stated. Morton’s super PAC will never be confused with the big guns that have attracted tens of millions of dollars, like the pro-Mitt Romney Restore Our Future and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads. So far, he hasn’t bought any advertising to feature his creation and he declined to say how much the group has raised. The videos are apparently largely self-financed. But whether you agree with his message or not, the videos are an argument that the super PACs can be an outlet for creative political speech, made possible in part by the liberalization of campaign finance laws.


Healthcare on Edge

Why the Insurance Industry Needs the ACA to Stay in Business

April 13th 2012

CIGNA building

If there is a group of people more anxious about how the Supreme Court will rule on the health care reform law than President Obama and the millions of Americans who are already benefiting from it, it is health insurance executives. Not only have their companies been spending millions of dollars implementing the parts of the law that pertains to them—and most of them do—but they also have been counting on the law as very possibly the only thing that can preserve the free market system of health insurance in this country. This is why it is so ironic that defenders of the free market are the most vocal critics of the law and the ones hoping most ardently that the Court will declare it unconstitutional.

Health insurers have known for years that their business practices of excluding growing numbers of Americans from coverage and shifting more and more of the cost of care to policyholders are not sustainable over the long haul. That’s why their top priority during the health care reform debate was to make sure whatever bill Congress passed included the much-vilified individual mandate. And it’s also why the big insurance companies have been working almost frantically to reinvent themselves lately.

Cigna and Aetna recently became the latest of the biggest national firms to rebrand themselves and roll out new logos and self-descriptions. Cigna is now “a global health service company“ while Aetna is now “one of the nation's leading health care benefits companies.” What this means is that these companies and their competitors have come to understand that the very policies that enabled them to make Wall Street-pleasing profits over several years has led to a health insurance marketplace that is shrinking. And as it continues to shrink, so will their profit margins. Read more ..

History on Edge

The Smog of War: Time to Lay to Rest the Vietnam Syndrome

April 12th 2012

Vietnamese hat in mud

Take off your hat. Taps is playing. Almost four decades late, the Vietnam War and its post-war spawn, the Vietnam Syndrome, are finally heading for their American grave. It may qualify as the longest attempted burial in history. Last words -- both eulogies and curses -- have been offered too many times to mention, and yet no American administration found the silver bullet that would put that war away for keeps.

Richard Nixon tried to get rid of it while it was still going on by “Vietnamizing” it. Seven years after it ended, Ronald Reagan tried to praise it into the dustbin of history, hailing it as “a noble cause.” Instead, it morphed from a defeat in the imperium into a “syndrome,” an unhealthy aversion to war-making believed to afflict the American people to their core.

A decade later, after the U.S. military smashed Saddam Hussein’s army in Kuwait in the First Gulf War, George H.W. Bush exulted that the country had finally “kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all.” As it turned out, despite the organization of massive “victory parades” at home to prove that this hadn't been Vietnam redux, that war kicked back. Another decade passed and there were H.W.’s son W. and his advisors planning the invasion of Iraq through a haze of Vietnam-constrained obsessions. Read more ..

The Arab Winter in Egypt

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Mendacious Washington Charm Campaign

April 12th 2012

Khairat al-Shater
Khairat al-Shater, Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace hosted a Muslim Brotherhood delegation in Washington last week to better understand how the Islamist group will govern Egypt. It was a noble attempt at promoting intercultural political dialogue—an engagement for which many in the American policy community, as well as academia, have long advocated. Yet the Brotherhood came to Washington with an agenda of its own: selling itself as a “moderate” organization to a highly skeptical American public. And it did so using one of the oldest sales tricks: It completely misrepresented itself.

In a certain sense, the Muslim Brotherhood’s representatives had no other choice. If they admitted, for example, that they intend to repeal the law that criminalizes sexual harassment—as one of their female parliamentarians declared earlier last week—they would have killed their chances at winning over an American public that embraces gender equality. Similarly, if the Brotherhood’s representatives used their time in Washington to reiterate their leaders’ calls for banning beach tourism, it would have destroyed any hopes of an American taxpayer-aided bailout for the nearly bankrupt Egyptian economy. And if they’d repeated their leaders’ 9/11 conspiracy theories, they would have been on the first plane back to Cairo, rather than invited for meetings at the White House and State Department. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Jihad in France is Just Beginning

April 11th 2012

Graffiti Supportive of Toulouse Killer
Graffiti Supporting the Toulouse Killings

The Congress of the French branch of the Muslim Brotherhood (UOIF) took place in the city of Le Bourget, near Paris, from April 6–9. Over 100,000 participants were expected. Six anti-Semitic Islamic preachers who were invited to speak were denied entry into France. Other anti-Semitic Islamic preachers will speak anyway; they are French, and they cannot be expelled. They will not be condemned. The French government knows that if it condemned them, it might be confronted by riots in many suburbs. Every year, openly anti-Semitic books are on sale at the Congress of the UOIF, among them the fabricated Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This year will be no different.

Several radical Islamist organizations openly advocate—without interference—jihad on French territory. One of them, Forsane Alizza (Pride Riders), was banned by the French government at the end of February; it had started to train fighters on French soil. Although officially the organization disappeared, its members are still active. Eighteen of them were arrested on March 30; they will probably soon be released. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Speak Up In Support of Syrian People

April 11th 2012

Click to select Image

The Jewish community has always been outspoken in the face of massacres or genocides. The organized Jewish community played a remarkable role in speaking up on behalf of the victims of genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s and on behalf of the victims of the Darfur area, who were being massacred by the Sudanese government. In both cases, the U.S. government and the international community eventually took action that succeeded in stopping or at least significantly diminishing the intensity of the tragedies.

The Bosnian and Darfur cases both demonstrated evidence of genocide while they were occurring. It made sense that the Jewish people, having been victims of genocide themselves, would speak up to make sure that the world is held accountable.

In Syria, the ruthless regime of Bashar Al Assad is carrying out a massacre against dissidents who dare to stand up and demand change from his arch-oppressive Baathist dictatorship. Some reports state that 10,000 people have been killed within the past year and that thousands more have been injured. The slaughter reportedly includes entire neighborhoods that have vanished in a generalized merciless murder that includes women and children. Read more ..

Election 2012

Obama and Romney Now Go at Each Other in Earnest

April 11th 2012

Obama: call me

The general election has begun for Mitt Romney and President Obama.
Rick Santorum's exit from the Republican presidential primary on Tuesday cemented Romney's status as the GOP nominee, which the former Massachusetts governor seemed to acknowledge.

"This has been a good day for me," he said at his first public appearance on April 10 after Santorum left the race.

Obama, too, has seemed to drop all pretense about who he'll face in November, referring to Romney by name for the first time earlier this month. Although Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul remain in the GOP primary, both have scaled back their campaigns immensely, and Gingrich has acknowledged that Romney’s nomination is now essentially a fait accompli. But, despite the air of inevitability surrounding this match-up, both Obama and Romney are beginning the general-election phase of the campaign on new ground. Read more ..

Religious Tolerance

Toulouse Tragedy is More Spilling of Jewish Blood

April 10th 2012

Elie Wiesel
Elie Wiesel

Will the hatred of the Jews ever finally vanish? Will Jewish children always be in danger? This time, a murderer slew four Jews: a teacher and three young children. When a blood-thirsty Jew-hater wants to kill Jews, he goes first to the Jewish schools. Jewish children are his primary target. It’s always been this way. This is what Pharaoh, King of Egypt did, what Hitler did. And this is what happened now.

This is the background to the tragedy that occurred in the French city, Toulouse.

I have visited that city many times. The Jewish community there is old and well-established – it dates back to the Middle Ages – but it is dynamic. In the streets, you can see Jews wearing yarmulkas. Nobody thinks of anti-Semitism. Spiritually, it is one of richest Jewish communities in France. Obviously, the terrible murderous attack evoked tears and rage among both Jews and non-Jews. The President, his ministers, and other political figures in France, as well as all the newspapers, have demanded that the murderer be found and punished. It often happens like this. Jewish blood is spilled and, temporarily, sympathy for Jews grows; the world warms to them. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

U.S.–Brazil Summit: Time for a Bold Policy Vision

April 9th 2012

Barack Obama with Flag

An optimistic view of the April 9 meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is that it will produce a stronger relationship with an emerging global power here in the Americas. Despite significant differences on key democracy, human rights, and foreign policy issues, the U.S. must elevate its game with Brazil. If it is a U.S. priority to build a substantive rather than merely amicable relationship, the Obama Administration and policy shapers in general should develop a coordinated ensemble of initiatives that provide real incentives, as well as a strategy for achieving a closer, enduring, and mutually beneficial association. These initiatives must be sufficiently bold to appeal to Brazilian pride and self-interest and overcome a Brazilian desire to play global counterweight or foil to U.S. policy. 

Many in Brazil, especially independent-minded foreign policy elites, run with the global pack—they like independence from the U.S. and enjoy the ability to cherry-pick stances in a competitive, multipolar world. To challenge this position, the U.S. needs a weighty, strategic-minded approach that spans a spectrum of trade, energy, aerospace, and security possibilities. 

Freeing Trade

The U.S. and Brazil aim to steer their economies toward higher, broader-based growth tracks. Brazil is the U.S.’s 10th-largest trading partner, acquiring $39 billion in U.S. goods and $12.7 billion in U.S. services (figures from 2010). The U.S. ran an $11 billion trade surplus with Brazil in 2010.

Nearer than Asian markets, much closer in mores and cultural affinities, Brazil is a major purchaser of goods from high-tech, value-producing industries, particularly machinery and aircraft parts. While China has surpassed the U.S. as Brazil’s largest trade partner, that economic relationship is linked to volatile commodities, a form of neo-dependency that Brazil wishes to address. Read more ..

Election 2012

Obama Apparently Abandons Push to Require Disclosure of Donations by Federal Contractors

April 8th 2012

Dollar Polity

The Obama administration has all but abandoned its push to require federal contractors to disclose their political donations.

A year ago, the White House composed a draft executive order that would have forced potential government contractors to reveal their political spending as a condition of submitting bids. But roughly 12 months later, no final order has been issued, and supporters and critics alike say they've seen no signs such a change is forthcoming.

"The executive order can potentially come back after the 2012 elections," said Craig Holman, lobbyist for Public Citizen, a government watchdog group that has been urging the greater transparency. "But I don't consider it still being contemplated [now]." Holman said Obama sent clear signals the issue has been pushed to the backburner in January when the president declined to pitch it in his State of the Union address.

"Obama neglected to even mention it," Holman said with disappointment. "I consider it not to be even on the agenda." That doesn’t mean campaign finance won’t be a high-profile issue this election year.

Democrats in both chambers have introduced legislation on campaign spending that’s broader than the administration's draft executive order. The Disclose Act — sponsored by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) — would force corporations, including government contractors, to reveal all political contributions above $10,000 and take public credit for the political ads they sponsor.

Backed by Obama, the bills are designed to nibble away at the Supreme Court's 2010 "Citizens United" decision, which cleared the way for unlimited, often anonymous campaign spending by corporations, unions and other well-heeled interests. Read more ..

The Budget Battle

Rep. Ryan’s Budget Proposal Walks GOP into Another Political Trap

April 7th 2012

Juan Williams 02

Here is Joel Benenson, President Obama’s top campaign pollster, speaking to reporters last week about his view of the 2012 race for the White House: “This election has fundamentally shaped up—and rightly so—as a battle over contrasts of economic values and economic vision.”

Here is Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a man high on the list of Republican vice presidential possibilities, last week offering me, in a Fox News Latino interview, a similar view of the heart of the fall campaign: “I think we Republicans have an opportunity to offer a very clear contrast to the direction that Barack Obama has taken the … U.S.” In Rubio’s opinion, President Obama is “undermining” the American free enterprise system, which Rubio said is “the best system in the world for upward mobility and economic empowerment.”

Absent some foreign policy crisis, Benenson and Rubio have it exactly right—this fall’s presidential campaign will be another replay of “It’s the Economy, Stupid.” And the blueprint for campaigns can be found in the recent budget proposal from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee.

David Plouffe, the president’s senior adviser, is already calling the Ryan budget “the Romney-Ryan plan.” And Mitt Romney is cooperating by endorsing Ryan’s proposal as “an excellent piece of work.”

The Republicans are falling into a trap. The Ryan plan calls for reducing individual income tax rates to 10 percent and 25 percent from the current top rate of 35 percent and he also reduces the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. The Wisconsin Republican claims his budget offsets the tax dollars lost to the tax cuts for upper-income Americans by eliminating tax loopholes, tax shelters and many tax deductions estimated at an incredible $4.6 trillion over 10 years. But while Ryan specifies the cuts in tax rates, he never identifies these giant tax breaks he wants to kill. Read more ..

The Edge of Nature

Should Polar Bears Lose Endangered Species Status?

April 7th 2012

Back in 2008, when the Bush administration was on the threshold of declaring polar bears “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, I pointed out that claims of polar bear endangerment were highly speculative: Predictions of polar bear endangerment are based on two sets of computer models: one set predicts how much Arctic sea ice will melt as a result of global warming, and the other predicts how polar bear populations will respond.

But computer models of climate change are known to be fraught with problems, and the ecological models used to predict polar bears’ response to climate shifts are equally limited. It is essentially impossible to know whether polar bears are endangered and whether their habitat is threatened by manmade global warming or other natural climate cycles. What we do know about polar bears is that, contrary to media portrayals, they are not fragile, “canary in the coal mine” animals, but are robust creatures that have survived past periods of extensive deglaciation. Polar bear fossils have been dated to over 100,000 years ago, which means that polar bears have already survived an interglacial period when temperatures were considerably warmer than they are at present and when, quite probably, levels of summertime Arctic sea ice were correspondingly low.


The Obama Edge

Obama's Auto-Bailout Fiction

April 6th 2012

Auto Bailout

As the president has ramped up into campaign mode, he has studiously avoided mentioning most of his signature accomplishments. One can see why. The health care legislation is unpopular, as is the stimulus. The one thing President Obama always seems to mention is the auto bailout. Given that automakers are profitable now, he asserts, his actions, which were purportedly opposed by Republicans, have been proven wise.

There is much about this line of argument that is objectionable. The auto bailout began in earnest when President Bush, in 2008, allocated part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to the automotive industry. That decision was not without controversy in Republican circles, since there was arguably no legal basis for this use of the funds designated to help financial firms. But Obama's assertions about widespread Republican recalcitrance are incorrect.

President Obama did support the bailout once he assumed the presidency, and he bailed away with gusto. At the end of 2008, the Treasury had agreed to lend only $17.4 billion to General Motors and Chrysler, but by June 2009 the size of the bailout had grown to $55 billion, and by the end of 2009 it had reached $80 billion. Read more ..

Broken Government

Three Strikes, You’re Out!

April 5th 2012

baseball glove bat ball

Happy spring! The cherry blossoms are gone, Congress is on Easter break, and the Major League Baseball season is under way. But the Nats stadium is not the only place where “three strikes and you’re out” is being heard. It’s also echoing on Capitol Hill, where Congress had three chances to do the right thing before leaving town—and struck out on all three.

The first was House passage of the Paul Ryan budget. Instead of working with Democrats to craft a serious budget package that could pass the Senate, House Republicans forced through a Mickey Mouse measure that everybody knows is going nowhere. For the second year in a row, Republicans lined up to gut food stamps, cut Medicaid in half, and end Medicare as we know it—all while giving big corporations and the wealthiest of Americans another big, fat tax break.

Not only that, on deficit reduction, the Ryan plan doesn’t add up, which is the first thing you expect from any budget. It would not balance the budget until 2022—and even then, only by promising to eliminate an estimated $700 billion a year in certain tax loopholes—which he refuses to identify. How anyone could swallow this is bad enough. Why Republicans in Congress would vote for such a total fraud is stunning. Read more ..

Media Manipulation

PLO, Abbas Honor Helen Thomas

April 5th 2012

Helen Thomas

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, honored former White House correspondent Helen Thomas in an award ceremony on Sunday. Maen Erekat, the PLO representative in Washington, hosted a dinner at his residence in an event that recognized Thomas for her "stand against the occupation" and "long career in the field of journalism, during which she defended the Palestinian position every step of the way." In addition, Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO's Executive Committee, presented Thomas with an award on behalf of Abbas for "all of her actions supporting Palestine in the West."

Of course, Helen Thomas is most remembered as the correspondent who was captured on video saying that Israelis should "get the hell out of Palestine" and "go home" to "Poland, Germany . . . and America and everywhere else." She soon apologized, but later told an interviewer that she said "exactly what I thought."

At the time, her remarks were praised by Hamas: "No doubt that Thomas Helen [sic] has told the truth that everybody in the world knows," Hamas's website read. "[The] Peace process will be successful, only when Israel get[s] out of Arab Areas, Golan and occupied Palestine, then we can say that peace is happily achieved..."

Apparently Mahmoud Abbas and the PLO, Israel's supposed partner in peace, agrees. Read more ..

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