Popping a few items up to clear out the hundreds of e-mail piling up while on vacation.
Obama chooses Lew for top job at OMB
Excerpt: President Barack Obama will nominate Jacob Lew, the last White House budget director to oversee a budget surplus, to his old post as director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Obama announced the selection Tuesday in the White House Diplomatic Room. Obama lauded Lew for overseeing budget surpluses for three consecutive years during the administration of President Bill Clinton and praised his most recent work for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "For the past year and a half he has been successful at overseeing the State Department's extremely complex and challenging budget as deputy secretary of state for management and resources," Obama said. "I was actually worried that Hillary would not let him go.
THAT FABULOUS CUBAN HEALTH CARE
Excerpt: When the health care bill became law in March, Fidel Castro emerged from semiretirement to praise it as a "miracle." So it's a good time to check in on the state of the Cuban health care system. That's just what Laurie Garrett, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, does in the current issue of Foreign Affairs magazine. The system is in an advanced state of collapse. It is bankrupting the state and driving doctors out of the medical field and the country. Its ostensibly egalitarian nature disguises a radically inegalitarian reality, with a tiny number of well-appointed clinics catering to paying medical tourists and senior Party apparatchiks while most Cubans take their chances in filthy, under-resourced hospitals.
Consider the facts as laid out by Garrett: There are 73,000 physicians licensed to practice in Cuba. This allows Cuba to boast of having the best doctor-patient ratio in the world, with one doctor for every 170 people, as opposed to one for every 390 in the United States.
Yet reality belies the statistics: Slightly more than half of all Cuban physicians work overseas; taxed by the Cuban state at a 66 percent rate, many of them wind up defecting. Doctors who remain in the country earn about $25 a month. As a result, Garrett writes, they often take "jobs as taxi drivers or in hotels," where they can make better money. As for the quality of the doctors, she notes that very few of those who manage to reach the United States can gain accreditation here, partly because of the language barrier, partly because of the "stark differences" in medical training. Typically, they wind up working as nurses. As for the quality of medical treatment in Cuba, Garrett reports that hospital patients must arrive with their own syringes, towels and bed sheets. Women avoid gynecological exams "because they fear infection from unhygienic equipment and practices." Rates of cervical cancer have doubled in the past 25 years as the use of Pap tests has fallen by 30 percent. Sound inviting? The truth is that socialism and related forms of command-and-control technocracy work as well in the health care market as they do in every other, says Stephens. Which is to say, not at all.
The World Isn't Waiting on Free Trade
Think how many jobs could have been created in the US with that lost $2.8B. Excerpt: More than three years ago the United States and Colombia signed a trade agreement that would reduce or eliminate tariffs on most U.S. exports to Colombia. Unfortunately the agreement has been languishing ever since, and it is still waiting on the president to submit it to Congress. In the time since it was negotiated, American exporters have paid over $2.8 billion in tariffs that would have been eliminated under the agreement. While we continue to dither and our exporters continue to pay the price, Colombia isn't waiting around. Earlier this month the Canadian parliament ratified a free trade agreement with Colombia that will improve Canada's access to the Colombian market. This is just the latest example of our competitors speeding past us while we are stuck in neutral. Since signing the trade agreement with the U.S. in November 2006, Colombia has concluded trade agreement negotiations with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and the European Union. These countries are now gaining a competitive advantage over U.S. exporters. The agreement between Colombia and Canada will enable Canadian wheat to enter the Colombian market duty-free. Yet according to one report prepared by the House Ways and Means Committee, the failure to implement the U.S.-Colombia agreement thus far has resulted in a jaw-dropping 87% decrease in U.S. wheat exports to Colombia. My home state of Nebraska has also experienced a decline. Over the last five years, Colombia has been the largest market for U.S. agriculture exports in South America, with U.S. exports totaling $4.3 billion. However, a closer look at the numbers shows that our advantage in that market is slipping. From 2004 to 2008, U.S. exports to Colombia increased at an average annual rate of 38%. But in 2009 U.S. agricultural exports to Colombia decreased by 48%. Between 2008 and 2009, American companies exporting to Colombia lost $811 million in sales of corn, wheat, soybeans and soybean oil. And already in 2010 U.S. agricultural exports have fallen by another 45%. The losses we've already realized become all the more troubling when you consider that enactment of the U.S.-Colombia agreement could result in a 10% increase in U.S. soybean exports, a 20% increase in U.S. corn exports, a 46% increase in U.S. beef exports, and a 110% increase in U.S. dairy exports to that country. My question is simple: What are we waiting for? Increased exports mean more jobs for American workers and more dollars in American pockets. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, enacting the U.S.-Colombia agreement could result in an increase in U.S. agriculture exports of nearly $700 million. In a separate analysis, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that every $1 billion in agriculture exports supports 12,000 American jobs. In an economy that continues to sputter, I don't know how we could turn our back on that opportunity.
Confidence in Obama reaches new low, Washington Post-ABC News poll finds
Excerpt: Even the folks who don’t pay attention (the 2/3rds who couldn’t say which party controlled Congress in 2008 or who can’t name a single SC Justice) eventually catch on. Excerpt: Public confidence in President Obama has hit a new low, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. Four months before midterm elections that will define the second half of his term, nearly six in 10 voters say they lack faith in the president to make the right decisions for the country, and a clear majority once again disapproves of how he is dealing with the economy. Regard for Obama is still higher than it is for members of Congress, but the gap has narrowed. About seven in 10 registered voters say they lack confidence in Democratic lawmakers and a similar proportion say so of Republican lawmakers. Overall, more than a third of voters polled -- 36 percent -- say they have no confidence or only some confidence in the president, congressional Democrats and congressional Republicans. Among independents, this disillusionment is higher still. About two-thirds of all voters say they are dissatisfied with or angry about the way the federal government is working.
Roman Polanski's freedom -- and unmitigated gall
Excerpt: For Roman Polanski, the long, unspeakable nightmare of being confined to his three-story chalet in Gstaad, the luxury resort in the Swiss Alps, is finally over. The fugitive director is free once again to stroll into town, have a nice meal, maybe do a little shopping at the local Cartier, Hermes or Louis Vuitton boutiques. Or he could just scurry like a rat into France or Poland, the two countries where he has citizenship -- and where authorities have a long history of acting as if Polanski's celebrity and talent somehow negate his sexual brutalization of a 13-year-old girl. I'm betting on the rodent option, even though Swiss authorities are doing their best to convince Polanski that he can relax and enjoy the fondue without ever having to answer for his crimes. After all, they did force him to wear an electronic ankle bracelet for several whole months. The horror. The horror. After authorities announced Monday that they were denying the U.S. request to have Polanski extradited, one of the famed auteur's lawyers called the decision "an enormous satisfaction and a great relief after the pain suffered by Roman Polanski and his family." That statement should stand as the definitive textbook example of unmitigated gall.
GOP takeover could make committee staff member Democrats' 'worst nightmare'
Excerpt: If there's one congressional aide White House officials might wind up fearing most, it's Larry Brady. He's all but unknown, but Brady is the secret weapon for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). As minority staff director of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Brady stands ready to wield almighty subpoena power if Republicans seize control of the chamber in November and make Issa chairman of the panel. Handing subpoena power to Issa and his staff would be the White House's "worst nightmare," says Don Goldberg, a crisis-management expert at Qorvis Communications. "The administration underestimates Larry Brady's effectiveness at its own peril," says Goldberg, who once served as Democratic deputy staff director of the same panel and did damage control for President Bill Clinton. "He knows how to pick the issues that resonate, and get media attention with or without fingerprints." As head of the GOP staff on the oversight panel, Brady has been at the forefront of exposing controversies that, if nothing else, have caused political headaches for the Obama administration. They include allegations that the White House tried to bribe Democratic challengers in this year's Pennsylvania and Colorado Senate races to drop out. Issa also released a report that he said documented ACORN's aggressive political support for Democratic candidates. The report helped make the community organizing group a hot-button political issue and a target for conservative activists. Later, Congress cut off federal funding to the organization.
The Slave Trade
Witless for the defense--Jihad means one thing - violence
Excerpt: A dry pun asks, "When is a door not a door?" - the answer being, "When it is ajar." But dry humor is clearly preferable to the deluded warping of the lexicon by the Obama administration's lead counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, which leads to this question, and requisite answer, "When is jihad not jihad?" - "When it is bloodless, spiritual struggle." Mr. Brennan vociferously advocates an exclusive, bowdlerized definition of jihad in the public discourse as "to purify oneself or one's community," lest the tender sensibilities of Muslims be offended. He further claims that, somehow, self-described jihadists "have truly just distorted the whole concept" of jihad. But it is Mr. Brennan who, irrespective of whatever flimsy, a historical rationale he provides, thoroughly misrepresents jihad - a living, bellicose Islamic institution that dates from the advent of the Muslim creed almost 14 centuries ago. The dangerous absurdity of Mr. Brennan's jihad denial is self-evident: More than 15,600 jihad terror attacks have been committed by Muslims worldwide since the cataclysmic acts of jihad terrorism committed against the United States itself on Sept. 11, 2001. These data should remind us that there is just one historically relevant meaning of jihad, despite contemporary apologetics. Jahada, the root of the word jihad, appears 40 times in the Koran. With four exceptions, all the other 36 usages in the Koran, as understood by both the greatest jurists and scholars of classical Islam (including Abu Yusuf, Averroes, Ibn Khaldun and Al Ghazali) and ordinary Muslims - meant and mean "he fought, warred or waged war against unbelievers and the like." The Muslim Prophet Muhammad waged a series of proto-jihad campaigns to subdue the Jews, Christians and pagans of Arabia. Numerous modern-day pronouncements by leading Muslim theologians (see Yusuf Al-Qaradawi's "The Prophet Muhammad as a Jihad Model," 2001) confirm that Muhammad remains the major inspiration for jihadism today. Jihad has been pursued continuously since the seventh-century advent of Islam, through the present, because it was institutionalized by seminal early Muslim theologians based on their interpretation of Koranic verses, and long chapters in the "hadith," or acts and sayings of Muhammad. Within a century of Muhammad's death, violent jihad conquests - achieved by religiously sanctioned massacre, pillage, enslavement and deportation - Islamized a vast swath of territory, extending from modern Pakistan to Portugal. The permanent goal of jihad is to bring humanity, en bloc, under the jurisdiction of Islamic law - a totalitarian system of religious governance particularly oppressive to all non-Muslims and women. Alexis de Tocqueville, upon returning from America, where he famously analyzed and celebrated America's nascent democracy, studied Islamic doctrine, which included an 1838 assessment of the Koran, in preparation for his visits to Algeria (in 1841 and 1846) while serving as a French parliamentarian. Tocqueville concluded: "Jihad, Holy war, is an obligation for all believers. ... The state of war is the natural state with regard to infidels ... [T]hese doctrines of which the practical outcome is obvious are found on every page and in almost every word of the Koran ... The violent tendencies of the Koran are so striking that I cannot understand how any man with good sense could miss them." The late Iranian Shiite leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1900-1989) was also a pre-eminent 20th-century theologian who wrote and lectured extensively on Sharia (Islamic law) for more than five decades. Khomeini articulated a modern vision of jihad entirely consistent with the classical Islamic formulations recognized by Tocqueville a century earlier. Khomeini's 1942 speech "Islam Is Not a Religion of Pacifists" pronounces unapologetically: "Those who study jihad will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world. All the countries conquered by Islam or to be conquered in the future will be marked for everlasting salvation. For they shall live under Allah's law (Sharia). ... Islam says: 'Kill [the non-Muslims], put them to the sword and scatter their armies.' Islam says: 'Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to paradise, which can be opened only for holy warriors (jihadists)!' There are hundreds of other Koranic psalms and hadiths (sayings of the prophet) urging Muslims to value war and to fight. Does all that mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim. ...Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those [who say this] are witless."
Disadvantage, Privilege and Fate
Excerpt: It is a rare and frightening gift for someone to glimpse an alternate fate in another life. On the same day that Wes Moore was reading an article in The Baltimore Sun about his own receipt of a Rhodes scholarship, he also read an article about an unrelated Wes Moore arrested for murder. Both Wes Moores shared Baltimore roots and similar stories of poverty and father absence. One graduated from college and became a White House Fellow; the other will spend the rest of his life at the Jessup Correctional Facility. Wes Moore contacted his namesake in prison out of what he calls "pure curiosity." The result is a book, "The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates," that illuminates the roles of disadvantage, privilege and personal responsibility in the shaping of a life. Both Wes Moores emerge as bright, energetic boys facing betrayals they did not deserve and temptations they did not resist. The author Moore vividly describes a circa 1990 urban world flooded by crack, set to a hip-hop soundtrack, and ruled by a violent, lawless conception of male honor. The lure of crime is indistinguishable from the appeal of entrepreneurship; the profits of the drug trade are limited only by the hours a teen is willing to spend on the street. It is a world of public schools that reward disruption with attention, of unrealistic expectations of sports and music stardom, of public housing projects nicknamed "Murder Homes." Both Wes Moores end up handcuffed in the back of police cars. Both receive second chances. Only one robs a jewelry store and kills an off-duty policeman who had five children. The author Moore admirably refuses to draw simplistic, self-serving comparisons. He admits a broad role for luck, fate and personality. But the two stories, for all their variations, have a clear theme: the importance of parental influence, and the desperate search for substitutes when that influence is absent. Both boys had caring, single mothers. But tenacity turns out to be as important as caring. The imprisoned Wes Moore's mother lived in denial about her son's drug dealing. The author's mother had what he calls "Thomas hands" -- "hands that hit so hard you had to be hit only once to know you never wanted to be hit again." For years, she slept on a couch in the living room, standing guard over her children in a troubled neighborhood. She sent her son to a private school she couldn't afford. When he began skipping class and failing, she threatened him with military school. "She had to be bluffing," thought Moore. She wasn't.
We Used To Be Free – Before Nanny Government
Excerpt: By Executive Order the mayor of San Francisco has banned soft drinks and flavored waters from all vending machines on public property. Posting Executive Orders banning everything from drilling oil wells to fishing in the Gulf of Mexico seems to be the new Orwellian way of implementing departmentalized martial law in these United States. Remember the good ole days when the people actually voted for those things they wanted or rejected? Last year the government banned the sale of all books printed before 1985. There was a chance some lead in the print might come in contact with people’s skin. Of course, this means I am doomed. Hundreds upon hundreds of volumes have surrounded me for most of my adult life. I have only lived a portion of those years of what could have been a century long run if it were not for poison books. One reason for my short lifespan could be all the lead based paint on the houses and in the rooms where I resided growing to manhood. Before nanny government stepped in I had this lead based death threat forced upon my person by evil business operators. While on this topic I can’t forget the lead in the gasoline, the dozens of lead soldiers I played with as a boy, the lead paint on my bicycles, and all of the lead sinkers I used when I went fishing. No wonder I can never become a centurion. The government banned religious groups from displaying Christian crosses in the Obama inauguration parade. Christian symbols were also banned from the White House Christmas tree. Nativity Scenes and the Ten Commandments have been banned from the public square. Children in schools have even been forbidden to sing religious hymns at Christmas events. As previously noted, we all know about the government banning oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska and the ban on fishing, shrimping and shellfish harvesting. There has even been a ban of foreign boats helping to clean up the oil slick and a ban on chemical dispersants. Burning off the oil has been severely restricted….Remember, freedom does not vanish in one harsh moment. It is lost one step, one inch, one act, one day at a time.
'Whatever makes them cry, makes us happy'
Didn’t get the memo. Excerpt: It's not often that good and evil are portrayed with such clarity. (This is who we are fighting. Doesn't it just make you reach for another bottle of political correctness? –Ron P.)