You are browsing the archive for 2013 November 05.

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Obamacare Web Problems Just the Tip of the Iceberg

November 5, 2013 in Economics

Obamacare’s computer glitches reduced the president’s eponymic health-care plan to fodder for late-night TV comedians. But in some ways the president was fortunate that the computer fiasco temporarily obscured the even bigger and more consequential problems facing the law. Cato scholar Michael D. Tanner summarizes Obamacare’s first month: “You may not be able to keep your current insurance plan; you may not be able to keep your current doctor; you are probably going to have to pay more; and the entire program could come crashing down in an adverse-selection death spiral.”

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Source: CATO HEADLINES

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Saudi Arabia, Find another Sucker

November 5, 2013 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Saudi Arabia is angry with Washington. In Riyadh’s view, the U.S. government isn’t doing enough to support tyranny and war in the Middle East. The Obama administration should tell America’s foreign “friends” that Washington acts in the interests of the American people, not corrupt dictators.

Repressive Riyadh long has been an embarrassment for the U.S. Some Americans justify Washington’s sycophancy as necessary to protect access to Saudi oil, but energy is an international product which the sellers want to sell as much as buyers want to buy.

Washington’s increased willingness to resist Riyadh’s demands has led to reports that the King Abdullah is “angry.” More dramatically, the Saudi government decided not to take one of the ten elected term seats on the Security Council to send a message to the U.S.

American policy should be designed to serve the interests of Americans.”

The Saudis apparently are upset because Washington did not bomb Syrian government forces after the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons. Yet the very same royal regime subsidized Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in its aggressive war, which included use of chemical weapons, against Iran.

Similarly, today Saudis oppose human rights in next door Bahrain, offering military backing for the repressive Sunni royal family against the Shia popular majority. The Saudis are irritated because Washington has offered less than fulsome praise for the Bahraini royals’ willing to shoot and imprison demonstrators and dissidents alike.

Nor do the Saudis worry about the oppressed in Egypt. To the contrary, Riyadh is firmly on the side of Egypt’s murderous military, and angry that the administration has cut aid to Cairo’s killers.

Finally, the Saudi government is appalled that Washington is negotiating with rather than bombing Iran. The Wall Street Journal’s Karen Elliott House noted that the royals were concerned that a deal would boost “Iran’s prestige and influence at the expense of Saudi Arabia.”

While Washington shouldn’t be concerned about maintaining Saudi influence, the U.S. understandably prefers that Tehran not get a nuke. However, another war against another Muslim nation in the Middle East would be a disaster.

Alas, America’s unhappy pampered allies are issuing threats. The Saudi regime reportedly has downgraded ties with the CIA in aiding Syrian rebels and threatened a “major shift” in dealing with America. Washington Post columnist David Ignatius noted that Saudi officials said “they increasingly regarded the U.S. as unreliable and would look elsewhere for their security.” Moreover, the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Obama's Disastrous, Bumbling Middle East Policy Is Making a Huge Mess of Things

November 5, 2013 in Blogs

By Bob Dreyfuss, TomDispatch.com

America’s previously unchallenged hegemony in the Middle East is in free fall.


 

To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com Since the start of the civil war in Syria, Shiite-led Iraq has joined Shiite Iran in supporting Assad, whose ruling minority Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shiism. There have been widespread reports that pro-Assad Iraqi Shiite militias are traveling to Syria, presumably with the support or at least acquiescence of the government. Ignoring Washington’s entreaties, it has alsoallowed Iran to conduct a virtual Berlin Airlift-style aerial resupply effort for Syria’s armed forces through Iraqi air space. Last month, in an appearance before the Council on Foreign Relations in New York during the United Nations General Assembly session, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari undiplomatically warned Obama that his government stands against the U.S. decision — taken in a secret presidential finding in April and only made public last summer — to provide arms to Syria’s rebels. (“We oppose providing military assistance to any [Syrian] rebel groups.”)

Meanwhile, Washington is also flailing in its policy toward Egypt, where the Obama administration has been singularly hapless.  In a rare feat, it has managed to anger and alienate every conceivable faction in that politically divided country. In July, when Egypt’s military ousted President Mohammad Morsi and violently clamped down on the Muslim Brotherhood, the Obama administration made itself look ridiculous to Egyptians (and to the rest of the Middle East) by refusing to call what happened a coup d’état, since under U.S. law that would have meant suspending aid to the Egyptian military.

As it happened, however, American aid figured little in the calculations of Egypt’s new military leaders. The reason was simple enough: Saudi Arabia and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, bitter opponents of the Morsi government, applauded the coup and poured at least $12 billion in cash into the country’s near-empty coffers.  In the end, making no one happy, the administration tried to split the difference: Obama declared that he would suspend the delivery of some big-ticket military items …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Why Conservatives Are More Terrified of Sex Than Violence

November 5, 2013 in Blogs

By Sarah Jane Stratford, The Guardian

There's been plenty of outcry in the US over lesbian sex in Blue is the Warmest Colour. Brutality onscreen, however, is fine.


If you bothered to listen to the Parents Television Council, you would think that New York's tiny IFC Center was evil incarnate when the theatre decided not to enforce the NC-17 rating for the film Blue Is the Warmest Color. The Parents Television Council called the move “shocking” and fretted that this meant “minor children” would be allowed to view graphic sex scenes (because they'll no doubt be camping on the street to see a three-hour French drama). Though its “stern warning” was not widely reported, it may very well have contributed to the film's strong box office results thus far.

Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, but here's where the fury of the Parents Television Council breaks down: these conservatives are so obsessed with sex, but seemingly care far less about violence.

While the Council was wailing about the possibility of a teenager seeing a lesbian film, agunman opened fire at Los Angeles airport, resulting in one death and a number of injuries. That might have been a moment for the PTC, which ranks violence after sex in its list of evils it seeks to regulate on the airwaves, to deplore the shooting and, perhaps, note that there is some credence to the calls for stricter gun control laws (or, at least, less violence on screen and in video games). Real-world violence, however, tends to have little resonance with cultural scolds. It is certainly not worth mentioning when there is cinematic sex to condemn.

The fact that Blue Is the Warmest Color is even rated NC-17 in the first place makes it yet another entry in the discussion, most recently illuminated by Kirby Dick in his documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated, about the hypocrisy and arbitrariness of film ratings, particularly where sex is concerned.

Sex, female nudity, female enjoyment of sex, and especially female enjoyment of lesbian sex, tend to draw the strictest ratings. Violence, however, is given much more of a pass. Even gory …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Judges with a Rubber Stamp

November 5, 2013 in Economics

By Richard W. Rahn

Richard W. Rahn

Do you think the government is too big, taxes too much and regulates your lives more than it should? Polls consistently show that most Americans think there is too much government. Nevertheless, those in the majority who say they want smaller government continue to vote for people who ultimately give them larger government.

All too many are willing to vote for those politicians who promise more benefits to some to be paid for by others, without understanding that they will eventually become the “others.” The American Founders clearly understood the danger. As Thomas Jefferson said, “When the people realize they can vote themselves benefits, all is lost.”

Under the system of checks and balances the Founding Fathers devised, the courts were expected to be a check on the excesses of the other branches of government. Clearly, the courts have failed.”

What has gone wrong and why? In an incisive, new book, “Terms of Engagement: How Our Courts Should Enforce the Constitution’s Promise of Limited Government,” Clark Neily lays much of the blame at the feet of the judiciary. He notes the Founders opted for a constitutional republic rather than a direct or indirect democracy because they understood that “government is not your friend.” “As far as the government is concerned, it is your boss, setting policies and edicts that you will obey. Between that awesome power and you stands the Constitution.” Mr. Neily is a senior lawyer at the Institute for Justice, and is perhaps best known for success in the Heller case, where the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own guns.

Mr. Neily’s core thesis is that too many judges have abdicated “their duty to enforce constitutional limits on government power.” The evidence is overwhelming that judges tend to side with government against the people. Despite the concern about “activist” judges inventing new rights out of whole cloth, the bigger problem is the judges who fail to uphold the Constitution and individual liberty. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s tortured reasoning in upholding Obamacare is a prime example.

Mr. Neily notes: “Between 1954 and 2002, Congress enacted 15,817 laws, of which the Supreme Court struck down 103 — just 0.67 percent. The Court struck down an even smaller portion of federal administrative regulations — about 0.5 percent — and a still smaller proportion of state laws, just 454 out of 1 million passed, or less than 0.05 percent. In any given year, the Supreme Court strikes down just three out of …read more

Source: OP-EDS