Archive for November, 2009

Giuliani isn’t hobbled by consistency on terrorists

Testifying before the Senate today, Attorney General Eric Holder declared, ““I’m not scared of what Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will have to say at trial — and no one else needs to be either.”

He’s right, of course. It’s a position that former prosecutor Rudy Giuliani used to hold about trying terrorists in civilian courts. Back in 2006, he spoke highly of the decision to prosecute Zacarias Moussaoui in Virginia, even when the jury refused to sentence Moussaoui to death. Here’s what Giuliani had to say on Chris Matthews’ Hardball:

I testified in the penalty phase of the trial.  And it was much more difficult than I thought it would be, reviewing all that, going over it, seeing the films of it.

And, you know, obviously I‘m personally involved in this, but I would have preferred a different verdict.  But it does show that we have a legal system, that we follow it, that we respect it.  And it is exactly what is missing in the parts of the world or a lot of the parts of the …

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Rich tax dodgers ‘fess up, just ahead of the posse

The last time the United States government offered amnesty to wealthy tax dodgers with hidden overseas  accounts was 2003, and the amnesty program didn’t do very well. Only 1500 or so lawbreakers came forward to admit they hadn’t paid their taxes.

This time, the amnesty program is doing much better. So far, according to the Internal Revenue Service, more than 14,700 tax dodgers have come forward to admit their failure to pay taxes. The IRS credits the widespread publicity about the decision of the Swiss banking giant UBS to pay $780 million and admit criminal wrongdoing in setting up hidden bank accounts. In addition to the fine, UBS agreed to turn over the names of more than 4,000 of its American clients.

According to the I.R.S. documents, UBS will generally disclose American clients who had unreported accounts of at least a million Swiss francs (about $988,000). UBS will also disclose Americans who were the owners of secret offshore sham company accounts with that total. …

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The fearmongering over terror trial gets worse

Last week, three well-known conservatives, including Georgia’s Bob Barr, released a letter urging politicians to stop “fearmongering” over the issue of bringing terror suspects to the continental United States and trying them in federal courts. Alas, they were ignored. The fearmongering continues.

Actually, it has gotten much worse, reaching new heights (or nadirs) of faux hysteria as Republicans repeatedly outbid each other in claims of imminent Armageddon if Khalid Sheik Mohammed is tried in New York. Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) has already had to apologize for a tasteless harangue on the floor of the House in which he suggested that Mayor Bloomberg’s daughter might be kidnapped if the trial is held in NYC.

Yesterday, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) went on Fox News to hype his proposed legislation to prevent KSM from being tried in New York City.

Gohmert first claimed that “millions of New Yorkers who will be put at risk” by such a trial, where “you’ve got weak links all along …

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Sometimes, healthcare “rationing” makes sense

Here is a concept that’s difficult for many Americans to grasp: More healthcare doesn’t necessarily add up to better healthcare, especially if the “more” comes in the form of procedures and tests. No, I’m not contradicting myself.

It’s important for those without any health insurance to have access to doctors, but those of us with health insurance sometimes overuse procedures. And that can do real harm. This is one of those issues without an easy right or wrong. There is a lot of gray area here. It’s complicated, and there is disagreement even among the scientists.

After years in which the medical establishment urged all women over 40 to get regular mammograms, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has issued new guidelines saying that women between 40 and 50 don’t need yearly screenings. They may, in fact, do more harm than good.

The risk that a 40-year-old woman will die of breast cancer in the next 10 years is very small — just 0.19%, according to data from the National …

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Same ol’ Sarah: “Going Rogue”

It was a glamourous and relaxed Sarah Palin who appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show yesterday to officially begin “Going Rogue” — the book tour, that is. Her non-stop media tour continues this morning with an interview with Barbara Walters.

With the help of a talk show host who didn’t push too much, Palin came across as charming and sincere in the interview. But it’s still clear that the major point of her book (in addition to making lots of money) was to pin the blame for her poor performance during last year’s campaign on McCain’s aides, who, she said, over-managed her.

If you look just beneath the surface, however, her credibility doesn’t hold up. Her answers to some questions simply didn’t make sense. Others contradicted earlier answers. For example, the co-authors of a book about her have found that a segment Oprah posted online contradicted an earlier response Palin had given about her family’s reaction to her decision to run for veep.

In a segment of her interview with …

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Barr: Stop “scaremongering” over detainees

Finally, a small group of conservatives — including Georgia’s own Bob Barr — is behaving in a level-headed and rational way toward accused terrorists. Barr, who was the Libertarian candidate for president in 2008, is joining David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, and Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, to urge prominent public officials to stop whining and fretting over the notion that Guantanamo detainees could end up on American soil.

“The scaremongering about these issues should stop,” Barr, Keene and Norquist wrote.

“Civilian federal courts are the proper forum for terrorism cases,” they wrote. “Civilian prisons are the safe, cost effective and appropriate venue to hold persons in federal courts.”

Thank heaven for that. Repubicans and many Democrats have been going nuts, behaving as though federal prisons could not possibly hold these guys. Of course, they can. Many convicted terrorists are already behind bars on U.S. soil, and …

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Obama and racism in China

This post is about China’s racial prejudices, and, given the topic, I’m trusting my readers to be grownups and to keep your responses civil. If you can’t, then you should find another blog.

Anyway, China has some deep-seated racial prejudices, including the widespread view that dark-skinned people are inferior. Many Chinese, then, may be surprised to learn that the United States has elected a black president.

That bit of news, broadcast to much of the world, hasn’t been played up in China. For one thing, the Communist government likes to portray the United States as a land of harsh inequalities, a place where minorities can’t get a fair shake. News of the election of a black president would contradict that, and Government-controlled media don’t play it up.

As the country gets ready to welcome the first African American U.S. president, whose first official visit here starts Sunday, the Chinese are confronting their attitudes toward race, including some deeply held prejudices …

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Obama in China as beggar-in-chief

When I was growing up, the phrase “made in China,” stamped on the bottom of a toy, was an assurance of low quality. The toy was cheap and would break in no time.

Boy, what a difference a few decades makes. It’s difficult now to find toys that are not made in China. The quality has improved substantially — even though the toy may contain lead or other contaminants that would harm your kids. A daunting array of our consumer goods, from clothing to electronics, are made in China.

It’s easy enough to see that influence on the American economy. But China — still officially a Communist country — has an even bigger influence that isn’t as easy to spot: The Communists are our bankers. They are the largest foreign lender to the United States.

And that role has changed the influence the U.S. can expect to have over the Chinese. After all, you don’t go to see your banker and insult her, do you?
That’s why President Obama is tiptoeing around the Chinese government on his first …

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Keeping health care for already-born children

“We are eating our seed corn.” — Marian Wright Edelman, Children’s Defense Fund

What a lot of love U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and 239 of his colleagues heaped on pre-babies last week. They so adore one-day-might-be children that they passed an amendment to the House health care bill that deals a harsh blow to reproductive rights. They wanted to make sure that a woman can’t easily purchase private insurance that covers abortions in a proposed insurance exchange, even with her own money.

Given their passion over fetuses, you’d think that those 240 House members would be able to whip up some enthusiasm for actual children — squalling babes-in-arms, squirming toddlers, restless junior high schoolers — who could lose their health insurance under the House version of health care reform. But try as she might, Marian Wright Edelman — head of a Washington-based children’s advocacy group, the Children’s Defense Fund — hasn’t been able to muster much concern over the …

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A challenge: How would you pay for troops?

Pie chart of budget outlays for fiscal year 2007

Pie chart of budget outlays for fiscal year 2007

Here’s a challenge to all those armchair hawks who also consider themselves fiscal conservatives: How would you pay to send more troops to Afghanistan? What would you cut?

Please don’t tell me you’d cut welfare or foreign aid, both of which are miniscule parts of the federal budget. The big spending is Social Security, Medicare and the military.

One of the reasons we’re in the huge hole we’re in now is because George W. Bush became the first U.S. president to cut taxes in a time of two wars. That blew right through the surplus accumulated under Bill Clinton. So what would you cut? How would you pay for more troops?

As Nicholas Kristof notes in his column today:

The total bill in Afghanistan has been running around $1 million per year per soldier deployed there. That doesn’t include the long-term costs that will be incurred in coming decades — such as disability benefits, or up to $5 million to provide round-the-clock nursing …

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