Archive for June, 2010

U.S. more popular globally, China on the rise, Pew reports

The Pew Research Center has released the results of its annual Global Attitudes Project, seeking to gauge international opinion on a range of questions, including Iran’s nuclear program, environmental issues, U.S. foreign policy and Muslim attitudes about extremism.

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Overall, it found that with the global economy still a bit staggered, “people around the world remain deeply concerned with the way things are going in their countries. Less than a third of the publics in most nations say they are satisfied with national conditions, as overwhelming numbers say their economies are in bad shape. And just about everywhere, governments are faulted for the way they are dealing with the economy.”

There’s a lot in the report, but I’ll focus here on just two.

In much of the world, Pew found, support for the United States and its policies has risen dramatically. The unfortunate exception would be in the Muslim world, which continues to be deeply suspicious. According to Pew:

“America’s …

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You think THIS Congress is bad? You just wait

Alan Abramowitz, a nationally respected political scientist based at Emory, has applied advanced statistical modeling to compare this fall’s congressional contests to those of 1994, when Republicans under Newt Gingrich seized control of the House.

Overall, he says, “Democrats are in a stronger position to defend their majority in the House of Representatives today than they were in 1994 because a larger proportion of their seats are in strongly Democratic districts and they have fewer open seats to defend.”

So what does that in terms of actual numbers?

“If we project the 1994 loss probabilities onto the 2010 distribution of Democratic seats in terms of party strength and incumbency status, we would expect Democrats to lose 42 of their current seats in November. Since Democrats are given a good chance of picking up at least three current Republican seats (one each in Hawaii and Louisiana and the at-large seat in Delaware), we would expect a net loss of 39 House seats, leaving …

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In Afghanistan, ‘beautiful theories assaulted by ugly facts’

Pushed aside by news as important as the Gulf oil leak and as trivial as the release of the latest iPhone, Afghanistan has become a forgotten war, fought by forgotten people, in pursuit of a cause that is largely forgotten as well.

Yet as of June 16, 48 allied troops, including 30 Americans, have been killed in Afghanistan this month. At that pace, June will become the deadliest month for NATO forces since the war began back in October 2001.

That’s not a surprise, unfortunately. President Barack Obama and military leaders warned last winter that the deployment of 30,000 more troops in pursuit of a more aggressive strategy would lead to higher casualties. But those casualties were supposed to produce progress that has so far proved elusive.

In February, for example, military leaders were telling us that the capture of the Marjah area in southern Afghanistan would be a trial run for our revised overall strategy.

According to the plan, U.S. Marines and Afghan troops were to wrest …

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Market forces, health-care industry a volatile mix

We hear a lot about enlisting market forces to cut health-care costs. A new study published today by the journal Health Affairs suggests that things are a little more complicated.

Until 2005, cancer specialists could make a lot of money off Medicare by performing chemotherapy on lung-cancer patients in their offices, rather than hospitals. In fact, the high profit margin on that treatment created fears that doctors might be performing the treatment too often, even on patients who could not benefit.

So in a Medicare overhaul, Congress cut the profit that doctors could make on the procedure. So what happened?

To compensate for the loss of revenue, doctors started to perform even more in-office chemotherapy. They made it up in volume, like any other business would. According to the study, the type of drugs administered also changed. “Physicians switched from dispensing the drugs that experienced the largest cuts in profitability, carboplatin and paclitaxel, to other high-margin …

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Details released on $20 billion BP escrow account

Not surprisingly, BP executives meeting with President Obama today capitulated to his demand to create a $20 billion escrow account intended to expedite damage claims to individuals and businesses.

Yes, Obama strong-armed the company into the move, a step that may or may not have fallen within his powers as president. Pardon me if I am not offended or overcome with sympathy for poor Tony Hayward.

Here are pertinent details on how the fund will work, as released by the White House:

* To assure independence, Kenneth Feinberg, who previously administered the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, will serve as the independent claims administrator.
* The facility will develop standards for recoverable claims that will be published.
* A panel of three judges will be available to hear appeals of the administrator’s decisions.
* The facility is designed for claims of individuals and businesses who have been harmed by the oil spill; local, state, tribal, and federal …

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‘Second Amendment remedies’? That suggests treason

Sharron Angle, the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate in Nevada, has espoused so many radical notions over the years that she’s had to be gagged for a few weeks by her Republican handlers while they attempt a political makeover.

However, no amount of makeup or image polishing can disguise the ugliness of some of her ideas. Consider, for example, her statement about the Second Amendment and Congress a few months ago during an interview with a conservative radio host (audio available here):

“You know, our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. And in fact Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years.

I hope that’s not where we’re going, but, you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around?”

People …

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Obama speech was tough on BP, easy on the rest of us

In a fairly brief, concise speech that nonetheless covered a lot of territory, President Obama Tuesday night laid out both short-term and long-term responses to what is now the single biggest environmental disaster this country has known.

In fact, with this high-profile speech from the Oval Office, Obama has now taken full responsibility for coordinating both the public and the private response to this disaster. He made it pretty damn clear that any past deference to BP and its executives has ended, a victim of the company’s consistent incompetence and unwillingness to be candid with those its actions have harmed.

“Tomorrow,” Obama said, “I will meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company’s recklessness.”

Some have questioned Obama’s legal power to issue such an edict, and with tens of billions of dollars on the line, BP lawyers …

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Obama: ‘I’ll be fierce advocate’ for Gulf and its residents’

After touring the Gulf region for two days, President Obama has returned to the White House and at 8 p.m. will brief the nation on his battle plan to combat the worst environmental crisis in the nation’s history.

Part of that plan will apparently involve creation of an escrow account funded by BP to compensate Gulf businesses for the damage the ongoing spill has caused a region that is deeply reliant on tourism, seafood and oil production, all three of which have suffered significant losses.

“”I will be their fierce advocate to make sure they are getting the compensation they need to get through what is going to be a difficult season,” Obama will promise, according to leaked excerpts of the speech, his first from the Oval Office.

Earlier today, a hostile congressional committee grilled oil company executives, including the head of BPAmerica, about the safety of their industry. Government scientists once again raised the estimated size of the leak — the high-end estimate means …

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Unedited video of Etheridge encounter offers no excuse

Many of you have seen video of last week’s sidewalk altercation between U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge, a North Carolina Democrat, and a couple of unknown kids of college age armed with cameras.

I first saw the original video yesterday. However, since it clearly had been spliced together, with some time missing, I decided to hold off on commenting in case an unedited version revealed some provocation or at least explanation for Etheridge’s bizarre behavior.

Well, I’ve now seen the unedited version. There is no provocation, no explanation and most important no justification. At all. Those on the left who suggest that the confrontation was a political setup of some sort have no argument; even if it was, it’s no excuse for what happened.

Here’s the unedited version, which accounts for the missing time:

Etheridge has apologized, which is good. It still doesn’t explain away what happened. If the victims of his attack — who are still unidentified — were to press charges for assault, as …

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Taking apart, piece by piece, the case for war against Iran

In this week’s Weekly Standard, my favorite neocon tries to lay out a case for military action against Iran. Bill Kristol writes that it’s “a debate the country needs to have, publicly and frankly, before it’s too late.”

The article itself is a classic of the neocon genre, featuring the same combination of wishful thinking, dishonesty, spurious analysis and very bad history that got us into Iraq. But in the spirit of public and frank debate that Kristol claims to want, let’s take it apart piece by piece.

The article opens with an all-too-familiar claim from Kristol and his co-author, Jamie Fly: Don’t worry, the dangers of military action have been overblown. It’s going to be easy, and the other side won’t dare to fight back.

“Critics of military action against Iran argue that it would open up a third front for American forces in the Middle East. Our troops would be at risk from Iranian missiles. Iran would block the Strait of Hormuz (causing oil prices to skyrocket) and use …

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