Obama Takes Charge
Wow. Quite a week for our President. He gave three separate speeches at the U.N. that can only be seen as forceful displays of U.S. leadership, however one might view some of the actual policies.
The big one was an address on foreign affairs that bluntly confronted Russia and the Islamic State. You could see some of this coming a few weeks ago when Obama reacted with uncontained anger to the beheading of American journalists. Looks like we are into a long term air war in Syria and Iraq. (We have some strategic advice later in this report.)
Obama even presided in person over a session of the Security Council that passed a resolution committing the international community to cutting off access for those who want to join ISIS in the Middle East.
Earlier, Obama gave a presentation on climate change where he specifically called out China as a major polluter and pressed for global change to limit carbon emissions.
He ended his time at the U.N. with a challenge to other countries to get involved in the Ebola crisis in Africa.
It will be interesting to see whether or not this has any political effect here in the U.S. Obama’s foreign policy critics seemed to be throwing the linguini at the wall to see if they can find anything that might stick. The Rs apparently are going to play the racism card – they began running political ads trying to tie the problems in the Middle East to Obama’s immigration policy.
Huge news event. Apparently overshadowing the President’s performance at the U.N., was the video of Obama exiting a helicopter and saluting the guards with a Starbucks cup in his hand. The right wing went crazy – they had finally found grounds for impeachment even though they apparently do not know whether it is a medium or a drip grind. We have other important questions that the press seems to have missed. Was this a venti or a tall? Was the absence of a burn protection sleeve another failure on the part of the Secret Service? Is Obama covertly signaling his support for the terrorists by ordering beans from Yemen? This story is just beginning. The Birthers soon will report that the coffee actually came from Kenya.
If you somehow missed it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m85jKv8nDQk
Folks are finally recognizing just how serious the Ebola epidemic in Africa actually is. The CDC put out an estimate that the disease could strike 1.4 million people in the next four months. The death rate has also been adjusted upward from 55 percent to 70 percent, worse than the bubonic plague.
President Obama included a plea for international assistance in his U.N. speech and is working to send 3,000 U.S. troops to Liberia. Lest you worry that this is Obama’s response to the cries for “boots on the ground,” understand that they will be building aid shelters and many of them are medical personnel. The shelters are badly needed – only 18 percent of Ebola victims in Liberia are in treatment centers.
While we have opined for weeks about the Ebola epidemic spreading because of a weak healthcare infrastructure in Africa, we cannot overlook the fact that there is a serious AIDS problem here at home among the poor African American populations in the South. States that have not expanded Medicaid have a health care infrastructure problem of their own.
Anyone wanting to understand how the South has become the “epicenter” of AIDS can read a Washington Post report here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/southern-states-are-now-epicenter-of-hivaids-in-the-us/2014/09/22/9ac1525a-39e6-11e4-9c9f-ebb47272e40e_story.html.
This wonky term refers to the effort by advocates to require states to identify the true owners when they register a corporation – the owners who actually benefit. Because no state gathers this information, owners of corporations headquartered in the U.S. can commit crimes and law enforcement cannot trace the perpetrators.
The consequences of this secrecy have been documented in a study authored by our friends at Global Witness: The Great Rip Off. Among other findings, the analysis shows how it is easier to set-up an anonymous corporation in the United States than in other countries, including such places as the Cayman Islands. The study reports twenty-two cases of anonymous companies in twenty-seven states involving fraud, tax evasion, political corruption, mob crime and money laundering. Access the report and see how your state is doing: www.globalwitness.org/greatripoff.
Efforts to require states to identify beneficial owners during the state run corporate registration process have been successfully opposed by the National Association of Secretaries of State. Once you peek at this report you might want to ask your Secretaries of State why they are helping to harbour these criminals.
Eric Holder and Policing
Last week the Attorney General (more below about his resignation) launched an effort called the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice. This effort will bring a combination of law enforcement experts, social scientists, community leaders and researchers into a three-year effort to work on the problem of the police and their relations with minority communities.
Let’s hope they can make some progress.
Let’s also recognize that they quickly will discover that the problem is much broader and deeper than just the minority communities and the cops. How can the cops solve the problems of poverty, under-funded schools, health disparities, bad housing, and joblessness? How can we get the cops in a better place when we all keep hearing the thinly veiled racism of T Baggers and their political ilk? How can the cops get rid of the vote suppressers, the Medicaid deniers, the immigrant deporters, the food stamp cutters, and all the rest?
One other tiny little matter – how do you explain to a black kid who bought a dime bag of ganja that he has to go to jail when he knows that a rich, white bank executive who ripped us off for billions will never face a jury?
The National Immigration Center has developed an analysis of the demographic impact of immigrant women. Great charts and some useful tools for advocates. http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/just-facts/immigrant-women-united-states-portrait-demographic-diversity.
The latest figures, released by the U.S. Census last week, show a modest reduction in the rate of poverty. Before the cheering starts, take note that 45 million of your fellow Americans still live below the poverty line. Note also that poverty among children reaches one in five overall and one in three among black and Latino children.
The Coalition on Human Needs has done an analysis of the figures and reports that many more would still be in poverty were it not for safety net programs like food stamps and unemployment insurance.
Concerns persist that there will be a shortage of physicians to fill the needs created by the expanded coverage under the ACA. This issue has been thrown into high relief by efforts to pump money into the VA health system to overcome serious shortcomings in veteran’s health care – they do not know where to get the health providers they need to fill the gaps.
Marching into the breach is the American Association of Nurse Practitioners with the useful suggestion that nurse practitioners be permitted by the VA to practice within the full extent of their training, rather than having them limited by unnecessary scope of practice rules.
The whole health care system should be listening to them. A more widespread use of nurses and physicians assistants would ease shortages everywhere but changes in state scope of practice laws are being opposed by traditional physician lobbies.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) gained and then lost 50 pounds after a pregnancy. She reports that some Members of the Senate made seriously senseless and prejudiced remarks that are too stupid to quote.
One member of the Senate was outraged by Gillibrand’s revelations. Ron Johnson, Republican Senator from Wisconsin, demanded that Gillibrand disclose who made the remarks. Johnson said: “If you’re going to throw out accusations, my guess is you’d probably ought to name names.”
Johnson is Mr. Sensitivity about the treatment of victims. In 2010 he attack a bill in the Wisconsin State Senate aimed at protecting the victims of childhood sex crimes because it would be bad for business if employers who hid such crimes were held accountable. Just to prove his point, Johnson’s office refused to pursue the charge by one of his female aids that she had been assailed by a Wisconsin State Representative who was later convicted of other assaults. Johnson is one of five Senators to vote “No” on the Violence Against Women Act.
The ACA detractors insisted that folks would enroll but not pay. It looks as though 7.3 million actually paid up, way higher than the right wing ideologues suggested. With subsidies, coverage has cost them an average of less than $100 per month.
Too Big to Jail
Wells Fargo reached an agreement with the Securities and Exchange Commission to pay a $5 million fine for failing to prevent insider trading. Company executives looked away as one of their brokers used confidential information to make profitable stock investments in Burger King via associates in Brazil. A miracle may be in the works here – there still might be criminal prosecution of the broker, but the executives who looked the other way will be protected by the too big to jail principle.
The Arab Bank has been convicted by a jury in a civil case for knowingly supporting terrorist organizations by laundering funds associated with attacks in the Middle East. This is a civil case, so they will have to pay up, but will anyone enter a prison cell? By the way, this case pales in comparison to the HBSC’s laundering of $200 trillion in money for drug lords and terrorists. The right wingers think we are coddling the poor. Actually, it looks like we coddle the rich.
Everyone following the interstices of U.S. policy in the Middle East should be reading Edward Luttwak’s The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire. I carry my copy with me everywhere. Running to a mere 498 pages, this humble tome shows how the Byzantines survived for centuries while constantly being attacked from the outside, even when they had limited military options. They constantly played one invading hoard off against another. While there have been intervening millennia, very similar tribal/religious sects are there now.
The preferred methods for getting the factions fighting among themselves were bribery and dynastic marriage. While intermarriage might be the simplest solution, let’s assume for the sake of argument that Obama will not be willing to marry Sasha or Malia off to one of the Emirs. So he is pretty much left with the cash option, which apparently will be sent in the form of ballistics. But if he can get them fighting with one another, which they seem willing to do, maybe their energy will be wasted away in the deserts and not against us or our allies.
Eric Holder has announced his resignation. He is the longest serving of any of Obama’s original cabinet members. The timing has both a good and bad side. Holder just announce a major initiative on policing that needs strong leadership. However, if he is determined to leave, it is good that he go in time for a successor to be confirmed in a Lame Duck Session of Congress rather than risk having to get someone through a changed Senate membership next year.
The elections are November 4.