Tuesday, March 30, 2010

US Skating around MTCR

As one of the creators of the MTCR (the Missile Technology Control Regime), I am a little disappointed to see the US try to skate around it by supplying unmanned drones to Pakistan, as this Reuters article reports. Of course, when we created the MTCR, it did not cover aircraft, only ballistic missiles. It was the rabid arms controllers who wanted to cover cruise missiles, too, but as cruise missiles have become more capable, there is more justification for doing so, although skating around the cruise missile coverage is not as bad as skating around the ballistic missile coverage. Nevertheless,I believe the US weakened the nuclear non-proliferation regime by making an exception for India under the Bush administration. Now it will weaken the missile non-proliferation regime by making an exception for Pakistan. Maybe we are trying to be evenhanded in the India-Pakistan dispute.

Health Care Not for Everybody

The pundits spend a lot of time talking about the low percentage of Americans who view the new health care legislation favorably. That is probably because the main beneficiaries are only about 10% of the population. Apparently of the approximately 300 million Americans, about 45 million have no health care insurance, or about 15% of the population. The new bill will cover about 30 million of them, or about 10% of the population. I suspect that they are very happy with the new legislation, but the 85% of Americans who have health care insurance may not be pleased with having this 10% added on, who will probably not carry their weight in terms of paying for their benefits. So, it's really only some altruistic motive that would make the 85% with insurance support the new bill. The 85% do get some things, like coverage of pre-existing conditions, perhaps access to more insurers, etc., but these advantages are small compared to what the uninsured get. Even some of the uninsured may be unhappy. Some of them will be healthy young people who have chosen not to buy health insurance because they don't want it. They will actually be a welcome addition to the insurance base, and will pay their own way. The unwelcome additions will be older people, not yet eligible for Medicare, who have serious health problems. To take care of them, there will be costs that must be covered somehow, currently by anticipated taxes on higher, investor incomes, on "Cadillac" health plans and by cuts to Medicare payments, among some other things.

The Tea Party demonstrators object to most of these taxes, which is understandable, but looked at another way, they are saying, "I am willing for my neighbor to die, so that I can have my current level of health care." In addition, most of the Tea Party types are white middle class, while the "neighbor" is likely to be black or Hispanic. But if they were as Christian as they claim to be, they should be willing to help their neighbors, especially since the costs are relatively low.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Financial Times Has It Right on Israel

A March 27 opinion piece by Max Hastings in the Financial Times has an excellent analysis of Israel's situation, entitled "A Deaf and Defiant Israel Is Gambling with Its Future." The picked out blurb says, "The claim upon East Jerusalem is rooted in a sense of moral entitlement, which the world increasingly rejects." He cites a book by Esther Barbarossa called "Suffering as Identity" that says Jews must cease to define their world view in terms of the Holocaust, ruthlessly politicised since the 1950s. Hastings says, "Some day Americans will awaken to the heavy strategic price their own nation pays for indulging Israeli excesses."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

More on the Death of Foreign Reporting

The Washington Post has a story on the decline of foreign correspondents and the rise of Global Post to fill in the gap. The story shows how CBS got caught short when the Chilean earthquake hit, how Global Post filled in, but also some of the shortcomings. It's ironic that the Internet is decreasing the quality of foreign reporting. But by killing off traditional newspapers, it's decreasing the quality of news in general. TV news is increasingly becoming celebrity and salacious, sensational news, the same junk that tabloids have long reported.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Get Israel to Apologize

Israel should apologize for insulting Vice President Biden by announcing new Israeli settlements in the Arab part of Jerusalem during his visit. As Tom Friedman said, friends should not let friends do this. Hillary Clinton's speech to AIPAC today basically surrendered to Bibi Netanyahu, although she tried to include a few face-saving complaints. It is Israel who should be saving face for insulting Biden, not the US that is trying to save face for pandering to Israel after being insulted by Israel. The US should cut off all assistance, including military assistance, until Israel does something to apologize for insulting Biden. Obama won a round at home by passing health care, but Israel made him look like a weak fool before the rest of the world. The Iranians must be laughing that Israel has such a weak, powerless ally, who gets spat upon and is too cowardly to do anything about it. At least Congressman Emanuel Cleaver reacted when got spit on by the Tea Party protesters outside Congress yesterday, even if he didn't bring criminal charges. Obama and Clinton should do at least as much in reaction to Israel figuratively spitting on Biden.

Hooray for Health Care

I am pleased that the Democrats passed health care, although I wish it could have been a better bill. The problem was the Republicans, who were completely uncooperative and blocked every effort at bipartisanship. As a result, the bill expands coverage to many more Americans, but the funding and organization is shaky. The main goal of the Democrats was to expand coverage, and it took so much effort to do that over the opposition of the Republicans that there was nothing left for other issues, like funding.

The Republicans like this result, perhaps the silver lining of their black cloud, because it will give them something to campaign on this fall. While messing up the funding for health care is good for Republicans for campaign purposes, it's bad for the United States. The Republicans put their partisan interests ahead of the best interests of the country. Whether this tactic will work remains to be seen. There may be a revulsion against the Republicans as simply the party of "No," which stands for nothing. They claim to stand for responsible finance, but they are responsible for at least part of the irresponsible finance built into health care.

How can they claim to be the party of fiscal responsibility. Their Medicare Part D legislation was not paid for; it was just a gift of federal taxpayer money to the pharmaceutical companies. And the Republican Bush administration never put the cost of the Iraq and Afghan wars in the budget; they were always separate, supplemental appropriations.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

News Reporting Going Down Hill

I have been increasingly unhappy with television new reporting. To me it was highlighted by the Haitian and Chilean earthquakes. All the networks just put their anchors or assistant anchors on planes and flew them to the trouble spots. They apparently didn't have any correspondents on the same continent who could speak intelligently about the countries. In general, CNN has fallen spectacularly. Ted Turner must be ashamed of what his network has become. I recently ran across this report of CNN dumping its science expertise, although it happened about a year ago.

Today's news now largely consists of warmed over summaries of New York Times or Washington Post stories, and commentators arguing with each other about them, Crossfire style. The BBC still does some real reporting, and PBS often uses some real reporting from British news agencies. Reuters also still does some real reporting, as do the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, at least on financial topics. But not-PBS news is practically worthless, except as a summary of what the few remaining new organizations have already said.

Fox Says Dont' Worry about Sick Ohio Woman

Fox News says not to worry about the sick Ohio woman whom Obama has used as an example of what's wrong with our health care system. Fox says she'll be taken care of by charity. Since she must depend on charity, I'd like to know how much Fox News is contributing to her care. Their position is that we don't need government help because private charity will take care of all sick people. So, Fox, the ball is in your court. If you have the courage of your convictions, you should give her at least $100,000 for her treatment at the Cleveland Clinic. Have you done it?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Israel's Insult

I just want to note that last week Israel spit in America's face when it announced new Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem during Vice President Biden's visit. I am inclined to take it as contempt that all Jews (represented by their country, Israel) have for gentiles. But, it's not all Jews, witness the op-ed by Tom Friedman, and his comments to Tom Brokaw on "Meet the Press" yesterday. It probably does represent the view of Likud and Zionists, represented in the US by AIPAC and other big Jewish political organizations. But even if it's not a sign that all Jews hate America, it's not good for race relations. America should certainly suspend all cooperation with, and foreign assistance to, Israel.