terça-feira, 30 de junho de 2009

sábado, 27 de junho de 2009

Reforma da Saúde: poderão os democratas vencê-la?

É um dos maiores desafios internos do primeiro mandato de Obama. Será possível que consiga passar o seu projecto para a Saúde? Um artigo de Eleanor Clift, na Newsweek:

«It's clear to many Democrats that they'll need Republican support to enact President Obama's health-care reform. With Senators Kennedy and Byrd sidelined by illness, Al Franken not yet seated, and two more Democrats on record publicly opposing the public option that the president supports, the majority currently has about 55 votes—short of the magic 60 needed to avoid a bill-killing filibuster, according to Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.

At a Capitol Hill breakfast on Wednesday, Conrad told an overflow crowd of health-care lobbyists and policy wonks that reform isn't optional. Despite the eyepopping cost, it must be done, he said, adding that the most expensive option is to do nothing.

Earnest and bespectacled, Conrad has the air of an accountant, appropriate for someone who spends his time staring at numbers that could take the country into the abyss. He spent the previous evening at a White House meeting with chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, among others. "As a country we are headed off the cliff," he told the breakfast audience, backing up his prediction with charts about the dire state of America's health-care system.

The way the battle lines are shaping up, Republicans and some Democrats are prepared to oppose any bill that has a public option, meaning a government-run, Medicare-like program that would be nonprofit and offer a basic benefit plan. Critics say it's a socialist takeover that would put a government bureaucrat between patient and doctor. But polls show that a surprisingly large majority of Americans want a public option, and that they're less fearful of government bureaucrats than the insurance companies they now have to contend with. How hard Obama will fight for a public option is a mystery. He gives lip service to it, but liberals who say reform will be a sham without it are worried he sees it more as a bargaining chip than the core of reform.

That's where Conrad comes in. So many stakeholders crowded in to hear him this week because of his idea for health insurance co-ops that would be nonprofit and run by members. That could get around the objections to a government-sponsored option. Saying his proposal wasn't "an epiphany," Conrad said co-ops are a way of life in rural America where he's from, and in floating the idea, he found it was the only plan that key Republicans said they could accept. Here's the rub: Democrats need only 51 votes for passage if health insurance is combined in a legislative maneuver with the budget, which can't be filibustered. Do Democrats want to get 80 percent of what they want with 51 votes? Or will they settle for 51 percent of what they want in order to get 80 votes?

For Democrats who voted for change, that's a no-brainer. But Conrad cautions that the legislative maneuver known as "recision" isn't a free ride, that any reform measure would have to reduce the deficit by at least $1 billion over six years, and anything that doesn't have a positive budgetary impact could be stricken from the bill. "We'd be left with Swiss cheese," he warns.

After playing nice for months, insurance companies, health-care providers, and pharmaceuticals are suiting up for battle. Dr. Steven Pribut, a Washington podiatrist, was on the elliptical at the gym when he heard former Republican speaker Newt Gingrich on one of the cable networks denounce a public option in his typically apocalyptic fashion. Nobody challenged him, so Pribut says he poked around on the Internet to learn more about Gingrich's expertise on the topic. He discovered that Gingrich was the founder of a health-reform organization that has as its members more than 20 large corporations, including GlaxoSmithKline and UnitedHealthcare. Pribut was moved to post an item on ++his blog++ [[http://www.drpribut.com/blog/]] suggesting that those making pronouncements should disclose their conflicts. (In the spirit of disclosure, I should say here that I get orthotics from Dr. Pribut.)

Pribut supports a public option as a way to set a minimal standard and put pressure on the insurance industry to conform to that standard without deception. Right now, competition too often means looking for ways to exclude people. Pribut calls insurers "holding companies—they hold patients' money and withhold payments they should be making." But he's not calling for their elimination; he thinks there's much they can do to make their services more attractive and add value for many people.

At the White House, policymakers envision a public option that would coexist with private insurers in the same way that UPS and FedEx compete with the post office, or the way that 401(k)s supplement Social Security. There would still be a vibrant private marketplace. White House support for a public option is strong. It's the political will that's uncertain.»

sexta-feira, 26 de junho de 2009

Histórias da Casa Branca - nova rubrica no site de A BOLA

A partir de hoje, pode ler no site de A BOLA, que tem desde 23 de Junho novas funcionalidades, em www.abola.pt, secção Outros Mundos (banner de cima, à esquerda), a rubrica «Histórias da Casa Branca».

Para arrancar, escrevi um texto sobre o primeiro semestre de Obama, intitulado «Mudança em aquecimento».

Aqui vai o link: http://www.abola.pt/mundos/ver.aspx?id=168600

Caso Sanford: Jenny, a mulher traída, não está «minimamente preocupada» com o futuro político de Mark

Caso Sanford: para o Daily Show, o governador da Carolina do Sul é «mais um político com uma mente conservadora e um pénis liberal»...

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Governor Mark Sanford's Affair
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJason Jones in Iran

'Getting it Right': o legado de Franklin Roosevelt, por Bill Clinton

Um artigo do 42.º Presidente dos Estados Unidos da América, William Jefferson Clinton, publicado na Time:

«My grandfather was a dirt farmer with only a sixth-grade education. During the Depression, he eked out a living selling blocks of ice. But in those days, even though he was poor, he knew someone special: from listening to the fireside chats on the radio, he knew Franklin Roosevelt. And he believed that Roosevelt knew what his life was like — and cared about it too.

I grew up listening to my grandfather's tales of what it was like to live through the Depression and the war and what Roosevelt meant to him. When I was President, in another time of change and uncertainty, I often looked at the portrait of F.D.R. in the Roosevelt Room and remembered my grandfather's stories.

Besides having a deep personal connection to ordinary citizens, Roosevelt got the big things right. When he came into office during the Depression, he saw that the ills of the country could not be addressed without more aggressive involvement by the government. He ran for President as a fiscal conservative, promising to balance the budget. But unlike his predecessor, he quickly realized that, with prices collapsing and unemployment exploding, only the Federal Government could step into the breach and restart the economy.

Roosevelt also knew that in a highly dynamic time like his — or the one we're in now — you have to do a lot more than one thing at a time. I was often criticized, just as President Obama is now, for trying to do too many things at once. Roosevelt understood that in a complex and perilous situation, you have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time, and he was masterful in doing a variety of difficult things simultaneously.

He was able to do that because he surrounded himself with brilliant people who knew more about particular subjects than he did. He enjoyed the arguments they had with one another — and with him — as they searched for the right policies. Oliver Wendell Holmes famously said Roosevelt had a second-class intellect but a first-class temperament. That temperament allowed him to inspire those around him to give their best. He made public service fun again.

It didn't hurt, of course, that Roosevelt was also a political genius. He knew how to pass legislation in Congress. He knew how to talk to the American people, the way he talked to my grandfather. While he was busy rebuilding the economy, he saw that war was coming in Europe and that he needed to prepare our country, help the British, and support and encourage Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

F.D.R. had another quality important in a President: the self-confidence to abandon a policy that wasn't working. He believed in experimentation, but he didn't deny the evidence when an experiment proved unsuccessful. In any highly dynamic time, with new and complex challenges, the President needs an appetite for experimentation and the determination to keep what works and scrap what doesn't.

When I was President, F.D.R.'s portrait hung near that of the 26th President, his cousin Theodore Roosevelt. They should have been together. Teddy Roosevelt was the first President to come to grips with the challenges presented by America's transition from a rural to an urban society; from an agricultural to an industrial economy; from a fairly stable and homogeneous nation to a more dynamic, diverse one of new immigrants; from a nation of modest influence to a global power.

His successes in limiting the abuses and spreading the benefits of industrial capitalism were admirable but incomplete. Then came World War I and the conservative reactions of the '20s.

The Depression gave F.D.R. the chance to use the power of government to complete the work his cousin had begun: to build a great middle class, help the poor work their way into it and give Americans a modicum of security in old age. His leadership during World War II and the plans he made for the U.N. and a permanent leadership role for the U.S. on the world stage cemented his legacy as one of our greatest Presidents. I thought of both Roosevelts when I told Americans that we needed a new social contract for the 21st century, one that would keep us moving toward a "more perfect union" in a highly interdependent, complex, ever changing world.

That is the challenge President Obama has inherited. I believe he will succeed in his efforts at economic recovery, health-care reform and taking big steps on climate change. Along the way, I hope he will be inspired by F.D.R.'s concern for all Americans, his relentless optimism, his penchant for experimentation, his relish for spirited debate among brilliant advisers and his unshakable faith in the promise of America.»

Morte de Michael Jackson: a reacção do reverendo Al Sharpton

quinta-feira, 25 de junho de 2009

Escândalo no Partido Republicano: Mark Sanford, governador da Carolina do Sul, admite caso extra-conjugal com uma argentina

Irão: Obama escreve ao líder supremo

Depois de uma fase da (talvez excessiva) prudência, em que essencialmente quis mostrar uma política de não ingerência, Obama endurece a posição americana sobre a crise iraniana. Ainda bem:

quarta-feira, 24 de junho de 2009

terça-feira, 23 de junho de 2009

Hillary Clinton vai marcando a sua posição no Departamento de Estado -- na sombra, mas com eficácia

Um artigo de Ben Smith, no Politico.com:

«Back last fall, when Barack Obama sprang his surprise about naming former rival Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state, many people assumed she would be the Cabinet's brightest star — a celebrity at large on the world stage, the face of American foreign policy while the president was consumed back home by domestic issues and a troubled economy.

Few commentators predicted the reality: an era of grindstone leadership at the State Department.

But that's exactly what Clinton has fashioned at Foggy Bottom. She has become a disciplined loyalist who jostles for White House influence just like any Cabinet secretary and who has advanced her cause by striking some key internal alliances.

Most surprisingly, she has about as low a news-making profile as is possible for someone who is arguably the most famous woman on the planet. When she slipped and broke her elbow last week, it was the most press coverage she had gotten in months. A Nexis database search showed she had fewer mentions last month than any time since she launched her presidential bid in January 2007.

It is an arrangement that, by all appearances, seems to suit Clinton and the Obama White House just fine, even as it has contributed to increasing chatter in foreign policy circles about her clout.

By some lights, no one should be surprised by the former presidential candidate's latest reinvention. It is an encore performance — a revival of the same strategy Clinton used when arriving to a chamber of skeptical colleagues after being elected to the Senate in 2000. Then she brushed aside national publicity and immersed herself on such issues as regional dairy compacts while waiting years for the right moment to re-emerge.

But the Cabinet represents a different challenge than the Senate. Like that of all her colleagues in the administration, her power is, in the end, derivative — depending on her relationship and access to Obama himself.

Some close observers think she has not done enough to preserve her department's influence, in part because several key issues-the Mideast peace process, Iran and Afghanistan — are steered by high-level envoys who work directly with the White House, albeit with coordination by State.

"You've got the empire of envoys that she acquiesced in, which sent into motion these little fiefdoms," said Aaron David Miller, a former longtime Middle East negotiator. "The general proposition is that in diplomacy and strategy, all power seems to be flowing away from the State Department.

Both the State Department and the White House are eager to rebut this perception before it takes deep root in either elite foreign policy circles or the news media.

In the reporting for this article, an array of senior officials got on the line — including many who do not ordinarily give interviews or do so on background rules — for on-the-record singing of her praises.

"Her star power has been an enormously effective tool for us," Tom Donilon, the deputy national security adviser with a central role in running foreign policy day to day, told POLITICO, describing the attention she commands abroad and her access to foreign leaders.

"She's a pretty tough customer in private negotiations, as you would imagine, and expects partners to behave like partners and expects people to do what they say they're going to do."

Donilon and other top officials emphasized how well she has fit in among the "alpha males" — as she put it to one of them, Afghanistan and Pakistan envoy Richard Holbrooke — who compose the rest of the foreign policy team. A spokesman for Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Geoff Morrell, noted that those two have emerged as particular allies.

"In the eight administrations Secretary Gates has worked in, more often than not the secretary of defense and secretary of state were not on speaking terms. By contrast, he and Secretary Clinton get along as if they were old friends," he said, adding that Gates sees Clinton as someone who is "serious, hard-working and cares deeply about national security issues."

Clinton's strategy for navigating Obama's councils of power is a reflection of temperament. Hillary Clinton the celebrity has always been balanced by — and, in the end, usually subordinate to — Clinton the grind, the woman with the self-described "responsibility gene." Bill Clinton was the politician as jazz improvisationalist; she was the linear thinker who believed that self-discipline and applied intelligence is the answer to most challenges.

In this case, the challenge is one that nearly all Cabinet officers face in the modern presidency. It is that a grand title -- and in Clinton's case, a fancy blue-and-white Air Force plane at her disposal — does not automatically translate to policy influence. Such outsize personalities as Alexander Haig and Colin Powell have found themselves at State essentially playing with a toy phone.

Clinton's inner circle at State also reflects personal preference. She chose not to bring any foreign policy experts into her personal staff on the State Department's seventh floor. Her top aide is lawyer Cheryl Mills, a former deputy White House counsel and impeachment warrior with a reputation for fierce intelligence and loyalty, but no major foreign policy experience, who holds the dual titles of counselor and chief of staff.

Some Clinton allies outside government worry this preference for loyalists over foreign policy credentials leaves her outgunned against the administration's alpha males.

"She's decided to put people around her who know nothing about foreign policy," complained a former senior Clinton aide.

But Clinton's staff choices are hardly unprecedented. Successful secretaries like James Baker brought in political inner circles. And Clinton has other close allies in the building who are experts, from the director of policy and planning staff, Anne Marie Slaughter, to Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs, Andrew Shapiro.

Still, there's no doubt that in this administration — as in all modern presidencies —the center of policy and personnel gravity remains at the White House. Three Democrats said Mills had clashed unsuccessfully with NSC senior aide Denis McDonough — "They went mano a mano," said one — over appointing Clinton loyalists to ambassadorships.

McDonough said the account was "not accurate."

"One of the many blessings of this job has been working with and getting to know Cheryl," he said.

It may be too early to answer the largest questions of Clinton's role: In particular, what is her personal stake in a foreign policy whose face is unquestionably that of Barack Obama?

Some predecessors have been publicly aligned with clear policy positions. Madeleine Albright, for instance, had to throw elbows to ensure access in Bill Clinton's White House but was helped by being known publicly as a prominent advocate for the use of force to halt ethnic cleansing in the Balkans.

Hillary Clinton does not yet have that kind of issue profile, and does not seem eager to gain one. During the solitary Sunday television interview she has given as secretary, ABC's George Stephanopoulos pressed her to describe "What is your role, exactly?" She answered vaguely about being "chief diplomat" and eventually answered, "The president asked me to lead the effort on food security."

One paradox is that Clinton's bruised image seems to have recovered as her star power diminished. A CNN poll in late March found her job approval rating at 71 percent, even higher than Obama's.

"She understands better than anyone else that the president sucks up all the oxygen," said Maria Echeveste, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and a longtime supporter who spoke to Clinton before her March trip to Mexico, and who said she's impressed with Clinton's handling of the job. "It gives her an opportunity to really contribute to this country in a defined way, in a really important arena," she said.

Some of the most delicate questions for Clinton and Obama aides are about the regional envoys.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told POLITICO one of her key roles would be "to be primarily responsible for our big power relationships" with countries like China and Russia.

But the unprecedented reliance on high-profile envoys — technically joint appointments of the State Department and the White House -- will perhaps be the key to her success or failure.

"The envoys will be the primary metric through which you will judge her legacy," said Crowley.

The envoys operate with considerable independence and can, for instance, be reached by the press without going through the State Department press office.

And even skeptical observers said Clinton appears to have won sufficient control over the envoys after a precarious start.

Rep. Mark Kirk, a Republican who serves on the House subcommittee that oversees the State Department and describes himself as a Clinton "fan" for her role in pushing for sending more troops to Afghanistan, said Clinton has won a central role after a precarious start.

"Between her consideration and her final confirmation she had lost some authority and power as all of these envoys were appointed," he said. "Once she did get confirmed, though, what we have seen is a steady increase in her authority and control as we have seen envoys seeming to now work with her."

Holbrooke, who has the Afghanistan-Pakistan account, and George Mitchell, in charge of the Israeli-Palestinian problem, both told POLITICO they were brought into the administration by Clinton and report first to her and that they typically meet with the president only in Clinton's presence.

Returning from trips to the Middle East, Mitchell said, "I immediately go to the State Department and I meet and report to the secretary — then together we meet and report to the president."

Leaders in the region, he said, view her as "pre-eminent."

"I've never been alone with the president since I took this job — I always work through her," said Holbrooke, a veteran of the State Department dating back to the Vietnam era.

"There's a real difference between subcontracting foreign to people — which can cannibalize you — and having strong people who you direct," he said, saying Clinton had extended State's reach by bringing in high-profile veterans like himself, Mitchell, and former Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew. "A diminished department is a department in which people in it are minor figures."

Clinton is also afforded a level of day-to-day deference that underscores her stature. One White House official recalled overhearing Holbrooke ask Clinton's permission to leave the West Wing.

"Madam Secretary, would you mind if I adjourned to have dinner with my wife?" he asked, winning an "Of course, Richard."

The deputy secretary of state, Jim Steinberg, described Clinton's role with the envoys as "the closer."

"The envoys tee it up for her," he said in an interview. "It's an extremely powerful way to use someone with her stature."

The envoys aren't the only powerful staffers. Steinberg, though he attends Clinton's senior staff meetings and serves under her in the bureaucracy, is a White House choice.

He and Donilon, close friends for 20 years from Democratic politics and high-level Clinton administration service, have emerged as the central channel in the day-to-day conduct of foreign policy, alongside two other senior National Security Council officials, Mark Lippert and McDonough.

In any event, plum posts have gone exclusively to Obama donors. One Clinton ally and a former top aide to Madeleine Albright, Wendy Sherman, was among those mentioned for ambassador to China, a foreign policy expert said; the job went instead to Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, the White House choice.

"In the end of the day, it is the decision that the White House makes," said Steinberg. "In some cases, they're not people who she or I knew well — like [Ambassador to Japan John Roos], but they're very qualified."

In other cases, Clinton has backed the bureaucracy's efforts to put foreign service officers, rather than Obama donors, in place. A former Clinton administration ambassador to Chile, Gabriel Guerra-Mondragon, said the State Department had successfully resisted White House pressure to appoint a donor ambassador to Brazil, though other Hispanic Clinton backers are said to have been disappointed at having been shut out of Latin American ambassadorships.

With the key personnel choices largely made at the White House, Clinton has shown flickers of a policy agenda. During transition, officials confirmed, she and Gates successfully made the case for an Afghan troop surge, over Vice President Joe Biden's objections. A State Department source confirmed a report that Clinton had advocated a line on Iran that was firmer than Obama's early, cautious stance. A White House official said, by contrast, that Clinton's personal staff had assured the White House there was no daylight between the two sides.»

Irão: Administração Obama endurece posição

... como é bem claro nas declarações do porta-voz da Casa Branca, Robert Gibbs:

Será que a lua-de-mel de Obama está a acabar?

Um artigo de Julian Zelizer, professor na Woodrow Wilson Princeton University, publicado em CNNpolitics.com:

«June has been rough for President Obama.

After experiencing enormous success during his first months in office, some of his political vulnerabilities have started to emerge.

As Republicans begin to think about the 2010 midterm elections and moderate Democrats decide how they should vote on Obama's most ambitious initiative, health care, the White House must prevent these weaknesses from becoming debilitating.

The first vulnerability is the tension between the left and center of the Democratic Party. Since his election, President Obama has struggled to navigate the divisions that exist between the liberal base of the party, who were the core of his early support, and moderate Democrats, who were also instrumental to his victory.

At first, the administration relied on good will and political capital from the election to overcome conflicts, such as when Obama agreed to reductions in the size of the economic stimulus package to placate the conservative Democrats and some Republicans despite the objection of progressives.

But the tensions are becoming more pronounced and more difficult to resolve. The president has disappointed gay rights activists for not fulfilling promises they thought he had made on the issue of gay rights.

Last week, they expressed their frustration with the Department of Justice's legal brief supporting the Defense of Marriage Act, a law that prohibits same-sex partners from receiving marriage benefits and protects states that don't recognize same-sex marriages.

Obama failed to calm the storm even when he extended some employment benefits to the same-sex partners of federal workers. He came under fire for having declined to provide health care and retirement benefits on the grounds that such a move would violate the Defense of Marriage Act.

These kinds of left-center tensions will intensify when Congress delves into the final negotiations over health care this summer. Progressive Democrats insist that without a public insurance option health care reform will fail in the long run. Several Democratic moderates have been pushing alternatives that fall far short of that goal.

The second vulnerability is the deficit. When Republicans have turned away from cultural issues and toward economics, they have been finding more success at attracting the interest of independents and moderates. Recent polls have shown that the public is concerned about the growing size of the deficit and Republicans have finally gained a bit of political traction by linking Obama's policies to the government's red ink.

To be sure, this is not a home run issue for the GOP. Many commentators have pointed to the hypocrisy of Republicans making anti-deficit arguments following the tax-cutting and spending spree that took place under President Bush.

Moreover, deficits have a poor track record in terms of being a winning campaign issue. There have not been any presidential candidates or major midterm elections in recent history that hinged on anti-deficit arguments. Many presidents, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, survived while growing the deficit.

Polls have shown the public is also notoriously fickle about how much weight it gives to the deficit as an issue, and is often misinformed about the actual size of the deficit.

Nonetheless, warning about rising deficits has been an effective tool for weakening the political strength of an incumbent administration. Regardless of the economics of the issue, with some respected economists saying short-term deficits don't matter, many Americans perceive the budget deficit as a symbol for whether a president is keeping federal spending under control.

While Republicans might not take back Congress by focusing on the deficit, they can erode Obama's political standing and make it more difficult for him to pass legislation.

Finally, there is the economy. The irony for Obama is that as the economy has stabilized, it has become a greater source of political danger. Without an immediate crisis, voters are not as panicked and don't feel as desperate for federal assistance. A growing number are more comfortable criticizing the administration's economic policies.

Some Republicans have picked up on this and have asked why the U.S. needs to spend the stimulus money if the recession is almost over. At the same time, Obama is in a double bind: Most experts agree that we will have a fragile economy in the foreseeable future, so voters won't be happy either.

If there is any new dip in the economy, the public will blame President Obama rather than President Bush. This is exactly what happened with the recession in 1937, which FDR's opponents called the "Roosevelt Recession," using the downturn to diminish the number of New Deal liberals in the House and Senate in 1938.

Does this mean Obama is finished? Not at all. The same polls that reveal vulnerabilities show that Obama is still extremely popular with the public and most evidence suggests that he has good standing with congressional Democrats.

But in recent weeks a candidate who was once seen as invincible is now seen as potentially vulnerable. This is when the sharks start to circle in American politics.

The revelation of weakness gives Republicans, as well as unhappy Democrats, more confidence to challenge the White House. This is not what the president wanted right as he is trying to win support for his health care proposal and the rest of his budget. If the problems are not contained, they can also become the foundation for the Republican campaign for Congress in 2010.»

segunda-feira, 22 de junho de 2009

Estará Obama a ser demasiado brando com o Irão?

Os republicanos acusam-no de ser muito soft (Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney, John McCain), mas dia após dia o Presidente americano tem marcado, com diplomacia mas de modo firme, a posição dos EUA sobre a questão mais importante do momento... e dos próximos tempos, a nível internacional.

Obama assina a nova Lei do Tabaco

(obviamente, uma montagem...)

... e fala sobre a sua própria luta como antigo fumador.

“Each day, 1,000 young people under the age of 18 become new regular, daily smokers, and almost 90 percent of all smokers began at or before their 18th birthday,” President Obama said this afternoon as he prepared to sign a bill granting authority over tobacco products to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“I know; I was one of these teenagers,” the president said. “And so I know how difficult it can be to break this habit when it's been with you for a long time.”

Though he promised his wife as a condition of his running for president that he would quit the vile weed tobacco, the president has struggled with smoking. During the campaign he admitted falling off the tobacco wagon a few times.

Asked earlier this month if the President had smoked cigarettes since moving into the White House, press secretary Robert Gibbs would say only, “I think the president would likely tell you, as I think anybody would that has smoked or been addicted to smoking, that it is -- it is a lifelong struggle.”

The president today, however, suggested that today’s young smokers are actively being recruited, which is why the new legislation is necessary.

“Kids today don't just start smoking for no reason,” the president said. “They're aggressively targeted as customers by the tobacco industry. They're exposed to a constant and insidious barrage of advertising where they live, where they learn, and where they play. Most insidiously, they are offered products with flavorings that mask the taste of tobacco and make it even more tempting.”

Under the new law, the federal government will ban all cigarettes from having candy, fruit, and spice flavors as their characterizing flavors, to take effect this October. In addition, the law will stop youth-based marketing such as tobacco manufacturers sponsoring sporting, athletic, and entertainment events using tobacco product brand names and logos, or giving away clothing bearing the brand name or logo of a tobacco product.»

in ABCnews.com

Saúde: Kathleen Sebellius diz que «o actual sistema está a abafar famílias e empresas»

A secretária da Saúde defende a necessidade de se avançar para uma reforma profunda nos EUA. Talvez a mais difícil de aprovar em todo o primeiro mandato de Obama...

Obama: barómetro da verdade

Irão: o grande teste de gestão de momentos delicados para Barack Obama

Fouad Ajami, professor na School of Advanced International Studies da Johns Hopkins University, e membro da Stanford University's Hoover Institution, é o autor de «The Foreigner's Gift: The Americans, the Arabs, and the Iraqis in Iraq». Em artigo publicado no Wall Street Journal, considera que Obama ainda está a tempo de ter uma intervenção decisiva na crise iraniana e deixa bem claro: «O Presidente americano tem que decidir se apoia o regime ou se apoia os movimentos do povo nas ruas».

«President Barack Obama did not "lose" Iran. This is not a Jimmy Carter moment. But the foreign-policy education of America's 44th president has just begun. Hitherto, he had been cavalier about other lands, he had trusted in his own biography as a bridge to distant peoples, he had believed he could talk rogues and ideologues out of deeply held beliefs. His predecessor had drawn lines in the sand. He would look past them.

Thus a man who had been uneasy with his middle name (Hussein) during the presidential campaign would descend on Ankara and Cairo, inserting himself in a raging civil war over Islam itself. An Iranian theocratic regime had launched a bid for dominion in its region; Mr. Obama offered it an olive branch and waited for it to "unclench" its fist.

It was an odd, deeply conflicted message from Mr. Obama. He was at once a herald of change yet a practitioner of realpolitik. He would entice the crowds, yet assure the autocrats that the "diplomacy of freedom" that unsettled them during the presidency of George W. Bush is dead and buried. Grant the rulers in Tehran and Damascus their due: They were quick to take the measure of the new steward of American power. He had come to "engage" them. Gone was the hope of transforming these regimes or making them pay for their transgressions. The theocracy was said to be waiting on an American opening, and this new president would put an end to three decades of estrangement between the United States and Iran.

But in truth Iran had never wanted an opening to the U.S. For the length of three decades, the custodians of the theocracy have had precisely the level of enmity toward the U.S. they have wanted -- just enough to be an ideological glue for the regime but not enough to be a threat to their power. Iran's rulers have made their way in the world with relative ease. No White Army gathered to restore the dominion of the Pahlavis. The Cold War and oil bailed them out. So did the false hope that the revolution would mellow and make its peace with the world.

Mr. Obama may believe that his offer to Iran is a break with a hard-line American policy. But nothing could be further from the truth. In 1989, in his inaugural, George H.W. Bush extended an offer to Iran: "Good will begets good will," he said. A decade later, in a typically Clintonian spirit of penance and contrition, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright came forth with a full apology for America's role in the 1953 coup that ousted nationalist Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh.

Iran's rulers scoffed. They had inherited a world, and they were in no need of opening it to outsiders. They were able to fly under the radar. Selective, targeted deeds of terror, and oil income, enabled them to hold their regime intact. There is a Persian pride and a Persian solitude, and the impact of three decades of zeal and indoctrination. The drama of Barack Obama's election was not an affair of Iran. They had an election of their own to stage. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- a son of the Ayatollah Khomeini's revolutionary order, a man from the brigades of the regime, austere and indifferent to outsiders, an Iranian Everyman with badly fitting clothes and white socks -- was up for re-election.

The upper orders of his country loathed him and bristled under the system of controls that the mullahs and the military and the revolutionary brigades had put in place, but he had the power and the money and the organs of the state arrayed on his side. There was a discernible fault line in Iran. There were Iranians yearning for liberty, but we should not underestimate the power and the determination of those moved by the yearning for piety. Ahmadinejad's message of populism at home and defiance abroad, his assertion that the country's nuclear quest is a "closed file," settled and beyond discussion, have a resonance on Iranian soil. His challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, a generation older, could not compete with him on that terrain.

On the ruins of the ancien régime, the Iranian revolutionaries, it has to be conceded, have built a formidable state. The men who emerged out of a cruel and bloody struggle over their country's identity and spoils are a tenacious, merciless breed. Their capacity for repression is fearsome. We must rein in the modernist conceit that the bloggers, and the force of Twitter and Facebook, could win in the streets against the squads of the regime. That fight would be an Iranian drama, all outsiders mere spectators.

That ambivalence at the heart of the Obama diplomacy about freedom has not served American policy well in this crisis. We had tried to "cheat" -- an opening to the regime with an obligatory wink to those who took to the streets appalled by their rulers' cynicism and utter disregard for their people's intelligence and common sense -- and we were caught at it. Mr. Obama's statement that "the difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi in terms of their actual policies may not be as great as had been advertised" put on cruel display the administration's incoherence. For once, there was an acknowledgment by this young president of history's burden: "Either way, we were going to be dealing with an Iranian regime that has historically been hostile to the United States, that has caused some problems in the neighborhood and is pursuing nuclear weapons." No Wilsonianism on offer here.

Mr. Obama will have to acknowledge the "foreignness" of foreign lands. His breezy self-assurance has been put on notice. The Obama administration believed its own rhetoric that the pro-Western March 14 coalition in Lebanon had ridden Mr. Obama's coattails to an electoral victory. (It had given every indication that it expected similar vindication in Iran.)

But the claim about Lebanon was hollow and reflected little understanding of the forces at play in Lebanon's politics. That contest was settled by Lebanese rules, and by the push and pull of Saudi and Syrian and Iranian interests in Lebanon.

Mr. Obama's June 4 speech in Cairo did not reshape the Islamic landscape. I was in Saudi Arabia when Mr. Obama traveled to Riyadh and Cairo. The earth did not move, life went on as usual. There were countless people puzzled by the presumption of the entire exercise, an outsider walking into sacred matters of their faith. In Saudi Arabia, and in the Arabic commentaries of other lands, there was unease that so complicated an ideological and cultural terrain could be approached with such ease and haste.

Days into his presidency, it should be recalled, Mr. Obama had spoken of his desire to restore to America's relation with the Muslim world the respect and mutual interest that had existed 30 or 20 years earlier. It so happened that he was speaking, almost to the day, on the 30th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution -- and that the time span he was referring to, his golden age, covered the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the American standoff with Libya, the fall of Beirut to the forces of terror, and the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Liberal opinion would have howled had this history been offered by George W. Bush, but Barack Obama was granted a waiver.

Little more than three decades ago, Jimmy Carter, another American president convinced that what had come before him could be annulled and wished away, called on the nation to shed its "inordinate fear of communism," and to put aside its concern with "traditional issues of war and peace" in favor of "new global issues of justice, equity and human rights." We had betrayed our principles in the course of the Cold War, he said, "fought fire with fire, never thinking that fire is quenched with water." The Soviet answer to that brave, new world was the invasion of Afghanistan in December of 1979.

Mr. Carter would try an atonement in the last year of his presidency. He would pose as a born-again hawk. It was too late in the hour for such redemption. It would take another standard-bearer, Ronald Reagan, to see that great struggle to victory.

Iran's ordeal and its ways shattered the Carter presidency. President Obama's Persian tutorial has just begun.»

Irão: mais críticas a Obama, agora de Bill Bennett

Antigo secretário da Educação de Ronald Reagan, comentador político da CNN, conservador moderado:

Barack Obama, super-herói

domingo, 21 de junho de 2009

Irão: McCain volta a criticar Obama e fala na necessidade de «os EUA estarem no lado certo da História»

Irão: Obama avisa que «o Mundo inteiro está a observar»

«WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Obama called Saturday for the Iranian government to refrain from violence and injustice against its own citizens.

Iranian women demonstrate Saturday in front of the White House, where President Obama issued a statement.

"The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching," Obama said in a White House statement. "We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people."

He said the United States stands with all who seek to exercise what he called the universal rights to assembly and free speech.

The statement came as Iranian security forces cracked down Saturday on demonstrators in Tehran in continuing protests against the outcome of Iran's June 12 election. Watch protesters clash with government forces »

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the overwhelming victor in voting that opposition groups called rigged. No independent monitors were permitted for the election, and protests against the outcome grew in succeeding days.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets Saturday, even though the demonstrations were banned and police confronted them with clubs, tear gas and water cannons. A threatening statement a day earlier by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had raised fears of bloodshed.

Obama received intelligence briefings and discussed the situation with senior advisers throughout the day, an administration official told CNN.

In his statement, Obama repeated a message from his recent speech to the Muslim world in Cairo, Egypt, that "suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away."

"The Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government," Obama said in the statement.

"If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion."

Obama quoted slain U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.'s statement that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

"I believe that," Obama's statement said. "The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian people's belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness."

The statement was Obama's strongest to date on the Iran situation. He has been criticized by Republicans in Congress for what they called his failure to strongly support the Iranian demonstrators.

Previously, Obama has said he was "deeply troubled" by the violent protests but he has avoided siding with Ahmadinejad's opponents, telling reporters that "it is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran's leaders will be."

"It's not productive, given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling, the U.S. president meddling in Iranian elections," Obama said this week.

Diplomats credited Obama with having avoided giving the regime an excuse to blame the turmoil on the Americans.

Several diplomats told CNN that Iran is in "unchartered territory" and said this weekend's events could determine the fate of the regime.

The diplomats said they were watching to see whether Iranian security forces would continue the crackdown. The military has shot people before but never in massive numbers, they said.»

in CNNpolitics.com

Irão: balas e barreiras

A opinião de Thomas Friedman, no New York Times:

«The popular uprising unfolding in Iran right now really is remarkable. It is the rarest of rare things — more rare than snow in Saudi Arabia, more unlikely than finding a ham sandwich at the Wailing Wall, more unusual than water-skiing in the Sahara. It is a popular uprising in a Middle Eastern oil state.

Oil is a key reason that democracy has had such a hard time emerging in the Middle East, except in one of the few states with no oil: Lebanon. Because once kings and dictators seize power, they can entrench themselves, not only by imprisoning their foes and killing their enemies, but by buying off their people and using oil wealth to build huge internal security apparatuses.

There is only one precedent for an oil-funded autocrat in the Middle East being toppled by a people’s revolution, not by a military coup, and that was in ... Iran.

Recall that in 1979, when the Iranian people rose up against the shah of Iran in an Islamic Revolution spearheaded by Ayatollah Khomeini, the shah controlled the army, the Savak secret police and a vast network of oil-funded patronage. But at some point, enough people taking to the streets and defying his authority, and taking bullets as well, broke the shah’s spell. All the shah’s horses and all the shah’s men, couldn’t put his regime back together again.

The Islamic Revolution has learned from the shah. It has used its oil wealth — Iran is the world’s fifth-largest oil producer, exporting about 2.1 million barrels a day at around $70 a barrel — to buy off huge swaths of the population with cheap housing, government jobs and subsidized food and gasoline. It’s also used its crude to erect a vast military force — namely the Revolutionary Guard and the Basij militia — to keep itself in power.

Therefore, the big question in Iran today is: Can the green revolution led by Mir Hussein Moussavi, and backed by masses of street protestors, do to the Islamic regime what Ayatollah Khomeini and the Iranian people did to the shah’s regime — break its spell so all its barrels and bullets become meaningless?

Iran’s ruling mullahs were always ruthless. But they disguised it a bit with faux elections. I say faux elections because while the regime may have counted the votes accurately, it tightly controlled who could run. The choices were dark black and light black.

What happened this time is that the anger at the regime had reached such a level — because of near-20 percent unemployment and a rising youth population tired of seeing their life’s options limited by theocrats — that given a choice between a dark black regime candidate and a light black regime candidate, millions of Iranians turned out for light black: Mr. Moussavi. The Iranian people turned the regime man into their own candidate, and he seems to have been transformed by them. That is why the regime panicked and stole the election.

The playwright Tom Stoppard once observed that democracy is not the voting, “it’s the counting.” Iran’s mullahs were always ready to allow voting, as long as the counting didn’t matter, because a regime man was always going to win. But what happened this time was that in the little crack of space that the regime had to allow for even a faux election, some kind of counter-revolution was born.

Yes, its leader, Mr. Moussavi, surely is less liberal than most of his followers. But just his lighter shade of black attracted and unleashed so much pent-up frustration and hope for change among many Iranians that he became an independent candidate and, thus, his votes simply could not be counted — because they were not just a vote for him, but were a referendum against the entire regime.

But now, having voted with their ballots, Iranians who want a change will have to vote again with their bodies. A regime like Iran’s can only be brought down or changed if enough Iranians vote as they did in 1979 — in the street. That is what the regime fears most, because then it either has to shoot its own people or cede power. That is why it was no accident that the “supreme leader,” Ayatollah Khamenei, warned protestors in his Friday speech that “street challenge is not acceptable.” That’s a man who knows how he got his job.

And so the gauntlet is now thrown down. If the reformers want change, they are going to have to form a leadership, lay out their vision for Iran and keep voting in the streets — over and over and over. Only if they keep showing up with their bodies, and by so doing saying to their regime “we cannot be bought and we will not be cowed,” will their ballots be made to count.

I am rooting for them and fearing for them. Any real moderation of Iran’s leadership would have a hugely positive effect on the Middle East. But we and the reformers must have no illusions about the bullets and barrels they are up against.»

Irão: Obama mantém-se discretamente crítico, o Congresso aprovou resolução a condenar a repressão

sexta-feira, 19 de junho de 2009

Ponte para o Islão

Victor Ângelo, o mais antigo funcionário português da ONU, enviado-especial do secretário-geral Ban Ki Moon a diversos países africanos, na Visão:

«O Presidente Obama falou das relações entre os muçulmanos e o Ocidente. Cumpriu, ao mesmo tempo, a tradição. Discursou no local certo. Quando se quer falar ao mundo islâmico sobre novas ideias, a Universidade de Al-Azhar é o sítio mais indicado. Situada no Cairo, uma das cidades de maior simbolismo na história da humanidade, Al-Azhar tem sido, ao longo dos seus mil de anos de existência, um centro de reflexão e de transmissão de conhecimentos. Tem um prestígio sem par na área dos estudos corânicos. Lembro-me que no início da década de oitenta, há quase 30 anos, as Nações Unidas tiveram que recorrer aos pareceres dos letrados de Al-Azhar para arranjar argumentos que permitissem o lançamento de campanhas de planeamento familiar nos países muçulmanos.

O discurso do Presidente americano foi visionário. Uma aposta no futuro, na solidariedade entre culturas diferentes. Marcou uma ruptura com a filosofia que se inspirara na ideia do choque de civilizações. Uma filosofia que ganhara corpo teórico 20 anos atrás, quando cessou a Guerra Fria, e que George Bush, depois do traumatismo do 11 de Setembro, transformara numa justificação ideológica para lançar a campanha contra o terrorismo e invadir o Iraque. As palavras de Obama foram um contributo importante para demolição de todo um edifício de preconceitos, que ambos os lados foram construindo ao longo da história recente. Um edifício que tem os seus alicerces na colonização e na dominação exercida pelo Ocidente, nos ressentimentos que perduraram, na exploração económica, nas trocas desiguais, na ignorância dos valores culturais e espirituais de cada lado. Na falta de respeito mútuo.

Falou sobre o futuro e o destino comum que todos partilhamos. Condenou o extremismo violento, defendeu os direitos humanos, com um acento especial na questão dos direitos das mulheres, a liberdade religiosa e a democracia. Disse não, de uma maneira inequívoca, aos colonatos israelitas nos territórios ocupados, mas sim à existência de dois estados, a Palestina e Israel, viáveis e respeitadores das regras de boa vizinhança. Foi também claro no que respeita ao futuro do armamento nuclear. E ao Irão, um estado fundamental na região, mas que continua prisioneiro de uma lógica de conflito. Não podia deixar de se referir ao Afeganistão e ao Paquistão, e à necessidade de combinar as acções de segurança com uma ajuda maciça ao desenvolvimento económico e social dos seus povos.»

Reforma da Saúde: ainda mais difícil do que se pensava?

Ted Kennedy, Barack Obama, Kathleen Sebellius e Tom Daschle: quatro rostos dos democratas para a reforma que pode determinar o grau de sucesso ou insucesso do primeiro mandato do Presidente. Mas as condições para uma verdadeira mudança no sistema de saúde americano podem ser ainda mais complicadas de reunir do que se previa...

Um artigo de Mike Allen e Jim Vadehei, no POLITICO.com:

«President Obama's campaign for health care reform by this fall, once considered highly likely to succeed, suddenly appears in real jeopardy.

Top White House advisers, especially Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, are still privately predicting massive changes to the health care system in 2009. But for the first time, Democrats on Capitol Hill and in the administration are expressing frank worries about stronger-than-expected opposition from moderate Democrats and worse-than-expected estimates for how much the plan could cost.

Business groups, which had embraced the idea of reform and have been meeting quietly with Democrats for months in an effort to shape the legislation, now talk of spending millions of dollars to oppose the latest proposals out of Capitol Hill. And Democrats themselves are not united, with leading party figures making contradictory declarations about how far they should go to overhaul the system when deficits are soaring and prospects for an economic recovery remain cloudy.

And top Democratic officials tell POLITICO they are increasingly pessimistic about getting any more Republican votes than they did on the stimulus package, with some aides referring to the idea of a bipartisan bill as "fools' gold" — an unattainable waste of time.

“This was always going to be messy,” said a senior administration strategist. “It got messy faster and earlier than people thought. But none of it is anything that’s going to stop it.”

Emanuel is anxious for the president to sign the new law by October so that Democrats have a year to campaign on it ahead of congressional midterms, aides say. Administration officials concede the new kinks in the schedule make that harder.

It has been conventional wisdom Obama would overcome a sluggish start by congressional Democrats to win approval of his plan this fall – perhaps even backed by a notable number of Republicans. But there is growing list of reasons this conventional wisdom could be wrong:

Money troubles
Public anxiety about red ink – muted during this winter’s debate over an economic stimulus package – has come roaring back, with a Gallup Poll showing deficits and spending as the only issues where more people disapprove of Obama’s performance than approve of it.

Republicans think the “borrow and spend” issue may be the biggest single vulnerability for Obama and the Democrats in the midterm congressional elections of 2010 and the presidential year of 2012. The president’s own advisers privately agree.

That’s one of the reasons Obama is emphasizing what he calls “savings” – otherwise known as cuts – that would help pay for his plans.

That is why Democrats admit that it was a public-relations disaster this week when the Congressional Budget Office issued a report this week concluding, from a partial draft of a Senate health committee bill, that the plan would cost $1 trillion over 10years but only provide coverage for 16 million of the estimated 50 million Americans who are uninsured.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a member of the health committee, said on Fox News Thursday that he considers the CBO finding “a devastating blow to the administration’s plan.”

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) now says Democrats will need to come up with a bill that costs less than $1 trillion – but many liberals say it would be meaningless to do something that small and leave so many people still uninsured.

A Crowded Stage
Everyone has big ideas for changing the health care system – and many lawmakers have waited years, in some cases their entire careers—to put their stamp on it.

That’s why you have clashing Democratic ideas from Obama, Sen. Ted Kennedy (Mass.), Baucus, Rep. Henry Waxman (Calif.) and many others.

Democrats say they sorely miss the constant presence of Kennedy, chairman of the health committee and longtime champion of the issue, who has retreated to Massachusetts as he battles cancer.

Some worried officials say Kennedy would never have allowed the strategic blunder of submitting the incomplete health committee bill for CBO scoring, which produced estimates that have been a public-relations nightmare.

Without Kennedy to mediate Democratic infighting, Obama and his top aides are going to have to do it. But based on the lessons learned from the disastrous White House micromanaging of health care under President Bill Clinton back in 1993, Obama’s aides are holding off for now, letting Congress find its own way.

“It’s too soon to be cracking heads,” said one to administration official.

At some point they will probably have to be more immersed in the deal-making because there are many moderate Democrats who are cool to many of the ideas pushed by Obama and their congressional leaders.

False Hope
For most of this year, it has appeared that Obama and business interests were searching for common ground. But this was always somewhat of a charade. It was in the political self-interest of Obama and the business community to go through the motions of working together—even while reserving the option to go to war.

As details have emerged, business groups that had sounded supportive are suddenly openly critical, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce referring to the Senate health committee blueprint as “a dangerous proposal” in an e-mail to members.

Insurance companies see an existential threat in Obama’s plan to include an option for government coverage, even though the administration says it is not meant to drive the industry out of business. But health finance experts believe such a plan would inevitably drain dollars from the private-sector market.

It is virtually impossible to sketch out a plan that can pass a Democratic Congress – and contain some version of a public option for insurance – that will not provoke a major backlash among the best-funded business groups. This means millions of dollars in TV ads warning of government attempts to control and ration care.

Recognizing the need to woo an increasingly skeptical public, House Democrats on Friday afternoon plan to release – in conjunction with their draft health reform bill – a new pitch called “12 Ways Health Care Reform Will Help You and Your Family.”

The House Democrats’ description paints a utopian picture: lower costs, including more affordable monthly premiums, an annual cap on out-of-pocket expenses and “an end to rate increases based on preexisting conditions, age or gender”; “greater choice” and “peace of mind” so that job a life choices don’t have to be based on insurance considerations.

“No more denial of coverage for preexisting conditions like diabetes, cancer or heart disease,” a late draft of the document says. “More family doctors and nurses entering the workforce at better payment rates.”

Big bang backfire
The White House’s “big bang” theory of proposing a raft of landmark legislation all at once is giving way to fears of a “big chaos” backlash. Congressional chairmen saying that the pipes are overloaded between health-care and climate legislation – and that was before this week’s arrival of the biggest overhaul of financial regulations in 70 years.

And don’t forget Congress needs to fit in work on all of its annual spending bills and take a month off in August.

This mad rush of legislation is posing fiscal and tactical problems for Democrats.

They simply don’t have the money to change the health care system, overhaul the energy sector and increase domestic spending as part of the appropriations process – without imposing big tax increases or exploding the deficit. Something has to give. Even if they did, the gears of Congress move slowly. Any or all of these proposals could easily jam them up.

To keep the pressure on, the Democratic National Committee embarked this week on a major fundraising campaign for a “Summer Organizer Program” that will hire hundreds of staffers for Organizing for America, the new name for the Obama campaign’s grassroots organization. The plan is to build a summer grassroots campaign around health care, an effort strategists believe will later morph into Obama’s reelection army.

“Please donate whatever you can afford to support the campaign for real health care reform in 2009,” pleads an e-mail purporting to come directly from “President Barack Obama.” “The campaign to pass real health care reform in 2009 is the biggest test of our movement since the election. … To prevail, we must once more build a coast-to-coast operation ready to knock on doors, deploy volunteers, get out the facts, and show the world how real change happens in America.

The enemy smells blood
Republicans did a poor job of trying to stop the economic stimulus bill earlier this year, in part because they were confounded by a popular president with very few obvious weak spots.

Obama remains popular, and his ideas for fixing health care remain more popular than the Republican’s. But Obama’s vulnerabilities are starting to show.

Public concerns with heavy government spending are rising. A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found more people want the focus to be on deficit reduction, not new spending to boost the economy.

The public is also expressing unease with the government’s increasing role in the economy. Republicans have a lot of practice in warning voters about socialized medicine and government-mandated rationing, and the NBC-WSJ poll suggests these warnings could work again.

Republicans came out with the outlines of their own plan this week. But few will pay attention to a health care plan by the out-of-power party that has zero chance of becoming law. They know they win by Obama losing.»

Hillary Clinton partiu um cotovelo e vai ser operada

Piadas à parte sobre dores de cotovelo que eventualmente permaneçam da luta das primárias...

Barómetro: 63 por cento de aprovação

As semanas passam, os números mantêm-se, muito estáveis, bem acima dos 60 por cento de aprovação. Muito bom sinal, se olharmos às decisões que já tiveram que ser tomadas.


-- Taxa de Aprovação: 63 por cento
-- Reprovação: 26%

Tim Geithner e a Reforma das Finanças, a maior dos últimos 70 anos

O primeiro meio ano foi para limpar o sistema, o próximo semestre será para avançar com a construção de um modelo que evite uma nova catástrofe do sistema. Tim Geithner, secretário do Tesouro, explica, em artigo no Wall Street Journal:

«Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner faced the questions from Congress Thursday, but it was the Federal Reserve that had lawmakers' attention as they expressed concern about vesting more authority with the central bank.

Mr. Geithner, appearing in rare back-to-back hearings on both sides of Congress, was repeatedly pressed on the regulatory overhaul unveiled Wednesday by President Barack Obama and the Treasury Department.

In testimony to the Senate Banking Committee, Mr. Geithner said that gaps and weaknesses in the regulatory framework governing banks and other financial institutions "presented challenges" to the government's ability to monitor and address risky market bets. One problem, he said, is that no single regulator saw its job as protecting the economy and financial system as a whole.

"We cannot let that happen this time. We may disagree about the details, and we will have to work through those issues. But ordinary Americans have suffered too much; trust in our financial system has been too shaken; our economy has been brought too close to the brink for us to let this moment pass," he said.

In the first formal airing of concerns with the Obama plan, lawmakers focused on the linchpin of the proposal: giving the Fed broad authority to regulate systemic risk and examine any firm that could threaten financial stability.

Mr. Geithner said the head of the Federal Reserve Board would be held accountable for systemic risks to the financial system.

"I personally believe this represents a grossly inflated view of the Fed's expertise," Sen. Richard Shelby (R., Ala.), said during Mr. Geithner's appearance before the Senate Banking Committee.

Sen. Jim Bunning (R., Ky.), a longtime Fed critic, pointed out that the Fed has declined to use its authority when it was given powers by Congress, most notably with writing mortgage regulations passed by Congress in 1994.

"It took 14 years for the Fed to write one regulation on mortgages that we gave them," Sen. Bunning said. "What makes you think the Fed will do better this time around?"

In addition to a lack of faith in a more powerful Fed on the part of some lawmakers, they were also wary of impinging on the central bank's core mission to set monetary policy. A requirement in the Obama plan that the Fed seek Treasury approval to use emergency lending powers, is troubling, lawmakers said.

"I think that's really crossing a line and a sort of fundamental change," Sen. David Vitter (R., La.), said. "All of a sudden, the Fed is acting more like a department of the government than an independent bank."

Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.) also raised questions about the use of the Fed for such an overarching task. But he applauded the administration for including a new agency to protect consumers in their banking transactions.

Sen. Dodd said regulators must be empowered and that gaps in oversight should be eliminated. Financial institutions that pose a threat to the economy shouldn't go unchecked, he said, and there should be more transparency in certain markets.

But Sen. Dodd blamed the Fed for "dropping the ball" on consumer protections.

Mr. Geithner said that in creating the consumer protection agency, the administration was taking power away from the Fed even as it was adding to its authority. "That is a substantial diminishment of authority, preoccupation and distraction," he said.

Mr. Geithner, fielding the criticism from both sides of the aisle, said the Fed is best suited among existing agencies to be the chief cop overseeing the financial system as a whole.

"It has a greater knowledge and feel for broader market developments than is true for any other entity," he said.

He also downplayed the idea that the plan would consolidate too much power at the central bank, calling any expansion "actually quite modest" and saying that the Obama administration doesn't want to overextend the Fed.

The Fed's ability to act independently will not be removed, he vowed.

"It is very important that we preserve the independence of the Fed and its basic credibility and responsibility for monetary policy. We would not recommend a proposal that would put that at risk," Mr. Geithner said.

Besides empowering the Federal Reserve to oversee the largest and most influential financial firms, President Barack Obama wants to create a council of federal regulators, chaired by the treasury secretary, to monitor risk across the broader market but not have authority over large financial institutions. The new consumer protection agency would be created to prevent deceptive practices by such companies as credit card lenders and mortgage brokers.

Mr. Geithner said U.S. policy makers must "fundamentally rethink" the government's role in the nation's housing market, and a key part of that will be determining what to do with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

It is "essential" that Congress and the White House figure out what to do with the two mortgage finance giants that have been under government control since last September, he said. But any decisions on the future of the two firms should be part of a broader consideration of what role the government should have in encouraging homeownership and housing policy, he said.

Additionally, he said the Treasury and the administration "couldn't do it carefully enough, thoughtfully enough in this time frame."

Democratic leaders have committed to enacting the regulatory revision by the end of the year. The proposal is aimed at filling in regulatory gaps and increasing oversight of the financial markets to prevent another economic calamity.

"We regard this as very pro-market," said Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.), who chairs the House Financial Services Committee. "Unless you have investors that are well-protected, you don't have a market."

A swift legislative endorsement of the plan could be difficult. Sen. Dodd is leading a major overhaul of the nation's health-care system, while the Senate also faces a debate on whether to confirm Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.»

in 'http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124532495495527289.html'

A comunidade 'gay' está impaciente com a demora de Obama em fazer mudanças

Será que as promessas de campanha de Obama em relação aos direitos dos homossexuais vão ficar para trás? Começa a haver reservas em sectores da comunidade gay em relação ao que o Presidente pode (ou não...) mudar. Um artigo de Micheal Sherer, na Newsweek:

«On Jan. 9, the President-elect's spokesman, Robert Gibbs, gave a rare one-word answer. Asked if Barack Obama would "get rid" of the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy, which prohibits gays from serving openly, Gibbs replied firmly, "Yes."

Ever since, the relationship between the President and his gay and lesbian supporters has gotten more complicated. Soldiers continue to be discharged from the military for being openly gay, and activists have voiced increasing concern over the Administration's lack of action on other key issues. "The particular and generalized concern is, What's the plan?" says Robert Raben, a Democratic lobbyist for several gay and lesbian groups.

Last week, concern burst into outrage. When the Justice Department filed a legal brief arguing against gay marriage, the head of Human Rights Campaign — the largest gay-rights group in the U.S. — accused the Administration of failing to recognize the "humanity" of homosexuals. Barney Frank called the White House to protest, and several other gay Democrats announced plans to boycott an upcoming fundraiser, forcing the treasurer of the Democratic National Committee, Andrew Tobias, who is also gay, to write donors saying that he understood "all the hurt and anger."

Gays have no real political alternative — it's not like anger will send them running to the warm embrace of the GOP. But the Administration realizes it has angered a crucial constituency and is intent on signaling that it will make good. On June 17, Obama held a signing ceremony in the Oval Office to announce new policies that made a number of minor changes to the benefits offered to the same-sex partners of federal employees and foreign-service officers, including sick leave and long-term-care insurance rights. But the core of the President's message was that work on gay and lesbian equality is just beginning. "We've got more work to do to ensure that government treats all its citizens equally; to fight injustice and intolerance in all its forms; and to bring about that more perfect union," the President announced with a group of gay-rights activists standing at his side. "I'm committed to these efforts."
(Watch a video about gay marriage in the heartland.)

The President's one-day message may briefly calm the storm, but after the Administration's inattentive first six months in office, the gay and lesbian community has made it clear they're unwilling to take a passive role as other legislative items trump their concerns. "In the first several months of the Administration, there has been a belief that we are not really in the mix," says Steven Elmendorf, a gay Democratic lobbyist. "Obama himself needs to sort of lay out at some point, 'Yes, I want to do these things ... I am going to use some political capital to try to do it."

To date, Obama has mostly avoided confrontations with Congress on major agenda items, including repeals of "Don't ask, don't tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act, which restricts federal recognition to heterosexual marriages. The Administration did push a hate-crime bill (a gay-rights priority), which has already passed the House, and it is working on a rule-making process that is likely to lead to a lifting of immigration and visitation restrictions for HIV-positive foreigners, another priority for the gay and lesbian community. In his office on June 17, Obama announced his support of a Senate bill that would give domestic-partner rights for health insurance and other benefits to all federal employees. He also promised again to "work with Congress" to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act.

But Obama remains noncommittal about when exactly the Administration will make these issues a priority. Even more infuriating to gays is that the White House has thus far refused to publicly criticize the Justice Department's filing last week that defended the Defense of Marriage Act and compared the prohibition of same-sex marriage to the prohibition of incest. While the Justice Department is obligated by tradition to defend current law in court, several gay-rights activists said they found the arguments in the brief insulting. "As an American, a civil-rights advocate and a human being, I hold this Administration to a higher standard than this brief," wrote Joe Solmonese, head of Human Rights Campaign, in a letter to Obama on June 15.

Justice Department briefs are due on June 29 for another legal challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act — this one filed by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders — and several legal groups will be watching to see if Justice rehashes the offensive arguments in its previous brief. Whatever happens, the gay and lesbian community has no intent to let off the pressure on Obama. "It's like any other intimate relationship," says Rabin, the lobbyist who works with Human Rights Campaign and other gay-rights groups. "It's close and warm and complicated, and you have really good days and really bad days."»

W. está de regresso -- e no seu pior...

Nem sou daqueles que consideram que George W. Bush é um imbecil que só fez disparates. Como em tudo na vida, as coisas não são assim tão simples. Antes do 11 de Setembro, havia sinais de que teríamos entre 2000 a 2008 uma espécie de continuação da presidência moderada do pai Bush -- era o tempo do «conservadorismo compassivo».

Mas, depois 9/11, tudo mudou: a ala dos falcões converteu o vulnerável W. -- e o desastre era inevitável. Veio o Iraque, Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo e, para acabar em beleza, a derrocada do sistema financeiro e da economia real, contagiando o resto do Mundo.

Para prosseguir a metáfora das histórias de fadas, felizmente o pesadelo acabou porque depois chegou o Príncipe Encantado. Enquanto Obama mantiver a aura mágica, ainda há motivos para desprezar Bush e poder tratá-lo como um pateta. A avaliar por estas declarações, não andará muito longe disso, de facto:


«ERIE, Pa.| Former President George W. Bush fired a salvo at President Obama on Wednesday, asserting his administration's interrogation policies were within the law, declaring the private sector -- not government -- will fix the economy and rejecting the nationalization of health care.

"I know it's going to be the private sector that leads this country out of the current economic times we're in," the former president said to applause from members of a local business group. "You can spend your money better than the government can spend your money."

Repeatedly in his hourlong speech and question-and-answer session, Mr. Bush said he would not directly criticize the new president, who has moved to take over financial institutions and several large corporations. Several times, however, he took direct aim at Obama policies as he defended his own during eight years in office.

"Government does not create wealth. The major role for the government is to create an environment where people take risks to expand the job rate in the United States," he said to huge cheers.

Mr. Bush weighed in on some of the most pressing issues of the day: the election in Iran, the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba, and his administration's interrogation policies of terrorists held there and elsewhere. The former president has not commented on Mr. Obama's decision to ban "enhanced interrogation techniques" such as waterboarding, which the current president has called "off course" and "based on fear."

"The way I decided to address the problem was twofold: One, use every technique and tool within the law to bring terrorists to justice before they strike again," he said, adding that the country needs to stay on offense, not defense. On Guantanamo, which while in office Mr. Bush said he wanted to close, the former president was diplomatic.

"I told you I'm not going to criticize my successor," he said. "I'll just tell you that there are people at Gitmo that will kill American people at a drop of a hat and I don't believe that -- persuasion isn't going to work. Therapy isn't going to cause terrorists to change their mind."

The Obama administration has started to clear out some of the more than 200 detainees at the facility.

Repeating a mantra from his presidency, he called the current war against terrorism an "ideological conflict," asserting that in the long term, the United States needs to press freedom and democracy in corners across the world.»

in washingtontimes.com

quinta-feira, 18 de junho de 2009

Ainda sobre o (excelente) discurso do Cairo

«Obama, no discurso do Cairo, usou palavras de bom senso e estendeu uma mão negocial, sem deixar de dizer as verdades. Aquele mundo não é democrático. Se fosse, prosperaria. Prosperando, os direitos humanos seriam respeitados. Sem uma histórica tentativa americana, que desarme os radicais (incluindo os ocidentais, como se vê pelas vitórias da extrema-direita europeia) e revigore os moderados, e sem uma política europeia forte e menos egocêntrica, o mundo pode resvalar para a guerra de civilizações. Quem deseja que Obama falhe é um idiota. O falhanço dele será o nosso. E a vitória de Osama (Bin Laden), vivo ou morto».

CLARA FERREIRA ALVES, in Revista Única, Expresso

Um Presidente 'cool': Obama descontrai em frente à residência do embaixador dos EUA em Paris

Decididamente, um estilo século XXI para um Presidente dos EUA. De onde lhe virá toda esta natural descontracção? 'No Drama', ok, mas... será possível mantê-la oito anos, Barack?

McCain critica reacção «tímida» de Obama sobre a situação no Irão

O senador pelo Arizona queria ouvir de Obama uma posição mais enérgica na defesa de «eleições livres e justas» no Irão.

terça-feira, 16 de junho de 2009

Como está a aproximar-se a época parva, aqui vai mais um episódio Sarah Palin 'vs' mainstream media da Costa Leste...

Médio Oriente: Obama pressiona Netanyahu a aceitar a «two states solution»

Um artigo de Jacob Weisberg, editor-chefe do Slate Group, na Newsweek:

«Since the first stirrings of the Arab-Israeli peace process after the Yom Kippur war in 1973, America's relations with Israel have been characterized by a paradox: those presidents regarded as the least friendly to the Jewish state have done it the most good. Its strong allies have proved much less helpful.

This history begins with Jimmy Carter, who threatened a cutoff of American aid to pressure Menachem Begin into returning all of Sinai to Egypt, which made possible the 1979 Camp David agreement. The other significant U.S. contribution to Mideast peace came under the first George Bush. When the Israelis refused to participate in the 1991 Madrid conference, Secretary of State James Baker withheld loan guarantees and said that Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir should call him when he got interested in peace. Madrid led to a peace treaty with Jordan, the recognition of Israel by many other countries and the first face-to-face negotiations with Palestinians.

By contrast, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, all trusted friends, often encouraged Israel's worst tendencies. Reagan looked benignly upon biblically based claims of ownership over the West Bank, Israel's occupation of Lebanon and its refusal to talk to the PLO. Under Clinton, "we never had a tough or honest conversation with the Israelis on settlement activity," former peace negotiator Aaron David Miller writes in his memoir, The Much Too Promised Land. George W. Bush continued to ignore the settlements, neglected the peace process and condoned Israel's military misjudgments in the West Bank, Lebanon and Gaza. The actions of these presidents steadily built up Arab resentment while fostering Israeli illusions that there was an alternative to trading land for peace.

Happily, President Obama seems poised to defy this old dichotomy. That he means well for Israel there's little doubt. "I haven't just talked the talk, I've walked the walk when it comes to Israel's security," Obama told a Jewish group during the campaign. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, special envoy George Mitchell and Vice President Joe Biden can make the same claim. White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel has an Israeli father and once served as a civilian volunteer for the Israeli Army. That this crew is serious about pressuring Israel is equally apparent. In his Cairo speech, Obama demanded that Israel freeze its settlements in the West Bank and enter peace negotiations with the Palestinians based on the principle of two states.

This is a gutsy step forward. Being a good friend to Israel today means leaning harder on the Jews and the Arabs to get serious about a deal. And even if they don't produce a peace agreement, Obama's personal commitment and evenhanded reframing of the conflict could have large benefits. The perception that the United States is pushing its ally Israel as well as the Palestinians should help America's standing in the Middle East enormously. But to carry off this coup, Obama will have to do the nearly impossible several times over.

First, he needs to force either a change in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself or a change in the Knesset. In Israeli politics, Bibi has always stood for the proposition that the Palestinians will settle only for the destruction of the Zionist state. After a decade out of power, his hostility to an independent Palestine clearly hasn't dimmed, and has been compounded by a dangerous fixation on striking militarily against Iran's nuclear capability. But Netanyahu is also a cunning politician who knows he can't survive mismanaging his country's most important relationship. Obama's gamble is that the Israeli public, if not Bibi himself, will take the threat of diminished American support seriously.

At the same time, the president needs to assuage nervous American Jews. If this were any other ally, the next diplomatic steps would be fairly simple. You want us to keep supplying nearly 20 percent of your defense budget? Selling you our most advanced weapons? Sticking up for you at the U.N.? Enough with the settlements. But a too-overt use of leverage courts a dangerous backlash from Christians and Jews who suspect the president of clandestine Muslim tendencies. Conservatives are keen to encourage those doubts. So far, Team Obama has gone at the problem in a canny way by lining up Israel's allies in Congress in support of his tough-love policy. When Netanyahu visited Capitol Hill last month, he was surprised to discover that many of Israel's strongest backers were on Obama's side.

Of course, brokering a comprehensive settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict has been the fantasy of every president since Nixon and the achievement of none of them. Even as he presses for peace, our supremely confident president should bear in mind that the odds overwhelmingly favor failure.»