News You Can Use: Friedman on Budget Reform

The Babe Ruth of NYT columnists, Thomas Friedman, pens an epittle to American college students, noting the unique message of Stan Druckenmiller, a notable investor with a message verging on generational war:

My generation — we brought down the president in the ’60s because we didn’t want to go into the war against Vietnam,” Druckenmiller told an overflow crowd at Notre Dame last week. “People say young people don’t vote; young people don’t care. I’m hoping after tonight, you will care. There is a clear danger to you and your children.”

Whenever Druckenmiller (a friend) is challenged by seniors, who also come to his talks, that he is trying to start an intergenerational war, he has a standard reply: “No, that war already happened, and the kids lost. We’re just trying to recover some scraps for them.”

With graph after graph, they show how government spending, investments, entitlements and poverty alleviation have overwhelmingly benefited the elderly since the 1960s and how the situation will only get worse as our over-65 population soars 100 percent between now and 2050, while the working population that will have to support them — ages 18 to 64 — will grow by 17 percent. This imbalance will lead to a huge burden on the young and, without greater growth, necessitate cutting the very government investments in infrastructure, Head Start, and medical and technology research that help the poorest and also create the jobs of the future.

via Sorry, Kids. We Ate It All. –


Pope Changes the Focus for Catholics

The head of the Catholic Church as well as the Holy See, an observer member of the UN, takes a different tack on controversial social issues, aiming to be a “home of all, not a small chapel”:

It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” the pope told the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, a fellow Jesuit and editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal whose content is routinely approved by the Vatican. “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.

“We have to find a new balance,” the pope continued, “otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”

via Pope Bluntly Faults Church’s Focus on Gays and Abortion –

Tell the Truth About the Arms Trade Treaty –

Let’s hear the case for the Arms Trade Treaty, which has the overwhelming support of the General Assembly:

Yet now, just days after the United Nations’ 154-to-3 vote, top United States officials are already hedging on whether President Obama will sign the treaty when it opens for signature at the United Nations on June 3 — let alone whether the United States will ratify it, an act that would require the approval of two-thirds of the Senate.

Sending such mixed signals is a grave mistake. The Arms Trade Treaty is consistent with America’s national security interests, foreign policy goals, business interests and moral traditions, which is why United States negotiators worked so hard to create it.

So what’s behind the foreboding whispers? Some truly cynical domestic politics, it would appear.

Those opposed to the accord have misrepresented what it does, suggesting that it would somehow infringe on American gun owners’ rights. It would do nothing of the kind.

via Tell the Truth About the Arms Trade Treaty –


Moroccans Fear That Flickers of Democracy Are Fading –

Is Morocco simmering?

But these days, many here are questioning whether the king and his entourage really gave up anything at all. Telquel, perhaps the country’s most influential magazine, ran a cover story this fall saying that the palace had gradually taken back its concessions: the king’s shadow cabinet was interfering at will and was even sending its own emissaries to the United States and Brussels when Moroccan interests needed tending to. Mr. Benkirane, the magazine pointed out, had publicly admitted that the king’s advisers sometimes met with government officials without consulting him.

Some also point to a quiet clamping down on political activists. In October, the United Nations said there was evidence of a recent spike in reports of torture in Morocco. About 70 protesters associated with the pro-democracy February 20 Movement are still in prison. In May, a popular rapper was sentenced to a year in jail for a song about police corruption. And six political activists testified at a hearing in September that they had been physically — and sexually — abused after being arrested for protesting in July.

via Moroccans Fear That Flickers of Democracy Are Fading –


Lee, Santorum oppose U.N. treaty on disabilities | The Salt Lake Tribune

Helpful or harmful?  Pro or con?  What is the value of the new U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?  This is exactly the kind of issue that U.S. conservatives challenge presently–although they approved it on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last July according to the Hill’s Global Affairs blog.

[Senator Mike] Lee — who is also backed by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. — took up the fight in a news conference following complaints by the Home School Legal Defense Association and conservatives that ratifying the U.N.’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities would allow the federal government to force parents with special needs children to enroll those kids in public schools.

The treaty’s defenders say it will would help protect the rights of American and other nations’ disabled citizens, who in some parts of the world face discrimination and mistreatment.

The treaty’s detractors say the language is overly broad, and the Republican platform adopted at the party’s national convention opposed it.

via Lee, Santorum oppose U.N. treaty on disabilities | The Salt Lake Tribune.

And Senators Lee and Santorum win the vote today.


Iran Fights Drug Smuggling at Borders –

Stranger than fiction, foreign policy edition, a lesson in how states have common interests no matter how much you think they disagree:

Squeezed between a tall plainclothes officer and General Moayedi’s personal bodyguard, Antonino de Leo, the Italian representative for the United Nations drug office in Tehran, showered the Iranians with praise — “because they really deserve it,” he said.

Mr. De Leo, in mountaineering shoes and backpack but remaining true to his stylish Italian background with a white flannel scarf around his neck, is very different from his uniformed Iranian counterparts. But, he said, “I need these people and they need me.”

At the same time that the Iranians were netting eight times more opium and three times more heroin than all the other countries in the world combined, Mr. De Leo said, his office was the smallest in the region and he had to cut back some programs, like drug sniffer dog training, because Western nations had cut back on financing.

“These men are fighting their version of the Colombian war on drugs, but they are not funded with billions of U.S. dollars and are battling against drugs coming from another country,” Mr. De Leo said.

via Iran Fights Drug Smuggling at Borders –


In Honduras, Deaths Make U.S. Rethink Drug War –

Its not just the drug problem.  In response to Honduran foreign ministers’s request for help from the US on “investigation, impunity, organized crime and corruption” a stark realization that severe (even illegal) tactics will only make matter worse:

The challenge is dizzying, and the new plan, according to a recent draft shown to The New York Times, is more aspirational than anything aimed at combating drugs and impunity in Mexico, or Colombia before that. It includes not just boats and helicopters, but also broad restructuring: several new investigative entities, an expanded vetting program for the police, more power for prosecutors, and a network of safe houses for witnesses.

Officials from both countries have often failed to fully grasp the weakness of the Honduran institutions deployed to turn the country around. But the need to act is obvious. The country’s homicide rate is among the highest in the world, and corruption has chewed through government from top to bottom.

via In Honduras, Deaths Make U.S. Rethink Drug War –