Arab Nations Hire 10 New PR Agencies Since Last Year – PR Firms Assist In Selling Terror And Brutality
The U.S. Public Relations industry is one which is very high profile, but is a tiny, close knit industry, with only perhaps 75 American PR firms having more than 50 employees (i.e. enough scope/influence to represent a foreign government or foreign interests). Over lunch this week, one of my peers, who like me, owns 1 of the 25 largest US PR Agencies explained why his firm would no longer work with Jewish organizations and Pro-Israel concerns. He explained there is simply too much money working for Arab organizations and interests, and between front groups, organizations and projects from a business perspective he was no longer working for Pro-Israel or Jewish organizations. It’s a trend which will grow – and will see Arab interests even more positively portrayed in American media.
In the latest news, Bahrain in the last 12 months has hired at least ten public relations companies since last year. Yes, you read it right – 10 – including Qorvis, the Washington company hired by Saudi Arabia to salvage that kingdom's reputation abroad after the 9/11 terrorist attack. The regime of Bahrain which tortures its own citizens has an awful human rights record and doesn’t recognize the existence of Israel, also hired Joe Trippi, former campaign manager for Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential bid, Sanitas International, whose partner Christopher Harvin is a former Bush White House aide.
In the “new” Middle East a lot has changed – except recognition of Israel, and millions are spent by Arab interests on professional public relations campaigns: n Harbour Group, a Washington D.C. lobbying firm has been hired by the new Libyan Government, As the Hill recently revealed Harbour recently signed a new $15,000 a month contract with the Libyan Embassy. Patton Boggs, another large K street lobbying group is also now representing the new Libyan regime. o They previously worked with Gadhafi, alongside Cambridge, Massachusetts based Monitor Group held a hefty $250,000-month contract with Tripoli, recruiting prominent American academics to praise the Libyan government. n It’s nothing new in the Middle East – Arab governments spend lots of money on public relations.
The Syrian regime continues to butcher thousands of their people in the streets – and its by and large missing from the mainstream media (and one of the things a good crisis PR agency is able to do is ensure negative stories never be printed.) One day we will read about who is working for Syria now. A few months ago hackers released hundreds of e-mails from Syrian President Assad's office, which revealed a document preparing Assad for his December 2011 interview with ABC's Barbara Walters. o This week, the glowing profile and stunning full- page picture of Asma al-Assad, Syria's First Lady which has appeared in Vogue in February 2011 entitled: "Asma al-Assad: A Rose in the Desert" was quietly removed from Vogue’s website. Vogue wouldn’t comment on why the story was removed – but the story which described her as "glamorous, young, and very chic - the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies," ran as the as the Syrian government was butchering anti-regime protesters. A PR firm, Brown Lloyd James worked for Syria to arrange the story in the past. · This same company, Brown Lloyd James, worked in the past to boost the regime of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadaffi. They said, "…we assisted the Libyan government in its efforts to reach out to the international political community through the United Nations and to the U.S. political and university community."·
Terrorist organizations Hamas, Hezbollah, and certain Arab nations have hired PR agencies to lobby for them in the press and on the world stage. Terror groups have engaged reporters and journalists, shared meals and drinks with them and won their favor.Fenton Communications, a New York City–based PR firm works with the Arab state of Qatar to develop a campaign to essentially delegitimize Israel by orchestrating an international anti-Israel campaign aimed at breaking the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Fenton Communications also works for "Al Fakhoora," a Qatar-based pro-Palestinian initiative that has "launched an advocacy campaign to file legal charges against Israel and change the public perception in the West about its actions." An April 2012 website spoke of working with NYC Fenton Communications to help campaign to help end the blockade in Gaza. They continue to assist terror groups clearly. The PLO Mission in the U.S hired Bell Pottinger, a leading International PR agency to provide "advice on strategic communications, public relations, media relations and congressional affairs." U.S. PR giant Burson–Marsteller, in response to Israel's request for a meeting, said: "We will not deliver tender to such a project… we are running a commercial venture. If we accept this project, this will create a great amount of negative reactions…Israel is a particularly controversial project."
There's a reason the Arabs win in the media — they hire communications professionals – they spend money and will continue to win. In the Middle East, slaughtering of innocent people continues – from Bahrain to Syria and Public Relations pros allow them to continue to sell their stories.I was saddened this week over lunch when my peer explained to me why his agency would no longer work for Jewish or Israel interests – and while 5WPR wouldn’t work for the barbarians who slaughter innocent people, our competitors make millions selling terror and brutality. Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading US Public Relations Agency, and author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations.” The book has been called “the best book ever on Israel public relations” by the Deputy Speaker of the Israel Knesset, Danny Danon. 2012
Top 10 Living Communicators Who Influence Change
by Ronn Torossian
Great communicators can influence change, whether political, cultural or in business. From Winston Churchill to Ronald Reagan, Steve Jobs to Martin Luther King, history is full of individuals who, through their words and deeds, have shifted public opinion and behavior. Barack Obama, Stephen Colbert, and the “Oracle of Omaha” Warren Buffet are all hailed as great communicators – no argument here. President Obama’s communication abilities are absolutely phenomenal. Mr. Colbert, through humor and wit, scores political points and creates cultural references (“Truthiness” anyone?) that resonate with legions of fans. And of course, it’s not just the financial public that eagerly anticipates Warren Buffet’s yearly shareholder letter – Main Street does too.
n Jack Welch: He has been called the greatest CEO in America. In practical terms, he earned the name because of General Electric’s unparalleled record of earnings growth and over more than two decades while he was chairman and CEO (1981-2001). He has attributed his success to an ability to focus on solutions and execute them using the right people. In order to do that well, you have to know how to communicate a message and at that Welch is a genius. His secret? “In leadership you have to exaggerate every statement you make. You’ve got to repeat it a thousand times… Overstatements are needed to move a large organization,” he told Thomas Neff and James Citrin in their book Lessons from the Top. Of course, you have to back up works with action – otherwise what you say will never be taken seriously. Today, when Welch gives a speech he embodies true American optimism and risk-taking. Take-away: Words are most valuable when backed up by deeds.Of course, for many of us the top communicator for change is ourselves – no one is stronger than us in influencing change. Listen to yourself and affect change. Ronn Torossian is the CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR Agency and Author of best selling PR book “For Immediate Release.” 2012
God Bless the Navy Seals, C.I.A. Director Leon Panetta, President Barack Obama and The United States of America
By Ed Koch
Everyone around the world should welcome the killing of Osama bin Laden by Navy Seals this weekend, but we know that is not to be. However, this momentous event does not mean that our war against terrorism is over. It will go on for years to come. It is a war declared by radical Islamic terrorists primarily against Western civilization, Christians, Jews, Hindus and polytheists.
The fact that bin Laden had been living for years just 30 miles outside the capital of Pakistan near a Pakistani military base in a large fortified compound demonstrates that the Pakistani government and military have been aiding al-Qaeda and its leaders while they received U.S. aid of $20 billion since 9/11. Their duplicity is monstrous and should be made public and condemned. We should use them when it serves our national interests, but never be deceived into thinking Pakistan is an ally. It is not.
The success of the operation against bin Laden notwithstanding, the willingness of the Obama administration to turn a blind eye to the conduct of the Pakistani government has typified its general approach to the Muslim world, and Middle East, which was to desert a true ally such as Israel in the hope of ingratiating itself with the Muslim world, making demands on Israel during its ongoing negotiations with the Palestinian Authority which, if conceded, would affect its security, endangering that state. Israel has survived seven wars waged against it by its Arab neighbors, the most recent being against Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
An immediate and direct threat to the very existence of the State of Israel is the recent agreement between Hamas and Fatah, who have decided to form a joint government for Gaza and the West Bank. The Times on May 2 nd reported, “Hamas is sworn to Israel’s destruction. Israel, like the United States and the European Union classifies the group as a terrorist organization and refuses any dealings with it.” Prime Minister Netanyahu, responding to the announcement of the new Palestinian coalition, said, “Peace is possible only with those who want to live in peace alongside us and not with those who want to destroy us.”
The Hamas position on the death of bin Laden says it all. Hamas leader Haniyeh stated the following on the death of bin Laden: “We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior. We ask God to offer him mercy with the true believers and the martyrs.”
There are more than one million Arabs living in Israel who are citizens of the state yet it is the policy of the Palestinian Authority (Fatah) that the West Bank and Arab areas of East Jerusalem be Judenrein (free of Jews). Further, the Palestinian Authority will not agree that when and if a peace agreement is arrived at that the state of Israel will be recognized by the new Palestinian state as a Jewish state; while Israel and the world accepts that the new Palestinian state will be Muslim.
In contrast and according to The New York Times of April 10, 2011, “[d]ozens of Israel’s most honored intellectuals and artists have signed a declaration endorsing a Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 borders and asserting that an end of Israel’s occupation ‘will liberate the two peoples and open the way to a lasting peace.’”
Is there a single Arab state in the Arab League of 22 states that has ever seen a group of Arab intellectuals make a declaration favorable to Israel in the years since Israel was founded in 1948? Indeed, Arab professionals living in Egypt and Jordan, states that are nominally at peace with Israel, risk losing their professional licenses if they even visit Israel as tourists. In contrast, tens of thousands of Israelis have visited Egypt and Jordan.
The Obama administration’s approach towards the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is matched by its recent regrettable approach towards Egypt. Our support of the so-called “Arab Spring” as the harbinger of democratic change in the Arab world has resulted in the house arrest of the U.S. ally, Hosni Mubarak, who is threatened with a criminal trial and a possible death penalty. Tahrir Square, where hundreds of thousands of Egyptians recently demonstrated every day, is where Lara Logan, a U.S. television reporter, was torn from her crew when they were filming by a mob of Egyptian male demonstrators who stripped her, groped her sexually and raped her, as she said in an interview on “60 Minutes,” “with their hands.” She reported during the assault someone shouted she was an Israeli and a Jew (she is neither) and she believed the mob was going to kill her. So much for the “Arab Spring.” She was fortunately rescued by a group of Egyptian women and Egyptian soldiers.
It was President Obama who announced every day for a week, “Mubarak must go.” The Egyptian army arrested their president. What has followed his removal? The border between Gaza and Egypt heretofore blockaded by the Egyptian Army is now open and the smuggling of war materials through tunnels no longer needed; they can now be transported openly on trucks.
Who will enforce the Sadat/Mubarak agreement not to allow Egyptian army personnel into the Sinai above a stated limited number? No one. Certainly not the U.N. or the U.S. The U.S. has sent its armed forces into Iraq and Afghanistan and hopes to maintain them there far out into the future. The U.S. has used our armed forces to support the rebels in Libya. We have no idea what those rebels stand for. Hopefully, we will assassinate Qaddafi, but should we be using our air force to help the rebels in Libya? I don’t think so.
The Obama administration should rethink its approach to the Muslim world and to the Arab-Israeli conflict so that our enemies, such as Iran, are not emboldened and our remaining allies, such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf states, do not lose faith in our willingness to stand with them.
The Navy Seals who conducted the covert entry into Pakistan and killed Osama bin Laden deserve Congressional Medals of Honor and an appropriate medal should be awarded to C.I.A. director Leon Panetta. God bless them, President Barack Obama and the United States of America.
Climate Change By the Numbers: Why 350ppm Matters
By Bill McKibben
On Saturday the 24th of October, climbers on
We’ll see hundreds upon hundreds of actions across the
All in all, it looks likely to be one of the most widespread days of political action in the planet’s history. All on behalf of a number—350—that nobody even knew was important two years ago.
Here’s the story. In summer 2007, Arctic sea ice began to melt at an extraordinary rate, faster than scientists studying global warming had expected—much faster. And all around the planet they saw other escalating impacts: glaciers in rapid retreat. Intensifying droughts, as hotter temperatures evaporated more water in some places. And intensifying floods, as that water fell in deluges elsewhere. Even the chemistry of seawater was rapidly shifting, as the ocean acidified. Scientists were scared by what they saw.
This new science means that we need a new politics. So far governments have reacted slowly and timidly to climate change, talking about carbon emission reductions by mid-century. But we can’t wait. We need dramatic action now. Instead of slowing the growth of carbon in the atmosphere, we need to stand on the brakes and throw the atmospheric system in reverse.
Nobody thinks this will be easy—fossil fuel lies at the heart of our economy, and replacing it with renewable power will be expensive and in some places wrenching.
But it needs to be done. Which is why some of us spent the last two years organizing 350.org, whose only goal is to spread that number and its meaning as widely as possible. It’s no easy task—there’s never been a campaign built around a scientific data point before. But this is the most important new piece of earth science data ever, arguably the most important number on the planet. We need to also make it the most well-known.
The response has been overwhelming. The world’s most important scientists have gotten on board, along with preeminent environmental economists. They understand that this is not a fight between political parties, industries or nations, but a negotiation between human beings on one hand, and the laws of physics and chemistry on the other. They understand that we’re playing for the highest stakes, that failure to cut emissions sharply to get us back to that 350 level, will quickly and dangerously alter our world.
They also understand that the climate change bill now in Congress falls woefully short of what is needed, likely to slow the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but certainly not reverse it back to 350.
The fight will play out in final form in December, when the world’s nations meet in
That’s why October 24th is so important. It’s not political—it’s educational. We’re, trying desperately to let our fellow human beings know that we are pushing past the survivable limits for civilization.
How much fun to watch it come together—to see people in virtually every nation on earth join hands to spread the word. We’ll be in
If you’ve ever despaired about the future, here’s the chance to try and shape it instead.
Bill McKibben is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College, and co-founder of 350.org
FGF Op-Ed: Obama Finds Favor with Neoconservatives
by Paul Gottfried
ELIZABETHTOWN, PA- While the European and American media are celebrating with equal fervor the election of Obama, no other group seems as jubilant as the American "conservative movement" (please note the quotations!).
For several weeks, such self-identified conservative personalities as Max Boot, Peggy Noonan, Mona Charen, David Brooks, Charles Krauthammer, and Richard Perle have been praising the president-elect as someone whose victory has been a plus for all of us. They have rejoiced that Obama's election has shattered racial barriers. More recently, they have extolled his choice of Bob Gates as defense secretary, General James Jones as national security adviser, and even Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.
Such picks apparently reveal a hopeful continuity with Bush's administration, and they suggest that Obama is not about to bring home all the troops in the next few weeks from
There have also been commentaries by the anti-PC gadfly David Horowitz on the Frontpage website, warning Republicans not to criticize Obama and the Democrats for the sub-prime rate mortgage loans for those who cannot otherwise afford to buy houses. Horowitz insists that critics are exhibiting post-electoral bitterness, as when they ask whether Obama was born on American territory and is constitutionally qualified to be president.
Those who think this rallying to Obama on the part of "movement conservatives" has resulted simply from the fact that he won last month should look a bit deeper. Even before the election was over, "conservative" personalities were rushing into the Democratic camp. Foreign policy expert Ken Adelman, historian Ann Applebaum, and several apparent renegades from National Review were the most prominent jumpers. Others from the same group, like David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter and an early propagandist for the war in
Bush and McCain adopted their rhetoric without qualifications, even to the extent of alienating some core voters. However, the neoconservatives, who control most "conservative" PR assets with generous financial assistance from Australian press magnate Rupert Murdoch, have no particular regard for the useful idiots who carry their spears. Frum, in particular, has attacked the Religious Right for losing the election for the GOP. It is of course no secret that the evangelicals provide the neoconservatives with their most reliable foot-soldiers. Like the neoconservatives, the evangelicals have usually allied themselves with the Israeli far right, while at home pushing a global democratic foreign policy. Both positions that have become neoconservative trademarks.
This reaching out to the president-elect on the part of the neoconservatives has entered a second stage. On December 6, a commentary appeared in Murdoch's New York Post (not to be confused with Murdoch's FOX News or his Weekly Standard ) by former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky, exhorting the newly elected president to stand tall for world democracy. Sharansky, who received a Medal of Freedom from the outgoing president for his global democratic crusade, is anything but an uncomplicated idealist. He combines a warlike commitment to spreading democratic values, including getting the
Yet, like his neoconservative sponsors, Sharansky complains that the previous administration did not give him enough. Sharansky writes that the president's efforts to support democracy "were not widely supported within his own administration." But now there is hope with the new president, "who shows no signs that he would not support robust dialogue with democratic dissidents throughout the world. On the contrary, his speeches, books, and campaigns, as well as a meeting I had with him on that topic in 2007, suggest Obama sees real change coming."
Perhaps this change for Sharansky and his friends on FOX News and at the New York Post includes the opportunity to launch new wars of choice for democratic ends. The present war that they worked so hard to push, and the one in
*My neighbor Barack*
By Rabbi Arnold J. Wolf (03/28/2008)
Not everyone can claim to be the neighbor of a Presidential candidate- I can, though, because I am Barack Obama's
We sometimes forget, but an integral part of that tradition is dialogue and a willingness to disagree. Certainly many who call me their rabbi have taken political positions far from mine - just as Barack Obama's opinions have differed from those of his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
On March 18, the candidate gave a speech that made abundantly clear that he and Wright often disagree. Obama condemned Wright's "incendiary language," and "views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but... that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation."
Of course, race is only one issue on which Wright has stepped beyond the bounds of civil discourse. He's frequently made statements regarding
Obama's strong positions on poverty and the climate, his early and consistent opposition to the Iraq War, his commitment to ending the Darfur genocide - all these speak directly to Jewish concerns. If we're sidetracked by Wright's words, we'll be working against these interests. After all, a preacher speaks to a congregation, not for the congregation.
Many people remain concerned that Obama isn'tcommitted to
For my part, I've sometimes found Obama too cautious on
Speaking recently before a Jewish audience in
Yet, in spite of all of Obama's strengths, we've been loathe to admit a difficult truth: Among some American Jews, race plays a key role in the hesitation to support the Obama candidacy. We've forgotten that Black and Jewish America once shared a common vision. In the civil rights era, I and many in our community stood shoulder to shoulder with the giants of our generation, demanding freedom for all Americans.
Obama himself doesn't share our amnesia, however. "I would not be sitting here," he said in
I've worked with Obama for more than a decade, as has my son, alawyer who represents children and people with disabilities. He has admired Obama's dedication and skill as he worked on issues affecting our most vulnerable citizens.
Obama is no anti-Semite. He is not anti-Israel. He is one of our own, the one figure on the political scene who remembers our past, and has a real vision for repairing our present. Barack Obama is brilliant and open-hearted; he is wiser and more thoughtful than his former minister. He offers what
Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf is rabbi emeritus at
How the Christian Right Goes Wrong
By Cristina Page
New research reveals that female students in programs that promote abstinence exclusively are more likely to get pregnant than those in programs that teach about the full range of contraceptives as well as abstinence. The news, published in the April issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, is just the latest proof that the $1.5 billion dollar “just say no to sex” experiment on our teens has failed. And while Christian conservatives defend their approach even in the face of this latest devastating news, it’s time to ask them one simple question: Shouldn’t the results matter?
At current rates, half of all teenagers will have sex before graduating high school and 95 percent will before marrying. These statistics infuriate the abstinence-until-marriage proponents. Their hope is that, by keeping teens in the dark about protection, ignorance will somehow lead to temperance. Those most committed to the abstinence approach seem to have paid most dearly though. Earlier findings by researchers at Yale and
Southern school districts, which are five times more likely to use the abstinence-only approach than northeast schools, have much to show for investing in the abstinence-only. Today, southern states lead the nation in the acquisition of STDs, are home to the highest rate of new HIV/AIDS cases, and have the highest percentage of teen mothers in the country. The damage is so staggering that 19 states have opted to reject federal funding for abstinence only. In the long term, they concluded, the costs of their failure outweigh any benefits.
Abstinence is not the only policy that Christian conservatives pursue despite evidence that it doesn’t work. In fact, much of the movement’s policies have, even by their own standards, led to perverse outcomes. Consider the drive to outlaw abortion. Last year, 14 states moved to ban abortion immediately and create a case to test Roe vs. Wade in the Supreme Court. But, if ending abortion is the goal, banning abortion is quite possibly the worst strategy. The countries with the highest abortion rates in the world are those that have banned abortion. Take Latin America, where most countries have outlawed abortion yet have the same rate or- as in the case of
And while banning abortion has failed to stop abortions, limiting abortion rights has also produced undesired outcomes. A favorite tactic of the “right to life” movement is to impose mandatory delay policies on abortion. A woman must receive information about her right to an abortion and then must wait 24 to 48 hours before receiving a procedure. Sounds harmless enough. However, while these policies have had little effect on the frequency of abortion they have dramatically increased late term abortions. In the year after
The danger of policies guided by ideology is that the means often are the end. There is no better example of the deleterious effects of policies based on wishful thinking than in the reproductive rights debate. We need to respect people’s ability to make their own life decisions and not impose our values and views upon them. If Americans were to set aside the catchy sound bites and suspiciously simplistic reasoning and instead judge by results, most would find the pro-choice movement is a more comfortable home for their stated values.
Page is the author of How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved
Copyright (C) 2007 by the American Forum. 4/08
When Uncle Sam Plays Cupid
By Jean Hardisty
Romance and marriage proposals are in the air on Valentine's Day. Unfortunately, cupid isn’t the only matchmaker hard at work this season. An increasing number of low-income women find themselves pushed to the altar -- not by their relations or suitors, but by the federal government.
“The Department of Health and Human Services is not going to run a dating service,” declared Wade Horn in the early days of the George W. Bush administration. But Horn, a leader of the rightist “fatherhood movement” during the 1990s, introduced policies promoting marriage as a cure for poverty while running HHS’ Administration for Children and Families from 2001 to 2007. Despite his “dating service” denial, Horn saw to it that government grants powered a multimillion-dollar marriage industry made up of secular and faith-based groups which encourage low-income women -- especially welfare recipients -- to marry and bring a father into their families. Needless to say, the administration applies only the most narrow and traditional definition of “family”.
Grants made to marriage promotion programs have ballooned while at the same time federal benefits have been cut for all low-income families and those unable to meet their own needs
The scale of government funding for this inane and completely unproven bit of social experimentation is alarming. The 2005 Deficit Reduction Act allocated $100 million annually for marriage promotion programs and $50 million for fatherhood programs over fiscal years 2006 - 2010, or a total of $750 million. The administration’s Charitable Choice Fund -- which in 2004 had a budget of $2 billion -- also makes grants to promote marriage, as does its $30 million Compassion Capital Fund. Many of these millions serve to fuel the expansion of conservative evangelical organizations.
Why is HHS in the marriage business? The conservatives who run administration policy falsely imply that welfare recipients are young African American women of loose sexual morals, who can be saved from their poverty and sin only through the restoration of the traditional father-headed nuclear family. Given the inaccurate and offensive stereotypes that undergird these policies, it should perhaps come as no surprise that there is no solid evidence from the social sciences that marriage results in a higher income for poor women. Indeed, contrary to the administration’s assumptions, marriage is not a magic bullet that will raise a low-income woman and her children out of poverty. Given the individual circumstances of their lives, marriage may actually be an unwise choice for many poor women. That is why most of the programs funded by government grants fail to produce the desired results; they are based on ideology rather than sound social policy.
When it comes to Bush marriage promotion programs, reducing poverty is just a smokescreen for constructing conservative -- and anti-feminist -- family structures. The administration has worked hard to eliminate those few anti-poverty programs that remain standing after the conservative revolution that began with Ronald Reagan. Proven methods, such as subsidized housing, education stipends, health care, day care, and job training programs, have all been cut under the Bush administration. Even the federal implementation of the Violence Against Women Act would be cut by $120 million under President George W. Bush’s 2009 budget proposal.
Marriage is a highly personal decision, not the business of government. Would middle class women and men tolerate this kind of government interference in their personal lives? Not for a minute. Do you solemnly swear to resist this illegitimate intrusion into the intimate lives of our fellow citizens? I do.
Copyright (C) 2008 by the American Forum. 2/08
Abortion Stakes Are Personal For Reporter
By Allison Stevens
pregnancy: I became more acutely aware of my health--and my vulnerability--as a pregnant woman.
Copyright (C) 2007 by the American Forum. 9/07
Putting Women Back in the Debate
By Martha Burk
Burk is the director for the Corporate Accountability Project for the National Council of Women’s Organizations.
Copyright (C) 2007 by the American Forum. 8/07
Courts and Education Policy
Many years ago local New York City politicians and educators complained that upstate school districts got New York State education funds at a higher rate per-student than the funds that New York City got. There is little dispute of those facts.
Are state funds for local education best spent only by equal per-student amounts across all school districts? What local resources does a rural upstate school district have for funding education? What local resources does New York City have to fund education? Does anyone think that the local financial resources of New York City do not far exceed the local resources of many upstate school districts? Should New York State ignore those disparities?
The differences in the amount of state funds sent to local schools come from funding formulas set in law by the legislature and budgets set by the governor. The jobs of the Governor and the legislators are subject to the voters' approval every so often. Politicians make arguments on all sides of the education funding issue in their election campaigns. Yet, a majority of voters never voted for a distinct legislative majority and a new governor on a mandate to radically change the education funding policy.
After many electoral and legislative defeats, some politicians who fought to change state funding for education decided to abandon democratic principals. They had not achieved their objectives through the democratic process. In pure elitist fashion, they decided they spoke for "the people" anyway. Working with others they decided to seek what many before them have sought. When you can't get elected majorities to take your position then find judges who will. Just declare some aspect of what you want as a "right" and convince judges they have the authority to declare that your right exists. It need not be enshrined in a constitution, as a historically accepted meaning of the language of that constitution. Just convince judges to give 200-year-old words new meaning. Then convince the judges they have a legal mandate they do not have - to dictate that new meaning on their own, without the people democratically placing that new meaning in their, the people's, constitution. Now, the education elitists and their political promoters found willing judges in New York who gave themselves the right to set New York State education funding policy, by judicial fiat. Does the judiciary have the constitutional authority over tax rates or the state budget? No. Can they raise revenue on their own and disperse it to the schools on their own? No. They simply demand that New York's governor and legislators, elected by the people, take actions to fulfill the dictate of the courts, not the dictates of those who elected them.
What is their presumptive basis for this? The New York State constitution says the state will give all its children the "opportunity for a basic education". It does not define "basic education". It does not define what constitutes an "opportunity" nor does it redefine opportunity into "insured result". Those definitions have been answered historically by the electoral and legislative processes from which the popular will for them is supplied. Constitutionally, that is where they belong. If a chief executive blatantly dictated a policy that no clear majority desired and that executive could insure it could ignore any majority forever, where would be our democracy? Yet, the courts impose their own mandate through judicial fiat, taking sides in a political dispute, and we must accept it with no recourse?
You think it is more than a political dispute? The judges simply mandated that New Yorkers spend billions more on education. They did not stay with equal protection and due process concepts to limit their judgement on the equity of the different levels of state funds sent to local schools. If what local districts got proved to be arbitrary and unreasonable for a general state funding scheme, the judges could have asked for a "more equitable" distribution and promised to keep the case open until they thought a better distribution was set. I am not saying that that argument should have found constitutional grounds, only that the judges did not limit their decisions in that way. The term "equitable" has political considerations but at least the judges would not have strayed so far from their mandate. Instead they ruled that New York taxpayers must spend billions more than they already spend on education, but the governor and the legislature will decide how funds are raised and allocated - which they would be doing anyway!
How does this settle the argument that launched this issue years ago - that the state spends moreper-capita on upstate school kids than it does on New York City kids? It doesn't. State funds may still be allocated on a higher per-student basis in poor, resource limited upstate districts than what will be allocated to New York City. The only education "concept" that won was that New Yorkers do not spend enough on education. Is that true? You be the judge.
A published study last year found that education performance in New York's local school districts' had little to do with differences in total funding per-student. There are districts with total funding above the state average that ranked below average in education results. There are districts with below average total funding that ranked above average in education results. The differences in education performance, whether with above average funds or with below average funds, were so diverse it was clear that dollars alone do not solve education's problems.
New York City has the second highest education budget in the nation, behind only Washington, D.C. Public education expenses in New York City grew 300% in the last twenty years, from $3.8 billion to $14.8 billion. Inflation averaged 2.8% annually over that period, for a cumulative inflation factor of only 69%. Maybe New York City has more students than twenty years ago; 300% more? New York City public education cost about $4,165 per-student in 1982 and grew to $11,474 per-student in the 2000-2001 fiscal year; a 175% increase per-student.
New York State spends about 50% more per student than California and educates half as manychildren. And California has similar issues - large population, large numbers of immigrants and a mix of dense urban-suburban districts and rural districts.
Teachers in public education are on average only 52% of the public school personnel, while teachers in private schools represent an average of 80% of school personnel (according to the National Center for Education Statistics).
More money will not solve New York's education problems. There is no provable basis to say that it will and much history that says the only obvious change will be the increased size and cost of the public education industry.
New Yorkers have two problems. An argument that cannot be substantiated based on the facts - New York taxpayers are stingy on their education dollars - has received the stamp of legitimacy from New York's courts. It is bad enough that that illegitimate argument gets so much traction in spite of the facts. Now New York's courts want to usurp their legal mandate and make state policy without any democratic check on that policy. If you want to tax New Yorkers more for education, you should succeed only if you convince the voters, not the judges.
There is room for arguments about education policy. They need to be resolved by elected officials, and elections if needed, not the courts. Governor Pataki is right to question the courts' decisions on this issue. He is not questioning their decisions enough. Neither he nor the state legislature do enough to protect their own constitutional mandates from the usurpation of power by an elitist judiciary. In their political weakness, they are refusing to defend democracy itself. Shame on them. Will future generations of New Yorkers forgive them?
Tom Painter 02-05
John Kerry and Stem Cell Research
The claim that the Bush administration policy prohibits embryonic stem cell research is a lie. That policy provides federal funding for embryonic stem cell research for the first time ever. It has one limitation. The only embryonic stem cells that federally funded research can use are cells from previously harvested human embryos. Federally funded research is moving ahead with those stem cell lines.
The claim that federal limits inhibit all embryonic stem cell research is another lie. Research labs of private companies, research funded by states and research at private colleges all can use embryonic stem cell lines beyond those under the federal limits.
The claim that stem cell cures will not happen without embryonic stem cells is another lie. The only stem cell research efforts that have any current success, towards possible medical cures, use mature stem cells, found in places like bone marrow or stem cells from umbilical cords. That research continues to advance without federal restrictions. Research on embryonic stem cells is in its infancy - no pun intended. That research, federally funded and otherwise, is still learning how to initiate and control the growth of embryonic stem cells. Until that basic question is answered, there is no starting point for attempts to direct embryonic stem cell research to specific cures for specific problems. Most scientists familiar with this issue do not see any lack in the research that is now addressing the basic questions about embryonic stem cells.
The claim that stem cell research is at a point where a cure for spinal cord injuries is just around the corner is a pure and simple lie. It will be years, if not decades before we know that such a cure is possible, much less see that knowledge turned into an effective cure - and Mr. Kerry knows it. He also knows that that cure may just as well be found with ongoing research using mature stem cells, or umbilical cord stem cells or other approaches besides embryonic stem cells.
All of Mr. Kerry's claims about stem cell research hide a simple truth involving 1) basic bio-medical research in the U.S., 2) the political and economic culture of our universities, 3) the built-in connections between our federal bureaucracies and our public and private research labs and 4) the federal budget. No matter how much federally funded research is taking place, research labs around the country will complain that they are not getting any, or enough of the federal budget for research that they want a piece of. And, each and every research lab in the country thinks it has rights to federal funds to help it be the lab that makes some research breakthrough. In some cases, a lab's very survival, in competition with other labs, depends on being able to make such a breakthrough. When you understand all this and you understand the nexus of the universities and the Democrats, then you realize Kerry's need to demagogue this issue. He wants to promise to supply every constituent lab in the country with federal funds for their duplicate scientific efforts.
"An anonymous source on the 9-11 Commission has revealed that the President's National Security Advisor, Condoleesa Rice, has been the subject of a months-old federal Justice Department investigation into classified documents she removed from the national archives."
"The anonymous source from the 9-11 Commission staff said that the documents pertained to an 'after action' report and early drafts of that report, prepared after the 9-11 events and discussing known gaps in the nations security at the time of those events."
"Ms Rice said she had visited the national archives at the request of the president to do research prior to his testifying before the 9-11 commission. She says that she took notes during her visit to the national archives and inadvertently stuffed some of those notes into her clothes. The staff of the national archives has acknowledged that they observed Ms. Rice stuffing some documents into her clothes and reported that fact to their superiors, leading to the investigation. The national archives told the Justice Department that copies of some of the classified documents Ms. Rice had reviewed were now missing. Ms. Rice has claimed that she mistakenly left those leather bound archive documents in her personal files that she put back in her briefcase. Investigators sent to Ms. Rice's house reported that they could not obtain from her all the missing documents. Ms. Rice said the documents that are still missing must have mistakenly been discarded."
"Democrats and members of the 9-11 Commission are outraged and many suspect Ms. Rice performed a clumsy effort of hiding classified information that the President did not what to be asked about."
"Republicans support Ms. Rice as an honest and loyal public servant who would never knowingly hide or destroy classified material and are outraged at what they consider a deliberate leak of this story as a plot to discredit the President's standing after the 9-11 Commission's report is released."
That was the fiction. Re-read that fictional story again. Then tell yourself, honestly, how many pages of print in The New York Times and other major national daily papers that story would get as well as how many hours it would take up on CNN and the major broadcast channels.
Now ask yourself why the real non-fiction story of Sandy Berger, Clinton's former national security advisor, doing exactly what my fictional story has Ms. Rice doing, is buried in a small article on page 17 of The New York Times and has been either breezed over or ignored by the major networks.
Will anyone ever be able to find out or even prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what was in the classified documents Mr. Berger took and "inadvertently" discarded? Yet where, in the national media, will we see the journalistic outrage over Mr. Berger's actions that would now be heaped from all quarters on the Bush administration, if they were "reporting" my fictional story above.
The major media print and broadcast outlets proclaim their political independence while practicing a liberal bias that leaves no pretense about it.
Guest Editorial # G33
If You Deflate Your Base, Will They Rush to the Polls
George W. Bush became president with a conservative message and a large conservative voter turnout. He told Republican leaders in congress what he wanted. They obeyed and gave him what he asked for, unless the Senate Democrats filibustered. What did conservatives get for supporting Bush?
They got a very conservative foreign policy.
Bush kept his promises to religious conservatives. He appointed a very religious attorney general. He continued strong anti-abortion policies. He lifted up the cause of religious fundamentalists by upping the volume on anti-gay themes. He tried to blur some traditional lines in the wall of separation between church and state. He nominated some strong non-activist judicial candidates. He spent no political capital to secure those nominations, yet the religious right has much to be grateful for with Bush.
Most law-and-order conservatives praised Bush for the Patriot Act. Then Bush turned and made a naked bid for the U.S. Hispanic vote in 2004. He proposed an immigration policy that is a thinly disguised amnesty plan for current illegal immigrants. That policy when joined with historic lax enforcement of U.S. immigration laws will only encourage more illegal immigration and increase the millions of permanent illegal U.S. residents.
Bush opposed free-trade conservatives with import quotas on foreign steel. Those quotas cost more manufacturing jobs than the steel jobs they temporarily saved. He continues our free-trade busting taxpayer subsidies to the industrial farm empires. He also seems intent on keeping out foreign sugar, at seven cents a pound. Sugar from U.S. protected cartels gets twenty cents a pound. American candy makers might be next to move their plants out of the U.S. How do you spell "Snickers" in Chinese?
Libertarian conservatives fight for small government and individual liberty. They watched the size of the federal government grow more in the last three years than it did in eight years under Clinton. Our attorney general spends more time running after medical marijuana users than he does prosecuting corporate stock and tax cheats. As the new election cycle opens, Bush promises to demean the constitution by placing federal power over civil policies like marriage that, in a truly conservative and federalist world, belong to the states. He signed a campaign finance law that tramples on the freedom of speech. That won him praise from some liberals, while he prayed the Supreme Court would shoot it down. It didn't.
For fiscal conservatives, Bush made one of the largest federal tax cuts ever but made no major spending reductions. With growing deficits and in spite of having the line-item veto, he never cut or vetoed a single spending item from congress. On the entitlement side, he enacted a universal prescription drug benefit for all retired senior citizens. It will cost $400 billion (oops make that $535 billion and counting). He starts that program knowing that currently only one third of retired seniors lack either some drug benefits or sufficient means to buy their drugs. What is fiscally conservative about making sure that wealthy Ted Kennedy will get his drugs at taxpayers expense when he retires?
In January he signed a spending bill that contains thousands of pork-barrel items. Then he proposed millions more for the National Endowment for the Arts. Is that an example of fiscal conservatism and public sacrifice during a time of war?
Many old-line conservatives are conservationists and believe in protecting the environment. The Republican Teddy Roosevelt started our national park system and Republican Richard Nixon started the Environmental Protection Agency. Bush started with a pro-environment Republican to head the EPA, former governor Christine Todd Whitman. She left the job already.
Does George W. Bush think that he belongs to the conservative movement or does he think that the conservative movement belongs to him? Are secular conservatives the latest political group that understands what it means to be taken for granted by their own party?
What are Bush's domestic policies that will excite conservatives in November? Is George W. Bush deflating the conservative movement enough to cause too many conservatives to sit out the presidential election? I am not talking about the party activists. I'm talking about the people those activists need to motivate. Will Karl Rove, the architect of the Bush policy agenda, get a pink slip before the Republican convention, or will he leave next January - with Bush? It seems like an either or situation doesn't it?
You don't think so? Outside of foreign policy, and religious concerns about marriage, where is the "conservative" message in Bush's policies? With Afghanistan and Iraq on the mend, with Saddam and Ossama in handcuffs (hopefully), with no WMDs in Iraq, with the economy doing O.K., and with no major terrorist events, what is it that is going to energize secular conservatives to vote in November. Bush you say? I don't think so, at least not for a broad spectrum of some not-so-religious conservatives.
At election time, "it's the excitement stupid" and right now conservatives need their own cause for excitement. Conservatives who cannot get too excited about Bush will have to create their own excitement by the way that they campaign for congress. The best way would be for them to campaign on their own agenda, like they did in 1994, as if they are not the party in power because, with Karl Rove writing Bush's script, they're not.
What is most important to the conservative's long run interest - the vibrancy of their movement or the office of the president?
Guest Editorial # G32