- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 25, 2009

AHMADINEJAD ALLIES

While much of the world has condemned the contested Iranian presidential election that incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won, not every world leader is displeased. That two Latin American leaders - NicaraguanPresident Daniel Ortega and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez offered congratulations to Mr. Ahmadinejad is hardly surprising, Jaime Daremblum writes at the conservative WeeklyStandard.com Wednesday.

“Both are anti-American radicals who enjoy close relations with Iran. Indeed, quietly but deliberately, the Iranian government has been expanding its reach into Latin America. Earlier this year, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said that he was ‘concerned about the level of, frankly, subversive activity that the Iranians are carrying on in a number of places in Latin America, particularly South America and Central America.’

“The Chavez-Ahmadinejad partnership has broader implications for the war on terrorism. There is credible evidence that Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed terror group, has established a presence in Venezuela. The Los Angeles Times has reported that Western terrorism experts believe Hezbollah may now be ‘using Venezuela as a base for operations.’ A year ago, the U.S. Treasury Department froze the assets of two Venezuelans whom it designated as financial backers of Hezbollah.

“The world’s attention is rightly focused on Iran’s violent internal crackdown and its nuclear program. But we should not forget about Iran’s meddling in Latin America, which poses a threat to regional stability and U.S. interests. It is shameful that Chavez and Ortega have lavished such sycophantic praise on Ahmadinejad and endorsed his election fraud. While the Iranian regime has been killing student demonstrators, Venezuela and Nicaragua have been supporting that regime and rebuking its critics. Once again, Chavez and Ortega have shown their true colors.”

BAILOUT BLUES

“It’s not working. The Bush-Obama strategy of throwing trillions at the banks to solve the mortgage crisis is a huge bust,” Robert Scheer writes at the liberal TheNation.com Wednesday. “The financial moguls, while tickled pink to have $1.25 trillion in toxic assets covered by the feds, along with hundreds of billions in direct handouts, are not using that money to turn around the free fall in housing foreclosures.

“As the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, ‘the Mortgage Bankers Association cut its forecast of home-mortgage lending this year by 27 percent amid deflating hopes for a boom in refinancing.’ The same association said that the total refinancing under the administration’s much-ballyhooed Home Affordable Refinance Program is ‘very low.’

“Aside from a tight mortgage market, the problem in preventing foreclosures has to do with homeowners losing their jobs. Here again the administration, continuing the Bush strategy, is working the wrong end of the problem. Although President Obama was wise enough to at least launch a job stimulus program, a far greater amount of federal funding benefits Wall Street as opposed to Main Street.

“Why was I so naive as to have expected this Democratic president to not do the bidding of the banks when the last president from that party joined the Republicans in giving the moguls everything they wanted? Please, Obama, prove me wrong.”

HEALTHY CHOICE

A new survey of 300 business leaders in companies that provide health care for their employees found that a majority of those polled say the current employer-based health care system is not sustainable in the long term.

The survey, sponsored by the Committee for Economic Development (CED), a centrist Washington think tank, and pollster Zogby International, reported that 60.3 percent support a market-based health care system of competing plans in which the government organizes a menu of private insurance plans from which individuals may choose.

“When over 60 percent of respondents believe the employer-based system is not sustainable, that is a clear signal that the time for reform is now,” CED President Charles Kolb said. “This poll reveals that business leaders are open to comprehensive health care reforms that move away from employer-based coverage.”

Other highlights of the survey, released Wednesday, include:

• 54 percent of business leaders support an independent Federal Health Board modeled on the Federal Reserve Board.

• 36 percent support a single-payer health insurance system.

• 45.3 percent support an individual market with subsidies for those with low incomes.

• 43.3 percent support an employer-based system with a public option in which firms are required to provide coverage or pay into a fund that would subsidize insurance for those who do not receive it at work; 50.3 percent oppose this option.

ENERGY DEBATE

Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, is “cautiously optimistic” that Congress this year will be able to reach an agreement on legislation to reduce carbon emissions and lessen the country’s dependence on fossil fuels.

“I think this can happen,” Mrs. Boxer, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, told MSNBC on Wednesday. “[Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid has called together six chairmen of different committees, because each of us has a role to play in this global warming legislation. So he has really exhibited some great leadership here.

“And the six committees have been instructed to get their bills out of committee and onto the floor of the Senate by September 18. And I feel that what will then happen is the leadership will marry together, you know, the best parts of all these bills, and hopefully we’re going to get something done here, because I do believe it’s a great moment in history here. We can transform our economy.”

Mrs. Boxer added that weaning the country off its dependency of foreign oil - one of the aims of the proposal - is also a national security issue.

“Iran has so much sway in the world because they have so much oil. And if we can get to clean energy and clean jobs, we can rid ourselves of that [and not] buy their product. We don’t, but the rest of the world does.”

• Sean Lengell can be reached at [email protected]


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