‘Do You Come Here Often?’

November 18, 2010

This image has been posted with express written permission. This cartoon was originally published at Town Hall.

The Other Pat Down

November 18, 2010

This image has been posted with express written permission. This cartoon was originally published at Town Hall.

Der Spiegel:

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere on Wednesday issued the most explicit warning yet that Germany may be the target of a terror attack in the near future. New evidence, he says, means that there is “cause for concern.”

“The situation has changed.” That was the message delivered by German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière in Berlin on Wednesday in reference to the risk that Germany might be the target of a terror attack in the near future. “There is cause for concern,” he intoned, “but not for hysteria.”

For weeks, Germany’s government has been warning of an increased risk of an attack in the country. But Berlin has continually insisted that the risk was an abstract one and that there was little in the way of concrete information. That, said de Maizière, has now changed.

He said that security officials both in Germany and abroad now have information that an attack might be in the works for the end of November. For the first time, he said, there are “concrete investigation leads.”

“We will show strength and will not allow ourselves to be intimidated,” de Maizière told reporters at a hastily called press conference. “We will not allow international terrorism to limit our lifestyles nor our culture of freedom.”

Germany’s interior minister said he has ordered security officials across Germany to increase patrols, particularly in airports, train stations and other possible targets. On Wednesday morning, increased patrols were already apparent at Berlin’s main train station and on the square in front of the Brandenburg Gate.

“We have to expect an attack at any time,” said a senior security official in Berlin. According to the official, Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) is investigating indications that a terror cell, made up of four Islamists from India and others from Pakistan is preparing to travel to Germany or has already arrived. Officials are in possession of the names of the suspects.

More Concerned

For most of his first year in office, de Maizière has proven to be much less vocal about the dangers of terrorism than his predecessor Wolfgang Schäuble, who is now Germany’s finance minister. Recently, however, his message has changed. Just the week before last, he urged the German population to be vigilant. In an interview with the mass-circulation tabloid Bild am Sonntag, he said that there were no concrete indications that an attack was imminent but that he had become more concerned.

Warnings of an impending terrorist attack in Europe have been circulating for months, with much of the concern having come from the interrogations of two German radicals who were recently taken into custody. In July, an Islamist from Hamburg named Ahmad Siddiqui was arrested by the US military in Kabul. He reported having been told of impending attacks in Europe by an al-Qaida member named Younis al-Mauretani.

Rami M., another German radical from Hamburg, was arrested in Pakistan and he confirmed the information provided by Ahmad S. Rami M. has since been extradited to Germany while Ahmad S. remains in US custody at the Bagram air force base in Afghanistan. In addition to Germany, France and Great Britain have also been mentioned as possible targets.

But there are additional sources as well. According to US officials, there are indications that a dozen potential attackers have already left the Afghan-Pakistan border region for Europe. For weeks, officials have been saying that a potential attack could follow the pattern of the raid on Mumbai two years ago. In that attack, 10 terrorists attacked across the city, focusing on hotels, restaurants and the train station. In total, some 166 people were killed and hundreds injured.

German security officials say that Wednesday’s warning comes as a result of their own investigations having confirmed aspects of a threat that has, until now, been largely abstract. “We have lots of evidence and for the first time the abstract warnings are becoming a concrete image,” said a senior government official on Wednesday.

Read it all.

City Journal:

Renee Glover has torn down blighted projects, required tenants to work, and transformed lives.

No one can doubt that the 1996 reform of public assistance really did “end welfare as we know it,” as President Clinton said—reducing the welfare rolls from more than 5 million to fewer than 2 million households. Its signature five-year time limit on assistance drew millions of the poor back into the world of work, making the reform of cash welfare the greatest social-policy success of a generation.

But if you think that America no longer encourages long-term dependency or underclass poverty, you haven’t been paying attention to public housing. Like cash welfare before the reform, public housing is dominated by extremely poor single-parent families (53 percent of public-housing households nationwide earn less than $10,000 a year, and only 13 percent have two adult residents). Like welfare, public housing offers recipients a disincentive to marry: because rents are fixed at 30 percent of household income, there’s good reason not to put a second wage earner on the lease. And like welfare, public-housing projects—and the closely related voucher programs run by housing authorities—impose neither a work requirement nor a time limit on recipients. So not only do 2.2 million people live in public-housing units in America; they spend an average of more than eight years in them. And dwarfing their ranks are the 5 million living in private, voucher-paid housing, where the average length of residency is six years.

In short, American housing policy encourages the formation of households in which low-income single women raise children—exactly the sort of homes where kids’ prospects are bleakest. Crime rates, moreover, are consistently high in and around public housing, and voucher units have been widely implicated in the spread of social problems to formerly safe areas. The problem is financial, as well: housing vouchers alone, which didn’t even exist until 1974, now cost taxpayers $18 billion, more than the $16.9 billion that we spend on welfare. And it’s a policy that disproportionately affects the African-American poor. Nearly 45 percent of public-housing tenants are black, as are 42 percent of voucher recipients.

All this makes what Renee Glover is doing in Atlanta so important. Since 1994, Glover, a child of Jim Crow–era Jacksonville, Florida, has led the Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA)—the nation’s fifth-largest public-housing system, with 50,000 tenants and voucher recipients, 99 percent of them, like her, African-American. She has drawn national recognition for the fact that during her tenure, Atlanta became the first city in the United States to tear down virtually all its projects. But Glover’s plan is far more ambitious than demolition: she has set out to transform the dysfunctional behavior that condemns people to languish for years in public housing. Her approach is the most dramatic change in any city’s public-housing system since Franklin Roosevelt created the program in 1937.

When Glover first took charge of the AHA, just 18.5 percent of household heads in the city’s bleak projects held jobs. At a time when Atlanta overall had the nation’s highest murder rate, crime was six times higher in the projects than the city average. Lawlessness prevailed in these campus-style complexes. Drug gangs had their own apartments for conducting business, such as grisly initiation ceremonies (in one, teenagers performed oral sex on a six-year-old boy to prove that no act was too horrible to commit). Calls to 911 were so numerous, Atlanta police lieutenant Scott Kreher recalls, that reports of anything but the worst violent crime had to wait, sometimes for more than eight hours. “It was very common to start the night shift with 50 or 60 calls pending,” he says. In part, that’s because the projects came alive at night, especially during the summer. With so few residents working, most slept during the heat of the day and came out after dark. “You’d think it was midday at midnight. Everyone was out barbecuing, partying on the porches. And you were always hearing gunfire.”

All this was happening in places built to eradicate slums, whose immorality had so shocked progressives a century ago. Not surprisingly, real-estate development in the neighborhoods surrounding the projects was essentially nonexistent for decades, though the rest of the city boomed, say Atlanta development officials.

For Glover, the projects were clearly a “toxic environment” to be leveled—and she proceeded to do it. Starting with grants from the Clinton-era Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and then using private financing, she reduced the city’s 14,000 public-housing units to 2,000, most of them in complexes for the elderly. Gone were crime-ridden projects like Bowen Homes—immortalized in a rap lyric by the Shop Boyz: “My hood I love them ladies, / My hood I love them babies, / I can’t forget my niggas, / Bowen Homes we love you baby!” Glover then leased the land to private developers, who built apartment and townhouse complexes there; in return, the developers agreed to dedicate 40 percent of the new units to tenants who qualified for public housing. Two-fifths of the projects’ residents relocated to these “mixed-income” complexes. The remaining three-fifths received housing vouchers and used them to move into other private apartment buildings…

Read it all.

The American:

In a recent Businessweek story entitled “Why Business Doesn’t Trust the Tea Party,” Lisa Lerer and John McCormick explain that the Tea Party platform is inconsistent with the goals of most business people. The Tea Party might sound good to those in business, they wrote, “as long as the corporation in question doesn’t have international operations, rely on immigrant labor, see the value of national monetary policy, or find itself in need of a subsidy to boost exports or an emergency loan from the [Federal Reserve] to survive the worst recession in seven decades.” While designed to show why business owners should not support the Tea Party, Lerer and McCormick’s statement actually demonstrates why so many small business owners are Tea Party supporters.

Few small businesses have international operations, rely on immigrant labor, use export subsidies, or get emergency loans from the Fed. And few can see a direct connection between the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy actions and their day-to-day business activities. The issues on which big business and the Tea Party disagree are not those small business owners are passionate about.

On the other hand, the Tea Party movement has been advocating many positions that small business owners consider important. For instance, the Tea Party calls for cutting taxes, getting the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) repealed, and reducing government regulation.

Successful small business owners are among those who face a big tax increase if the Obama administration lets the Bush tax cuts expire. And Tea Party supporters believe that raising taxes on small business is a bad idea. A Winston Group survey of 1,000 registered voters in January 2010 showed that 37 percent of surveyed Tea Party supporters believe that cutting taxes on small businesses is the best way to create jobs, compared to 28 percent of registered voters generally. Eighty-five percent of Tea Party supporters believe cutting small business owners’ taxes would be more job-generating than spending more federal money on infrastructure, while only 9 percent believe the reverse. For registered voters overall, the numbers were 61 and 31 percent, respectively.

The cost of the PPACA falls heavily on small business owners, who face the difficulty of coming up with the money for employee health insurance or paying tax penalties. In 2010, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that approximately 99 percent of businesses with more than 199 employees offered healthcare coverage to their employees, but only 68 percent of companies with 3 to 199 workers did (and 59 percent of those with 3 to 9 employees)…

Read it all.

Running On Empty

November 18, 2010

This image has been posted with express written permission. This cartoon was originally published at Town Hall.

Playboy, Nov. 2010

November 18, 2010

This image has been posted with express written permission. This cartoon was originally published at Town Hall.

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