The Broken Economy
|Kevin A. Hassett||February 26th 2014|
In his State of the Union address last month, President Obama called on Congress to extend federal emergency unemployment benefits that expired in December 2013. “I’m also convinced we can help Americans return to the work force faster by reforming unemployment insurance so that it’s more effective in today’s economy. But first, this Congress needs to restore the unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people.” The president didn’t seem to recognize the internal contradiction in his speech: The extended insurance was surely a significant cause of the surge in long-term unemployment that has left us with a lingering unemployment problem.
Extended unemployment benefits lower workers’ incentives to search for jobs and to take jobs that may not be a perfect fit, and they may also lower firms’ incentives to hire new workers. It might seem intuitive that these incentives sometimes lead workers to delay their return to work, but many on the left dispute this. Read more ..
Ukraine on Edge
|Natalie Sedletska||February 25th 2014|
Someone wanted the records to disappear without a trace under the gray waves of the Kyiv Reservoir. Instead, they are ending up on the Internet for everyone in the world to see. When ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his entourage were fleeing the lavish presidential residence at Mezhyhirya, outside of Kyiv, on the night of February 21-22, they dumped hundreds of documents into the reservoir in an amateurish attempt to conceal the information they contain.
But journalists and scuba divers showed up on the scene just hours later and began recovering the soggy papers. Some were floating surreally along the edges of the water; others were recovered in stuffed file folders from the depths. Read more ..
|Marc A. Thiessen||February 25th 2014|
The “opportunity agenda” was supposed to be the signature initiative of President Obama’s second term. But recent data suggest his administration is waging a war on opportunity instead.
First, came the Congressional Budget Office report, which found that Obamacare will reduce overall employment by the equivalent of 2.5 million workers by 2021 and will reduce aggregate labor compensation for Americans by 1 percent during the same period — a $70 billion-a-year pay cut for lower- and middle-income American workers.
Then the New York Times reported that, substitute teachers, school bus drivers, police dispatchers, prison guards, coaches, janitors, cafeteria workers and other low-wage public workers are all seeing their hours cut because of Obamacare. As one local official told the paper, “Our choice was to cut the hours or give them health care, and we could not afford the latter.” Obama promised in his State of the Union to “build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class,” but for many part-time and low-income workers, Obamacare is reducing their hours and their wages — knocking them off the ladder of opportunity. Read more ..
|Eli E. Hertz||February 24th 2014|
The artificiality of a Palestinian identity is reflected in the attitudes and actions of neighboring Arab states that never established a Palestinian state or advocated one prior to the Six-Day War in 1967. What unites Palestinian Arabs has been their opposition to Jewish nationalism and the desire to stamp it out, not aspirations for their own state. Local patriotic feelings are generated only when a non-Islamic entity takes charge – such as Israel did in 1967 after the Six-Day War, and dissipates under Arab rule, as it was under the rule of Jordan prior to 1967.
Culturally, Palestinians are not distinct from other Arabs. The sole contributions Palestinians can take credit for are the invention of skyjacking for political purposes in the 1960s, and a special brand of suicidal terrorism that uses their own youth as delivery systems for bombing pizza parlors, discos, and public commuter buses. Read more ..
The Economic Edge
|Tom Daschle||February 23rd 2014|
A new debate is emerging regarding the economic impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and trade promotion authority (TPA) -- that is, presidential "fast-track" power -- on middle and lower income Americans. Opponents have argued that these trade measures will only exacerbate our country’s growing income inequality. They assert, therefore, that the president must be forced to choose between these two critical administration priorities. But it is a false choice.
Inequality reflects a number of factors, including technological advancements that have increased productivity. The reality is that little of this has to do with trade agreements.
That’s because the United States already has one of the most open economies in the world. Our average tariffs on foreign goods are around 3.5 percent. We have few non-tariff barriers, and we don’t use our regulatory processes to discriminate against foreigners. That’s not the case for the vast majority of countries. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Jonah Goldberg||February 22nd 2014|
Cancel the philosophy courses, people. Oh, and we’re going to be shuttering the political science, religion, and pre-law departments too. We’ll keep some of the English and history folks on for a while longer, but they should probably keep their résumés handy.
Because, you see, they are of no use anymore. We have the answers to the big questions, so why keep pretending there’s anything left to discuss?
At least that’s where Erin Ching, a student at Swarthmore College, seems to be coming down. Her school invited a famous left-wing Princeton professor, Cornel West, and a famous right-wing Princeton professor, Robert George, to have a debate. The two men are friends, and by all accounts they had an utterly civil exchange of ideas. But that only made the whole thing even more outrageous.
“What really bothered me is, the whole idea is that at a liberal arts college, we need to be hearing a diversity of opinion,” Ching told the Daily Gazette, the school’s newspaper. “I don’t think we should be tolerating [George’s] conservative views because that dominant culture embeds these deep inequalities in our society.” Swarthmore must be so proud. Read more ..
Healthcare on Edge
|Sally Satel||February 21st 2014|
Should electronic cigarettes be regulated like tobacco products, emblazoned with warnings and subject to tight marketing restrictions? Those are among the questions before the Food and Drug Administration as it decides in the coming weeks how to handle the battery-powered cigarette mimics that have become a $1.5 billion business in the United States.
Groups promoting intensive regulation include the American Lung Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. They worry that the health risks haven’t been fully established and that e-cigarettes will make smoking commonplace again, especially among teens. They are quick to push back in response to anything that might make e-cigarettes more attractive, such as the NJOY King ad that aired during the Super Bowl or when actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Julia Louis-Dreyfus were shown “vaping” at the Golden Globes.
A surgeon general’s report released last month, on the 50th anniversary of the office’s first warning about the dangers of smoking, had little to say about e-cigarettes. Its suggestions for further reducing tobacco use were familiar, including: increase taxes on cigarettes, prohibit indoor smoking, launch media campaigns and reduce the nicotine content of cigarettes. Read more ..
Afghanistan on Edge
|Ahmad K. Majidyar and Javid Ahmad||February 20th 2014|
Twenty five years ago this month, the last Soviet soldier marched out of Afghanistan, bringing an end to a nine year occupation that cost the lives of 15,000 Soviet troops and more than a million Afghans. With the close of the Cold War, the West lost interest in the region and Afghanistan became a proxy battlefield for subversive regional power play. Infighting between competing Afghan mujahedeen factions brought anarchy, paving the way for the Taliban and al Qaeda. And now, as the drawdown of international forces approaches, there’s growing fear that history might repeat itself. It doesn’t have to work out the same way.
For a start, while the political system in Afghanistan is far from perfect, it enjoys far greater support and legitimacy among the Afghan people than the communist regime did in the 1980s. While Afghan presidents back then were effectively appointed by the Kremlin, Afghans today have elected their own leader – and will head to the polls in April to pick a successor to Hamid Karzai. And despite growing pessimism in the West about Afghanistan, Afghans generally remain optimistic about their future: an Asia Foundation survey last year found that a majority of Afghans (57 percent) believed their country was moving in the right direction. Read more ..
|Ramesh Ponnuru||February 19th 2014|
Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, as President Barack Obama urged in his State of the Union address last month, is as popular an idea as ever. It’s also a worse idea than ever.
Obama presented it as a way to help struggling families: “Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.” That comment provides a misleading picture of who minimum-wage earners are. The White House’s own graph promoting the idea shows that only 26 percent of minimum-wage earners have kids. Thirty percent either have spouses and no kids or are kids themselves. Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|Michael Rubin||February 18th 2014|
It was during a 2007 Democratic primary debate that Sen. Barack Obama first declared “ridiculous” the idea that “not talking to countries is punishment to them.” Eighteen months later, with the world watching his historic inauguration, he reiterated his openness to dialogue with America’s enemies: “We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”
Since then, his administration has talked with North Korea and the Taliban, defied cynicism at home and abroad with efforts to jump-start Israeli-Palestinian talks , sought to bring Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood in from the cold, and, after 35 years, brought the United States and Iran to the verge of a nuclear deal. And retired American diplomats Thomas Pickering and Rob Malley — as well as Rachel Schneller, a State Department official who was on leave at the time — have met with Hamas, a terrorist group implicated in scores of bombings and suicide attacks in Israel. Read more ..
The Defense Edge
|Mackenzie Eaglen||February 17th 2014|
Borrowing a smart move from Robert Gates’ playbook, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will preview the major changes in President Obama’s forthcoming defense budget request for 2015 in advance of their official release. While the president’s budget is not arriving on Capitol Hill until March 4, Hagel will hold a public press conference a week prior to present highlights from the massive document.
The secretary will continue laying the groundwork for many difficult trade-offs that Congress will have to consider as sequestration-lite budget cuts continue. The services have been busy broadcastingexpected forthcoming controversial decisions to policymakers since work on the now-complete 2014 omnibus spending bill began.
By trying to get out in front of Congress, control the narrative and provide extra time that will surely be needed for greater education of members, Hagel is seeking a better partnership with the Hill than in previous years when it comes to accepting controversial decisions. Read more ..
|David Webb||February 16th 2014|
There is always a risk in going early as a political candidate, because it can result in burnout with the voters. Hillary Clinton, the former first lady, former senator of New York and former secretary of State, certainly runs this risk.
Whatever she does or says, or even that others do on her behalf, is certain to make news, and the signs are there that she’s preparing to build a ground game.
Political action committee Ready for Hillary, which recruited more than 1.6 million supporters in 2013 and raised more than $4 million according to Federal Election Commission filings, is holding a fundraiser in Columbia, S.C., this month with a price of admission of just $20.16. The Democratic super-PAC Priorities USA Action has been reported as staffing up for a Clinton 2016 fundraising effort, and EMILY’s List launched its “Madam President” campaign back in May of 2013. Read more ..
Education on Edge
|Michael Q. McShane||February 15th 2014|
Last week, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told a local radio station that there would be a “moratorium” on co-locating charter schools in New York City Public Schools. Under the previous mayor, Michael Bloomberg, public charter schools could use excess space in traditional public-school buildings for free. Charter schools do not receive facilities funding from the state of New York, unlike their traditional public counterparts, and many public schools had excess space, so the administration saw it as a win-win. According to the Manhattan Institute, two-thirds of charter schools in New York are co-located.
This arrangement seems fair so long as charter schools are in the shared enterprise of educating New York’s children and do not otherwise receive funding for buildings. The buildings were built with taxpayer money to educate children, after all. Removing this support could risk successful schools going under and would certainly raise barriers to entry for new schools to crop up in New York. But what is perhaps more troubling is that screwy building-use policies are by no means confined to the Big Apple. Read more ..
|Michael R. Strain||February 14th 2014|
The fate of the long-term unemployed is arguably the most immediate social and economic challenge facing the U.S. today. How have our leaders in Washington responded to it?
The left wants to extend the maximum duration of unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed. This is helpful, but not nearly sufficient. And President Barack Obama recently held a meeting with chief executives urging them not to discriminate against this group -- maybe a little helpful, maybe not. If anything, the right has been worse -- with a few notable exceptions -- offering its usual menu of tax cuts, less federal spending and less regulation.
Society owes these workers better -- creative public policies to help increase their chance of staying in the labor force. They want to work; they want to earn their own successes, to help the economy grow, and to support themselves and their families. But they can’t, in large part because they happen to be alive and working during a once-in-a-generation economic downturn. Read more ..
Egypt After Morsi
|Hafez Ghaem||February 13th 2014|
The approval of a new Constitution in a referendum that took place on January 14-15, 2014 is an important step in implementing the roadmap announced by the current interim authorities in Egypt. The authorities feel that it provides them with greater legitimacy. After all, the participation rate of nearly 39 percent and the 98 percent yes vote are higher than those obtained by the Muslim Brotherhood-backed 2012 Constitution, which had a participation rate of 33 percent and a yes vote of 64 percent.
According to the preliminary assessment of Transparency International “…the political context in the run-up to the referendum impaired conditions to hold a fair and free referendum when compared with international standards.” The assessment pointed out that the interim authorities took some steps that limited freedom of expression, association and assembly, and that the space for civil society to represent the voice of the people has been greatly reduced. The Muslim Brotherhood was declared a terrorist organisation in December 2013. According to Transparency International, government officials as well as public and private media outlets campaigned vigorously for a ‘yes’ vote and did not provide an opportunity for the opposition to express their views. Moreover, activists who called for a ‘no’ vote or for boycotting the referendum faced repression. Read more ..
Diplomacy on Edge
|Michael Auslin||February 12th 2014|
Max's questions about why John Kerry is paying far less attention to helping tamp down the tension in Asia are echoed throughout the region. On Thursday, Kerry is leaving for his fifth visit to Asia since taking office last year. The State Department claims this is proof of his commitment to the administration's pivot. Yet the White House continues to believe that merely showing up is 90 percent of success. This Woody Allen approach has worn thin with countries looking at Washington's continuing refusal to confront China head-on over its increasingly coercive behavior. Nor were our partners in Asia appeased by once-regular statements that D.C. budget battles would not reduce the American presence in the Pacific.
Now they read comments by the commander of Pacific Air Forces, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, that "resources have not followed the ... rebalance." They see that U.S. Pacific Command has cut back on travel throughout the region and joint exercises, and that the U.S. Navy is planning on dropping down to just two carriers deployed globally. Far better than most in Washington, our friends and allies in Asia understand the immense distances separating the U.S. homeland from the areas in which it has rather daunting commitments. Read more ..
|Aparna Mathur||February 11th 2014|
The United States hit its debt ceiling last week. Now the government is deploying “extraordinary measures,” such as reducing the debt held by the federal employee pension fund, until policymakers can figure out how to pay its bills on time. If this sounds like déjà vu, it should. Washington faced the same scenario last October, only to come to a short-term resolution that suspended the borrowing limit. Months later policymakers are more or less back to square one, and using the same old backroom negotiations to achieve temporary debt solutions in conjunction with unrelated ideological victories. Unfortunately, the debt ceiling, and the ongoing negotiations, are just the tip of the iceberg.America faces a tremendous fiscal challenge today and in the decades going forward. As the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) notes, fiscal deficits are expected to start rising in the near future, as national spending is expected to far outstrip GDP’s anticipated growth. These large deficits will contribute to substantial increases in federal debt. CBO estimates that federal debt held by the public will equal 74 percent of GDP at the end of this year and 79 percent in 2024, which is when it will begin to rise quickly. Such large and growing federal debt could have serious negative consequences, including restraining economic growth in the long term, giving policymakers less flexibility to respond to unexpected challenges, and eventually increasing the risk of a fiscal crisis wherein investors would demand high interest rates to purchase government debt. Read more ..
|Ramesh Ponnuru and Yuval Levin||February 10th 2014|
America these days faces a daunting array of economic challenges. Still in the midst of a weak recovery from a recession that technically ended more than four years ago, the economy continues to suffer from high unemployment and weak income growth. Americans are anxious about their own and their children’s economic prospects, and they are unsatisfied with what their political leaders have offered them.
The Democrats think they know how to address these problems and anxieties. To hear them tell it, income inequality is at the core of what ails us. “Income inequality is a threat to the strength of our middle class, the health of our businesses, the security of our workers, and the growth of our economy,” Nancy Pelosi argued last spring. President Obama has repeatedly called rising inequality “the defining challenge of our time.” Liberal commentators insist on a tight link between increasing inequality, declining growth, and weak social mobility. And for the left, the centrality of inequality among our economic woes demands an agenda of redistribution: higher taxes, higher spending on our existing assortment of social-welfare programs, new programs (such as universal preschool), and, most prominently just now, a higher minimum wage. Read more ..
|Star Parker||February 9th 2014|
The latest round of the IRS scandal, in which Tea Party and conservative groups have been selectively targeted for harassment by our tax collection agency, is now unfolding,
This comes in the form of proposed new rules from the IRS regarding the operation of organizations falling under the 501c4 provision of the tax code.
These are organizations whose purpose is to promote “social welfare” and therefore their income is tax-free.
Because promoting a cause or agenda in our free and democratic country cannot be isolated from political activity associated with that agenda, such activity is permitted by 501c4 organizations, as long as politics does not become its main purpose.
These are the rules of the game that have existed since 1959. But now the IRS wants to change the game.
The new rules they propose expand the definition of “candidate related activity” so broadly – to include voter education campaigns and grass roots lobbying campaigns – and to forbid even the mention of a candidate in any context 30 days before a primary or 60 days before a general election – that it will make it impossible for these organizations to function. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Sally Satel||February 8th 2014|
Using the tragic death of a celebrity as a basis to discuss national drug problems is usually pointless. For one thing, the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died with a syringe in his arm and packets of drugs found nearby, had the wealth and access to insulate himself from some mundane forces -- price and availability -- that affect so many people struggling with addiction.
Yet his death is calling attention to the ways in which many individuals can be helped.
A definitive cause of what killed Hoffman hasn’t been determined yet. If he moved from prescription pills to heroin (he entered a rehabilitation program last May after a reported reliance on painkillers led him back to heroin briefly), he was following a familiar path. Many individuals who have become addicted to prescription painkillers (a group that includes OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet and Roxicodone) at some point realize that, depending on where they live, heroin, which is pharmacologically similar, is cheaper and easier to get. Read more ..
|Timothy P. Carney||February 7th 2014|
After 40 years in Congress, California Democrat Henry Waxman is calling it quits. His legacy includes a toxic fuel additive (a boondoggle known as ethanol), a failed pork-fest of a climate bill and the devastation of small businesses -- to name a few of his legislative accomplishments.
Washington Post correspondent Karen Tumulty praised Waxman, calling him “one of the last to whom the word ‘lawmaker’ still applied.”
But here’s the thing: If you spend four decades making laws, you’re going to make some bad laws. And Henry Waxman made a lot of bad laws. Waxman deserves praise for many things. Together with Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, Waxman passed a reform that improved the prescription drug patent system. He also passed a postal reform. Read more ..
Russia on Edge
|Marvin Kalb||February 6th 2014|
When the Olympic Games began in Beijing in 2008, Russian and Georgian troops began to fight for control of a north Caucasus province called Ossetia. Now, as the Olympic Games begin in Sochi (not too far away from Ossetia) Ukraine totters towards an economic and political collapse, a condition so potentially contagious to Russia that a concerned President Putin has begun a crackdown.
So far, he has not moved Russian forces into Ukraine, but he has urged Ukrainian President Yanukovich to contain and stop the popular insurrection that started more than two months ago. Putin has taken three other actions that could be a prelude to military intervention. First, he has imposed a blockade of Ukrainian goods into Russia, devastating to the already weak Ukrainian economy. Second, he has frozen a promised $15 billion aid package for Ukraine, leaving Ukraine without any outside financial support, which is desperately needed. And third, he has opened a propaganda war blaming the United States for the crisis now spreading through Ukraine. When in trouble, Putin starts following an old Russian pattern: Don’t address the problem—blame the United States. Read more ..
Edge of Climate Change
|Glen Harris||February 4th 2014|
New research predicts that coastal regions may face massive increases in damages from storm surge flooding over the course of the 21st century. According to the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, global average storm surge damages could increase from about $10-$40 billion per year today to up to $100,000 billion per year by the end of century, if no adaptation action is taken.
The study, led by the Berlin-based think-tank Global Climate Forum (GCF) and involving the University of Southampton, presents, for the first time, comprehensive global simulation results on future flood damages to buildings and infrastructure in coastal flood plains. Drastic increases in these damages are expected due to both rising sea levels and population and economic growth in the coastal zone. Asia and Africa may be particularly hard hit because of their rapidly growing coastal mega-cities, such as Shanghai, Manila and Lagos. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Christina Hoff Sommers||February 3rd 2014|
President Obama repeated the spurious gender wage gap statistic in his State of the Union address. “Today,” he said, “women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment.”
What is wrong and embarrassing is the President of the United States reciting a massively discredited factoid. The 23-cent gender pay gap is simply the difference between the average earnings of all men and women working full-time. It does not account for differences in occupations, positions, education, job tenure, or hours worked per week. When all these relevant factors are taken into consideration, the wage gap narrows to about five cents. And no one knows if the five cents is a result of discrimination or some other subtle, hard-to-measure difference between male and female workers. In its fact-checking column on the State of the Union, the Washington Post included the president’s mention of the wage gap in its list of dubious claims. “There is clearly a wage gap, but differences in the life choices of men and women… make it difficult to make simple comparisons.” Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Rachel Baye||February 2nd 2014|
Center for Public Integrity
Despite millions in potential cost savings to taxpayers, the U.S. Senate has still yet to pass a requirement that it file campaign finance reports electronically.
By Friday, presidential candidates, House candidates, political action committees and super PACs must file their fourth-quarter financial reports with the Federal Election Commission electronically.
Senate campaigns, however, must submit their reports on paper to the secretary of the Senate, where they are scanned and sent to the FEC. The agency then prints the documents, collates them and delivers them to a private contractor to type into an electronic database.
The process costs taxpayers roughly $500,000 a year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. And as a result, it can take weeks or even months for the public to know who is bankrolling senators’ campaigns.
A requirement that senators e-file their campaign finance reports was included in the Senate version of a financial services bill that was folded into the larger budget bill passed earlier this month. However, the e-filing measure didn’t appear in the final budget.
The disappearance disappointed advocates for the practice, such as Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who has championed e-filing legislation. His stand-alone bill requiring Senate e-filing has yet to receive a vote.
Nothing, however, prohibits senators from e-filing voluntarily with the FEC — in addition to filing on paper with the Senate — and an increasing number are doing so. Yet as many as 80 senators are not, including about 20 who backed a bill requiring the practice. Read more ..
The Edge of Healthcare
|Sally Satel||January 31st 2014|
The biggest class action suit in Canadian legal history is under way at the Quebec Superior Court in Montreal. At stake are billions in damages and penalties sought from three tobacco companies – Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd., Rothmans, Benson & Hedges; and JTI-Macdonald. Justice Brian Riordan is hearing cases representing almost two million victims of lung, larynx and throat cancer, and emphysema caused by smoking cigarettes.
In an unusual act, the Non-Smokers’ Rights Association has filed a complaint with the Collège des médecins du Québec against a key expert who testified last week. The complaint accuses Dominique Bourget, a forensic psychiatrist at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, of breaching the college’s ethics code by “minimizing the gravity of, if not denying the existence of, tobacco dependence.” Read more ..
Sports on Edge
|Armstrong Williams||January 29th 2014|
Watching the Olympic Games used to be like watching The Godfather, or Citizen Kane. You knew you were watching something spectacular, and you didn’t want the show to end. I remember anticipating the eve of the games; the complexities and rivalries between cultures, seeing the top athletes around the world give it their all, the tradition of the games, and then the ensuring political nature of them.
There are a few reasons the ensuing Winter Olympics will not be met with the same excitement in as in years past, but still eagerly anticipated. Our athletes represent ideals, not just skill and prowess. In years past the United States competing against the Soviets got my full attention. Every four years; it seemed like a battle of good vs. evil, white cowboy hats and black cowboy’s hats every four years. Beating the Soviets was like winning a battle in the Cold War. It was more than just the games, and I loved every second of it. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Shoshana Bryen||January 27th 2014|
Israel receives a lot of unwelcome attention from the U.S., the UN and the EU. As others in the region see it, however, that makes Israel the most important country in the world, and Palestinians the world's luckiest "refugees." While withdrawing security and political assistance from most of the Middle East and Africa, the Obama Administration has increased its visibility in the "peace process" and announced a $4 billion investment plan for Palestine. To other countries, this attention shows who is important in America's eyes.
Through Syrian eyes:
The Syrian civil war has killed more than 200,000 people, including more than 1,500 by poison gas. More than 11,000 children have died; both children and adults have died by starvation. The Assad regime refused to let relief agencies into villages unless they surrendered and flew the government flag. Starving a population into surrender is a war crime. The government is using "barrel bombs" -- barrels filled with nails and metal shrapnel and thrown from airplanes. Twenty-one people died last week from a barrel bombing of the Aleppo market. There are more than 2 million refugees both internally displaced and in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Rachel Ehrenfeld||January 27th 2014|
The TSA public review that was released last week reports a 16.5 percent (257) increase in guns discovered in 2013 over the previous year. Checkpoints across the countrydiscovered 1,813 firearms in carry-on bags. Of those, 1,477 (81 percent) were loaded, averaging nearly fivefirearms that could have been fired at a U.S. airport on any given day. Firearms were intercepted in 205 airports. How many guns got by the TSA?
The report details some of the weapons that were discovered and the methods used to try to conceal them. However, there is nothing about the passengers who intentionally packed them. Were they American citizens? White? Hispanics? Blacks? What was their average age? What was their gender? How many had criminal records? What triggered the search? And, were any of these passengers "home-grown" jihadis?
Briefing reporters earlier this month, Deputy Coordinator of Regional Affairs and Programs in the State Department's Bureau of Counterterrorism, Justin Siberell said that "since the Arab uprising, dozens of terror groups having affiliation with Al-Qaeda have emerged...Al-Qaeda is more decentralized, with like-minded groups drawing inspiration from its ideology. ... The U.S. is concerned over the fact that regional conflicts are fuelling these groups." Another senior Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) official added, "Homegrown terror suspects are difficult to find. ... It is the biggest challenge today for intelligence and law enforcement officials." Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|Star Parker||January 25th 2014|
Senior advisor to President Obama, Valerie Jarrett, wrote for the White House blog and the Huffington Post that, "A Woman's Health Care Decisions Should Be in Her Own Hands, Not Her Boss's." I couldn't agree more.
Odd then that the administration is trying to insert bosses, many of them against their deeply held religious beliefs, into the private health care decisions of women. Ms. Jarrett writes that, "The ACA (Affordable Care Act) was designed to ensure that health care decisions are made between a woman and her doctor, and not by her boss, or Washington politicians."
In fact, the administration has done the opposite. It has forced employers to act as middlemen between women and their doctors by forcing them to participate in providing four potentially life terminating drugs and the whole gamut of FDA-approved contraceptives, even when they object on religious grounds. And then it thrust the issue right into the portfolio of Washington politicians by making it an election wedge issue, by using it to stoke partisan bickering, and by peddling lies about a "war on women." Read more ..
The Iranian Threat
|Alex Finkelstein||January 24th 2014|
On Wednesday the United Nations called on Iran to put an end to an ongoing surge in executions. Amnesty International reports that 40 people have been executed in Iran in the last two weeks. The executions are conducted in public and hanging is the most common form of punishment. Most of the criminals are charged with drug-related offenses. There is no means of appeal if convicted of a drug crime in Iran and non-lethal drug crimes do not meet international protocol for crimes worthy of execution.
In 2013, which includes the June election of President Hassan Rouhani, there were 100 more executions than in 2012. The drastic increase undermines with Rouhani's efforts to present himself as ideologically and politically "moderate" and thus a potential partner for talks with the West. His "moderate" persona was the main impetus for the White House to open diplomacy and undertake the talks that eventually led to the current six-month nuclear agreement. Read more ..
America on Edge
|W. Bradford Wilcox||January 23rd 2014|
Following in the footsteps of her poverty-warrior father, Sargent Shriver, Maria Shriver has cast a needed spotlight on the millions of women and children in America who live in or at the brink of poverty. Her newest Shriver Report, A Woman's Nation Pushes Back from the Brink, has garnered positive notice in liberal circles for advocating a progressive agenda - encompassing everything from expanded family leave to a higher minimum wage - that is designed to help women and children struggling to make it in modern America. But in one major respect, the report's rollout, which was orchestrated this month by Shriver and the left-leaning Center for American Progress (CAP), is surprisingly regressive. Read more ..
Mexico on Edge
|Kent Paterson||January 21st 2014|
Frontera Norte Sur
As a massive federal police and military deployment gains momentum in the Mexican state of Michoacan, polemics and debate shroud the first major such operation undertaken by the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto.
At stake in the campaign is not only the reassertion of state power, but also the strategic control of the Pacific coastal port of Lazaro Cardenas, one of the key portals of the Asia/NAFTA economy, as well as the productive mountains and farmlands whose products and people travel a network of highways leading across Mexico and into the United States.
With upwards of 10,000 federal forces now deployed, along with perhaps equal numbers of gunmen from the Knights Templar syndicate and opposing, civilian self-defense groups, Michoacan is the scene of a “low-intensity war” that will soon witness drones, massive telecommunications intercepts and commando operations, predicted Gerardo Rodriguez Sanchez Lara, director of the private Mexican Human Security firm. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Sarah Jackson and Alan Berube||January 20th 2014|
On the 50th anniversary of President Johnson’s War on Poverty, leading Republicans have been taking to the speaking circuit calling for new solutions.
"I would give us a failing grade," Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, told NBC News at an event last week. “It has failed. We should've done better than this. We can do better than this."
Speaking at Brookings this week at a summit on social mobility, Ryan said federal antipoverty programs take a “haphazard, Whack-a-Mole approach… because the federal government created different programs to solve different problems at different times.” He continued, “There is little to no coordination among them.”
Ryan, who’s been traveling to low-income neighborhoods across the country for the past year to talk to local leaders, called for a more streamlined approach that allows for leadership from community members and the poor themselves. “Washington does not have all the answers,” Ryan told the crowd at Brookings. “Only the people in the community can solve the problems facing their community.” Read more ..
Israelis and Palestinians
|Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik ||January 19th 2014|
In December 2013, Israel released 26 Palestinian terrorist murderers from prison. In his speech at the PA event celebrating their release, Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the terrorists and called them "heroes" four times during his speech:
"[The release of our prisoners] is a day of joy for our nation, for our people, for our heroic prisoners... There will be more groups of heroes who will come to us... They [the Israelis] postponed these heroes' release by 24 hours... we congratulate you and ourselves for the [release] of these heroes." [Official PA TV, Dec. 31, 2013]
Israel released these terrorists because the PA demanded Israel release 104 prisoners from jail, all of them murderers, in order for the PA to resume peace negotiations with Israel.
Three released terrorist "heroes" celebrated with Abbas on stage:
Jamal Abu Muhsin - stabbed a 76 year-old Israeli civilian to death in a park in 1991.
Ahmad Kmeil - a commander of a terrorist cell that murdered an Israeli soldier and 15 Palestinians who they suspected of helping Israel.
Na'im Al-Shawamreh - placed a bomb in 1993 that killed the police sapper who was trying to defuse it. Read more ..
Israel and Palestinians
|Rachel Ehrenfeld||January 18th 2014|
American Center for Democracy
In Kuwait, after 10 failed trips to negotiate peace between Israel and the Palestinian authority, Secretary of State John Kerry proudly declared “Everywhere I go, even here today, everybody I talk to expresses gratitude to the efforts the United States is making … to try to make peace between Palestinians and Israelis.” However, as his predecessors, Kerry fails to recognize that the major obstacle facing his “efforts” is the Palestinian Authority’s absolute refusal to recognize the Jewish State of Israel, instead, demanding the fictitious “right of return” (to Israel) for all Palestinian refugees and millions of their descendants all over the world.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas, the purported moderate pragmatist, has stated clearly and repeatedly that the Palestinians will never give up what they consider their “right-of-return” for the descendants of Arabs displaced in the Israeli War of Independence. Read more ..
|Gen. Jones(Ret), Adm Johnson(Ret), Gen. Punaro(Ret), Gen. Wald(Ret)||January 17th 2014|
The U.S. military is at a crossroads. We can either properly train and equip our future warriors or maintain overly generous benefits for young military retirees who have many years in the workforce ahead. We cannot do both. How the nation chooses will, to a great degree, determine how secure Americans will be in decades to come.
The president’s signature on the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (BBA) is barely dry, yet several members of Congress have already pledged to undo a provision that would modestly limit annual increases to pension payments for working-age (38 to 62) military retirees, while directing budgetary savings to preserve military readiness.
We are increasingly concerned that fast-growing personnel costs – including health and retirement benefits that begin at a very early age – will crowd out other defense priorities. As DOD spending on the all-in personnel costs of the volunteer force approaches 70 percent of the defense budget annually, with the prospect of additional unchecked acceleration in the years ahead, it is clear that we are heading for a readiness and procurement catastrophe if causal factors are not addressed. Read more ..
|Rafe Morrissey||January 16th 2014|
Let’s face it, the U.S. Postal Service is facing a large financial problem, and everyone agrees that it must be fixed. However, the exigency rate increase on the price of postage, recently approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission, amounts to little more than a short-term stopgap measure. Even worse, it will ultimately cause further damage to the long-term viability of the Postal Service.
Sure, the agency might see some short-term increases in revenue. But in an industry already fraught with competitive pressures, it makes no sense to add another negative feature that will lead to lower mail volume levels, while failing to bring about comprehensive postal reform.
Under the law, the Postal Service is not allowed to raise prices above the rate of inflation unless there are serious exigent circumstances. These increases are meant to create better business in times of need, but unfortunately, this increase is not the silver bullet the Postal Service’s budget requires. It won’t solve the financial crisis, nor will it create a stronger product — just the opposite. Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Jessica Rosenworcei||January 15th 2014|
This past summer, Mary Thomas suffered a stroke in New York City. Ms. Thomas knew something was wrong and mustered up the strength to call 911. But the stroke had taken its toll. Her speech was slurred. She was unable to clearly tell the dispatcher — an emergency medical technician named Joann Hilman-Payne — where she was.
So the first responders turned to technology. The tower information for Ms. Thomas’s phone gave an address for the call. But the address was wrong. It turns out that on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, it can be easy to get lost. Lots of buildings, lots of floors, lots of apartments stacked high in the sky. In fact, first responders in New York followed several false leads trying to track the call. All in all, they searched for eight hours before they found Ms. Thomas.
This is an incredible story. Because thanks to the superhuman efforts of the EMT who stayed on the line — for a full straight eight hours — Ms. Thomas never lost consciousness and was taken to a hospital to recover. Like Ms. Thomas, there is one telephone number every one of us knows by heart but none of us ever hopes to use. That number is 911. Read more ..
|Ramesh Ponnuru||January 14th 2014|
On the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida proposed a conservative version of it.
His speech follows a much-publicized tour of poverty-stricken areas by Representative Paul Ryan and a proposal by Senator Rand Paul to revitalize depressed parts of the country. Suddenly, fighting poverty has become a theme of Republican rhetoric.
Republicans may be overestimating how much political benefit they can get from this new focus (the party’s real vulnerability is that people think it’s disconnected from the struggles of the middle class). But a reputation for indifference to poverty is unattractive, too -- and a concern for the poor has a moral importance beyond any political value it may have.
In creating an anti-poverty agenda, Republicans have a positive legacy on which to build. The most successful such initiatives of recent decades -- welfare reform and the earned income tax credit -- reflected conservative thinking and had conservative support. Read more ..
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