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The Way We Are

Citizen Take-Over of Albuquerque City Council Caps a Turbulent Week

May 7th 2014

A turbulent week in New Mexico’s biggest city climaxed on Cinco de Mayo with a historic citizen takeover of an Albuquerque City Council meeting, as a deepening governance and justice crisis kept testing the meanings of democracy, public safety and the rule of law in the United States of the early 21st century.

And at a time when public patience is reaching a breaking point over new officer-involved shootings, one of the biggest questions is: Can the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) make a difference in the management and accountability of Albuquerque’s police department? The answer to that question and much more was on the minds of many people who turned out for three well-attended public meetings sponsored by the DOJ in the Duke City during the past week. Read more ..


Inside Politics

James Madison and Partisanship

May 6th 2014

Whitehouse

Partisanship gets a bad rap these days, taking the blame for many problems in government, including turning citizens away from politics. A system wherein the Democratic Senate majority leader labels opponents “un-American” doesn’t exactly invite participation. Republican lawmakers are guilty, too. They could barely contain their glee when a journalist recently claimed that President Barack Obama has “a manhood problem in the Middle East.” Small wonder that even partisans feel obliged to denounce party spirit: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last month that partisanship is pushing the United States “backwards instead of forward.”

But James Madison, our fourth president and the father of the Constitution, thought partisanship had something to be said for it—a good deal, in fact. The American Republic hadn’t been in business long when Madison became concerned that it was losing its way. In 1791, President George Washington, over Madison’s objections, signed a bill chartering a national bank. It wasn’t that Madison, who was leading the House of Representatives, objected to such a bank. He thought one might well be useful. But the members of the Constitutional Convention just a few years earlier had decided not to give Congress the right to grant charters. If laws could be enacted in the absence of such authority, Madison wrote to a friend, “The parchment”—that is, the Constitution—“had better be thrown into the fire at once.” Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Still Hunting the KGB, After All These Years

May 5th 2014

Vladimir Putin, KGB recruit

Attention former KGB officers: If you were involved in rights abuses during Soviet times and find yourself in the United States, U.S. authorities may be looking for you.

For decades, the U.S. government has been ferreting out alleged Nazi war criminals and other purported rights violators leading quiet lives in the United States, deporting hundreds of individuals suspected of such abuses.

But U.S. immigration officials are also quietly pursuing potential cases against former KGB employees and collaborators who may have engaged in persecutions as part of the notorious Soviet secret police.

A spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would not specify how many of these investigations are pending, saying only that the number is “less than 10.”

The agency’s officers, however, “continue to monitor cases and information” on former KGB officials “who may have committed or assisted in human rights violations,” the spokesperson said.

The estimated number of KGB officers and employees prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992 ranges from nearly 500,000 to more than 700,000, according to the 1994 book “The State Within A State” by Russian journalist Yevgenia Albats, who has written extensively about Soviet security services.
Read more ..


Foreign Policy on Edge

The Myth of Fortress America

May 4th 2014

Military Hardware on Display

If you're reading the newspapers these days, it must seem like isolationism is the new black. Yesterday's headlines blared, "Americans Want to Retreat From World Stage, Poll Finds." Trouble is, it's not true. The poll didn't say it and a wealth of data shows that the public does not want to retreat into Fortress America.

Here are the facts: In the poll that drove the headlines on April 30, 47 percent of respondents said they want their country to be "less active in world affairs." Thirty percent favored the current level of activity, while 19 percent wanted the United States to be more active. No one said they wanted to "retreat from the world stage."

But there's more nuance here: Fully 55 percent of those polled agreed that "[w]e need a president who will present an image of strength that shows America's willingness to confront our enemies and stand up for our principles." Only 39 percent wanted a president who emphasized "a more open approach and is willing to negotiate with friends and foes alike." Read more ..


Broken Economy

Earned Income Tax Credit Does a Better Job of Lifting Workers from Poverty

May 4th 2014

Minimum wage protest

It is not at all hard to understand the fundamental economic logic of the minimum wage: By raising the minimum price of labor, you will decrease the amount of labor that employers want to purchase.

This logic is very appealing. I drink a lot of diet Coke. If the price of diet Coke went up 40 percent, I would drink a whole lot less of it. Why would the market for diet Coke be different than the market for labor?

Conservatives should acknowledge that that question has sensible answers. Perhaps instead of cutting back on workers, firms will simply increase prices. Perhaps firms will neither increase nor cut back on workers, but instead will make do with smaller profits.

Ultimately, this is an empirical question. And here again, we have disagreement among economists. A recent poll of some top academic economists asked them whether raising the minimum wage would make it "noticeably harder for low-skill workers to find employment." About one-third agreed, one-third disagreed, and one-quarter were uncertain. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

The Voice of One Terror Victim: "We Are Being Left On Our Own"

May 3rd 2014

Protest Tent

Amid conflicting reports on the Israeli government's intentions to release the fourth wave of Palestinian terrorists as part of peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, families of terror victims have not lost hope in their fight against what they believe is a destructive move for Israel, physically and morally.  

Protesting in front of the Prime Minister's office, Gila Molcho, sister of Ian Fienberg, who was hacked to death in Gaza 1993, told Tazpit News Agency: "Ian's murderers have already been released. They were sentenced to 90 years; one was let out in the first wave of releases, the other one in the second wave. Someone who was involved was released as part of the deal to release Gilad Shalit. On a personal level, my family has gone through this again and again; we are trying to relearn how to breathe." Read more ..


American Jewry on Edge

Thank You J Street--and You Too, Reform Movement--for Dividing the Community

May 2nd 2014

Malcolm Hoenlein

In the aftermath of being denied entry to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, J Street has fulfilled the predictions and warnings of those who foresaw divisiveness and petulance within the ranks had  J Street been admitted.

Rather than taking the vote as a sign that the organization had not yet become sufficiently established for the mainstream organizations to feel confident it would play nicely in the sandbox with others, J Street began a letter-writing campaign ridiculing the long-serving and highly respected executive vice president Malcolm Hoenlein. That campaign also attacked the manner in which the vote had been taken – a vote in accordance with the bylaws of the organization.

J Street lashed out at those who dared to apply the same rules to it as the Conference has applied to every other new member.

The sophomoric message J Street posted on its website sought to rebuke the Conference of Presidents, and to claim that the fact it was rejected proves its conceit:  its positions are bold, brave and absent from the Conference and the fact it was rejected proves its voice is needed.

J Street suggests that without its voice as an essential and robust part of the conversation, the Palestinian Arabs will continue to be victims of the Israeli aggressors and deprived of their rights to at least half of the sliver of land to which Israel is currently in control, either due to a global licence or as the result of a defensive war. The emptiness of those claims is revealed when one actually looks at the membership of the Conference of Presidents. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

John Kerry's Best Jewish Friends

May 2nd 2014

Click to select Image

Anti-Semitism is not a simple bigotry. It is a complex neurosis. It involves assigning malign intent to Jews where none exists on the one hand, and rejecting reason as a basis for understanding the world and operating within it on the other hand.

John Kerry’s recent use of the term “Apartheid” in reference to Israel’s future was an anti-Semitic act.

In remarks before the Trilateral Commission a few days after PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas signed a unity deal with the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups, Kerry said that if Israel doesn’t cut a deal with the Palestinians soon, it will either cease to be a Jewish state or it will become “an apartheid state.” Read more ..


The Health Edge

Up in Smoke: the Wrong Questions are Being Asked about Electronic Cigarettes

May 1st 2014

Click to select Image

Last week the Food and Drug Administration filled the regulatory vacuum surrounding electronic cigarettes, battery-powered devices that convert a solution of nicotine into a vapor. The agency draft regulations would ban sales to youths but allow flavorings and set a two-year timeframe for approval of existing vapor products.

Growing in popularity among smokers—about one in five tried an e-cigarette between 2010 and 2011, the latest years for which the Centers for Disease Control has data—the current market is estimated at $2.2 billion in the U.S., up from under $1 billion two years ago.

Reactions to the agency’s draft proposal prompted a fresh round of nervous commentary on the devices. And, much of it, though by no means all (The New York Times is a refreshing exception), gave greater consideration to the speculative harms surrounding e-cigarettes than to their considerable potential for benefit. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

The Obamacare Opportunity

April 28th 2014

Obamacare

Obamacare’s defenders are doing their best to sustain a triumphant mood these days. In the wake of the late-March surge in exchange enrollment, many proponents of the law have insisted it can no longer be rolled back. As the president put it in his April 1 Mission Accomplished speech announcing the enrollment figures, “The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.”

But just as conservative assertions that the law would collapse of its own weight were premature, so too are today’s liberal proclamations that the debate is over.

Clear-eyed opponents of Obamacare have long understood that once the Supreme Court upheld the law’s individual mandate and President Obama secured reelection in 2012, it was going to be extremely difficult to unwind Obamacare before 2017. The replacement of Obamacare is going to require a sustained political effort. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Want Energy Independence? Wave the Jones Act

April 27th 2014

LNG Tanker

Just how effective America’s economic sanctions against Russia become will depend in some measure on what the United States does to remove an obsolete law that threatens to stall domestic oil production at the very time when we need to strengthen our energy position in the world.

A continuing reluctance to repeal the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 – commonly referred to as the Jones Act – will weaken our response to Russia’s aggression. In the energy industry, the Jones Act is making it increasingly difficult to ship crude oil from Great Lakes and Gulf ports to refineries on the East Coast.

Because there isn’t enough pipeline or rail capacity to handle the enormous quantities of unconventional oil being produced in North America -- much of it oil-sands crude from Alberta and “tight oil” from the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota – the oil must be transported by a fleet of tankers and barges to mid-Atlantic refineries that can process it. But there aren’t enough vessels to ship the oil due to the Jones Act – which requires that all cargoes transported between U.S. ports be carried on U.S.-owned ships, built and registered in the U.S., and manned by U.S. crews. Read more ..


The Battle for Ukraine

U.S. Pretend Sanctions Against Russia

April 26th 2014

putin

Barack Obama today announced that 7 Russian and 4 Ukrainian citizens who will be sanctioned by the United States as retaliation for Russia's expected unlawful takeover of the Crimea.  This comes after Crimea's 95-percent-plus decision by referendum to leave Ukraine and join the Russian Federation, and before Russia's recognized Crimea's independence tonight.

Obama sees the Crimea referendum and Russia's recognition of the results as violations of international law. Thus he based the sanctions on the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) (IEEPA), and the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.). 

Earlier in the day, the EU declared sanctions on 21 people without mentioning their names.  Sources say that while there was undoubtedly an overlap between the U.S. and EU designation list, none of people designated by the EU were at the level of eminence of the top of the U.S. list. This comports with a general sense that the Europeans would be more inclined to keep the door open for dialogue. Read more ..


The Battle for the Ukraine

Russia: The Geopolitics of Natural Gas

April 24th 2014

Gas pipe line

Russia's economic weakness lies in its dependency on natural gas, which represents nearly 60 percent of its exports. This dependency, which led Senator John McCain to describe Russia as "a gas station masquerading as a country," should make economic sanctions an effective way for the West to stall or reverse Russian aggression in Crimea/Ukraine.  But since Russia presently commands some 38.7 percent of Europe's natural gas market, no one expects the Europeans to enforce biting sanctions. 

Russia's aggression in Ukraine seems to have waked up the Europeans to search for energy supplies that eventually will end that dependency. "Eventually" is the key word.  It will be a while before fracking develops and alternative sources will replace Russian gas. Meanwhile, Putin is ahead of the West in bolstering both current and potential markets for his natural gas and oil. The new venues will allow Russia to ignore Western sanctions and continue the absorption of neighboring territory. Read more ..


The Way We Are

A Key to College Success: Involved Dads

April 23rd 2014

Graduates

Proud parents try to snap photos of their kids at Harvard Business School's graduation ceremony. Gives new meaning to the term paparazzi.

This month, millions of high school seniors across America are making important decisions about which college they will attend for the next four years of their life. Based on my professional experience talking to high school students considering attending the University of Virginia, where I teach sociology, many of these seniors seem unaware of how much their chances of collegiate success depend not on their hard work or capabilities, but on whether their parents made certain sacrifices to support them over the years.

This brief essay focuses on one particular dimension of these parental investments: paternal involvement during adolescence. I find that young adults who as teens had involved fathers are significantly more likely to graduate from college, and that young adults from more privileged backgrounds are especially likely to have had an involved father in their lives as teens. Read more ..


Jewry on Edge

Harvard Students Make Time for Arafat, But Not to Honor Terror Victims

April 22nd 2014

Mahmoud Abbas and Yassir Arafat

The controversy over the Harvard University students who recently posed, smiling, at Yasser Arafat’s grave sent a shot of pain through every one of us who has lost a loved one in the terrorist attacks that Arafat and his allies have waged over the years.

But it must have been particularly awful for Dr. Alan Bauer, a Harvard-educated scientist, to see students from his own school smiling and enjoying their visit to the tombstone of the man responsible for the vicious attack that left Bauer and his 7-year-old son permanently maimed.

Bauer and his son Jonathan were walking on King George Street in downtown Jerusalem on March 21, 2002, when a terrorist from Arafat’s Fatah movement blew himself up. His explosive device was packed with metal spikes and nails, in order to inflict the maximum amount of pain and destruction and the defenseless Israeli civilians walking by. Three passersby were killed, 87 were wounded. Dr. Bauer and Jonathan were hit by multiple metal projectiles. Two of the metal spikes penetrated little Jonathan’s brain.

Read more ..

The Battle for Ukraine

The Real Red Line in Ukraine

April 21st 2014

Click to select Image

Recorded history is generally a straight-line narrative, often written with prejudice, and as the cliché has it, by the victors.

Only those involved in writing it, or more importantly, living through it, know the many cross-currents that, because they do not present a clear picture of events, defy immediate balanced analysis. These truths apply to any moment in history but particularly to those when violent events or revolutionary technology changes the pattern of life for everyone. We are obviously in one of those periods on several scores by any calculation. Read more ..


The Edge of Crime

Kansas Hate Crime Didn’t Emerge From a Vacuum

April 21st 2014

AntiSemitism Protest

When you look at the image of Frazier Glenn Cross, AKA Glenn Miller, the shooter who cold-bloodedly murdered three Christians in a bloody eve-of-Passover spree at two Jewish community buildings in Overland Park, Kan., what do you see?

I’ll tell you what I see. The dead-eyed stare, the pasty, blotched skin and lousy teeth, the unkempt facial hair—this is exactly the kind of face we associate with anti-Semitic and racist thuggery. In the 20th century, Cross could have been a concentration camp guard, wearing his ignorant, vulgar sneer as he shoved his Jewish victims into a gas chamber, screaming barely literate, anti-Semitic epithets along the way. Read more ..


Broken Government

We Don't Need Another "Bridge to Nowhere"

April 20th 2014

Traffic Jam

This view may be surprising given the usual rhetoric that infrastructure spending is a good thing because roads, bridges, airports, and the like significantly contribute to America’s prosperity by facilitating our access to the workplace, shopping, and leisure activities, as well as giving employers easy access to labor, capital, and potential consumers. But in practice, transportation policy is so inefficient that infrastructure spending fails to generate the large promised benefits.

Suppose the government wants to spend a large sum of money to increase employment and spur economic growth — a “stimulus.” The guiding principle for that use of taxpayer dollars should be to maximize the benefits to society per job created. Unfortunately, that won’t be the case if government seeks to create jobs by increasing spending on transportation infrastructure.

There are clear ways to know what new infrastructure is actually needed. Every time Americans use a road, airport, or even cross a bridge, we don’t actually pay for the congestion we cause. That gives policy makers the misleading impression that it is necessary to build new roads, airports, urban transit — and even a high-speed rail system! — to reduce delays. Read more ..


NATO on Edge

NATO is Irreplaceable, But Must Quickly Shore Up Its Military Might

April 18th 2014

NATO meeting

It wasn't that many weeks ago in both Europe and in the United States that meetings were being held to discuss what the agenda might be for the coming NATO summit in early September in Wales.

Indeed, the conversation about what was next for the alliance following the end of the allied combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014 had the subtext of "we're not sure." NATO once again looked like an alliance in search of a mission to justify its continued existence. However, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea and Putin's continuing belligerent and revanchist rhetoric, NATO's security guarantees to Eastern and Central European allies are no longer just pledges on a paper.

NATO's relevance to American and Western security is not a new question. At the end of the Cold War, there were numerous voices here and on the continent doubting NATO's continued importance. With no overriding Soviet threat to hold capitals together, how, it was asked, would NATO ever be able to act in concert? Read more ..


America on Edge

Bill Maher, Comedian or Bigot?

April 17th 2014

Armstrong_Williams

Comedy has many approaches and subjects:  leaders, governments, things we don't understand.  In the vein of the latter, I suppose it is understandable to pick on religions.  In any event, freedom of speech allows it. What is generally not condoned, however, is continuous and repeated sweeping insults to those with a differing point of view. The worst forms of prejudice and racism are bred out of this type of one-sided banter. Blacks in this country were never given the chance to defend themselves against claims of being less intelligent than whites during the time of slavery. Jews and non-Aryans were never given a chance to defend their humanity during the Holocaust, Muslims were never given a chance to defend themselves during the Crusades and on and on.
 
Whenever a group of people is slanderously described repeatedly with no consideration of a contrary view intolerance flourishes, and the seedbed of human rights violations is laid.  We should be more careful.  Our country still feels the effects of slavery, the Holocaust is an unmentionable tragedy, and even the most fervent Christian regrets the Crusades.  How is it then, that in this country we still hear this sort of rhetoric from seemingly intelligent men?  Why is it that yet another group is being subjected to one-sided slander?  Is it because comedians and some members of the more serious media are only willing to pick on people who generally don’t defend themselves?
 
This time the group is Christians, and one of the more recent incidents of this malevolent behavior came from Bill Maher.  He’s been known to go on rants, but he made another one recently.  I’m certainly not advocating that Mr. Maher be stripped of his first amendment rights, but I'd prefer he show some humanity and attack the belief system rather than the adherents.  I can appreciate an equal opportunity comedian, but when the focus is monomaniacally focused, it breeds the sort of prejudice that divides people and sanctions prejudice.  I hope these are not things that Bill Maher desires and that he simply didn’t realize the historical similarities, but that is the danger. Read more ..

China Rising

Asia in New Turmoil

April 16th 2014

New hires to Chinese military

Rather suddenly there is a welter of developments turning Asia's dozen-odd countries into a cat's cradle of conflicting interests-some new-that could lead to war.

Central, of course, is a "rising" China. The Chinese, themselves, have given up the phrase "a peaceful rising". That was a promise that the new boy on the block would not repeat of a united Germany's late arrival as a strong player in Europe, setting off two world wars. Now almost daily aggressive rhetoric in official Chinese media is matched by extravagant territorial claims against its neighbors in northeast and southeast Asia coupled with a rapid naval buildup. Infringement of the cease-fire lines in the Himalayas accompanies temporary military thrusts against Indian forces.

China's only ally in the region, North Korea-dependent on Beijing aid for its very existence-has turned even more enigmatic. A highly publicized-unusual in such frequent eruptions-purging of its No. 2 leader is inexplicable even to the experts. Its tightly controlled media showed Jang Song Thaek being yanked off to prison. Then the uncle by marriage to the 31-year-old Kim Jong-Un, third member of the Kim dynasty, was summarily executed. Read more ..


The Bear is Back

The Cool War

April 15th 2014

Russian privates on parade

There is presently about as much confusion as when the U.S. entered The Cold War against the Soviet Union in the late 1940s. But there are fundamental defining differences to what is likely to be an equally long and complex new struggle between the U.S., its allies and Moscow.

The two engagements do share one commonality: American leadership now as then has been slow to face up to the task before it. It’s far too easy now to forget just how many times Josef Stalin signaled his forthcoming unrelenting war on The West before democratic statesmen understood what they faced and mobilized to meet it. [And here,
mea culpa. I admit shamefacedly as a young, idealistic, naïve student I wrote a U of Mo Jay School classroom harangue [alas! printed in the Columbia Missourian] denouncing Winston Churchill’s March 1946 “Sinews of Peace” speech, at nearby Westminster College. Back from our victorious however bloody war in Europe and Asia, I was sure like most that a new era of relations among nations had begun, that the old balance of power collisions were now a thing of the past. It was then, of course, the British statesmen who whatever his numerous strategic mistakes this time with great clarity defined the issues and coined the term “iron curtain”.] Read more ..


Broken Government

How the U.S. Government Funds Conversion to Islam with Taxpayer Money

April 14th 2014

The Czech government has approved a new project aimed at promoting Islam in public elementary and secondary schools across the country.

The project—Muslims in the Eyes of Czech Schoolchildren—is being spearheaded by a Muslim advocacy group and is being financed by American taxpayers through a grant from the US Embassy in Prague. (The US State Department is also promoting Islam in other European countries.)

The group says the Czech Ministry of Education has authorized it to organize lectures and seminars aimed at "teaching Czech schoolchildren about Islamic beliefs and practices" and at "fighting stereotypes and prejudices about Muslims."

But critics—there are many—say the project's underlying objective is to convert non-Muslim children to Islam by bringing proselytizing messages into public schools under the guise of promoting multiculturalism and fighting "Islamophobia." Read more ..


Defense on Edge

Feinstein vs the CIA

April 13th 2014

Dianne Feinstein (sen,ca,d)

There’s open warfare going on in Washington these days between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee.

On one side, the Senate Intelligence Committee, under Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), is accusing the CIA of lying to Congress and the American people about the torture program it conducted under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, and of hacking into allegedly secure computers used by Senate staff in their investigation of the CIA. For its part, the CIA, under Director John Brennan, is accusing committee staff of stealing sensitive documents and exaggerating the frequency and level of violence associated with its use of torture. Each side has petitioned the attorney general to investigate possible illegal activity by the other.

Things got personal this weekend when former CIA Director Michael Hayden, appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” accused Feinstein of being too “emotional” to conduct an objective investigation of the CIA. It was an insensitive comment, and demonstrates not only how sexist the agency is, but how quickly it’s turned on a senator who has long been its staunchest defender.

The war escalated further Thursday when the Senate Intelligence Committee, by a lopsided bipartisan vote of 11-3, voted to make public almost 500 pages of its report, which exposes torture methods employed by the CIA between 2001 and 2006 at secret prisons overseas as both excessively cruel and failing to produce any valuable intelligence. Score one for Feinstein. Read more ..


The Edge of Sport

The Exploitation of College Athletes

April 10th 2014

Armstrong_Williams

Last week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decided to let college football players at Northwestern University unionize. Usually I am not in favor of unions, but clearly something must be done to change the way college athletes get compensated for their services. Today, thousands of college athletes throughout the country are exploited by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and College Universities. Despite bringing in millions of dollars for their school and the NCAA, college athletes receive almost nothing in return.
 
Sure, some college athletes get scholarships, but the ones that do don’t even receive enough compensation to cover the cost of attending school. Some of the college athletes we are talking about here can’t even afford to buy their own jerseys. They walk around campus in sweatpants and flip-flops and eat ramen noodle soap for dinner because they can’t afford anything better.

If you are one of the talented athletes who do receive a full ride scholarship, you only receive three meals a day in the cafeteria. As a hard-working athlete, three meals a day in the cafeteria is not enough food, but anything outside of the cafeteria must be purchased out of pocket.

Many of these college athletes are African American and come from poverty-stricken communities. Last year, the National College Players Association released a report called “The Price of Poverty in Big Time College Sports.” Their report concluded that 86% of college athletes live below the poverty line. Read more ..


Broken Elections

North Carolina Report Proves the Dead Come to Life for Election Day

April 9th 2014

Click to select Image

Kim Strach, Elections Director to the North Carolina Joint Legislative Oversight Committee, presented a report recently that reflected 81 voters have had voter history later than their date of death.

The audit report also identified 13,416 deceased voters still on state rolls in October, 2013. And the report also showed 155,692 registered North Carolina voters whose first and last names, dates of birth and last four digits of their Social Security numbers match those of voters registered in other states, but who most recently registered and voted in another state.

All total, 35,750 voters with matching first and last names and dates of birth were registered in North Carolina and another state, and voted in both states in the 2012 general election. Another 765 voters with an exact match of first and last name, date of birth and last four Social Security digits were registered and voted in the 2012 general election. Read more ..


The Race for Natural Gas

Discussion of Natural Gas Fracking Fails to Consider Toxic Effect to Air Quality

April 8th 2014

People in natural gas drilling areas who complain about nauseating odors, nosebleeds and other symptoms they fear could be caused by shale development usually get the same response from state regulators: monitoring data show the air quality is fine.

A new study helps explain this discrepancy. The most commonly used air monitoring techniques often underestimate public health threats because they don’t catch toxic emissions that spike at various points during gas production, researchers reported Tuesday in the peer-reviewed journal Reviews on Environmental Health. The study was conducted by the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, a nonprofit based near Pittsburgh. Read more ..


Broken Government

Lobbyist Bundlers, Not Rich Donors, Soil Political Money

April 7th 2014

sheldon adelson

Rich people can now donate more money to politicians, thanks to the First Amendment and the U.S. Supreme Court. The court’s ruling in McCutcheon v Federal Election Commission won’t change politics much. But it ought to spur Congress to clean up our cluttered and counterproductive campaign finance restrictions.

The court, in McCutcheon, struck down federal limits on how much a donor can give, in aggregate, to party committees and candidates for federal office. So if some misguided millionaire wants to give a few thousand to candidates in all 34 Senate races and all 435 House races, now he can. This is a minor victory for the First Amendment, striking down a useless and piddling burden on political speech. The court, however, didn’t touch the most counterproductive campaign finance law: the $5,200-per-election-cycle maximum to any one candidate. Read more ..


Broken Government

A Budget for Working America

April 6th 2014

Workers Memorial Day protest

To hear corporate America tell it, our economic recovery is going great. The top 1 percent of earners saw their incomes grow by 31.4 percent from 2009-2012. Oil companies are seeing record profits.

Unfortunately, that’s not the recovery — or the economy — working people are seeing.

The “bottom” 99 percent — that is, the vast majority of working people in this country — saw their incomes grow by only 0.4 percent in that same time span. Poverty and income inequality remain at record highs. We’re not taking care of working America.

That’s why we need a federal budget that reflects real public needs. The Congressional Progressive Caucus just introduced its Better Off Budget proposal to provide the working people of America the voice they need in Washington. We hope they take a careful look.

The budget takes a lot of common-sense steps. It makes sure America’s infrastructure, which hasn’t been repaired in decades and requires $3.6 trillion to simply bring up to standard, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, is fixed and modernized. Read more ..


Inside Politics

Baseball and the GOP

April 5th 2014

Detroit voters

“When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, the big-league ball players and the toughest boxers. Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time.” — Gen. George S. Patton

It is American as apple pie — sports is part of our cultural makeup. And in politics, just as in baseball, playing the full season could lead to playoff wins in 2014. Played well, this could give the GOP a better chance of winning the World Series of politics: the presidency in 2016.

The preseason was the period between the 2012 elections and now. The season began March 4 in Texas with its primary and runs all the way through August, followed by the playoffs in one crucial day, Nov. 4. The GOP must play the full political season. Read more ..


Broken Economy

The Long-Lasting Damage of a National Wage

April 4th 2014

Minimum wage protest

Progressives are practically united in supporting an increase in the national minimum wage. The only disagreement is by how much: President Obama proposes raising the national minimum wage by almost 40 percent over the next few years to $10.10 per hour and indexing it to inflation thereafter. Other progressives favor a higher $15 "living wage." Conservatives and most economists oppose raising the minimum wage because it will price low-skilled workers out of the job market, cutting the bottom rung on the ladder of economic opportunity. But there is one important issue that both groups may have overlooked - and that's the "one-size-fits-all" nature of the minimum wage.

Note that we call it the national minimum wage. It's a federally-mandated minimum wage that applies universally across the country; in cities, suburbs and rural communities; in places where the cost of living is high, such as Washington and New York, and in the countless small towns where the cost of living is far lower. And it's partly this uniform, "one-size-fits-all" feature of a national minimum wage that guarantees that it won't work well at all in thousands of America's low-cost communities Read more ..


America on Edge

It’s Time For The Poor To Pull Their Own Weight

April 4th 2014

Armstrong Williams Headshot

All too often, rich individuals in this country are demonized for simply being rich. If some sort of financial catastrophe happens, such as the latest recession in 2009, the rich are to blame. If the government is running large deficits, the rich are not paying their “fair share”. If an individual is poor and cannot find employment, it is because the rich hoard all their profits and don’t share with anyone else. It’s time to set the record straight by looking at the facts. The top 1% of all individual income earners in this country pay nearly37% of all federal income taxes. The top 50% of individuals pay98% of all federal income taxes.

The so called “greedy corporations” and big businesses get it even worse. The current corporate tax rate on big business in the United States is the highest in the industrial world, set at 39.1%. Despite providing work for over 45% of American citizens and contributing to 65% of new jobs created in America, big businesses get punished with the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world. They certainly pay their “fair share” and then some.
The poor on the other hand, defined as the bottom 50% of income earners, pay essentially no federal income taxes. Many of these poorer Americans enroll in Medicare and receive free healthcare. If they don’t qualify for Medicare they can now, thanks to Obamacare, receive taxpayer funded federal subsidies to pay their own healthcare expenses. But this is not all government does; it also provides funding for poorer American’s food. Today, one out of every six Americans receives food stamps. Recently renamed SNAP or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the federal government now spends almost $80 billion helping feed the poor. Read more ..


The New York Edge

It Was Never a Great 'Recession' in New York

April 3rd 2014

New York skyline dusk

Sometimes success creates a problem. That's what happened in New York City with housing and homelessness.

New York's housing market is very strong. The median price for a new condo in Manhattan rose to $1.73 million during the first quarter of 2014, up more than 30.6 percent from the first quarter of 2013, according to a market report from the real estate firm Douglas Elliman. Across the East River, the median price for a Brooklyn home reached $570,110, up 11 percent from a year earlier. The average monthly rent in Bushwick, a central Brooklyn neighborhood, which as recently as the 1970s was a filled with vacant buildings, jumped 8.2 percent to $2,005. "Bedford Stuyvesant is unbelievably hot," one broker told the Daily News, referring to a part of Brooklyn that once was called a slum.

And the people keep coming. For the third consecutive year, New York City's population gained more than it lost through migration. For the year ending July 1, 2013, the combination of more move-ins with fewer move-outs led to the city gaining more than 60,000 residents. At 8.4 million people the city is now at its all-time high. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Google Juggles Public Image and Security Snooping

April 2nd 2014

google logo

Google is working hard to repair the damage to their public image, wisely doing so by criticizing various defense organizations. Over the last few months the American intelligence organizations got their fair share of bad publicity: The U.S. Senate, Congress and even the White House gave them the cold shoulder, and their status in the eyes of the U.S. and global public is at an all time low. Google came to the conclusion that the enemy of the public's enemy is the public's friend, right? Or at least that's how it looks.

Last Thursday Google stated on its official blog that since transparency is such an important issue for the company, it's also important for them to inform the public about the way intelligence and law enforcement agencies significantly increased the amount of requests for private information. Google, they claim, provided only partial data, in addition to making it very difficult for the agencies (who, by the way, approached them with court orders) to get the information. The blog writer, apparently very concerned, added that countries even began to use their legal authority to demand access to information (what? Google isn't above the law!). This deliberate attempt at disinformation is simply amazing. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

One Man's J'Accuse to the State Department

March 31st 2014

Suicide Bombing--Sbarro

The son-in-law of Osama bin Laden has been found guilty of conspiracy to kill American citizens.

Suleiman Abu Ghaith was arrested in Jordan last year, sent to the US and tried in New York. While the US introduced one witness who admitted that he did not know if the accused was aware of planned “shoe bombing” airplane attacks, the majority of US evidence was based on videos of Abu Ghaith exhorting Muslims to attack America and that “the storm of planes” would not stop.

The issue of Abu Ghaith’s arrest, prosecution, and conviction based primarily on video evidence is extremely important. As I wrote previously, the woman who thought up, planned, organized, and executed (even walking with the bomber and his guitar case bomb to the restaurant) the attack at the Sbarro Pizzeria in Jerusalem in August, 2001 seems to be the mirror image of Abu Ghaith, with one significant caveat. Abu Ghaith was found guilty of conspiracy to kill Americans. Ahlam Tamimi, on the other hand, actually did kill American citizens—two of them, with three more badly wounded. Yet Abu Ghaith is in jail and Tamimi has a talk-show in Amman. The question is why? Read more ..


The 2016 Election

Adelson All In for 2016

March 30th 2014

sheldon adelson

It’s great news for Jeb Bush, the entire Republican Party and even embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, but it stinks for Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, and Hillary Clinton as well. Casino mogul and Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, a decisive factor in the last Republican presidential primary, has given up on “crazy.” After backing former Speaker Newt Gingrich in the 2012 nominating battle, Adelson is going mainstream, and plans to back a pragmatic, less ideological candidate with broad appeal who can win a general election.

Prospects seeking the support of Adelson and his wife, Miriam, who are currently hosting 2016 presidential hopefuls at the spring meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition at the Venetian in Las Vegas, must be conservative and strong on Israel, but purists need not apply. Attendees at this week’s event include Christie and Bush, the former Florida governor, along with Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio — just a few of the players campaigning in what is now known as the “Sheldon primary.” Read more ..


America's Darkest Edge

Leland Yee, the Kochs, and the Press

March 29th 2014

Guns for sale

Leland Yee, a Democratic state senator and candidate for secretary of state in California, has been a longtime champion of gun control. This week he was arrested on numerous charges, including conspiracy to deal firearms without a license and conspiracy to illegally transport firearms. Yee, a prominent foe of assault weapons, allegedly took bribes to set up a meeting between an undercover agent and an international arms dealer to broker the sale of automatic weapons and shoulder-fired missiles. A lengthy FBI affidavit also describes Yee’s ties to a Chinese triad and his desire to help out Islamist militants. In short, the story makes for what journalists call “good copy.”

And yet, so far no reporter has raised the possibility that Yee supported tighter restrictions on guns in order to keep gun prices high and his own services in demand. Economist Bruce Yandle popularized the idea of the “Bootleggers and Baptists” coalition. The apocryphal Baptists want to ban alcohol. Bootleggers don’t make much money when liquor can be bought legally at a grocery store or bar. So the bootleggers bankroll the Baptists’ effort to ban booze. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Putin is Hoisted by His Own Petard in Crimea Crisis

March 28th 2014

Ukraine protest

Western leaders increased pressure on Russia on March 24, suspending the country's membership at the G8 in response to Moscow's annexation of Crimea. Diplomats also canceled an upcoming June summit in Sochi, relocating the G7 meeting to Brussels. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the diplomatic restriction was not a big deal and another senior Kremlin advisor voiced similarly dismissive views over newly enacted economic sanctions.

Despite the tone from Russian officials, anecdotal evidence indicates the restrictions are impacting the behavior of Russian elites. Oil tycoon, Gennady Timchenko, had to sell his 43% ownership in Gunvor Group, a Geneva energy trading firm, hours after Washington decided to blacklist him from engaging in dollar transactions. Additionally, the German defense firm Rheinmetall, has suspended a $140 million dollar contract to build a training camp for Russian military forces. Read more ..


Broken Government

The Political Purposes of Speaker Boehner's Salty Language

March 28th 2014

Click to select Image

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) can be a salty guy.

The barkeeper’s son has a fondness for profanity, whether he’s on the House floor or a stone’s throw from the Oval Office, snapping at colleagues in private or voicing outrage on television.

The Speaker has dropped the F-bomb on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), called multiple Republicans “assholes” and raised “hell” about countless Obama administration proposals and decisions. In public, Boehner’s obscenities tend to be in the PG-13 vein, rather than rated R. Read more ..


Islam in America

NYC Schools Consider Student Halal Meals with no Kosher Equivalent

March 27th 2014

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Proposed legislation was introduced into New York City Council to require that the city’s public schools provide Islamic-compliant food – halal – as an option in the cafeterias. The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) joined forces with council member Rafael L. Espinal, Jr. (Brooklyn) to support Resolution 54 at a press conference on the steps of New York City Hall on Wednesday, March 26.

Fourteen other city councilmembers co-sponsored Espinal’s Resolution.

The Resolution goes into explicit detail about what Islamic-observant students are permitted to eat and what they must avoid eating, as well as stating who made those determinations. To wit: Read more ..



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