|Andrew G. Biggs and Mark J. Perry||April 4th 2014|
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
|Armstrong Williams||April 4th 2014|
Cutting Edge conservative commentator
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
|Robert Doar||April 3rd 2014|
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
|Natalie Novitski||April 2nd 2014|
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
|Alan Joseph Bauer||March 31st 2014|
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
|A.B. Stoddard||March 30th 2014|
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
|Jonah Goldberg||March 29th 2014|
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
|Alex Finkelstein||March 28th 2014|
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 ..
|Russell Berman||March 28th 2014|
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
|Lori Lowenthal Marcus||March 27th 2014|
The Jewish Press
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 ..
Africa on Edge
|Avi Jorisch||March 27th 2014|
Cutting Edge Commentator
Transnational criminal syndicates, terrorist organizations and Islamic extremists are increasingly turning to wildlife trafficking to bankroll their operations. Specifically, elephant and rhinoceros ivory accounts for an increasing share of the budget of Somali militant groups and al-Qaeda affiliates. So far, the White House and international agencies have failed to effectively address this emerging threat.
The United Nations has categorized trafficking in wildlife products as a "serious crime" in order to protect the animals that produce ivory. Nevertheless, their tusks are in demand throughout Africa, Asia and the West.
Wildlife poaching is lucrative, yielding an estimated $19 billion annually. The only other illicit industries that generate more money are drugs, counterfeiting and human trafficking. A kilogram of elephant ivory commands about $2,000, and the same amount of rhino horn fetches $65,000. The enormous sums of money involved, coupled with trans-African corruption, extreme poverty, poor law enforcement capabilities and weak judicial enforcement, have led to a thriving illicit market. Read more ..
Confronting J Street
|Mort Klein||March 26th 2014|
Read more ..
J Street describes itself as Zionist, pro-Israel, pro-peace and supporting the “peace camp” in Israel. Yet J Street has consistently taken positions to the left of the Israeli Labor Party.
In a Washington Post op-ed in May 2008, entitled, ’5 Myths About Being Pro-Israel,’ Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street’s Executive Director, asserted that “forging a healthy friendship with Israel requires bursting some myths about what it means to be pro-Israel.” Despite the fact that successive Israeli governments have offered major concessions but have all refused to go as far is J Street in seeking to appease its Arab enemies, J Street simply insists on having Israel pressured to conform to its vision. Ben-Ami rhetorically claims that true friendship demands this (“Would a true friend not only let you drive home drunk but offer you their Porsche and a shot of tequila for the road?”). The not-so-subtle implication is that Israel is not a sovereign power responding to the will of its electorate, but rather a reckless teenager who needs to be brought to heel by a stern guardian.
Obama's Second Term
|Bill Press||March 25th 2014|
If you needed proof that Congress is more politicized than ever before, here it is: the Senate’s failure to confirm Dr. Vivek Murthy, President Obama’s nominee for surgeon general. I’ve talked with many lawmakers and lobbyists. Looking back, nobody can remember such organized opposition to any prospective surgeon general — a post which, after all, has no power.
Nor has there ever been, perhaps, a more qualified candidate. Murthy is a practicing physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and an instructor at Harvard Medical School. A national leader in HIV prevention and education, he also founded Doctors for America, bringing 16,000 doctors and medical students together in support of the Affordable Care Act. He has the support of more than 50 healthcare organizations, including the American Public Health Association. He’d be the first Indian-American to serve as surgeon general. Read more ..
Islam in America
|Lori Lowenthal Marcus ||March 23rd 2014|
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. (D-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:
Whereas, The practice of Islam is determined by the Islamic teachings as guided by the holy book Quran and the Hadith, and sayings of the Prophet Mohammad, which includes observing dietary laws; and Whereas, Islamic dietary laws delineate foods that are halal, meaning lawful or permitted, and those that are haram, meaning not permitted; and Whereas, Haram foods include pork and its by-products, meat and poultry not slaughtered according to the Islamic dietary law, alcohol and foods prepared with and containing alcohol, foods containing blood and blood by-products, and foods containing whey prepared with non-microbial enzyme, rennet, animal shortening, monoglycerides and diglycerides from an animal source, sodium stearoyl lactylate, and L-cysteine. Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|Brent Budowski||March 20th 2014|
On March 31 the enrollment period for ObamaCare will end, hopefully with nearly 6 million customers signed up. On April 1 President Obama should announce the enrollment period will be extended for three months and begin the largest marketing campaign in the history of healthcare with a mobilization of the stars of sports, song and cinema. If this happens, enrollments will soar past the 7 million mark and dramatically increase the ratio of younger and healthier customers enrolled.
Memo to Democrats: Right now we are barely fighting — and are largely losing — the political war being waged against ObamaCare. The outcome of the midterm elections is far from clear, with GOP incumbents as unpopular as Democratic incumbents, but there is grave danger of electoral catastrophe facing Democrats in November. Read more ..
The Battle for Ukraine
|Jacob Kamaras||March 19th 2014|
Jewish News Service
Crimea’s Chabad Rabbi Yitzchak Meyer Lipszyc escaped Crimea with his wife – and a Torah scroll – on the last train that left the area before the Russian sealed it off.
“The main action in Crimea was taking place right across the street from our synagogue,” said Rabbi Lipszyc, who has been a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in Simferopol, the capital of Crimea, for more than two decades. “There were demonstrations with over 30,000 people. The protestors were pro-Ukrainian. But eventually the ones who took over were in the unidentified uniforms—they were obviously Russian military. There was Cossacks there too; for Jews that was a bit scary because of their history in the pogroms.” Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Tom Gantert||March 19th 2014|
Michigan Capitol Confidential
The teachers union contract in Ferndale Public Schools in Oakland County, Michigan, gives "special consideration" to applicants that are of "the non-Christian faith."
Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in employment and public services on the basis of religion. The state constitution says it, "shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting." And the Federal Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination based on religion.
The contract ran from 2011 to 2012 but was extended to 2017. The teachers belong to the Ferndale Education Association, a division of the Michigan Education Association.
Regarding promotion to a vacant position, it states on page 22: Read more ..
The Battle for Ukraine
|Rachel Ehrenfeld||March 18th 2014|
Barack Obama announced that 7 Russian and 4 Ukrainian citizens 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.). Read more ..
China on Edge
|Sol W. Sanders||March 17th 2014|
The shudder that relatively minor bad news from China sent through world markets last week was a warning that the halcyon days of Beijing's economy are over. Indeed, reluctantly because of self-interest and wishful thinking, a universal consensus finally is emerging that the Chinese economy is in deep trouble, a crisis that could perhaps overturn the regime itself.
The cardinal indicator is that the Chinese economy is slowing down. How much, how fast, which sectors, is all open to speculation given the notorious unreliability of Beijing statistics. But certainly we long ago dipped below that 8% minimal annual gross national product growth rate which once was accepted inside and outside the Middle Kingdom as the requirement for political stability. Read more ..
Israel on Edge
Question #1: Does Israel have a right to exist?
There seems to be a double-standard when it comes to how Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Palestinian Authority's erstwhile President, Mahmoud Abbas -- now in the tenth year of his four-year term -- are treated by the Obama White House, as well as by many journalists.
While Netanyahu is humiliated, insulted, threatened, and told that he must make "painful concessions" for peace, such as releasing more than 100 terrorists merely to get the Palestinians to come to a negotiating table, Abbas – a facilitator and supporter of these terrorists – is treated with kid gloves, and with Obama virtually begging him to visit. Read more ..
Saudi Arabia on Edge
|Bruce Riedel||March 15th 2014|
Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud’s visit this week to China — his second major state trip this year to Asia — underscores the kingdom’s pivot to the east. Long before the American pivot, Saudi Arabia has reoriented its economic and political priorities to South and East Asia.
Salman arrived in Beijing on March 13 for his first visit to China. Last month, the crown prince visited Pakistan, Japan, India and the Maldives. The two state visits symbolize the kingdom’s growing role in the economies of all five states. Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, now sells more than two-thirds of it oil to markets in south and east Asia. Saudi trade and investment are increasingly directed toward Asian markets rather than Europe or America.
Saudi Arabia’s turn to the east began almost a decade ago. King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz’s first foreign trip after becoming king was to India and China in January 2006. It was also the first ever visit by a Saudi monarch to China. At the time, Saudi officials cited the trip at a symbol of the kingdom’s growing interest in Asia’s two largest emerging economies. Saudi Arabia is today China’s largest trading partner in the Middle East. Read more ..
Vladimir Putin is a man who sees his mission as the Russian state’s recovery of political, economic, social, cultural and geostrategic assets that were lost in the Soviet collapse—this mission I’ve dubbed the “Putin doctrine.” Domestically, it means re-establishing the state’s control over (and maybe even ownership of) politics, Russia’s legal system, the economy’s “commanding heights” (first and foremost, oil and gas) and the national cultural narrative.
In foreign policy, the Putin doctrine means more muscular, more assertive, at times even aggressive, policies with respect to the geostrategic triad essential to Russia’s national identity: nuclear superpowership, defined by Putin as incompatible with strategic missile defense anywhere near Russian borders; Russia as a great power, which he interprets largely in opposition to the West and, especially, the United States; and dominance, even hegemony, in the post-Soviet space (minus the Baltics), specifically a veto over former satellites’ foreign and defense policies and alliances. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|W. Bradford Wilcox||March 13th 2014|
In the wake of the divorce revolution that swept Europe and the Americas over the last half-century, Pope Francis-who celebrates his one-year anniversary this week-is convening a major synod of the world's bishops this fall in Rome to retool the Catholic Church's message and ministry to families. One of the top items on their agenda is to reconsider the Church's approach to the divorced and remarried. Many voices-including a majority of the Catholic laity who have been polled on these issues around the world-are calling on Francis and the Church to accommodate this revolution by, among other things, dispensing with any rules that sanction divorce and remarriage in the Church.
The accommodationist position got a seeming boost from a recent University of Texas study, which found that divorce was higher among Evangelicals and counties with lots of Evangelicals in the United States. For many in the media, the takeaway was not only that any religious efforts to resist the divorce revolution are doomed to failure, but can actually be counterproductive today insofar as they encourage strategies to family life that are ill-suited to the times. Indeed, a headline in the Nation asked "Is Conservative Christianity Bad for Marriage?", with the article answering in the affirmative. Read more ..
Israel on Edge
|Alan Dershowitz||March 12th 2014|
Why are so many of the grandchildren of Nazis and Nazi collaborators who brought us the Holocaust once again declaring war on the Jews?
Why have we seen such an increase in anti-Semitism and irrationally virulent anti-Zionism in western Europe?
To answer these questions, a myth must first be exposed. That myth is the one perpetrated by the French, the Dutch, the Norwegians, the Swiss, the Belgians, the Austrians, and many other western Europeans: namely that the Holocaust was solely the work of German Nazis aided perhaps by some Polish, Ukrainian, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Estonian collaborators.
The Holocaust was perpetrated by Europeans — by Nazi sympathizers and collaborators among the French, Dutch, Norwegians, Swiss, Belgians, Austrians and other Europeans, both Western and Eastern.
If the French government had not deported to the death camps more Jews than their German occupiers asked for; if so many Dutch and Belgian citizens and government officials had not cooperated in the roundup of Jews; if so many Norwegians had not supported Quisling; if Swiss government officials and bankers had not exploited Jews; if Austria had not been more Nazi than the Nazis, the Holocaust would not have had so many Jewish victims. Read more ..
The Violent Roads of Mexico
|Kent Paterson||March 12th 2014|
Forced displacements and disappearances. Vietnam-style strategic hamlets. Death flights over the Pacific. All this and more terrorized the mountain communities near Acapulco, Mexico, during the years when the resort was reaching its apex as a favored international destination for fun-seeking beach lovers in the early and mid-1970s. In response to a popular guerrilla insurgency, the Mexican army and security forces escalated what became known as the Dirty War.
“There was a lot of sadism and brutality,” said Hilda Navarette, commissioner for the Guerrero State Truth Commission, an offical organism created by the Guerrero State Congress in 2012 to probe the Dirty War and unravel the truth about hundreds of still missing people. Read more ..
|David Byrd ||March 12th 2014|
This week marks the 25th anniversary of the invention of the World Wide Web. What started as a way for scientists to share research has changed life worldwide forever.
In March 1989, British scientist Tim Berners-Lee was working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, in Switzerland.
Scientists would come to CERN from all over the world, but others could not view their research because their computers were not compatible. Berners-Lee thought it would be easier if all the computers could talk to one another and swap information directly. So he proposed linking the machines. The response from his bosses to his proposal, titled Information Management: A Proposal? Read more ..
The Diplomatic Edge
|Brent Budowsky||March 11th 2014|
With the winds of Cold War blowing across Ukraine, time running short for peace in the Middle East, high-wire diplomacy seeking to avoid military options with Iran, China flexing its military muscle aggressively in the South China Sea, voices of militarism and nationalism being heard whispered in Japan, and a nuclear North Korea acting bellicose, the alliance of democracies is fortunate that President Obama had the wisdom to choose John Kerry as secretary of State.
As the danger of conflagration rises with the belligerence of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin against Ukraine, what makes Kerry so valuable in diplomacy today is that, like Gen. George Marshall, who served as secretary of State for former President Truman, Kerry is a student of history who has long played a part of history and applies the lessons of history to crises today. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Ramesh Ponnuru||March 10th 2014|
The good news coming out of the just-concluded legislative battle in Arizona is that religious freedom remains what it has been there, undiminished by Governor Jan Brewer’s veto of a bill meant to protect it. The bad news is that the debate over religious freedom has taken an ominous turn. Here are six takeaways from the controversy.
The media cannot be trusted to report accurately on social issues. I mention this first not because it is the most important part of the Arizona story — though it is very important — but because it has made understanding that story so difficult. The press leans to the left, as everyone knows, and especially on social issues. CNN anchors more or less openly advocated for a veto of the bill, which they would generally not do on tax legislation.
Political journalists tend to accept social liberals’ framing of issues, their terminology, and their claims, and to believe the worst about social conservatives. In the Arizona debate, these tendencies manifested in widespread reports that the bill authorized businesses to refuse to serve gay people who wanted to be their customers and in the labeling of the legislation as “anti-gay.” Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Jackie Speier||March 9th 2014|
Cheater, bribe taker, skirt chaser and drunk should not be the first words that come to mind when you think of the U.S. military.
Unfortunately, a series of scandals involving the military’s top brass has brought to light a bizarre and seemingly unethical culture that pervades what should be America’s finest institutions.
We’ve learned that “the wheels would come off” if Air Force Gen. David Uhrich didn’t have his vodka, and that he was engaged in other unlawful conduct. Army Brig. Gen. Martin P. Schweitzer was sending emails about the hotness of one member of Congress, and bragging to his superiors in an email about the number of times he masturbated after his meeting with her.
Air Force Nuclear Commander Maj. Gen. Michael Carey went on a drinking binge in Russia that would’ve been the envy of Lindsay Lohan. Too drunk to stand upright, the general’s subordinates found him consorting with beautiful Russian women who were oddly interested in his nuclear portfolio.
Their punishments? Uhrich received verbal counseling, and Schweitzer got a memorandum of concern in his personnel file. Only the nuclear commander was relieved of command, retaining his pension and all other benefits. Read more ..
Russia on Edge
In every country, all truly important foreign policy choices are, at their core, ultimately about domestic politics. And it's not just about creating a "rally 'round the flag" effect, or distracting from pesky domestic issues, although these are definitely relevant considerations for decision-makers. The right foreign policy move at the right time can boost a leader's ratings and the regime's popularity. This is doubly true for authoritarian regimes that lack democratic legitimacy, and it is true for Russia today.
In Putin's Russia, as one top pollster told me in Moscow a few weeks ago, "foreign policy is pretty much the only thing that works." What he meant was that, with the country's economy slowed to a crawl, and with the regime facing near-universal revulsion over the corruption, thievery, and incompetence of officials at every level, racking up foreign policy successes has become vital to maintaining Putin's popularity -- which, in turn, is key to the legitimacy of the whole enterprise. As the economy staggers along at 1.5 percent growth, as capital flees the country at a record pace, and even as nearly half of Russians agree that the ruling "United Russia" party is the "party of thieves and swindlers," Read more ..
The 2016 Election
|Karen Bowman and Jenifer K. Marsico||March 7th 2014|
Repeat after us: The 2016 election is more than two and a half years away. Hillary Clinton may be a candidate. If she is, Benghazi or Bill Clinton may or may not be issues. Who could possibly know?
Now that that's out of the way, let's look at something more interesting - how much resistance there may be to a female presidential candidate and to Hillary Clinton in particular. Here we have a plethora of polls to provide some tentative answers. Let's start at the beginning.
In the late 1930s, when the Gallup Organization asked people about voting for a woman for president, more than six in 10 said they would not do so. Widespread doubts about a female president were evident even in the question itself: in 1937, respondents were asked whether they would vote for a woman president "if she qualified in every other respect!" Fortunately, things have changed a great deal since then. Resistance dropped to around 25 percent by the early 1970s. In 2012, the last time Gallup asked the question, 5 percent said they would not vote for a qualified woman their party nominated. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Arthur C. Brooks||March 6th 2014|
Who owns the term "social justice," conservatives or liberals? Whatever your own politics, you probably said "liberals." After all, most progressive policies — raising the minimum wage, expanding entitlements, increasing taxes on the wealthy as outlined in President Obama's budget proposal this week — are framed as steps towards greater fairness and compassion.
But as the past five years have shown, intentions do not equal results. Since Obama took office, stock markets have soared and the wealthy have regained their economic footing. But the most vulnerable people have fallen further and further behind. The percentage of Americans in the workforce has fallen to its lowest level since the 1970s. Food stamp enrollment has risen by 50% since January 2009; one in six citizens in the world's wealthiest country now rely on nutrition assistance from their government. Economists calculate that income inequality has actually grown under this administration. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Robert Doar||March 5th 2014|
It is hard to be a young black male in the United States today. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for African-American men between 16 and 24 is 30.5 percent. That rate is more than twice what it is for whites in the same age group. Among African-American men over 20, more than 33 percent are not in the labor force. In addition, young African-American men are also more likely to be poor and to not graduate from high school. Sadly, the disparities these numbers reveal have not changed much since President Obama was elected in 2008.
On Thursday, Mr. Obama announced an initiative called My Brother's Keeper intended to "unlock the full potential of boys and young men of color," aiming to help them avoid the pitfalls of unemployment and criminality by focusing on education and personal responsibility. A White House task force will work on the matter, and Mr. Obama has recruited foundations and businesses pledging $200 million over five years to find solutions. Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|Stan Veuger||March 4th 2014|
In December, President Obama’s claim that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it” was named the 2013 Lie of the Year by Politifact. This came shortly after even the barely accessible exchange websites made it clear that for many people, their old plans were no longer available due to the new regulatory environment imposed by Obamacare.
Now fast forward a few months to the glorious new year of 2014, and let’s see what has become of the president’s other central claim in the debate over health care reform: that it would “bring down premiums by $2,500 for the typical family.” (Here’s a compilation of the president making this claim over and over again before his law was enacted.) Has that claim materialized now that the parts of the law the president decided not to delay for partisan political purposes are in full effect? Was it a reasonable claim to make at the time? Let’s have a look at the evidence. Read more ..
Mexico on Edge
|Kent Paterson||March 3rd 2014|
Facing ruin, apple producers in the Mexican border state of Chihuahua are mulling an anti-dumpring complaint against U.S. imports. Ricardo Marquez Prieto, president of the Chihuahua Regional Union of Fruit Growers, charged that unfair competition from Mexico's partner in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) threatens the viability of the local apple industry, which could see tens of thousands of tons of warehoused apples valued in the neighborhood of $65 million go to rot.
"We are going to file a suit against dumping if (Mexican) federal authorities don't get on the ball and move to our side," Marquez vowed late last week, after meeting with federal officials.
Historically an important crop in Chihuahua, locally-grown apples confront a deluge of U.S. imports, which reached 237,000 tons in 2012. Hammered by unusual freezes, Chihuahua's orchards chalked up a 55 percent production decline in the same year. Read more ..
Russia on Edge
To understand what motivates Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Ukrainian crisis and how he will proceed, we have to recall two key things about his strategy and his tactics.
First, Russian foreign policy — whether under Brezhnev, Yeltsin, Putin or anyone after him — is informed by three imperatives: Russia as a nuclear superpower, Russia as the world’s great power, and Russia as the central power in the post-Soviet geopolitical space. And a power that is political, economic, cultural, diplomatic and most certainly military.
What differs from one Russian political regime to another is interpretation and implementation, that is, the policies that support these objectives. Putin’s have been far more assertive and at times riskier than those of his predecessors. The nuclear “superpowership” has been translated into a vehement opposition to missile defense in Europe. Russia as a great power has been defined largely in opposition to the U.S. and the West in general. And the centrality of Russia in the post-Soviet space has been reinterpreted as dominance and hegemony. Read more ..
Ukraine on Edge
|Steven Pifer||March 2nd 2014|
Striking the right balance between relations with the West and relations with Russia has always been Ukraine’s central foreign policy challenge. Ukraine’s leaders have sought to have it both ways: to grow relations with the United States, European Union and NATO while also trying to maintain a stable relationship with Russia.
Kyiv pulled off this balancing act in the 1990s. Its first steps to engage the West did not appear to threaten key Russian interests. Boris Yeltsin accepted Ukraine as an independent state. Vladimir Putin, however, is not Boris Yeltsin, and today’s Russia is not the Russia of the 1990s. The current Russian president wants to prevent Ukraine from slipping too far toward the West, has significant leverage over Kyiv and is prepared to use it. The Russians’ spectacularly ill-timed February 26 decision to launch a snap military exercise is not an encouraging sign, nor are the February 27-28 developments in Crimea. Read more ..
The Emissions Problem
|Ramesh Ponnuru||March 1st 2014|
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attracted some attention last week by describing climate change as “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” Another part of his remarks, though, was just as revealing.
After saying we should not listen to those who deny that human activity is warming the globe, he said: “Nor should we allow any room for those who think that the costs associated with doing the right thing outweigh the benefits. There are people who say, ‘Oh, it’s too expensive, we can’t do this.’ No. No, folks.”
For Kerry, then, the benefits of reducing carbon emissions so obviously exceed the costs that no debate on the question is necessary or even tolerable. But he’s wrong. The cost-benefit calculation is the weak point in the case for reducing carbon emissions. It's possible to reject that case without questioning the science behind it. Read more ..
Obama and Israel
|Jillian Kay Melchior ||February 28th 2014|
A terrorist from Jordan briefly worked as an Obamacare navigator in Illinois while authorities remained unaware of her conviction for involvement in a deadly grocery store bombing and two other attacks.
Rasmieh Yousef Odeh was convicted in Israel for her role in several bombings, including the 1969 attack on an upscale Shufersol grocery store, which killed two Hebrew University students who had stopped in to buy groceries for a hiking trip in the Jerusalem hills. Leon Kanner and Eddie Joffe were killed by a bomb hidden in a candy box tucked on a shelf, which also injured nine or 10 others, according to a website maintained by the Israeli government to commemorate terror victims.
The Illinois Department of Insurance quietly revoked Odeh’s certification as a Navigator In-Person Counselor on November 24, explaining in a disciplinary report that the decision was “based on an investigation which revealed that she had been convicted in Israel for her role in the bombings of a supermarket and the British Consulate in Jerusalem and failed to reveal the conviction on her application.” Read more ..
Defense on Edge
|Shoshana Bryen||February 27th 2014|
If you are surprised by this week's announcement of major manpower cuts to the U.S. Army, you haven't been paying attention. For a long time.
There are two components to understanding America's defense spending choices -- the political and the budgetary; they are not the same. The Administration has made the political case clear.
Beginning in 2011, President Obama pronounced himself committed to "ending the wars" in Iraq and Afghanistan "responsibly."
The president committed to a turn inward, beginning with a 2011 statement that "the nation we need to build is our own," coupled with the promise to cut troops deployed abroad in half.
The refrain "no boots on the ground," is the mantra of many administration officials, resurrected again last weekend by Susan Rice regarding limits to U.S. support of rebels in Syria -- although no one appears to have suggested so much as a huarache.
Secretary Kerry's visit to Indonesia prompted him to declare global "climate change" as big a threat in Asia as "terrorism, poverty and WMDs." He skipped China's increasingly bold assertions of hegemony in Asian waters and increasingly large defense budget (still miniscule compared to ours, but one heads one way, the other the other way). Read more ..
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