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The Bear is Back

The Cool War Cometh

May 28th 2014


No, Russian President Vladimir Putin has not ushered in the return to The Cold War with his assault on the integrity of Ukraine. But he has confirmed that the United States and his Russian regime–very likely as long as he lasts–is engaged in a bitter new geopolitical contest. The Obama Administration–and its predecessor Bush II–had refused to acknowledge the onset of this conflict. Washington now finds itself wrong-footed in Ukraine, a crowning blow to an already growing perception of U.S. foreign policy failure and general retreat across a worldwide screen. That’s leading to a replay of old rivalries, if on a more temperate scale.

But the situations of both countries–especially Russia–has changed dramatically in the almost three decades since the Soviet Union imploded. But its hold on Germany and the rest of Central and Eastern Europe under Communist domination is gone if not forgotten. Moscow retains a huge nuclear arsenal and missile delivery systems that make it one of the world’s greatest potential purveyors of weapons of mass destruction. But there are multiple signs that the overinvestment in the Soviet military-industrial complex on which post-Soviet Russia has been coasting is about played out. Putin’s repeated effort to rebuild Russia’s limping conventional military has largely failed. And his economy, while rewarding a new urban class, still cannot cope with a collapsed agriculture and an almost total dependence on fossil fuel exports is eroding rapidly under the impact of the American shale gas revolution Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Connect the Dots . . . Please!

May 27th 2014

NYPD and flag

Recent press accounts illustrate the mainstream media’s growing awareness of threats to the electric power grid and the need to counter them. These threats extend from physical attacks, to cyber attacks, to natural and manmade electromagnetic pulse events that could take down the grid for an indefinite period of time, during which several hundred Americans could perish. We must connect the dots and deploy needed countermeasures!

On February 1, 2014, a Los Angeles Times article described  the threat posed by solar storms that will one day occur…Lloyds of London reported on a 2012 near miss that they say, had it hit, could have left 20-40 million Americans without electricity for a year or two; and 2) On February 4, 2014, the Wall Street Journal front page article on a sniper attack in the early morning hours on April 16, 2013, which shut down a power plant near Jan Jose, California for 27 days. Read more ..

Broken Bookselling

Is Amazon's Stock About to Burst its Bubble?

May 27th 2014

Amazon box

Amazon has been a phenomenal stock since its 1997 IPO with cumulative gains of 600 percent in the past decade (down from a 900 percent gain at its peak a few months ago). Amazon has also been a fantastic business success in terms of revenue growth, now grossing around $80 billion per year. Yet, where Amazon has fallen short is in earning a profit. That is normally a severe shortcoming for a business, but until the past few months it had not seemed to hurt Amazon. The question now is, are investors finally starting to evaluate Amazon’s stock price according to normal metrics or will they continue to award the company a stock price with no relationship to business fundamentals?

Amazon’s revenue growth is quite high (23 percent in the last quarter), but even growth that rapid does not generally lead a stock to trade at a price to earnings (P/E) ratio of over 400 as Amazon has done in recent times. Amazon’s trends don’t warrant the stock price as revenue and profit growth both have been declining recently. Read more ..

Broken Healthcare

Forcing Healthcare Insurers to Do the Right Thing

May 26th 2014

Click to select Image

The first time I blew the whistle on health insurance companies was during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing in June 2009. Last Wednesday, almost five years later, I appeared before that committee again to give a progress report on how Americans have been benefiting since Congress enacted reforms in 2010 that changed the way insurance companies operate.

Among the practices I brought to the panel’s attention back in 2009 were those insurers engaged in to meet the profit expectations of shareholders and Wall Street financial analysts.

I explained that one of the ways insurers kept Wall Street happy was to spend as small a percentage of our premium dollars as possible on actual medical care. I told them that analysts and investors pay close attention to an obscure mathematical equation called the medical loss ratio (MLR for short), which measures the percentage of premium revenue insurers pay out in claims. Read more ..

Broken Healthcare

If We Can Cut the Leading Cause of Cancer Death, Shouldn't We?

May 25th 2014

Remy Elbiz UMichigan cancer cells

What if we told you a proven cancer-screening method could save more lives than any prior screening technology or existing cancer medications? Or that studies show it is a more cost-effective screening tool, compared to breast and colon cancer screening programs, or even compared to automobile seatbelts and airbags? What if we then told you that while most private insurance plans will cover the test with no copay, Medicare does not cover it at all, even though seniors need it most? We think you’d agree this has to change.

The largest government sponsored and designed lung-cancer screening trial in history demonstrates that using low-dose CT scans to screen patients at high risk for developing lung cancer significantly reduces lung-cancer deaths.  The trial worked and the New England Journal of Medicine announced the results early in order to save lives.  As the leading cause of cancer deaths, lung cancer takes nearly 160,000 lives each year (more than breast, prostate and colon cancer combined) and if adopted could help save at least 30,000 patients annually. Read more ..

Broken Bookselling

Amazon Blackmail and Bullying of Book Industry Escalates

May 24th 2014

Amazon box

Blackmail works best.  That seems to be Amazon’s negotiating strategy, at least.  The online retailer is now refusing orders on some Hachette Book Group titles in an attempt to extort better contract terms from the publisher.

We reported earlier this week on Amazon’s “slow walking” of Hachette Book Group titles.  Amazon was putting pressure on the smallest of the Big Five publishers as the two firms try to negotiate a new contract.

Now the online retail giant has tightened its grip.  The New York Times reports that Amazon is preventing the purchase of some Hachette books and listing others as unavailable.

Amazon’s strategy is designed both to show its market dominance and to engineer a rift between Hachette and its authors.  But is it working?  In a letter to authors, Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch relates that “it is extremely encouraging to see our retail partners—thousands of chain, online and independent bookstores—showing their support for HBG and its authors.”  Despite Amazon’s foul play, Hachette still boasts the #1 Hardcover Fiction and Advice/How-To titles, and two of the Top 10 Nonfiction books in the most recent New York Times bestseller list.


Campus Hate

Anti-Semitism on Campus

May 23rd 2014

Anti-Israel Protest at UC Irvine

As soon as an African American student at San Jose State University who was racially harassed and bullied by his dormitory roommates came forward, university, county, and state officials began an investigation. Within days, prosecutors labeled it a hate crime, battery charges were filed against three of the roommates, and the university had suspended them. Within weeks, California State Assembly Speaker John Perez announced the creation of a Select Committee on Campus Climate, and its first task was to look into this incident and find a way to prevent others like it.

When a white male threw a beer at Trinity College sophomore Juan Hernandez and yelled, “Get off our campus,” Trinity launched an investigation and charges were brought against the perpetrator. When anti-gay remarks were written on message boards that hang on dorm-room doors, Elizabethtown College began an investigation, engaged the FBI, and disciplinary action was taken.

Compare that to the situation for Jewish students. Over the last several years, Jewish students on campuses across the country have been physically, emotionally, and intellectually harassed, intimidated, threatened, and bullied, not only by their fellow students but also by some of their professors. Anti-Israel student activists at the University of Michigan last month hurled death threats at Jewish student council members and called them “dirty Jew” and “kike.” At University of California, Berkeley, a Jewish girl holding an “Israel Wants Peace” sign was ramrodded with a shopping cart by the head of Students for Justice in Palestine. Read more ..

America on Edge

New Responsibilities Come With the Age of Ownership

May 22nd 2014


Donald Sterling’s publicly disclosed comments depict an anachronistic view of race relations in this country.  His interview tour is beyond incomprehensible, sad, ignorant, and completely shows that he has lost touch with reality. His media revelations are undoubtedly hurtful, not only to the African-American players and staff of the NBA, but really hurtful to many Americans regardless of their race, who feel that finally (as partially symbolized by the ascension of President Barack Obama and others) we have evolved as a society beyond a preoccupation with race.  These are people who are proud to live in a nation that has moved closer to an ideal urges us to judge our fellow human by their competence and character instead of their ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.

It was and remains an embarrassing moment, not only for the NBA and society, but surely as well for the Sterling family, who now must live under the stigma or suspicion that deep within their hearts they condone such sentiments by their patriarch.  Hopefully the candid peek behind the curtain into the private life of Mr. Sterling can also help us air some of the laundry about race in this country and speak a bit more frankly than civil discourse usually permits.  In response to an interviewer question about “whether something good can come out of this,” NBA clippers’  coach Doc Rivers stated, “I think something good comes out of everything.”  And that something “good” might be that some wealthy African-Americans might put their money where their race is, and step up to become part of an ownership group that ultimately purchases the LA Clippers. Read more ..

Edge of Islam

A Month in the Life of Europa-stan

May 22nd 2014

The American Embassy in Prague is financing a new project aimed at promoting Islam in public elementary and secondary schools across the Czech Republic.

The new law removes the requirement that there must be a special reason to sue for defamation or insult. Swedish thought police will be able to prosecute anyone who expresses an opinion about Muslim immigration and much else if that opinion is deemed to be defamation or slander. The Swedish government is also spending 60 million krona ($9 million) to boost voter turnout in Muslim neighborhoods.

"The influx of immigrants is reaching biblical proportions. Italy is fighting a losing battle." — Admiral Giuseppe De Giorgi, Head of the Italian Navy Read more ..

Broken Government

GOP Committee Chairman Declares War on Corporate Welfare

May 21st 2014

Washington K Street NW

A Republican congressman bashing “crony capitalism” and “corporate welfare” is no longer a new thing. A Republican congressman actually trying to do something about corporate welfare, however, is nearly unprecedented.

So it's a sign that the GOP could go in a new direction when the Republican chairman of the House Financial Services Committee sets out to derail some of Wall Street's favorite federal gravy trains and “reform the corporate welfare state.”

Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling, who chairs the House banking panel, gave a call to arms at the conservative Heritage Foundation on Tuesday afternoon, imploring his colleagues to “reject the Washington insider economy and embrace the Main Street competitive economy.” Read more ..

Inside Politics

The Coming 2016 Foreign Policy Brawl

May 20th 2014

Hillary Clinton in blue

Conservative national security hawks should be rooting for Hillary Rodham Clinton to throw her hat in the ring in 2016. That’s because a Clinton campaign would spark the first major foreign policy battle in a presidential election in decades — and the first GOP primary fight over national security since the 1970s.

Polls show that just 2 percent of Americans say foreign policy is their top priority — far behind the economy, jobs and health care. But if Clinton is the Democratic nominee, then the GOP will have to run against her record — and central to that record was her tenure as secretary of state.

Even Clinton’s most ardent defenders can’t name a single accomplishment she had during her four years at the helm of the State Department. And given Benghazi, don’t look for Clinton to brag, as President Obama did in 2012, about how Osama bin Laden is dead and al-Qaeda is on the run. Read more ..

Education on Edge

Brown V. Board of Education - 60 Years Later

May 18th 2014


On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education became a watershed moment in our nation’s history. By mandating that Americans cannot be equal without equal access to education, the decision breathed new momentum into the movement for civil rights. The ensuing years saw one barrier after another destroyed as we pushed and pulled our way to a more just and equal society.

Across the South, the tidal wave of change was staggering. In 1963, about 1 percent of African-American children in the South attended school with white children. By the early 1970s, that number had nearly reversed itself; 90 percent of African-American children in the South attended desegregated schools. At the same time, the racial achievement gap was cut in half. And then, in the decades to follow, something happened. Read more ..

Education on Edge

Brown Vs. Board of Eduction Anniversary: Our Unfulfilled Promise to African-American Kids

May 17th 2014

parents teachers students

At the end of this school year, Saint Jude Educational Institute in Montgomery, Alabama will close its doors forever. The 70-years-old Catholic school announced that it no longer could subsidize its 7th to 12th grade students.

It is a cruel irony that as America celebrates this week the 60thanniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court case that ruled segregation in public schools unconstitutional, a school located in the heart of the African-American community of the city that was the cradle of the civil rights movement is closing.

It is also an unfortunate reminder that still too few low-income and minority families have high quality educational options for their children.Saint Jude played an important role in the civil rights movement. Since it first opened its doors to students in 1938 in the basement of the church, Saint Jude was always geared towards its African-American neighborhood. Read more ..

Financing the Flames

PA and Hamas Honor Sbarro Suicide Bomber Who Murdered 15

May 16th 2014

Suicide Bombing--Sbarro

The terrorist who murdered 15 in the Sbarro pizza shop suicide bombing in 2001 was given a military funeral by the PA after his body was transferred to the PA last week.

On Aug. 9, 2001 suicide bomber Izz Al-Din Al-Masri detonated himself in a Sbarro pizza shop in Jerusalem, killing 15, 7 of them children. 5 members of one family were killed in the attack. (See names below.) Palestinian Media Watch has reported that the PA in the past has honored Ahlam Tamimi, the terrorist who picked the Sbarro restaurant as the place for the bombing "because many people entered it," and later led the bomber there. Official PA TV has also glorified her.

Last week, Israel transferred the body of the suicide bomber to the PA and both the PA and Hamas took the opportunity to honor the murderer once again. Reporting from the official military funeral, PA TV News called him a "Martyr," the highest religious level a Muslim can reach. In calling the terrorist a Martyr - a Shahid - the PA continues to teach its people that according to its interpretation of Islam, killers of Israeli civilians in suicide terror attacks are doing such a positive act, that it overrules the general Islamic prohibition against committing suicide. Read more ..

The Battle for the Ukraine

How to Hit Putin Where It Hurts

May 15th 2014

Oil Barrels

As Russia's Ukrainian incursion sends a chill through the Baltic states, diplomatic fecklessness and the lack of adequate collective defense capabilities on the ground seems to leave the U.S. and Europe with economic sanctions as the only lever against Vladimir Putin's imperialism. Yet asset freezes and travel bans on Putin buddies garner yawns in the Kremlin and almost no public support among NATO or European Union members.
There is, however, another approach that would undermine Russia's (and like-minded oil autocracies') efforts at regional domination while strengthening Western economies.
Russia's geopolitical influence in Europe derives in part from its hand on the natural-gas tap, but its Achilles' heel is the price of oil. A successful effort to drive the price of oil down to, say, $60 a barrel—far below the $117 per barrel that Russia requires to balance its national budget—would benefit the West, as well as China and India. Neither of the latter two countries, on the other hand, is likely to cooperate with sanctioning major energy exporters.

Germany on Edge

Islam Increasingly Grows in Germany Through the Schools

May 14th 2014

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Muslim radicals are imposing Islamic norms and values in primary and secondary public schools in Hamburg, the second-largest city in Germany, say school officials, who are asking for stepped-up monitoring of the Salafist groups thought to be behind the Islamization efforts.

At least 25 schools across Hamburg are believed to have been infiltrated by Salafists and other fundamentalist Muslim groups, according to German media reports. But local politicians from the ruling Social Democratic Party (SPD)—a party committed to enforcing multiculturalism in Hamburg—have refused to disclose precisely which schools are affected.

Now, for the first time, a confidential report leaked to the German newspaper Bild identifies seven of the problem schools by name. The schools where Islamist fanatics are "waging a religious war" against non-Muslim teachers and classmates are located in districts across the city, the document says, but the situation in Mümmelmannsberg in eastern Hamburg is "particularly appalling" and "the focus of an organized strategy" by Islamists to recruit new followers. Read more ..

France on Edge

Jews Increasingly Emigrate as Islam in France Grows

May 14th 2014

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Polls show that more than 70% of the French... expect that France will become a country under submission to Islam.

Last month, between April 18-21, the Union of Islamic Organizations of France [UOIF], the French branch of the European Council for Fatwa and Research (presided over by Yusuf al Qaradawi) held its thirty-first annual conference in Le Bourget, north of Paris. As usual, jihadist and anti-Semitic books, which are banned in French bookstores but tolerated there, were offered in several booths.

As usual also, speakers were invited to deliver fiery speeches. In 2012, the keynote speaker was supposed to be Qaradawi himself, but faced with protests from the Jewish community, France denied Qaradawi a visa to enter French territory, and he was replaced by Tariq Ramadan, a Muslim Brotherhood operative who works with Qaradawi in Doha, Qatar, at the Center for Islamic Legislation and Ethics. Read more ..

The Violent Roads of Mexico

A Mother's Quest for Justice Sheds Light on Mexico's Violence Against Women

May 14th 2014

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In September 1998, the van Nierop family of Holland was enjoying a family vacation in the mountains of northern Mexico. Oldest daughter Hester had just graduated with a degree in architecture and was on her way to the United States to seek employment or an internship.

Studying a map, the family determined that the easiest way to cross the border from their vantage point in Chihuahua state’s Sierra Tarahumara would be a “little” place named Ciudad Juarez. Bidding good bye to Hester, parents Arsene and Roeland van Nierop then headed to Mexico City for the flight back to the Netherlands. But Hester never made it to the United States or fulfilled her dream of becoming a professional architect. Read more ..

America on Edge

Ideal Society vs Ideal State

May 13th 2014


Anyone who reads my columns has heard me say before that what unites the Left is a vision of an ideal society, and what unites the Right is a vision of an ideal state. The Left will take or use any state necessary to get to that ideal society. At times they will argue for freedom in the language of the libertarian right; at others, they will defend Big Government outright. They think that this incoherence makes them centrists, pragmatists, reasonable, and they pat themselves on the back for it.

It is this ideology, this willingness to do absolutely anything to bring about their ideal society—a society, by the way, that would be nothing like any society ever actually achieved, one with gay marriage, abortion on demand, and safety net handouts for all who want them—is what drives their vision of the state. They see no inconsistency in arguing for small government one minute, and then big government the next.

That is why we are not on a road to serfdom, but an escalator down to it—that is, if we do nothing at all, we will find ourselves there.

The Left is not only attacking behavior they don’t like, but attacking omissions, attacking non-activity. The most famous example of this is Obamacare, which forces people to buy something or else pay a tax. They raise your taxes, and then, when you try to put your money offshore, they try to find a way to tax it there too.

First they got you to pay for the elderly to retire. Then they got you to pay for their healthcare. Then they got you to pay for the poor. Then they got you to pay for people who were just slightly above poverty. They got you to give food stamps to the poor. Then free healthcare. Then free cell phones. Then free apartments. Read more ..

Islam on Edge

The Islamist Canaries in the Bruneian Mine Shaft

May 13th 2014

Koran and prayer beads

Human rights and liberal values are under threat in a small, little-known country most people would be hard-pressed to find on a map. Brunei Darussalam, following the radical vision of Usama bin Laden and his followers, became an Islamic state under strict Sharia law this past week, with punishments of death by stoning for adulterers and severing of limbs for thieves. Policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic have yet to focus on the challenges posed by radical Islamic regimes, much less tackle them effectively.

Located on the northern coast of the Island of Borneo in Southeast Asia, Brunei is the world's fifth wealthiest country among those with per capita annual income over $48,000. It will also become the 14th country or region to fully implement Sharia, a system of moral and religious laws that addresses not only criminal and civil affairs, but also politics, economic transactions and all matters of personal conduct. Because so few Muslim countries have adopted all aspects of the code — including capital punishment, flogging, amputation and stoning — in their criminal justice system, Brunei serves as useful prism for understanding the issue.  Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Another Obamacare Failure: Health Care Spending on the Rise

May 13th 2014


One of the central goals of the Affordable Care Act has always been to reduce medical spending. As President Barack Obama said in 2009: "You talk to every health care economist out there and they will tell you that whatever ideas are—whatever ideas exist in terms of bending the cost curve and starting to reduce costs for families, businesses, and government, those elements are in this bill." Lowering the cost of health care is a laudable public-policy goal. Health care expenditures in the United States have escalated rapidly over the past few decades, which is a concern for two reasons. First, it is not clear that all of this money is actually improving health outcomes, as opposed to fattening the wallets of the merchants of waste, fraud, and abuse. Second, the large share of health-care spending borne by the government makes rising costs a major threat to the long-term fiscal health of the nation. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Michigan Plays Favorites with Food Providers

May 12th 2014

There are about 10 grocery stores in Marquette serving a population of about 21,355 in the Upper Peninsula city of Michigan.

And one of them has been in the news recently for the financial aid it's receiving from state taxpayers to help with an expansion project.

The Marquette Food Cooperative will get $615,000 for an expansion from the Michigan Economic Development Program and a $115,000 tax abatement from the city of Marquette.

But is that fair?

On its website, the Marquette Food Cooperative boasts about paying its employees above the minimum wage. That, says Michael LaFaive, director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, is evidence that the Co-op shouldn't need government handouts at the expense of its competitors. Read more ..

The Way We Are

The Great Society at 50

May 12th 2014

Lyndon Johnson signs Medicare bill as Harry Truman watches

May 22, 2014, marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Baines Johnson's "Great Society" address, delivered at the spring commencement for the University of Michigan. That speech remains the most ambitious call to date by any president (our current commander in chief included) to use the awesome powers of the American state to effect a far-reaching transformation of the society that state was established to serve. It also stands as the high-water mark for Washington's confidence in the broad meliorative properties of government social policy, scientifically applied.

No less important, the Great Society pledge, and the fruit this would ultimately bear, profoundly recast the common understanding of the ends of governance in our country. The address heralded fundamental changes​-​some then already underway, others still only being envisioned​-​that would decisively expand the scale and scope of government in American life and greatly alter the relationship between that same government and the governed in our country today. Read more ..

Broken Politics

U.S. Chamber Targets Dems in State Attorney General Races

May 11th 2014

Money Bands=Happiness

The ads accuse Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller, a candidate for state attorney general, of living a lavish lifestyle at the taxpayers’ expense.

Shots of Miller with Mike Tyson and Hugh Hefner’s former girlfriend flash across the screen as the narrator highlights more than $60,000 in gifts Miller has accepted from “special interests” since taking office in 2006. “He lives the life,” the narrator says. “You pay the tab.”

The $500,000 ad campaign is being paid for by a nonprofit from Virginia called the State Government Leadership Foundation. It’s an impressive sum, especially considering the ads ran three months before a primary in which Miller is running unopposed, and for an office that doesn’t normally get so much attention.

Miller’s campaign called on TV stations to pull the ads, challenging them as misleading.

So why is so much money being poured into the race and who is behind it? The biggest underwriter of the group behind the ad is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the affiliated Institute for Legal Reform, according to a Center for Public Integrity investigation.

The Chamber isn’t talking, but it’s not hard to figure out why state attorney general races are getting so much of its attention, not just in Nevada, but across the country.

First, the joke is that “AG” stands for “almost governor” in the 43 states where they are elected, as many go on to higher elected office. Spending on these races is an investment in the future. Eight current governors and eight current U.S. senators were previously state attorneys general. Read more ..

Russia on Edge

The Reverberations of U.S. Sanctions on Russia

May 10th 2014

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When thousands of fans packed Helsinki's Hartwall Arena this week to rock out to the music of U.S. industrial metal band Nine Inch Nails, they likely gave little thought to the Russian industrialists who own the venue.

Not so the organizers of the concert, who had to reckon with the fact that the arena's three owners -- billionaire associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin -- have been hit with U.S. sanctions in response to the Ukraine crisis.

Ensuring the show can go on is something many U.S. companies and entrepreneurs are wrestling with as they try to determine whether they are unwittingly violating U.S. sanctions. In doing so, they often find themselves entering a legal minefield as they try to make sense of the Russian business world's often Byzantine ownership structures. Read more ..

Jewry on Edge

University Administrators Ignore Growing Anti-Semitism on U.S. Campuses

May 9th 2014

As soon as an African American student at San Jose State University who was racially harassed and bullied by his dormitory roommates came forward, university, county, and state officials began an investigation. Within days, prosecutors labeled it a hate crime, battery charges were filed against three of the roommates, and the university had suspended them. Within weeks, California State Assembly Speaker John Perez announced the creation of a Select Committee on Campus Climate, and its first task was to look into this incident and find a way to prevent others like it.

When a white male threw a beer at Trinity College sophomore Juan Hernandez and yelled, “Get off our campus,” Trinity launched an investigation and charges were brought against the perpetrator. When anti-gay remarks were written on message boards that hang on dorm-room doors, Elizabethtown College began an investigation, engaged the FBI, and disciplinary action was taken. Read more ..

Libya on Edge

Libya is Prepared to Become an Islamist Emirate under Moslem Brotherhood

May 9th 2014

Libya's interim Congress on May 5 confirmed the appointment of new Prime Minister, Ahmed Maiteeg, a young businessman backed by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Maiteeg's election was controversial. As described by the Libyan Herald, Maiteeg was elected after Congress members persuaded the deputy President to re-run a vote of confidence in him. In the earlier vote of confidence, Maiteeg gained 113 votes, seven short of the figure needed to make him Prime Minister. The Libyan Herald explains that the second vote took place after a number of absent Congress members were summoned by colleagues to come and vote. At that point, apparently, members of Congress started shouting at each other. As a consequence, First Deputy President and independent Congressman from Cyrenaica, Ezzidden Al-Awami, who had chaired the session, decided to close proceedings and departed. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Kidnappings in Nigeria

May 8th 2014

Armstrong Williams Headshot

On Sunday night, 11 Nigerian girls were kidnapped in two remote villages in Northeastern Nigeria. These missing girls add to the list of up to 276 girls who are currently missing in that part of the country. Just over three weeks ago, 230 Nigerian Christian school girls were kidnapped by the Islamist group, Boko Haram, which in English is translated “Western Education is forbidden”. This group is also responsible for the recent kidnappings and many other terrorist attacks throughout the country. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s attempt to retrieve the girls has been entirely unsuccessful and has undermined the President’s standing with his people.

According to Manuel Fontaine—UNICEF’s regional director for west and central Africa—Boko Haram has been terrorizing villages in Northeastern Nigeria for years while nothing has been done to stop them. As late as this past Monday, large groups of Nigerians protesters have urged the government to do more to rescue the kidnapped children.   
The leader of the Islamist terrorist group behind the kidnapping—Abubakar Shekau—has taken responsibility. He recently released a video in which he promised to sell the girls as slaves in the “marketplace”. Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for human rights, told reporters: “We warn the perpetrators that there is an absolute prohibition against slavery and sexual slavery in international law.”
Although I applaud the words of Navi Pillay, I’m angered over the lack of action taken against Abubaker Shekau by the Nigerian government and the United States. More must be done to put an end to Abubaker Shekau’s terrorist attacks and to rescue these innocent Christian school girls.  Read more ..

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


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.

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

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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’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


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 ..

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