Last year, Lois Lerner, the director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Unit came into prominence due to revelations that her unit had specifically targeted a number of conservative tax-exempt organizations. Immediately the right slammed the IRS for its supposed selective treatment under a Democratic presidency. Lerner in a subsequent Treasury Inspector General audit into the matter answered what she knew to be and later revealed as planted questions concerning the matter and attempted to deflect the blame for the situation to subordinates even though this was proven wrong. Later after repeatedly invoking her Fifth Amendment right not to testify before congressional hearings she was found in contempt of Congress in 2014 over her refusal to testify. Now in further investigation, it has been revealed that e-mails from her time as director have been lost. Foul play or bureaucracy stupidity, you decide, whatever the case, awful.
Apparently, all the e-mails associated with the tenure in question of Lerner have been lost. Lerner has offered her explanation, “Sometimes stuff just happens.” Meanwhile the IRS has offered that it was a catastrophic computer crash that destroyed everything. Convenient when one considers how much this government spends a year on retaining information about private citizens through a variety of mediums. Now the IRS has stated that due to financial and computing constraints, emails on individuals’, computers from January 2009 to April 2011 “no longer exist.” The U.S. is willing to spend over $300 million on a fighter plane that doesn’t work but it can’t supply its senior bureaucrats with backup memory to cover even 100 gigabytes each of a single years’ worth of e-mails for the sake of record and ultimately transparency? Even if the story is true from Lerner and the IRS it is disgraceful in the end.
What I just can’t figure out is how conveniently her e-mails in question have disappeared. More revelations have revealed that the IRS has some fairly short term aimed e-mail policies that ultimately limit the amount of e-mail data that can be stored for a single year and furthermore, once a limit has been reached backup tapes are recorded over. What is the cost of backup records when one looks at the big picture? Though at the same time, e-mails that are “created or received in the transaction of agency business,” and or “appropriate for preservation as evidence of the government’s function or activities,” or “valuable because of the information they contain” are kept on record at the discretion though of the receiver.
Why isn’t there a standard policy on what is considered “official record” as such emails would be? Perhaps leaving the question to be answered by bureaucrats allows for questionable activity to occur which can be hard for investigators to follow and behooves many to push for the preservation of the system at hand. Or perhaps it’s a simple mistake, the gravity of which has escaped our bureaucracy until now when confronted with such a situation.
Is Lois Lerner lying? Who knows, she pled the Fifth enough and showed as much indifference to the situation where one might assume that she is. If she isn’t, well that shows that the American people can’t expect the bureaucracy to be held accountable to anything then if record keeping of its own actions is so poor. Regardless how the Lerner and IRS scandal play out, I firmly believe a more concerted effort should be made to increase the longevity of stored documents pertaining to correspondence between senior bureaucrats, I mean, this is a country that prides itself on transparency, right?
Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi sits shackled in a Mexican prison since March 31, when the veteran took a wrong turn and crossed the border on his way to visit a fellow vet. Four Mexican soldiers did the same a while back and were released within 48 hours. Two very different countries, two very different legal systems. In a country where corruption is much more than a suspicion, one has to ask: what does Mexico want in return for the release of Sgt. Tahmooressi? And of course, what is the White House doing to bring him home? This wouldn’t be about the millions of illegals from Mexico, and other Central and South American countries, who crossed that same border to enter the USA? Does Obama’s White House understand that Sgt. Tahmooressi’s wrong turn is not a chip that Mexico can cash in to gain assurances that immigration reform, with some type of amnesty attached, is on the way?
House Judiciary Chairman (R-VA) Bob Goodlatte admits that any chance of the House passing a bill on immigration reform before the August recess is just about nil since Cantor’s defeat. He would like some sort of Republican position te be defined but, as even a moderate like him admits, border security has to be improved beofre anything else gets done. And any true border security requires trustworthy cooperation between the two or more nations that define a border. With Mexico that is just not possible for several reasons: Mexico does not want to curtail the flow of illegals as it solves unemployment problems and increases the remittance flows back into the country as illegal workers send part of their paychecks to their families in Mexico. As well, the flow of narcotics across the frontier has been a problem for as long, or longer, than the flow of illegal immigrants has. Who is involved in that illegal drug trade on the Mexican side of the border is a troubling question. Because of this, border security is a one way solution, with the American taxpayer funding the costs and American border and security officers putting themselves at risk to ensure those resources are well spent defending the border.
In other words, it is a matter of law, in the most fundamental sense. The legal framework and the Constitution which gave it life, and the courts which update and define the laws are the foundation of the country and the prime mover behind its success. Eroding that foundation to solve the problem of illegal immigration is a dangerous excercise with unforetold consequences. Mexico has to understand that and has to understand that the White House will – make that should – do everything to bring Sgt. Tahmooressi home, except grant amnesty to those who broke the law.
In the past several days, the Sunni militia group ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) has made massive gains in its campaign against the Iraqi government by taking Tikrit and Mosul. While some Iraqi military units have fought valiantly against these fundamentalists, many have just evaporated before the group. At no time in the past several years has Iraq faced a crisis as grave as this and if not dealt with soon, the government is in danger of falling. The Iraq of today which has cost the U.S. and our allies so heavily in blood and treasure since 2003 is coming undone and the President is dithering.
ISIS was formed shortly after the 2003 invasion in Iraq by Sunni extremists bent on creating a new Islamic caliphate. It has been responsible for numerous attacks in the past against Coalition forces and has had a strong presence in Syria. For numerous reasons, ISIS is hostile with many groups, some contradictory like the forces of Syria’s Assad and its opponent the FSA (Free Syrian Army). This is primarily due to their brutal tactics, inability to have sustainable working relationships with other groups and their ultimate goal which is incompatible with other groups. Al Qaeda has even viewed ISIS as too extreme. Regardless, ISIS has formed itself into a well-organized fighting force and its recent success in Iraq prove as much.
While ISIS has been a known threat for some time in Iraq, the most recent events are predated by the capture of Fallujah by ISIS this January. Fallujah is a mere 43 miles west of the capital Baghdad and since January, the Iraqi government has not been able to wrest control of it back. Now ISIS is preparing to advance further south into Shia regions (regarded by ISIS as infidels) and into Baghdad itself. I get the distinct impression that this was a threat that we should have been far more aware of and should’ve taken a much closer look at.
So why should the U.S. care? As I already said, we’ve spilt too much blood and spent too much treasure to have Iraq fall into flames. To allow such a situation to happen is a slap in the face to all the sacrifices made by the U.S., our allies, and the 100,000 plus Iraqis who have died over the past decade. Now I know the President is happy because in his mind he ended the war in Iraq as ending a war is something as simple as pulling out troops. Initially the administration offered limited response to this crisis, mainly typical ineffectual White House calls to end the violence and that we’re watching the situation closely with great interest. Now though the administration is considering the possibility of military action.
What I don’t understand is that in Iraq, a country we invested so heavily in that the preparation for the assault of Mosul and Tikrit by thousands of armed militiamen in an organized operation went apparently unnoticed. Is our intelligence in Iraq that bad that we failed to foresee this? Furthermore, the Iraqi government has requested U.S. airstrikes against ISIS, requests we immediately rebuffed. Only now is Obama saying that airstrikes are on the table but given the actions of this president in other situations I’ve learned to place a very small value on his words.
Iraq is falling. The government of Maliki is losing its support while the Iraqi military is running from fighting this tyrannical group. The Kurds seeing that the government can’t protect its citizens have called up the Peshmerga (Kurdish fighters) to occupy cities that the Iraqi military has withdrawn from while Shia groups are preparing to do defend themselves and do battle against ISIS. The government is teetering while the threat of full blown sectarian violence is real. This isn’t Syria or the Ukraine, this is Iraq, a country that for many Americans is much closer to home.
We have no problem launching drone strikes all over the Middle East to kill some bomb maker in this country or a propaganda chief in another. But when an ally is collapsing, we sit back. Now I’m not saying we need troops on the ground and I wouldn’t support that. This doesn’t mean we don’t have other options. We can provide intelligence that the Iraqi government seeks, the airstrikes which the Iraqi military isn’t capable of performing, and the public support that can show our resolve is real. In this situation, I just can’t fathom the indecisiveness and indifference by my president.
Now after well over a week since the prisoner swap story over Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl story broke, the Obama administration has decided to shift responsibility for it to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. After Hagel stated that the decision had been made by a group, the White House is now claiming that he “signed off” on the deal to hand the Sgt. over in exchange for the five Taliban prisoners. Now by law, Secretary of Defense Hagel is required to sign off on such a deal but I get the distinct impression that the administration is using Hagel as a scapegoat in light of the backlash it has received concerning the swap from all political corners. Regardless of how people might feel about Hagel and his policies and views, it is downright disrespectful and shameful for the administration to throw him under the bus this way.
I still have many questions over the story of Sgt. Bergdahl but I will reserve judgment on them until more information is released to the public and an investigation is conducted. I refuse to condemn the man and his plight over the past 5 years until the truth is revealed. What I will not stand for though is a man such as Secretary of Defense Hagel receiving the full brunt of criticism for this exchange before a full investigation is carried out. Fault Hagel for multiple defense-related issues that one might not agree with but to have him take the fall for this administration to save President Obama’s approval ratings from further falling is disgusting.
Secretary of Defense Hagel was brought into this administration under many questions from the right. For starters, he was a Republican who during his Senate tenure was very outspoken against the war in Iraq during the Bush administration, a position which failed to earn him any points in the heart of conservatives or those Americans interested in an active foreign policy. During his confirmation hearings in the Senate last year though, he for the most part faced criticism over his failure to adopt a highly supportive position on Israel and a hawkish stance on Iran; it was perhaps this issue that drew the most criticism of him and not issues that truly affect the U.S. military such as the dangerous increase in suicides or our declining technological advantage against certain possible future opponents.
Whatever the case, Hagel was confirmed as Secretary of Defense. Since then, Hagel has been accused of directly downsizing the U.S. military to dangerous levels, reducing the security of Israel, and caving into the Russians and Chinese to the detriment of U.S. security among other things. Now, while it may be true that SoD Hagel has supported positions that have played into these negatives, he isn’t the executive who signs off on them. While the SoD is “the principal assistant to the President in all matters relating to Department of Defense” large issues are not handled independently of the president. Don’t think for a second that the SoD operates in a closed environment.
Now to believe that the POTUS wasn’t highly involved in the Bergdahl exchange as this was the first time in how long that the U.S. has conducted a prisoner swap is absurd. Regardless, despite however you feel about the swap, one must accept the fact that it wasn’t solely the result of a decision made by the SoD but of multiple administration officials and at the top, the POTUS himself. Ever since the swap though, public approval of it has rapidly deteriorated as more negative information has emerged. Unfortunately for SoD Hagel, as public disapproval has mounted, so has the blame by the administration for the prisoner swap transitioned from the POTUS to Hagel.
Now I accept the fact that as a member of the public I’m not privy to all the information that is available and the absolute truth might never be known. Regardless whatever the situation concerning Bergdahl may be, it’s the approval granted by the POTUS and not SoD Hagel that secured his release. I for one am sick and tired of this administration and president deflecting blame for every action it takes and placing it on a subordinate. When will this administration adopt the policy of the “buck stops here” rather than always conveniently seeking out a scapegoat.
At the State of Massachusetts Department of Children and Families website, they tout the engagement of social workers, the partnership with unions, and the involvement of the legislature to help them meet their stated goals of keeping “children safe and families strong.” They might have added the courts as well. Juvenile court Judge Joseph Johnston, in a ruling over a year ago, scolded the girl’s parents for being abusive and unhelpful. Why? In a visit to Boston Children’s Hospital to see specialist Dr. Flores, the already wheelchair bound Jennifer arrived by ambulance and was held by an unnamed resident who refused to send her on the specialist Dr. Flores, and had a physiologist diagnose her rare condition — Tufts Medical Centre had been treating her for mitochondrial disease — as a mental disorder that was all in the girl’s head. The Massachusetts DCF took control of the girl, claiming “medical abuse” on the part of the parents who were furious when the intern tore their daughter from them. She spent about a year at the Boston Children’s psychiatric facility and was then transferred to the Wayside Youth and Family Network in Framingham. She is now in a facility in Thompson Connecticut.
Now the DCF has reversed itself and declared that Justine should be reunited with her family. Oops, our bad. The trouble is, it is still in the hands of Judge Johnston, who in the past has refused to take into account the original diagnoses of doctors at Tufts. In other words, an intern at the emergency room in a hospital has the power to take your child away from you and you have the full force of the State of Massachusetts DCF and juvenile court system against you. Don’t you dare get angry as you see your loved daughter wheeled off to the psychiatric facility because an ambitious young doctor has decided he or she, along with a psychologist, knows what’s best for your kid – despite the reasoned diagnoses of experienced practitioners at Tufts and the unconsulted expertise of a doctor at the very same hospital. You can’t get mad because you will be hit with medical abuse charges and they will keep your child. This is not just the case of a mistaken young doctor or a stubborn juvenile judge. This is a state apparatus weighing in with brute force against your right to raise your child in the best manner you see fit. The abuse has been solely on the part of the State of Massachusetts, against Justine, against her sister and parents, against the doctors at Tufts and even against Dr. Flores, the specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital, who was the only reason Justine showed up in an ambulance at the hospital. There needs to be a complete review of the DCF and the juvenile court system in Massachusetts to ensure they do what they should be charged with doing: protecting real cases of abuse and not turning a loving family’s life into a nightmare worthy of a socialist state run amok.
While Eric Cantor will apparently be supporting Kevn McCarthy and Jeb Hensarling decides if he even wants the job of House Majority Leader, and as fellow Texan Pete Sessions throws his hat into the ring, it is interesting to take a look at the man who started this dance so to speak. The man who defeated a sitting House Majority Leader for the first time since the position was created just before the turn of the last century, Professor David Brat. He was outspent 40 to 1, although he did have some talk radio hosts like Ingraham, Mark Levin and Anne Coulter on his side. An economics professor and a devout Roman Catholic, he ran partly on immigration reform – against it to be more precise. Anger at the GOP by its very supporters is clearly far greater than the GOP orthodoxy has calculated or even bothered to consider. Within most of the media, the Tea Party has been seen as a fringe, a branch of the Republican Party that will eventually wither and return to its roots. This view is no longer possible and the biggest surprise of all seems to be within the Republican party itself. How the party reacts to this will be fascinating. Pundits are already claiming that Cantor’s stunning defeat shows you can’t play to both wings of the party. What no one seems to be saying yet, is maybe David Brat connected with voters in Virginia in a way Cantor is no longer able to.
Consider Brat’s reference to the “Republican Party of Virginia Creed” and its six principles: unqualified support for free enterprise; equal rights, justice, and opportunities for all individuals who in turn must assume their responsibilities in a free society that offers them those very rights; true fiscal responsibility at all levels of government; strict observation of constitutional limitations; a strong national defense as the best preserver of peace; and faith in God as essential to the moral fiber of the nation, as recognized by the Founding Fathers. Maybe this up to now unknown college professor has reminded the GOP and the nation of the principles that guided the US at its birth and as it grew into the world leader it has long since been. Maybe David Brat is an inconvenient truth for both parties, but to Republican voters in Virginia and many elsewhere, he’s a truth that bears listening to.
Alfonso Aguilar, ex Chief of US Office of Citizenship under George W. Bush, has criticized President Obama’s unwillingness to explain his deportation numbers, which are robustly high according to the Administration, That is, when Obama is speaking to a more conservative audience. What the President doesn’t do is explain the deportations to a Democratic, read Hispanic, audience. Aguilar is executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, launched in 2010 by the American Principles Project and focused on developing conservative grass roots movements in the Hispanic community. They have a five part immigration strategy: strengthening border security, a guest worker program that is generous, the promotion of patriotic assimilation, giving priority to criminal cases in domestic enforcement, and legalizing illegal immigrants but with a penalty attached rather than out and out amnesty. That’s an impressive agenda, and it throws up some interesting ideas but one of the main problems is where do you start? Which one comes first or do you try all 5 at once?
This is no easy matter, nor should it be. The aim of their reform has to be stemming the flow of illegals across the border and it makes sense to have a multi-pronged attack that makes it tougher to sneak across the border and lowers incentives to do so illegally. Tighter border security is obvious but how to spend an increased budget to get that done is key. A guest worker program depends on what business needs and wants but it also should depend on what registered voters want. How generous should it be while still claiming to be conservative? Patriotic assimilation seems tautological; shouldn’t all assimilation produce patriots who love the country they have chosen to move to? Whatever their creed or ideology? Well no, but that unfortunately is for another topic. Giving police the resources, legal as well as material, to pursue criminals who cross the border seems painfully obvious, but again necessary to state explicitly in these times. Legalizing with a penalty seems a tricky balance to achieve in practice but is far better than outright amnesty.
So Aguilar’s group has a plan that may help but implementing it will be difficult and most difficult of all, just like the difficulties the President is avoiding, will be convincing conservatives and Hispanics that it is a worthwhile solution in the quest for immigration reform. Let’s hope that the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles continues to make the hard choices when speaking to their own community.
Hilary Clinton does not believe that the country, specifically the Congress, should be playing minor league ball. The deaths in Benghazi and Congress attempts to find out exactly what happened in what the evidence clearly suggests was a planned, terrorist attack by groups linked to Al-Qaeda, is not worthy of a great nation according to Clinton. To the four officials who died, her words are an offense and she must understand that, having attended the ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base in September of 2012 when the four heroes were returned home. Obama and Clinton were already spinning hard by that point, and the spinning continues. The credibility of Obama’s White House with regards to foreign policy and National Security, is at stake, as is Hillary Clinton’s run for the top job. Ambassador Stevens is the first US ambassador to be assassinated since Adolph, “Spike” Dubs was kidnapped and assassinated by rebel militant groups in Kabul in 1979 during Jimmy Carter’s presidency. Protecting the officials who themselves are responsible for the security and safety of Americans abroad is a cornerstone of any administrations foreign policy. When it goes badly wrong, it is the duty of Congress to investigate why it happened, to ensure it never happens again.
“The United States divides foreign policy powers between the President and the Congress so that both share in the making of foreign policy”. That’s on the State Department’s website in case Hillary and Obama forgot. It is a continual tug-of-war and it is intended to be that way. It is time for Obama and his administration to let Congress have the facts they need to advise and help shape foreign policy so that officials who work abroad can do their job with reasonable security backed by timely intelligence that does not prioritize spin and upcoming election campaigns. It is the least that the men and women who serve around the world can expect in return for that service.
Clinton, and others, might also want to be a little more careful about using the minor league metaphor as well. The farm system of Major League Baseball, has been a resounding success and the teams involved are spread across the nation and have storied histories and passionate devotees. It may be an inevitable habit, but is also an offense to a league that is at the heart of what America is and the spirit and culture that infused the lives of those brave men who perished in Benghazi.
Did Bergdahl seek out the Taliban? His team leader in Afghanistan, Evan Buetow, was present when a radio report revealed an American was seeking someone who spoke English so this person could talk to the Taliban. This was shortly after Bergdahl disappeared from his camp. Not only that, in the months afterwards, the Taliban’s attacks became far more precise as if they had been informed of the methods and likely reactions of the US military to an attack, according to Buetow. Did Bergdahl switch sides? Or was he forced to reveal information after idiotically seeking out Taliban members in a nearby village? If a former team leader of Bergdahl is aware of this information, how much else is known about Bergdahl? Was Bergdahl, (assuming his disappearance/desertion was idiocy and not something worse), then used by military intelligence to gain information about the crowd of terrorists he had decided to hang out with? Gaining back whatever advantage they could from what is looking more like treason with each passing day?
Included within Article 3 of the Constitution is the following: “Treason in the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort”. As more information becomes available about what exactly Bergdahl did, it may be that the homecoming awaiting him will have been for a traitor. Here again, intent matters, but the outcome does as well. How many died and suffered as a result of possible information he may have revealed? When does idiocy become treason? How much can be excused by virtue, (a perverse use of that phrase if there ever was one), of delusion? No one can dispute that Bergdahl chose to put himself in harm’s way in a part of the world most of us will be lucky never to have to brave. No one can doubt that combat stress is real and something most of us will never understand the way a veteran does. But this is starting to resemble Charles Robert Jenkins and his alcohol fueled crossing of the DMZ into North Korea in January 1965. Hoping to avoid a tour of duty of Vietnam and hoping, insanely, to be able to seek refugee status in the USSR, he made his mad dash and spent the better part of his life in the confines of that crazed Stalinist state’s communism. Bergdahl hss had a luckier life so far. But questions about his intent, as well as the consequences of his actions, grow darker by the hour.
In Illinois, if you care for a disabled family member in your own home with the aid of a state subsidy funded through Medicaid, you are deemed a public sector worker and you have to join a union; The Service Employees International Union,(SEIU). The dues annually pocketed by the SEIU from you and your fellow caregivers in Illinois adds up to about $10 million annually. You have a former governor, now in federal prison, Rod Blagojevich, who awarded the SEIU exclusive representation rights some 10 years ago. You have Democratic governor Pat Quinn deciding in 2009 that you are elgible to unionize and in the corresponding election both the SEIU and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees got less than 40% of the vote. But that doesn’t matter; the vote can be held over and over again until perhaps they get enough votes. So maybe, as a caregiver, you’re a little fed up.
Harris v. Quinn, which the Supreme Court should decide soon, is the result of 8 of those caregivers having challenged the view that they are public employees of the state. The resulting vote at SCOTUS may have a profound impact on labor across the country as it might provide a federal basis for right-to-work law, as detailed by Sean Higgins in the Washington Examiner. As the Supreme Court experts analyze the likelihood of an oveturning or modification of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education — it gave states the right to sign “exclusive representation” contracts for their employees — there is a more basic question. Why has this taken so long? The fact that, in most cases, a majority of union employees are not interested in paying dues and being members is not even a dirty secret. This is about the big, and sometimes, if not always, corrupt, business of big unions and their impact on political speech. No one who defends big labor would say politicians like Blagojevich are necessary to defend worker’s rights, so why defend a process that limits worker’s freedoms in fundamental ways and has historically been prone, to say the least, to corruption? The least SCOTUS could do is curtail the right by executive order for unions to run repeated elections until they get the result they want. It would be a welcome first step, and would let workers vote once and get on with their lives.
While military personnel are listed as deserters 30 days after going AWOL, desertion itself is generally defined by the military as a matter of intent. A Pentagon inquiry in 2010 concluded that Sgt. Bergdahl had walked away from his unit in 2009 and was perhaps naive and delusional, thinking that by doing so he could help the Afghan people. The military forces in Afghanistan limited their searches for him accordingly, all the while gathering intelligence on his possible whereabouts. Leaving your kit in a neat little pile and walking away from your outpost reveals intention by any standard. Whether that may have been the result of combat stress of some kind is another matter. The question then becomes; did Bergdahl go bonkers or did he desert? In the past few years, the Army has had to prosecute a higher percentage of desertions “in order to maintain the health of the force”, as Army spokeswoman Edgecomb stated in 2007. All the way up to 6% of deserters, leaving over 90% of deserters unprosecuted. Perhaps that percentage is appropriate when managing soldiers fighting a war, but the question remains, did Bergdahl desert? His fellow soldiers say definitely yes, and the Pengagon seems to have concluded the same if avoiding using the term.
The other question — why those five top Taliban terrorists? — can only be answered one way. When one looks at the moral hazard of the decision, it is obvious that the consequence will be an increased risk for Americans, (and others), around the world, whether civilian or military. President Obama and his staff must understand that but simply decided another priority was more important; negotiating with the Taliban in order to completely withdraw from Afghanistan. And in this context, the issue of Sgt. Bergdahl’s behavior on duty becomes secondary to the strategists in the Administration who need a positive story as they unwind the U.S. military’s role in that troubled nation and hand the country back to the same fanatical terrorists who drove it straight into the stone age.
Ever since the Russian annexation and incorporation of the Crimea earlier this year, news in the United States concerning the situation in the Ukraine has slowly dropped to a trickle. Americans like others have news fatigue and it’s inevitable that interest in stories will wane as time goes on. Unfortunately, the situation in the Ukraine, particularly in the East has vastly deteriorated and the region is now inching towards a civil war.
In recent weeks, the Ukrainian military has gone from being easily disarmed by unarmed pro-Russian protesters to actively engaging armed pro-Russian militants. While some may take comfort in the fact that sizable Russian military forces that had been amassed on the Ukraine-Russia border have since been withdrawn, a potentially more dangerous situation has emerged. A conflict between Russia and the Ukraine would be awful, disastrous for the Ukraine but would draw enough international attention and condemnation that it would be relatively short. The same can’t be said of an expanded conflict between a pro-Russian insurgency and the Ukrainian military which would be a long, drawn-out fight that would ultimately see increased civilian casualties.
While the Russian takeover of the Crimea was done with little blood, the fight to retake revolting portions of Eastern Ukraine hasn’t been, far from it. In recent weeks multiple ambushes and attacks have occurred with loss of life on both sides to the tune of over 200 and it is only getting worse. What’s more unnerving is that the pro-Russian insurgent’s aren’t solely using small arms such as pistols and sub-machine guns and improvised weapons such as Molotov cocktails. They’ve also been using RPGs (rocket propelled grenades) and other more deadly weaponry that can only have been obtained by raiding Ukrainian military munition dumps or which are being provided to them by external entities such as Russia.
On May 29th, a Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopter was shot down by militants resulting in the loss of life of 14 Ukrainian servicemen including a Ukrainian general. This by no means is the first nor will it be the last shoot down of a Ukrainian helicopter by pro-Russian forces. The shooting down of helicopters is not a hallmark of low-level domestic crises. This is a dangerous situation and unfortunately one that is now being too under reported. What’s worse, if the Russians feel that the Ukrainians are going too far, President Putin will have in his mind and under Russian law his mandate to intervene militarily in Eastern Ukraine to protect Russian citizens. Though I’d be hard pressed to find a person not from the Kremlin who believes that Putin doesn’t have a direct hand in this already.
You can’t help but come away energized after listening to Ben Carson. Energized, not necessarily empowered. His clear and convincing proposal to provide an alternative to Obama’s healthcare plan starts with Health Care Savings Accounts, HSA’s, and makes us realize that the viewer can control his or her medical care to a much greater extent than many think possible. By providing that crucial supplement to a High-Deductible Health Plan, or HDHP, an HSA gives the taxpayer control. Not big government, not big insurance. How much to set side, how and where to spend it: you decide that. You take it from job to job and you roll over any unused amounts at year end. Yes, health is unpredictable and serious illness can be very costly. That’s why HDHP plans exist to essentially provide catastrophic insurance and there are still government and other options to cover any expenses left over. We have accepted the change from defined benefit to defined contributions when it comes to pension plans. And despite a financial crisis and a long recession, that process continues. The problem of making an informed choice applies both in pension plans and HSA’s and likely overwhelms many. But ask yourself; do you want an insurance bureaucrat or government employee limiting your choices or do you want to educate yourself about the options and make a reasonably informed choice? That is taking charge, and that is energizing.
But not necessarily empowering. Where does the term empowering come from? It seems to have its birth in social activism of a century ago, and that means the hard left in most cases. The term was coined in a book by Barbara H (not Barbara Probst Solomon) Solomon, Black Empowerment, published in 1976. In other words, the term empowerment comes from various applications of marxist liberation theory and how it was applied to gender and race and sexual orientation and other groups by left wing radicals trying to find their place in the 70′s. The term appears here to stay as it is adopted in a wider variety of settings, among corporate stakeholders, to use one example. Dr. Ben Carson does not need reminding of any of this; he will surely use the term empowerment. When he does, it means something very different from radical sociologists trying to gain converts. Few of us can match the talents of a brilliant mind like his. But we can share his faith that each of us can work towards solving the challenges in our lives. Reading up a little on his site, SaveOurHealthcare.org is one good one way to start. Dr. Ben Carson, take back empowerment! For all of us.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,(CFPB), is not even 3 years old, but it, or at least some of its employees, are getting quite a raise. Authorized by Dodd-Frank in 2010 and formed in July of 2011, its jurisdiction covers everything from banks and credit unions to mortgage-servicing operations, payday lenders and securities firms. Until recently, its employee ratings system used a 1 to 5 scale to rate workers and pay raises were based, in part at least, on this merit scale. The problems began when a survey revealed by American Banker showed that the 4′s and 5′s went to white employees in a higher proportion than black or hispanic employees. 75% versus 58% and 65%.
While perhaps statistically significant, these are not overwhelming differences but in the CFPB, alarm bells went off and audits were done to root out the supposed discrimination. A “systematic disadvantage to various categories of employees” was denounced by CFPB Director Richard Cordray. The solution? Give a 5 to all who earned a 3 or more in their ratings in 2012 and 2013. And that will mean about $5 million more in pay raises at the Bureau. More than just another retreat from merit and towards political correctness, it’s a pre-emptive pork barrel. How do you ensure a diverse collection of perspectives that embrace a multiplicity of viewpoints and engage committed stakeholders? You spread lots of cash around! Because if you don’t the steady drum beats will sound in various corners of the media and your newly minted Bureau will be sullied before it has even reached its third birthday. At least, that seems to have been Director Cordray’s fears. So the CFPB made sure that merit was more about who you are than what you achieve. And in doing so, cultural and ethnic identity were pushed to the front of the organization, rather than how well they are achieving what they were mandated to do. Protect Consumers in the financial sector … or perhaps from the financial sector. It is interesting to note that one of the early promoters of the Bureau was then Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren. Her long journey from free market adherent to prime supporter of a strictly regulated financial industry has already borne fruit; a government agency that spends most of its recent time and energy making sure pay raises are spread carefully around the office. Sounds a little like Wall Street with one small difference; in the latter if your work is just a 3 out of 5, you rarely last long.
The Anti-Defamation League’s recent survey on antisemitism around the globe throws up some interesting and disturbing data; over a billion people display a clear antisemitic bias in their responses. And the survey was unable to include Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan for understandable reasons. In the Americas some countries surprise by the percentge of hostile views: 52% of Panamanians display antisemitic views for example. Argentina and Mexico come in at 24% and Chile is a disturbing 37%. Brazil is better, 16% are hostile, worse than peace loving Norway by … 1%. That’s right, 15 out of every 100 Norwegians display antisemitic views, far more than their neighbours in Sweden, at 4% one of the lowest in the world. The U.S. comes in at 9% while Canada — Australia and New Zealand display identical results — disappoints at 14%.
Why is Norway four times as anti-semitic as Sweden? It wouldn’t have to do with their status as dispensers of the coveted Nobel Peace Prize? Alfred Nobel, who died in 1896 after amassing a fortune in Oil and Armaments — dynamite and ballistite were his inventions, decreed in his will that a peace prize be part of his legacy and be awarded by a commitee of 5 individuals chosen by the Norwegian Parliament. Over its 100 year plus history, the award has been decided by the Norwegian Parliament, the Oslo University Faculty of Law and the Norwegian Nobel Institue. Since 1990, the Parliament has again taken control of the selection process. Why did Nobel choose Norway? It seems to have been political; the union between Sweden and Norway was being dissolved at the time and Sweden was seen to have a more militaristic tradition.
The prize has remained political, to say the least. So perhaps Norway feels it can cast a critical eye at the State of Israel for actually defending themselves in one the world’s most explicitly and ideologically hostile regions. Would Norwegians consider themselvs anti semitic? As prosperous, peaceful, well educated citizens of the world, they couldn’t possibly feel that they are biased or prejudiced, could they? Maybe Norwegians should spend more time in Sweden or Holland, (5%), and understand why Israel’s defence is a daily matter of survival.
The Senate’s quality of equal representation is a problem for President Obama. All the voters in New York and California, presumed liberal and Democrats in the majority by the frustrated Commander In Chief, only get two senators each. Just like Alaska or Wyoming, the latter state being the example Obama used at a fundraiser in Chicago this past week. Does the President feel that all that gridlock would magically unwind if Senate seats were apportioned by population, making the upper chamber more like the House of Representatives? One hopes his frustrations wouldn’t lead him that far, but it is clear that he is certainly not beyond criticising the Founding Fathers, and especially Roger Sherman, the man most responsible for the Connecticut or Great Compromise of 1787.
To resolve the split among states between the Virginia plan, which favored delegates based on a state’s population, and the New Jersey plan, which favored an equal number of delegates, the idea was arrived at to split what was to have been a single chamber into two houses. The lower chamber would have proportional representation and the upper, equal representation. The authors of this compromise were Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth. Roger Sherman’s life is not merely inspriing, it is astonishing. A self-taught man who established himself at a young age in commerce and local politics in Connecticut, he was asked to read for the bar exam and ended up as justice of the Superior Court of Connecticut from which he departed to join Congress. He is the only person to sign The Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Association, The Articles of Confederation and The United States Constitution. He is,of course, a Founding Father and the internal checks and balances between the House of Representatives and the Senate are, in part, the work of his practicality and genius. The Constitution stands over two centuries later as a shimmering example of men like Roger Sherman and their genius, while other attempts at forging Democratic Representative Governments around the world have risen and fallen or collapsed before they could even get a good start.
Roger Sherman’s father, a parish minister whose personal library was the intellectual food for his son’s journey and who died long before he could witness his achievements, was educated at Harvard. Obama had to read some history while at Harvard we can presume. While complaining at that fundraiser in Chicago, perhaps he forgot Thomas Jeffreson’s famous words of introduction, ” This is Roger Sherman, of Connectict, a man who never said a foolish thing in his life.”
I have a confession: I graduated college a bright-eyed, optimistic liberal, who considered conservative views cruel and downright viscious. Ten years later, I now count myself among conservatives in many issues, and one, by far, is in dealing with teenagers.
Want a conservative educators advice on teenagers? Here you go: Don’t worry so much about students’ self-esteem. Yes, I can hear the protests of bleeding hearts right now, but have been in the trenches first-hand and dealt with thousands of students. A firm hand is far more effective than a limp one in the classroom. That’s not advice, that’s just common sense.
In fact, and I tell this to my students, this liberal overprotectiveness is a bit insulting for them. Quite literally, policy-makers in academia and educational theorists believe children are stupid, like a bunch of Pavlovian zombies. They are not. Children are much tougher and smarter than most people think, and underestimating their abilities to perceive and manipulate the system has led to most of our problems. Our current education system isn’t preparing them for life. It’s preparing them for Candyland.
Parents, teachers and those dealing with kids: When you talk to kids, don’t worry so much about saying things that might hurt their feelings. If they are doing something ridiculous, tell them to “Stop being stupid” (but don’t call them stupid…a big difference). If they cranked out in an essay in minutes, don’t tout the positives of it. Tell them “This is terrible.” That doesn’t mean been cruel to them, but don’t be afraid to teach them a lesson.
Their fragile minds aren’t as fragile as you think and honesty, for good or bad, goes a long way to earning their respect. Just like adults, kids respect an adult that is honest and tells them the truth. They like a straight-shooter.
It’s taken me longer than times past to recover my willingness to engage in political discourse after the 2012 Presidential Election Cycle. I was honestly hopeful reason would prevail upon the American electorate and the collective would realize the fact the current administration had become an abject, unmitigated failure in every sense of the word. It was patently obvious to anyone who cared to look past the thin veneer of Team Obama that the President and everyone associated with him simply wasn’t up to the job of leading – let alone managing – the nation.
Election Day came and went and I was proven wrong. Americans, by and large, get the government they deserve. I don’t know what America did to deserve Team Obama, but it must’ve been some gigantic karmic cluster.
But I digress.
There are many reasons why Mitt Romney does not today occupy the Big Chair. Running against The One was always going to be an uphill battle even under the best of circumstances. Mitt needed a lot of help, and indeed a lot of luck, to run the table and send Obama back to Chicago, Hawaii, or wherever his Presidential Library is going to be. It was going to be hard enough fighting the liberal, left leaning Democratic Party and its publicity machine commonly known as the Main Stream Media.
What Mitt didn’t need, but got far too much of, was friendly fire. It came from all corners. Principal among the culprits were those hard-line, hard-right “conservatives” who constantly sniped at Mitt for not leaning far enough right for their liking. Yeah, I’m talking to the Paul-pods (both Ron and Rand) out there. You’re not helping the nation by publicly fighting an intra-party civil war while the rest of us are trying to win an election.
Right there with the friendly-fire people are the Tea-Party fueled whack-jobs who insist on drawing attention to themselves with asinine comments that give the MSM ammunition with which to attack the party’s standard bearer. Yes, I’m talking to you, Todd Akin. You took what was an eminently winnable Missouri senate race and pried defeat from the jaws of victory by introducing the concept of “legitimate rape” into a presidential campaign. Ditto Richard Mourdock in Indiana. Now we’re stuck with two hard left Democrats for six years. Thanks a lot guys. Please find your way to the political wilderness and don’t come back.
Now I realize the Tea Party comes from all sorts of pissed off Republicans and Libertarians who feel betrayed by the “establishment”. I also realize the vast majority of Tea Party people are not insane. That said, I have to look at the Tea Party track record. Tea Party candidates are the main reason why Dusty Harry Reid still controls the US Senate. Had the Republican party put forth more palatable candidates than Sharron Angle or Christine O’Donnell, we’d be looking at a dramatically different political landscape in DC.
Those, Dear Reader, are facts. Facts are stubborn things.
My point, and I do have one, is this: I’m tired of losing. I’m tired of seeing an incompetent President auger this nation into the ground with the help of a willing Senate and lapdog media. What’s more – I’m tired of my party shooting itself in the foot before the race even starts by a vocal minority demanding intellectual and political “purity” from candidates that make them unpalatable in a general election.
The Republican party needs to put forth candidates with the ability to win elections. If we don’t win elections we can’t govern. If the Tea Party is content to snipe from the sidelines as yet another generation of left leaning progressives take the reins of power than it should continue to put forth the same caliber of candidates that it did in 2010 and 2012.
I’m heartened by the results of this week’s primaries in Kentucky and Georgia. Michael Barone – who has forgotten more about ground level politics than I will ever learn, looked at the results and said:
I think these Republican voters concluded that voting for candidates who stand up on chairs and yell, “Hell no!” would produce election results in which Republicans would lack the votes to do anything other than stand up on chairs and yell, “Hell no!”
Republican primary voters are casting their ballots in a way that suggests they’re trying to produce policy outcomes — in particular, repeal of Obamacare — and not just choosing the candidate who most colorfully articulates their anger and frustration: candidates who will sit down in their chairs and vote to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Winning elections is where the rubber meets the road. I’m all about winning now – mostly because the view from the mezzanine is getting pretty old.
Here endeth the lesson.
Net neutrality is causing a fuss lately. A recent FCC ruling would allow the large internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon to charge more for a faster lane. To those opposing the ruling, it’s the end of the internet as we know it and all consumers and smaller content providers face life in the slow lane, bumping along a tired little dirt track while those with deep pockets zoom by on the freeway. Large content providers like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook are also against the ruling. The trouble is, those opposing the recent ruling — the FCC split along party lines with Democrats for and Republicans against — is they fall into two very distinct camps: those who want less regulation and those who want to turn the internet into a utility to ensure equal access for all. The Republicans on the commision felt it had overstepped it’s jurisdictional limits, intruding into what should be the prerogative of Congress and that regulations should be kept to a minimum. The tech utopians, on the other hand, want all sorts of regulation to ensure that we all get treated fairly by that enormous, diverse, sprawling tangle of networks.
So will most of us users get “pushed onto the internet dirt road” in the words of Craig Aaron, president of Free Press? In the first place, one wonders if it will be more a case of the telcos building those fast lanes right to your front door, when perhaps you just want a one laner to browse on bird watching in the Gulf Coast for example. Another compelling argument is raised by Timothy Lee in a paper he wrote a few years ago and is available at the Cato Institute’s website. He states that the intelligence and the functionality of the internet resides in it’s end users. The hubs and fiber-optic lines owned by a Comcast or Verizon are just not able to control decisions made by millions of their customers with their laptops or tablets or PC’s. They call it the end to end principle and the internet’s short and explosive history is full of examples of how powerful it is. So maybe Comcast and Verizon should go ahead and build those fast lanes, (assuming the FCC ruling is not overturned in court), and see just who ends up benefiting. Remember, the internet has never been a stagnant, zero-sum game, and after they build those expensive new lanes, you never know who will show up to play, or even enjoy a free ride.
On Friday, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) routed the ruling Indian National Congress (INC) to gain an outright majority, the first time a single party has won a majority in 30 years and the greatest electoral defeat ever experienced by the INC. This is seen as a response to increasing corruption scandals in India as well as anemic economic growth and with this victory, opposition leader Narendra Modi will soon become the new Indian prime minister. This presents an opportunity for both the U.S. and India. The relationship between the U.S. and India can best be described as at times ambiguous and at others an afterthought. Now though, with the growing importance of Asia, our “Asian Pivot” and with a new government in India, Washington must take advantage of this situation and approach the world’s most populous democracy with arms open.
Historically, Indias relations with other countries have been all over the map. During the Cold War India was a founding member of the Non-Alignment Pact but developed a close relationship with the Soviet Union, a relationship that continues with Russia today. Yet India maintained relationships with the U.S., European states and others; it can be said India is a prime example of a country that eschews the idea of entering into entangling alliances. In recent years, India has sought greater connections with disparate nations owing to a changing regional environment. The rise of China has led India to seek a balancing coalition against it, while the deterioration of U.S. -Pakistan relations over the years has created an open window for greater engagement with the U.S.
The Bush administration made several advances towards India including reversing the U.S. opposition to India’s nuclear program, assisting in tsunami search and rescue efforts, and promoting easier trade. A variety of factors helped to further this relationship and many felt positive by President Obamas trip to India in late 2010 when he backed India’s bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. But little has been done since then to bolster the relationship. Despite the numerous shared concerns held by both nations, and the “Asian Pivot,” India has been practically ignored while certain events have served to set back the relationship. Furthermore, PM-elect Modi has been essentially blacklisted by the U.S. since the early 2000s due to charges of his involvement, or lack of in violent sectarian riots that killed more than 1,000.
Regardless of these problems, the U.S. must act now and embrace India. We can’t ignore its leadership which has been provided an overwhelming mandate by the people. India is the second-most populous country in the world, the most populous of any democracy; it is an emerging power with an economy that is currently eleventh in the world by nominal GDP. There is no reason why the U.S. shouldn’t make enhanced engagement with India a top priority. In a time when the Asia-Pacific region is growing in importance and what some may say has already overshadowed Europe in economic importance, it is vital that the U.S. engage countries such as India. To fail to do so will only serve to set this country back.