[REWIND] Bruce Jenner Playgirl Cover, 1976

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Everybody remembers Bruce Jenner‘s iconic Sports Illustrated cover from 1976, but how many people had this gem in their collection? The former Olympian, now 65, posed shirtless for Playgirl in May 1982, gracing the cover with then-wife Linda Thompson, to whom he was married from 1981 to 1986.

“Bruce Jenner: The Fall and Rise of an American Hero,” the headline touted. (Note the other cover lines, too: Anyone else curious about that “Perfect Man,” who’s “Part Redford, Reynolds, Reeve…”?)

The cover was shot six years after Jenner won gold in the decathlon at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Canada, and two years after he was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame.

At the time, he and Thompson had been married for just a little over a year, and had welcomed their first child, Brandon, 11 months earlier, in June 1981. They also had a second son, Brody, a year after the Playgirl shoot, in 1983. Read the rest of this entry »


Remember Gridlock? What Was That About?

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Read more…. New York Post


Baltimore Protests Turn Violent


BREAKING: Russian Hackers Read Obama’s NCAA Brackets, Officials Say

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WASHINGTON — Some of President Obama’s email correspondence was swept up by Russian hackers last year in a breach of the White House’s unclassified computer system that was far more intrusive and worrisome than has been publicly acknowledged, according to senior American officials briefed on the investigation.

The hackers, who also got deeply into the State Department’s unclassified system, do not appear to have penetrated closely guarded servers that control the message traffic from Mr. Obama’s BlackBerry, which he or an aide carries constantly.

But they obtained access to the email archives of people inside the White House, and perhaps some outside, with whom Mr. Obama regularly communicated. From those accounts, they reached emails that the president had sent and received, according to officials briefed on the investigation.

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White House officials said that no classified networks had been compromised, and that the hackers had collected no classified information. Many senior officials have two computers in their offices, one operating on a highly secure classified network and another connected to the outside world for unclassified communications.

But officials have conceded that the unclassified system routinely contains much information that is considered highly sensitive: schedules, email exchanges with ambassadors and diplomats, discussions of pending personnel moves and legislation, and, inevitably, some debate about policy.

Officials did not disclose the number of Mr. Obama’s emails that were harvested by hackers, nor the sensitivity of their content. The president’s email account itself does not appear to have been hacked. Aides say that most of Mr. Obama’s classified briefings — such as the morning Presidential Daily Brief — are delivered orally or on paper (sometimes supplemented by an iPad system connected to classified networks) and that they are usually confined to the Oval Office or the Situation Room.

Even though Obama's email is protected by Secret Service guards, somehow Russians got access

Even though Obama’s email is protected by Secret Service guards, somehow Russians got access

Still, the fact that Mr. Obama’s communications were among those hit by the hackers — who are presumed to be linked to the Russian government, if not working for it — has been one of the most closely held findings of the inquiry. Senior White House officials have known for months about the depth of the intrusion.

“This has been one of the most sophisticated actors we’ve seen,” said one senior American official briefed on the investigation.

Others confirmed that the White House intrusion was viewed as so serious that officials met on a nearly daily basis for several weeks after it was discovered. “It’s the Russian angle to this that’s particularly worrisome,” another senior official said. Read the rest of this entry »


‘When did America forget that it’s America?’

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A Message from Natan Sharansky, a Human rights Activist and Former Political Prisoner in the Soviet Union

Natan Sharansky writes: On a number of occasions during the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, the Israeli government has appealed to the United States and its allies to demand a change in Tehran’s aggressive behavior. If Iran wishes to be treated as a normal state, Israel has said, then it should start acting like one.

Unfortunately, these appeals have been summarily dismissed. The Obama administration apparently believes that only after a nuclear agreement is signed can the free liberty-statue-one-world-trade-center-nightworld expect Iran to stop its attempts at regional domination, improve its human rights record and, in general, behave like the civilized state it hopes the world will recognize it to be.

As a former Soviet dissident, I cannot help but compare this approach to that of the United States during its decades-long negotiations with the Soviet Union, which at the time was a global superpower and a existential threat to the free world. The differences are striking and revealing

For starters, consider that the Soviet regime felt obliged to make its first ideological concession simply to enter into negotiations with the United States about economic cooperation. At the end of the 1950s, Moscow abandoned its doctrine of fomenting a worldwide communist revolution and adopted in its place a credo of peaceful coexistence between communism and capitalism. The Soviet leadership paid a high price for this concession, both internally — in the form of millions of citizens, like me, who had been obliged to study Marxism and Leninism as the truth and now found their partial abandonment confusing — and internationally, in their relations with the Chinese and other dogmatic communists who viewed the change as a betrayal. Nevertheless, the Soviet government understood that it had no other way to get what it needed from the United States.

Imagine what would have happened if instead, after completing a round of negotiations over disarmament, the Soviet statue-libertyUnion had declared that its right to expand communism across the continent was not up for discussion. This would have spelled the end of the talks. Yet today, Iran feels no need to tone down its rhetoric calling for the death of America and wiping Israel off the map.

Of course, changes in rhetoric did not change the Soviet Union’s policy, which included sending missiles to Cuba, tanks to Prague and armies to Afghanistan. But each time, such aggression caused a serious crisis in relations between Moscow and Washington, influencing the atmosphere and results of negotiations between them. So, for example, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan shortly after the SALT II agreement had been signed, the United States quickly abandoned the deal and accompanying discussions.

Today, by contrast, apparently no amount of belligerence on Iran’s part can convince the free world that Tehran has disqualified itself from the negotiations or the benefits being offered therein. Over the past month alone, as nuclear discussions continued apace, we watched Iran’s proxy terror group, Hezbollah, transform into a full-blown army on Israel’s northern border, and we saw Tehran continue to impose its rule on other countries, adding Yemen to the list of those under its control. Read the rest of this entry »


Obama’s Orwellian Language on Drones

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 writes:

There is an eerie Orwellian cost to the Obama administration’s refusal to use the term “War on Terror” to describe its … war on terror. In his briefing after the White House’s admission that two hostages — one American, one Italian — were killed in a U.S. “operation,” press secretary Josh Earnest struggled mightily to avoid the word “war” to describe exactly what the U.S.is up to. Finally he gave in and stated that under the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, the nation is “at war” with al Qaeda.

“Why do the words matter? Because the inevitability of civilian casualties, even in the most justified of wars, is accepted both in international law and in the ethics of war.”

Why do the words matter? Because the inevitability of civilian casualties, even in the most justified of wars, is accepted both in international law and in the ethics of war. Civilian casualties are never good. They are a tragedy, a terrible cost that must be avoided whenever possible. But in wars, they happen.

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“The problem the White House faces is its stubborn insistence that its non-war is being fought with precision. Earnest used that very word repeatedly. But it’s hard to take the claim seriously in light of calculations…”

[Read the full text here, at Bloomberg View]

As the philosopher Michael Walzer has pointed out, in the fluidity of minute-to-minute wartime decisions, it’s not possible to act with the sort of precision that might be called for in the classroom. Targeting noncombatants is forbidden. Nevertheless, they always suffer horribly in war. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Kelly File: Bullied by People with Badges: The Wisconsin Constitutional Atrocity

Via Nancy French, Twitter

This is a great segment on the Wisconsin Constitutional atrocity on Megyn Kelly’s show last night… featuring David French and his viral article on National Review

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[The vital article: Wisconsin’s Shame: ‘I Thought It Was a Home Invasion’]

[Also see – Wisconsin’s Shame: Even Salon Agrees the Raids Were Wrong]

[More – ]

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Source: patheos.com

Follow Nancy on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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Also see – Wisconsin Democrats Using “John Doe” Laws To Terrorize Conservatives]

More –  David French’s bio and archive on National Review


Tiny California Towns Have Big Asset Forfeiture Histories

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New report shows municipalities bolstering ailing budgets with seizures

 writes: The Drug Policy Alliance has a big new report out today showing how a pack of small cities in Southern California are using and abusing the federal civil asset forfeiture program to get more money for their departments in the wake of budget woes. The report, researched and written by drug policy journalist Jonah Engle, also shows how little oversight the Department of Justice actually demonstrates over municipal and law enforcement forfeiture behavior that appears to violate guidelines for participation in the program.Policecash

“The reason is pretty simple: California’s asset forfeiture law allows law enforcement agencies to keep only a maximum of 65 percent of the money they seize.”

What do the cities of Vernon, Baldwin Park, Beverly Hills, Gardena, Irwindale, La Verne, Pomona, and South Gate have in common? They’re all comparatively small cities in Los Angeles County ranging in population from just 112 (Vernon) to 149,058 (Pomona). Yet these cities, combined, have collected more than $43 million in asset forfeiture between 2006 and 2013, according to the report.

“The federal program allows law enforcement agencies to keep 80 percent. There’s just more money in turning to the feds and ignoring the state.”

That’s 60 percent more than the Los Angeles Police Department took in during that time frame, even though these combined municipalities still have only a fraction of the population of Los Angeles. The report breaks it down even further to help readers grasp the differences. Irwindale has a population of 1,422 people and has collected more than $800,000 in forfeited assets.

“Civil asset forfeiture was never intended to supplant law enforcement budgeting.”

Bakersfield has a population of 349,000 but collected only $571,796 during the same time. Vernon isn’t even so much a city as it is a large industrial hub with a history of corruption. Despite having almost no residents, it brought in nearly $1 million in federal asset forfeiture funds during this time. Read the rest of this entry »


Chinese Internet Censorship in One Chart


Deal Sweetener: State Department Won’t Rule Out $50 Billion ‘Signing Bonus’ For Iran

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 writes: The State Department on Monday would not rule out giving Iran up to $50 billion as a so-called “signing bonus” for agreeing to a nuclear deal later this year, according to comments made to journalists following reports that the Obama administration had formulated a plan to release tens of billions of frozen Iranian funds.

“This could be the largest cash infusion to a state sponsor of terrorism in modern history.”

— Jonathan Schanzer, a top terrorism-funding expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Experts have said this multi-billion dollar “signing bonus” option, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, could be the largest cash infusion to a terror-backing regime in recent memory.

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“They’re getting access to money throughout this period as well. Throughout the extension they’re now getting some sanctions relief, which will continue through June 30.”

— State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf

A cash release of $30 to $50 billion upon reaching a final nuclear agreement would come in addition to the more than $11 billion in unfrozen assets that Iran will already have received under an interim nuclear accord reached in 2013.

When asked to address these reports on Monday, State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf attempted to dodge the issue and then accused reporters of getting “spun up” on the issue.

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Asked whether Iran could receive $50 billion “on day one after signing” or verbally agreeing to a nuclear deal, Harf told reporters that she would “look into it.”

When pressed to provide an answer about the Journal’s initial report, Harf declined “to go line by line in the story.”

Harf said sanctions relief to Iran will continue through June 30.

“They’re getting access to money throughout this period as well,” she said. “Throughout the extension they’re now getting some sanctions relief, which will continue through June 30.”

Jonathan Schanzer, a top terrorism-funding expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), said such a cash release to Iran would enable the regime to continue backing various terror groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. Read the rest of this entry »


Tuesday Morning News Dump

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Ben K – Ace of Spades HQ


Rock Paper Scissors: Christian Who Asked Gay Rights Bakery to Bake Anti-Gay Marriage Cake May Face Legal Action

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Cake Fake Controversy Enters Twilight Zone

Donna Rachel Edmunds reports: A bakery that has refused to bake a cake with an anti-gay wedding message has found itself at the centre of controversy. But unlike mirror image cases in which Christian bakers have been taken to court for refusing to bake pro-gay marriage cakes, this time, it is the Christian to tried to place the order who may face legal action.

The latest skirmish in an ongoing battle between Christians and gay rights campaigners began when pastor Josh Feuerstein called Cut the Cake in Longwood, Florida to request a sheet cake with the slogan “We do not support gay marriage” written on it.

Sharon Haller, owner of Cut the Cake, who took the call, asked Feuerstein whether the request was a prank (it took place on April 1st), before refusing to bake the cake saying “We wouldn’t do that, sorry”. She then hung up without explaining her reasons.

The brief call was recorded by Feuerstein who then turned to the camera to give his views on the debate currently taking place.

“It obviously violates her principles, so she doesn’t feel like she should be forced to make the cake. And yet there is all of this hoopla because Christian bakeries think that they shouldn’t be forced,” he said. “We’re getting to the place in America now where Christians are not allowed any form of freedom of speech.

“Have we gotten to the point in America where the left is so ‘open minded’ that they’re close minded to anybody that doesn’t agree with them, or is America big enough for different points of view? Christian bakeries should never be forced to do something that violates their Christian principles. That’s not American.

“I love gay people. This is nothing against gay people. This is about religious freedom.”

Feuerstein posted the video to YouTube, but according to WND he removed the video when Haller started to receive harassing phone calls and messages on Facebook. However, Haller then posted the video herself to the Cut the Cake Facebook page, commenting “Yes the video has been deleted by Joshua Feuerstein but the damage is done! Our reviews have been marred and our business reviews are no longer the same. We thought this was a prank! Look for yourself.”

Haller told local media that she had received intimidating calls and even death threats from people all over the country who had seen the video. “People (are) telling us that we need to kill ourselves and all kinds of stuff, and we’re just afraid for our business and our safety,” she said. Local police stepped up patrols in her area. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Obama’s Clown-Car Diplomacy

In which our resident scholar on all things Middle-East – and circus related, Andrew Klavan, explains Barack Obama’s policy for that troubled region. Think of it as Smart Diplomacy for Dummies…


Chinese Government to Put 3D Printers in All 400,000 Elementary Schools by Next Year

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 reports: Education is probably one of the areas that will benefit the most from 3D printers in the long run. The problem though is getting the machines into the schools in the first place. With prices generally ranging from $400 to $3,000 for typical desktop 3D printers, they are not cheap, and with budgets c3within many school districts running dry, both in the United States and overseas, the unfortunate fact is that many schools simply can’t afford them, not to mention the materials and time it takes to train teachers to use them.

Speaking with former MakerBot CEO, Jenny Lawton, at CES this year, she told me that 3D printing will become mainstream and really begin to explode as far as adoption rates go, when a full cycle of education has been exposed to the technology. Just like many of us who were exposed in school to desktop computing back in the ’80s and ’90s can’t envision not having access to a computers now, the children of today may one day think the same about 3D printers.

The United States clearly understands the importance of this technology, particularly President Obama. In addition to investing heavily to bring manufacturing back to US soil, he has mentioned the importance of 3D c41printing on several occasions, visiting manufacturing facilities that are using 3D printers, and even going as far speaking about the technology in one of his State of the Union Addresses.

With that said, news coming out of Tapei, Taiwan today, from Simon Shen, the CEO of Kinpo Group (parent company of XYZprinting), suggests that China is about to one-up the United States in a big way.

According to Shen, the Chinese government has a new policy to install a 3D printer in each of its approximately 400,000 elementary schools over the next two years. This number caught me totally off guard for two reason. First of all, that’s a lot of elementary schools. For instance, in the United States we have approximately 70,000 elementary schools, and approximately 100,000 total public schools. As a nation we could easily match China’s ambitions. Read the rest of this entry »


Ouch! Obama’s Approval Rating Higher in Communist Country Than in America

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Cameron Joseph, NY Daily News, reports: President Obama is significantly more popular in Cuba these days than in the United States, according to a new poll conducted for Fusion and The Washington Post.

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About 80% of Cubans have a favorable opinion of Obama in the wake of recent moves toward normalizing relations between the formerly feuding countries, according to the poll.

Obama’s approval rating has been hovering around 45% in the most recent polling — about as popular as President Raul Castro is in Cuba.

 Fox Nation


FORWARD! U.S. Aerospace Command Moving Comms Gear Back to Cold War Bunker

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The Cheyenne mountain bunker is a half-acre cavern carved into a mountain in the 1960s that was designed to withstand a Soviet nuclear attack.

Washington (AFP) – The US military command that scans North America’s skies for enemy missiles and aircraft plans to move its communications gear to a Cold War-era mountain bunker, officers said.

The shift to the Cheyenne Mountain base in Colorado is designed to safeguard the command’s sensitive sensors and servers from a potential electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack, military officers said.

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The Pentagon last week announced a $700 million contract with Raytheon Corporation to oversee the work for North American Aerospace Command (NORAD) and US Northern Command.

“My primary concern was…are we going to have the space inside the mountain for everybody who wants to move in there, and I’m not at liberty to discuss who’s moving in there.”

Admiral William Gortney, head of NORAD and Northern Command, said that “because of the very nature of the way that Cheyenne Mountain’s built, it’s EMP-hardened.”

US President Barack Obama attends a military briefing with US Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham (L) at Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul, in Afghanistan, May 25, 2014. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

“And so, there’s a lot of movement to put capability into Cheyenne Mountain and to be able to communicate in there,” Gortney told reporters.

“A lot of the back office communications is being moved there.”

“My primary concern was… are we going to have the space inside the mountain for everybody who wants to move in there, and I’m not at liberty to discuss who’s moving in there,” he said.

The Cheyenne mountain bunker is a half-acre cavern carved into a mountain in the 1960s that was designed to withstand a Soviet nuclear attack. From inside the massive complex, airmen were poised to send warnings that could trigger the launch of nuclear missiles.

But in 2006, officials decided to move the headquarters of NORAD and US Northern Command from Cheyenne to Petersen Air Force base in Colorado Springs. The Cheyenne bunker was designated as an alternative command center if needed. Read the rest of this entry »


The Iran Deal and Its Consequences

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Mixing shrewd diplomacy with defiance of U.N. resolutions, Iran has turned the negotiation on its head

Henry Kissinger and George P. Shultz write: The announced framework for an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program has the potential to generate a seminal national debate. Advocates exult over the nuclear constraints it would impose on Iran. Critics question the verifiability of these constraints and their longer-term impact on regional and world stability. The historic significance of the agreement and indeed its sustainability depend on whether these emotions, valid by themselves, can be reconciled.220px-Henry_Kissinger_Shankbone_Metropolitan_Opera_2009

“In a large country with multiple facilities and ample experience in nuclear concealment, violations will be inherently difficult to detect. Devising theoretical models of inspection is one thing. Enforcing compliance, week after week, despite competing international crises and domestic distractions, is another.”

Debate regarding technical details of the deal has thus far inhibited the soul-searching necessary regarding its deeper implications. For 20 years, three presidents of both major parties proclaimed that an Iranian nuclear weapon was contrary to American and global interests—and that they were prepared to use force to prevent it. Yet negotiations that began 12 years ago as an international effort to prevent an Iranian capability to develop a nuclear arsenal are ending with an agreement that concedes this very capability, albeit short of its full capacity in the first 10 years.

[Read the full text here, at the Wall Street Journal]

Mixing shrewd diplomacy with open defiance of U.N. resolutions, Iran has gradually turned the negotiation on its head. Iran’s centrifuges have multiplied from about 100 at the beginning of the negotiation to almost 20,000 today. The threat of war now constrains the West more than Iran. While Iran treated the mere fact of its willingness to negotiate as a concession, the West has felt compelled to break every deadlock with a new proposal. In the process, the Iranian program has reached a point officially described as being within two to three months of building a nuclear weapon. Under the proposed agreement, for 10 years Iran will never be further than one year from a nuclear weapon and, after a decade, will be significantly closer.

An Iranian worker at the Uranium Conversion Facility at Isfahan, 410 kilometers, south of Tehran. The conversion facility in Isfahan reprocesses uranium ore concentrate, known as yellowcake, into uranium hexaflouride gas. The gas is then taken to Natanz and fed into the centrifuges for enrichment. (photo credit: AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

An Iranian worker at the Uranium Conversion Facility at Isfahan, 410 kilometers, south of Tehran. The conversion facility in Isfahan reprocesses uranium ore concentrate, known as yellowcake, into uranium hexaflouride gas. The gas is then taken to Natanz and fed into the centrifuges for enrichment. (photo credit: AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Inspections and Enforcement

The president deserves respect for the commitment with which he has pursued the objective of reducing nuclear peril, as does Secretary of State John Kerry for the persistence, patience and ingenuity with which he has striven to impose significant constraints on Iran’s nuclear program.

[Also see – Clouds of Grey Fuzz Hang Over Iran Deal]

Progress has been made on shrinking the size of Iran’s enriched stockpile, confining the enrichment of 220px-George_Pratt_Shultzuranium to one facility, and limiting aspects of the enrichment process. Still, the ultimate significance of the framework will depend on its verifiability and enforceability.

“Under the new approach, Iran permanently gives up none of its equipment, facilities or fissile product to achieve the proposed constraints…”

Negotiating the final agreement will be extremely challenging. For one thing, no official text has yet been published. The so-called framework represents a unilateral American interpretation. Some of its clauses have been dismissed by the principal Iranian negotiator as “spin.” A joint EU-Iran statement differs in important respects, especially with regard to the lifting of sanctions and permitted research and development.

“…It only places them under temporary restriction and safeguard—amounting in many cases to a seal at the door of a depot or periodic visits by inspectors to declared sites. The physical magnitude of the effort is daunting.”

Comparable ambiguities apply to the one-year window for a presumed Iranian breakout. Emerging at a relatively late stage in the negotiation, this concept replaced the previous baseline—that Iran might be permitted a technical capacity compatible with a plausible civilian nuclear program. The new approach complicates verification and makes it more political because of the vagueness of the criteria.

“Is the International Atomic Energy Agency technically, and in terms of human resources, up to so complex and vast an assignment?”

Under the new approach, Iran permanently gives up none of its equipment, facilities or fissile product to achieve the proposed constraints. Read the rest of this entry »


Latin America Silent on Venezuela as U.S. Airs Rights Concerns

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PANAMA CITY (AP) — Joshua Goodman and Peter Orsi report: From Mexico to Brazil, leaders in Latin America have largely kept silent amid charges of human rights abuses in Venezuela and are unlikely to speak out against their neighbor at this week’s Summit of the Americas.

“The Obama administration last month froze the U.S. assets and revoked visas for seven senior officials accused of human rights violations related to protests last year against President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government.”

Many Latin American heads of state gathering in Panama City are bound to oil-rich Venezuela by business dealings if not ideology, and are put off by recent U.S. sanctions against some of the country’s officials. Others do not want to be seen as doing Washington’s bidding, particularly as they face protests and plunging approval ratings at home.

“The unrest is blamed for more than 40 deaths and triggered a crackdown on criticism that led to the jailing of several opposition leaders, including February’s surprise arrest of Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma.”

“Venezuela has successfully played the history of U.S. imperialism and U.S. heavy-handedness cards, in a way that has made people want to back away from public criticism,” said Geoff Thale, an analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America.

Venezuela Regional Silence

“It was no surprise that leftist allies such as the governments of Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua would leap to defend Caracas. All have a history of vocal opposition to Washington. But even more moderate governments and traditional U.S. allies in the region have been reluctant to criticize Maduro.”

The Obama administration last month froze the U.S. assets and revoked visas for seven senior officials accused of human rights violations related to protests last year against President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government. The unrest is blamed for more than 40 deaths and triggered a crackdown on criticism that led to the jailing of several opposition leaders, including February’s surprise arrest of Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma.

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Human Rights Watch and other advocacy groups issued a statement on Tuesday asking the countries attending the summit to call Maduro’s administration to task for its alleged harassment of rights defenders.

But rather than highlight alleged abuses, the U.S. sanctions have drawn widespread condemnation in Latin America, denying Obama a hoped-for diplomatic victory lap at the summit for his decision to restore ties with Cold War nemesis Cuba. A reference to Venezuela as a threat to U.S. national security included in the sanctions declaration is standard bureaucratic language for the United States, but disturbing to a region with a long history of U.S. interference, from support for past military regimes to efforts to topple leftist governments.

Deputy National Security adviser Benjamin Rhodes argued Tuesday during a White House press briefing on Obama’s upcoming visit that the language in the executive order was the same typically used by the U.S. when it levies sanctions around the world. Read the rest of this entry »


Ancient Chinese Community Celebrates Its Jewish Roots, and Passover

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Becky Davis reports: Over the remains of the Chinese-style Passover banquet – soups with bamboo and huge chunks of fresh tofu, steamed fish and platters of crisp greens in mustard sauce – Li Penglin, 16, lifted a glass of Israeli wine from his place at the head table. Quietly but without faltering, he read out a Chinese translation of a Hebrew prayer.

About 50 guests, including several local government officials, responded with a chorus of amens, downing their thimblefuls of wine while self-consciously leaning to the left. Some poked neighbors who, unfamiliar with the Jewish custom, had neglected to incline.

It was an atypical scene on an atypical occasion: a Chinese celebration of Passover, the Jewish holiday commemorating the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt more than 3,000 years ago.

“There’s no conflict between Passover and Qingming. They’re both about remembrance of ancestors – very similar, just with different methods.”

In a hotel dining room festooned with purple garlands for a coming wedding, Chinese of Jewish descent in the central city of Kaifeng came together on Friday night for a Seder, the traditional Passover meal over which the Exodus story is recounted. Just two days before Qingming, the “tomb-sweeping” festival when Chinese traditionally pay their respects at family graves, they had gathered to recall ancestors even more ancient and a world away.

The millennium-old Jewish population of Kaifeng has witnessed a surprising revival in recent years, a phenomenon all the more notable for the tolerant eye that the Chinese government, which does not count Judaism among state-sanctioned religions, seems to have turned toward it.

Eight clans in Kaifeng claim to be able to trace their lineage back to a small number of Sephardic Jews who made this fertile region their home in the 12th century, when Kaifeng was the capital of the Northern Sung Dynasty and a bustling hub on the Silk Road. But intermarriage, assimilation and isolation eroded their numbers over time. Floods and fires repeatedly destroyed the city’s synagogue, which was not rebuilt after a flood in the 1850s. The Cultural Revolution in the 1960s further quashed any lingering expressions of religious practice. Read the rest of this entry »


Bret Stephens: Obama and the ‘Inevitable Critics’

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We are dealing with a case of Mutually Assured Obfuscation

Bret Stephens writes: ‘So when you hear the inevitable critics of the deal sound off, ask them a simple question: Do you really think that this verifiable deal, if fully implemented, backed by the world’s major powers, is a worse option than the risk of another war in the Middle East?”

That was Barack Obama on Thursday, defending his Iran diplomacy while treating its opponents to the kind of glib contempt that is the mark of the progressive mind. Since I’m one of those inevitable critics, let me answer his question.

Yes, it’s worse. Much worse.

Yes, because what the president calls “this verifiable deal” fails the first test of verification—mutual agreement and clarity as to what, exactly, is in it.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

Take sanctions. Iran insists all sanctions—economic as well as nuclear—will be “immediately revoked” and that “the P5+1 member countries are committed to restraining from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions.” But the Obama administration claims Iran will only get relief “if it verifiably abides by its commitments.” The administration adds that “the architecture of U.S. nuclear-related sanctions on Iran will be retained for much of the duration of the deal.”

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So who is lying? Or are we dealing with a case of Mutually Assured Obfuscation?

Yes, too, because the deal fails the second test of verification: It can’t be verified.

Here again there are significant discrepancies between the U.S. and the Iranian versions of the deal. The administration claims “Iran has agreed to implement the Additional Protocol,” a reference to an addendum to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that permits intrusive inspections. But Tehran merely promises to implement the protocol “on a voluntary and temporary basis,” pending eventual ratification by its parliament, inshallah.

We’ve seen this movie before. Iran agreed to implement the Additional Protocol in 2003, only to renounce it in early 2006, after stonewalling weapons inspectors. Read the rest of this entry »


Blood Moon Photos from April 4th

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: Say hello to the shortest lunar eclipse of the century. These stunning photos capture the blood moon as captured over Colorado, China, and New Zealand. For more, check out our original post on the early morning event.

PopMech


CLICHÉS OF PROGRESSIVISM #51: ‘The Free Market Cannot Provide Public Education’

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The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) has been proud to partner with Young America’s Foundation (YAF) to produce “Clichés of Progressivism,” a series of insightful commentaries covering topics of free enterprise, income inequality, and limited government. This is the final installment in the series. 

(Editor’s Note: For 15 years, the author was editor of The Freeman, the journal of the Foundation for Economic Education. A version of this essay was originally published there in June 2000.)

Sheldon Richman writes: Can the free market provide public education? The short answer, of course, is: yes, look around. Right now, private enterprise and nonprofit organizations provide all manner of education  —  from comprehensive schools with classes in the traditional academic subjects, to specialized schools that teach everything from the fine arts to the martial arts, from dancing to dieting, from scuba diving to scrutinizing one’s inner self.

If we define “public education” as “what the government does now,” then it’s a trick question. Every school serves members of the public. For the sake of this discussion, we can ignore that the word “public” has been corrupted to mean “coercively financed through the tax system.”

Summary

  • As long as government can tax its citizens and then provide educational services to them at a marginal price of zero, much private education will never come into being.
  • Most parents would no more make educational decisions without consulting knowledgeable authorities than they would make medical decisions without consulting doctors.
  • We don’t use the small number of neglectful parents as a pretext for government control or finance of religion. Nor should we use it as a pretext for government control or finance of schooling.
  • Government domination of education assures that the entrepreneurial innovation and creativity we are accustomed to in, say, the computer industry will be missing from education.

The free market — and I include here both for-profit and nonprofit organizations — would provide even more education than it does now but for the “unfair competition” from government. Since government has a resource that private organizations lack — the taxpayers — it’s able to offer its services for “free.” They’re not really free, of course; in the government context, “free” means that everyone pays whether he wants the service or not. Clearly, as long as government can tax its citizens and then provide educational services to them at a marginal price of zero, much private education will never come into being. How ironic that government vigilantly looks for predatory pricing in the private sector when it is the major offender.

[Read the full text here, at The Freeman : Foundation for Economic Education]

There is certainly nothing about education that should lead anyone to doubt that the market could provide it. Like any other product or service, education is a combination of land, labor, and capital goods directed at a particular objective — instruction in academic subjects and related matters demanded by a class of consumers, primarily parents.

Here’s where things may get contentious. Critics of market-provided education are uncomfortable with education’s being treated like a commodity, subject to supply and demand. In the marketplace, consumers ultimately determine what is produced. Entrepreneurs take risks to serve them. And fickle consumers show no mercy when something new and attractive comes along. Ask the shareholders of Boston Chicken or Kodak, among others.

Why should parents alone determine what is and what is not acceptable education? But why not parents? To whose hearts are the interests of children closer? Besides, most parents would no more make educational decisions without consulting knowledgeable authorities than they would make medical decisions without consulting doctors. The uninformed-consumer argument against free-market education is a red herring. Read the rest of this entry »


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