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Arizona Senators Seeking Answers from Eric Holder about Decision to Cease Prosecuting Some Illegal Immigrants



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Arizona senators Jeff Flake and John McCain have written a letter to U.S. attorney general Eric Holder attempting to verify reports they have received indicating that the Department of Justice will halt prosecutions of all illegal immigrants in their state who are crossing the border for the first time, as well as repeat border crossers who do not have a history of criminal convictions.

Yuma County Sheriff Leon N. Wilmot first wrote to Flake in August regarding his concerns that Operation Streamline, a 2006 plan that he says has curtailed illegal-immigrant traffic, is being scaled back. Wilmot wrote that he learned that the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona will no longer prosecute first-time illegal border crossers. “From an outside perspective, this new guidance gives a strong impression that its sole purpose is to direct the UDA (undocumented alien) traffic and their criminal activity back to Yuma County,” Wilmot wrote. “This practice undermines everything that we have worked hard to achieve over the years for the citizens of Yuma County.”

In the Republican senators’ letter to Holder, Flake and McCain ask if such changes have been made and whether the impact of the possible changes on border security was considered. “The recent conditions in the Yuma Sector represent one of the few instances approaching a success with respect to border security,” the senators wrote in part. ”In addition, with Central American family units and unaccompanied minors presenting a multi-agency challenge, it would appear an inopportune time to potentially be removing tools from the border security toolbox.”

‘Obama’s Immigration Red Line’



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No one will ever mistake President Barack Obama for Lyndon Johnson, the master legislator as president. He doesn’t really do congressional schmoozing or arm-twisting. Compromise and deal-cutting are beneath him. Once he lost the Democratic supermajorities of 2009–2010 and the power to push things through Congress by sheer brute force, his legislating essentially came to an end.
 
So perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that even the niceties of unilateral lawmaking are beyond him.
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Prosecutorial Indiscretion: Ray Rice vs. Shaneen Allen



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Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a.k.a. Instapundit, makes an interesting connection between NFL wife-beater Ray Rice and a very different New Jersey “criminal” — single mother-of-three Shaneen Allen, who inadvertently ran afoul of Garden State gun laws last autumn, and who now faces a felony charge. Writes Reynolds at USA Today:

When Ray Rice beat his wife unconscious in an elevator, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Michael Donio and New Jersey District Attorney Jim McClain agreed to put him in a diversion program for 1st-time offenders to keep him out of jail. But when Pennsylvania single mom Shaneen Allen was pulled over for a traffic violation and volunteered to a New Jersey police officer that she was carrying a legally-owned handgun with a Pennsylvania permit, the response of Donio and McClain was to deny her the same opportunity as Rice.

National Review has written extensively about Allen’s case. Here are the details, from our July editorial:

In October of 2013, a Pennsylvania resident named Shaneen Allen drove into New Jersey’s Atlantic County and was pulled over by police for an “unsafe lane change.” When the detaining officer arrived at her car window, Allen informed him that she was carrying a concealed firearm, and presented her Pennsylvania carry license as proof of eligibility. Unbeknownst to her at the time, however, was that New Jersey is among the 20 states that do not recognize Pennsylvania’s permit. In consequence, she was arrested. If convicted of the charges that the state has elected to bring, she will be locked in prison for up to a decade.

Allen’s case offers a prime opportunity for beneficent prosecutorial discretion. But anti-gun zealotry has trumped common sense, such that a violent offender was let off and a non-violent one locked up. If only Rice had been carrying a firearm at the time of his assault, he’d be facing the chair now.

Web Briefing: September 18, 2014

ISIS: What You Need to Know



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On the eve of the president’s address to the nation, at the ACLJ we’re releasing a new e-book: Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can’t Ignore. Based on a series of papers presented at Oxford’s Harris Manchester College earlier this summer — and on our long experience defending Israel’s interests before the U.N. and International Criminal Court (along with my first-hand experience in Iraq) — the book traces the rise of ISIS from the ashes of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), compares its jihadist aims with those of Hamas, and then explores how the international community is actively seeking to limit our inherent rights of self-defense.

The book is about ISIS, but it’s also about Hamas. And it makes a key point: The only difference between the plight of the Christians in Iraq versus Jews in Israel is the people of Israel are protected by the might of the IDF, while Iraq’s Christians were helpless when ISIS surged into Mosul and threatened Kurdistan.

There is nothing politically correct about this book. It gathers all available sources to take a realistic, grim look at the jihadist threat and refuses to make the popular distinctions between more- and less-respectable jihadists. ISIS and Hamas are separate groups, but they’re part of the same jihad.

But the book’s not without hope. We remind Americans that through courage and will, we’ve vanquished terrorists before. We can do it again. And, unlike the president to this point, we outline a strategy. Simply put, a great nation must not be “war-weary” when its jihadist enemies are brutal beyond comprehension, gaining wealth and power, and eager to kill as many of our citizens as they can. A great nation must fight.

You can order it on Amazon here and Barnes & Noble here

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Have We Forgotten Our National Greatness?



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My latest column:

A man beheads two Americans with a knife that is not particularly sharp. The second time, he taunts the president of the United States: “I’m back, Obama.” His terrorist organization, ISIS, is reclaiming Iraqi cities that were once liberated — painstakingly, block by block, house by house — by American soldiers and that cost American blood and treasure. Ebola is spreading in West Africa. Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson writes that we “are about to witness a human catastrophe that could destroy large portions of a continent and pose a global threat. And the response of the world, including the United States, is feeble, irresponsible and disrespectful of nature’s lethal perils.” An official from the National Institutes of Health characterizes the Ebola epidemic as “completely out of control.”

I had that in mind while reading a new report by the Pew Research Center. Nearly half of Americans think the United States is “less important as a world leader than it was a decade ago.” More Americans think the nation is doing too much (39 percent) to help solve the world’s problems than too little (31 percent), even though 65 percent of respondents say the world is more dangerous than it was several years ago, 67 percent say that ISIS is a “major threat” to the United States, and more than half say the rapid spread of infectious disease across countries is a major threat as well.

Have Americans forgotten that this is a great nation? And that great nations can shape events, and not merely observe them? More Americans think the country is doing too much to help the world than too little, even though a majority agrees that major threats to the United States exist and that the world is growing more dangerous. Switzerland should be allowed to hold those two views at the same time. The United States shouldn’t.

Read the whole thing here.

— Michael R. Strain is a resident scholar and economist at the American Enterprise Institute. You can write to him on Twitter at twitter.com/MichaelRStrain.

Whatever Happened to Leaving War to the Generals?



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For most of my life, it was a standard talking point for nearly all politicians — though especially Republicans — to say that politicians shouldn’t muck around with military decisions. Yes, the president is the commander-in-chief and he sets the mission, but the lesson from Vietnam, we were told, was that the president shouldn’t be selecting bombing targets from maps on the Oval Office desk.  For instance, George HW Bush explained that in the first Iraq war he gave Colin Powell and the military brass “the freedom of action to do the job once the political decision had been made. I would avoid micromanaging the military.” This was a priority for Bush because he “did not want to repeat the problems of the Vietnam War (or numerous wars throughout history), where the political leadership meddled with military operations.”

Anyway, doesn’t it seem like all of that has simply disappeared from the national debate? We are still waiting to hear from the president about what he will do to get rid of ISIS. But we haven’t had to wait to find out what he won’t do. For instance, Josh Earnest explained yesterday the president has been “pretty clear…about what he’s not contemplating. The president is not contemplating the deployment of combat boots on the ground into Iraq or Syria to deal with the situation.” 

It’s a separate question about whether that is the right policy, my point is that it’s remarkable how unremarkable it is that the president is allowing his political and ideological imperatives to constrain his options from the outset. 

Lowry: Obama Gave People What They Wanted in Iraq, and Now They Don’t Like It



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What Are the Defense Implications of Scottish Independence?



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I have long sympathized to some extent with the idea of an independent Scotland, although a more federal United Kingdom has always seemed like the more practical path to arriving at many of the same benefits. Thus I was in agreement to at least some of John Fund’s arguments on the upcoming Scottish-independence referendum. However, I am surprised nobody at NR has thought much about the defense implications of a Scottish “Yes” vote.

First, it takes 5 million plus taxpayers, and most of the North Sea oil base, out of the funding available to keep the U.K. within the minimum 2 percent GDP contribution to its defense capabilities that NATO calls for, and converts Scotland into yet another free-rider on U.S. defense. It is highly unlikely that Scotland under the Scottish Nationalists will ever honor the NATO spending targets; in fact, their leader Alec Salmond has said it won’t explicitly.

Second, by requiring the U.K. to relocate the Trident nuclear-deterrent base from its current base at Faslane, a “Yes” vote will add tens of billions onto the U.K. defense budget at a time when it is being cut, and will put pressure on the U.K.’s ability to afford a Trident replacement. The U.K. will almost certainly cut other defense systems further rather than increase defense spending overall.

The U.K. is one of the very few of U.S. allies that has sent significant useful forces to assist in military operations. It is also the military most able to operate in conjunction with technologically sophisticated U.S. forces. Adding the substantial cost of relocating the Trident base to the cost of building a Trident replacement while defense budgets are already under pressure endangers the ability to continue maintaining this interoperability.

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament has been a key constituency of the Scottish National Party for decades, and has a near-veto capability over its policies. It has seen its support of Scottish independence as a tactic to achieve its fundamental goal: nuclear disarmament of the U.K. If Scotland votes yes to secession, the group will be closer to this goal.

Finally, it’s important to understand the differences between the Czechoslovak velvet divorce and a British breakup: Czech and Slovak leaders had come to realize that socialism does not work; the Scots still think it can. Although they claim to want merely Scandinavian-style social democracy, they don’t seem to realize that the Swedish social democrats made substantial market reforms back in the 1990s. The very things they claim the need to secede from the UK in order to avoid — market-oriented reforms in healthcare and education — have gone far further in Sweden than the British Tories dare advocate.

And on a purely personal note, I am hoping for a “No” vote because of my enthusiasm for federal constitutions. It’s important to remember that the status quo is not actually on the ballot on September 18th. Under the pressure of the independence movement, all major parties in the U.K. have promised to deliver what amounts to major constitutional change in the event of a “No” vote — one that could even amount to a federal system. This prospect is far more interesting than that of Scotland as yet another boring European social democracy.

 James C. Bennett is the author of The Anglosphere Challenge.

Comparing Obamacare to an Alternative



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The best alternative to Obamacare that has been put forward so far is that of the 2017 Project. (I’ve commented on it here before.) Now the Center for Health and Economy has estimated what its effects would be. The results: More Americans would have private insurance coverage, premiums would be lower, patients would have more access to doctors, and the deficit would be lower. There would be no individual mandate, no employer mandate, no essential benefits package, and so on.

Obamacare would, however, cover 6 million more people than the alternative, thanks to its Medicaid expansion. I imagine that gap could be closed, though, if the alternative included auto-enrollment.

Reid to News Media: ‘Your Papers, Please’



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Regarding our editorial on Harry Reid’s plot to repeal the First Amendment and end free speech in the United States, there’s a slightly subtle point that wasn’t made. The Democrats insist that this is all about keeping corporations from having too much influence on political discourse — a problematic enough assertion in and of itself; who are they to decide when somebody has too much free speech? — but they fail to deal with the fact that, under the law, there is no constitutional difference between Chevron and the New York Times Company — a corporation is a corporation is a corporation. Nonprofit corporations will fall under the same shadow. The proposed amendment would allow Congress to forbid not only financial contributions to political causes but also “in kind” contributions, which could mean anything from volunteer door-knocking to sympathetic television coverage to the endorsement of the Washington Post.

The Democrats claim that once they have hobbled the First Amendment they will use their newfound powers only to restrict the wrong sort of corporation, not to suppress media companies. But that’s a dodge, too. As noted, current law makes no distinction between media corporations and other kinds of corporations; creating that distinction, which Congress would of course have to do if it wants to apply one set of rules to General Electric and another to Disney, would be indistinguishable from federal licensing of news outlets, i.e. the repeal of fundamental, centuries-long First Amendment protections. If you have to have government permission to engage in free speech, you don’t have free speech.

The Democratic talk about corporations is a bit of a dodge, generally, in that the amendment explicitly empowers Congress to suppress the free speech of “natural persons” — i.e., individuals — along with corporations.

This outright assault on the Bill of Rights is the work of Harry Reid of Nevada and Tom Udall of New Mexico. If the people of those states had any self-respect, both men would be turned out of office. But then, if the people of those states had any self-respect, neither would have been a senator in the first place. 

Did Obama Waste the Bin Laden Intelligence Trove?



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In the latest issue of The Weekly Standard, Steve Hayes has an important piece looking at what happened to the reams of intelligence acquired in the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The intelligence included “10 hard drives, nearly 100 thumb drives, and a dozen cell phones — along with data cards, DVDs, audiotapes, magazines, newspapers, [and] paper files.” A week after the raid, a Pentagon official called it “the single largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever.”

But Hayes’s reporting reveals that this treasure didn’t quite yield the dividends you’d expect. Here’s how he summarizes it:

In all, the U.S. government would have access to more than a million documents detailing al Qaeda’s funding, training, personnel, and future plans. The raid promised to be a turning point in America’s war on terror, not only because it eliminated al Qaeda’s leader, but also because the materials taken from his compound had great intelligence value. Analysts and policymakers would no longer need to depend on the inherently incomplete picture that had emerged from the piecing together of disparate threads of intelligence—collected via methods with varying records of success and from sources of uneven reliability. The bin Laden documents were primary source material, providing unmediated access to the thinking of al Qaeda leaders expressed in their own words. 

A comprehensive and systematic examination of those documents could give U.S. intelligence officials—and eventually the American public—a better understanding of al Qaeda’s leadership, its affiliates, its recruitment efforts, its methods of communication; a better understanding, that is, of the enemy America has fought for over a decade now, at a cost of trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives. 

Incredibly, such a comprehensive study—a thorough “document exploitation,” in the parlance of the intelligence community—never took place. The Weekly Standard has spoken to more than two dozen individuals with knowledge of the U.S. government’s handling of the bin Laden documents. And on that, there is widespread agreement.

“They haven’t done anything close to a full exploitation,” says Derek Harvey, a former senior intelligence analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency and ex-director of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Center of Excellence at U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). 

A couple things went wrong: For one, the Obama administration seems to have tailored the limited amount of documents it made public to reinforce a particular narrative crucial to its political interests — that al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which came to be known as “core al-Qaeda,” had largely been defeated. A report issued by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center around the anniversary of the raid in 2012, for instance, emphasized that bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network had been substantially weakened, citing a small number of declassified documents from the trove.

The second issue is some bureaucratic infighting: The CIA allegedly jealously held onto the documents, churning out hundreds of reports soon after the intelligence was captured but refusing to let other intelligence agencies have a look. The Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency and intelligence analysts at the U.S. military’s Central Command (“CENTCOM”) were desperate to delve into the documents, but it took months to get access to the raw intelligence.

When they finally did, Hayes reports, a number of important revelations were made: Osama bin Laden and core al-Qaeda’s connections with global terrorist groups were more numerous and deeper than expected, calling into question whether al-Qaeda in any sense, even if its ability to strike from Afghanistan and Pakistan was diminished, could really be called “on the path to defeat.” Bin Laden, for instance, appears to have been much more closely involved than had been believed in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which were carried out by the Pakistani Islamic terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba (which has not been closely associated with al-Qaeda, but one of its founders was a mentor of bin Laden’s in the 1980s).

Hayes’s reporting and the episode reflects some deep disagreements within the U.S. intelligence community, about the nature and relative importance of al-Qaeda in the war on terror, and the operational problems that and other bureaucratic issues can present. It certainly doesn’t reflect well on the Obama administration’s handling of those ongoing conflicts.

Why the College Board Demoted the Founders



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What is the core of the American story?  What is American history about?  For a long time, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was thought to offer the most succinct and profound reply to these questions.  The heart of the American story was said to be the Founding, with its principles of liberty and equality.  American history was thus a study of our efforts to more fully realize republican principles, often in the face of our own flaws and failings.   American history was also about the defense in peace and war of a unique experiment—a nation bound by democratic norms, rather than by ties of blood.

More recently, revisionist historians have developed a different answer to the question of what America’s story is about.  From their perspective, at the heart of our country’s history—like the history of any other powerful nation—lies the pursuit of empire, of dominion over others.  In this view, the formative American moment was the colonial assault on the Indians.  At its core, say the revisionists, America’s history is about our capacity for self-delusion, our endless attempts to justify raw power grabs with pretty fairy-tales about democracy.

The growing dispute over the College Board’s new Framework for AP U.S. History (APUSH) turns around these clashing views of the American story.  The creators and defenders of the new APUSH Framework are adherents of a radically revisionist approach to American history.  That is why the Framers and the principles of our Constitutional system receive short shrift in the new AP guidelines, and why the conflict between settlers and Indians has taken center stage instead.

The College Board claims that teachers are perfectly free to illustrate the new Framework’s themes by citing great figures of American history.  The problem with this is that the Framework’s core concepts have been thoroughly shaped by the revisionist perspective.  There is plenty of room for the Founders as exemplars of prejudice or blinkered ambition, yet far less opportunity to present them as architects of a principled republicanism.

The College Board’s defenders have hinted at the revisionist perspective that inspired the redesigned APUSH Framework, yet they have not properly explained that perspective to the public.  A more complete explanation would be controversial, even shocking.  To see why, let us turn to the fulcrum of the revisionist view, the topic of Native Americans.

Defending the new APUSH Framework in The New York Times, James R. Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association, emphasizes the importance and legitimacy of historical revisionism.  Grossman speaks as if recent trends in historical study were as objective and verifiable as the latest medical research, citing the debunked myth of the “vanishing Indian” as an example.

Responding to critics at the History News Network, University of Colorado historian Fred Anderson offers a first-hand account of his role in the initial meetings out of which the new APUSH Framework emerged.  Anderson, a scholar of Native Americans, recounts his efforts to expand the AP course’s “scanty treatment of pre-Columbian and colonial history.”  Indeed the greatly expanded treatment of these periods at the expense of the Founding has proven to be one of the most controversial aspects of the redesigned Framework.  Anderson insists that this change has nothing to do with portraying America “as a nation founded on oppression, privilege, and racism,” but is simply “a more rigorous reflection of the current state of knowledge and practice in our discipline.”

What Anderson does not say is that “current practice” in early American history is to indict the Founders for oppression, privilege, and racism.  Nor does he add that he himself has offered a sweeping and dramatic inversion of the traditional American narrative, turning virtually the whole of U.S. History into a tale of imperialists-in-denial, all based on his so-called debunking of “the myth of the vanishing Indian.”

Keep reading this post . . .

Land of Ice and Snow



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Today’s Between the Covers podcast is with Janet M. Hartley, author of Siberia: A History of the People. We discuss who lives in Siberia and why, whether its popular reputation as the home of gulags and labor camps is deserved, and whether the region will enjoy of future of unbounded economic opportunity or always remain on the far periphery of civilization.

Bullying the Baltics



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The Guardian has more details on the case of the kidnapped Estonian intelligence officer.

The Estonian intelligence official seized by Russia thought he was going to meet an informant in a secluded spot on the border as part of an organised crime investigation but instead walked into an FSB trap, according to Estonian security sources. Eston Kohver went to the arranged meeting at 9am on Friday in woodland near the village of Miikse, about five miles north of the official Luhamaa border post. He had armed backup in the form of Estonian security officers nearby but they were unable to react in time because of the use of flash grenades and because their communications were jammed. By the time they realised what has happening, Kohver had been dragged into the woods on the Russian side of the border by a group of gunmen.

 And then there is this, reported by Delfi:

 Russia has reopened 25-year-old cases that may lead to criminal charges against young people who refused to serve in the Soviet army in 1990-1991, shows a request for legal assistance received by the Lithuanian Prosecutor General’s Office.

 ”We have received such request for legal assistance. As the activities, which Russia lists among criminal deeds, is not criminalized in Lithuania, the request for legal assistance will not be processed,” Vilma Mazone of the Prosecutor General’s Office told BNS.

[This concerns] citizens of Lithuania who left the Soviet army or refused to serve there after Lithuania declared independence on 11 March 1990.

As a reminder, that particular declaration of independence was not (as a practical matter) widely recognized, even by countries that had never given anything more than de facto recognition of the original Soviet occupations of Lithuania in 1940 and 1944. Nevertheless that 1990 government was, for all practical purposes (and despite sometimes bloody interference from Moscow), the principal governing authority within Lithuania from then on. The Soviet Union eventually recognized Lithuanian independence in September 1991. 

 Back to Delfi:

 Some of the young men were abducted and transported to Soviet army units by force, some were sent to jail, a few died during persecution by Soviet army officers, while others returned to the Soviet military units in fears for their own or their family’s safety, some escaped the Soviet army by hiding.

 … The Lithuanian State Security Department has strongly advised that citizens who obeyed the government’s call and refused to serve in the Soviet army in 1990–1991 not travel to Russia, Belarus and other countries outside the European Union (EU) and NATO for now.

And even travel say, to and from the US, could, I suspect, become problematic if Russia resorts, as it has in the past, to abusing its position in Interpol.

 Meanwhile, writing in Estonian World, Sten Hankewitz looks back to the 1930s, and the last years of the independent interwar Estonian Republic:

 In the thirties, while actively making preparations for occupying Estonia, Soviet border guards started kidnapping Estonian citizens, mostly fishermen working on Lake Peipus and Lake Pihkva. The aim of those crimes was to get as much information on Estonia’s defence capabilities as possible – even though common fishermen might not have known anything.  In August 1936, Soviet border guards kidnapped four Estonian fishermen about a kilometer inside Estonian territory. The men were taken to the Russian side, interrogated for information about Estonian border guard stations and their personnel, Estonians’ general attitude and remuneration, and about the prices of goods in Estonia. A month after that, in September, Russian border guards abducted three Estonian fishermen, again from inside Estonian territory. They were interrogated for information about Estonian border guard stations and police officers.

 In December the same year, seven Estonian fishermen were kidnapped, again by the Russian border guards, and again from the Estonian side of the border. They were questioned about the locations of Estonian border guard stations, and whether they had any weaponry. About a month later, in January 1937, eleven Estonians were abducted from Lake Pihkva, and interrogated about the Estonian Army, the Defence League and border guards. They were also asked about the layout of the villages they lived in, and using the data collected from them, the Russian border guards managed to draw detailed maps of those villages.

 Altogether, between 1936 and 1937, Soviet Russia abducted 46 Estonian citizens who were taken from Estonia to Russia and interrogated about all aspects of life in Estonia, particularly the armed forces and the Estonians’ general attitude. When deported Estonian officers arrived at the Gulag in 1941, after the Soviet Union had already occupied the country… they found some of the kidnapped Estonian fishermen in the camp. Unfortunately, the Soviet authorities didn’t stop at kidnapping. In February 1938, two Estonian border guards were kidnapped by force from the Estonian side of the border and taken to Russia. The aim of the abduction was to fake an unauthorised border crossing, and to perpetrate that, the Russian border guards murdered their Estonian counterparts in cold blood.

Russia is looking to assert its dominance in the Baltic region, and, in the case of Kohver’s kidnapping, to deliver a message in response to Obama’s speech in Estonia last week. That people in the Baltic have the memories of the past that they do only makes this message all the more alarming. That Russia looks to exploit those memories says everything.

Krauthammer’s Take: President Obama’s Speech on a Strategy for ISIS Might Not Contain a Strategy



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On Monday’s Special Report, Charles Krauthammer said he doesn’t expect a real strategy for confronting the Islamic State when President Obama makes a speech on Wednesday night — just more rhetoric, to paper over the president’s failures.

“You’ll know whether he really has a plan if he announces Wednesday night that the line between Syria and Iraq no longer exists in the real world, therefore the United States will not make a distinction in going after the people who slit the throats of two Americans,” Krauthammer said.

Two things to look out for in the president’s speech Wednesday, Krauthammer said: What, if anything, Obama will do about the Islamic State in Syria and what the president means by his talk of a coalition to confront the group.

Krauthammer’s Things That Matter Hits a Million Copies Sold



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After 38 weeks on the New York Times nonfiction best-seller list, Charles Krauthammer’s Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics has sold more than 1 million copies.

“I wrote Things That Matter to leave something behind of my ideas and my prose in case I got hit by a bus,” Krauthammer said in a statement following Crown Forum’s announcement of the milestone on Monday. “Instead, I seem to have won the lottery. How gratifying to find that the book has appealed to so wide and enthusiastic a readership.”

The book, which debuted at second on the Times nonfiction list last October, reached No. 1 in just its third week on the shelves, and remained in that spot for ten consecutive weeks.

The million-copies figure includes all formats, including print, audio, and digital. Things That Matter, a collection of essays and thoughts by Krauthammer, can be purchased online here.

Udall Apologizes for Invoking Slain Journalists in Debate



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Colorado senator Mark Udall has apologized for referring to slain journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley to make a point in the course of a debate Saturday with his Senate opponent, Republican congressman Cory Gardner. 

“When addressing ISIL during this weekend’s debate, I should not have invoked the names of James Foley and Steven Sotloff,” Udall said in a statement released Monday evening. “It was inappropriate and I sincerely apologize.”

Udall mentioned the late journalists in the course of a plea for deliberation and restraint on the part of the U.S. against the Islamic State. “I can tell you,” he said, “Steve Sotloff and James Foley would tell us, don’t be impulsive. Horrible and barbarous as those executions were, don’t be impulsive, come up with a plan to knock ISIL back.”

The senator said Monday that he meant merely to “emphasize the importance of taking the right next steps.” He came under fire for his remarks, which National Review Online reported Monday afternoon. Gardner, for his part, said that it’s “outrageous that Senator Udall would put words into the mouths of dead Americans.”

Mike Ditka Endorses Republican Bruce Rauner in Ill. Gov’s Race



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Illinois Republican Bruce Rauner’s campaign has enlisted former Chicago Bears head coach Mike Ditka to help defeat incumbent Democratic governor Pat Quinn. Ditka showed support for Rauner in an ad released yesterday, which can be found on DitkaTough.com. In the ad, he tells Rauner, “You know what I like about you Bruce? You’re tough. You attack the special interests. Bam. Hit them right in the mouth.”   

Ditka, coach of the last Bears team to win an NFL championship in 1985, is a popular figure in Illinois who may help Rauner in his quest to obtain the support of blue collar voters across the state, aka the “Grabowskis.” In 2004, when Ditka was contemplating a run for U.S. Senate as a Republican, the Democratic opponent Barack Obama reportedly said, “I think if he [Ditka] gets in, he immediately becomes a favorite.” And a hypothetical poll that pitted Ditka versus Obama had the coach trailing by seven points, closer than any other Republican candidate the poll tested.

Ditka has since called the decision to forego running against Obama his biggest mistake, but showed no doubt in his decision to support Rauner in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times. The Sun-Times noted that Ditka is not registered to vote in Illinois—he is registered in Florida instead—and appears to have questioned Ditka’s qualifications for choosing a candidate.

“It doesn’t matter if I’m qualified or not. What’s ‘qualification’?” Ditka told the Sun-Times in part. “You qualified to interview me? I think so. It’s not too complicated. It’s only common sense.” Ditka also said that he supported Rauner because, “I think he’s a better person for the state of Illinois and people of Illinois than Quinn. Period.” The Quinn campaign was quick to push back against Ditka’s support for Rauner, and a Quinn spokeswoman told the Sun-Times, “if Mr. Rauner is such a Bears fan, why’s he a part owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers?”

But the only thing Rauner appears to want to claim ownership of is his “ugly van.” In a recent ad that hits Quinn for flying from Chicago to Springfield at taxpayers’ expense, Rauner says he plans to drive to work as governor in the van that his kids call a “rolling trash can.” Rauner’s continued attempt to reach middle class voters, especially in hotly-contested suburban Cook County, may determine his fate in November.

Democrats Complain about Republican Calling Senator by Her First Name



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Senator Kay Hagan (D., N.C.) is scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to finding ways to portray her Republican opponent, House speaker Thom Tillis, as anti-woman.

Following the two Senate candidates’ first debate, Hagan’s team is complaining that Tillis called his former colleague by her first name.

“We saw women on social media in particular who were bothered by his tone and more than anything they were bothered by his record,” Hagan spokeswoman Sadie Weiner told Politico.

Tillis had a pretty good comeback. “I knew Senator Hagan when she was in the state legislature. I knew her husband, Chip. This race isn’t about titles. It’s about results,” Politico quotes him as saying. “And in Senator Hagan’s case, it’s a lack of results. If you look at it just objectively, if that is what Hagan’s camp is focusing on in this debate, then they must have really felt in their own minds that they fell short on the issues. If it really comes down to that — I mean what about the substance of the debate?”

Hagan’s more policy-oriented attempt to drive women away from Tillis — claiming that he “had ‘consistently made it difficult’ for women to access birth control,” per the Duke Chronicle — fell flat when Tillis said he thinks it should be “more broadly” available.

“I think over-the-counter oral contraception should be available without a prescription,” he said, as Politico noted elsewhere. “If you do those kinds of things you will actually increase the access and reduce the barriers for having more options for women for contraception.”

Emirates to Ex-Im Bank: We’ll Be Just Fine without You



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The rumor that House Republicans are preparing to introduce a continuing resolution that will reauthorize the Export-Import Bank simmers about Washington. This apparent willingness to betray free-market principles is even more disappointing in light of another major revelation, from one of the bank’s top customers, that the program doesn’t play the important role its supporters claim.

On Friday, the airline Emirates confirmed to Reuters that the firm uses cheap financing from Ex-Im even though it doesn’t need it. It has ample financing options to continue buying Boeing planes without Ex-Im’s nonsensical subsidies, the airline says. From the article:

Emirates, Dubai’s flagship airline, would not have trouble buying planes from Boeing Co (BA.N) even if the U.S. Congress fails to renew the U.S. Export-Import Bank’s charter later this month, a senior company executive said on Friday.

The Ex-Im Bank, which provides financing to help US businesses sell products overseas, is only one of many financial sources that Emirates draws on when buying planes, Hubert Frach, the airline’s senior vice president for commercial operations in the West, said in an interview with Reuters.

‘Ex-Im is not an exclusive tool for Emirates to finance the aircraft,’ Frach said. ‘Our aircraft are financed by various concepts.’

This is not surprising. Emirates is the state-owned airline of an extremely wealthy country. Like many of Ex-Im’s biggest customers and beneficiaries, Emirates has sufficient access to capital markets to prevent any of the problems that Ex-Im fearmongerers proclaim permeate aircraft purchases. Contrary to the doom-and-gloom scenarios promulgated by groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, Emirates can purchase plenty of aircraft from Boeing — and rascally rival Airbus — without any export subsidies. There are plenty of other aircraft customers just like it: According to the GAO, roughly 85 percent of Boeing and Airbus large-aircraft deliveries were not subsidized by export-credit agencies.

Some defenders of the bank admit these facts, but argue that Emirates isn’t abusing Ex-Im because it doesn’t use the agency’s services that much, and that plenty of other airlines do need export credit.

What’s wrong with those arguments? For one, the Ex-Im financing Emirates gets may not seem like a lot to Beltway types used to thinking in billions and trillions of dollars, but it’s still a lot of money for regular Americans and a certainly non-trivial risk for them as taxpayers. The Bank’s records show that Emirates Airline was able to procure 14 deals from 2007 to 2013, amounting to a total of roughly $3.4 billion in assistance

If we take Emirates at their word, the firm shouldn’t have received assistance in the first place according to Ex-Im’s charter, which mandates that Ex-Im funding should “supplement and encourage, and not compete with, private capital.” Bank defenders routinely point to the binding rules of its charter to argue that the Bank only “fills a financing gap.” If a high-profile customer like Emirates publicly admits it doesn’t need the financing, what else is going on in violation of Ex-Im’s charter? A quick look at the Ex-Im Bank’s lists of borrowers reveals that many airlines that used Ex-Im are no different from Emirates.

The first step to investigating potentially fishy business is to follow the money. Who benefited from these Emirates deals? You can probably guess pretty quickly: Boeing was the primary supplier for half of the Emirates deals and GE was the supplier for the remaining half. Second, according to Ex-Im’s data, large French banks like ​Société Générale, Credit Agricole, and BNP Paribas, plus U.S. banks like JP Morgan, are also gigantic beneficiaries of these deals. As we knew was the case, much Ex-Im activity gives a leg up to well-connected, wealthy firms that don’t fit the aims of the bank’s charter.

These untoward dealings are all the more sordid when you consider that U.S. airlines that compete with Emirates Airline are penalized by the deal. As I wrote in July:

Again, the data show that many companies buy planes both using Ex-Im guarantees and without them. In June 2012, for instance, Emirates bought two Boeing 777s using Ex-Im financing and four Airbus A380s using market financing. This is good evidence of two things: (1) the airline can afford to buy some aircrafts at normal market rates, and (2) that private lenders are willing to lend the money even absent of the help of Ex-Im. …

That very wealthy firm benefited from interest rates that were nearly half the rates that its unsubsidized competition could procure without Ex-Im privileges. The result? Emirates will save $20.3 million per plane — a perk that Delta Airlines and other U.S. airlines don’t have access to.

When Delta and other airlines can’t compete on costs, they have to cut jobs. And that’s what they do. During the hearing on Ex-Im before the House Finance Committee, the CEO of Delta, Richard Anderson, testified that some 7,500 U.S. airlines jobs had to be cut because they faced unfair competition from the Ex-Im subsidized ‘customers.’”

If defenders of the Export-Import Bank are genuine in their commitment to the bank’s true purpose, then they should be very troubled by this revelation.

 

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