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Education is Too Important Not to Leave to the Marketplace

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This week, events around the country will highlight the importance of parental control of education as part of National School Choice Week. This year’s events should attract more attention than prior years because of the growing rebellion against centralized education sparked by the federal Common Core curriculum.

The movement against Common Core has the potential to change American education. However, anti-Common Core activists must not be misled by politicians promoting “reforms” of the federal education bureaucracy, or legislation ending Common Core while leaving all other federal education programs intact. The only way to protect American children from future Common Core-like programs is to permanently padlock the Department of Education.
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Adios Cuba!

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It’s taken over half a century for the US to finally figure out how to neutralize pesky Communist Cuba. Invasions, air raids, crushing sanctions, attempts to murder the Castro leadership by exploding cigars and poisons, diplomatic isolation, poisoning crops – all failed.

Now, the lame duck Obama administration has finally figured out how to put an end to Cuba’s Communist system: human wave attacks by hordes of American tourists in loud golf wear yelling “USA, USA!” and waving Visa cards.

The flood gates open in March. Once this happens, the charming, lovely island of gracious people that I’ve known since my youth will go the way of Nineveh, Tyre and Atlantis. They’ll probably even rename eastern Cuba as Sandals III and Hedonism IV, while beautiful old Havana becomes Disney Pirate’s World.

My heart weeps at this prospect. What made Castro’s Cuba uniquely charming was its glorious dilapidation, quaint prudery, and freedom from consumer vulgarity.
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Beware a New Cold War

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The notion of a New Cold War with Russia first arrived in 2008 with the publication of Edward Lucas' book The New Cold War: The Future of Russia and the Threat to the West. It received some attention at the time, but the cold war construct in its title gained little traction until the 2014. Since the Ukraine has been in crisis the phrase "a New Cold War" has become fairly commonplace in the media. Part of the reason for this is that the emotional memory of the Cold War is still strong and 'cold war' remains an easy, ready and convenient trope for media commentators in need of dramatic content. However, we should be concerned with more than rhetorical overreach by writers of headlines, book titles and opinion pieces.

While "a New Cold War" has not yet been adopted as an official framework for US foreign and military policy, there are many foreign and military policy-makers who will be tempted by its appeal. We should be circumspect about following them down this path.

The Cold War

The original Cold War amplified, displaced, and generalized the post-WWII tension between the USSR and its former Western allies. As it developed it infected and transformed international relations globally, undermining potentials for integration and cooperation everywhere and in every field, including commerce. It fed on itself, rendering many lesser disagreements and disputes intractable once they were sucked into the dominant framework of highly conflictual and militarized relations. From a global and historical perspective, this became an inefficient and destructive dynamic.
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A Second Even More Unjustifiable Episode of Government Collection of Phone Records

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In the rush to sensationalize the Paris terrorist attacks and minimize all other news (for example, even more horrendous terrorist attacks in Nigeria), the American media has conveniently overlooked one major ill effect of the public hysteria it is helping to foment.

In a mini-redux of what happened subsequent to the 9/11 attacks, the American public, by confusing what's on TV with reality, is demonstrating what experts call "probability neglect." This phenomenon entails people excessively worrying about a rare event -- for example, a terrorist attack -- but being much less perturbed about much more common ways of dying by eating unhealthy foods, not exercising, smoking, failing to wear a seat belt, etc.

This excessive public fear allows the US government to run wild outside the Constitution and erode the civil liberties that make the United States unique, in the name of saving the populace from "terror" -- for example, unconstitutional indefinite jailing without charge or trial, the creation of kangaroo military tribunals as a substitute for civilian courts, illegally suspending people's right to challenge their detention, torture that violated  US and international law, and warrantless surveillance under the Patriot Act and even by violating existing law.
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The Ambiguity of Charlie Hebdo: France Under the Influence

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The Charlie Hebdo terrorist assassinations struck France at a moment when it has an unpopular government and a weak President, when factories are closing and jobs are being lost, when French economic policy is determined by Germany via the European Union and its foreign policy is determined by the United States via NATO. Except for the therapeutic moment of togetherness on January 11, the country feels buffeted by winds of conflict it cannot resist. 

There is a certain terrible symmetry playing out in France. Israel is deliberately and consistently doing all it can to excite fears among French Jews, in order to lure this desirable population into moving to Israel. Tsahal holds annual support drives in Paris, and a number of French Jews do military service in Israel. 

At the same time, the so-called “Islamic State”, as well as “al Qaeda in Yemen” and associated fanatic Islamic groups are working hard to recruit fighters out of the Muslim communities in France and other European countries. Some 1,400 jihadists have traveled to Syria from France to join the Holy War. They are lured by the heroic prospect of helping to “build the Caliphate”, a sort of Israel for Muslims, a holy land restored.
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The Danger of an MH-17 ‘Cold Case’

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Now more than six months after the shoot-down of a Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine, the refusal of the Obama administration to make public what intelligence evidence it has about who was responsible has created fertile ground for conspiracy theories to take root while reducing hopes for holding the guilty parties accountable.

Given the US government’s surveillance capabilities – from satellite and aerial photographs to telephonic and electronic intercepts to human sources – American intelligence surely has a good idea what happened on July 17, 2014, when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed in eastern Ukraine killing all 298 people onboard.

I’m told that President Barack Obama has received briefings on what this evidence shows and what US intelligence analysts have concluded about the likely guilty parties — and that Obama may have shared some of those confidential findings with the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak when they met on Dec. 24 in Hawaii.
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Why Should Charlie Hebdo Deaths Mean More Than Those in E.Ukraine?

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The Western public justly condemns the murders at Charlie Hebdo, but continues to behave as if Kiev's terror victims in Donetsk are “subhuman.”

On January 7, masked terrorists massacred the staff of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo in downtown Paris, killing ten. Two police officers (one of them a French Muslim, Ahmed Merabet) were also gunned down in the attack, while five more innocents lost their lives during a subsequent hostage standoff at a Parisian kosher store. Three male suspects were killed by the police, while their female accomplice is reported to have fled to ISIS-held parts of Syria. The attack was allegedly a reprisal for the magazine's cartoon covers, condemned as “blasphemous” for mocking Islam and its prophet, Mohammed.

Meanwhile, in eastern Ukraine, forces loyal to the NATO-backed government in Kiev renewed the terror-bombing of civilians in Donetsk, killing and maiming indiscriminately. While the slain French cartoonists were declared martyrs on the altar of free speech in a social media campaign under the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie (I am Charlie), a similar Twitter campaign to raise awareness of civilian deaths in Donbass (#IamVanya) was soon hijacked by Russophobic propaganda.
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If the Fed Has Nothing to Hide, It Has Nothing to Fear

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Since the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913, the dollar has lost over 97 percent of its purchasing power, the US economy has been subjected to a series of painful Federal Reserve-created recessions and depressions, and government has grown to dangerous levels thanks to the Fed’s policy of monetizing the debt. Yet the Federal Reserve still operates under a congressionally-created shroud of secrecy.

No wonder almost 75 percent of the American public supports legislation to audit the Federal Reserve.

The new Senate leadership has pledged to finally hold a vote on the audit bill this year, but, despite overwhelming public support, passage of this legislation is by no means assured.
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Fed Asset Seizures Rollback Less Than Advertised

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While headlines in Yahoo News and Raw Story blare, respectively, “U.S. attorney general bans asset seizure by local police” and “No more asset seizure: Eric Holder bans controversial ‘war on drugs’ tactic,” the truth is that United States Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday changed US Department of Justice policy in a manner that will result in at most a small rollback of asset seizures.

It is true that there appears to be a rollback in the police state for a change. The catch is that the rollback is nowhere near the monumental change that some people in the media are trumpeting. The many and broad exceptions in Holder’s order all but swallow the announced headline-garnering rollback. Depending on how the order is interpreted and implemented, it may provide almost no asset seizure relief.

Holder’s order terminated immediately on Friday a portion of the US government’s Equitable Sharing Program. The program has funneled billions of dollars to local police departments via seizures of people’s cash and property without any demonstration required of a relation between the person deprived of the assets, or the assets themselves, and criminal activity.
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