Special Report

Special Report

Worry On Christmas Day

By 12.25.14

The last day of Hanukkah happened to fall on Christmas Eve this year, and while I am not one to read meaning into a coincidence of the calendar, it does invite us to reflect on the obvious but usually overlooked point of convergence between Judaism and Christianity, so far apart because, like Mexico and the United States, so close.

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What Scrooge Hillary Won’t Discuss

By 12.24.14

You need to know how much more coercive “health reform” could be if Hillary Clinton is elected president.

A new ABC/Washington Post poll shows 61 percent of Democratic voters support Mrs. Clinton for president in 2016, far more than other possible contenders. Obamacare’s future is uncertain, with the Supreme Court revisiting the law and Republicans now in control of Congress. That too could change in 2016. If Hillary makes it to the White House, what can we expect on health reform?

Mrs. Clinton ducks that question. Her proposal in 1993 as First Lady was more coercive than Obamacare. She put price controls on doctors, a hard and fast limit on how much healthcare the nation could consume annually, and limits on how much healthcare you could buy for your own family, even if you paid for it yourself. That was twenty plus years ago. But it’s an important window into her thinking.

Before Americans choose their candidates for 2016, they need to ask how much power government should have over their healthcare and whether Mrs. Clinton stands by what she proposed the last time she occupied the White House.

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Who’s Responsible?

By 12.23.14

The cold-blooded murder of two New York City policemen as they sat in their car is not only an outrage but also a wake-up call. It shows, in the most painful way, the high cost of having demagogues, politicians, mobs, and the media constantly taking cheap shots at the police.

Those cheap shots are in fact very expensive shots, not only to the police themselves but to the whole society. Someone once said that civilization is a thin crust over a volcano. The police are part of that thin crust. We have seen before our own eyes, first in Ferguson, Missouri, and then in other communities, what happens when there is just a small crack in that crust, and barbarism and arson burst out.

That can happen anywhere. So can what happened in New York. “Send not to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”

It is a painful irony that, on the eve of the murders of these two police officers in New York, some of the city’s police were already saying that, in the event of their deaths, they did not want Mayor Bill de Blasio to attend their funerals.

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A Growth Strategy for the New Congress

By 12.22.14

Does America still have what it takes to achieve a high-growth economy? Does Congress? Economic growth, in the current recovery, is half that of past recessions since World War II. Moreover, average wages have been stagnant for seven years and there is a greater disparity between the very wealthy, a struggling middle class, and an emerging underclass that seems to be outside the economic and social mainstream in good times as well as bad. Technology, globalization, family breakdown, and a sub-par educational system have combined to deprive many working or lower-class citizens of solid, meaningful work and the ability to support their families and maintain their self-respect.

There are also government failures that compound the problem including an internationally uncompetitive corporate tax code, a perversely complicated income tax, and the unending accretion of inefficient and overdone regulation.

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Obama’s Keystone Confusion

By 12.16.14

In his appearance last week on The Colbert Report, President Obama restated his approach to the Keystone XL pipeline decision, a mindset that can only be described as confused.

The president summarized his strange dilemma as follows: “[Keystone] could create a couple of thousand potential jobs in the initial construction of the pipeline, but we’ve got to measure that against whether or not it is going to contribute to an overall warming of the planet that could be disastrous.”

But this thinking hinges on three key — and false — assumptions.

First, that whatever carbon dioxide or pollution (note that I did not say “or other pollution” since CO2 is plant food, not pollution) would be generated in the building or operation of Keystone will not be generated in whatever other method ends up being used to transport oil from Canada through the United States.

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Burma Enjoys an Uneasy Peace: Time to Close Thailand’s Refugee Camps?

By 12.15.14

Mae La Refugee Camp, Thailand

Trees give way to primitive wooden homes in the rolling hills approaching Mae La refugee camp on Thailand’s border with Burma. Access is controlled by the Thai army. The largest camp in Thailand, Mae La, holds 50,000 refugees. Some residents have spent their entire lives within Mae La’s confines.

Burma, also known as Myanmar, has been at war most of its history. A British colony occupied by Japan during World War II, Burma gained its independence shortly after that conflict ended. But the new government refused to grant the autonomy promised the nation’s many ethnic groups. War erupted.

Although the bloodiest and most tragic aspect of Burma’s history, the fragmented civil war has been overshadowed by the democracy struggle centered in Rangoon. In 1962 the superstitious Gen. Ne Win overthrew his country’s young democracy. The junta changed shape over the years, with his eventual ouster, but the generals refused to relax their bloody grip.

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The Self-Enforcing Nature of the Old Moral Code — It’s Gone

By 12.12.14

Yeah, yeah, I’m I’m olllllld. I know and confess it. I remember the Kennedy assassination. I remember when all the guys wore coat and tie at college football games. I remember when the New York Times could be characterized as more or less a pro-American institution.

I mean, look — I even recall when a kind of moral consensus about sex, and sexual relationships, denied the likes of Rolling Stone magazine and Lena Dunham the privilege of whomping up national crusades against the Predatory Male.

We no longer have that consensus. But, boy, do we have Lena Dunham. And Taylor Swift. And the president of the United States — to sound the alarm about the male multitudes who view women as disposable playthings, fit for ravaging at will. Presently, America’s rape “crisis,” as we’re probably supposed to call it, vies with CIA torture and Obamacare for Topic of the Moment status.

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Having Tea With the Tillerman

By 12.10.14

When I learned this past September that Cat Stevens (a.k.a. Yusuf Islam and now simply Yusuf) would be embarking upon his first North American tour since 1976 to promote his new album Tell ’Em I’m Gone — his first release in five years — I found myself in a dilemma when one of the stops on the tour would be at Boston’s Wang Theatre.

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We Can Handle the Truth

By 12.9.14

What do the recent University of Virginia gang-rape charges made in Rolling Stone magazine, rape implications against an Oberlin College “campus conservative” by talented-but-annoying darling-of-the-left Lena Dunham, and the unending “Hands up, don’t shoot!” and “die-in” pantomimes of murder-by-racist-cop regarding the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, have in common?

The obvious answer is that all three stories are unsupported by actual evidence. While something tragic certainly happened in Ferguson and something bad may have happened to a young woman in Virginia, the aspects of the stories that made them national sensations were fabrications.

(Given Lena Dunham’s admissions that she was drunk and high on both illegal and prescription drugs, and that she willingly had sex with someone even after he had done something exceptionally inappropriate to her in public, no part of her insinuation of rape seems credible… and further scrutiny demolishes it entirely.)

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Mad Sounding Meds: Is This Any Way to Treat a Condition?

By 12.8.14

My friend said he was stunned by the headline in the Wall Street Journal, “ACTIVIS, ALLERGAN NEAR DEAL.” He said the article went on to talk about a flirtation with Zoetis, while Salix waited in the wings. I had no clue what he was talking about. 

The story was all about a corporate drama unfolding in what is known as Big Pharma. Problem is, no one except those familiar with the industry would know any of the players. In Big Pharma the corporate names are as bizarre and confusing as the names of their products, all of which need FDA approval.

For example, just imagine ingesting yohimbine or phentermine. Those sound like something that a medicine man might have prescribed for a skin rash or chronic gastric distress. No thanks, I’ll leave those to the aliens for whom those exotic names are familiar. 

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