Special Report

Special Report

The Roots of Russia’s Revanchism — Energy

By 3.21.14

On Wednesday, the New York Times published a very nice account of a speech President Vladimir Putin gave to a group of the Russian elite in the Grand Kremlin Palace. Reported by on-the-scene correspondents, it was free of the usual filtering that takes place in Washington or most of the country’s newsrooms: 

In an emotional address steeped in years of resentment and bitterness at perceived slights from the West, Mr. Putin made it clear that Russia’s patience for post-Cold War accommodation, much diminished of late, had finally been exhausted. Speaking to the country’s political elite in the Grand Kremlin Palace, he said he did not seek to divide Ukraine any further, but he vowed to protect Russia’s interests there from what he described as Western actions that had left Russia feeling cornered.

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Special Report

The Immorality of Progressive Economics

By 3.21.14

Most of today’s discussions about “income inequality” focus on the economic and political impacts of Democratic tax and labor policies such as more sharply “progressive” income tax rates, raising the minimum wage, or increasing eligibility for overtime pay.

On the left, Paul Krugman, President Obama, media economorons (such as MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski, poster-child for economic illiteracy), labor leaders, leftist think-tanks, and Democrats everywhere argue that redistributing income is either good for the economy or good for their political prospects or both.

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A Federal Land Grab Averted

By 3.18.14

Rails to Trails, a noteworthy program that turns abandoned rail lines into hiking trails, provides recreational opportunities for many. But the program has also put hundreds of thousands of acres of real estate — and the rights of private property owners — at stake.

Last week, the Supreme Court held in Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States that if the government wants to turn an abandoned rail line into a recreational trail, it must pay “just compensation,” which the Fifth Amendment requires when private property is taken for a public use. In comparison to some of the other cases on the court’s docket, Brandt looked a “sleeper,” but its implications are nonetheless important.  

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Crimea on the Brink

By 3.14.14

“Imagine the Crimea is yours,” wrote the Russian statesman Grigory Potemkin to his imperial mistress Catherine II late in the autumn of 1782, “and the wart on your nose is no more.” The annexation of the Crimean peninsula had become Potemkin’s cause célèbre in recent years, as the Romanovs locked horns with the Ottomans and as rival European powers made colonial inroads all across the world. “There are no powers in Europe that have not distributed among themselves Asia, Africa, and America,” but in the Black Sea basin Potemkin saw an opening. “Believe me,” the imperial advisor continued, “that doing this will win you immortal glory greater than any other Russian sovereign ever,” and though “the conquest of the Crimea will neither strengthen nor enrich you… it will bring tranquility.”

Russia, Potemkin insisted, “needs paradise,” and Crimea represented his country’s longed-for Garden of Eden. Vasily Petrov, Count Potemkin’s in-house bard, had in a 1778 ode urged his patron to

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A Bigger Defeat Than Advertised

By 3.13.14

Democrats are trying to downplay the results of Tuesday’s special election to replace the late Bill Young in Florida’s 13th Congressional District. While the election results speak for themselves, a deeper analysis suggests that FL-13 portends a disastrous November for Democrats nationally.

Contrary to Democrats’ implications that their candidate should never have been considered the favorite, the district is not “heavily Republican” but rather slightly Republican-leaning in voter registration, at 34.6% Dem and 37.0% Republican. (On the other hand, news outlets like ABC make the district sound more Democrat than it is by implying that the 13th CD contains the entirety of Pinellas County.)

But these are not hard-core Republican base voters: Alex Sink won the district while losing the Florida governor’s race to Rick Scott in 2010. Barack Obama won the district in both 2008 and 2012.

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Hillary’s Private NSA

By 3.11.14

Hillary Clinton has her own private NSA.

American Bridge PAC spent last week spying on the private conversations of attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

The group also plans to spy on the private lives of GOP delegates to the 2016 Republican National Convention wherever the convention is located, but Politico reports ABPAC has issued the following threat if the GOP selects Las Vegas as its host city. American Bridge has set up this website at “SinCityGOP” and announces (bold print supplied):

While the Republican Party debates where to hold the Republican National Convention in 2016, American Bridge is preparing our team of researchers and trackers to capture the action no matter what city they choose.

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Destinies Unknown: Ukraine on the Brink

By 3.7.14

Deep within the recesses of Krakow’s Czartoryski Museum, amidst priceless antiquities and artworks, resides a cabinet of historical curiosities unlike any other in Europe. Therein the visitor encounters an eclectic assortment of Polish and European artifacts, including the hero-king Jan Sobieski’s plush camp bed, Voltaire’s razor-sharp quill, and even a morsel of Napoleon’s half-eaten bread, discarded on the banks of the Berezina in the brutal winter of 1812, and now lovingly preserved, however moldering, behind plate glass. Above this unapologetically patriotic, but distinctly Europhile, display hangs the tongue-twisting inscription “Przeszłość Przyszłości,” or “The Past in the Service of the Future.” It is a quintessentially Eastern European turn of phrase, and one perfectly suited to a region where the thick patina of history is assiduously polished, and not infrequently touched up, by those in the echoing halls of power and in the roiling public square.

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John Edwards’ Successor Lives It Up

By 3.6.14

The man who succeeded disgraced former vice presidential candidate John Edwards as leader of a special poverty center at the University of North Carolina School of Law is no less hypocritical — in his luxurious living versus his hyperbolic rhetoric — than his predecessor.

Gene Nichol, who was once dean of UNC’s law school before a controversial stint as president of the College of William and Mary, regularly attacks elected Republicans in the Tar Heel State over policies that allegedly benefit “the rich” at the expense of the poor — most prominently in the opinion pages of the News & Observer of Raleigh. Most recently he attacked reforms that lowered taxes broadly and reeled in generous unemployment benefits (compared to neighboring states), among other things, in an effort to lower North Carolina’s high jobless rate. Those reforms have been working.

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Has America Become a Class Society?

By 3.5.14

Americans have always assumed that there was a “one-for-all-and-all-for-one” aspect to our country, but watching Karen Moreau’s “The Empire State Divide,” it’s hard to argue that we haven’t become bitterly divided along class lines.

Moreau is the daughter of an upstate mushroom farmer who has taken up the case for fracking in New York. “Today every farm family needs a lawyer so I was designated by my family,” she says. One of nine children, she has returned to her native Catskill to argue the case for embattled farmers by founding the Land and Liberty Foundation. In the process, she has produced a 20-minute documentary that will be show audiences tomorrow morning at the CPAC Convention in Washington just how bad things have become in the Empire State.

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Markets Scream and Yawn Over Ukraine

By 3.4.14

On Monday, financial news outlets reported breathlessly on markets’ reactions to the crisis in Ukraine*. The Wall Street Journal said the events “rocked global financial markets.” Television business anchors used words like “roiled” and “tumbling.”

But from the point of view of a professional trader, the reaction of almost every market outside of Russia and Ukraine and their immediate neighbors was downright tame.

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