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Cease the Cease-Fires

By 7.29.14

Many years ago, on my first trip around the world, I was struck by how the children in the Middle East — Arab and Israeli alike — were among the nicest looking little children I had seen anywhere.

It was painful to think that they were going to grow up killing each other. But that is exactly what happened.

It is understandable that today many people in many lands just want the fighting between the Israelis and the Palestinians to stop. Calls for a cease-fire are ringing out from the United Nations and from Washington, as well as from ordinary people in many places around the world.

According to the New York Times, Secretary of State John Kerry is hoping for a cease-fire to “open the door to Israeli and Palestinian negotiations for a long-term solution.” President Obama has urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to have an “immediate, unconditional humanitarian cease-fire” — again, with the idea of pursuing some long-lasting agreement.

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Constitutional Opinions

Obamacare Was Designed to Punish Uncooperative States

By 7.29.14

It all comes down to four crucial words. In 2009, as the Affordable Care Act was being rammed through the Senate, those words made their way into the statutory behemoth. The law says that the federal government has the power to dole out premium-lowering subsidies through those insurance exchanges “established by the State.” Now that thirty-six states have declined to set up exchanges, the implication is that those who purchase insurance from the federal HealthCare.gov website are, under the text of the law, ineligible for the tax credits. Their premiums would be much higher.

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Play Ball

Lakeland to ‘Hold That Tiger’

By 7.29.14

There was the embarrassing headline in bold, black letters: Detroit Tigers loyal to Lakeland. The Tigers, who have conducted their spring training camp in Lakeland since FDR was president, have signed a deal to stay on there for 20 more years. 

Loyalty in professional sports? Unheard of. What’s next?

Here are the shocking details. The Detroit Tigers have trained in Lakeland — a Central Florida town of just under 100K between Tampa and Orlando — since 1936. That’s 78 years, if you’re keeping score.

We’re not talking about day before yesterday here. In 1936, America was still mired in the Great Depression. The world had not yet suffered that great Teutonic migration know as World War Two, the most horrific event under one name in human history. First class postage stamps were three cents. That year a Georgia girl named Margaret Mitchell published a novel entitled Gone With the Wind, which sold a few copies.

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The Obama Watch

Get Thee to a Fundraiser

By 7.29.14

So the Emperor Nero (or is it Zero?) fiddles while Rome burns — going to multiple fundraising parties as the world reels from one catastrophe to another. A White House flack defends the president, saying that everyone would be much more worried if we allowed some untoward event — such as the Russian president shooting down a western airliner — to throw the emperor off his chosen course of entertaining and being entertained by the rich and foolish.

It’s hard to disagree with that. Would we really be better off if the president — meaning this president — were deeply engrossed in the nitty-gritty of policy-making or statecraft rather than harmlessly engaged in small talk at political fundraisers?

I don’t think so.

The going rate at the president’s fundraising dinners is a little north of $32,000-a-plate. That’s about two-thirds of the medium family income in the United States, but it is chump change for the “folks” (as the president likes to say) in Hollywood Hills, Silicon Valley, the Upper East Side in Manhattan, and out in the Hamptons and places like Martha’s Vineyard and Palm Springs — to mention just a few of the president’s favorite haunts.

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Ben Stein's Diary

Stoned Crazy at the ‘New York Times’

By 7.28.14

Sunday—Beverly Hills
I awakened this morning to a cloudy sky. Off to swim while pausing every minute or so to throw the ball for Julie. We have had no rain in just about forever, and even any rain at all would be a Godsend.

Then, breakfast, and while my English muffins were toasting, I opened the New York Times. With suitable sounding of clarions, bugles, coronets and drums, the Times announced that its mighty “Editorial Board” would now be endorsing the legalization of marijuana. This was announced with as much solemnity as if there had been an actual sighting of the Lord God Jehovah at Union Square.

The Times “Editorial Board” has decided that the federal ban on marijuana is all too much like the Volstead Act, which enacted Prohibition on alcohol. It is creating a new, immense class of law breakers, and filling up prisons with marijuana law breakers, who turn out, by the cunning of racism, and through no fault of their own, to be largely black.

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Another Perspective

Fences and Neighbors

By 7.28.14

President Juan Orlando Hernandez of Honduras said, “We are neighbors and it’s best to remain friends with your neighbors,” as he arrived in Washington for meetings with his U.S. confrère in the presidents’ club this weekend. They are concerned about emigration and immigration, which are causing tensions and difficulties on the Rio Grande, the great river that forms our natural border with our neighbors. We too want to be neighbors, and in fact have little choice. They are there. We are here. They are so far from God, so close to the United States, as the Mexican proverb has it, we can tell them to complain to God, or better yet, get it through their heads that God helps those who help themselves, but since the surest and quickest way of helping themselves is to cross the Rio Grande, we have to face it: their problems are ours. So what do we do?

Our great poet Robert Frost provides sound advice: “Good fences make good neighbors.” He means this in several ways, including the neighborly bonds that are formed in a common project. Consider:

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Political Hay

Florida Hearts Hillary

By 7.28.14

I know, I know, it’s early. But as of now the elves at Quinnipiac say Mz. Hillary leads all of the likely Republican presidential candidates for Florida’s 29 electoral votes in 2016. (29!) Recently reliably red, Florida now trends deep purple. It went narrowly for the little hustler from Chicago in 2008 and 2012.

If Quinnipiac is measuring the Florida political universe correctly, and the presidential election were held last week, La Clinton would have beaten Jeb Bush 49 to 42. She would have bested Marco Rubio 53 to 39, Rand Paul 53 to 37, or Chris Christie 54 to 33. 

Asked who they fancy for their presidential nominee, 21 percent of Florida Republicans go for Bush, 18 percent for Rubio, 10 percent for Ted Cruz, 8 percent for Paul, 7 percent for Mike Huckabee, and 6 percent for Christie.

On the Democratic side, Clinton essentially runs the table, with a few shut-ins favoring Joe Biden (what a dull country we would be without our eccentrics), and the odd Cherokee doing a war dance for Elizabeth “Crazy Left” Warren. All non-Hillary alternatives remain in the mid-to-low single digits.

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The Nation's Pulse

Do Know Why About Norah Jones

By 7.28.14

One of the last places I expected to be was at a concert featuring Norah Jones. And yet there I was standing no more than 20 feet away from her near stage right late last week at The Sinclair in the heart of Harvard Square in Cambridge. 

Jones, the daughter of the late sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar, was performing with her band Puss n Boots, which released their debut album No Fools, No Fun earlier this month. Puss n Boots is an all female alt.country supergroup featuring the triumvirate of Jones, Catherine Popper (former bass player for both Ryan Adams and Grace Potter and The Nocturnals) and jazz singer Sasha Dobson. The three have been playing together for more than five years in front of friends and at the occasional gig around New York City before deciding earlier this year they were ready to release an album and go on tour.

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A Further Perspective

Keep China Off Our Carriers

By 7.28.14

Describing his approach to dealings with the Soviet Union near the end of the Cold War, President Reagan famously warned, “Trust, but verify.”

A version of that wise caution should be used in dealing with the increasing efforts by the Chinese Navy to cultivate more cooperative military relationships, particularly in seeking greater access to U.S. aircraft carriers: “Cooperate, but very cautiously!”

China’s navy chief, Adm. Wu Shengli recently urged his counterpart U.S. Admiral Jonathon W. Greenert to bring the USS George Washington, an aircraft carrier based in Japan, to a mainland Chinese port and allow the crew of the newly commissioned Chinese carrier to take a tour. Asked for his reaction to that request, Admiral Greenert replied, “I’m receptive to that idea.” 

Excuse me, but not so fast, Admiral. Let’s go slow on exploring cooperation with the Chinese navy.

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Loose Canons

Things Obama Just Won’t Do

By 7.28.14

Watching Fox News on Friday morning, I saw my friend retired Navy Capt. Chuck Nash talking about what we need to do to help resolve the crisis in the Ukraine. What he said made a lot of sense, but it struck me that we all know that President Obama will do absolutely nothing he recommended.

There are so many crises like that around the world and here at home that could be solved entirely or at least ameliorated by the president. The long list of actions President Obama should take to resolve many crises around the world describes many that are — or at least were before Obama — in America’s interests and within America’s grasp. We can take it to the bank that Obama will do none of these things. It takes only a few examples to illustrate the point.

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