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Special Report

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 Right Prescription

Obamacare and Eugenics

By 12.15.14

The scariest words uttered during Jonathan Gruber’s recent appearance before the House Oversight Committee were “positive selection.” They were read aloud by Republican Rep. Thomas Massie, from a 1997 paper the professor co-authored concerning abortion. The opus in question made the Congressman uneasy because of the following passage: “By 1993 all cohorts under the age 19 were born under legalized abortion and we estimate steady state savings of $1.6 billion per year from positive selection.” Rep. Massie asked the professor what was meant by “positive selection.” This question was evidently not anticipated in Gruber’s pre-testimony coaching, so he became evasive.

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Car Guy

How Uncle Killed Pontiac

By 12.15.14

The French philosopher-economist Frederic Bastiat wrote about the unseen repercussions of government interfering with the market’s natural progressions. In other words, what might have been. Perhaps the saddest four words in the language.

One such might-have-been is the 1982 Turbo Trans-Am.

You have probably never heard of it. Because, of course, it was never produced. But it almost was. And had it been, Pontiac might not have gone out of business.

But, I am getting ahead of the story.

It was the early ’80s and the Pontiac Firebird (and its sister car, the Chevy Camaro) were long overdue for a major update. They’d been in continuous production since 1970 and although they’d both set sales records for their respective divisions in the mid-late ’70s — in part because they were neat cars but also because there were so few other neat cars around during the disco-era darkness — by the time of Ronald Reagan’s first inauguration, it was clearly time for a change.

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Loose Canons

Sen. Feinstein Offers Tears for Terrorists

By 12.15.14

If you’re at all knowledgeable of the CIA’s actions since the 9-11 attacks, and if you read the “torture report” released Tuesday by Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Democrats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, you’ll have to conclude that it is as much a work of fiction as the Rolling Stone article condemning fraternity life at the University of Virginia for condoning a culture of rape.

The SSCI report was written with Jonathan Gruber’s philosophy in mind, that Americans are so ill-informed, stupid, and gullible that they’ll buy any well-crafted narrative.

Let’s cut to the chase: no one can defend those rogue CIA interrogators who caused two deaths of detainees or who did things such as force-feed detainees anally or stuff a man into a small box for ten days. But the vast majority who didn’t — especially those who conducted interrogations under the “enhanced interrogation techniques” program — deserve to be defended against the charges Feinstein’s report levies against them.

Her report had three objectives.

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Ben Stein's Diary

I See America Working and It’s a Beautiful Sight

By 12.13.14

People ask me all of the time, “Ben, now that you’re not doing a quiz show, what do you do?” The answer is that for my fun and livelihood, I travel the country from end to end and up and down talking with business people about the economy. And it’s a fascinating, eye-opening journey.

In a word, it reminds me of the immortal Walt Whitman poem, “I Hear America Singing.” I hear and I see America, and the free market capitalist system working. And working beautifully.

Remember those evil oil companies who were using their muscle to oppress the American family by keeping oil and gas prices high? Well, despite being fought tooth and nail by the government and the environmentalists, the oil companies discovered a way to get immense amounts of oil and gas out of shale.

The result, as every American now knows, is a giant drop in energy prices that translates into a bonanza for almost all American families. The oil companies did that, not the Energy Department. The oil companies might now regret that they did it since oil has fallen so much… but in the end, the consumer made out great as the free market would have predicted.

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Political Hay

It’s the Branding, Stupid

By 12.12.14

Kathleen Sebelius sees Obamacare as “working.” It just suffers from “a very bad brand.”

The former secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services told Politico, “Obamacare, no question, has a very bad brand that has been driven intentionally by a lot of misinformation and a lot of paid advertising.”

The translation into Gruberese reads: “The American people are too stupid.” The 58 percent that favor repealing the law have been manipulated into their opinions—and not, alas, by PajamaBoy or Magic Johnson public-service announcements.

“I think we may need to call it something in the future different,” Kathleen Sebelius-Gruber concludes, “but it is working.”

The proponents of change recalcitrantly clinging to discredited ideas remains a universal political paradox. Miserable people want to bring change to everything but the one thing that would bring happiness: themselves. Transform one-seventh of the economy? Do it yesterday. Change my mind? Never.

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Special Report

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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Eminentoes

When the UN Apes Al Sharpton

By 12.12.14

Among the familiar hucksters who sought to capitalize on the troubles in Ferguson, Missouri, came a new face: Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights and self-styled heir to the non-existent royal houses of Iraq and Syria.

“I am deeply concerned,” Prince Zeid said in a press release, about “institutionalized discrimination” in America, and “I urge the U.S. authorities” to conduct “in-depth examinations” of racial justice. Notwithstanding the overwhelming evidence that Michael Brown’s death resulted from the criminal acts he engaged in before and during his encounter with officer Darren Wilson, Zeid’s Human Rights Council invited the Brown family to testify before a hearing and afterwards issued a 14-page condemnation of America’s record on race.

Self-awareness, it’s safe to say, is neither Prince Zeid’s nor the Human Rights Council’s strongpoint. Far from representing “the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights,” the Council includes many of the poster-children for abuse: Pakistan, Venezuela, China, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Russia and Cuba.

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The Nation's Pulse

Our Competitive Entitlement Economy

By 12.11.14

It’s not unusual for non-Americans, and many Americans of a center-left disposition, to portray the United States as a dog-eat-dog society: one in which the poor are left to fend for themselves and where a night-watchman state doesn’t intervene, save in extreme circumstances and often not until it’s too late. It’s a mantra that’s endlessly repeated, from the academy to the pulpit, from Congress to your local council.

Judging, however, from the latest update on global social expenditure released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)—hardly a den of infamous “neoliberal” bogeymen—this portrait simply isn’t true. In fact, as the Washington Post’s Robert Samuelson notes, it turns out that America is the world’s second-biggest social spender, right after that global exemplar of fiscal rectitude and economic prudence: France.

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Political Hay

Does the Democratic Party Have a Future?

By 12.11.14

In a rather wistful, even elegiac piece in the December 2, 2014 edition of National Journal, political analyst Charles Cook describes how leading to last month’s election, the Democratic Party “paved the way for their own defeat.” Describing as “noble” such priorities as “health care, the environment, and civil rights,” Cook notes that “an argument can be made that it is because Democrats have subordinated their traditional focus on helping lower- and working-class Americans move up the economic ladder” that there has been a “decline in support for Democrats among certain groups.”

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