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If you care about freedom and prosperity, you ought to care about cybersecurity. That’s what Heritage’s James Carafano told an audience at the South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) conference in Austin, Texas, on Sunday.
Cybersecurity, a growing issue of concern around the world, was a hot topic at the nation’s most popular tech and innovation conference this year.
Carafano said that the No. 1 target for the Chinese is not the U.S. government or other major entities, but foreign students studying abroad.
Through LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Reunion.com and more, cyber-soldiers home in on their victims—and most people just aren’t paying attention.
“I think it’s a fundamental responsibility for this generation to understand this space,” said Carafano.
In a recent article on the same issue, he pointed out that the FBI uses social network analytics tools in their investigations, “but many of their tools are no better than, say, Klout—a tool available for free, to anyone online.”
In the talk, he compared traditional warfare to cyberwarfare, saying that in both situations, you “need a decisive military advantage if you want to win.”
That means taking the “high ground” and being able to sense the environment around you better than your competitor, according to Carafano.
Because the government doesn’t understand or work well in cyberwarfare, Carafano believes it must be fought in other ways.
“Government is linear and social networks are non-linear,” he said. “That’s why we need a generation of leaders who can operate comfortably in the linear and nonlinear worlds.”
Carafano noted that the United States is not prepared for this digital war online—and that’s not a comforting thought.
Carafano’s speaking session, entitled “Wiki at War: Conflict in a Socially Networked World,” was based off his book of the same title. Carafano’s history of working in research on national security issues for most of his life was the genesis of writing a book on the ever-important issues of cyberwarfare.
The Obama administration would like nothing more than to find an off ramp from the Ukrainian crisis. An unwelcome distraction from its domestic agenda, Ukraine is also dangerous territory for an administration that is unsure of its footing in foreign policy.
The last thing President Obama wants is an ongoing international crisis that could focus attention on the need for him to stop the retrenchment of American power.
So what better way to defuse the crisis than to try the Syria gambit? By this I don’t mean the threat of force, but rather talking tough at the beginning but caving at the slightest hint of compromise.
The president’s critics may think that his Syria policy has been a disaster, but that’s not how the administration sees it. To them it resulted in an agreement for Syria to abolish its chemical weapons.
Never mind that this process has stalled and that President Bashar al-Assad used the time to consolidate his gains over the rebels. The administration still believes that the “hit them hard at first but then cave” approach worked in Syria.
And they may think it will work in Ukraine as well. Secretary of State John Kerry has been blowing hot and cold from the very beginning of the crisis.
He talked tough early on, more or less calling the Russians liars and lecturing them about being on the wrong side of history. But Wednesday, after meeting in Paris with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Kerry hinted at possible soft-landing to come.
Despite the lack of any substantial progress, he asserted that the talks were promising because they marked “the beginning of a negotiation.” A negotiation toward what exactly was unclear. But therein lays a clue about what could happen next.
Here is how it could go down in Ukraine.
At the first hint of Russian flexibility — it doesn’t need to be much; a mere vague phrase of conciliation by Lavrov or Putin will do — the administration grabs it and turns it into Kerry’s “beginning of a negotiation.”
It could involve international oversight of a referendum in Crimea, which likely would go in Russia’s favor. Or it could result in talks over reinstating the original Ukrainian agreement, which the Russians claim has been overturned.
There would be plenty of people cheering Kerry on in this direction. The Germans and the French don’t want to rupture economic relations with Russia and would likely jump at the chance.
At home a bevy of experts who fear confrontation would celebrate the “breakthrough” as a diplomatic triumph.
Amidst all the confusion over what the negotiations actually mean would be the reality that Putin’s troops are already inside Crimea. That hard, cold reality would hang over any talks, and the most likely outcome would be at least de facto Western tolerance if not outright acceptance of the “facts on the ground.”
There’s only one problem with this scenario. It may not be the one Putin has in mind. He may actually want more than Crimea.
At this point we frankly don’t know what his endgame is. But we cannot rule out that he may surprise us all and double down on a hardline that will not give Obama the way out he seeks.
In the meantime we should be careful not to convey that Russia has an historical claim to Ukraine. This will only encourage Putin to dig in his heels and not cooperate.
The Ukrainian people, not the Kremlin, have an historical claim to Ukraine. Let them decide their fate — as a nation, not province by province.
Originally appeared in FoxNews.com
Can conservatives win the battle of ideas and transform America? According to Ted Cruz, the outspoken Texas senator who won with support of the Tea Party in 2012, it’s possible.
At a breakfast hosted by Politico’s chief White House correspondent Mike Allen last week, Cruz laid out four ways he thinks conservatives can win.
1. Continue to fight against Obamacare.
“The reason the Obamacare issue has such potency is because it’s real. Millions of people are hurt by this, and there is not a trip that I take back to Texas where I don’t run into at least one person, if not several, who say, ‘I lost my health insurance.’”
“…Harry Reid and the Democratic leadership is grossly negligent for not stepping up and fixing the misery that they’re inflicting.”
2. Stop pushing for immigration while Harry Reid controls the Senate.
“If the House went down the road of passing a massive amnesty program, that could screw up the election. I think the odds of Harry Reid remaining the majority leader would jump tenfold, which is why Harry Reid and the White House are begging Republicans please go into the briar patch. … I’m hopeful we won’t see such self-destructive behavior from the House.”
3. Fight for principle, and take risks.
“There are a number of folks in Washington who think the way you win elections is you put your head down, you don’t rock the boat, you don’t take risk. … I think that is empirically false.”
4. Let the American people pick their leaders.
“That pre-condition of the American people getting mobilized, getting engaged, and holding Washington accountable, that’s the only way to turn the country around.”
“Washington insiders have a terrible record at picking winners and losers.”
Finally, a defense secretary who would roll up his sleeves and start getting bloated Pentagon spending under control.
His name was Robert McNamara, and he and his “whiz kids” had plenty to fix. Each armed service had a different butcher’s smock because they couldn’t agree on the requirements for an appropriate apron for a military chef. The Army took longer to field a new rifle than it took the Air Force to build a bomber. The Air Force squabbled with NASA over what America needed in space. The Navy’s shipbuilding costs were through the roof.
McNamara launched an unprecedented effort to ride herd over the service acquisition cats. He wanted to chuck contracts that let companies rake in obscene profits. He wanted everything audited. There would be adult leadership and centralized decision-making, no useless duplication, and no buying weapons to fight the last war.
For almost a decade McNamara pushed relentlessly for economies and efficiencies and sharply honed requirements to ensure the weapons Washington bought matched the nation’s strategic needs. Yet, for all his efforts, schedule and cost overruns persisted, and sometimes worsened. Even more troubling, in arguably every facet of competition with the Soviet Union from conventional forces to nuclear weapons, America’s overwhelming advantage in technological superiority was all but erased.
In a timely new book Adapting to Flexible Response, 1960-1968, Defense Department historian Walter Poole argues convincingly that, having set out to deliver a more relevant, cost-effective military, McNamara delivered on neither count.
McNamara tried to modernize the military on the cheap, raiding budgets to fund the Vietnam War. He filled the Pentagon with civilian leaders who were politically loyal but lacked the skills and knowledge to oversee defense acquisition.
The “whiz kids” legacy was a rusty military that didn’t get fixed until Ronald Reagan became president. Today, after a decade of war and two decades of lackluster attention to modernizing the military, America has now pretty much exhausted the Reagan investment.
Last week, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced his budget for ensuring the military has enough capabilities and readiness to meet the challenges of the future. It looks like a very tired retread of McNamara, with a dose of Jimmy Carter-esque indifference to reality added in.
The U.S. emerged from World War II as a global power with global financial interests and global security responsibilities. The No. 1 way to protect those interests was to prevent global war from ever happening again. That meant having the capability to handle problems in the East and West at the same time, thereby assuring that a regional conflict would never spin out of control.
And, since we were facing off against the Soviet Union, we had to worry about Moscow instigating a third problem elsewhere. Washington’s strategic response was to size forces sufficient to fight and win “two and a half” wars. When the Red Menace collapsed, that requirement was sensibly dropped to being able to respond to two major regional contingencies.
Now, Hagel says, all the U.S. can do is “maybe” one and “maybe” a little more. And, under Hagel, modernizing the military looks more anemic than ever — leaving future security in even graver doubt.
Yet, the secretary assures us this represents good stewardship of our armed forces.
That is hogwash. With a rising China, a restive Russia, a Middle East in meltdown, al Qaeda alive and Iran and North Korea as rogue as ever, he can’t seriously suggest the U.S. will be just fine with a smaller, less capable military. It is like saying we can responsibly cancel our fire insurance, now that there are so many arsonists in the neighborhood.
JAMES JAY CARAFANO, a Washington Examiner columnist, is vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Heritage Foundation.
In the Netflix series “House of Cards,” a bunch of corrupt politicians collude behind closed doors, using parliamentary tricks to rule against the interests of a population they disdain. Needless to say, the show has been a resounding hit in Washington D.C., where real-life legislators have been using smoke and mirrors for years while ignoring the public interest.
But the real-life version is not entertaining. It’s a threat to the survival of our republic. Representative government depends on a return to limited government and the open legislative order we used to have in Washington.
Consider the past few months. As Congress finished its business for 2013 in December, a ten-year, multi-trillion-dollar budget deal emerged from secret negotiations. There was no public debate. No committee hearings. No way for members of Congress or the people of the United States to find out what was in the legislation until the deal was completed. Positive talking points were delivered to “friends” in the media before any details were divulged to the public. The obeisant “journalists” dutifully spun the final product as a bipartisan achievement for both parties.
These secret processes have become the norm for major legislation in Congress. Only a month later, another massive, 1,582-page omnibus bill spending more than $1 trillion was released from closed-door negotiations and passed within forty-eight hours. No committee hearings or debate. No amendments. No time for voters or even members of Congress to weigh in with their opinions. Few, if any, members of Congress even read it. Yet it passed both Houses easily with bipartisan support.
A few weeks later, the same process was repeated with a near trillion-dollar food stamp and farm bill. That was followed by the debt-ceiling vote, when journalists who should know better described a vote on cloture that guaranteed passage as a charade. The virtually meaningless final vote on the bill (the real charade) was written up as “the real thing.”
Frank Underwood, the fictional legislator and later Vice President in House of Cards, would have been proud. The inept and/or conniving journalists in the series would also feel right at home.
There was a time when the U.S. Senate was actually called “the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body,” and people who used the term were not being sarcastic. Most deliberations were conducted in public. The Senate—and the House—would conduct separate proceedings on similar bills. They’d hold hearings, debate the merits of legislation and amend it in committees in full public view.
One of the results of this level of debate is that it would sometimes take weeks, months or even years to get major pieces of new legislation to the floor of both Houses for debate and vote. Then, if similar bills passed both Houses, a bicameral (House/Senate) and bipartisan committee would work in “conference” to reconcile the differences in the bills. Finally, identical bills would go back to the full membership of both the House and Senate for final passage and on to the president to approve or veto.
This open and deliberative process of creating new laws and determining how much and where to spend taxpayer money, was never perfect. But it was the hallmark of our representative government.
On the all-important issue of spending, twelve separate appropriation bills would move through twelve different committees in both the House and the Senate every year. The media and the public would know how Congress planned to spend taxpayer money even before the bills were brought up for debate, amendment and final passage. But as the government grew, appropriation bills became much bigger, more complex and harder to pass in public view. Parochial earmarks were added by the thousands to assuage public concerns about deficit spending and to buy votes from members of Congress who no longer even read or understood the whole bill.
As spending bills grew larger and were stuffed even fuller with shameful special-interest earmarks (ex. “The Bridge to Nowhere”), Congress debated and passed fewer appropriation bills in public view. Congressional leaders now wait until the last days of the fiscal year, create a government shutdown crisis, and either pass a short-term Continuing Resolution to fund the continued operation of the government (a “CR”) or an Omnibus Spending Bill written in secret by a few congressional staffers and passed quickly before the media and the public know what’s in them.
The advent of the Internet, cable television news, talk radio and millions of informed grassroots activists have made it even harder for Congress to pass massive pieces of legislation by what is called “regular order”—i.e., the traditional, constitutional legislative process described above. Special favors for big unions and corporations, or self-serving earmarks for legislators, are embarrassing once they’re exposed. Wasteful projects such as the “The Cowgirl Hall of Fame” can derail major legislation. This is why congressional leaders are now making deals behind closed doors and rushing passage of legislation to avoid scrutiny.
But representative government requires the long and public legislative process. This allows time for the people to understand the policies proposed by their elected leaders—and to contact their representatives if they have an opinion about the legislation. In the slow process, the people give their consent.
Even more important, the slower process allows the people’s representatives to deliberate with each other with a view to enacting the best possible laws. As James Madison explained in Federalist 10, representative government aims “to refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country.”
To put it another way, when the House and Senate are deadlocked over a contentious bill, it doesn’t necessarily mean that “Washington is broken,” as many journalists like to put it. More often than not, it simply means that there’s no national consensus on an issue and that the states should therefore address the question rather than have Congress impose a one-size-fits-all solution.
Over the years, however, the federal government has vastly expanded the scope of its authority. Ignoring enumerated constitutional authority, Congress has encroached on powers reserved for the states and the people. Instead of providing a framework of law and order for states and a free people to make their own decisions, the federal government is now trying to manage most aspects of the nation’s economy and society with a maze of complex laws and regulations. America has changed from a representative democracy to a centralized administrative state.
It is impossible for 535 representatives and senators to sensibly deliberate and write legislation that specifies how to manage America’s healthcare system, education, energy, banking, housing, etc., for a vast nation spanning an entire continent. Consequently, federal laws now encompass broad areas of jurisdiction and are written in vague and general terms, with the details left to the bureaucratic agencies to interpret and enforce.
Congress is, in effect, delegating its legislative powers to unelected bureaucrats. This means more and more of the people’s lives are controlled by a vast, unelected administrative state. The job of our representatives, however, is to protect the freedoms of those who elected them in the first place.
The implications of this fundamental shift in the role of the federal government on our democratic system are nothing short of horrifying for the world’s bastion of freedom. History is littered with nations destroyed by the utopian delusion of central planning. Democracies have proved especially vulnerable: elections become farces to legitimize power grabs by tyrants who promise to solve all the people’s problems.
And as we’ve seen here in the United States, representative democracy becomes completely dysfunctional in an administrative state. Public deliberation of massive, thousand-page bills by elected representatives becomes impossible, and the legislative branch eventually succumbs by conceding power to the executive branch, or to the agencies to administer the affairs of the nation with voluminous and unknowable regulations.
The great Winston Churchill recognized these problems half a century ago. He held that the British Constitution only functioned in an atmosphere of spirited public debate in the House of Commons, and that if a matter could not be deliberated in such a manner, it was outside the proper scope of government to manage in the first place.
All Americans should be alarmed at this subversion of our representative form of government. In addition to secret negotiations replacing actual debate in Congress, parliamentary rules have been changed in the Senate to bring bills to a final vote more quickly, with fewer opportunities to amend the legislation. Perhaps even more damaging are the innumerable executive orders and federal regulations which have circumvented Congress and public review altogether.
We the People are no longer the masters of our government. Government has become our master.
Congress is now held in disdain by a large majority of Americans. And for good reason. The process envisioned by our Founders to produce a transparent and constrained government has been replaced by a system designed to mislead people, keep them in the dark, and control their lives. The accountability which should be provided by a watchful Fourth Estate has been obscured with carefully crafted talking points, manipulation, and the distraction of manufactured crises. And in a sense, who can blame journalists for not reading two-thousand-page bills that congressmen don’t read themselves? An all-powerful administrative state cannot be governed by elected representatives of the people.
We cannot sustain this great republic if the public neither respects nor trusts its government. And Americans will not respect or trust a government that attempts to meddle in all things.
The solution is simple: the federal government should stop trying to solve all the nation’s problems or manage all areas of our lives with laws and regulations from the top down, and we should demand from our representatives a return to the transparent and deliberative legislative process.
Only then will we have a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Otherwise, we will indeed fold like a House of Cards.
Jim DeMint, a former senator from South Carolina, is president of the Heritage Foundation. You can follow him on Twitter: @JimDeMint.
The post Real Life D.C. Is Too Similar to House of Cards appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.
Dr. Seuss made headlines last fall when Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) read from Green Eggs and Ham on the Senate floor. At the Conservative Political Action Conference today, Sarah Palin drew a standing ovation for her rewrite of the children’s classic.
Palin isn’t the first conservative to use Seuss to make a clever statement. More than a year ago, The Foundry’s Amy Payne wrote, “Obama and the Seuss-quester.”
The Weekly Standard transcribed Palin’s poem:
I do not like this Uncle Sam. I do not like his health care scam. I do not like — oh, just you wait — I do not like these dirty crooks, or how they lie and cook the books. I do not like when Congress steals, I do not like their crony deals. I do not like this spying, man, I do not like, ‘Oh, Yes we can.’ I do not like this spending spree, we’re smart, we know there’s nothing free. I do not like reporters’ smug replies when I complain about their lies. I do not like this kind of hope, and we won’t take it, nope, nope, nope.
For the second year in a row, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) won the straw poll of attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Paul secured 31 percent of the vote.
“The fight for liberty continues, and we must continue to stand up and say: We’re free and no one, no matter how well-intentioned, will take our freedoms from us,” Paul said in a statement. “Together we will stand up for the Constitution. Together we will fight for what is right.”
The annual poll asked CPAC attendees who they would vote for as the Republican nominee for president in 2016. A total of 2,459 votes were cast over the three-day conference; 46 percent of those surveyed were between the ages of 18-25.
The final results:
Paul improved on his performance last year, when he received 25 percent of the vote at CPAC 2013. His father, former Representative Ron Paul (R-TX), won the CPAC straw poll in 2010 and 2011.
Rubio, who placed second last year with 23 percent, dropped to seventh. Last year, Cruz and Carson finished in seventh with 4 percent.
Other notable results included:
Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint urged attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference today to realize the importance of allowing decisions and governance to happen at local levels, not at the federal level.
“What [Edmund] Burke calls ‘public affections’—the bonds that connect us to a home, a community, a state, to a country, to a people—they don’t exist because some political bullies in the Administration or Congress mandated them,” DeMint, a former senator, said.
“They come instead from the links we share with all the ‘little platoons’ in our lives,” he continued. “A family. A church. A school. A local charity. A middle school soccer team. A PTA. A small business where we work.”
Through such institutions, DeMint mused, “we have affection for our communities, our fellow citizens … and it is what sustains our love for America – the country that makes it all possible.”
More from DeMint:
What is happening to our country is enough to frustrate and depress even the most optimistic Americans. Many have simply checked out of the public debate altogether, and who can blame them?
“Politics,” supposedly the art of achieving the highest common good for our Republic, has become a bludgeon to replace little platoons and individual decision-making with one-size-fits all solutions …that don’t fit anyone.
When power is taken from individuals and the little platoons, and concentrated in Washington, the fundamental building blocks of our public service and public affection crumbles.
And so government dependence replaces community support and self-reliance. Handouts replace hand-ups. Resentment replaces love of country.
Ben Carson took a strong stand against the “PC police” in his remarks today at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
“I will continue to defy the PC police who have tried … to shut me up,” Carson, a former neurosurgeon, told the audience. “I still believe marriage is between a man and a woman.”
“Of course, gay people should have the same rights as everyone else. But they don’t get extra rights,” Carson added, saying he didn’t support same-sex marriage.
Talking about elections, Carson urged conservatives, after the primary was over, to support the more right-leaning candidate in the general election even if they viewed that candidate to be a “RINO,” or a Republican in name only.
Reports today suggest that two of the people traveling on the ill-fated Malaysian Air flight 380 were using stolen passports to conceal their identity. Two of the passengers who “boarded” the plane (one Italian and one Austrian) are alive and well today, and nowhere near the airplane. Both had reported their passports stolen (two years and 6 months earlier, respectively) while in Thailand.
How is it that anyone can board a plane today using a stolen passport?
Before 9/11, travel on fraudulent documents was not infrequent. That’s because no central repository or database for lost travel documents existed. So, while a stolen American passport might, for example, be known to be invalid and flagged when the document was used to travel to America, there was no effective real-time way for border agents in, say, France, to know whether the American passport presented to them had been invalidated because it was stolen. If it carried a valid expiration date and looked authentic, it was accepted.
After September 11, however, the threat of terrorism and an effort to stem illegal travel pushed the West to move forward with the creation of a large scale database of lost and stolen travel documents. Today, that database is housed at Interpol, which accepts reports of lost travel documents from 166 countries. As of late 2013, more than 39 million invalid travel documents were in the data base.
But that, of course, does not answer the problem completely. Two issues remain and are answered with varying degrees of success across the globe. The first is the speed and completeness with which countries report stolen documents to Interpol. When a citizen reports missing documentation to his own embassy, it takes time for that information to get passed along to Interpol.
The second problem, which is of greater concern, is that many countries continue to lack a real-time live connection to the Interpol database. It does little good to know that a document that is presented has been stolen if that information isn’t provided in a timely manner. That’s why most Western countries have live, real-time links to the Interpol database and check passport validity at the time of presentation. When a visiting Frenchman, say, arrives at Dulles, one of the checks that is done is a query to Interpol about the validity of his passport. But not all countries have that capability – in fact, a majority of them still do not.
It is too early to tell if any of this matters in the Malaysian tragedy. It may be that the two individuals who boarded the plane are just as much victims of an accident as everyone else, with the doubly unlucky circumstance that because they were traveling on false documents their identities will remain unknown to their family and friends, who will be left to wonder. It may also be that Malaysia’s system of passport controls operated well, but the stolen passports were not in the Interpol database.
On the other hand, it may be that the flaw was in Malaysia’s lack of a good real-time capability to check the Interpol database. And, it turn, it may be that the two holders of the false passports were malicious actors who played a role in the crash. At this point, we don’t know – but what we do know is that lost and stolen passports remain a significant vulnerability around the globe – and that we should redouble our efforts to close that gap in our security.
The post Two Stolen Passports Were Used By Malaysian Airlines Passengers. Here's How To Make Sure That Never Happens Again. appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.
Last week, Russia declared war on Ukraine. On March 1, the Russian Parliament’s Upper House, the Council of the Federation, voted to authorize the use of force against its neighbor. Now Russia has invaded the Crimea, my birthplace, a beautiful peninsula offering a subtropical coastline that has been popular with visitors since the days of Anton Chekhov.
Today’s visitors are not so friendly.
Russian forces have been conducting massive maneuvers along the borders of Ukraine since February 26. Moscow’s Special Forces — stripped of identifying tags for plausible deniability — have occupied airports and government buildings in Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea, and it appears that Russian troops may move into eastern parts of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Russia has given refuge to Victor Yanukovich, the deposed president of Ukraine, who is wanted by the new government in Kyiv for mass murder. The charge stems from Yanukovich’s orders to shoot protestors on the Maidan Independence Square. About 100 people died in violence in Keiv, with hundreds more wounded. Yanukovich is also suspected of massive corruption and money laundering, and his assets have been seized in Switzerland.
Clearly, Russian actions violate international law and invite a strong response. Can the U.S. and NATO help Russia climb off the tree in the Crimea?
Under the 1994 Budapest Protocol, the United States, Great Britain, and Russia are the guarantors of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity. Ukraine received these guarantees when it gave up its nuclear weapons. Ignoring the Protocol would create a massive incentive for other countries to get nukes, and a disincentive to ever surrender them.
There is another negotiated agreement as well: the Charter on a Distinctive Partnership between NATO and Ukraine. Originally signed in1997, it was reconfirmed in 2009 by a “Declaration to Complete” during President Obama’s first term. The charter declares that:
NATO Allies will continue to support Ukrainian sovereignty and independence, territorial integrity, democratic development, economic prosperity and its status as a non-nuclear weapon state, and the principle of inviolability of frontiers, as key factors of stability and security in Central and Eastern Europe and in the continent as a whole.
Seeing a direct threat to its security, territorial integrity, and political independence, the Ukrainian Minister of Defense is planning to convene a conference with NATO members. Chaired by NATO Secretary General Andreas Fogh Rasmussen, the goal of the conference will be to develop a package of measures that will restore status quo ante in Crimea.
Moscow also appears to have violated its Status of Forces Agreement with Ukraine. This agreement allows Russia’s Black Sea Fleet to be based in Sevastopol in the Crimea. Under the agreement, Russian assault forces are restricted to the naval base only. Russia already has massive assault forces in place, including:
Air-assault forces from Ulyanovsk and Ryazan have been flown to Sevastopol as well.
The Ukrainian army has declared mobilization, but it has no chance to resist Russia’s overwhelming force in Crimea or elsewhere.
Russia has been active on the governmental front, too, “electing” pro-Russian leaders to many local councils in Eastern Ukrainian cities, including Donetsk. These puppets are likely to call for Moscow to send in troops, or, in the case of Crimea, to secede from Ukraine.
This is a European security crisis which, if mishandled, may make the wars in Yugoslavia seem tame. This is also an hour of truth for the Obama administration.
The West is likely to scale down its positive multi-lateral and bilateral cooperation with Moscow. The United States should stand up to Russia by showing commitment to our NATO allies. We should reassure the Alliance members in Central and Eastern Europe that their defense is guaranteed by deploying assets to the region, and make crystal clear that any armed aggression toward a NATO member will trigger Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which provides for common defense.
Furthermore, the U.S. and the Europeans should devise and implement targeted sanctions aimed directly at Russian officials responsible for violating Ukrainian sovereignty, including freezing financial assets and imposing visa bans.
The president should work bilaterally and multilaterally with our European allies to impose a robust sanctions regime that will directly impact those in Russia’s government involved in aggression in Ukraine. Finally, the U.S. should expand relations with the Europeans beyond common defense by boosting energy cooperation and expediting liquefied-natural-gas exports to our European partners.
American leadership is in order. The U.S. and the West should not allow Ukraine to be destroyed. Aggression should not stand.
Originally appeared in the National Review Online
The post The U.S. Cannot Allow Ukraine To Be Destroyed appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.
Today is International Women’s Day, a celebration of women’s achievements and an opportunity to highlight the status of women around the world. International Women’s Day is not just about women, but it’s about the role men can and have played in championing gender equality. The role of men can be an important lever for change, particularly in patriarchal societies.
While the status for women has improved overall, women in all corners of the world still suffer from gross injustices. In many developing countries that have laws to “protect” women, there is little enforcement. The lack of rule of law and good governance is often most acute in the developing world. Even if a law criminalizes largely gender-specific issues such as discrimination or rape, weak institutions and undemocratic governance leave women unable to control their own lives.
A key agent for change and women’s empowerment in much of the developing world is linked to a country’s relative level of economic freedom. Countries that implement free market policies essentially enable women to make their own decisions and guarantee their financial independence. Along with the Wall Street Journal, The Heritage Foundation has been measuring economic freedom for the past 20 years and has found a striking correlation between economic freedom and gender equality. Heritage’s Director of the Center for International Trade and Economics (CITE) Ambassador Terry Miller said at the United Nations Commission on the Status of the Women that the “strong relationships between economic freedom, economic growth, and gender equality show clearly that we need to embrace an ideology of economic liberation for women, one that frees them from economic domination and economic repression.”
Heritage has also highlighted “Women’s empowerment—defined as a composite measure of gender inequality in economic participation, and decision-making, political participation and decision-making, and power over economic resources—is twice as large in free economies as in unfree economies.”
Here are some specific reforms that would change women’s lives for the better:
-Make starting businesses easier and promote entrepreneurship by eliminating burdensome regulations
-Open economies to trade and investment and allow women to have more opportunities to work.
-Create banking systems that are open and transparent—banks should be able to provide financial services to women at all income levels.
-Strong independent judicial systems able to fairly implement justice for all citizens
This International Women’s Day affords the United States and the international community an opportunity to reinvigorate our focus on the needs of the individual woman and look for policies and reforms that will liberate her, empower her, and increase her economic opportunities and economic choices.
The post Women’s Empowerment Starts with Economic Freedom appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.
High school and college students have a lot of demands on their time and attention. What would motivate them to come to Washington, D.C., for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC)?
Listen as these young people from around the country express the reasons they’re getting involved — and what they want their generation to know. Their knowledge of the issues may surprise you.
Search President Obama’s speech to minority youths last Thursday for the word “marriage,” and you will find just one reference, and in a throwaway line at that. There are nine references to “men of color” and three to the minimum wage, but none at all to out-of-wedlock birth rates. There are also zero appeals for more two-parent families, not even of the “LGBT” variety, the only one liberals seem to champion these days.
The president has gotten some good press from the speech, in which he launched the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, intended to benefit young “at risk” minority males. Bill O’Reilly has given the president high marks on a good start, which matters. For all his occasional bombast, Mr. O’Reilly has been a leading media figure in the effort to draw attention to the collapse of marriage in low-income communities.
Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker, also a leading voice in this arena, wrote yesterday that “sometimes things can change only when the right messenger comes along.” Parker’s column, however, was filled with references to the real problem: the out-of-wedlock birth rates of 72 percent for African Americans and 53 percent for Hispanics, and the way feminists have made the problem worse by popularizing the notion that fathers are nonessential. Yet none of that was in the president’s speech.
So let me sound a note of caution about President Obama’s newest initiative. The history of progressives, and of this administration in particular, should make us wary.
The balance — or imbalance — in the president’s themes is a matter of concern, particularly considering the potential power of the messenger. The main obstacle to Hispanics’ upward mobility is the ongoing breakdown of the Hispanic family. On this there is a growing consensus among researchers across the political spectrum.
Yet the president gave this issue very light treatment. More than halfway through the speech he said, “And, yes, we need to encourage fathers to stick around, and remove the barriers to marriage, and talk openly about things like responsibility and faith and community. In the words of Dr. King, it is not either-or; it is both-and.”
In other words: Yes, if I must, I’ll give a nod in your direction and mention marriage.
Worryingly, President Obama also spoke at times as if the problem of family breakdown were here to stay, more a condition to manage than a problem to solve. He said at one point, “There are going to be some kids who just don’t have a family at home that is functional, no matter how hard we try.” This may be true, as far as that goes, but it isn’t the approach the administration takes to, say, obesity.
The president’s track record on family issues is poor. In his first term, his administration tried to eliminate marriage-promotion programs that had been started by the Bush administration, even though the early evidence indicated that these programs were having a positive impact on Hispanic couples.
In the place of marriage-supporting programs, the Obama administration wanted to put the emphasis on “responsible fatherhood,” a phrase the president used again last Thursday. There is an important difference: While the healthy-marriage people stress in-wedlock births and sexual exclusivity, the good-fatherhood people want to teach fathering skills to men while ignoring the first fathering skill: committing in marriage to the child’s mother rather than having multiple sexual partnerships.
The result, scoffs former Bush-administration official Bill Coffin, whom I interviewed for a book I’ve written on Hispanics, is that we often end up in “multiple-partner fertility and complex family formation.” Coffin also levels a charge that goes to the heart of the issue: “Obviously the Obama-administration folks, being liberal, were going to stop the marriage stuff because they don’t want to promote marriage.”
As Maggie Russell of the National Association for Relationship & Marriage Education (NARME) told me, the Left now is “accepting that this is just part of life, that people are going to have children out of wedlock.”
The animus that progressives bear against the family is hardly new, and it even predates the feminists’ condemnation of the “patriarchy.” As Yuval Levin wrote in National Review in 2013:
The utopian goal of the most radical forms of liberalism has always been the complete liberation of the individual from all unchosen “relational” obligations — obligations to the people around you that are a function of the family and community in which you live. Resentment against such obligations was a central and powerful motive in the radical late-18th-century thought that gave us some (though not all) forms of modern libertarianism and the modern Left, and the defense of such obligations was central to the counterarguments that yielded modern conservatism.
So we shouldn’t be surprised that, on Thursday, the president instead spoke at length about his pet issues. He brought up health care, pre-K, and even Trayvon Martin. The fact that he made nine references to “men of color” was over the top. The reality is that the travails of African Americans and Hispanics differ in some important ways. Even “Hispanic” and “Latino” are smorgasbordic terms that confuse more than explain — bureaucratic creations that lump together people of very different backgrounds, people of all colors. It is difficult to see how handing immigrants from Spain’s former colonies a minority status as they come in — rather than seeing them as but the latest of many, many waves of immigrants to this country — has in any way contributed to their success.
Lastly, the president waxed poetical about one of his favorite subjects: himself. He talked of being raised by a single mom, about Michelle and his daughters, and even, once again, about the imaginary son he never had.
Another important roadblock to the advancement of the poor is educational disparity between public schools in the suburbs and those in the inner city. Now, President Obama did mention education, which was good. But given his track record of sticking with the teachers’ unions and opposing all manner of private-school options, it is difficult to see how any good can come of it. In the neighborhoods where many Hispanics live, the public schools are beyond repair — at least as long as the unions stubbornly block meaningful reforms such as linking pay to results or actually firing nonperforming teachers.
It is also worrying that the president brought up his Education Department’s wrongheaded scheme to implement a moratorium on school suspensions. The administration asserts that a neutral, “zero tolerance” policy toward disruptive behavior in the classroom is actually racist, as it produces more suspensions among African Americans. It’s the old “disparate outcomes” theory, and it completely ignores the fact that those who suffer from the increasingly chaotic no-suspension classrooms will be mainly minority kids.
Given this administration’s history, the speech should fill us with caution. This president’s potential as a role model for married fatherhood sharpens our sense of disappointment at the absence of the call he could have issued. Perhaps he will eventually head in the right direction, and Lord knows that these are areas that are in dire need of bully-pulpit attention. But I wouldn’t start celebrating just yet.
— Mike Gonzalez is vice president for communications at the Heritage Foundation.
The post Obama Should Not Be Afraid to Talk About Marriage appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.
Elections matter, but, because of Progressive reforms, less than they should.
As we enter the second century of Progressivism, it’s easy to point to the problems it has caused at the national level. Obamacare is only the latest example, coming on the heels of the New Deal and the Great Society’s many struggling programs.
But before they looked to Washington, Progressives had already turned their eyes to state capitals and cities. By promising to empower voters to take on big business, they were able to implement some sweeping changes. But they often ended up as victims of their own contradictions, and the problems they caused still bedevil many places today.
Beginning in the early 1900s, Progressives worked to bypass state legislatures, which they claimed had become tools of big business. In many states, notably California and Oregon, forms of direct democracy through ballot initiatives and referenda began to replace republican government.
That’s dangerous, because it undercuts constitutional, representative government. In our system the people are sovereign, but they rule by electing representatives to pass and enforce laws. Direct democracy, on the other hand, was shunned because it could lead to mob rule.
But Progressives didn’t really trust their fellow citizens, so they also worked to implement the rule of “experts.” Local and even state governments would be effectively replaced by unelected commissions and professional, trained city managers.
It didn’t take long for people to realize they’d lost control over government.
Ronald Pestritto and Taylor Kempema write:
Democracy was commonly thwarted in states due to their mazes of commissions with overlapping jurisdiction and lack of political accountability.… By the end of the 1920s, 17 states had adopted some kind of reorganization legislation aimed at curbing the proliferation of commissions that had been so popular just a decade or two earlier.
But the Progressive legacy is proving difficult to undo. California is a political basket case in large part because of Progressive contradictions. Voters used direct democracy in the 1970s to pass Prop 13, which limited property taxes. But they later added Prop 98, which guarantees that 40 percent of state revenue must be spent on education. Lawmakers have become bystanders as voters endlessly remake the state constitution.
Pestritto and Kempema warn this is especially a problem for conservatives. Direct democracy “clearly diverts attention from the thing that conservatives need to do in order to turn the country around: win elections,” they write. And winning elections is something conservatives have been doing in the states. “It seems reasonable to ask why conservatives need to try co-opting Progressive mechanisms of direct democracy when the Tea Party movement shows what can be done the old-fashioned way: by winning elections and then governing through institutions,” they conclude.
The post Direct Democracy: A Progressive Legacy appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.
It’s time to go on the offense against the IRS for its targeting of conservatives, said Christine O’Donnell at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Friday.
“This throws a stake right into the heart of our freedom,” the former Senate candidate said of the IRS scandal, announcing she is starting a legal offense fund and hiring a team of private investigators.
The official investigation into the IRS’s targeting of groups applying for nonprofit status heats up today, as the emails of IRS official Lois Lerner will finally be turned over to Congress. But that’s not enough, panelists told the CPAC audience.
O’Donnell said she has personal experience with being targeted; her tax records were improperly accessed when she declared her candidacy for Senate in 2010, she said.
“This Administration has an arrogance of thinking they’re untouchable,” she said. “They’re using the IRS to intimidate people.”
The irony, she discovered, was that the IRS would not reveal to her who had improperly accessed her records and why. Though her confidentiality had been breached, agency confidentiality protected the bureaucrats.
O’Donnell’s case is just one of many, said Cleta Mitchell, an attorney working with several groups that have run into IRS targeting. Mitchell said at least four conservative organizations had their confidential donor lists released, and the IRS won’t tell them who was responsible.
Mitchell noted that if proposed IRS regulations go forward, candidates for office would not be able to speak at CPAC.
Right now, tea party groups are able to “connect the dots” between bad policy and the members of Congress who vote for those policies, Mitchell said, and the left doesn’t like that. That’s where tax status comes in, because it dictates what type of speech and activities organizations may engage in.
According to Representative Trent Franks (R–AZ) and Representative Doug Lamborn (R–CO), Russian President Vladimir Putin’s potential withdrawal from New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) would serve America’s strategic interests more than the Obama Administration’s attempts to “reset” the United States’ relationship with Moscow.
Putin’s mobilization of Russian troops into Ukraine’s Crimea region fulfills his pattern of disregard for human rights and international mandates. His flagrant indifference to Ukraine’s national sovereignty reveals his untrustworthy and unprincipled nature.
However, in the midst of this crisis, the United States subjects itself to multiple arms reduction treaties with Russia, which require each party to rely on the other’s full compliance. In light of Putin’s recent actions and record of violating past arms treaties, the U.S. should reevaluate the current New START with Russia.
Franks and Lamborn are correct. Russia has repeatedly failed to comply with treaties concluded with the U.S., most recently the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. In light of this reality, it is naive to expect Moscow will be bound by international agreements, including New START.
Sadly for the U.S., New START is so lopsided in Russia’s favor that it is unlikely that Russia will withdraw. For example, it allows Russia to build up its strategic forces (which Putin promised to do), while mandating that the U.S. significantly reduce its strategic forces. To make matters worse, U.S. ability to verify Russian compliance in New START has dramatically diminished in comparison to past arms control treaties. Under New START, Moscow receives a 24-hour warning prior to an onsite inspection of their nuclear facilities. This gives the Russians ample time to hide or relocate missiles and nuclear warheads prior to inspection.
While Franks and Lamborn agree with Putin on the issue of withdrawing from New START, they disagree with Putin’s objections to U.S. missile defense plans. U.S. missile defenses pose no threat to the Russians—they are inherently defensive systems. Yet, the Obama Administration indefinitely halted “the development and deployment of advanced interceptors to Poland and Romania,” which would provide the U.S. homeland with much-needed protection from Iranian ballistic missiles. Rogue states continue to devote special attention to ballistic missile development in light of America’s relative vulnerability in this area.
Considering the loopholes in New START, Russia’s troubling record of treaty compliance, and the unilateral concessions made by the U.S., Putin would actually do the U.S. a favor by withdrawing from this harmful treaty.
Rebecca Robison is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.
A New York federal court ruling this week sends a strong and positive message to Ecuador—that corrupt methods and practices that undermine the integrity of Ecuador’s judicial system will not be tolerated in the United States. They should not be tolerated in Ecuador, either.
Two years ago, a court in Ecuador levied a colossal fine of nearly $19 billion (later reduced to $9.5 billion) on Chevron over pollution in Lago Agrio, a small town in the Amazon Basin, allegedly caused in the 1970s and 1980s by Texaco (which was bought by Chevron in 2001).
But Chevron argued successfully that “the Lago Agrio plaintiffs’ team [won] the huge Ecuadorian judgment through bribery, extortion, fraud, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, and money laundering.”
For example, in his testimony at the trial in New York last year, the Ecuadorian judge who imposed that massive fine “seemed startlingly unfamiliar with the contents of the opinion he claims to have authored. He was unable to account for key data, reasoning, case citations, and terms he used in it.”
As Chevron noted in a press release, after reviewing all of the evidence, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York found that “the $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron Corporation in Ecuador was the product of fraud and racketeering, finding [the ruling] unenforceable.”
Ecuador is no stranger to judicial corruption and weak rule of law. The country ranks in the bottom third of the Freedom from Corruption category in the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, co-published by The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. On top of petty corruption and bribery, the Ecuadorian government has also shown disregard for property rights, especially those of foreign firms.
This ruling is a triumph for the rule of law. It contrasts an efficient and judicious court system against a corrupt and fraudulent one. The rule of law and the fairness of the judicial process are vital to both large corporations and small towns. It is imperative that all judges, in Ecuador and the United States, maintain the integrity and impartiality of judicial proceedings. Whether the rule of law improves in Ecuador will be the true measure of whether this case has a positive impact in Ecuador.
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference today. Here are the nine things Huckabee knows:
1. I know “our country was built on the idea that all are created equal.”
3. I know “we all have value. And none of us are disposable. None of us are expendable. And each life should be treated with dignity and respect.”
4. “I know that mothers and fathers raise better children then governments ever will.”
5. “I know that the IRS is a criminal enterprise.”
6. “I also know that freedom is better then tyranny. But I also believe that a government that spies on its people and lies to its people is taking us on a trajectory towards tyranny [that] must be stopped.”
7. “I know that the First Amendment guarantees the right of free speech.”
8. “I know that peace is not the result of a military that is dismantled.”
9. I know “we have to engage and we have to do it now.”
The post Nine Things Huckabee Knows appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.
Rick Perry encouraged CPAC attendees and all conservatives in an energetic speech this morning, saying, “You are the path to the future! A light on a distant shore!”
The current governor of Texas kicked off the second day of CPAC describing the flourishing opportunity in red states – and the crippling taxes in blue states.
In Texas, Perry says, “Taxes are low. Spending is under control.” And “there is a price to pay for policies that destroy our economy.”
Perry illustrated this point by comparing California to Texas. California’s state and local tax burden ranks as America’s 4th-highest and Texas comes in at 45th.
“America cannot sustain its current fiscal course,” Perry says.
He also warned about the dangers of giving increased power to politicians. “It is inherent in human nature, once given power, to never give it back.”
Perry finished to thundering applause in the conference ballroom – and made sure he included an optimistic note in his remarks.
“We don’t have to accept recent history,” he said. “We just have to change the presidency.”
This story was produced by The Foundry’s news team. Nothing here should be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of The Heritage Foundation.
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