The stunning events in Ukraine are fading from the news flashes and computer screens across America, at least for the moment. An unsettling testament to the shortness of the modern American attention span, late breaking news stories focus instead on the aftermath of the Sochi Olympics and the increasingly inane occasion of Hollywood narcissism and empty sanctimony known as the Academy Awards. Nevertheless, the present comparative quiet can most accurately be characterized as a break in the action between rounds. Positioned as it is at the geographical crossroads between East and West, the future of Ukraine will have a direct effect on the balance of power between Europe and Russia, as they vie for dominance of the region. However, the recent events in Ukraine, and their likely reverberations in similarly unstable environments (which describes conditions virtually everywhere) have yet to be fully grasped by detached leaders throughout the rest of the world. Yet they ignore the signs at their own peril. In a very real sense, Ukraine reflects a growing rage among common folk, whose patience with rampant corruption and lawlessness in the halls of power has reached its limit. The most recent upheaval can be tied to competing trade pacts offered by Russia and the European Union. Viktor Yanukovych, elected president of Ukraine in 2010, opted for the Russian trade agreement, despite a groundswell of support from the people for the pact offered by the Europeans. Yanukovych has worked to fortify his standing with Russia and its president Vladimir Putin, and to reassert a bond between the two nations. However, although a significant portion of eastern Ukraine is Russian, those who inhabit much of the rest of the nation consider themselves wholly independent, and have no intention of once again being subjugated under anything resembling the tyranny of the former Soviet Union. In a series of increasingly violent protests eventually resulting in bloodshed, the Ukrainian people have succeeded in ousting Yanukovych and securing guarantees from the Parliament to return the nation to its constitution, and to hold elections for Yanukovych’s successor as early as May. In the process, Yulia Tymoshenko, a primary leader of the protest movement who has been imprisoned since 2011, was released. Certainly, Vladimir Putin has no intention of sitting quietly by while such an enormous piece of real estate, which has long been regarded as Russian property by the oligarchs of Moscow, is wrested from it. Already, an increased military presence along the eastern border, and the obligatory Russian “war games” occurring within Ukrainian airspace signal Putin’s disapproval of the direction Ukrainians are taking. And certainly, the insipid and vacillating oratory of Barack Obama is doing little to convince the Russians of any need to limit their encroachment on Ukraine. However, the dramatic power shift in Ukraine may eventually prove to be only the first in a series of ruling cabals to topple like dominoes, upending entrenched elites in several parts of the world. The possible restoration of Ukrainian independence and self-determination that seemed ever more likely since Yanukovych was ousted, and the Parliament got the message that it had better comply with the thunderous voice of the people, can only be an incentive to the lowly masses of other oppressed nations whose compliance has likewise been stretched to the breaking point. The former arrogance of unaccountable power has been severely shaken. This genie is not likely to go peaceably back into its bottle. In the nation of Georgia (a relative “neighbor” of Ukraine also bordering the Black Sea), similar sentiments abound. Georgian Prime Minister Irakly Garibashvili publicly advocates increased ties with Europe and the West, in lieu of any deepening entanglements with Russia. And his plan enjoys enormous public support, with eighty-five percent of the population agreeing that Georgia should be building bridges with the West. The passions so dramatically on display in Ukraine, and echoed in Georgia, are simmering far across the Atlantic in Venezuela, where similar tensions between the citizenry and the state have resulted in deadly clashes. Angry outbreaks from the citizenry have ensued in the aftermath of the brutish dictatorship of Hugo Chavez, who was able to maintain order through sheer force for as long as he was alive. However, in the course of his rein, the standard deprivations of statism resulted in mass suffering among the common people, who now demand change. Currently, Nicolas Maduro, who succeeded Chavez as president, is attempting to subdue increasingly intense and violent protests from the disgruntled citizenry, while predictably claiming that events in his country are being misrepresented throughout the world. Senator Marco Rubio (R.-FL) contends otherwise, and affixes blame for government abuses in Venezuela on the influence of nearby Cuba, with its own decades-long history of horrific despotism under the Castro clan. While the great “Armageddon” between East and West, anticipated by many since the middle of the last century, has yet to ensue, the growing trend of open defiance to established autocracies appears to be a spreading phenomenon. Certainly, the common people can no longer be easily sequestered and prevented from communicating and organizing, as they were prior to the advent of the Internet and social media. For dictatorships to endure, the flow of information must be strictly controlled. Consequently, the present day abundance of cell phones and laptops constitutes a more formidable enemy of the state than an arsenal of nuclear missiles across the border. The single principle enshrined by America’s Founders which held the greatest potential to prevent impulsive overreach and abuse of power was the concept of government accountability to the people. An office holder who presumed to invoke excessive force could expect the electorate to clip his wings, come the next election. And in light of this possibility, others who might be predisposed would think twice before engaging in similar chicanery. However, if the people neglect their responsibility to keep a tight leash on those in authority, such mischief is inevitable. At that point, restoring the necessary limitations on government becomes far more difficult and dangerous to accomplish. Nevertheless, the pattern of organized opposition to the totalitarian status quo is evident and growing, despite efforts to suppress it. The flame of liberty is not yet fully extinguished. Christopher G. Adamo is a resident of southeastern Wyoming and has been involved in state and local politics for many years. He writes for several prominent conservative websites, and has written for regional and national magazines. He is currently the Chief Editorial Writer for The Proud Americans, a membership advocacy group for America’s seniors, and for all Americans. His contact information and article archives can be found at www.chrisadamo.com, and he can be followed on Twitter @CGAdamo.
Most of us can remember feeling that someone had done us a great injustice. On those occasions, we want nothing more than to exact revenge. I remember being unfairly treated as a lowly ROTC cadet by one of the sergeants who resented the fact that my brother had been promoted to captain and company commander over him.
I was ambitious and worked extremely hard, resulting in my promotion in record time to the rank of colonel and city executive officer. This individual was now firmly under my command, and I could have wreaked havoc in his life. Instead, I chose to give him extra responsibilities. Responding to the challenge, he proved himself to be quite capable, earning further promotions. Because I resisted the urge to retaliate, we both won. This same principle applies in politics.
Unfortunately, in the past, we have been a reactionary country, resulting in political shifts back and forth from left to right without a lot of forward progress. After attaining power, both sides act in ways that are less than honorable, but they justify their actions by citing similar transgressions performed by the other side. This immature behavior is vividly exhibited by President Obama in his shameless use of executive orders to try to force the eventual success of Obamacare.
Administration supporters defend his strategy by pointing out that previous presidents have issued even more executive orders than Obama. It’s like saying that punching someone 40 times is more harmful than shooting him four times. However, it’s not the quantity of executive orders that matters, but their impact.
There are always people who attempt to pick apart an analogy, but most readers will see the point. In the current controversy, a massive politically motivated government program was forced on half of the population with their opinions completely disregarded. No legislation of this magnitude ever had been passed in the history of the United States by one party with unanimous opposition by the other party. Each executive order to sustain Obamacare is like pouring salt in a wound. Furthermore, the concept of seeking common ground is further damaged.
When the political pendulum swings again, which I predict will begin this November, it is imperative for the sake of our progeny that those in power act like “the adults in the room” and govern in a lawful and constitutional manner. This means refraining from the use of excessive government interference in choosing winners and losers. It also means an evenhanded enforcement of all of our laws rather than repeating the Obama administration’s practice of selective law enforcement. Adult governance is founded upon objectivity, not ideology.
The American people have suffered through decades of power-drunk politicians, many of whom practiced deceitful manipulation. This has caused tens of millions of Americans to abandon in disgust their duty to be informed and responsible voters, which only makes the situation worse.
I have encountered a large number of elderly people who have told me that they have given up on the United States and are simply waiting to die. This is the reason that more eligible voters opted not to vote in the last presidential election than actually voted for either candidate. Many of these people are members of “the greatest generation.” They fought tangible and visible forces that threatened our freedom. The forces facing us now are less tangible, but are nevertheless at least as lethal to our way of life.
Despite all the naysayers on both sides, I am convinced by the people I encounter on the speaking circuit that common sense, honesty and fairness can return to the corridors of power in America. We can govern in a manner that not only re-engages millions, but also provides liberty and justice for all.
As it was in the days of the Founding Fathers before the American Revolution, now it is necessary for ordinary Americans to engage their neighbors, friends and colleagues in serious discussions about what kind of nation they want to pass on to their children and grandchildren. It is important that everyone knows who represents them both at the state level and at the national level. The party affiliation of those representatives is not nearly as important as their voting record. Every American, regardless of their political affiliation, must distinguish those who represent the free-enterprise system based on personal responsibility and equal treatment from those who are willing to give away our personal freedom in order to enhance the size and scope of the government.
The power to reverse the deterioration of our nation is within the hands of “we the people.” We must realize that our countrymen are not our enemies, and we must understand that we cannot rely on those in the media and in politics to tell us the truth. We need to go beyond them and rely on ourselves to craft a truly free America that works for all of us. This means we must become informed voters and use our votes effectively to choose the kind of leadership that represents the will of the people.
Ben S. Carson is professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University. To find out more about Ben Carson and to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2014 THE WASHINGTON TIMES
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM
There’s a new way to buy gold and diversify your exposure out of the dollar. It comes in the form of four new exchange-traded funds, using an investment approach made popular by Dennis Gartman, whose daily newsletter is a must-read among professional traders around the world.
The AdvisorShares Gartman Gold ETF’s let you invest in, or trade, gold — but not just against the U.S. dollar. Three of the ETFs diversify your exposure into either the Euro, the Japanese yen, or the British pound. The fourth ETF allows you to diversify your gold investment into all three currencies, plus the U.S. dollar. All are traded on the NYSE. They are:
— AdvisorShares Gartman Gold/Euro ETF (NYSE Arca: GEUR)
— AdvisorShares Gartman Gold/British Pound ETF (NYSE Arca: GGBP)
— AdvisorShares Gartman Gold/Yen ETF (NYSE Arca: GYEN)
— AdvisorShares International Gold ETF (NYSE Arca: GLDE)
Using these different ETFs could add a real edge to your investment performance in gold. For example, from the peak in gold prices in August of 2011, gold is down 31 percent in dollar terms and slightly less against the euro, but it is down only 6.9 percent in yen-denominated terms! Yes, you would still have taken a loss if you held gold vs. yen, but gold/yen has “outperformed “Gold/U.S. dollars by 24 percent — a not insignificant sum.
So it can make a big difference which currency you exchange for gold. But up until now, that strategy wasn’t easily available to individual investors.
Gold as a Bet Against the Currency
Why does gold move differently against different currencies, even though the general global trend of gold prices may be up or down? First, you have to understand why gold goes up and down in the first place. Yes, gold is a trading “commodity,” subject to the volatility of big traders making big bets. But gold has also been used as a “safe haven” — a way to bet against the future value of a country’s currency.
Historically, gold has kept its value when countries have “devalued” their currencies by printing so much money that people eventually realize their money is losing buying power. As an extreme example, think of the inflation in Germany in the 30s and the hyperbolical stories of people carting around wheelbarrows full of paper currency, trying to exchange it for bread.
Or think, more recently, of the money-printing spree here in the United States, back in the 1970s, to pay for both a new domestic policy (The Great Society) and the war in Vietnam. By the end of that decade, Americans were aggressively buying commodities such as farmland, collectibles and artwork — and gold, which reached a then-amazing $875 an ounce. Americans realized that the dollar didn’t go as far, and those who weren’t buying “stuff” demanded higher interest rates to lend or deposit money (T-bills yielding over 13 percent) to compensate for the declining buying power of the dollar!
Why Isn’t Gold Soaring Now?
After five years of monetary expansion on the part of the Federal Reserve, you might be wondering why traders aren’t betting against the dollar and buying gold right now. (Actually, the smart money is probably accumulating gold positions at these prices around $1,300 per ounce). But gold vs. the U.S. dollar may not be the smartest bet, especially now that the Fed seems determined to cut back on the expansion of the money supply.
Just compare our Fed policy with the monetary policy of Japan. Japan has announced it actually wants to encourage “some” inflation and is actively increasing its money supply. Or compare that with the policy of Euro-land, which has just seen Germany’s highest court effectively rule that it will not prevent the expansion of the Euro money supply if needed to save the countries or banks within the system. It’s a green light for Euro money creation, which calls into question the future value of the Euro.
So, in effect, the U.S. dollar has itself become a comparatively “safe haven” for money from around the world. That may or may not be a lasting trend. The United States has its own economic problems and may have to “print” in the future to keep paying its bills. But that is a bit down the road compared to what is going on in Europe and Japan right now.
That’s why an American investor might want to buy gold in terms of the euro, or Japanese yen, or even the British pound — or a combination of all three, plus the U.S. dollar. And that’s where the AdvisorShares Gartman Gold ETF’s come in.
Gartman Gold ETF’s
These four ETF’s trade on the New York Stock Exchange, so they are easy to buy through your broker. They are sub-advised by Treesdale Partners, a New York-based registered investment advisor, known for managing alternative strategies in the fixed income and currency/commodity space. To learn more about how the funds work, you should see their information brochures at advisorshares.com.
But the basic idea is that the funds buy gold futures to establish the position in gold. (Full Disclosure: I am on the board of directors of CME Group, Inc., parent company of the COMEX, the exchange on which gold futures are traded.) Then the ETF managers offset the gold futures long position by taking a short position in the futures market for the specific currency of the fund, whether euro, yen, or pound. It’s as if you were a European or Japanese or British investor betting against your own currency and in favor of gold. You have removed your gold investment position from the realm of the dollar, or in the case of the fourth ETF, you have diversified your gold investment globally.
As Ade Odunsi, managing director at Treesdale and portfolio manager for these ETF’s explains: “The funds are designed to neutralize your dollar risk component. … So the question is: Which currency do you dislike most against the dollar?”
Or as an old trader once told me, “Currencies may float — but they don’t sink at the same rate!”
For many investors, it may be enough to buy an ETF that simply is a bet on gold vs. the U.S. dollar. The NYSE-traded GLD does just that, moving in tandem with the price of gold — in dollars. But for those who want a more diversified approach, the new AdvisorShares Gartman Gold ETF’s give you a chance to target your gold investment more specifically against the currency of your choice.
And why use gold to bet against a currency? History says that governments eventually always try to “print” their way out of financial problems. But gold can’t be printed. That’s The Savage Truth.
Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser and is on the board of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. She appears weekly on WMAQ-Channel 5’s 4:30 p.m. newscast, and can be reached at www.terrysavage.com. She is the author of the new book, “The New Savage Number: How Much Money Do You Really Need to Retire?” “Terry answers readers’ personal finance questions on her blog at www.TerrySavage.com. To find out more about Terry Savage and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2014 TERRY SAVAGE PRODUCTIONS
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM
When President Barack Obama said he planned to “fundamentally transform” the United States, he wasn’t referring only to spreading the wealth around or even to conforming our foreign-trade regulations to the dictates of globalist busybodies. He is also working openly and covertly, through administrative regulations and supremacist judges’ decisions, to transform us into a sanitized secular nation.
The cutting edge of Obama’s war on religion will come into public view on March 25, when the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about the Obama administration’s attempt to force private companies, such as Hobby Lobby, to cover abortion-inducing drugs for their employees, even though the company’s owners are morally opposed to them. Hobby Lobby has courageously stood up for its religious principles against this requirement despite the threat of fines of $1.3 million daily for not complying with this Obamacare mandate.
Another company, Conestoga Wood, has also stood up against this suffocating infringement on freedom of religion by Obamacare. The Supreme Court will hear both cases on the same day.
Hobby Lobby is a prime example of America as a land of opportunity. The family- owned company was started in 1970 with a $600 loan and garage workshop. Today, it boasts 588 stores in 47 states and 13,000 full-time employees.
The owners are devout Christians who treat their employees extra well, donate a big hunk of their profits to charity, and are closed on Sundays. The issue being addressed in the Supreme Court case is the Obama administration’s attempt to force Hobby Lobby’s owners to provide abortion-inducing products that violate their religious beliefs.
Hobby Lobby’s owners are not demanding for these products to be banned or that anyone (including employees or customers) be prohibited from buying or using them. Hobby Lobby’s owners just do not want to insure items that violate their moral principles.
This same Obama argument is already being used against adoption service providers and against Catholic hospitals. But all that is only the beginning of Obama’s direct attack on religion.
We are already seeing regiments of Obamaites prosecuting smaller and smaller business owners who invoke the First Amendment to be faithful to their religious beliefs. These include the baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage and the photographer who refused to photograph a same-sex marriage ceremony, although they were quite willing to do any other business with gay customers.
The supremacist judge who ruled against the photographer and imposed a fine pompously declared it “the price of citizenship.” Has kowtowing to Obama’s redefinition of the First Amendment now become the price of American citizenship and of doing business in the United States?
Will all denominations be ordered by some judge to recognize same-sex marriages? Will churches that refuse an order to conform be hit with steep and ongoing fines, like the fines that threaten Hobby Lobby, or be denied tax exemption? Make no mistake; we are in a war for religious liberty.
One of Obama’s famous lies is: “If you like your health insurance, you can keep it.” We can now almost hear him saying, “If you like your religion, you can keep it.” But just as Obamacare lets you keep your insurance only if it complies with obnoxious federal regulations, Obama wants you to be able to keep your religion only if you speak your words of faith behind closed doors, and only if you pay tremendous fines to the government. That doesn’t meet any recognized definition of our First Amendment’s “free exercise” of religion.
Since Obama became president, two other groups have joined his anti-religion campaign, the military and the public school system. Perhaps they want to curry favor with the commander-in-chief or with the grant-awarding bureaucrats in the Department of Education, or maybe they merely want to show they are politically correct.
Obama has made it clear that he doesn’t want any expression of religious faith in any public place, including buildings or schools or events. He wants to redefine the First Amendment from “free exercise” to “freedom of worship,” which means you would only be able to go inside your church, shut and perhaps lock the doors, and say a prayer where no one else can hear you.
When the Founding Fathers wrote “free exercise” of religion into the Constitution, they meant public as well as private exercise. Most of the famous people in American history talked openly about their faith and religion, and public expression of faith in God and religious principles by America’s leaders has been part of our history and culture since the beginning.
Phyllis Schlafly is a lawyer, conservative political analyst and author of 20 books. She is the co-author, with George Neumayr, of the New York Times Best-Seller titled “No Higher Power: Obama’s War on Religious Freedom.” She can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Phyllis Schlafly and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Website at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2014 CREATORS.COM
Media liberals are howling at the apparent injustice of the “anti-Clinton” Washington Free Beacon website, which has dared to paw through old Hillary Clinton history. The hypocrisy is stunning. Let us recall the avalanche of mean-spirited and sleazy “fair game” the networks assembled for us just a few years ago in the last election cycle.
Sarah Palin? She didn’t even run, but NBC and Savannah Guthrie needed no documentary evidence to repeat every scurrilous accusation of leftist author Joe McGinniss: She was a horrible mother who used her children as props. Her marriage was a mess of incessant fighting on the verge of divorce. Both Palins used cocaine. And Sarah Palin once slept with pro basketball player Glen Rice.
Michele Bachmann? ABC’s Brian Ross used a leftist gay activist from the group Truth Wins Out to create a “pray away the gay” scandal around Michele Bachmann’s therapist husband, Marcus.
Rick Perry? CBS anchor Jeff Glor warned of a “race-related firestorm” broken by the Washington Post, a nothing burger that a hunting camp leased by the Perry family had a rock marker with the N-word on it — which the Perrys painted over — decades ago.
Herman Cain? The networks aired 100 stories relaying anonymous charges of sexual harassment against Cain before there was an accuser with a name and a face. Shameless George Stephanopoulos dismissed Cain for low character: “There are just too many questions about his honesty, his judgment, his experience, his organization.” NBC’s Chuck Todd clucked he was a dead man walking.
Newt Gingrich? ABC’s Brian Ross eagerly prompted Newt Gingrich’s second wife Marianne Gingrich to tell all about her claim that Newt asked for an open marriage: “You know his secrets. You know his skeletons,” he said hungrily.
Rick Santorum? NBC’s Michael Isikoff jumped right in with this utterly unnecessary attack on his wife Karen: “Newsweek reported that before she married Santorum, she had a six-year live-in relationship with a Pittsburgh abortion doctor 40 years her senior.”
Stories from Mitt Romney’s private life were routinely “fair game,” from the Washington Post’s story that Romney may have cut another boy’s hair as a prank in high school in 1965 to the alleged horror that the family dog rode inside a cartop carrier on a vacation trip to Canada in 1983.
Keep all that in mind as NBC’s Andrea Mitchell raged on the “Nightly News” about “inflammatory excerpts” from papers from the late Diane Blair, one of Hillary Clinton’s closest friends in Arkansas. “Blair did not survive to provide context for her diary. Now Republicans say her notes are fair game.” She concluded: “Hillary Clinton had no comment on a campaign already brutal two years before it’s begun.”
Those dastardly Republicans. They are so … brutal! Dear, Mitchell: before any lectures about campaign brutality, explain where you were while mud was splattering on Palin, Santorum, Cain, etc. Mitchell’s appointed left-wing expert at the University of Arkansas, Angie Maxwell, complained that the Free Beacon account was “very cherry-picked, it’s very selected.” So was every network story on Republicans listed above.
Mitchell continued to complain on her own MSNBC show, claiming that the whole focus on Blair’s papers was out of context: “What we have so far … are things out of context without corroboration, and it’s not clear when she’s — Diane Blair’s quoting herself paraphrasing Hillary Clinton versus what Hillary Clinton said.”
What Mitchell quite clearly implied is that to explore Hillary Clinton’s history is to take Hillary out of context — unless you support her. Whatever Hillary wants to talk about her life’s work is current and fresh. Whatever Hillary’s critics want to discuss about her record is out-of-context and unfair.
Mitchell cherry-picked this quote from Blair’s notes for her NBC story, since it’s apparently Hillary in context: “I’m a proud woman. I’m not stupid. I know I should do more to suck up to the press. I know it confuses people when I change my hairdos. I know I should pretend not to have any opinions, but I’m just not going to. I’m used to winning, and I intend to win on my own terms.”
That same old win-on-my-terms ruthlessness is exactly what the Clintons are practicing against the Free Beacon: “Nothing to see here, folks. Everything negative about us is old news.”
L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. To find out more about Brent Bozell III, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2014 CREATORS.COM
Shortly after returning from six tense months on the violent streets of Iraq’s Al Anbar Province, U.S. Army Sgt. Steven DeLuzio sat down with his parents.
“Steven came home from Iraq and said ‘you have 30 minutes to ask me anything you want, and then I’ll never talk about it again,'” the soldier’s father, Mark DeLuzio, said.
Steven’s dad quickly noticed a tattoo on one of his son’s arms that appeared to depict the shrouded face of an Iraqi woman. When Mark asked Steven what the tattoo signified, the soldier explained that the female civilian had warned his patrol about a roadside bomb buried not far from their Humvee.
“The lady saved his life,” Mark said.
Eventually, the grateful American soldiers went back to the Ramadi neighborhood to thank the woman for her words of warning. What they found inside her home was shocking and horrific.
“Steven found the woman, her husband and their kids all beheaded,” the soldier’s father said. “It really weighed on him.”
Nobody forced Steven to serve in western Iraq, where countless insurgents have terrorized innocent men, women and children. While growing up in suburban Connecticut, Steven and his older brother, Scott, developed a deep respect for our nation’s flag and those who defend it.
“They were very patriotic kids, and when 9/11 happened, they both felt a call and felt they wanted to do something,” Mark said.
“It’s a volunteer Army and they both volunteered to go,” Steven and Scott’s mother, Diane DeLuzio, added. “That’s what they wanted to do.”
In 2006, Steven was attending college in Vermont when he deployed to Iraq with the state’s National Guard. While fearing for their youngest son’s safety, Mark and Diane already knew of his bravery. At age 3, Steven had jumped on a bike without training wheels, and from that day forward, never backed down from a challenge.
“He wasn’t a perfect kid — we knew he had his flaws — but he was always mature for his age,” Diane said.
Much happened between Steven’s 2006 return from Iraq and another 2010 combat deployment to Afghanistan. He graduated from college with an accounting degree, became an uncle and learned that his brother, Scott, would also deploy to Afghanistan around the same time.
Steven also asked his high school sweetheart, Leeza, to marry him. Their wedding date was set for Sept. 17, 2011, but before anyone could celebrate, Steven and Scott would have to survive Afghanistan.
“You worry, of course,” their dad said. “We knew how dangerous Ramadi was, we knew how dangerous Afghanistan was, and now we had two there at the same time.”
When Steven arrived in mountainous eastern Afghanistan, communication with his parents became scant, unlike Iraq. But whenever they did hear his voice, like in one particular August 2010 voicemail, Mark and Diane would smile.
“He was so excited that Leeza’s sister was going to have a baby … he was so excited to be an uncle again,” Steven’s mom said. “That was the last time we heard his voice.”
On Aug. 22, 2010, Sgt. Steven DeLuzio, 25, and a fellow soldier, Sgt. Tristan Southworth, 21, were killed during a fierce clash with enemy fighters. Before anyone could blink, Sgt. Scott DeLuzio was escorting his brother’s flag-draped casket out of Afghanistan.
“Steven was the first one killed in the battle,” the fallen hero’s dad said. “(U.S. forces) ended up prevailing, believe it or not.”
When thousands lined Connecticut highways and South Glastonbury streets to honor their hometown hero, the DeLuzios knew their youngest son — like his big brother — had truly made a difference.
“It was very comforting to me at the time to know that so many people missed him,” Steven’s mom said. “In 25 years, he did so much.”
One of the things Steven did was permanently memorialize the Iraqi woman who gave him the opportunity to live four more years.
“That’s why he had the tattoo — to remember her,” Mark said.
While we may not all have tattoos honoring the thousands of brave men and women to make the ultimate sacrifice since 9/11, the names, faces, words and deeds of heroes like Sgt. Steven DeLuzio should be emblazoned inside our hearts.
“Steven was a real leader,” his father said.
U.S. Army Sgt. Steven DeLuzio enjoys some downtime during his 2010 combat deployment to Afghanistan. The soldier, 25, was killed in action on Aug. 22, 2010, during a fierce battle with enemy forces. Photo courtesy of the Sgt. Steven J. DeLuzio Memorial Fund.
Tom Sileo is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of “BROTHERS FOREVER: The Enduring Bond Between a Marine and a Navy SEAL that Transcended Their Ultimate Sacrifice.” Written with Col. Tom Manion (Ret.) and published by Da Capo Press, “BROTHERS FOREVER” will be released in spring 2014. To find out more about Tom Sileo or to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2014 CREATORS.COM
In the 1980s, a couple of ambitious young economists thought ski lift operators weren’t very smart. The economists assumed that if the business owners charged more on busy days, they could make more money. As recounted in “Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations” by David Warsh, the economists saw long lines on busy days as “prima facie evidence of market failure.”
After study, Robert Barro and Paul Romer concluded that they were wrong and that the people running the business were right. On crowded days, skiers waited longer in line and enjoyed fewer runs. As economists put it, the customers were paying more per ride even though the daily fee was the same. The business owners probably didn’t think of it that way, but they knew how much to charge.
Barro and Romer deserve credit for eventually acknowledging that fact. However, many economists today believe they know how businesses work better than those who run them. The problem is that no economist can account for all the variables so they simplify problems, make assumptions and often miss the point.
Recently, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development admitted that their own projections had missed the impact of globalization, fragile banks, and government regulation. The result, as summarized by the Washington Post’s Robert Samuelson: “Not only did the OECD miss the 2008-09 financial crisis, but it routinely overpredicted the recovery’s strength.”
This is nothing new. Following World War II, there was widespread speculation that the U.S. would enter a new Depression. Instead, the nation enjoyed the greatest economic growth in the history of the world. One study showed that economic models failed to account for 85 percent of the growth.
This track record is worth keeping in mind while listening to any political debate about economic projections. Recently, the Congressional Budget Office claimed that President Barack Obama’s proposal to raise the minimum wage might eliminate 500,000 jobs. The White House attacked that report by citing other economists who said the plan would not eliminate any jobs.
Realistically, both estimates are probably wrong. More importantly, they’re probably leaving out the biggest impact of the law, just as earlier economic models missed 85 percent of the factors leading to the post-War economic boom. It’s not that economists are foolish; it’s that an economy of more than 300 million people responding as best they can to daily life will react in ways that are unpredictable.
Recognizing that most minimum wage workers currently get a raise within a year, some businesses might respond by keeping workers at the new minimum for a longer period of time. Others might trim their profits a bit while a different group might trim the pay of those who earn a bit more than the minimum. There could be other positive or negative feedback as well.
The point is that nobody really knows. Debates about economic projections are like an episode of “Seinfeld” — a show about nothing.
Rather than betting the farm on unreliable projections, a pragmatic approach would seek reliable data through experimentation. Let states and cities set their own minimum so workers can compare results. Just like ski lift operators who figured out the best way to attract customers, states would quickly figure out the best way to attract workers to their state.
The results are likely to surprise the economists.
To find out more about Scott Rasmussen, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2014 SCOTT RASMUSSEN
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The National Gallery of Art stands between the White House and the Capitol, bracketed by other museums exhibiting treasures ranging from the red shoes Judy Garland wore in the movie “The Wizard of Oz,” to the Apollo 11 space module that went to the moon and back, to a Leonardo da Vinci portrait reckoned as his best work short of the Mona Lisa.
Thanks to George Clooney, those who care about art and creative human adventures beyond the gritty give-and-take of politics are getting a little attention in Washington. The National Gallery recently showed a preview of “Monuments Men,” which Clooney directed and stars in (now playing at a theater near you), telling the story of men and women who worked at considerable risk to life and limb to save art and architecture that might have been destroyed by the bombs and guns of World War II, or the collateral looting of thieves and vandals.
Against the noise of the bickering and infighting between the White House and Congress, it’s a welcome relief to reflect on such things as art that testifies to a different kind of human spirit. Very few schools today acquaint children with the treasures of art or cultural artifacts. Learning is dumbed down to emphasize identity and diversity with little appreciation of what we hold in common. Many of our school children study the Harlem Renaissance and learn little of the “other” Renaissance. Education is no longer anchored in the art of the West, which after all is the work of dead white men.
“Monuments Men” is about the value of fine art that stands for Western values over the test of time, and it’s particularly heartening for coming out of Hollywood. It’s about how American and European art scholars and curators saved cultural artifacts threatened by Nazi thieves and the collateral damage of war. It tells the story that followed the order given by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, on the eve of the invasion of France to preserve the Western heritage. Knowing that his soldiers would come into contact with monuments, museums and galleries, “which symbolize to all the world all that we are fighting to preserve,” he told every commander to protect them whenever possible. It was an unusual order in the time of battle.
The movie takes liberties and poetic license with nonessential facts and creates a fictional flirtation between a woman (Cate Blanchett), who works at the Jeu de Paume in Paris, and a medieval art scholar (Matt Damon) who would become director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. But the heroism of the academicians, historians and curators is real. They were knowledgeable men and women willing to risk their lives to save the common heritage.
The Nazis, in their vicious greed, looted some of the world’s greatest works of art, confiscating them from Jews and declaring them “ownerless.” Despite his anti-Semitism, Hermann Goring understood the value of Jewish taste in painting and sculpture and he stole enough art to fill eight rail cars. Hitler, the failed art student, revealed his ignorance of modern art, which he called “degenerate,” and sold or burned many paintings by Picasso, Salvador Dali and German expressionists.
The monuments men recovered millions of pieces, including works by Michelangelo, Rembrandt and da Vinci, taken from churches, museums and private owners. The Nazis had hidden them in caves, mines and castles for the future Fuhrermuseum. After the war, the art was returned to rightful owners whenever possible. Germany continues to return art to families who were dispossessed of it, but they’re lagging with the recent treasures found in the vast collection of Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of a Nazi art dealer.
Less well-known is that the preservation of art by the United States continues in war zones today. After looters broke into the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad in the shock and awe of the allied invasion in 2003, the U.S. military set out to recover stolen pieces, and a team of experts rescued thousands of books and documents of Iraq’s ancient Jewish community found in Saddam Hussein’s basement. Laura Rush, an archeologist hired by the Army, arranged for more than 40,000 packs of playing cards illustrated with historic ruins in Iraq and Afghanistan to be distributed to American soldiers. Since the GIs spent so much downtime handling the playing cards, she told The Wall Street Journal, “they served as the ideal teaching tool.”
It’s important to foster an appreciation of art and the history of art in the schools, instead of waiting for experts in time of war to enlighten soldiers in their barracks. Isn’t that worth doing?
Write to Suzanne Fields at: email@example.com. Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” To find out more about Suzanne Fields and read her past columns, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2014 CREATORS.COM
It is 611 miles from the United Auto Workers headquarters in Detroit to Volkswagen’s assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. It’s a long day’s drive, about 10 hours almost entirely on Interstate 75, but it turned out to be too far for the UAW.
Or so one must judge from the results of the unionization election last week in Chattanooga. Volkswagen employees voted 712-626 against certifying the UAW as their bargaining agent.
That’s not an overwhelming margin. But it’s significant. Volkswagen, unlike most employers, didn’t oppose the union. It supported it, opening its factory to union organizers but not opponents, announcing it wanted the UAW as a partner in a worker’s council similar to the company’s council with its IG Metall union in Germany.
Knowledgeable analysts like Steven Pearlstein in the Washington Post clearly anticipated a union victory. Many expressed hopes that it would herald successful UAW organizing drives in other foreign-manufacturer plants in the South and Midwest.
But workers made another choice. It’s a big setback for the UAW, whose chances of organizing other foreign-manufacturer plants — where managements oppose unionization — seem as minimal as ever.
And it’s a repudiation of the UAW model of unionism, which goes back to the sit-down strikes of early 1937, which enabled the union to organize General Motors and Chrysler (Ford would be organized later, in 1941).
1937 was 77 years ago. To get a sense of how long ago that was, if you go back 77 years before that year, you are in the early weeks of 1860, before Abraham Lincoln delivered the Cooper Union speech that made him a leading candidate in that year’s presidential election.
America’s economy changed a lot in those 77 years. And it has changed a lot in the 77 years since 1937.
The appeal of the UAW to autoworkers in the 1930s is not hard to understand. The auto companies managed workers according to the theories of Frederick W. Taylor, whose time-motion studies prescribed the most efficient ways to perform simple operations on a moving assembly line.
Taylor believed workers should be treated like stupid animals, incapable of adaptation or initiative, who needed to be disciplined to perform the same simple function all day.
Workers hated that work. But they knew in the Depression years that there were many unemployed men who would be happy to take their place.
The UAW argued that, thanks to the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, it could protect workers’ jobs and that its shop stewards could protest assembly line speedups by stopping the whole assembly line.
The NLRA’s adversarial process came to dominate labor-management relations and attract other workers. By the early 1930s, 35 percent of private sector workers had union representation.
That number has fallen drastically since then. There was a slight uptick last year, according to the Labor Department, but the number is still just 7 percent.
Why the shift against unions? The auto industry is a good example. Adversarial unionism prevented the Detroit-based automakers from adopting the flexible labor relations employed by non-unionized foreign-based automakers.
In addition, the Detroit firms’ managers were themselves hooked on Taylorism. They saw workers as a lower class of beings who needed to be bridled and saddled like horses.
As a result, foreign-owned automakers produced vehicles of much higher quality. In adversarial-union plants, some workers delighted in sabotaging their cars. In non-union plants, workers came forward with suggestions on how to make them better.
It took a long time for the UAW and Detroit management to acknowledge the problem. As Megan McArdle points out in her new book “The Up Side of Down,” organizations that have long been successful are reluctant to change their ways during years of slow, sometimes imperceptible decline.
UAW president, Bob King, says that his union has learned to be cooperative with management. Improved quality of Detroit-made cars and anecdotal evidence that has come my way tend to support that claim.
But Chattanooga’s VW workers don’t seem to think they need the union to cooperate with the company. They’re already working together — and new hires make union-level wages.
And workers can’t help but notice that the UAW helped push General Motors and Chrysler — and, indirectly, Detroit — into bankruptcy.
The bottom line is that the 1930s adversarial union model has little appeal to workers today. And that few Americans want to head on the road to Detroit.
Michael Barone, senior political analyst at the Washington Examiner, (www.washingtonexaminer.com), where this article first appeared, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2014 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER
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This week’s award for Biggest Common Core Jerk goes to Missouri GOP state legislator Mike Lair. Parents, teachers and administrators who object to the government education “standards” racket — which usurps local control, impedes academic achievement and undermines family privacy — have politicians on the defensive. The only thing these Fed Ed flacks and hacks can respond with is cowardly condescension.
Lair, chairman of Missouri’s House Appropriations Committee on Education, inserted an $8 budget line item to mock Common Core critics as tinfoil hat-wearing conspiracy theorists. Lair’s item reads: “For two rolls of high-density aluminum to create headgear designed to deflect drone and/or black helicopter mind reading and control technology.”
Common Core jerkitude is a bipartisan disease. Lair’s ridicule of grave parental concerns about Common Core data mining follows in the footsteps of Democratic U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan (who derided opponents as “white suburban moms”) and GOP former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (who derided opponents’ motives as “purely political”). It’s all a snitty, snotty smokescreen that will backfire as more families from all parts of the political spectrum discover the truth about Common Core’s invasive nature.
Assessing Common Core is inextricably tied to the big business of data collection and data mining. States that took the Race to the Top bribes in exchange for adopting Common Core must now comply with the edutech requirements of two private testing conglomerates, the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers or the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Common Core states also agreed to expand existing statewide longitudinal database systems that contain sensitive student data from pre-kindergarten through postsecondary education.
Will Estrada and Katie Tipton of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association conclude that “it will become increasingly difficult to protect the personal information of homeschool and private school students as these databases grow.” In addition to stimulus and Race to the Top enticements, both the Education and Labor Departments have funded several other initiatives to build and make various interoperable student and teacher databases.
“Before our eyes,” Estrada and Tipton warn, “a ‘national database’ is being created in which every public school student’s personal information and academic history will be stored.” It’s no laughing matter.
Just this week, SafeGov.org, a computer privacy watchdog group, reported that Google has admitted in recent court filings that “it data mines student emails for ad-targeting purposes outside of school, even when ad serving in school is turned off.” The newly exposed documents explicitly “confirm in a sworn public court declaration that even when ad serving is turned off in Google Apps for Education (GAFE), the contents of users’ emails are still being scanned by Google in order to target ads at those same users when they use the web outside of Google Apps (for example, when watching a YouTube video, conducting a Google search, or viewing a web page that contains a Google+ or DoubleClick cookie).” Last month, I reported on how Google is building brand loyalty through a questionable GAFE certification program that essentially turns teachers into tax-subsidized lobbyists for the company.
In New York, opposition from left, right and center has forced education bureaucrats to delay uploading personally identifiable student information to the Common Core-linked inBloom data cloud, a partnership of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.
In Colorado, Jefferson County families from both sides of the political aisle forced the district to withdraw from a meddling inBloom pilot project adopted without parental consent.
As I’ve explained before, the exploding multibillion-dollar education technology sector is driven by Common Core’s top-down digital learning and testing mandates. Remember: Under the Obama administration, Grand Canyon-sized loopholes in the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act have already opened data mining of students’ personally identifiable information (Social Security numbers, disciplinary records, biometric data, etc.) to third-party private entities.
Dr. Gary Thomson of the Utah-based Early Life Child Psychology and Education Center, a father of four and a clinical psychologist, is asking the fundamental questions politicians refuse to ask — and continue to scorn — regarding the Common Core-driven data collection:
—”For what EXACT purpose will this sensitive data be utilized?”
— “What organizations will have access to identifiable academic records? Other than generic information regarding race, age, gender and geographic location, why does the federal database require identifiable information to be accessible?”
—”If the political responses to these questions are ‘all information contained in the database is unidentifiable and security stored,’ then why were changes made to FERPA to allow an exemption to educational privacy rights when it comes to the implementation of the Common Core State Standards?”
When politicians want to evade accountability, they go on the attack. They don’t loathe anti-Common Core parents because they’re “paranoid.” They fear them because “paranoid” is the political demagogue’s word for active, alert and well-informed.
Michelle Malkin is the author of “Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks and Cronies” (Regnery 2010). Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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