A New Relationship with Cuba May Be a Good Thing, Just Not Necessarily For Who You Think

Cuban Embargo

There are several arguments being bandied about regarding President Obama’s desire to normalize relations with our little Commie friend to the South, Cuba. And they run the gamut: some think it’s a sign of weak negotiating prowess and simply bad policy (we give more than we get, etc.); some think the embargo a failed prospect that should be, in the interests of the Cuban people, tossed to the wind, but that Congress should have been included in the decision; and others think it’s all just a swell idea and hurray because Cuba and the USA are about to be besties! (I’m sure there’s a selfie joke in there somewhere).

Congress, understandably, is pushing back — again, something that will likely be a common theme over the next two years — with Marco Rubio making as clear a statement as any I’ve heard on the matter:

“I anticipate I’ll be the chairman of the Western Hemisphere subcommittee on the Foreign Relations Committee” in the new Congress, Florida Senator Marco Rubio said in a press conference hours after the release of American prisoner Alan Gross from a Cuban prison was announced along with the administration’s plans to normalize relations with Cuba, including opening an embassy there.

Uncle Sam, government slumlord

Vacant Federal Building

It is no secret that the federal government has too much real property.  Plainly put, Uncle Sam is one extremely disorganized landlord that likes purchase, lease, and hoard large amounts of costly real estate.  And as with most operations left to languish at the hands of bureaucrats, the business is terribly wrought with mismanagement and a serious lack of transparency.

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) has supported the sale of excess government property since the organization’s inception in 1984. After the Bush administration created the Federal Real Property Profile (FRPP) database to help federal agencies manage and dispose of the surfeit property, CAGW has been following its progress and publishing numerous reports on the federal government’s real problems with real property.

Costly government leasing practices have been included on the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) high-risk list since 2003. A March 12, 2014 GAO report called on the federal government’s landlord, the General Services Administration (GSA), to improve both the FRPP’s budget structure and streamline the process of disposing of excess “surplus” property to benefit both tenant agencies and taxpayers.

Support for gun rights is at an all-time high — especially among black Americans

Shooting a Gun

A recent Pew Research poll suggests more Americans are concerned about protecting gun rights than restricting gun ownership. 52 percent of Americans — the highest percentage since Pew began asking the question 20 years ago — favor greater gun freedom, compared to 46 percent of Americans who support stricter regulations. The twenty-year trend shows support for gun rights steadily increasing, while support for restrictions on the decline.

Two Years After Newtown, A Shift in Favor of Gun Rights

The study finds:

For the first time in more than two decades of Pew Research Center surveys, there is more support for gun rights than gun control. Currently, 52% say it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns, while 46% say it is more important to control gun ownership.

Support for gun rights has edged up from earlier this year, and marks a substantial shift in attitudes since shortly after the Newtown school shootings, which occurred two years ago this Sunday.

The balance of opinion favored gun control in the immediate aftermath of the Newtown tragedy in December 2012, and again a month later. Since January 2013, support for gun rights has increased seven percentage points – from 45% to 52% — while the share prioritizing gun control has fallen five points (from 51% to 46%).

Support for gun ownership is up across nearly every demographic.

Eric Garner’s death shows exactly what’s wrong with the American legal system

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At first glance, it’s yet another example of a law enforcement officer being cleared of charges for what was quite obviously an unjustified and unnecessary civilian death. But the story of Eric Garner’s homicide exposes so much more of what ails our legal and criminal justice systems.

Garner’s heinous alleged crime that was so deserving of police action, violent arrest, and ultimately death was…selling loose cigarettes out of their original packaging. In the allegedly free market capitalist society of Staten Island, New York, America, this is a misdemeanor offense, for which Garner had several charges already pending at the time of his suffocating death.

In New York, cigarettes are taxed and regulated so highly that they can cost more than $12 per pack. This insane bureaucratic scheme has inevitably created the black market that Garner was participating in - selling cigarettes out of their packs, avoiding the confiscatory taxes altogether, and pocketing the pure profits. Garner was no angel, but he was an entrepreneur, and in Dr Martin Luther King, Jr’s view entirely justified in not following the oppressive New York cigarette laws:

What happens in Vegas… can’t happen in an Uber — for now.

Uber Las Vegas

In January of this year, Uber launched a public campaign to bring its ride-sharing service to Nevada — whose largest city, Las Vegas, is a premier destination in the U.S. Using the Twitter hashtag #VegasNeedsUber, the company began increasing awareness of its services to those who frequent the city’s attractions.

The R Street Institute recently published a study on the regulatory framework of the taxi, limousine, and ride-sharing industry in 50 of America’s top cities. At the time, Las Vegas received the lowest rating possible.

From the Ridescore report:

Las Vegas has a heavily regulated vehicle-for-hire market that benefits special interests at consumers’ expense. It comes in as the worst-rated city in our survey.

Competition in the Las Vegas taxi market is restricted by a regulatory limit on the number of entrants, which takes the form of a medallion system. Commodifying the right to do business is far worse than a fleet cap, as it creates a rent-seeking cartel of medallion owners with incentive to influence policymakers and promote regulatory capture.

Limos in Las Vegas are encumbered with numerous regulations undermining their ability to be competitive. These include high mandated minimum fare and use times, and a requirement to carry triple the commercial liability insurance of taxis.

What Else Falls with Fallen Standards? Obama’s “Mean Girls”

Obama's Mean Girls

Anyone who’s been paying attention to national politics may have gotten the strange, discomforting feeling that the United States has, for the past several years, been led in a manner more befitting a Student Council rather than a world power. Whether it’s Harry Reid’s whiny vendetta against the Koch brothers, or the more recent indecent back stab of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the seats of power are behaving not unlike a high school popularity contest. Peggy Noonan zeroed in on one such example recently in a blog post at the Wall Street Journal regarding a phone call President Obama made to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and, apparently, a loose-lipped staffer in the Senator’s office:

Presidents don’t call senators to complain that someone in their office got them mad. That is below a president. (It is especially below one during a crisis.) If persistent leaks get under a president’s skin, he has one of the tough guys around him make that call. If it’s really serious, he has his chief of staff do it. But a president doesn’t lower himself to making accusations, he doesn’t stoop to expressing personal anger at a mere congressional staffer. Presidents have bigger things to do. They also know that everyone leaks. They roll their eyes and keep walking.

Senators don’t have staffers surreptitiously listen in on phone calls from the president of the United States. If they want to request that someone listen in and take notes, they can, and the White House can give or decline permission in advance of the call. Has any senator ever violated this etiquette? Probably, sure. But it is a violation, and they would know it is a violation and not something to brag about.

Obstruction Junction, what’s your function?

Eric Holder's Obstruction

In 2009, U.S. officials discovered that Mexican cartels had become the leading gun-traffickers responsible for high levels of crime throughout the Southwest U.S.

On October 31, 2009, the Arizona Field Office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), in cooperation with the Department of Justice (DOJ), launched a sting operation to help reduce cross-border drug and firearm trafficking by “purposely allowing licensed firearm dealers to sell weapons to illegal straw buyers.”  The operation was intended to track weapon purchases made by Mexican drug cartels to expose the location of high level leaders and ultimately lead to their arrests.

By June 2010, the case internally became known as “Operation Fast and Furious,” as ATF agents discovered numerous cartel leaders under investigation were operating out of a busy auto-repair store.  More than 1,608 firearms worth a total of $1 million were purchased by suspected cartel leaders, but unbeknownst to the U.S. government, 179 had been linked to Mexican crimes and 130 had been found at crime scenes in the U.S.

On December 14, 2011, while patrolling Peck Canyon in Santa Cruz County, Arizona, Border Patrol officer Brian Terry was shot and killed by Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, a high-level cartel leader who purchased a weapon linked to Operation Fast and Furious.  While the operation was officially terminated on January 25, 2011, Americans and government officials would soon discover that the problems surrounding the sting had only just begun.

Democrat “economic wedge issue” playbook failed in 2014, but they’ll probably re-hash it in 2016 anyway.

Hillary Clinton 2016

After suffering a historic beating at the polls in 2014, many leading Democrats now say a big reason for their losses is that they failed to drive home with voters a message of economic populism; namely, income inequality, wage stagnation, and the need to raise the minimum wage. They say they are determined to fix that failure in their quest to win back seats from Republicans in 2016.

Democrats, fleeing from Obama’s myriad failures and seeking wedge issues with which to win close races, actually did implement quite a bit of economic populism in the months leading up to the midterms; it just didn’t resonate with voters. As for why it did not resonate, it might be that after six years of Obamanomics – from the “stimulus” package that actually increased unemployment by more than 2%, Son of Stimulus, Cash for Clunkers, Summer of Recovery, Summer of Recovery 2, Summers of Recovery 3 and 4, and so on and so forth - voters simply no long gave Obama and the Democrats credibility on economic matters.

And with good reason. The issue of raising the minimum wage polls well, but in actuality has little bearing on the lives of most voters. The reality is that, according to a report issued by the U.S. Department of Labor earlier this year, only 2.8% of the U.S. labor force earns at or below minimum wage. Of that 2.8%, many workers, such as restaurant servers, make much higher than that due to tips, which reduces the number of Americans actually earning minimum wage to just 1.1%. Of those earning minimum wage, roughly half are workers between the age of 16 and 24 years, and most of these are students working part-time.

Hillary Clinton’s potential soon-to-be campaign team wants to “punish” conservative voters

Hillary Clinton

Liberals have long thought of politics as a zero-sum game, where the winners revel in the spoils of victory while punishing the losers. Furthermore, liberals have long equated political activism with violence. Radical liberal groups — particularly environmentalists and so-called ‘animal rights’ activists — use violence and force to advance their cause. Domestic terrorists like Bill Ayers and the Weather Underground bombed buildings to achieve political success.

So it’s no surprise that potential Hillary 2016 staffers would use words like “punish” when referring to political opponents in private email exchanges.

A source leaked private emails of Democrat activists to ABC News earlier this week, pulling back the curtain on a listserv that reaches more than 150 activists. Well-known Democratic activists Robby Mook and Marlon Marshall use the listserv — titled “Mook Mafia” — to have an ongoing discussion about politics, campaigns, and 2016. Think of the liberal journalist listserve “JournoList,” only with activists instead of reporters.

From the ABC News exclusive:

How Uber-friendly is your city?

Ridescore

The R Street Institute, a think tank that seeke to “engage in policy research and outreach to promote free markets and limited, effective government” launched Ridescore, an interactive scorecard that rates the car service industry in 50 top U.S. cities, including taxis, limosines, and ride-sharing services like Uber. Giving ratings ranging from A to F, R Street investigated the regulatory framework in cities as diverse as Washington, D.C. (A rating), Phoenix, Arizona (C+ rating), and Las Vegas, Nevada (F rating).

R Street reports:

To paint a comprehensive picture of transportation regulation across the country, we embarked on an ambitious research project to grade 50 of the largest U.S. cities on their friendliness to the full range of for-hire vehicle services. The challenges relate to more than just TNCs, thus we also surveyed restrictions on taxi and limo services. In each city, we gathered information on key regulatory variables for TNC, taxi and limousine services, awarding numerical scores for each category that reflect deviation from a base score. Combining the grades for TNC regulatory friendliness, taxi regulatory friendliness and limo regulatory friendliness together yields an overall “ride score” that describes the city’s openness to competition in the market for hired vehicle services. Forty percent of the overall ride score derives from TNC friendliness, 40 percent from taxi friendliness and 20 percent from limo friendliness.

 


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