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The New Missile-Defense Policy Won’t Maker Us Safer

January 18, 2019 in Economics

By Eric Gomez

Eric Gomez

The Trump administration’s long-awaited Missile Defense Review sets the
stage for a broad expansion of U.S. missile defense capabilities
that would make the country less safe. Perhaps this seems
paradoxical; shouldn’t better defenses increase our security?
Yet the proposed new systems would not exist in a vacuum, but would
interact with existing and emerging technologies and nuclear
strategies to produce a more dangerous world.

The MDR is a very ambitious document. It starts with calls for
more midcourse interceptors and other existing defensive systems,
then urges the development of new capabilities to defeat more kinds
of adversary missiles across more stages of flight. Examples of these new systems include:
laser-armed drones that could disrupt missiles before they leave
the atmosphere, space-based sensors to improve early detection of
missile launches, and F-35s equipped to hunt mobile missiles before
they can be fired.

Instead, it will
encourage rogue states to nuke first in a conflict, and will
increase the risk of escalation in a great-power war.

Supporters of a bigger and better U.S. missile defense
capability argue that it improves deterrence by reducing
adversaries’ confidence in their ability to launch successful
attacks against the United States, its military forces, and allies.
This argument has some merit, but it overlooks the negative effect
missile defense has on nuclear stability when other factors are

Let us take a closer look at the MDR’s likely effects on
two types of deterrence relationships: with “rogue
states” such as North Korea and Iran, whose existing or
potential nuclear arsenals will remain relatively small; and with
China and Russia, who possess much larger arsenals.

Far from deterring rogue states, the MDR’s prescriptions would
encourage them to use nuclear weapons at the start of a military
conflict. Although North Korea has demonstrated that it can likely
hit U.S. territory with a nuclear-armed ICBM, its forces are still
very small and vulnerable to both U.S. offensive capabilities and
missile defenses
. If war broke out between the United States
and North Korea, the U.S. military would most likely try to destroy
the North’s nuclear forces and its leadership very quickly. The
longer Kim Jong Un waits to use his nuclear weapons, the more
likely it is that he won’t have any weapons left. This is not just
speculation: when U.S.-North Korea tensions ran high in 2017, the
North repeatedly said it would use nuclear weaponsif
it felt that it was about to come under attack. Stoking first
strike incentives doesn’t buttress deterrence, it undermines it and
puts the United States at greater risk.

Nor will the MDR help deter potential adversaries …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Nixon’s Personal Lawyer Paid Hush Money to Watergate Burglars

January 18, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

Gerald Ford’s presidential pardon of Richard Nixon ensured that the disgraced president never faced legal consequences for his involvement in the Watergate cover-up. But a lot of people in Nixon’s orbit did go to prison—including Herbert Kalmbach, Nixon’s personal lawyer, who raised a slush fund to finance campaign sabotage and helped pay hush money to the Watergate burglars.

Kalmbach was a figure most voters would not have known about if not for his involvement in a presidential scandal. In Kalmbach’s case, it was the Watergate scandal, which began when five men were arrested on June 17, 1972 for breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex.

The Watergate scandal wasn’t just about the burglars’ attempt to bug the DNC during President Nixon’s reelection campaign. It was also about the illegal cover-up to hide any connection between the break-in and Nixon’s team, as well as the revelation that the Watergate break-in was just one in a series of “dirty tricks” the president’s men carried out to sabotage perceived enemies.

Watergate Scandal (TV-14; 2:33)

Kalmbach wasn’t involved in the break-in itself, but he did play a role in the cover-up and the dirty tricks.

“He was basically Nixon’s bagman,” says Ken Hughes, a research specialist at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs. “He got money where Nixon wanted money spent. He was the source of the money for the slush fund that paid for sabotage and spying activities on the Democratic presidential candidates in 1972.”

This spying and sabotage involved planting spies in other presidential campaigns, following candidates’ families, forging fake documents on a candidate’s letterhead and leaking false information to the press, among other tactics. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein reported in All the President’s Men that Nixon’s agents called this practice “ratf***ing.” It was meant to confuse and disorient a campaign so that the campaign staff had a difficult time telling where the sabotage was even coming from.

Take Senator Edward Muskie’s campaign to be the 1972 Democratic presidential candidate. In April of that year, one of his fundraising dinners was besieged by cash-on-delivery liquor, flowers, pizzas, cakes and entertainers that his campaign hadn’t ordered. During his New Hampshire primary campaign, people who claimed they were with the “Harlem for Muskie Committee” called voters in the middle of the night and …read more


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Why Reagan's 'Star Wars' Defense Plan Remained Science Fiction

January 18, 2019 in History

By Lesley Kennedy

SDI sought to block incoming nuclear missiles with futuristic, space-based technology, but critics said the plan was always too far-fetched.

It was a plan that read like science fiction: A system armed with an array of space-based X-ray lasers would detect and deflect any nukes headed toward the United States.

President Ronald Reagan saw the proposed Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) as a safeguard against the most terrifying Cold War outcome—nuclear annihilation. When Reagan first announced SDI on March 23, 1983, he called upon the U.S. scientists who “gave us nuclear weapons to turn their great talents to the cause of mankind and world peace: to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete.”

From the start, politicians and scientists argued that SDI was overambitious. The technical hurdles required to achieve SDI (which included a number of proposed designs and weapons—not just space-based lasers) seemed so incredible at the time that Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy referred to it as ”reckless ‘Star Wars’ schemes.” The ‘Star Wars’ moniker stuck. Over the course of 10 years, the government spent up to $30 billion on developing the concept, but the futuristic program remained just that—futuristic. It was formally scrapped by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

Despite criticisms from politicians, many scientists and others that the SDI was impractical, expensive and dangerous, the concept was developed during a frightening era.

A Defense Against the Soviets

“The Soviets had literally hundreds of ballistic missiles aimed at the U.S., and the idea was that SDI would render all of them obsolete,” says Matt C. Pinsker, adjunct professor of Homeland Security & Criminal Justice at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“The practical objection to SDI was that it was too expensive and not technologically feasible. The theoretical opposition to it was that it might ignite an arms race, though this does not make sense because there already was one.”

Vince Houghton, historian/curator at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., says he believes Reagan “truly despised nuclear weapons, and especially despised the threat they posed to the security of the United States. As much as people love to give him grief for what would end up being a trillion-dollar quagmire, or accuse him of wanting Star Wars so that the United States could have a legitimate advantage over the Soviets in a …read more


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An Intimate View of MLK Through the Lens of a Friend

January 18, 2019 in History

By Madison Horne

“Outside of my immediate family, his was the greatest friendship I have ever known or experienced.”

One evening in 1958, photographer.

Flip Schulke, born Graeme Phillips Schulke, in Miami, 1976.

Schulke’s archive contains an inside look at many of Dr. King’s biggest moments, such as the 1963 March on Washington and the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March. He was invited into Dr. King’s home many times, including after he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, and captured intimate moments between him and his children. Schulke was also on the scene for other pivotal moments, such as James Meredith attending the University of Mississippi in 1962 and the funeral of Medgar Evers in 1963.

As a photographer on the front lines of many tense confrontations, Schulke endured some of the same dangers as the protestors. He was threatened by white mobs protesting against integration, tear gassed, and locked in police cars to keep him from documenting important moments in black history.

After King’s shocking assassination, Coretta Scott King personally invited Schulke to bring his camera to the funeral. There, through the sensitive lens of a man who had just lost a great friend, he captured one of the most well-known images from the memorial. His portrait of Coretta sitting in the pews veiled in black at her husband’s funeral made the cover of Life Magazine on April 19, 1968, becoming one of its most famous covers.

Although many of Schulke’s images were published in magazines, he never tied himself to any publication. “When I was photographing Civil Rights I knew that was history,” Schulke told the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel in 1995. “I was aware enough not to sign any contracts giving up the copyright of my pictures.”

For Schulke, staying up all night locked in deep conversation with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that day in 1958 changed the course of his life. He later edited and published three books of his photographs of the Civil Rights Movement.

In all, Flip Schulke created nearly half a million photographs during his career as a photojournalist, including striking images of Muhammad Ali, Fidel Castro, and JFK; he was one of the first photographers inside the Texas Book Depository in Dallas after Kennedy’s assassination. He died at the age of 77 in May 2008.

Want more HISTORY? Check out these stories:

Same Date, 8 …read more


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The Obscure Shipping Law Leaving New Englanders in the Cold

January 18, 2019 in Economics

By Colin Grabow

Colin Grabow

Winter is upon New England, and with it an inevitable spike in
heating bills. Fortunately, legislators in Washington can ease some
of the financial pain. While members of Congress can’t control the
weather, they most certainly have the power to rid the country of
costly laws. And one surefire means of keeping money in the pockets
of the region’s families would be to scrap an obscure provision
called the Jones Act.

Passed more than 98 years ago, the Jones Act mandates that the
transportation of goods between two U.S. ports be performed by
vessels that are U.S.-flagged, U.S.-owned, U.S.-crewed, and
U.S.-built. Meeting these conditions isn’t cheap. It is commonly
estimated that oceangoing commercial vessels built in the United
States are 3-5 times costlier than their foreign-built
counterparts. And according to the U.S. government they are
nearly three times more expensive to operate

At the same time the
United States has emerged as one of the world’s largest exporters
of liquified natural gas, by law, none of it can be transported by
ship to New England — or anywhere else in the

All of this translates into higher transportation costs and
higher prices for consumers.

But sometimes ships aren’t available at any price because they
simply don’t exist. Such is the case with liquified natural gas
(LNG) carriers that transport the primary energy source relied upon
by more than half of Massachusetts’ households to heat
their homes. Almost unbelievably, there is not a single ship that
complies with the Jones Act’s requirements. At the same time the
United States has emerged as one of the world’s largest exporters of LNG, none of it
can be transported by ship to New England — or anywhere else
in the country. Instead every LNG carrier that arrives is from a
foreign port on international voyages not subject to Jones Act

And don’t expect this situation to change anytime soon.
According to a government study the construction of an LNG
carrier at a U.S. shipyard — something that hasn’t happened
since before 1980 — would cost anywhere from $400 to $675
million. That’s 2-3 times more expensive than one built in South
Korea. With LNG export opportunities abounding that make use of
cheaper foreign-flagged and built ships, the economic case for
building such a Jones Act-compliant ship is non-existent.

As a result, Americans will continue to import LNG, sometimes
from great distances, that is more expensive than the domestic
supply. In 2017 Massachusetts even imported some of its LNG
from Russia, which is perhaps ironic given the
law is often justified on national …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Teachers Should Be Striking for More School Choice, Not Less

January 18, 2019 in Economics

By Corey A. DeAngelis

Corey A. DeAngelis

Public school teachers started striking in Los Angeles this
week. Educators in Los Angeles Unified — the second biggest
school district in the United States — demand bigger
paychecks and smaller class sizes. The teachers union claims that
the state’s unregulated charter school growth is to blame.
But basic economic theory — and the scientific evidence
— suggests that public school teachers should instead be
fighting to increase school choice. Here’s why.

Economists would argue that public school employers exercise
strong “monopsony” power because public schools hold
over 90 percent of the K-12 market share. In other words, educators
essentially have to accept the work environment, salary, and
benefits offered by the traditional public school system if they
want a K-12 teaching job. The lack of competition in the education
labor market is bad for teachers. Weak competition among the
employers of educators means lower teacher salaries and bigger
class sizes.

In fact, the most recent estimates suggest that there are at
least 26 students in every class in LA Unified public schools, on
average. Additionally, annual per pupil spending in LA Unified
public schools is over $16,000 per student. In other words,
conservative estimates suggest that well over $400,000 is allocated
to each class each year. But teachers in LA Unified are only paid
$75,000, on average.

Teachers in Los Angeles
have a right to be upset about big classes and low salaries. They
deserve much more than what they are getting. But reducing charter
school growth won’t make their employer — the district
— spend education dollars wisely.

The important question: where does the rest of the money go?

According to Kennesaw State University’s Dr. Benjamin Scafidi,
increases in education expenditures are more likely to go towards
administration and support staff than full-time teachers. Between
1992 and 2014, Scafidi found that average U.S. public school
teacher salaries fell by around 2 percent even though the amount of
support staff increased by 36 percent. As Scafidi noted, if the
increase in support staff instead kept on par with student
enrollment growth over the same time period, every public teacher
in the U.S. could have had a raise of over $11,000. That would be
around a 15 percent raise for teachers in Los Angeles – over twice
as large as the raise demanded by the teachers union. Perhaps
public school teachers in LA should ask their employer — the
district — why they’re only getting less than a fifth of the
$400,000 of educational resources devoted to their classrooms.

But how can school choice help solve this problem?

The expansion of public charter schools gives educators more
employment options and …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The President’s Annual State of the Union Address, Explained

January 18, 2019 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

As President Donald Trump prepares to address Congress for his 2018 State of the Union address, take a look back at the history of this high-profile tradition.

These days, the State of the Union—the yearly speech by the U.S. president in front of the two houses of Congress, giving his view on the state of the nation and his legislative goals for the year—is as familiar a late January tradition as failing New Year’s resolutions and playoff football. But though its roots go all the way back to the nation’s founding, the State of the Union as we know it is a thoroughly modern tradition.

As President Donald Trump prepares to address Congress for his 2019 State of the Union address, take a look back at the history of this high-profile presidential tradition.


Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution states that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

According to the National Archives, George Washington first fulfilled this particular presidential duty on January 8, 1790, when he addressed the new Congress in the Senate Chamber of Federal Hall in New York City (then the U.S. capital). But Thomas Jefferson, the third president, chose to give his annual message to Congress in writing rather than make the trek to the Capitol—kicking off a tradition that would last nearly a century.

In 1913, Woodrow Wilson decided to buck that tradition. Shortly after his inauguration, Wilson went to Capitol Hill to make a speech about tariffs, becoming the first president since John Adams to presume to address Congress directly, on its own turf. That December, Wilson returned before Congress to give the first modern State of the Union address (though it wouldn’t officially be called that until Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency).

President Franklin Delano delivers his 1941 State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. (Credit: Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)


The Constitution put into place a deliberate separation of powers between the three branches of the federal government, tasking the legislative branch with making the nation’s laws, the executive branch with enforcing them and the judicial branch with interpreting and applying them.

But Wilson, a Progressive Democrat, believed …read more