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The IRS Is Up to No Good

The IRS is abusing its authority once again by employing the help of a private law firm in its case against Microsoft.

By Peter Roff     •     USNews

If there is one federal agency that has clearly run amok during the Obama administration, it’s the United States Internal Revenue Service. From the harassment of tea party groups applying for nonprofit status to the defiance of congressional subpoenas, it’s an agency badly in need of a thorough housecleaning.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is already under threat of impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives. That might be a good start, but removing him won’t fix the problems any more than the ouster of his predecessor did. The problems run too deep. Congress needs to act, not just by stepping up oversight of the tax collectors but by jerking their chain and narrowing their authority.

From top to bottom the agency is engaged in a wholesale abuse of its authority – and is defying attempts to investigate what it has been doing. Groups on the right are still reportedly having their applications for tax-exempt status slow-walked through the process. Confidential data is still leaking out and the auditing process is out of control. [Read more...]

The Logic of International Intellectual Property Protection

by Randolph J. May and Seth L. Cooper     •     Free State Foundation

Intellectual Property - BrainSecuring protection of American intellectual property (IP) rights internationally is an economic imperative. It is also a constitutional duty. In today’s information economy, copyrights and patent rights provide critical financial investment incentives for research and development of new products and services. And IP constitutes a potent source of economic value and prosperity. According to an official U.S. Department of Commerce report, IP-intensive industries in America generated an estimated $5 trillion in revenues in 2010 alone, providing over 27 million jobs. Since then, those figures almost certainly have grown. Another report estimated that the copyright industries alone contributed $1.1 trillion in value added to the U.S. economy and employed nearly 5.5 million workers in the U.S. in 2014.

As IP becomes increasingly vital to our nation’s wealth and prosperity, the need to ensure its protection on a global basis increases correspondingly. The American economy suffers staggering losses each year to international IP theft. According to the IP Theft Commission (2013), these losses likely exceed $300 billion annually. IP theft is an injustice to the IP owners, diminishes economic prosperity, and undermines job opportunities. Indeed, this is a reason why it is so important to conclude international trade agreements, such as the recently-negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership, that contain meaningful intellectual property protections. [Read more...]

FBI Has Enough Evidence to Prosecute Hillary Clinton for Public Corruption

by John Sexton     •     Breitbart

Hillary Rodham ClintonAn investigation into possible mishandling of classified information on Hillary Clinton’s private email server has expanded to consider whether Clinton’s work as Secretary overlapped with her work for the Clinton Foundation run by her family.

Fox News‘ Catherine Herridge published the report, citing unnamed FBI sources, Monday morning. The report indicates the initial security referral looking into whether or not classified information was mishandled has expanded to look at possible public corruption involving the Clinton Foundation.

The report paints a picture of an internal struggle within the FBI over whether or not to prosecute Clinton. Herridge quotes an unnamed FBI source saying, “many previous public corruption cases have been made and successfully prosecuted with much less evidence than what is emerging in this investigation.” [Read more...]

Denying the Obvious About Islamist Terror

After another ISIS-inspired shooting, Philadelphia’s mayor joins the chorus: It’s not about religion, no sir.

 by Dorothy Rabinowitz     •     Wall Street Journal

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney at a news conference after the Jan. 8 shooting of a city police officer. Photo: Matt Rourke/Associated Press

It required only half a minute for the mayor of Philadelphia, Democrat Jim Kenney, to achieve national fame. On Friday, an already sensation-crowded day, it fell to the mayor to take part in the official pronouncements on the attempted murder of city police officer Jesse Hartnett, shot and severely wounded as he sat in his patrol car when a would-be assassin emptied his gun at him—13 shots in all.

Police Commissioner Richard Ross Jr., appointed just three days earlier, delivered the details with noteworthy eloquence: The wounded officer, bleeding heavily from three wounds, one arm useless, had gotten himself out of the car, chased the attacker and shot him.

The drama of this recital needed no amplification, but there it was anyway: Clear security video images showed the assailant in his flowing white dishdasha—a robe favored by Muslim men—running toward the patrol car, shooting, sticking his hand in the window, and racing speedily away. Pictures too of the police officer lurching out of the car to give chase. [Read more...]

Kenyan President Successfully Argues for Mass ICC Withdrawal at African Union Summit

12661747_1217594401602444_570830678480970655_nBelow are several excerpts from Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s speech as well as some video of the intense, perhaps pivotal moment in Africa’s complicated relationship with the International Criminal Court…

We refuse to be carried along in a vehicle that has strayed off-course to the detriment of our sovereignty, security and dignity of Africans.

In the face of a mutating global terrorist threat that is costing us lives and great economic loss, in the midst of playing our part in mediating multiple peace processes in our region, we have had to contend with an ICC pursuing weak and politicized cases…

This is not what Kenya signed up for when we joined the ICC. I highly doubt that those of you that are its members expected this to be the way the court would conduct itself…

[Read more...]

The Global Slowdown Hits the U.S.

America dodged the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, but much has changed. Today’s world economic slide is starting to hurt us.

by Ruchir Sharma     •     Wall Street Journal

globe-handsPlunging stock prices and slowing economic growth in China have raised anew the question of how much events abroad really matter to the U.S. Many of the answers are quite placid, drawing on the precedents of the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, when there was similar concern about impacts at home, which never came. The U.S. grew at a 4.5% annual pace during those two years. For much of 2015, when U.S. growth remained steady despite volatile and weak growth in the rest of the world, the optimists said it was like 1997-98 all over again.

That may be, but the world has changed a lot in two decades. After 1998, the U.S. share of global GDP topped out at 32% but has since fallen to 24%, based on my analysis of raw data from the International Monetary Fund, while the emerging-world share bottomed out at 20% but has since doubled to nearly 40%. In that time, China has supplanted the U.S. as the largest contributor to global growth. [Read more...]

A recession worse than 2008 is coming

by Michael Pento     •     CNBC

2852.EconomicRecessionThe S&P 500 has begun 2016 with its worst performance ever. This has prompted Wall Street apologists to come out in full force and try to explain why the chaos in global currencies and equities will not be a repeat of 2008. Nor do they want investors to believe this environment is commensurate with the dot-com bubble bursting. They claim the current turmoil in China is not even comparable to the 1997 Asian debt crisis.

Indeed, the unscrupulous individuals that dominate financial institutions and governments seldom predict a down-tick on Wall Street, so don’t expect them to warn of the impending global recession and market mayhem.

But a recession has occurred in the U.S. about every five years, on average, since the end of WWII; and it has been seven years since the last one — we are overdue.
Most importantly, the average market drop during the peak to trough of the last 6 recessions has been 37 percent. That would take the S&P 500 down to 1,300; if this next recession were to be just of the average variety. [Read more...]

Top 10 Lies in Obama’s State of the Union

by Joel B. Pollak     •     Breitbart

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in WashingtonPresident Barack Obama promised his final State of the Union address would be short. Dana Bash of CNN called it “low-energy.” One thing it was not was accurate–or honest. Here are Obama’s top ten lies, in chronological order.

1. “[W]e’ve done all this while cutting our deficits by almost three-quarters.” This is pure fiction. Obama has doubled the national debt, and it’s not because he cut the deficit. Rather, he spent staggering amounts of money in his first months in office–which he assigns, dishonestly, to the previous fiscal year, under George W. Bush. He “cut” (i.e. spent more gradually) from that spending, but only under protest, after Republicans took the House in 2010.

(Update: It is true that Obama’s 2015 budget deficit was about 25% of his 2010 deficit. But he referred to “deficits,” plural. Until last year, all of Obama’s deficits were worse than all of Bush’s deficits except for the last two.)

2. “Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction.” With that line, Obama took a shot at his would-be Democratic successors, as well as his Republican critics. But the truth is that despite the slow recovery–the slowest since World War II–labor force participation is the lowest it has been in decades. Wages are stagnant, household incomes still have not recovered from the recession, and young people see a bleak future. [Read more...]

Yellen’s Job Puzzle: Why Are 20-Somethings Retiring?

Americans are increasingly foregoing paychecks due to disability, school or retirement

by Kasia Klimasinska

How come more people are retiring in their early 20s? Why are middle-age men becoming stay-at-home dads? What’s keeping women out of the workforce other than illness, kids or school?

Those are some of the questions raised in a new Bureau of Labor Statistics report that shows changes over the past decade in why people stay out of the labor force. Finding answers is key for the Federal Reserve as it maps the contours of a job market that’s becoming harder to predict with the aging of the baby boomers and shifting household priorities.

Here’s what the bureau found, broadly: Thirty-five percent of the U.S. population wasn’t in the labor force in 2014, up from 31.3 percent a decade earlier. (You’re considered out of the workforce if you don’t have a job and aren’t looking for one. That’s distinct from the official unemployment rate, which tracks those out of work who are actively job hunting.)

Drilling down into the numbers reveals more about the shifts in the reasons some people forego a paycheck. In all age groups, for instance, more people cited retirement as the reason for being out of the labor force, and it wasn’t just older people. [Read more...]

The Dangers of Victor’s Justice in Côte d’Ivoire

image012“The specter of a government pursuing investigations and prosecutions of the former regime while blatantly ignoring—or worse, covering up—its own crimes and misdeeds will very likely deepen mistrust across the social spectrum and lay the foundation for future conflict.” 

By Jeffrey Smith Freedom House

Côte d’Ivoire was once a promising model of economic prosperity and stability for West Africa, but in the last decade alone it has fallen prey to two civil wars, untold human misery, and large-scale impunity for perpetrators of human rights violations. The complex problems currently besetting the country are linked to the failure of its leaders to both commit to and successfully foster genuine democratic principles and practices.

The latest manifestation of poor political leadership occurred during the latter part of 2010, when incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo refused to relinquish power following his electoral defeat at the hands of a longtime adversary, Alassane Ouattara. By early December 2010, both men had been sworn in as president in separate, conflicting ceremonies. The stalemate sparked Côte d’Ivoire’s second civil war since 2002, resulting in over 3,000 deaths and the displacement of over a million people before Ouattara finally assumed power in April 2011.

The relative peace that now prevails is tenuous at best, threatened by persistent and deeply rooted political, tribal, and ethnic divisions. The recent discovery of mass graves, mainly located in the western part of the country, has done little to allay fears of renewed violence. The situation is exacerbated by the proliferation of small arms and the desperation caused by widespread poverty.

The UN-backed Muntarbhorn Commission determined that serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law were committed by both sides during the postelection crisis. A number of important steps have since been taken to foster national reconciliation and ensure that key perpetrators are held accountable. A Truth, Reconciliation, and Dialogue Commission (TRDC) has been established, as has a separate Commission of Inquiry. A newly appointed public prosecutor assumed office in April 2011, and the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been cleared to investigate and prosecute those alleged to have violated international law. Gbagbo, for his part, already sits in The Hague, where he will stand trial before the ICC on four counts of crimes against humanity.

The Obama administration has pledged support to the Ouattara government, hoping to reestablish a normal trade and assistance relationship and provide a sense of stability to a country still reeling from a humanitarian disaster. However, this relationship is premised on Ouattara’s demonstrated commitment to advance national reconciliation, implement measures that decrease ethnic violence, and ensure that human rights violations are impartially investigated.

Unfortunately, the requisite progress on these fronts remains to be seen.

[Read more...]

Fatou Bensouda Fares Poorly in the Conflict Zone

0,,18665968_303,00You’re like the surgeon who comes to a patient, the patient dies, and you’re saying, “But it was a great operation! We did a great job!” But the patient died. – Tim Sebastian to International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on Conflict Zone

After more than a decade of illiberal folly and imperial impunity, the International Criminal Court’s global media grace period appears to at last be coming to an end.

The sound thrashing Fatou Bensouda receives at the hands of Tim Sebastian for twenty-six unrelenting minutes — embedded for easy access below — should be watched in full by supporters and detractors of the Court alike, but to give you all a quick taste we’ve transcribed the tone-setting first ninety seconds:

Sebastian: Thirteen years of your court’s operation. One billion dollars so far spent. Two convictions. How can anyone say this is worth the money?

Bensouda: Indeed, I would say it is worth the money. It is about the rule of law. it is about..

Sebastian: In two cases.

Bensouda: It is about ensuring there is accountability. It is not really about the number of convictions. It is important of course to have convictions. But what is more important is the impact the Court has had in its infancy.

Sebastian: Okay, but i want to you about the impact it has had. Because [the Court] has stopped none of the global war crimes, the number of which seem to be going up and up. We’ve had Israel/ Palestine, Sudan, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Ukraine…no deterrent effect whatsoever visible from your Court.

Bensouda: I beg to differ. I think that we should not be judging the court on its performance because atrocities…

Sebastian: What else can we judge it on except on its performance?

[Read more...]

In New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton throws Benghazi families under the bus

by Jazz Shaw     •     Hot Air

Hillary Clinton 2The GOP primary has probably been the best thing to happen to Hillary Clinton in years. There was a period of time during the spring and early summer of last year when it seemed as if nobody could talk about anything except Hillary’s emails and the various investigations into the horrible events at Benghazi. You couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting some story about the former Secretary of State being corrupt, deceptive or just plain lying. (Ah… good times, my friends.) But then the Republican race heated up, our candidates began flinging monkey poo at each other, several parts of the western world caught fire and most of the discussions of Hillary seemed to fade into the past.

Not entirely, however. Our friend Jeff Dunetz has a great story over at his place to kick off the year and it deals with a recent Q&A that Clinton did with the editorial board of the Conway Daily Sun. In it, the editors asked her some rather pointed questions about the initial response to the Benghazi attacks and why she told one group of people one story while singing another tune entirely for others. [Read more...]

Will 2016 Bring the Collapse of China’s Economy?

China’s global dominance, something analysts say is inevitable, will have to wait.

by Gordon G. Chang     •     The National Interest

Last Monday, at the conclusion of China’s closed-door Central Economic Work Conference, Beijing’s public relations machine went into high gear to show that the country’s leaders had come up with a viable plan to rescue the economy.

Unfortunately, they do not now have such a plan. In reality, they decided to continue strategies that both created China’s current predicament and failed this year to restart growth.

The severity of China’s economic problems—and the inability to implement long-term solutions—mean almost all geopolitical assumptions about tomorrow are wrong. Virtually everyone today sees China as a major power in the future. Yet the country’s extraordinary economic difficulties will result in a collapse or a long-term decline, and either outcome suggests China will return to the ranks of weak states. [Read more...]

Saudi-Iran crisis a rebuke for US policy

By Dave Clark and Nicolas Revise     •     Yahoo

Washington’s single-minded pursuit of the Iran nuclear deal damaged its alliance with Saudi Arabia, experts say, and fed the escalating crisis in the Gulf.

The United States failed to manage its traditional Sunni Arab allies in the region while it reached out to mend ties with their bitter Shiite foes in Tehran.

As a result, experts warn, Washington has suffered a loss of influence at a time when it needs to implement the nuclear accord and work with both Tehran and Riyadh to end the Syrian war.

“I think the administration has had a one-eyed policy on this,” Salman Shaikh, founder and CEO of regional consultancy the Shaikh Group, told AFP. [Read more...]

How Liberals Are the New Autocrats

Progressives may preach the joys of localism, but the trend in government is all the other way in everything from climate change to the economic complexion of your neighborhood.

by Joel Kotkin     •     The Daily Beast

Obama Corruption IntimidationThe End of Localism

This could be how our experiment with grassroots democracy finally ends. World leaders—the super-rich, their pet nonprofits, their media boosters, and their allies in the global apparat—gather in Paris to hammer out a deal to transform the planet, and our lives. No one asks much about what the states and the communities, the electorate, or even Congress, thinks of the arrangement. The executive now presumes to rule on these issues.

For many of the world’s leading countries—China, Russia, Saudi Arabia—such top-down edicts are fine and dandy, particularly since their supreme leaders won’t have to adhere to them if inconvenienced. But the desire for centralized control is also spreading among the shrinking remnant of actual democracies, where political give and take is baked into the system.

The will to power is unmistakable. California Gov. Jerry Brown, now posturing as the aged philosopher-prince fresh from Paris, hails the “coercive power of the state” to make people live properly by his lights. California’s high electricity prices, regulation-driven spikes in home values, and the highest energy prices in the continental United States, may be a bane for middle- and working-class families, but are sold as a wonderful achievement among our presumptive masters. [Read more...]