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22Jul/14Off

City Officials Accused of Cronyism in Fight Over Uber, Lyft

MEMPHIS—City officials, citing public safety concerns, have imposed cease-and-desist orders against private ride-share companies Uber and Lyft. Now, in the wake of those decisions, officials are facing questions of possible cronyism.

Memphis officials have a strong incentive to help cab companies beat back any competition, said Justin Owen, president of the Nashville-based Beacon Center of Tennessee.

Taxis pay permitting fees to city officials. Lyft and Uber do not. Taxi companies often cooperate with city officials on regulations because those regulations can discourage competition. Uber and Lyft do not. And taxi officials know they are competing with a product that could very well appeal to many of their not-always-satisfied customers.

“There have long been cozy relationships between taxi companies and cities all across the country,” Owen said.

>>> Seattle’s Rideshare Caps Will Squash Innovators Such as Uber

Taxi companies, he added, have the power to pressure city officials to defend their market and crack down on competition. And that, he believes, may have been what happened in Memphis.

“You have a situation where a lone bureaucrat decided to do this arbitrarily without getting approval by elected officials,” Owen said. “These officials aren’t looking out for the best interests of the consumer. They are looking out for the best interests of the taxi industry.”

The lone bureaucrat whom Owen refers to is Memphis Permits Administrator Aubrey Howard.

In response to Owen’s criticism, Howard said ride-sharing companies must comply with city ordinances and let city officials know who they are, lest a resident inadvertently do business with “a known rapist or someone who robbed 12 people in the last four years,” Howard said. He acknowledged he knows of no such case.

>>> Another State Attempts to Block Ride-Sharing Companies Uber, Lyft

Unless the ordinance changes, Howard said, nothing will prevent him and members of his office from laying down the law, and that includes ordering police to issue citations.

“People who get citations will go before the Memphis Transportation Commission and it just depends on the charges for doing business without a permit,” Howard said. A first citation costs $1,000 and a second $2,000, he said.

“If it happens a third time, it’s $3,000, but very likely if they continue to operate without a permit we will likely go into the environmental court and treat them as a public nuisance, which literally means we can put locks on their doors,” Howard said.

“Uber and Lyft don’t have offices here, but if they did then we would lock their doors.”

Read more on Watchdog.org.

The post City Officials Accused of Cronyism in Fight Over Uber, Lyft appeared first on Daily Signal.

22Jul/14Off

Q&A: The Attack on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and Why It Matters

Tragedy struck Malaysia Airlines for the second time in four months when a passenger plane flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot out of the sky last week.

Interfax, a non-governmental Russian news agency, first reported the downed Boeing 777 on Thursday morning. The plane was hit by a surface-to-air missile and crashed in Eastern Ukraine, close to the Russian border. There were 298 passengers from 11 countries on board. All were killed.

Though it was originally unclear who was responsible, Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” the attack occurred at the hands of pro-Russian separatists. Kerry went on to say it was “pretty clear” Russia played a role in the events and provided the separatists with the missile.

In an interview with The Daily Signal, Daniel Kochis, a national security and foreign policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, answers questions about Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, delves into the implications of last week’s events and explains how it could have implications for U.S.-Russia relations.

Q: With Russia and Ukraine being so far removed geographically from the United States, why should Americans care about last week’s events? Why not let the two countries solve this conflict themselves?

A: For a host of reasons, Americans should care about what happened last week in Ukraine. For starters, 298 people, including at least one American, died when Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was shot down. The cost in human lives alone should be enough for Americans to care about last week’s tragedy.

Secondly, the United States has a significant interest in ensuring the global commons (including airspace) remains safe and open. One-third of Americans hold passports and 61 million Americans traveled abroad in 2013. The United States has a vested interest in ensuring its citizens are safe when traveling abroad to say nothing of the economic interest the U.S. has in ensuring commerce and trade occurs uninterrupted.

Finally, the United States has treaty allies in Eastern Europe that are extremely worried about Russian aggression. They, along with Russia, are watching closely how the U.S. reacts.

Q: Why is the attack on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 important on a global scale?

A: Aside for the affront to the global commons, the victims of Flight 17 were from multiple nations. Furthermore, Russia’s actions in Ukraine threaten American allies in Eastern Europe.

Q: Who are the major players involved in the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 attacks?

A: It has become evident that Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine brought down Flight 17 with a SA-11 antiaircraft missile. The pro-Russia separatists have been fighting a war of aggression against the Ukrainian government in Kiev for months with political, economic and military support of Moscow.

Q: Who, exactly, are the separatists—are they Ukrainians or Russians?

A: The separatists are both Ukrainian and Russian citizens. Many of the leaders of the separatists are Russian and Russia has allowed the separatists to open a recruiting office in Moscow. They want the eastern regions of Ukraine to break away from the rest of the nation to form a new nation closely aligned with Russia, if not outright incorporated into it.

Q: Why is the plane crash significant in terms of Russia and the United States’ relationship? Why target a passenger plane?

A: The U.S. response to Russia’s illegal invasion, occupation and subsequent annexation of the Crimea—and continuing support for separatists in eastern Ukraine—has been weak and done little to deter Vladimir Putin from pursuing his aims aggressively in Ukraine. Russia created the instability in Ukraine where separatists could gain control of territory. Secretary of State Kerry confirmed over the weekend that the missile system used to hit the plane had been supplied by Russia.

The Obama administration bet the house on the failed Russian reset, which viewed Russia as a responsible actor and a willing and honest partner. Russia’s actions in Ukraine shattered that illusion. What is clear is that the Russian reset is dead and the U.S. needs a new, clear-eyed strategy for dealing with Russia. Unfortunately, the Russian reset and the administration’s policies have put the U.S. in a much weaker position vis-à-vis Russia.

Q: How does last week’s event impact the United States’ foreign policy?

A: In every region of the globe the United States is in a weaker strategic position than before President Obama took office. Friends and foes alike cannot count on the White House backing up rhetoric with concrete actions. A haphazard foreign policy built upon false narratives such as “the Russian reset” have left the United States weaker, allies gravely concerned, foes emboldened and neutrals wondering whether to bet on America. Last week’s events are a further example that the world is more dangerous and volatile in large part due to the policies pursued by the president.

Q: What action should the United States take? Are sanctions against Russia enough?

A: The U.S. needs to send a strong message that Russia’s actions against its neighbor are unacceptable and will be met with stiff consequences. The U.S. has a host of actions it should take, including but not limited to lifting restrictions on U.S. energy exports to Europe, withdrawing from the New START Treaty, increasing military cooperation with NATO allies in Europe, upholding missile defense commitments on the continent, and expanding the list of Russian officials sanctioned under the Magnitsky Act.

Q: Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday it was “pretty clear” Russia was involved. Does that seem feasible? Is it possible for the separatists to have fired the surface-to-air missile without Russia’s assistance?

A: Aside for creating the instability in Ukraine and funneling support to separatists, the U.S. confirms that the antiaircraft missiles were supplied to the pro-Russian separatists, who also received some level of training on how to use the system from Russia. We have not seen any evidence to suggest that they obtained or learned to fire the missiles without Russian assistance.

Q: What role does the United Nations play?

A: Yesterday, the United Nations approved a resolution that condemns the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17. The resolution calls for a ceasefire around the crash site, demands that the crash site not be tampered with, that an international team of independent investigators be given access to the site, and that the human remains of the victims be treated respectfully.

Russia has a veto at the UN Security Council, so the resolution is a watered-down version. On the ground, the resolution will have little practical impact.

Q: The black boxes from the plane have been recovered. What is significant about this, and what can investigators learn from listening to the recordings captured?

A: The black boxes will contain flight data from before and after the impact of the missile. It will help answer whether or not the pilots saw or had any warning of the missile by listening to the recordings of the cockpit voice recorder. The black boxes will help piece together the sequence of events regarding the tragedy of Flight 17.

Q: The Russian media appears to be attempting to downplay the country’s role in the attacks. What does this portrayal mean, and why is it significant on both the Russian and international stage?

A: Russia will continue to deny that it was in any way involved in the downing of the Malaysian Airlines flight and even that separatists in eastern Ukraine are involved. The Russian Ministry of Defence has questioned U.S. assertions that the missile was fired by pro-Russian separatists and instead asserting that Ukraine likely brought down the airliner. Russian officials and media outlets will continue to put out disinformation and propaganda, a tactic that Vladimir Putin and his regime have become very adept at and have utilized deftly in Ukraine since the invasion of Crimea began. The United States and our allies need to strongly refute Russia’s propaganda surrounding what is happening in Ukraine in general and with the airliner in particular.

The post Q&A: The Attack on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and Why It Matters appeared first on Daily Signal.

21Jul/14Off

DEWHURST: ONE-FOURTH OF ILLEGALS APPREHENDED AT BORDER HAVE CRIMINAL RECORDS

While the Border Patrol is spending their time fretting over unaccompanied minors, a small percentage of illegals sneaking across the border, they are neglecting the tens of thousands of illegals with criminal records seeping into the US.

HOUSTON, Texas–On Monday Texas Governor Rick Perry announced during a press conference that up to 1,000 National Guard troops will be activated along a section of the Texas-Mexico border in an attempt to stop the tidal wave of illegal immigrants entering the U.S. each day. The governor was joined by Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, ...

21Jul/14Off

Bordering on Madness

In a recent confrontation between protesters against the illegal flood of unaccompanied children into the United States and counter-protests by some Hispanic group, one man from the latter group said angrily, “We are as good as you are!”

One of the things that make the history of clashes over race or ethnicity such a history of tragedies around the world is that — regardless of whatever particular issue sets off these clashes — many people see the ultimate stakes as their worth as human beings. On that, there is no room ...

21Jul/14Off

What America Needs Now

Forty-five years ago, there was a day like few others that rallied Americans and changed America forever. Yet I could find but one or two news stories about that momentous occasion and triumph. Do you remember what it was? It’s the type of event that America needs now, maybe more than ever before.

If you’re old enough, you remember July 20, 1969, when 123 million of roughly 200 million Americans were riveted to their televisions, watching astronaut Neil Armstrong 240,000 miles from Earth. As he stepped off the Eagle — the ...

21Jul/14Off

Moral Equivalence Is Usually Moral Negligence

Efforts to proclaim moral equivalence are not always misguided; sometimes each side is equally at fault or close enough. But these efforts are often misguided and unhelpful — and sometimes harmful.

Throughout my life, there has been an increasing trend to attach moral equivalence to all kinds of disputes and conflicts, such as Israel vs. Hamas, which is the subject of a future column. I assume this is mostly an outgrowth of our culture’s descent into moral relativism, but it’s also a product of our intellectual laziness.
We see it everywhere. It ...

21Jul/14Off

Rand Paul: Less Government, More Sharing Economy

Who will be the GOP nominee in 2016? I don’t know, but I have a pretty good idea who the running mate will be: Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. Unless Paul is the nominee.

A new NBC News/Marist poll found that Paul would be the top GOP vote-getter against Hillary Clinton in critically important Iowa and New Hampshire; political reporter Chuck Todd duly has proclaimed Paul the Republican front-runner.
So I had to see the libertarian-leaning darling Saturday. He delivered a keynote speech to the LincolnLabs’ “Reboot 2014″ confab of libertarian-leaning techies, ...

21Jul/14Off

Is There a Russian Conscience? A European?

When I was a graduate student at Columbia University’s Russian Institute, there was a great debate: Was the communist Soviet Union an organic Russian development or was it largely a cancer imposed on it?

Those who held the organic view argued that the change from czar to commissar was only one of degree. Both were tyrannies, the latter more tyrannical than the former.
I agreed with the second view, that communism was something radically new, not a logical, let alone inevitable, Russian path. The czars were autocrats, not genocidal totalitarians.
I have to ...

21Jul/14Off

What Needs Resetting

The bodies of 298 passengers and crew of Malaysia Air Flight 17, 80 of them children, lie unburied in a Ukrainian field while Vladimir Putin’s men fire their weapons into the air to keep international investigators from approaching the site. Yes, “Putin’s men.” Calling them “Russian separatists” unnecessarily dignifies them. They are supplied, armed and trained by the despot in the Kremlin.

At the very least, Putin is responsible for arming these dangerous actors. At most, it’s possible the missile wasn’t fired by Ukrainians at all, but by Russians, which would ...

21Jul/14Off

Gaza Terror Tunnel (Cartoon)

21Jul/14Off

Obama Dragged Down by Chaos at Home and Abroad, not by the Economy

“Why do you think President Obama’s job rating is falling, even though the economy is recovering?” the interviewer asked.
It’s a fair question, even though the economy declined 2.9 percent in the first quarter, even though most jobs created in June were part-time, and even though labor force participation remains low.

The fact is that the economy is growing, however slowly; jobs are being created, and the unemployment rate is heading down toward what economists consider full employment. And still the president’s job rating languishes.
What’s wrong with the question is an assumption ...

21Jul/14Off

NewsBusted 7/22/14

21Jul/14Off

What the Media Won’t Report About Flight MH17

Just days after the tragic crash of a Malaysian Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine, Western politicians and media joined together to gain the maximum propaganda value from the disaster. It had to be Russia; it had to be Putin, they said. President Obama held a press conference to claim – even before an investigation – that it was pro-Russian rebels in the region who were responsible. His ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, did the same at the UN Security Council – just one day after the crash! 
While western media ...

21Jul/14Off

No more aid to the Palestinian Authority

The anti-Semitic “tradition” of blaming Jews for the world’s problems mostly took a temporary back seat in light of the indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israel by the terrorist group Hamas.

Major newspaper editorials condemned Hamas, but their condemnation was hedged by calls for “restraint” on “both sides” and “proportionality” in Israel’s response to the attacks. There is little or no mention of Hamas’ directive to ignore Israel’s warning to leave homes in areas where the rockets have been placed among civilians. The Hamas strategy is to parade the bodies of the ...

21Jul/14Off

Breaking Points (Cartoon)

http://legalinsurrection.com/2014/07/branco-cartoon-breaking-points/

21Jul/14Off

Vets Do About-Face As Obama Drives By – “He’s turned his back on us veterans, so we’re going to turn our backs on him” (Video)

This sends a message. Too bad Obama couldn’t care less what veterans think:

Angry veterans protested President Obama’s visit to Delaware to show their disdain for how the administration has treated them.
The 25 protesters — led by Martin Nicholson, a veteran Marine – lined the street and turned their backs to the president’s passing motorcade.
“We feel he’s turned his back on us veterans, so we’re going to turn our backs on him as he drives by on his motorcade to show our appreciation that he does not care about us ...