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Rand Paul's Biggest Liability: His Dad

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Alex Wong/Getty Images

Ron Paul's been drawing negative publicity recently. Well, that's the down-side of filling the board of your new think tank with conspiracy theorists, anti-semites, and authors of racist newsletters.

On the plus side, however, Iran's Press TV still has nice things to say about the former Texas member of Congress and Republican presidential contender. An op-ed today by regular Press TV contributor Gordon Duff leaps to Paul's defense.

Former presidential candidate Ron Paul has come under a vicious smear attack for his formation of an institute dedicated to cleansing America of foreign control, ending the power of the Federal Reserve and stopping the deluge of false flag terrorism that has been unleashed on America.

The worrying question however is whether even Paul's personal safety can now be guaranteed. For if the smears fail,

Assad

Bashar the Terrible

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AFP PHOTO/HO/SANA/Getty Images

Here's why there's a red line drawn at the use of chemical weapons. From Jeffrey Goldberg at the Atlantic:

Exposure to sarin gas, even in small doses, will cause victims to experience vomiting, diarrhea, an increased heart rate, eye pain and drooling. In larger amounts, the exposure can cause convulsions, paralysis, breathing difficulty and, within a short time, death. Sarin stops the body from controlling muscle and gland functions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and this causes muscles to twitch and breathing to become faster and irregular. Eventually, the body is overwhelmed, and breathing stops. On a single day in 1988, in a single town, Saddam’s forces killed some 5,000 Iraqi Kurds using a combination of mustard gas, sarin, VX and tabun.

Assad has committed many terrible crimes against his people, but if these latest reports are confirmed, he will have entered into the pantheon of the modern era’s worst war criminals, just as Saddam did in 1988. Back then, Saddam was considered an ally by the U.S. (he was in the midst of a war with Iran). So, to the everlasting shame of President Ronald Reagan, the U.S. did nothing to stop his genocide.

Girl Power

US Sailor Beats Up Attempted Rapist

Feminists and flag-wavers (and flag-waving feminists) can all take pride in this item from yesterday's Washington Times:

An off-duty U.S. navy sailor wrestled a Dubai bus driver to the ground and beat him into submission after he tried to rape her at knifepoint on Jan. 19, a courtroom heard Wednesday. Prosecutors said that she knocked the knife from his hand, broke it in two, bit him in the hand, forced him to the ground and locked him between her thighs …

(via @JonEForeman)

Corruption on Capitol Hill

Self-Regulation Fails in Congress

This week, President Obama signed an amendment to the STOCK Act that essentially guts the important anti-corruption legislation. The original intention of the STOCK Act was to ban legal insider trading by members of Congress. Because certain committees, such as the Senate Finance Committee, are privy to private financial data, many were using that information for their own personal investments, and shared what they knew with anyone close to them (who conceivably made investments accordingly).

There was a glimmer of hope when, last April, Congress decided it was time to regulate themselves. The original Stock Act banned Congressional employees from using and sharing private data for personal benefits. However, this didn’t last long.

The new amendment to the law, S. 76, keeps the portion of the act that prevents employees from obtaining and using private financial information, but will now allow elected officials to, once again, have access to the financial data. Essentially this means that anyone that is close to an elected official can also obtain this data once more.

Name This Country

Learn Your Geography, Kids

What country is this?

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If you guessed Syria, you're in a rarer group than you might realize.

Max Fischer at the Washington Post looks at a Pew Report to explain why:

Immigration Reform

Not News: Americans Distrust Politicians

This chart from the Brookings Institute's collaboration with the Public Religion Research Institute wonderfully demonstrates that American citizens don't trust their public officials to carry out vague policy proposals:

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This survey updates last month’s PRRI/Brookings Religion, Values and Immigration survey, which is one of the largest public opinion surveys on immigration, with nearly 4,500 respondents.

Goodbye

Country Music Singer George Jones, RIP

Country music legend George Jones is dead:

Mr. Jones, who was nicknamed Possum for his close-set eyes and pointed nose, and later No-Show Jones for the concerts he missed during drinking and drug binges, was a legendary figure in country music. His singing, which was universally respected and just as widely imitated, found vulnerability and doubt behind the cheerful drive of honky-tonk. With a baritone voice that was as elastic as a steel-guitar string, he brought suspense to every syllable, merging bluesy slides with the tight, quivering ornaments of Appalachian singing.

In his most memorable songs, all the pleasures of a down-home Saturday night couldn’t free him from private pain. His up-tempo songs had undercurrents of solitude, and the ballads that became his specialty were suffused with stoic desolation. “When you’re onstage or recording, you put yourself in those stories,” he once said.

The New York Times reports a pair of efforts to revive gun control in the Senate. This one is oddly ironic, no? (Emphasis mine)

Meanwhile, a separate gun measure, an anti-trafficking bill, is the subject of talks between Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, and two Republican senators who voted no on the background check bill. The Republicans, Senators Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, are discussing ways they might support the bill, which would criminalize the shipping or transfer of guns to someone who is barred from possessing a firearm.

While the bill on its own falls short of what the families of victims of mass shootings have been pushing Congress to enact — and is therefore less controversial — some Democrats believe it could be a good starting point to build a broader bipartisan compromise.

“I think trafficking can be the base of the bill, the rock on which everything else stands,” Ms. Gillibrand said. “I also think it’s complementary to background checks because, let’s be honest, criminals aren’t going to buy a gun and go through a background check. So if you really want to go after criminals, you have to have to do both.”

Boring THings

Immigration Reform Meets the House

The House of Representatives will soon(ish) release its own immigration reform bills. At this point, the clear differences are that the House bill does not include a path to citizenship and that the House will use a piecemeal instead of comprehensive approach to the legislation. (Obviously, the Senate is doing the opposite for both). I'll keep you informed as we learn more.

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The New York Times this morning investigates fraud in pay-outs to farmers who claimed racial discrimination. There's a lot to say about this story. More comment will follow here shortly, but here's a first thought to start the day:

Pay special attention to the way the program handled issues of cut-off dates:

Some 66,000 claims poured in after the 1999 deadline. Noting that the government had given “extensive” notice, Judge Friedman ruled the door closed to late filers. “That is simply how class actions work,” he wrote.

But it was not how politics worked. The next nine years brought a concerted effort to allow the late filers to seek awards.

Give It What It Needs

This Country Needs Inflation

"I am not a Marxist" is an old joke about what Karl Marx would say if he had lived to see the uses to which his ideas were put.

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Inflations makes this number matter less (Getty Images)

This morning Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff argue in the New York Times that they were never "Austerians," despite the uses to which their work has been put.

The politically charged discussion, especially sharp in the past week or so, has falsely equated our finding of a negative association between debt and growth with an unambiguous call for austerity.

Dogsled Racing

Following the Great Iditarod

If you read nothing else today, let it be Brian Phillips' essay on following the Iditarod, Alaska's great dogsled race.

All of a sudden I felt … but I don’t want to overstate it; it wasn’t despair or anything, just melancholy, just an extreme forlornness.

It hit me that what I really felt — I realize how weird this is to write — was loneliness for history. Alaska has its own past: the murdering flaming wreck of the Russian colonies, the gold insanity, the deep-time traditions of the tribes. But it doesn’t saturate the landscape.

Random

The World According to an Eccentric

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Joseph Bottum writes at the Weekly Standard on eccentrics, focusing on Allan Calhammer, inventor of the popular board game "Diplomacy":

The most interesting part of eccentricity may be just how wasteful it usually is. Real eccentricity, I mean, the genuine, whole-life thing, not the mere attempt to cultivate a rebel charm or indulge a little quirkiness. Authentic eccentricity—the oddball in full—devotes itself to wasting time: the pouring of more into containers than those containers should actually hold. Intelligence is the key, often enough, but also charisma, interest, talent. Any human excellence, from a genius for Sanskrit to a gift for tiddlywinks, can be pursued far off to the side of what culture places at the center of human concern.

As, for instance, “On Strengthening the Hand of Austria-Hungary,” the essay Allan B. Calhamer published in 1960, undeterred by the fact that the empire had come to an end in 1918. And he’s surely right: The threat to garrison Tyrolia early in 1901 would have aided Austria-Hungary’s diplomatic efforts with Italy.

Goldbugs

Keeping Your Faith (In Gold)

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PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Matthew Parris of the Spectator and the London Times takes us inside the mind of a small investor in precious metals, i.e, himself. He lost money of course, but he has not lost faith.

The immediate panic that followed 2008 has passed. People are no longer switching on the news every morning to find out whether the global economy (and with it their world) has ended. Nor do they expect other people to believe this, sparking a hysteria that could make the fortunes of those with bullion. They think that, on balance, next year will be rather like this year; as will the one after that. No great urgency attaches to personal financial decisions.

But in the back of our minds lurks the possibility that, sooner or later and quite possibly later rather than sooner, paper currencies will lose a lot of their value: not perhaps overnight, but steadily, as governments keep interest rates (and returns on savings) low, and print more money to shrink their debts and get growth started; and inflation eats into savings. So (unconsciously) we are now looking at the middle-to-long-term benefits of owning bullion, and taking out a modest insurance policy on the possibility that our more conventional savings may be whittled away by politicians.

No apocalypse, then — or probably not. Just a gradual, bearable, steady impoverishment in a world where savings linked to the value of paper money languish. A long-stop based on mild, long-term, chronic and half-conscious pessimism: a plan-B pension that the politicians can’t touch.

Pooches

A Place That K-9 Dogs Can Call Home

When you first see a K-9 unit dog, your first reaction may resemble pity, as you think about the cage that the beautiful dog most likely suffers in. When it comes to the TSA’s K-9 division, think again. To their handlers, these dogs are more than just a work partner, they are family – literally.

In order to foster a trusting and loving relationship, the TSA and other law enforcement agencies require that handlers take care of their bomb sniffing dogs 24/7, which means taking them home, feeding them, playing with them, and and having them interact with the rest of your loved ones. Just like humans, a healthy and loving relationship at home often leads to better work while on the job.

About the Author

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David Frum

David Frum is a contributing editor at The Daily Beast and a CNN contributor. He is the author of eight books, including most recently the e-book WHY ROMNEY LOST and his first novel Patriots, published in April 2012.

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