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Was this the first warning of the Boston bombing?

From the Boston CBS affiliate, March 27 of this year:

Investigators are trying to find out who is making and setting off homemade bombs near a section of Route 53. Residents in that area have reported loud bangs and flashes of bright light.

On March 12, police found two unexploded bombs in a wooded area near Pine Street and Tower Hill Drive.

In 2002, PBS aired a documentary called The Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy. The documentary traced how the forces of free-markets competed against central planning for most of the 20th century (it was like a sober version of those Keynes v. Hayek rap videos).

One notable section focused on the victory of the Labor Party in the British election of 1944. It’s a fascinating section where Labor candidates from the period talk openly about their plans to nationalize industries, institute central planning, and build a welfare state that proactively tramples on “the sacred notion of private property”.

The disadvantages of central planning control used to be a fiercely debated topic in political life. One game that captured the challenge of running a controlled economy was the Tropico series. I may have started reading Milton Friedman in high school, but it was Tropico that taught me why we don’t use wage controls.

Trudeau

Justin! Why Trudeau's Heir Isn't Ready

Friend Andrew Coyne speaks up on behalf of Justin Trudeau's post-Boston Marathon remarks to Peter Mansbridge. Coyne: "I don’t say he offered much deep thinking on the subject: much else that came out of his mouth was vague, incoherent or both. But I didn’t hear much that was terribly objectionable, either."

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(Gerald Butts)

OK, let's review why these remarks resonated so badly.

1) Remember, Trudeau was interviewed bare hours after the bombing. As he himself acknowledged: "Now we don't know now whether it was, you know, terrorism or a single crazy or, you know, a domestic issue or a foreign issue, I mean, all of those questions."

The Tsarnaev father told the New York Times that it's an expression of anti-Muslim prejudice to refuse US citizenship to men who batter women.

Q Did he want to be an American citizen?

A. He wanted to, of course. Why not?

Q. But it didn’t work out, right?

If accurate, this Tumblr account by a Boston writer named Alyssa Lindley may be our most vivid description to date of the background that produced the Boston bombers - and much more realistic than the media chatter about "honors students" and Olympic athletic potential.

Lindley went to the Tsarnaev home to get facial treatments from the bombers' mother, a cosmetologist. Things began to get weird when the mother started putting on a burka before stepping out of the house to put a parking pass on Lindley's car.

Then:

[S]he had become increasingly religious while I was in college. She often mentioned Allah, and the lessons of the Koran. “Allah will reward him,” she said once about my brother, when I told her that my brother and mom were close, and that I thought my brother would take care of my mom later in life.

Canada

Two Huge Choices for Toronto's Future

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Proposed development in Toronto (Oxford Properties Group)

My National Post column deals with the two big questions facing Toronto: a proposed casino, and whether to expand the city's airport.

The city of Toronto faces two hugely important decisions about its future — whether to build a new casino and expand the island airport in the heart of the city. I’d vote “nay” on the first and “aye” on the second.

Richard Florida has argued the case against the casino powerfully in the Huffington Post: “Virtually every serious study that has ever been done of the economic impacts of casinos shows that their costs far exceed their benefits and that they are a poor use of precious downtown land. A downtown casino will tear holes in Toronto’s urban fabric, create more costs than benefits, and as surely as if it’s holding up a giant sign, will send the message that Toronto is on the wrong track.”

I’d add another objection: Casinos have a bad way of introducing corruption into city government. Casinos are to cities as oil is to national governments: a windfall of cash that voters pay less attention to than other sources of government revenue. As Detroit learned the hard way, casinos can lead to unfavourable outcomes. According to a March 22 report in the Detroit News:

Good Life

Defining the Good Life

Dreher offers his interpretation:

[M]aybe the lesson is that the good life is not possible in the Philadelphia suburbs, or any place where in order to keep your head above water, your job has to own you and your wife, and it keeps you from building relationships. There are trade-offs in all things, and no perfect solution, geographical or otherwise. Thing is, life is short, and choices have to be made. It’s not that people living in these workaholic suburbs are bad, not at all; it’s that the culture they (we) live in defines the Good in such a way that choosing to “do the right thing” ends up hollowing out your life, leaving you vulnerable in ways you may not see until tragedy strikes.

Golden Dawn

Neo-Nazis Gain Strength in Greece

In a situation one Greek newspaper describes as eerily similar to Weimar Germany in the 1930s, the Greek neo-Nazi party, Golden Dawn, is gaining strength within the depressed nation.

While it may seem like a rather hyperbolic description, the parallels between Germany in the 1920s and present-day Greece are strikingly similar: Greece is in a hopeless state of economic depression and are at the mercy of western European powers in the EU; the democratically elected Greek Parliament is seemingly useless; Greek citizens are unemployed; and most importantly, people are angry and seem to be taking out their frustration by terrorizing non-ethnic Greeks residing within the country.

At a rally in February, thousands of Greek nationalists gathered in support of Golden Dawn.

Yahoo! reports on the testimony from the trial of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell: (Upsetting content below)

Cross said she took photos of the baby after the abortion, which were displayed in the courtroom on a large screen. The infant moved its arms after being placed by Gosnell in what she called a shoe-box size plastic container. 

She testified that Gosnell would tell his staff that the bodies were not live and moving, but showing reflex responses.

After months of contentious debate, awkward surveys, and millions of dollars pulled by corporate sponsors, it looks like the Boy Scouts of America is finally looking to end its ban on gay members (again!).

Deron Smith, the BSA’s spokesperson, told Reuters that after months of deliberation, the decision has been made that, "no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone."

While initially the BSA wanted to leave it up to each individual charter, they now seem to be moving in the direction of a full repeal on the ban.

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Hispanic migrant laborer works in a tobacco field (Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

Behold, corporatism at work:

The Agricultural Workforce Coalition — which includes the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Nursery & Landscape Association and the National Milk Producers Federation among its members — said it will work with lawmakers to make sure that legislative language reflects the agreed-upon framework. ...

The United Farm Workers (UFW) said it was pleased with the agreement. ...

Under the framework, farm workers in the United States illegally can agree to work another five to seven years in the sector in order to earn a green card, according to Reuters. There will also be a high cap for visas that can be adjusted by the Agriculture Department after five years.

Read This

Understanding Chechnya, Ctd.

Joshua Tucker has posted a substantial list of academic writings on Chechnya at the Monkey Cage, if you're curious.

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Picture taken in February 1996 shows Russian soldiers leaving the Chechen village of Shatoy. Russia on April 16, 2009 ended an anti-terror operation in Chechnya that has been in place for a decade, amid growing stability in the territory torn by two wars since the collapse of Communism. (ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)

A short history of Chechnya, courtesy of the US Army's Foreign Military Studies Office. It's a pretty sad tale:

Joseph Stalin, the Bolshevik Commissar of Nationalities and a Georgian, adapted the class struggle to the traditional policy of divide and rule. Soviet federalism provided a national veneer to a centralized state, controlled by the Communist Party, where Russians staffed the key party posts within the various republics. The Chechens proved a difficult people to subdue. In 1929 they revolted against collectivization, leading to a decade-long struggle. Russians arrived to manage the oil industry with the development of Chechen oil fields.

During World War II, when the German Army advanced into the Caucasus, there were more signs of Chechen unrest and collaboration with the enemy. In late February 1944, Lavrenti Beria’s NKVD carried out Stalin’s “solution” to the Chechen Question—the mass deportation of Chechens to Central Asia. Over 70,000 Chechens of the 450,000 expelled died during transit or on arrival. Chechnya ceased to exist. The exile became the defining event for succeeding generations of Chechens. In 1957 Nikita Khrushchev decreed that the Chechens could return to their ancestral homelands. Chechnya and Ingushetia were joined administratively into the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Republic. This arrangement joined the rebellious Chechens with the traditionally loyal Ingush in a clear continuation of Moscow’s policy of divide and rule.

Remembrance

Jewish Museum Opens in Warsaw

The New York Times celebrates the opening of Poland's new Jewish museum:

Although it chronicles centuries of Jewish history in Poland, the museum was not an exclusively Jewish undertaking. The Polish government, Jewish groups and private donors worked together to raise roughly $100 million. The city provided the land free of charge and, along with the federal government, covered the construction costs. The Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland raised money for the permanent exhibition, which was not ready for this week’s soft opening but will be ready next year.

“Economically we are not a poor country anymore,” said Waldemar Dabrowski, the minister of culture’s liaison to the museum. “As a society it is healthy to be morally capable of doing such a thing.”

While many significant donations came from American organizations and individuals, Poland’s richest man, Jan Kulczyk, who is not Jewish, gave $6.4 million last summer. “When the Jewish nation and the Polish nation, when we are together, when we look in the same direction, it is great for us, great for Poland and great for the world,” said Mr. Kulczyk ….

Numbers Matter

Why Background Checks Failed, Ctd.

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Win McNamee/Getty Images

Read Noam Sheiber's smart thoughts on why background checks on gun purchases were doomed from the start.

[G]uns tend to be remote from the experience of most gun-control supporters. This is true even after a horrific act of gun violence like Newtown. Though every parent was briefly traumatized by the thought of their child being massacred at school, only a small fraction of parents (and especially parents who vote) are directly or even indirectly affected by such crimes.

This means that, even when overwhelming majorities of Americans support a specific gun-control measure, their support is shallow. Guns and gun violence just aren’t something they spend a lot of time contemplating. The voters who oppose gun control, on the other hand, (hunters, shooting enthusiasts, crazy people) devote a good bit of mental energy to firearms. As a result, they’re easily mobilized by the interest groups who spend all their time on the matter (namely gun-makers and lobbyists).

As I mentioned yesterday, 90% of Americans favor background checks. But only 4% rank guns as the most important issue in the country. You can bet vulnerable senators looked at these numbers and calculated they'd rather face Michael Bloomberg than risk the wrath of gun owners, sportsmen, and the National Rifle Association. 

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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