(CNN) - "If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles." - Sun Tzu, "The Art of War" (circa 500 BC)
It is time to take Russian President Vladimir Putin seriously. We must develop serious strategies for dealing with a serious man.
Putin has been in charge of Russia since 1999. He is arguably the most effective leader in the world today.
The Obama administration's foreign policy, meanwhile, has variously offered Putin a "reset" photo op, likened him to a "slouch ... like that bored kid sitting in the back of the classroom," and most recently, uttered meaningless protests while he annexed the territory of a sovereign state. Monday's cancellation of the G8 summit in Sochi, Russia, was really the minimum that could be done. Of course the United States and its allies could not go forward with the meeting as if nothing had happened.
The symbolic, tactical approach which is the hallmark of the Obama foreign policy is dangerous, delusional and utterly incapable of understanding or coping with a serious leader like Putin.
Indeed, there is a growing danger that the combination of strong words and weak actions (the essence of symbolic liberalism) will lead Putin to believe he can continue to incrementally rebuild the Russian Empire by gradually absorbing various pieces around the periphery.
In the year in which we mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I, danger will grow dramatically if Putin decides to put pressure on Estonia, which is a member of NATO. FULL STORY
(CNN) - If you took out a loan a few years ago to buy a flashy sports car, you could save buckets of money by refinancing at today's low rates.
But if you did the smart thing and took out federal student loans to pay for an education - sorry, you are out of luck! Federal student loans cannot be refinanced.
If that sounds insane to you, you will like the plan Sen. Elizabeth Warren unveiled in a speech recently at the Center for American Progress.
Last spring, Congress passed bipartisan legislation to lower student loan interest rates as of July 1, 2013. But they did little for people who already had borrowed at higher rates.
Say you took out a loan even a day earlier, on June 30. At that point, the congressionally mandated rate was 6.8%. You are locked into it. No matter what else Congress does to help new borrowers.
Unlike almost every other type of loan, federal student loans are set in stone even if rates change for the better. (There are private refinancing options but they have strict requirements and limited scope.) This might not constitute a crisis if college cost what it did in the 1970s. But with middle class wages flat for decades, the soaring cost of education has become a mammoth debt dilemma dragging down an entire generation.
Today, Americans hold an all-time record $1.3 trillion in student debt. It cannot be discharged by bankruptcy or even death. In some cases, Social Security benefits are being garnished to pay for a grandchild's debt if a grandparent co-signed. Parents are still paying off their own bills while contemplating putting their kids through college.
The solution is simple: Let Americans with federal student loans refinance to today's low rate. But the reason why Congress refuses to act may surprise you. FULL STORY
(CNN) - Monday's CNN poll results just plain surprised, almost shocked me.
When I saw the poll was due to be released, I expected the Republicans to be taking a beating considering the terms President Barack Obama and his staff have been using to describe them over the past 10 days ("extremists," "people with a bomb strapped to their chest") and the unfair, derogatory press coverage of their position.
The results are so dramatically better for Republicans and worse for the Democrats and Obama than I expected that I was curious to see just how much better Republicans are faring during the shutdown of 2013 (and how much worse the president and the Democrats are faring) than in comparable polls of the 1995-96 shutdowns.FULL STORY
(CNN) - In 1965, a 40-year-old William F. Buckley, Jr. ran for mayor of New York City - a race he arguably never intended to win. In fact, when asked what he'd do if he won he replied, "Demand a recount."
But 10 years after founding the National Review and one year after establishing Barry Goldwater as the conservative nominee for president, Buckley saw that the often-times colorful mayoral election was a useful vehicle for him to elevate his brand and promote conservatism on a national platform.FULL STORY