putinNote: This is an update and addition to two previous posts, “Explainer: What’s Going on in Ukraine?” and “What Just Happened with Russia and Ukraine?.”

So what just happened in Crimea?

On Sunday, Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to break with Ukraine and join Russia. Today Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty making Crimea part of Russia (it was a former satellite state of the Soviet Union). Putin says he does not plan to seize any other regions of Ukraine.

Why would Russia want to annex Crimea?

In 1997, Crimea and Russia signed a treaty allowing Russia to maintain their naval base at Sevastopol, on Crimea’s southwestern tip (the lease is good through 2042). The base is Russia’s primary means of extending military force through the Mediterranean. (The Black Sea is connected to the Mediterranean Sea through the Bosphorus Straits.) Without a military base in Crimea, Russia would be weakened as a global military power.

Earlier this month Russia’s parliment authorized a Putin to use the military on Crimea. (Technically, Russia’s parliament authorized Russia’s military forces to enter “Ukraine,” giving themselves a legal cloak to target more than Crimea.)

Where (and what) exactly is Crimea?
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Last week, Acton welcomed Lawrence Reed to the podium of the Mark Murray Auditorium for his Acton Lecture Series address, entitled American Presidents: The Best and the Worst. Reed, the President of the Foundation for Economic Education, tackled the subject with his usual grace and an evident (and praiseworthy) passion for the protection of the individual liberties of average citizens from the ever-expanding power of central government. Reed’s address is now available in full on YouTube, and is posted below. Additionally, we have a bonus edition of Radio Free Acton for you, as Paul Edwards took some time following the lecture to speak with Reed; you can listen via the audio player below the YouTube window.

When was the concept of freedom of religion first mentioned by secular governments? Robert Louis Wilken, professor emeritus at the University of Virginia and the author of The First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity, provides the answer:

(Via: Justin Taylor)

Edwin Edwards once declared that the only thing that could keep him from Louisiana’s governor’s mansion was getting caught in bed with a “dead girl or a live boy.” He’s been called “The Luca Brasi of the Bayou,” “The Silver Zipper,” and “The Pirate Kingfish.” When Edwards ran against and trounced former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke in the 1988 governor’s race, he had bumper stickers printed up that read, “Vote for the Crook. It’s Important.” He then declared that the only thing he had in common with Duke was “that we are both wizards under the sheets.”

Edwards

Edwards, a convicted felon, who just three years ago was released from federal prison for conviction on seventeen charges that included extortion, racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering, wire fraud, and mail fraud. Edwards, who was notoriously corrupt, was under investigation for decades. After his conviction, Edwards quipped, “I will be a model prisoner as I was a model citizen.”

He’s tried without success to secure a pardon from President Barack Obama to run for governor of Louisiana, a position the 86 year old is not eligible to hold for 15 years because of his criminal record. However, he’s eligible to run for U.S. Congress, and declared his candidacy yesterday.

Edwards, a life long Democrat, has lived a fascinating if not surreal life in Louisiana politics. There may be no politician that is a better model for Lord Acton’s famous dictum, “power corrupts.” Edwards however, is still loved by large segments of Louisiana’s population. Agnes Brouilette, his mother, was pure Cajun French. As some have said of Edwards in Louisiana, “Un de nous autres.” He’s one of us. His charm and mastery of retail politics is renowned.
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popeandwelbyThere are more slaves today than were seized from Africa in four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. In fact, there are more slaves in the world today than at any other point in human history, with an estimated 21 million in bondage across the globe.  In an effort to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking across the world by 2020, Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby have personally given their backing to the newly-formed Global Freedom Network.  The Global Freedom Network is an open association and other faith leaders will be invited to join and support this initiative.

In their joint statement, the signatories underscored the need for urgent action:
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“I’m expecting a baby,” writes a future mother. “I’ve discovered he has Down syndrome. I’m scared: what kind of life will my child have?”

In response, CoorDown, an Italian organization that supports those with the disability, created the following video, answering the mother through the voices of 15 children with Down syndrome:

“Your child can be happy,” they conclude, “and you’ll be happy, too.”

Or, as Katrina Trinko summarizes: “Don’t be scared. Be excited.”

That goes for the rest of us, too. (more…)

pathetic uncle samThe Affordable Care Act [ACA] has seen more than it’s share of disasters. The clunky website got off to a horrendous start, the “fixes” didn’t work, Kathleen Sebelius got raked over the coals (“Don’t do this to me!”) at a House hearing, and not enough young people are signing up.

The solution? The White House has created an “ACA Bracket” (Get it? Huh? Get it?) site where young folks can go and vote for their favorite GIFs and then head on over to HealthCare.gov and get signed up.

How bad is this website? The word “doomed” comes to mind, as in “If this is the best our government can do, we are doomed.”

There’s a dancing duck proclaiming “I’m so excited” about free birth control, a cat in a tux with a disco-glitter background telling you about rebates, and Michelle Obama “raisin’ the roof” with some woman in mom jeans. Horrifying, absolutely horrifying. (And I’ve seen “The Shining.” Twice.) (more…)