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1  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Donald Trump on: October 23, 2016, 08:21:13 PM

2  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: What next after Obamacare? Colorado on: October 23, 2016, 06:07:47 PM
Democrats are already looking beyond ObamaCare’s slow-motion failure, and Colorado is showing where many want to go next: Premiums across the state are set to rise 20.4% on average next year, and some have concluded that the solution is more central planning and taxation. Voters will decide on Nov. 8 whether to try the single-payer scheme that blew up in Vermont.

Amendment 69 would alter the state’s constitution to create a single-payer health system known as ColoradoCare. The idea is to replace premiums with tax dollars, and coverage for residents will allegedly include prescription drugs, hospitalization and more. Paying for this entitlement requires a cool $25 billion tax increase, which is about equal to the state’s $27 billion budget. Colorado would introduce a 10% payroll tax and also hit investment income, and that’s for starters. California would look like the Cayman Islands by tax comparison.

Every other detail is left to the discretion of a 21-member panel. The board of trustees would determine what benefits are offered—say, whether your pricey cancer drug makes the cut. The board would also set reimbursement rates for doctors and hospitals, as well as patient co-payments.

Trustees would be elected to four-year terms and not subject to recall elections. In other words, ColoradoCare would evade nearly all democratic accountability. Amendment 69 stipulates that the entity is “not an agency of the state and is not subject to administrative direction or control by any state executive, department, commission, board bureau or agency.” ColoradoCare could bust constitutional limits on tax increases and spending.

No one thinks this project will float on its planned $38 billion budget. An analysis from the Colorado Health Institute found that ColoradoCare would post a $253 million loss in its first year and would then “slide into ever-increasing deficits in future years unless taxes were increased.” The other options are reducing benefits or cutting payments to doctors—assuming providers haven’t fled the state. ColoradoCare will have evicted whatever remains of the private insurance market, so residents may have nowhere to turn.

The best independent study on single payer is Vermont, which abandoned the idea in 2014: Governor Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, dumped his signature campaign issue once he figured out it’d require an 11.5% payroll tax and an individual levy as high as 9.5%. Mr. Shumlin admitted that “the risk of economic shock is too high at this time to offer a plan I can responsibly support.”

Remarkably, Colorado has managed to build on Vermont’s failures. For one, the plan aspires to cover more than five million people, not Vermont’s 625,000. Anyone who claims to live in Colorado qualifies, so get ready for a crush of beneficiaries who don’t pay anything. ColoradoCare would be enshrined in the constitution, which is much harder to scrap than legislation.

The good news is that Amendment 69 has created a rare moment of bipartisanship: Former Democratic Governor Bill Ritter is working with Colorado’s Republican Treasurer, Walker Stapleton, to defeat the measure. Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper is also opposed. Voters hate the idea the more they learn: A September poll showed only 27% support, down from 43% in January.

Then again, Bernie Sanders supports it, and Hillary Clinton wants a “public option” that is another giant step toward single payer. Coloradans have the opportunity to reject what progressives would love to achieve if they didn’t have to bother with voters: socialized medicine.
3  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: October 22, 2016, 10:07:42 PM
As usual, absurd PC bullturds.  rolleyes
4  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The electoral process, vote fraud, SEIU/ACORN et al, etc. on: October 22, 2016, 07:13:00 PM
5  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Who hacked the DNC? The Iranians? on: October 22, 2016, 06:38:13 PM
6  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: October 22, 2016, 06:34:49 PM
Umm , , , what I'm seeing is a hypothetical "What if Nixon had not resigned?", , ,
7  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Govt demands re-enlist bonuses back after 10 years plus interest!!! on: October 22, 2016, 06:29:58 PM
8  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: October 22, 2016, 06:13:54 PM
Why is this in this thread?
9  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran takes more hostages on: October 22, 2016, 01:30:17 PM

Oct. 21, 2016 7:23 p.m. ET

Until recently, the United States had a firm policy of never paying ransom for hostages on the sensible view that it would encourage more kidnappings. Then came the Iran nuclear deal—and a lesson in the human costs of President Obama’s foreign policy.

We say this following Tuesday’s news that an Iranian court has sentenced Iranian-Americans Siamak Namazi and his 80-year-old father Baquer to 10 years in prison on trumped-up espionage charges. The younger Mr. Namazi, a businessman, was arrested last September, shortly after the nuclear deal was finalized. His father, a retired United Nations official, was arrested in February while visiting his son in prison.

At least one other Iranian-American, Reza Shahini of San Diego, was arrested earlier this year, and former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007, has never been accounted for. Tehran has a long history of imprisoning Iranian-Americans on spurious charges, often for domestic political reasons. But the $1.7 billion cash payment they received in January on the same day they released the last batch of U.S. hostages has created an incentive for them to imprison more Americans to trade for some future concession.

The Obama Administration says the January payment was part of a legal settlement and in no way an act of ransom. The Iranians beg to differ, with defense officials telling Iranian media that the cash was a ransom payment.

“U.S. officials also acknowledge that Iranian negotiators on the prisoner exchange said they wanted the cash to show they had gained something tangible,” Journal reporters Jay Solomon and Carol Lee reported in August. You can be sure Tehran will again demand “something tangible” the next time the fate of their American hostages reaches a negotiating table.

It’s worth noting that, prior to his arrest, Siamak Namazi was a strong advocate of closer U.S. economic ties to Iran, a view shared by his friends at the National Iranian American Council, a pro-Tehran lobby based in Washington. Mr. Namazi had publicly criticized U.S. sanctions against Iran. But the mullahs put their need for U.S. hostages above gratitude for such political assistance. Revolutions tend to devour their foreign sympathizers. 
10  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sec State Clinton on Cyber Security in 2010 on: October 22, 2016, 09:06:24 AM
11  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: October 22, 2016, 08:48:48 AM
BTW gents, I see our Media and Rants threads have crossed the 400,000 line!  Well done!

 cool cool cool
12  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / China's demographic contraction on: October 22, 2016, 08:47:55 AM

I have repeatedly made this point here for many years.
13  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / China's contraction on: October 22, 2016, 08:45:55 AM
14  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Media vulnerable to election night cyber attack on: October 22, 2016, 08:42:24 AM
second post
15  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mark Steyn: Live Free or Die on: October 22, 2016, 08:09:06 AM
April 2009
Mark Steyn

Live Free or Die
MARK STEYN'S column appears in several newspapers, including the Washington Times, Philadelphia's Evening Bulletin, and the Orange County Register. In addition, he writes for The New Criterion, Maclean's in Canada, the Jerusalem Post, The Australian, and Hawke's Bay Today in New Zealand. The author of National Review's Happy Warrior column, he also blogs on National Review Online. He is the author of several books, including the best-selling America Alone: The End of The World as We Know It. Mr. Steyn teaches a two-week course in journalism at Hillsdale College during each spring semester.

The following is adapted from a lecture delivered at Hillsdale College on March 9, 2009.


MY REMARKS are titled tonight after the words of General Stark, New Hampshire's great hero of the Revolutionary War: "Live free or die!" When I first moved to New Hampshire, where this appears on our license plates, I assumed General Stark had said it before some battle or other—a bit of red meat to rally the boys for the charge; a touch of the old Henry V-at-Agincourt routine. But I soon discovered that the general had made his famous statement decades after the war, in a letter regretting that he would be unable to attend a dinner. And in a curious way I found that even more impressive. In extreme circumstances, many people can rouse themselves to rediscover the primal impulses: The brave men on Flight 93 did. They took off on what they thought was a routine business trip, and, when they realized it wasn't, they went into General Stark mode and cried "Let's roll!" But it's harder to maintain the "Live free or die!" spirit when you're facing not an immediate crisis but just a slow, remorseless, incremental, unceasing ratchet effect. "Live free or die!" sounds like a battle cry: We'll win this thing or die trying, die an honorable death. But in fact it's something far less dramatic: It's a bald statement of the reality of our lives in the prosperous West. You can live as free men, but, if you choose not to, your society will die.

My book America Alone is often assumed to be about radical Islam, firebreathing imams, the excitable young men jumping up and down in the street doing the old "Death to the Great Satan" dance. It's not. It's about us. It's about a possibly terminal manifestation of an old civilizational temptation: Indolence, as Machiavelli understood, is the greatest enemy of a republic. When I ran into trouble with the so-called "human rights" commissions up in Canada, it seemed bizarre to find the progressive left making common cause with radical Islam. One half of the alliance profess to be pro-gay, pro-feminist secularists; the other half are homophobic, misogynist theocrats. Even as the cheap bus 'n' truck road-tour version of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, it made no sense. But in fact what they have in common overrides their superficially more obvious incompatibilities: Both the secular Big Government progressives and political Islam recoil from the concept of the citizen, of the free individual entrusted to operate within his own societal space, assume his responsibilities, and exploit his potential.

In most of the developed world, the state has gradually annexed all the responsibilities of adulthood—health care, child care, care of the elderly—to the point where it's effectively severed its citizens from humanity's primal instincts, not least the survival instinct. Hillary Rodham Clinton said it takes a village to raise a child. It's supposedly an African proverb—there is no record of anyone in Africa ever using this proverb, but let that pass. P.J. O'Rourke summed up that book superbly: It takes a village to raise a child. The government is the village, and you're the child. Oh, and by the way, even if it did take a village to raise a child, I wouldn't want it to be an African village. If you fly over West Africa at night, the lights form one giant coastal megalopolis: Not even Africans regard the African village as a useful societal model. But nor is the European village. Europe's addiction to big government, unaffordable entitlements, cradle-to-grave welfare, and a dependence on mass immigration needed to sustain it has become an existential threat to some of the oldest nation-states in the world.

And now the last holdout, the United States, is embarking on the same grim path: After the President unveiled his budget, I heard Americans complain, oh, it's another Jimmy Carter, or LBJ's Great Society, or the new New Deal. You should be so lucky. Those nickel-and-dime comparisons barely begin to encompass the wholesale Europeanization that's underway. The 44th president's multi-trillion-dollar budget, the first of many, adds more to the national debt than all the previous 43 presidents combined, from George Washington to George Dubya. The President wants Europeanized health care, Europeanized daycare, Europeanized education, and, as the Europeans have discovered, even with Europeanized tax rates you can't make that math add up. In Sweden, state spending accounts for 54% of GDP. In America, it was 34%—ten years ago. Today, it's about 40%. In four years' time, that number will be trending very Swede-like.

But forget the money, the deficit, the debt, the big numbers with the 12 zeroes on the end of them. So-called fiscal conservatives often miss the point. The problem isn't the cost. These programs would still be wrong even if Bill Gates wrote a check to cover them each month. They're wrong because they deform the relationship between the citizen and the state. Even if there were no financial consequences, the moral and even spiritual consequences would still be fatal. That's the stage where Europe is.

America is just beginning this process. I looked at the rankings in Freedom in the 50 States published by George Mason University last month. New Hampshire came in Number One, the Freest State in the Nation, which all but certainly makes it the freest jurisdiction in the Western world. Which kind of depressed me. Because the Granite State feels less free to me than it did when I moved there, and you always hope there's somewhere else out there just in case things go belly up and you have to hit the road. And way down at the bottom in the last five places were Maryland, California, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and the least free state in the Union by some distance, New York.

New York! How does the song go? "If you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere!" If you can make it there, you're some kind of genius. "This is the worst fiscal downturn since the Great Depression," announced Governor Paterson a few weeks ago. So what's he doing? He's bringing in the biggest tax hike in New York history. If you can make it there, he can take it there—via state tax, sales tax, municipal tax, a doubled beer tax, a tax on clothing, a tax on cab rides, an "iTunes tax," a tax on haircuts, 137 new tax hikes in all. Call 1-800-I-HEART-NEW-YORK today and order your new package of state tax forms, for just $199.99, plus the 12% tax on tax forms and the 4% tax form application fee partially refundable upon payment of the 7.5% tax filing tax. If you can make it there, you'll certainly have no difficulty making it in Tajikistan.

New York, California... These are the great iconic American states, the ones we foreigners have heard of. To a penniless immigrant called Arnold Schwarzenegger, California was a land of plenty. Now Arnold is an immigrant of plenty in a penniless land: That's not an improvement. One of his predecessors as governor of California, Ronald Reagan, famously said, "We are a nation that has a government, not the other way around." In California, it's now the other way around: California is increasingly a government that has a state. And it is still in the early stages of the process. California has thirtysomething million people. The Province of Quebec has seven million people. Yet California and Quebec have roughly the same number of government workers. "There is a great deal of ruin in a nation," said Adam Smith, and America still has a long way to go. But it's better to jump off the train as you're leaving the station and it's still picking up speed than when it's roaring down the track and you realize you've got a one-way ticket on the Oblivion Express.

"Indolence," in Machiavelli's word: There are stages to the enervation of free peoples. America, which held out against the trend, is now at Stage One: The benign paternalist state promises to make all those worries about mortgages, debt, and health care disappear. Every night of the week, you can switch on the TV and see one of these ersatz "town meetings" in which freeborn citizens of the republic (I use the term loosely) petition the Sovereign to make all the bad stuff go away. "I have an urgent need," a lady in Fort Myers beseeched the President. "We need a home, our own kitchen, our own bathroom." He took her name and ordered his staff to meet with her. Hopefully, he didn't insult her by dispatching some no-name deputy assistant associate secretary of whatever instead of flying in one of the bigtime tax-avoiding cabinet honchos to nationalize a Florida bank and convert one of its branches into a desirable family residence, with a swing set hanging where the drive-thru ATM used to be.

As all of you know, Hillsdale College takes no federal or state monies. That used to make it an anomaly in American education. It's in danger of becoming an anomaly in America, period. Maybe it's time for Hillsdale College to launch the Hillsdale Insurance Agency, the Hillsdale Motor Company and the First National Bank of Hillsdale. The executive supremo at Bank of America is now saying, oh, if only he'd known what he knows now, he wouldn't have taken the government money. Apparently it comes with strings attached. Who knew? Sure, Hillsdale College did, but nobody else.

If you're a business, when government gives you 2% of your income, it has a veto on 100% of what you do. If you're an individual, the impact is even starker. Once you have government health care, it can be used to justify almost any restraint on freedom: After all, if the state has to cure you, it surely has an interest in preventing you needing treatment in the first place. That's the argument behind, for example, mandatory motorcycle helmets, or the creepy teams of government nutritionists currently going door to door in Britain and conducting a "health audit" of the contents of your refrigerator. They're not yet confiscating your Twinkies; they just want to take a census of how many you have. So you do all this for the "free" health care—and in the end you may not get the "free" health care anyway. Under Britain's National Health Service, for example, smokers in Manchester have been denied treatment for heart disease, and the obese in Suffolk are refused hip and knee replacements. Patricia Hewitt, the British Health Secretary, says that it's appropriate to decline treatment on the basis of "lifestyle choices." Smokers and the obese may look at their gay neighbor having unprotected sex with multiple partners, and wonder why his "lifestyle choices" get a pass while theirs don't. But that's the point: Tyranny is always whimsical.

And if they can't get you on grounds of your personal health, they'll do it on grounds of planetary health. Not so long ago in Britain it was proposed that each citizen should have a government-approved travel allowance. If you take one flight a year, you'll pay just the standard amount of tax on the journey. But, if you travel more frequently, if you take a second or third flight, you'll be subject to additional levies—in the interest of saving the planet for Al Gore's polar bear documentaries and that carbon-offset palace he lives in in Tennessee.

Isn't this the very definition of totalitarianism-lite? The Soviets restricted the movement of people through the bureaucratic apparatus of "exit visas." The British are proposing to do it through the bureaucratic apparatus of exit taxes—indeed, the bluntest form of regressive taxation. As with the Communists, the nomenklatura—the Prince of Wales, Al Gore, Madonna—will still be able to jet about hither and yon. What's a 20% surcharge to them? Especially as those for whom vast amounts of air travel are deemed essential—government officials, heads of NGOs, environmental activists—will no doubt be exempted from having to pay the extra amount. But the ghastly masses will have to stay home.

"Freedom of movement" used to be regarded as a bedrock freedom. The movement is still free, but there's now a government processing fee of $389.95. And the interesting thing about this proposal was that it came not from the Labour Party but the Conservative Party.


That's Stage Two of societal enervation—when the state as guarantor of all your basic needs becomes increasingly comfortable with regulating your behavior. Free peoples who were once willing to give their lives for liberty can be persuaded very quickly to relinquish their liberties for a quiet life. When President Bush talked about promoting democracy in the Middle East, there was a phrase he liked to use: "Freedom is the desire of every human heart." Really? It's unclear whether that's really the case in Gaza and the Pakistani tribal lands. But it's absolutely certain that it's not the case in Berlin and Paris, Stockholm and London, New Orleans and Buffalo. The story of the Western world since 1945 is that, invited to choose between freedom and government "security," large numbers of people vote to dump freedom every time—the freedom to make your own decisions about health care, education, property rights, and a ton of other stuff. It's ridiculous for grown men and women to say: I want to be able to choose from hundreds of cereals at the supermarket, thousands of movies from Netflix, millions of songs to play on my iPod—but I want the government to choose for me when it comes to my health care. A nation that demands the government take care of all the grown-up stuff is a nation turning into the world's wrinkliest adolescent, free only to choose its record collection.

And don't be too sure you'll get to choose your record collection in the end. That's Stage Three: When the populace has agreed to become wards of the state, it's a mere difference of degree to start regulating their thoughts. When my anglophone friends in the Province of Quebec used to complain about the lack of English signs in Quebec hospitals, my response was that, if you allow the government to be the sole provider of health care, why be surprised that they're allowed to decide the language they'll give it in? But, as I've learned during my year in the hellhole of Canadian "human rights" law, that's true in a broader sense. In the interests of "cultural protection," the Canadian state keeps foreign newspaper owners, foreign TV operators, and foreign bookstore owners out of Canada. Why shouldn't it, in return, assume the right to police the ideas disseminated through those newspapers, bookstores and TV networks it graciously agrees to permit?

When Maclean's magazine and I were hauled up in 2007 for the crime of "flagrant Islamophobia," it quickly became very clear that, for members of a profession that brags about its "courage" incessantly (far more than, say, firemen do), an awful lot of journalists are quite content to be the eunuchs in the politically correct harem. A distressing number of Western journalists see no conflict between attending lunches for World Press Freedom Day every month and agreeing to be micro-regulated by the state. The big problem for those of us arguing for classical liberalism is that in modern Canada there's hardly anything left that isn't on the state dripfeed to one degree or another: Too many of the institutions healthy societies traditionally look to as outposts of independent thought—churches, private schools, literature, the arts, the media—either have an ambiguous relationship with government or are downright dependent on it. Up north, "intellectual freedom" means the relevant film-funding agency—Cinedole Canada or whatever it's called—gives you a check to enable you to continue making so-called "bold, brave, transgressive" films that discombobulate state power not a whit.

And then comes Stage Four, in which dissenting ideas and even words are labeled as "hatred." In effect, the language itself becomes a means of control. Despite the smiley-face banalities, the tyranny becomes more naked: In Britain, a land with rampant property crime, undercover constables nevertheless find time to dine at curry restaurants on Friday nights to monitor adjoining tables lest someone in private conversation should make a racist remark. An author interviewed on BBC Radio expressed, very mildly and politely, some concerns about gay adoption and was investigated by Scotland Yard's Community Safety Unit for Homophobic, Racist and Domestic Incidents. A Daily Telegraph columnist is arrested and detained in a jail cell over a joke in a speech. A Dutch legislator is invited to speak at the Palace of Westminster by a member of the House of Lords, but is banned by the government, arrested on arrival at Heathrow and deported.

America, Britain, and even Canada are not peripheral nations: They're the three anglophone members of the G7. They're three of a handful of countries that were on the right side of all the great conflicts of the last century. But individual liberty flickers dimmer in each of them. The massive expansion of government under the laughable euphemism of "stimulus" (Stage One) comes with a quid pro quo down the line (Stage Two): Once you accept you're a child in the government nursery, why shouldn't Nanny tell you what to do? And then—Stage Three—what to think? And—Stage Four—what you're forbidden to think . . . .

Which brings us to the final stage: As I said at the beginning, Big Government isn't about the money. It's more profound than that. A couple of years back Paul Krugman wrote a column in The New York Times asserting that, while parochial American conservatives drone on about "family values," the Europeans live it, enacting policies that are more "family friendly." On the Continent, claims the professor, "government regulations actually allow people to make a desirable tradeoff-to modestly lower income in return for more time with friends and family."

As befits a distinguished economist, Professor Krugman failed to notice that for a continent of "family friendly" policies, Europe is remarkably short of families. While America's fertility rate is more or less at replacement level—2.1—seventeen European nations are at what demographers call "lowest-low" fertility—1.3 or less—a rate from which no society in human history has ever recovered. Germans, Spaniards, Italians and Greeks have upside-down family trees: four grandparents have two children and one grandchild. How can an economist analyze "family friendly" policies without noticing that the upshot of these policies is that nobody has any families?

As for all that extra time, what happened? Europeans work fewer hours than Americans, they don't have to pay for their own health care, they're post-Christian so they don't go to church, they don't marry and they don't have kids to take to school and basketball and the 4-H stand at the county fair. So what do they do with all the time?

Forget for the moment Europe's lack of world-beating companies: They regard capitalism as an Anglo-American fetish, and they mostly despise it. But what about the things Europeans supposedly value? With so much free time, where is the great European art? Where are Europe's men of science? At American universities. Meanwhile, Continental governments pour fortunes into prestigious white elephants of Euro-identity, like the Airbus A380, capable of carrying 500, 800, a thousand passengers at a time, if only somebody somewhere would order the darn thing, which they might consider doing once all the airports have built new runways to handle it.

"Give people plenty and security, and they will fall into spiritual torpor," wrote Charles Murray in In Our Hands. "When life becomes an extended picnic, with nothing of importance to do, ideas of greatness become an irritant. Such is the nature of the Europe syndrome."

The key word here is "give." When the state "gives" you plenty—when it takes care of your health, takes cares of your kids, takes care of your elderly parents, takes care of every primary responsibility of adulthood—it's not surprising that the citizenry cease to function as adults: Life becomes a kind of extended adolescence—literally so for those Germans who've mastered the knack of staying in education till they're 34 and taking early retirement at 42. Hilaire Belloc, incidentally, foresaw this very clearly in his book The Servile State in 1912. He understood that the long-term cost of a welfare society is the infantilization of the population.

Genteel decline can be very agreeable—initially: You still have terrific restaurants, beautiful buildings, a great opera house. And once the pressure's off it's nice to linger at the sidewalk table, have a second café au lait and a pain au chocolat, and watch the world go by. At the Munich Security Conference in February, President Sarkozy demanded of his fellow Continentals, "Does Europe want peace, or do we want to be left in peace?" To pose the question is to answer it. Alas, it only works for a generation or two. And it's hard to come up with a wake-up call for a society as dedicated as latterday Europe to the belief that life is about sleeping in.

As Gerald Ford liked to say when trying to ingratiate himself with conservative audiences, "A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have." And that's true. But there's an intermediate stage: A government big enough to give you everything you want isn't big enough to get you to give any of it back. That's the position European governments find themselves in. Their citizens have become hooked on unaffordable levels of social programs which in the end will put those countries out of business. Just to get the Social Security debate in perspective, projected public pension liabilities are expected to rise by 2040 to about 6.8% of GDP in the U.S. In Greece, the figure is 25%—i.e., total societal collapse. So what? shrug the voters. Not my problem. I want my benefits. The crisis isn't the lack of money, but the lack of citizens—in the meaningful sense of that word.

Every Democrat running for election tells you they want to do this or that "for the children." If America really wanted to do something "for the children," it could try not to make the same mistake as most of the rest of the Western world and avoid bequeathing the next generation a leviathan of bloated bureaucracy and unsustainable entitlements that turns the entire nation into a giant Ponzi scheme. That's the real "war on children" (to use another Democrat catchphrase)—and every time you bulk up the budget you make it less and less likely they'll win it.

Conservatives often talk about "small government," which, in a sense, is framing the issue in leftist terms: they're for big government. But small government gives you big freedoms—and big government leaves you with very little freedom. The bailout and the stimulus and the budget and the trillion-dollar deficits are not merely massive transfers from the most dynamic and productive sector to the least dynamic and productive. When governments annex a huge chunk of the economy, they also annex a huge chunk of individual liberty. You fundamentally change the relationship between the citizen and the state into something closer to that of junkie and pusher—and you make it very difficult ever to change back. Americans face a choice: They can rediscover the animating principles of the American idea—of limited government, a self-reliant citizenry, and the opportunities to exploit your talents to the fullest—or they can join most of the rest of the Western world in terminal decline. To rekindle the spark of liberty once it dies is very difficult. The inertia, the ennui, the fatalism is more pathetic than the demographic decline and fiscal profligacy of the social democratic state, because it's subtler and less tangible. But once in a while it swims into very sharp focus. Here is the writer Oscar van den Boogaard from an interview with the Belgian paper De Standaard. Mr. van den Boogaard, a Dutch gay "humanist" (which is pretty much the trifecta of Eurocool), was reflecting on the accelerating Islamification of the Continent and concluding that the jig was up for the Europe he loved. "I am not a warrior, but who is?" he shrugged. "I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it." In the famous Kubler-Ross five stages of grief, Mr. van den Boogard is past denial, anger, bargaining and depression, and has arrived at a kind of acceptance.

"I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it." Sorry, doesn't work—not for long. Back in New Hampshire, General Stark knew that. Mr. van den Boogard's words are an epitaph for Europe. Whereas New Hampshire's motto—"Live free or die!"—is still the greatest rallying cry for this state or any other. About a year ago, there was a picture in the papers of Iranian students demonstrating in Tehran and waving placards. And what they'd written on those placards was: "Live free or die!" They understand the power of those words; so should we.
16  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Fallar en planificar es planificar el fallo on: October 22, 2016, 08:03:06 AM
Estoy feliz verte aqui' de nuevo Cecilio.
17  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Why Stratfor does not cover US elections on: October 22, 2016, 07:56:36 AM
By Rodger Baker
April 2016

Stratfor strives to provide impartial geopolitical analysis and forecasts that identify critical trends in global and regional affairs, explaining the world's complexities in a simple but not simplistic manner. Through the years we have always sought to adhere to these core underlying principles, with mixed success. Remaining "unbiased" in part means staying out of politics, avoiding policy prescriptions (or proscriptions), and addressing issues not from a good/bad or right/wrong approach but rather from a view of effective/ineffective. It means at times stepping away from the emotions of issues, examining deeper compulsions and constraints, and observing how leaders and global actors modify their behavior based on the shifting circumstances in which they find themselves.

It is a difficult endeavor and one that draws various accusations from our readers. We are accused of seeing the world through Cold Warrior lenses, of not caring about human rights and human dignity, of promoting some form of old-school realpolitik. At times, this underpinning philosophy draws equal accusations of being liberal shills, of being too centered on the United States, and of justifying the behavior of dictatorial or repressive regimes. At our best, we garner equal quantities of impassioned responses from all sides of an issue. Criticism is not something we shy from, particularly if our mandate is to ease back the curtains of perception and reveal, as best as possible, the underlying realities of a very complex world system.

For a company accused of being too focused on the United States, we also often receive criticism from our readers for failing to write enough about it. It has been noted more than once that we largely steer clear of covering U.S. politics or even presidential elections. In the grand scheme of geopolitics, over time the role of individuals is largely washed out — to be overly simplistic, the individuals rarely matter. This is, of course, not true, but it is a way to look beyond the subjective desires of leaders and instead to examine the objective realities they face, the circumstances that shape and constrain their options, the structure of the system in which they work, and the upbringing and background that color the way they see and interpret information and make decisions.

In some ways one could argue that, on a broad global scale, the difference in individual presidents, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama to whoever succeeds him, has only minimal implications. Bush did not enter the White House with the intent to invade Afghanistan (it is highly unlikely that any U.S. president could conceive of a worse place for a maritime power to find itself). Obama did not enter the White House intending to be engaged in a conflict in Syria. One could perhaps argue that Franklin Roosevelt did intend to enter the war in Europe. But his initial comments, along with those of Woodrow Wilson ahead of U.S. involvement in World War I, gave little sense that this was the direction in which he was headed. Wilson sought to focus on domestic political issues; Roosevelt led an increasingly isolationist nation. World events placed stark choices before them. Bush had September 11. The Syrian civil war, the overall fight against terrorism and the rebalancing of the Middle East placed Syria on Obama's agenda, despite his grand proclamations of a Pacific pivot, which even at the end of his presidency looks a whole lot more modest than envisioned.

Geopolitics can help us understand the implications and pressures on different states, and the way those may limit or compel certain responses. But geopolitics is predictive of broad trends, not of final decisions. We strongly reject the idea of geopolitical determinism, but we also reject the idea that politics is somehow so fundamentally different from other fields that the human agent is supreme. Few completely reject Adam Smith's assertion of an invisible hand in economics; we argue that geopolitics helps us identify elements of a hidden hand in international politics. The narrower the time frame, the more discrete the geography and the more immediate the decision, the less geopolitics explains. But there are other analytical and collection tools to help account for that. Given our broad mandate to use geopolitics to explain the flow of the world system, rather than looking at individuals as unrestrained decision-makers, we seek to understand the circumstances and environment in which they operate. We don't call elections, but we do seek to identify the forces that shape the processes and the realities that will face the officials who rise to power, through whatever means.

Bias, Intentional or Otherwise

So more immediately, we are asked why we do not address the current U.S. presidential election. The first answer is that the contest is not yet at the election stage. We are watching the intraparty competition play out on the way to the nomination. This is politics at its most basic level: a component of a geopolitical approach, but only a component. Perhaps there is room at this stage to read from the primaries some of the broader undercurrents shaping society that will continue to play a role once a president is elected. But frankly, the market is saturated with assessments of the minutiae of day-to-day campaigning. If we are to help our readers understand the world system, there is only so much that we could add to that daily flow of information, assertions and assessments of the current campaigners — and little at this stage yet rises to broader significance.

Perhaps more directly, we do not cover the U.S. election at the same day-to-day depth as the general news media or political commentators not only because we are not political commentators but also because, for the most part, our staff lives in the United States. And this is where the risk of bias materializes. We are designed to be a neutral, nonpartisan service. On U.S. politics (as opposed to policy), it is hard to maintain that nonpartisan approach. Just by living here, we have a stake in the outcome of the analysis that could taint our perceptions. This is not insurmountable — one does not avoid bias by denying its existence but rather by recognizing openly and honestly what that bias is.

Bias is not always intentional. Intentional bias is the easiest to overcome, since it is the most obvious. On the other hand, subconscious bias requires more intense searching to discover. Bias is a natural result of numerous factors: Upbringing, family life, personal experiences, faith, education, friends and location all shape the individual and the way the individual sees things. We often argue here that one piece of information in five hands is of greater value than five pieces of information in one hand, thanks to the variety of perspectives that can be brought to bear. This is why Stratfor's analytical staff is multinational in composition. Techniques such as acknowledging and identifying bias, using alternative viewpoints in the analytical process, and clearly laying out assumptions as differentiated from facts all serve to help overcome bias. Perhaps the best individuals we could use to cover the U.S. election, then, would be foreign nationals living abroad, able to observe the process through less invested eyes.

A Dispassionate View

If we were to apply our process to the U.S. election, as divested of outcome and involvement as we are with other countries, it would perhaps be jarring to our U.S. readership (and perhaps our foreign readership as well). We would discuss the struggles within the opposition conservative party. With no viable centrist candidate, it is instead torn between a strong right-wing fringe candidate with a reputation among his own party in Congress for being uncooperative and an outsider businessman/media star who has openly donated to both parties in years past and who favors provocative statements (perhaps even intentionally provocative, given his extensive media experience). We would talk about the clashes within the ruling liberal party between an establishment candidate, the spouse of a former president and potentially the first woman to assume the U.S. presidency, and an avowed socialist who, despite his age, has drawn heavily on youth support.

We would look at a nation that is still recovering from a massive economic downturn, one that rocked the world. A country where the financial institutions that contributed to the crisis not only appear to have avoided punishment but also are once again thriving, exacerbating the gap between the status of economic recovery overall and the public's perception of economic stability. It is a country that, not necessarily seeing a strong economic recovery for the middle class or blue-collar labor, is now turning against immigration (once again — this has been a fairly typical cycle since nearly the nation's foundation).

It is a country that has been heavily engaged in overseas conflict for well over a decade, where support for the seemingly interminable, distant war is flagging. A country not only facing an imprecisely defined opponent (is terrorism a thing, an ideology or a group of people?) but also seeing the resurgence of peer rivals (Russia and perhaps China). It is a country dealing with a fracturing Europe, long the center of a global alliance structure. A country coming to grips with the unrequested, but no less real, shift of the global center of gravity from the North Atlantic to the North American continent. It is a country that appears to have a global responsibility but that, after years of extensive involvement, has come to question that duty.

It is a country with a changing population that, like those in Japan, South Korea and even China, is grappling with the changed significance of a college education. Meanwhile, a large segment of the population is soon heading for retirement. It is a country undergoing a new round of internal debates over just what social justice means in the "American" context; each expansion in the concepts of freedom and personal rights is considered by some as advancement and by others as further deviation from a known "ideal." It is a country that, consistent with its relative security, has the leisure to debate morality but also to question whether equality and individual freedom are achievable or even desirable at their extremes.

In short, it is a country that, on the largest scale, is now emerging as the center of the global system. On a narrower scale, it is a country ending a cycle of heavy international military engagement and shifting back toward, if not isolationism, at least the pursuit of (or reliance on) a balance-of-power strategy to manage the world system without policing it. It is a country that is coming out of a major economic crisis and seeing its labor market change with shifting technology. Although the shifts have led to new business methods and economic activity, they have also brought job losses in some sectors. It is a country that, like many other places in the world, is struggling with national identity at a time when globalization appears relevant and desirable.

What we see, then, is not yet the U.S. election, but instead the stage for that election. The process is less about the candidates than about the system that has allowed these individuals, as opposed to others, to rise to prominence. We see not Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz or Bernie Sanders, or even John Kasich. Instead, we see the way these individuals — the systems in which they operate and the undercurrents of society — lead to this broader debate on a national level. What any of them will do as president will be a much different story. We can see the space into which they will emerge and how that might constrain their options. But a president does not exist in a vacuum. There is a Cabinet, a Congress, the courts, a society and the international system. It is not that the individual doesn't matter but rather that the individual will exist in a space that he or she largely does not control. Looking at the candidates, then, if we were to get partisan at all, it would be to find the ones most able to adapt and to act in a rapidly changing environment.
18  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Cyberwar, Cyber Crime, and American Freedom on: October 22, 2016, 07:01:16 AM
Techie question:  Does our recent diminishment of control of the internet to some international body lessen our ability to defend ourselves in the event of cyberattacks such as these/cyberwar?

Hackers Used New Weapons to Disrupt Major Websites Across U.S.

A map of the areas experiencing problems, as of Friday afternoon, according to

SAN FRANCISCO — Major websites were inaccessible to people across wide swaths of the United States on Friday after a company that manages crucial parts of the internet’s infrastructure said it was under attack.

Users reported sporadic problems reaching several websites, including Twitter, Netflix, Spotify, Airbnb, Reddit, Etsy, SoundCloud and The New York Times.

The company, Dyn, whose servers monitor and reroute internet traffic, said it began experiencing what security experts called a distributed denial-of-service attack just after 7 a.m. Reports that many sites were inaccessible started on the East Coast, but spread westward in three waves as the day wore on and into the evening.

And in a troubling development, the attack appears to have relied on hundreds of thousands of internet-connected devices like cameras, baby monitors and home routers that have been infected — without their owners’ knowledge — with software that allows hackers to command them to flood a target with overwhelming traffic.

A spokeswoman said the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security were looking into the incident and all potential causes, including criminal activity and a nation-state attack.

Kyle York, Dyn’s chief strategist, said his company and others that host the core parts of the internet’s infrastructure were targets for a growing number of more powerful attacks.

“The number and types of attacks, the duration of attacks and the complexity of these attacks are all on the rise,” Mr. York said.

Security researchers have long warned that the increasing number of devices being hooked up to the internet, the so-called Internet of Things, would present an enormous security issue. And the assault on Friday, security researchers say, is only a glimpse of how those devices can be used for online attacks.

Dyn, based in Manchester, N.H., said it had fended off the assault by 9:30 a.m. But by 11:52 a.m., Dyn said it was again under attack. After fending off the second wave of attacks, Dyn said at 5 p.m. that it was again facing a flood of traffic.

A distributed denial-of-service attack, or DDoS, occurs when hackers flood the servers that run a target’s site with internet traffic until it stumbles or collapses under the load. Such attacks are common, but there is evidence that they are becoming more powerful, more sophisticated and increasingly aimed at core internet infrastructure providers.

Going after companies like Dyn can cause far more damage than aiming at a single website.

Dyn is one of many outfits that host the Domain Name System, or DNS, which functions as a switchboard for the internet. The DNS translates user-friendly web addresses like into numerical addresses that allow computers to speak to one another. Without the DNS servers operated by internet service providers, the internet could not operate.

In this case, the attack was aimed at the Dyn infrastructure that supports internet connections. While the attack did not affect the websites themselves, it blocked or slowed users trying to gain access to those sites.

Mr. York, the Dyn strategist, said in an interview during a lull in the attacks that the assaults on its servers were complex.

“This was not your everyday DDoS attack,” Mr. York said. “The nature and source of the attack is still under investigation.”
A notice from Dyn on its website about the outage.

Later in the day, Dave Allen, the general counsel at Dyn, said tens of millions of internet addresses, or so-called I.P. addresses, were being used to send a fire hose of internet traffic at the company’s servers. He confirmed that a large portion of that traffic was coming from internet-connected devices that had been co-opted by type of malware, called Mirai.

Dale Drew, chief security officer at Level 3, an internet service provider, found evidence that roughly 10 percent of all devices co-opted by Mirai were being used to attack Dyn’s servers. Just one week ago, Level 3 found that 493,000 devices had been infected with Mirai malware, nearly double the number infected last month.

Mr. Allen added that Dyn was collaborating with law enforcement and other internet service providers to deal with the attacks.

In a recent report, Verisign, a registrar for many internet sites that has a unique perspective into this type of attack activity, reported a 75 percent increase in such attacks from April through June of this year, compared with the same period last year.

The attacks were not only more frequent, they were bigger and more sophisticated. The typical attack more than doubled in size. What is more, the attackers were simultaneously using different methods to attack the company’s servers, making them harder to stop.

The most frequent targets were businesses that provide internet infrastructure services like Dyn.

“DNS has often been neglected in terms of its security and availability,” Richard Meeus, vice president for technology at Nsfocus, a network security firm, wrote in an email. “It is treated as if it will always be there in the same way that water comes out of the tap.”

Last month, Bruce Schneier, a security expert and blogger, wrote on the Lawfare blog that someone had been probing the defenses of companies that run crucial pieces of the internet.

“These probes take the form of precisely calibrated attacks designed to determine exactly how well the companies can defend themselves, and what would be required to take them down,” Mr. Schneier wrote. “We don’t know who is doing this, but it feels like a large nation-state. China and Russia would be my first guesses.”

It is too early to determine who was behind Friday’s attacks, but it is this type of attack that has election officials concerned. They are worried that an attack could keep citizens from submitting votes.

Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia allow internet voting for overseas military and civilians. Alaska allows any Alaskan citizen to do so. Barbara Simons, the co-author of the book “Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count?” and a member of the board of advisers to the Election Assistance Commission, the federal body that oversees voting technology standards, said she had been losing sleep over just this prospect.

“A DDoS attack could certainly impact these votes and make a big difference in swing states,” Dr. Simons said on Friday. “This is a strong argument for why we should not allow voters to send their voted ballots over the internet.”

This month the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, and the Department of Homeland Security accused Russia of hacking the Democratic National Committee, apparently in an effort to affect the presidential election. There has been speculation about whether President Obama has ordered the National Security Agency to conduct a retaliatory attack and the potential backlash this might cause from Russia.

Gillian M. Christensen, deputy press secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, said the agency was investigating “all potential causes” of the attack.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said on the NBC News program “Meet the Press” this month that the United States was prepared to respond to Russia’s election attacks in kind. “We’re sending a message,” Mr. Biden said. “We have the capacity to do it.”

But technology providers in the United States could suffer blowback. As Dyn fell under recurring attacks on Friday, Mr. York, the chief strategist, said such assaults were the reason so many companies are pushing at least parts of their infrastructure to cloud computing networks, to decentralize their systems and make them harder to attack.

“It’s a total wild, wild west out there,” Mr. York said.
19  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Is Newt Trump's heir? on: October 22, 2016, 06:44:29 AM
If Donald loses, the question arises-- does someone else succeed him to lead the movement, and if so, who?  Here Pravda on the Hudson offers its take:

Mr. Gingrich’s ‘Big Trump’

Newt Gingrich listens as Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally earlier this year. Credit Ty Wright for The New York Times

It’s no big surprise that Newt Gingrich is still a gung-ho adviser to the Trump campaign. Mr. Gingrich has long espoused political views similar to Donald Trump’s.

But there is more to the alliance than a meeting of the minds. Mr. Gingrich understands that Mr. Trump appears to be losing not because his message has failed to resonate with Americans but because he is a poor messenger.

“I don’t defend him [Trump] when he wanders off,” Mr. Gingrich recently told ABC News. But “there’s a big Trump and there’s a little Trump,” he said, explaining that the big Trump is the one who has created issues that make “the establishment” very uncomfortable.

“The big Trump,” he said, “is a historic figure.”

With statements like that, Mr. Gingrich is positioning himself as the keeper of the Trump-campaign themes and, by extension, as the politician best able to mobilize Trump supporters going forward.

In the 1990s, Mr. Gingrich spearheaded the antigovernment movement. As House speaker from 1995 to 1999, he invoked racial stereotypes about African-Americans during debates over welfare reform. During his unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, he repeatedly called President Obama the “food stamp president.”

Mr. Gingrich played to birther movement sentiments in 2010 when he said that Mr. Obama exhibited “Kenyan, anticolonial behavior.”

And now, he is extolling the virtues of “big Trump.” There is a pattern here, and it does not bode well for American politics.
20  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Cooperation as a means to all ends in the South China Sea on: October 22, 2016, 06:16:22 AM

Cooperation as a Means to All Ends in the South China Sea
September 26, 2016 | 09:30 GMT Print
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Beijing understands that constant conflict with its neighbors works against its desire to maintain good relations with them -- a particularly important aspect to its emerging global policy. (HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images)

    Despite China's rejection of the ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the South China Sea dispute, Beijing is adopting a more conciliatory posture over its territorial claims, at least in the short term.|

    The shifting status quo in the South China Sea may give claimant states, especially China, second thoughts about entering into joint development deals.
    Any meaningful joint arrangements will hinge on Beijing's strategic intentions, although domestic pressure in respective states will also play a key role.


South China Sea claimant states are adjusting to the new status quo in the region. The arbitration ruling the Philippines won over China in July gave it and other claimants rare leverage over Beijing, but China's rejection of the decision has diminished the possibility of legal intervention over maritime disputes in which it is embroiled. Beijing must also contend, however, with an increasingly complex set of circumstances in the waters — with greater potential for involvement by outside powers and potentially more hostile relations with nations on its periphery.

The ruling's potential to disrupt relations in the South China Sea may help to explain the generally lower-key rhetoric and conciliatory gestures by actors on all sides in the region over the past two months. China and other claimant states all appear willing to seize the opportunity to move some stagnant agendas forward, at least for now. Their gestures include an agreement between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to finalize a framework for the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea before mid-2017 and a host of accommodating trilateral arrangements among China and new leaders in the Philippines and Vietnam.

Fish: The Overlooked Destabilizer in the South China Sea

Despite the region's focus on minerals and oil, fish are a more important factor in the maritime disputes surrounding a rising China. Read more…

Some regional joint development proposals, moreover, have re-emerged. Shortly after the court ruling, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a high-profile white paper that, in addition to reiterating its positions and sovereignty claims in the South China Sea, said Beijing's openness to joint development in the waters had not changed. That position was reinforced shortly after when former Philippine President Fidel Ramos, the special envoy for current President Rodrigo Duterte, was invited to visit with Chinese policy experts, who raised the possibility of jointly developing fishing farms in the disputed waters, including around Scarborough Shoal. Separately, Chinese President Xi Jinping told Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc that both countries should actively push forward with joint exploration of waters beyond the Gulf of Tonkin — in other words, in the South China Sea — where both signed a comprehensive delimitation agreement in 2000. In addition, China and Japan appear ready to resume a long-stalled dialogue on natural gas exploration in the East China Sea.

Taken individually, these proposals are unremarkable. Joint development is a well-trodden path in East Asia. Mutually agreed joint-development mechanisms have a proven record of easing maritime tensions in the face of overlapping claims elsewhere. Therefore, it is seen by many, including the claimant governments of Southeast Asia, as a potential option to calm the waters in the South China Sea with its vast traditional fishing grounds and its rich oil and natural gas potential. But early attempts at joint development, notably an arrangement among China, Vietnam and the Philippines in 2005 for seismic surveys, failed largely because of domestic sentiment in the Philippines. And over the years, suspicions about Beijing's strategic intent, coupled with its unceasing territorial expansion and escalation of maritime tensions, thwarted any potential dialogue — let alone joint arrangement — in the South China Sea that involves China. In recent years, Beijing has put pursuing such joint arrangements on a back burner. Thus, the recent refashioning of these proposals from Beijing provides an opportunity both to understand the strategic intent behind these arrangements and to assess their application under the new paradigm in the South China Sea.

Pragmatic Policy or Stalling Strategy?

Setting aside disputes and pursuing joint development of natural resources have been central components of China's maritime policy since the late 1970s. The concept was promoted by Deng Xiaoping as he opened the country's economy and promoted domestic reform. Seeking to ease external pressures on the country, he embraced the practicality of joint economic development in the East and South China seas.

Most of those who lay claim to territory in the South China Sea have similarly endorsed joint development as a way to acquire undersea resources. (Notably, only a handful of oil and natural gas blocks in the disputed areas of the sea have proved commercially viable, and the financial risks and technological demands required for energy exploration in those areas have made it impossible for many claimants to do so without foreign partners.) But while Beijing has been pursuing joint development opportunities since the 1990s, in practice, other claimants generally believe those opportunities disproportionately benefit Beijing. Suspicions of its strategic objectives have repeatedly caused those arrangements to fail.

A major stumbling block to such agreements has been an insistence by the Chinese government that its claims of sovereignty over disputed territories in any deal would have to be recognized for it to go forward. In other words, a joint development deal with China would require the other party to recognize Chinese territorial claims in disputed areas, making the arrangements politically difficult to accept. Disagreement over sovereignty recognition resulted in repeated disruptions of initial joint exploration arrangements, including the one made in 2011 between the Philippines and China's state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corp. around Reed Bank, near the Spratly Islands. Suspicion of Beijing's intent has remained a central concern for Vietnam and the Philippines even though they would profit from such deals.

Offers by China for joint development often come in areas within the exclusive economic zones of other claimant states. Those offers can be interpreted as a ploy by China to expand its territory into areas that it otherwise would have no legitimate claim to under international law. For example, Vietnam has objected to a decision by China to open up nine areas for joint development to foreign partners near the Vietnamese-controlled Vanguard Bank (about 160 nautical miles from the Vietnamese coast) in a disputed part of the Spratly Islands. Vietnam views that offer as essentially a Chinese claim of: "What is mine is mine, what is yours is mine, and we are willing to share." Part of the reason for the murky boundary status stems from the ambiguity of Chinese sovereignty claims in the South China Sea under the nine-dash line, which has resulted in a largely undefined boundary between areas with overlapping claims. Any joint development deals struck before agreements over the disputed areas are ironed out could amount to legitimizing China's nine-dash line claims. In 2011, Manila proposed a mechanism to separate disputed and non-disputed areas in the South China Sea and promote joint cooperation in the disputed zone. Beijing, however, viewed that proposal as a serious challenge to its sovereignty claims, and its opposition kept the proposal from generating momentum within ASEAN.

China's Tactical Advantages

Intentionally or not, the stalled progress on joint development deals — along with its ambiguous maritime claims — has given Beijing a much-desired result: time. Beijing's strategy of not asserting its claims too strongly before the 1990s allowed it to reduce potential conflicts that would result from overlapping claims, allowing its economy and military to develop. As China grew more powerful, its naval and maritime enforcement, along with its technological capabilities for island building and deep-sea exploration, dramatically shifted the status quo in the South China Sea. And these evolutions have naturally shaped Beijing's approach to any joint development mechanism.

China's technological and military abilities give it a tactical advantage when pushing its claims in the South China Sea. That means China can take unilateral measures to pressure other claimants, leaving Vietnam and the Philippines, the most vocal opponents of Chinese claims, with limited options for unilateral development. Because they have little capability to develop the sea's resources independently, they have to seek foreign assistance. In addition, however, to the uncertain prospects of oil and natural gas exploration in the South China Sea, military and economic pressure from China has also deterred foreign companies from entering agreements with those nations in the disputed areas. Meanwhile, as demonstrated in the case of Scarborough Shoal, Beijing's advanced coast guard vessels and armed fishing fleets have effectively stopped Philippine fishermen from plying their trade in their traditional grounds since 2012. In short, Beijing is forcing other claimants to accommodate or at least tolerate China's maritime boundary assertions before it will consider any meaningful arrangements — if that ever happens.

Resolving Conflicting Imperatives

Many policymakers in Beijing believe the policy has had mixed results for its foreign policy agenda. Claimant states — most notably Vietnam and the Philippines, and to a lesser extent Indonesia and Malaysia — have responded to Beijing's maritime aggression by expanding their naval and security capabilities and by seeking cooperation from external powers, such as the United States, Japan and India, for defense, energy and political support. This has resulted in a much broader international intervention and has justified moves by those powers to counter China. Beijing has meanwhile come to understand that constant conflict with its neighbors works against its desire to maintain good relations with them — a particularly important aspect of its emerging global policy.

At this point, Beijing probably understands the risks and repercussions of claiming the entire South China Sea — or pressing its claims based on the nine-dash line. In fact, there appears to be at least partial agreement among decision-makers that Beijing's "strategic ambiguity" over its maritime claim — combined with its ungrounded nine-dash line, lack of a clearly defined sovereignty claim and defiance of international law — has reached a limit. Over the past two years, official rhetoric from Beijing has repeatedly repudiated that the nine-dash line is the basis for the country's sovereignty claim. At the same time, its policymakers are in the process of reinterpreting its sovereignty claim and attempting to more closely adhere to international law.

It is unlikely that Beijing will ever ease its assertive behavior in the South China Sea. Rather, the new maritime status quo — coupled with the court ruling — may allow Beijing to rethink what strategies best fit its interests, even if those strategies take years to develop and result in even greater maritime disruption. But at the very least, its imperatives to avoid outright military confrontations, circumvent further "interference" from international players and to refrain from antagonizing all of its ASEAN neighbors at once makes its current course of behavior counterproductive.

Joint Development: a Possible Way Out?

To many claimant countries, developing maritime resources in disputed areas of the South China Sea has become more of a crucial economic imperative than ever. With its near-shore oil and natural gas blocks long past their peak productivity, Vietnam needs new energy sources to satisfy its domestic economy and provide export revenue to pay for its growing demand for imported refined oil products. The Philippines has some natural gas production but imports virtually all of its crude oil. The oil and natural gas potential in the South China Sea, particularly around Reed Bank and its commercially viable proven reserves of natural gas, is too high to ignore. Though China has similar needs — it depends heavily on oil and faces a growing need for natural gas — developing the sea's resources meets Beijing's strategic interests far more than its economic ones. In addition, the regional reliance on the sea's fish stocks — and the fluidity of fishing — makes exclusive development of that resource impossible. As more claimants desire to develop the sea's resources and as Beijing rethinks its strategies, both might give joint development ventures more attention.

Even though there has not been a joint arrangement in the South China Sea involving China, it will remain an option. Beijing has repeatedly expressed the hope that its relatively successful joint development and delimitation package with Vietnam in the Gulf of Tonkin can serve as a model for future arrangements in the South China Sea. According to the International Crisis Group, Beijing and Hanoi have carried out several rounds of consultations on possible cooperation in the South China Sea based on the Tonkin model, though no progress has been made. Meanwhile, Beijing has shown greater flexibility with claimants that it sees as cooperative as they pursue their own joint development deals. For example, it made little response to the joint oil and natural gas exploration agreement between Malaysia and Brunei in 2015, despite the fact that the development falls in an area that China also claims. The difference in China's reaction likely reflects the fact that Malaysia and Brunei tend not to trumpet their differences with China, but it could also point to how much flexibility Beijing has in its sovereignty claims.

In theory, joint development arrangements could allow Beijing to justify its dominance of the South China Sea and expand outreach in areas in which it has no legal claim in a more cooperative manner, all while allowing claimants to acquire the resources they want. But before any meaningful arrangements can be made, there are several obstacles to overcome.

Chief among them is the question of whether Beijing is willing to dampen its sovereignty claims now that it has established its tactical advantages in the South China Sea. But such a move may run afoul of domestic nationalist sentiment, which would see any joint arrangement as a surrender of sovereignty, thereby challenging the core of the government's legitimacy. Similar obstacles can be found in Vietnam and the Philippines, where years of assertive behavior by China have hardened the public's attitudes against accepting any arrangement with Beijing. In fact, in the Philippines, such sentiment, combined with a public perception of government misbehavior and corruption, was a key reason that Manila pulled out from the 2005 trilateral arrangement on seismic surveys. Meanwhile, the Philippine Constitution dictates that Philippine entities must retain 60 percent capital and ownership when it comes to joint exploration with foreign companies — a condition that Beijing can hardly accept unless both sides are willing to caveat their stances.
21  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Now imprisoned Muslim Brotherhood official worked for Clinton Foundation on: October 22, 2016, 12:57:25 AM
22  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media, Ministry of Truth Issues on: October 22, 2016, 12:28:16 AM
GM:    shocked shocked shocked
23  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US-China (& Japan, South China Sea-- Vietnam, Philippines, etc) on: October 22, 2016, 12:25:07 AM
second post, posted today by Stratfor

Japan plans to give Malaysia two 90-meter-long second-hand patrol vessels to boost its maritime security capabilities in the contested South China Sea, unnamed Malaysian government sources said Oct. 21, The Star reported. In September, Japan pledged to give the Philippines two similar vessels, and it expressed willingness to give Vietnam patrol boats as well. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is expected to visit Japan in mid-November.
24  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Japan making moves on: October 22, 2016, 12:24:25 AM
1/12/16-- note date

Less than two weeks into the new year, a new diplomatic flare-up in the South China Sea is already on our radar. This time, Japan rerouted maritime surveillance aircraft to locations that abut the contested waters. Given the sensitivity of the region, the move will surely invite scrutiny from Beijing.

The decision to reroute the aircraft came Jan. 10, when the Japanese Defense Ministry said aircraft returning from anti-piracy operations in Africa would refuel in places such as Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines, not in their traditional destinations like Singapore and Thailand, which are far from the disputed maritime zone. The aircraft in question — two P-3C Orion maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft — were first deployed to the East African country of Djibouti in May 2008 as a contribution to counter-piracy efforts in the Horn of Africa region, and they will touch down first in Vietnam's Cam Ranh Bay — a direct inlet of the South China Sea — in February.

Notably, the refueling stops appear to be the direct result of a series of high-level defense meetings that Japan held with South China Sea claimant countries in 2015. In other words, the decision was deliberated before it was executed.

What is a Geopolitical Diary?

Japan is not officially conducting reconnaissance patrols from these bases. Indeed, Tokyo insists that the flights are meant to be the naval aviation equivalent of port calls, or transit stops. But considering the aircraft's capabilities, China is understandably nervous. The P-3s are equipped with a powerful surveillance suite, including a maritime search radar, designed to spot very small targets such as submarine periscopes. Such a capability would be extremely useful when tracking and monitoring maritime traffic, or a military presence for that matter. Tokyo has clearly stated that the refueling stops do not equate to the permanent basing of P-3s in any country, nor do they obligate Japan to share maritime surveillance data (should it be acquired) with the host country.

In fact, on the surface the rerouting of aircraft appears to be only a modest step by the Japanese. Many observers believed Tokyo was preparing to conduct joint patrols with the U.S. Navy after the Japanese Diet passed long-awaited defense reforms in September 2015, authorizing the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) to employ force abroad to defend its allies.

But those observers may have simply expected too much, too soon. The passage of security legislation was politically taxing for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Intent on expanding its majority, the LDP can ill-afford to squander popularity ahead of upper house elections in the summer through overly assertive military deployments.

Aside from managing its own domestic politics, Japan must also manage political sensitivities in its partner countries — all of which experienced brutal Japanese occupation during World War II. Japanese investment is, of course, welcomed in Southeast Asia, but military cooperation with a former occupier is often seen as a bridge too far. Discussions between Tokyo and Manila to set up a Visiting Forces Agreement, which would give the JSDF basing rights in the Philippines, have so far yielded nothing. This suggests considerable domestic opposition in the Philippines — the claimant country in the South China Sea that needs military assistance the most. But even if the Philippines remains opposed to basing, refueling stops are a low-key and politically palatable way to revitalize a military relationship.

When these refueling stops occur, China will almost certainly react with protest and will accuse Japan of emboldening its rival in the South China Sea. Consequently, Beijing may redouble its efforts to construct military and civilian infrastructure on reclaimed islands in the South China Sea, actions designed to make China's presence impossible to dislodge. Tempting as it may be to regard Chinese opposition as an overreaction, Beijing is actually reacting to a future in which Japan slowly overcomes operational and political barriers to routinize its presence in the South China Sea. After all, refueling stops, like port calls, are not just a logistical necessity: They also give navies experience in interacting with their foreign counterparts, building the basis for increased cooperation down the line.

Japan wants to play a more active military role in the Pacific — indeed, it may have no other choice — but to do this Tokyo needs countries that are willing to host its forces. It is safe to say that Japan is not going to the trouble of altering its flight plans just so its aircraft will have a small number of additional refueling options over the next decade. Starting with these modest visits, Tokyo hopes to lay the foundation for a greater, more sustainable presence. China is justifiably concerned.
25  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Timeline on: October 21, 2016, 08:53:45 PM
26  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Scary if true on: October 21, 2016, 05:46:23 PM

 shocked shocked shocked
27  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Some interesting polls on: October 21, 2016, 05:35:52 PM
28  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / New email shows Pentagon WAS asking to send troops? on: October 21, 2016, 05:14:39 PM

Looks legit, but would love to have independent confirmation.
29  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Germany offers to pay countries to take back their refugees on: October 21, 2016, 04:03:01 PM
30  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PF on Dutertes flip flop on: October 21, 2016, 11:33:00 AM
31  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism, liberal fascism, progressivism, socialism, crony capitalism, SJW: on: October 21, 2016, 11:31:19 AM
No, this thread is the proper one.
32  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Transgender Air , , , persons , , , perdaughters , , , offspring? on: October 21, 2016, 11:21:05 AM
33  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Who will come to take them? on: October 21, 2016, 10:54:55 AM
Have not had a chance to read this yet, but it comes recommended.
34  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Hillary's New Constitution on: October 20, 2016, 09:43:29 PM

    Opinion Review & Outlook

Hillary’s New Constitution
Clinton explains how she’ll gut the First and Second Amendments.
BakerHostetler Partner David Rivkin on what the final debate revealed about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s vastly different plans for the Supreme Court.
Oct. 20, 2016 7:26 p.m. ET

Donald Trump is no legal scholar, but at Wednesday’s presidential debate he showed a superior grasp of the U.S. Constitution than did Hillary Clinton. Amid the overwrought liberal fainting about Mr. Trump’s bluster over accepting the election result (see below), Mrs. Clinton revealed a view of the Supreme Court that is far more threatening to American liberty.

Start with her answer to moderator Chris Wallace’s question about the role of the courts. “The Supreme Court should represent all of us. That’s how I see the Court,” she said. “And the kind of people that I would be looking to nominate to the court would be in the great tradition of standing up to the powerful, standing up on our behalf of our rights as Americans.”

Where to begin with that one? The Supreme Court doesn’t—or shouldn’t—“represent” anyone. In the U.S. system that’s the job of the elected branches. The courts are appointed, not elected, so they can be nonpartisan adjudicators of competing legal claims.

Mrs. Clinton is suggesting that the Court should be a super-legislature that vindicates the will of what she calls “the American people,” which apparently excludes “the powerful.” But last we checked, the Constitution protects everyone, even the powerful. The law is supposed to protect individual rights, not an abstraction called “the people.”

The Democrat went downhill from there, promising to appoint judges who would essentially rewrite the First and Second Amendments. Asked about the 2008 Heller decision that upheld an individual right to bear arms, Mrs. Clinton claimed to support “reasonable regulation.” She said she criticized Heller because it overturned a District of Columbia law intended merely “to protect toddlers from guns and so they wanted people with guns to safely store them.”

Toddlers had nothing to do with it. What Mrs. Clinton calls “reasonable” was an outright ban on handguns. The D.C. law allowed the city’s police chief to award some temporary licenses—but not even the police officer plaintiff in the case could persuade the District to let him register a handgun to be kept at his home.

Anyone who did lawfully possess a gun had to keep it unloaded and either disassembled or bound by a trigger lock at all times, ensuring it would be inoperable and perhaps useless for self-defense. As Antonin Scalia wrote for the Heller majority, “Few laws in the history of our Nation have come close to the severe restriction of the District’s handgun ban.”

If Mrs. Clinton supports such gun restrictions, then she thinks an individual’s right to bear arms is meaningless. If the Justices she appoints agree with her, then they can gradually turn Heller into a shell of a right, restriction by restriction, even without overturning the precedent.

Then there’s the First Amendment, which Mrs. Clinton wants to rewrite by appointing Justices she said would “stand up and say no to Citizens United, a decision that has undermined the election system in our country because of the way it permits dark, unaccountable money to come into our electoral system.”

Citizens United is the 2010 Supreme Court decision that found that unions and corporations can spend money on political speech—in that specific case for a movie that was critical of Mrs. Clinton. The Democrat seems to take the different view that while atomized individuals might have the right to criticize politicians, heaven forbid if they want to band together to do it as a political interest group.

As for “dark” money, she certainly knows that territory. Does money get any darker than undisclosed Clinton Foundation donations from foreign business magnates tied to uranium concessions in Kazakhstan?

There is at least one right that Mrs. Clinton did suggest she believes to be absolute—to an abortion, at any time during pregnancy right up until birth. She claimed merely to oppose the repeal of Roe v. Wade, which allows some regulation of late-term abortions. But she somehow overlooked Gonzales v. Carhart , the 2007 decision that upheld a legislative ban on so-called partial-birth abortion.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the Carhart opinion that ruled such restrictions are consistent with Roe and the Constitution. Mrs. Clinton kept invoking “the life and the health of the mother” to justify her opposition to any limit on abortion, but Carhart found the life of the mother can be sufficient.

To put all this another way, Mrs. Clinton believes there is no restriction on abortion she would ever support, and there is no restriction on gun rights she would ever oppose. Carhart, Citizens United and Heller were 5-4 decisions, and Mrs. Clinton wants each of them to be litmus tests for her Supreme Court appointments. She mocks Mr. Trump for saying he won’t abide by the election result, but she wants to rewrite the Constitution to fit her own political views.
35  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Millenials vs. Mutant Capitalism on: October 20, 2016, 04:26:02 PM
This is an example of a thought piece:

Millennials vs. Mutant Capitalism
This generation is skeptical of America’s economic system. No wonder.
By Christopher Koopman
Oct. 18, 2016 7:03 p.m. ET

About 70 million millennials will be eligible to vote in this year’s presidential election, according to Pew Research Center. How my generation votes matters more than ever—which makes the results of an April Harvard Institute of Politics survey seem very troubling. About a third of Americans ages 18-29 support socialism, while not even half back capitalism. College graduates view capitalism more favorably, but these still don’t appear to be encouraging numbers.

Analyzing similar data in February, pollster Frank Luntz wrote that “the hostility of young Americans to the underpinnings of the American economy and the American government ought to frighten every business and political leader.” There’s only one problem with this pessimism about millennials: As a generation, we don’t really know what we believe.

Clear majorities of millennials—whether they’re Bernie Bros, Trumpians or die-hard libertarians—point to the economy as their top issue. This shouldn’t be surprising. Most of us entered adulthood during the Great Recession and tried to find work in its aftermath. This harrowing experience left millions preoccupied with economic issues and convinced that the system is rigged against them.

Does this mean millennials have come to disdain capitalism? Not exactly. We might call it “capitalism” in opinion surveys, but in reality young people are rejecting a system that they have only been led to believe is capitalism.

For many, capitalism isn’t about free enterprise, nor is it about the startups and innovation. When they hear the term, millennials think about Wall Street bailouts, corporate greed, political scandals and tax codes riddled with loopholes for the wealthy and connected. Yet this has little to do with what equal-opportunity capitalism actually is: A system providing all Americans with a chance to use their unique skills to create a business with free access to different markets and customers.

Strip away the titles of “capitalism” and “socialism,” and the responses become drastically different. A 2015 Reason-Rupe poll found that college-aged respondents are far more supportive of a “free-market system” (72%) than they are of a “government-managed economy” (49%). In reality, millennials—regardless of party or ideology—have arrived at a surprising consensus: We support free markets, are very much unhappy with the current state of affairs, and are still looking for change.

This is good news, but it should also serve as a warning. Perhaps at no time in history has it been more important to differentiate genuine capitalism from the mutant system that has dominated economic policy over the last decade. Yet Mr. Luntz’s analysis is still absolutely right: Millennials are hostile to the underpinnings of the American economy. We simply shouldn’t confuse that economy with capitalism.

Mr. Koopman is a fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
36  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russian navy exercises off Britain on: October 20, 2016, 02:01:54 PM
37  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Senator Marco Rubio on: October 20, 2016, 12:54:50 PM
Not noble (or "nobel" sic  cheesy )  but naive.

"To ignore this information is the same mistake Republicans make ad nauseam ; that is try to take a  high road only to get buried by the liberals  and lose the war."

38  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism, liberal fascism, progressivism, socialism, crony capitalism, SJW: on: October 20, 2016, 12:53:28 PM
Please post in Race thread on the SCH forum too.
39  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: October 20, 2016, 12:51:27 PM
Serious matters to consider in this , , ,
40  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Philippine's Deterte changes sides, aligns with Chinese and Russians on: October 20, 2016, 12:22:26 PM

So much for the pivot to Asia , , ,

This is HUGE.  Toss in Australia giving up sailing in the South China Sea and the Russian Navy sailing with the Chinese in support , , ,
41  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CFO Journal: Saudi with huge bond offering on: October 20, 2016, 12:20:22 PM
Good morning. As it contemplates an initial public offering of its state-run oil company, Saudi Arabia launched the sale of $17.5 billion of debt Wednesday, people familiar with the situation told the Journal, in what would mark the largest emerging-market bond issue ever. It is the kingdom’s first international bond sale, a bid to support a sweeping effort to keep its economy afloat as oil income dwindles.
The sale is the latest example of a Persian Gulf state turning to international markets to offset declining oil revenues. Other oil exporters from the Gulf region raised $20 billion in total through international bond issues earlier this year. The issue would exceed Argentina’s $16.5 billion debt sale as the biggest from an emerging-market economy. For better or worse, there are $67 billion in orders for the debt, which seems to indicate a certain comfort level at nearly four times oversubscribed. The global plunge in oil prices has cast doubt about investor demand for shares in Saudi Arabian Oil Co., the world’s largest player.

42  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Senator Marco Rubio on Wikileaks on: October 20, 2016, 01:47:32 AM
43  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dead tinfoil journalist proved right? on: October 19, 2016, 06:22:30 PM
Haven't had a chance to give this a proper read, but it seems intriguing:
44  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pravda on the Beach (LA Times) has Trump ahead?!? on: October 19, 2016, 06:18:17 PM
45  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Podesta says it is OK for illegals to vote withd rivers license on: October 19, 2016, 05:14:26 PM
46  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / This pardon will cost you $$$ on: October 19, 2016, 05:13:37 PM
47  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Obama's Tide of War on: October 19, 2016, 12:19:12 PM
An eternal law of global affairs is that weakness invites aggression that can lead to war. The latest validation of this truth is that in the eighth year of the Obama Presidency the tide of war is building on multiple fronts and the U.S. can’t escape the consequences.

Start with the rumors of cyber war between the U.S. and Russia. Vice President Joe Biden said on “Meet the Press” Sunday that the U.S. plans to retaliate against Russia for its hacking into Democratic Party files “at the time of our choosing.” Such a hawkish boast isn’t this Administration’s style, but perhaps it wants to look stronger against Vladimir Putin in this election campaign than it has for eight years.

Russia’s interference with U.S. elections is serious and deserves a response that is large enough to deter future attacks, not merely reply to this one. That could involve offensive cyber operations to damage the hackers’ hardware or ability to operate. Or it could include exposing Russians with foreign bank accounts or assets abroad, including Mr. Putin.

Yet there’s no evidence the U.S. has done anything to deter previous Russian hacks, or even to respond to its harboring of national-security thief Edward Snowden. Russia dismissed the Biden threat and promised to retaliate in turn. After the VP’s boast, the U.S. has to do something or look like it is erasing another red line. But if Mr. Obama does take serious action, Mr. Putin could escalate.

After the U.S. pulled out of cease-fire talks on Syria, Mr. Putin unilaterally withdrew from a plutonium-disposal pact and deployed nuclear-capable missiles to the Soviet territory of Kalingrad on the Baltic Sea. His next move could be on the Baltics, perhaps as Robert Kaplan argued on Monday in these pages on the pretext of protecting ethnic Russians. What does Mr. Obama do then?

Speaking of Syria, Russians are threatening to retaliate against U.S. forces if they bomb the marauding forces of Russian ally Bashar Assad. Mr. Putin is also deploying anti-air defenses in Syria that could shoot down U.S. planes or drones. The point is to suggest that an attempt to establish a no-fly zone to protect Aleppo or refugees runs the risk of war with Russia. The U.S. response has been to again deploy . . . John Kerry.

Then there’s Yemen, where the U.S. Navy is being drawn into the conflict by Houthi forces backed by Iran. The USS Mason, a destroyer, took defensive actions again Saturday after it detected more missiles fired from the Yemen coast. The Pentagon is investigating what would be the third attack in 10 days.

The Houthis have little incentive to stop firing because their risk-reward ratio is so low. They know Mr. Obama has no appetite to get further involved, while one hit on a U.S. ship could kill dozens of sailors and cause the U.S. to drop its support for their Saudi enemies.

Next up is Iraq’s looming battle at long last to retake Mosul from Islamic State. The U.S. has some 5,000 troops engaged in that effort, including special forces in forward deployments to help Iraqi or Kurdish peshmerga units. Mr. Obama declared the Iraq war was over when he pulled out all American troops in 2011, but the U.S. departure created a political vacuum that Islamic State filled.

By the way, notice that U.S. troops are back on the ground in Iraq without a U.S.-Iraq status-of-forces agreement. The lack of such an agreement was the excuse Mr. Obama used in 2014 after ISIS marched into Mosul to justify his 2011 unilateral troop withdrawal. Another case of retreat inviting aggression.

Iraq will retake Mosul, albeit at a fearsome cost to its soldiers and the one million or so civilians still trapped there. But it isn’t clear that Iraq’s Shiite-led government can maintain order afterwards without allowing for more local Sunni control. Iran-backed Shiite militias will also be fighting in Mosul, as part of Iran’s plan for a Shiite arc of power from Tehran through Syria to the Mediterranean.

As important as ousting ISIS from Mosul is, the fight to retake the city portends a new phase of conflict that will continue. The next American President would be wise to avoid Mr. Obama’s mistake and negotiate a permanent base for U.S. forces in Iraq to deter the return of ISIS.

And don’t forget the war in Afghanistan, which Mr. Obama also promised would end on his watch but now may require U.S. military help for many more years. The Washington Post reported this week that Afghan forces in Helmand Province require U.S. air power and military advisers to block the Taliban from regaining control. The U.S. strategy is “just enough to lose slowly,” New American Foundation Senior Fellow Douglas Ollivant told the Post.

All of this means the next President will face some difficult choices, especially how to respond to Mr. Putin’s aggression. Negotiating to ratify his gains might buy some short-term peace but at the cost of emboldening him further. Standing up to him will mean more tension and perhaps conflict. Thus rises Mr. Obama’s tide of war.
48  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / FBI says Hillary did not care at all about security of classified communications on: October 19, 2016, 11:26:15 AM
49  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Restoring America's Economic Mobility on: October 19, 2016, 11:22:35 AM
Don't agree with the articulation here 100%, but overall the analysis is worth considering:
50  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: China looks to bust a move on: October 19, 2016, 06:58:38 AM

The fate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is growing less certain by the day, and China, whose rise the U.S.-led trade deal is meant to contain, is seizing the opportunity to promote its own alternatives. Its failure is by no means guaranteed, but if the deal does falter — as current anti-trade sentiment in the United States suggests it might — Beijing will be ready to offer up two replacements. The replacements, as it happens, would be helmed by none other than China, which hopes to create a model for future economic cooperation in the Asia-Pacific.

China's Foreign Ministry announced Oct. 6 that it had completed a feasibility study for the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), a multilateral trade deal that Beijing plans to present at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit Nov. 19-20. Then on Oct. 11, representatives from 16 countries convened in Tianjin for the 15th round of talks on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) free trade proposal, which will conclude on Oct. 22.
A Risk of Isolation

So far, few details of either deal have emerged, but some hints paint the outlines of what both might end up looking like. As is true of most major trade agreements, negotiations over the RCEP have been shrouded in secrecy. But the accord, which builds on the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations and its existing free trade agreements with China, India, Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, is similar in format to the TPP.

Like its U.S.-backed analog, the RCEP has been marketed as a comprehensive framework for liberalizing and harmonizing certain standards among its participants. Those include not only trade regulations for goods and services, but also politically sensitive measures such as intellectual property rights protections and a dispute settlement mechanism. (In fact, a document leaked last year showed that Japanese negotiators asked for intellectual property rights protections akin to those of the TPP.) Nevertheless, anecdotal evidence suggests that the RCEP, if enacted, would focus largely on liberalizing trade in goods, indicating it could be closer in practice to existing East Asian free trade agreements than to the TPP, which calls for a more thorough overhaul of regulations in industries of interest to developed economies like the United States, including pharmaceuticals and information technology.

The FTAAP, by comparison, may look more similar to the TPP — at least at first glance. Unlike the RCEP, which the United States is not party to, the FTAAP would encompass all 12 of the TPP's participants, plus Russia and Taiwan and every RCEP state except India. The United States even reportedly supported the FTAAP in its early stages before shifting its attention to its own version of the deal that cut China out of the picture.

But for the most part, membership is where the FTAAP and TPP's similarities end. The latter, for instance, includes stringent requirements on a host of issues — intellectual property rights and public divestment from state-owned enterprises, to name a few — that China would have a hard time meeting even if it opted to sign onto the deal. (Chinese President Xi Jinping's recent statements on the importance of the Communist Party's maintaining control over state-owned enterprises highlight these hurdles.) Perhaps more important, though, the TPP — regardless of its original intent — has developed an overtly strategic dimension in the past two years. It means to lay the foundation of future competition in the Asia-Pacific, a set of rules that China, unsurprisingly, is unlikely to accept. From the United States and Japan's point of view, the deal is a means to try to force China to get onboard with their interests or risk isolation.
A Clear Choice

For China, the FTAAP is a far better option. Compared with the TPP, the agreement — which is more theoretical construct than actual pact — would have fewer conditions for membership and encourage freer trade in goods and services throughout the region. It would not impose substantial protections for the technology industry or other sectors like it, an approach that the United States has staunchly opposed. After all, promoting free trade while failing to protect intellectual property would, in Washington's opinion, serve China's interests far more than those of the United States. Though the United States would still stand to gain in absolute income from the FTAAP, according to the Peterson Institute of International Economics, its relative gains would be dwarfed by China's gains. The same cannot be said of the TPP, which — though less profitable on the whole for the United States than the FTAAP could be — would benefit the United States far more than it would China.

In many ways, the FTAAP is a more desirable deal for Beijing than the RCEP is, too. In addition to the United States, it includes four countries in the Western Hemisphere — Mexico, Canada, Chile and Peru — where China wields little influence. Russia would also be a member, giving China a partner that it could count on to push back against Washington's initiatives in the Asia-Pacific. Of course, China is unlikely to abandon the RCEP entirely, especially if the United States begins to make headway in ratifying the TPP, which could prove complementary to the RCEP in the long run. But should the TPP fail, Beijing will undoubtedly renew its efforts to see the FTAAP through.

The TPP's members, which signed the deal in February, have a two-year window to ratify it. Within that time, the national legislatures of at least six signatories that collectively account for 85 percent of the bloc's total gross domestic product must approve the agreement. Because the United States represents more than 60 percent of the trade area's GDP, U.S. ratification is necessary to keep the deal alive. But with popular resistance to trade rising and the two major U.S. presidential candidates openly opposing the TPP, the chances of the deal being shuttered before it even gets off the ground cannot be ignored.
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