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1  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Biden on: July 06, 2015, 10:52:43 PM
http://www.dickmorris.com/will-biden-be-obamas-candidate-dick-morris-tv-lunch-alert/?utm_source=dmreports&utm_medium=dmreports&utm_campaign=dmreports
2  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Sen. Baldwin: First Amendment does not apply to individuals on: July 06, 2015, 10:41:07 PM
http://mediatrackers.org/wisconsin/2015/07/02/sen-baldwin-1st-amendment-doesnt-apply-individuals
3  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Christian Bakers fined $135K and ordered to shut up. on: July 06, 2015, 10:38:40 PM
http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2015/July/Christian-Bakers-Fined-Gagged-in-Gay-Cake-Case/?cpid=:ID:-2638-:DT:-2015-07-05-20:10:27-:US:-AB1-:CN:-CP1-:PO:-NC1-:ME:-SU1-:SO:-FB1-:SP:-NW1-:PF:-IM1-
4  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / It depends on what the definition of "deported" is , , , on: July 06, 2015, 10:54:14 AM
http://www.capoliticalreview.com/capoliticalnewsandviews/barack-obama-is-a-liar-he-deports-900000-illegal-aliens-they-never-leave-the-u-s/
5  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hillary's servers subject to federal seizure on: July 05, 2015, 02:15:35 PM
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jul/1/state-dept-admits-dozens-hillary-clintons-emails-c/
6  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / True Detectve Season 2 and the CA High Speed Line on: July 05, 2015, 12:07:19 AM
 
 

 
 

 
 



 
 

 

July 02, 2015
 



 

 
    Morning Jolt
   

... with Jim Geraghty
   

 
   


    It Takes a True Detective to Understand California’s High-Speed Rail Plans

Enjoy the Independence Day weekend, folks! NR offices are closed Friday, so this is the last Jolt of the week.
 
The best part of the new season of True Detective on HBO is that one of the major plot points is sleazy, mob-connected businessmen talking about federal funding for California’s high-speed rail project as a giant way to line their pockets.
Vince Vaughn plays a ruthless, ambitious mob-connected businessman who yearns to be a legitimate, respected mogul. In the opening episode, he’s at a giant party-unveiling for the project. One of his partners, a corrupt official in the fictional city of Vinci, California, just outside Los Angeles, hasn’t arrived on the meeting -- on account of his recent murder -- and Vaughn’s character sums up the pending deal for the guests:
Our city manager Ben Caspere was going to be here to explain this, but I suppose I can approximate the information.
So everybody knows Proposition 1 has passed.
And next year construction will start on a $68 billion high-speed rail up Central California.
An undeveloped valley adjacent to the rail and the coastal highway has been purchased by several holding companies anticipating a commercial development that will be in line for hundreds of millions in federal grants.
And the feds have guaranteed cost overages.
 
Have we seen ever seen a movie or television show bad guy whose plans involve a high-speed rail project before? Can you believe that HBO is portraying Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature legacy project in such a negative light?
Later, in a meeting with a more menacing, Eastern European gangster, Vaughn’s character declares,
[The city of] Vinci tapped fed money from the subway line, and the same thing will happen on a much, much bigger scale with the rail corridor. Owned by our holding companies.
In real life, the first segment of the initial rail line, running from Madera to Bakersfield, will cost $6 billion, consisting of $3.3 billion in federal funding and $2.6 billion in Proposition 1A bond proceeds. The California High-Speed Rail Authority declares, “Development of the [initial operating system] will be funded through government sources, while private-sector capital will fund future construction segments once the system is generating positive cash flow.”
In June 2013, the California High-Speed Rail Authority awarded the first contract -- nearly $1 billion. Construction began in the middle of last month.
Some California Republicans and a few Democrats are attempting to stop the project from going any further, arguing it has changed completely from its initial proposal and there’s no reason to expect anything other than more delays, cost overruns, and legal fights:
State Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, has introduced bipartisan legislation to allow California voters to reconsider the state's controversial high-speed rail project.
Vidak's measure would allow voters to weigh in on whether they want to continue funding the $68 billion project. It would also forbid any more spending on the project until a vote on June 6, 2016. The bill would redirect the unspent money toward road repair and construction.
Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, is co-sponsoring the bill.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority's pursuit of eminent domain land takings on the proposed alignment through Kings County has generated strong opposition and lawsuits from local residents and county government.
The authority is trying to drum up interest from the private sector for the project, but has so far failed to get private investment to help make up a financing shortfall of tens of billions of dollars.
And Republicans in Congress are making an attempt as well:
Republican Rep. Jeff Denham, of Turlock, has tried twice before to defund high-speed rail with an amendment, but he's not giving up.
On Tuesday night Denham spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives and declared, “I'm here one more year offering an amendment to end this incredible waste of taxpayer dollars.”
Denham's amendment forces the California High Speed Rail Authority to prove it can independently match nearly $3 billion in federal funds -- or potentially lose that money.
On Wednesday Denham said he doesn't believe that California can afford it.
“We are $87 billion short,' Denham said. “The governor's not proposing $87 billion. The president's not proposing $87 billion. So, we're really leaving the state of California at risk.”
Records show the project has spent nearly $900 million so far.
The city in the show, Vinci, appears to be inspired by real-life Vernon, California:
Only 92 people live in Vernon. There are no parks, schools, libraries, health clinics or grocery stores. The only four restaurants close by 4 p.m. By sundown the 44,000 workers who commute here have all fled the stench.
Vernon’s leaders like it that way. California’s tiniest city, if you want to call it a city, is one of the nation’s most lasting and efficient political machines, run almost entirely for the benefit of a handful of rarely opposed, extremely well-paid politicians. Vernon should have been subsumed long ago into the surrounding city of L.A, but its independence is a strange and stark example of how a democracy can become a dynasty.
The bespectacled Leonis C. Malburg, 77, whose grandfather founded Vernon in 1905, has been mayor for 33 years. Bruce Malkenhorst, 71, was for 32 years the city administrator as well as clerk, finance director, treasurer, redevelopment agency secretary and chief executive of the utility Vernon Light & Power. The city was reportedly paying him $600,000 a year, more than twice what L.A.’s mayor earns, until he resigned all posts unexpectedly and without public announcement in 2005. By most accounts Malkenhorst still pulls the strings. His appointed successor is his 42-year-old son, Bruce Jr.
Theirs is a benign dictatorship. Who would run against them? Outsiders hoping to move into town are denied housing permits and Vernon’s 32 houses and apartments are owned by the city and leased to its employees for as little as $150 per month.
What’s more, there were no contested elections in Vernon from 1984 to 2006.
On the show, the sleazy mayor of Vinci has a picture of himself with President George W. Bush in the background. In real life Vernon, 69 percent of the city’s voters are registered Democrat, 28 percent Republican. And you probably saw this coming:
A slick two-minute advertisement promoting Vernon as a bastion of blue-collar employment will be shown in theaters in working-class neighborhoods with the opening of a new movie, “Battle: Los Angeles.” The commercial follows a $65,000-a-week television advertising campaign that began last week. The ads were produced by Chris Lehane, a notoriously tough operative who worked as a senior adviser to Al Gore, and who is at the center of this campaign.
 
The Important Policy Point Lost in the Trump Controversy
The boss writes a column in Politico with some important points about immigration:
Trump’s comments made it sound as though Mexico is sending us moral defectives. That’s not the larger problem (although gangs certainly exploit the border and there are criminals in any population). Immigrants are willing to work. Immigrant men aged 18-65 are in the labor force at a higher rate than native men.
It’s just that a lack of education is an anchor around even the hardest-working person in modern America. This is illustrated in an exhaustive report based on government data, by Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors a lower level of immigration. I rely on it for the figures that follow.
Immigrants here from Mexico -- which has sent more immigrants than any other country for decades -- have the lowest levels of education. Nearly 60 percent of them haven’t graduated from high school. Only about 10 percent have some college and nearly 6 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
By way of comparison, the situation of immigrants from Korea, for instance, is almost exactly reversed. More than 50 percent of them have a bachelor’s degree or higher, and less than 4 percent failed to earn a high school diploma.
This puts Mexican immigrants at an inherent disadvantage, and it shows. Nearly 35 percent of immigrants from Mexico and their U.S.-born children are in poverty; nearly 68 percent are in or near poverty. This is the highest level for immigrants from any country (the Philippines is the lowest, with 5.5 percent in poverty).
But it’s so much easier to debate whether Trump is a racist or not, or whether we like Trump or not.
 
Meet the Guy Running Greece Into the Ground
Man, Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is a bad guy:
Depositors were persuaded to keep their money in the banks by daily assurance for five months that a deal was imminent. In fact, for most of that time, no negotiations of any substance took place at all. Mr. Tsipras strung out the process with endless discussions over what the creditors should be called, where the talks should be held and who should talk to whom.
At the last minute, he submitted proposals that never stood any chance of being accepted, but which have allowed him to claim it was the creditors who were being unreasonable. Now with the bailout expired, the banks closed and the country in default, he has called a referendum asking voters to reject a deal that is no longer on the table.
Or . . . it’s possible he’s crazy:
Mr. Tsipras continues to insist that a “No” vote won’t lead to Grexit but will strengthen his hand with the creditors.
(“Grexit” is the cutesy term for Greece leaving the Euro.)
No policy maker anywhere else in the eurozone thinks this is true. The relationship between Mr. Tsipras and other eurozone leaders has broken down so irretrievably that it is hard to see how they can possibly agree on new loans for Greece while he remains in power. Instead, a “No” vote would force the European Central Bank swiftly to conclude that the Greek banking system, which relies heavily on government guarantees, was insolvent, perhaps as soon as Monday. The banks would be forced to close and couldn’t be reopened until they had been recapitalized, either via a bailing in of depositors, or using a newly-printed currency.
Or both!
As bad as Tsipiras is, he reflects the thinking of a considerable number of Greeks. Don’t feel that bad for the Greek people; they made this bed.
Under the old rules, an unmarried daughter used to receive her dead father's pension…
In 2013, Greece's retirement age was raised by two years to 67. According to government data, however, the average Greek man retires at 63 and the average woman at 59.
And some police and military workers have retired as early as age 40 or 45, Tsoukas said.
There are also unique benefits for some workers. Female employees of state-owned banks with children under 18 could retire as early 43, he said.
The Greek state doesn’t have the money to finance the early retirements of that many people and pay unemployment benefits to 25 percent of the population.
ADDENDA: I had missed this earlier; a member of the richest one percent -- Beyonce -- pouring a $20,000 bottle of champagne into her hot tub.
It’s her money; she can do what she likes with it. But the next time some snotty liberal denounces American culture for empty materialism and “conspicuous consumption,” I hope they remember some of the president’s friends. You can hear it now, right? “Well, I meant that rich people ostentatiously showcasing their wealth is a problem when people that I don’t like do it.”
I’m scheduled to appear on MediaBuzz with Howard Kurtz this Sunday.
I’m told there’s been a nice little pop in sales for The Weed Agency since summer began. To everyone who’s been buying, thank you very much.
   

7  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Guro Dan Inosanto w Anderson Silva on: July 04, 2015, 10:35:10 PM
https://www.facebook.com/spideranderson/videos/1003204106366828/
8  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / That's curious , , , on: July 04, 2015, 02:07:11 PM
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/07/03/mitt-romney-hosting-two-rival-gop-presidential-contenders-for-holiday-sleepover/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Firewire&utm_campaign=Firewire%20-%20HORIZON%207-4-15%20FINAL
9  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Middle Estern Journalists begin to speak out. on: July 04, 2015, 01:39:00 PM
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/07/02/middle-eastern-journalists-push-muslims-to-acknowledge-that-terrorism-is-connected-to-islam/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Firewire&utm_campaign=Firewire%20-%20HORIZON%207-2-15%20FINAL
10  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Krauthammer on Obama's deal with Iran on: July 04, 2015, 01:25:59 PM
third post:

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/420707/iran-nuclear-deal-obama-sanctions-inspections-capitulates?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Jolt&utm_campaign=Best%20of%207%2F4
11  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / EMP issues on: July 03, 2015, 04:46:32 PM
second post


http://www.foxnews.com/.../emps-how-to-detect-blast-that.../

http://pamelageller.com/.../iran-endorses-nuclear-emp.../

http://spectrum.ieee.org/.../electromagnetic-warfare-is-here
12  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CNN running dog busted fronting for Hillary on: July 03, 2015, 03:13:48 PM
http://www.breitbart.com/big-journalism/2015/07/01/cnns-paul-begala-asked-state-dept-for-talking-points-on-hillary-clintons-performance-as-sec-of-state/
13  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Why July 4th matters on: July 03, 2015, 03:04:08 PM
http://www.stephenwbrowne.com/2008/06/happy-4th-of-july/
14  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ten ways Iran has guttted deal on: July 03, 2015, 11:49:11 AM
http://www.clarionproject.org/analysis/10-ways-iran-has-gutted-nuclear-deal#
15  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cost of Hep C drug could be budget buster. on: July 03, 2015, 11:41:28 AM
This source frequently hyperventilates, so read with care; however the larger point remains

http://www.capoliticalreview.com/capoliticalnewsandviews/hepatitis-drug-could-cost-california-taxpayers-5-billion-a-year-not-a-typo/
16  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / $135K fine for failure to bake a gay cake on: July 03, 2015, 11:16:24 AM
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/07/02/owners-of-oregon-bakery-that-refused-to-bake-wedding-cake-for-same-sex-couple-fined-135000/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Firewire_Morning_Test&utm_campaign=Firewire%20Morning%20Edition%20Recurring%20v2%202015-07-03 
17  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Why July 4th matters on: July 03, 2015, 11:12:59 AM
"But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments, of their duties and obligations. ... This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people was the real American Revolution." —John Adams (1813)
18  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gov. Jeb Bush on: July 03, 2015, 11:03:06 AM
BTW,  it should be "You're a Bush fan?"  cheesy
19  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / John Adams: The meaning of the American Revolution 1813 on: July 03, 2015, 11:02:01 AM
"But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments, of their duties and obligations. ... This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people was the real American Revolution." —John Adams (1813)
20  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Physics & Mathematics on: July 03, 2015, 11:01:21 AM
A bit over my head, but provokes a sense of wonder nonetheless.
21  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Joe Biden leaning towards running on: July 03, 2015, 12:10:43 AM
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jul/1/joe-biden-likely-to-join-2016-white-house-race-nex/
22  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Wilson, 1791 on Judges on: July 02, 2015, 10:16:27 PM
"Every prudent and cautious judge ... will remember, that his duty and his business is, not to make the law, but to interpret and apply it." —James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1791
23  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our First Lady on: July 02, 2015, 10:11:37 PM
http://www.dineshdsouza.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/MichelleObamaThesis.pdf
24  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Donald Trump on: July 02, 2015, 09:53:31 PM
It would appear he is going to stir things up plenty , , ,
25  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gov. Jeb Bush on: July 02, 2015, 09:52:31 PM
One does not have to be a fan to find this interesting IMHO.
26  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: California on: July 02, 2015, 04:16:59 PM
It Takes a True Detective to Understand California’s High-Speed Rail Plans

Enjoy the Independence Day weekend, folks! NR offices are closed Friday, so this is the last Jolt of the week.
 
The best part of the new season of True Detective on HBO is that one of the major plot points is sleazy, mob-connected businessmen talking about federal funding for California’s high-speed rail project as a giant way to line their pockets.

Vince Vaughn plays a ruthless, ambitious mob-connected businessman who yearns to be a legitimate, respected mogul. In the opening episode, he’s at a giant party-unveiling for the project. One of his partners, a corrupt official in the fictional city of Vinci, California, just outside Los Angeles, hasn’t arrived on the meeting -- on account of his recent murder -- and Vaughn’s character sums up the pending deal for the guests:

Our city manager Ben Caspere was going to be here to explain this, but I suppose I can approximate the information.

So everybody knows Proposition 1 has passed.

And next year construction will start on a $68 billion high-speed rail up Central California.

An undeveloped valley adjacent to the rail and the coastal highway has been purchased by several holding companies anticipating a commercial development that will be in line for hundreds of millions in federal grants.

And the feds have guaranteed cost overages.

 
Have we seen ever seen a movie or television show bad guy whose plans involve a high-speed rail project before? Can you believe that HBO is portraying Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature legacy project in such a negative light?

Later, in a meeting with a more menacing, Eastern European gangster, Vaughn’s character declares,

[The city of] Vinci tapped fed money from the subway line, and the same thing will happen on a much, much bigger scale with the rail corridor. Owned by our holding companies.

In real life, the first segment of the initial rail line, running from Madera to Bakersfield, will cost $6 billion, consisting of $3.3 billion in federal funding and $2.6 billion in Proposition 1A bond proceeds. The California High-Speed Rail Authority declares, “Development of the [initial operating system] will be funded through government sources, while private-sector capital will fund future construction segments once the system is generating positive cash flow.”

In June 2013, the California High-Speed Rail Authority awarded the first contract -- nearly $1 billion. Construction began in the middle of last month.
Some California Republicans and a few Democrats are attempting to stop the project from going any further, arguing it has changed completely from its initial proposal and there’s no reason to expect anything other than more delays, cost overruns, and legal fights:

State Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, has introduced bipartisan legislation to allow California voters to reconsider the state's controversial high-speed rail project.
Vidak's measure would allow voters to weigh in on whether they want to continue funding the $68 billion project. It would also forbid any more spending on the project until a vote on June 6, 2016. The bill would redirect the unspent money toward road repair and construction.

Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, is co-sponsoring the bill.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority's pursuit of eminent domain land takings on the proposed alignment through Kings County has generated strong opposition and lawsuits from local residents and county government.

The authority is trying to drum up interest from the private sector for the project, but has so far failed to get private investment to help make up a financing shortfall of tens of billions of dollars.

And Republicans in Congress are making an attempt as well:

Republican Rep. Jeff Denham, of Turlock, has tried twice before to defund high-speed rail with an amendment, but he's not giving up.
On Tuesday night Denham spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives and declared, “I'm here one more year offering an amendment to end this incredible waste of taxpayer dollars.”

Denham's amendment forces the California High Speed Rail Authority to prove it can independently match nearly $3 billion in federal funds -- or potentially lose that money.
On Wednesday Denham said he doesn't believe that California can afford it.

“We are $87 billion short,' Denham said. “The governor's not proposing $87 billion. The president's not proposing $87 billion. So, we're really leaving the state of California at risk.”

Records show the project has spent nearly $900 million so far.

The city in the show, Vinci, appears to be inspired by real-life Vernon, California:

Only 92 people live in Vernon. There are no parks, schools, libraries, health clinics or grocery stores. The only four restaurants close by 4 p.m. By sundown the 44,000 workers who commute here have all fled the stench.

Vernon’s leaders like it that way. California’s tiniest city, if you want to call it a city, is one of the nation’s most lasting and efficient political machines, run almost entirely for the benefit of a handful of rarely opposed, extremely well-paid politicians. Vernon should have been subsumed long ago into the surrounding city of L.A, but its independence is a strange and stark example of how a democracy can become a dynasty.

The bespectacled Leonis C. Malburg, 77, whose grandfather founded Vernon in 1905, has been mayor for 33 years. Bruce Malkenhorst, 71, was for 32 years the city administrator as well as clerk, finance director, treasurer, redevelopment agency secretary and chief executive of the utility Vernon Light & Power. The city was reportedly paying him $600,000 a year, more than twice what L.A.’s mayor earns, until he resigned all posts unexpectedly and without public announcement in 2005. By most accounts Malkenhorst still pulls the strings. His appointed successor is his 42-year-old son, Bruce Jr.

Theirs is a benign dictatorship. Who would run against them? Outsiders hoping to move into town are denied housing permits and Vernon’s 32 houses and apartments are owned by the city and leased to its employees for as little as $150 per month.

What’s more, there were no contested elections in Vernon from 1984 to 2006.

On the show, the sleazy mayor of Vinci has a picture of himself with President George W. Bush in the background. In real life Vernon, 69 percent of the city’s voters are registered Democrat, 28 percent Republican. And you probably saw this coming:

A slick two-minute advertisement promoting Vernon as a bastion of blue-collar employment will be shown in theaters in working-class neighborhoods with the opening of a new movie, “Battle: Los Angeles.” The commercial follows a $65,000-a-week television advertising campaign that began last week. The ads were produced by Chris Lehane, a notoriously tough operative who worked as a senior adviser to Al Gore, and who is at the center of this campaign.
 
27  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 85% of Greeks believe Jews have too much power on: July 02, 2015, 04:06:15 PM
http://freebeacon.com/issues/poll-85-of-greeks-believe-the-jews-have-too-much-power-over-global-finance/
28  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obama blocking heavy arms to the Kurds on: July 02, 2015, 12:13:12 PM


http://pamelageller.com/2015/07/obama-blocks-plan-by-allies-to-fight-isis-islamic-state.html/
29  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Who could have seen this coming? Cuba demands return of Guantanamo on: July 01, 2015, 08:54:33 PM
second post

http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2015/07/01/cuba-demands-return-of-guantanamo-end-of-us-tv-broadcasts-in-return-for-diplomacy/
30  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / DiBlasio tries to bullly Trump on: July 01, 2015, 08:40:26 PM
http://www.newsday.com/news/new-york/donald-trump-s-business-relationships-with-new-york-city-under-review-administration-says-1.10599748
31  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Taliban vs. ISIS on: July 01, 2015, 08:33:29 PM
Summary

After nearly 15 years of war, the Taliban are far from exhausted in their struggle for power. Against old enemies and new threats, the Taliban continue to maneuver for a better position in Afghanistan's conflict. While the Taliban are not capable of securing an outright victory against the Afghan government, the group is also unlikely to be sidelined, either by coalition efforts or by the entrance of a new rival for territory and influence: the Islamic State.
Analysis

Since the start of their spring offensive earlier this year, the Taliban have focused on the country's northern provinces, a marked departure from their previous emphasis on their traditional strongholds in the south and east. These efforts have been fruitful: After seizing two key districts adjacent to the vital northern crossroads city of Kunduz over the past month, the Taliban are now positioned less than 7 kilometers (approximately 4 miles) from the city itself.

With Afghan military reinforcements from Kabul heading toward Kunduz, it is possible the Taliban may yet be pushed back. Still, the group's gains over the spring and summer thus far have preserved its role as the primary opposition faction in the Afghan conflict, even as concerns about the Islamic State's emergence in the region are growing.
The Islamic State's Afghan Faction

In the months following the January debut of the Islamic State's Khorasan wing, which operates in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the organization has steadily increased its presence in Afghanistan. While the Islamic State still has only small groups of fighters spread across eastern Afghanistan, it has been at least partially successful in attracting new recruits, particularly from the ranks of disillusioned former Taliban. The Islamic State's presence is cause for alarm for the Taliban. They see the group as a potentially powerful rival that espouses a different ideology and vision for Afghanistan.

For the most part, clashes between the Islamic State and the Taliban have been relatively rare. The Islamic State has tried to keep a low profile while it seeks out new recruits, and the Taliban have been concentrating on launching attacks against the U.S.-backed Afghan government. But in the past few weeks the Taliban have begun cracking down on the Islamic State. For example, a large clash on May 24 between the two groups in Farah province left 13 Islamic State fighters and nine Taliban dead, and the Islamic State has vowed to seek revenge for the attack. With the Islamic State looking to cement its presence in the region and the Taliban moving to counter the group, such clashes are likely to continue in the months ahead.

Though the emergence of the Islamic State in Afghanistan has alarmed the Taliban, it has also created an opportunity to raise the Taliban's status. In response to neighboring and foreign powers' reaction against the Islamic State, the Taliban have used their position — as a group that all players are willing to negotiate with — to establish their role as the primary bulwark against the Islamic State.

Perhaps more important, the Taliban have been able to leverage the Islamic State's rise to gain greater support from Iran. According to a June 11 report by the Wall Street Journal, Iran has increased its support for the Taliban. The U.S. military has even accused Tehran of providing aid to the Taliban in their war against the United States in Afghanistan. Iran's latest uptick in support, which included the transfer of mortars, small arms and cash, appears to correspond with the Islamic State's growing presence in the country and its success in poaching disillusioned Taliban fighters, in part by offering better salaries.

It is possible that as part of their effort to counter the Islamic State's climb, the Taliban provided Pakistan (and by extension, the United States) with the coordinates of Mullah Abdul Rauf, a key Islamic State leader in Afghanistan. Abdul Rauf, formerly a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, reportedly broke with the Taliban to join the Islamic State as its deputy governor in Khorasan. A few weeks later, he was killed in a drone strike, though the Afghan National Directorate of Security claims he died during an operation by the Afghan army's special operations forces. Either way, the possibility that the Taliban funneled his whereabouts to the authorities conducting the operation cannot be ignored.

A Manageable Threat

The Afghan Taliban are aware that there is only so much support they can get from neighboring and foreign powers involved in the country's conflict. They will likely continue to try to leverage the Islamic State threat to enhance their strategic position among these powers. As the Afghan government becomes increasingly alarmed about Islamic State aggression in the country as well, the Taliban could attempt to improve their negotiating position by portraying themselves as the more reasonable opposition force.

The Islamic State poses a substantial threat to the Taliban as they continue to wage war against Kabul. Of course, the Taliban have seen much darker days over the course of the 15-year conflict and, at least in the short to medium term, they will likely manage the Islamic State threat successfully. Ideological and tribal differences will continue to impede the Islamic State's expansion in Afghanistan, and the Taliban will use international attitudes against the group to boost their own military capabilities and bargaining power.
32  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Will Turkey invade Syria? on: July 01, 2015, 08:31:26 PM
Summary

Numerous but unverified reports in the Turkish media say the Turkish military will soon intervene in Syria. Notably, high-level officials including Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu have not denied the claims, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken to Twitter to emphasize that the Turks will not allow terror organizations to take advantage of the chaotic environment along Turkey's borders. However, the operation discussed in the media, especially the possibility of a ground incursion, is unlikely. Still, it is worth highlighting the risks that will constrain Turkey in the off chance it decides to pursue such a course of action.
Analysis

Different scenarios have emerged amid the rumors of a Turkish invasion into Syria. Some reports suggest the military will deploy some 18,000 troops with substantial air support to secure a 30-kilometer (18-mile) deep territory across the border in Syria running from the city of Jarabulus westward to the areas occupied by the rebels around the city of Azaz. The operation would cover an area currently under Islamic State control, and it would attempt to secure a buffer zone for Turkey that would deeply hurt the extremist group, provide assistance to Syrian rebels and facilitate the resettlement of Syrian refugees. It would also drastically escalate Turkey's role in the conflict, making such a scenario highly unlikely.

Other far more plausible scenarios for Turkish involvement have also emerged, including an operation that would provide increased support for the Free Syrian Army and artillery and airstrikes, but that would avoid the more sensitive prospect of introducing ground forces. It is almost certain that the Turks will ramp up their border control efforts as well, hurting the Islamic State's core supply lines through Turkey. It will be important to watch for raids and crackdowns on Islamic State-affiliated smuggling rings in the border towns.

The Politics of War

Domestic political considerations could be motivating talk of invading Syria, especially in the case of more risky options. Talk of a significant unilateral military operation against the Islamic State comes directly after an indecisive election in Turkey. The ruling Justice and Development Party could be trying to mobilize a voter reaction, particularly among the Nationalist Movement Party, as it looks to either build a coalition government or stage early elections. 

On top of domestic political motivations, the foreign implications of an operation in Syria are clear. Dealing a blow to the Islamic State would go a long way in repairing Turkey's relationship with the United States and NATO, which have accused Turkey of being complacent against the extremist group. That Turkey would largely avoid territory controlled by the Kurdish People's Protection Units will further mend the relationship. And targeting the Islamic State's flank, especially in the Jarabulus-Azaz zone, would greatly benefit the rebel forces in Aleppo province, enabling them to divert forces away from fighting the Islamic State to secure Aleppo city.

Despite the reasoning supporting potential operations, it is clear that any Turkish military campaign in Syria carries tremendous and varied risks. For instance, an operation to secure a buffer zone running from Jarabulus to Azaz in Syria would constitute nothing less than a major assault on the Islamic State. This specific border area is of paramount importance to the Islamic State, since it is its last significant link to foreign recruits and supplies. Thus, the extremist group could be expected to fight intensively against a Turkish intervention. The Turkish military would need to be prepared to sustain heavy casualties in difficult fighting against an enemy proficient in the use of guerilla strikes and suicide attacks.

Even more important, it is almost certain that the Islamic State would plan mass casualty terrorist attacks inside Turkey itself. The Turkish government probably has not cracked down on the Islamic State up to this point because it wants to avoid such attacks. The Islamic State has also, over time, developed an underground presence in Turkey, facilitating its lines of supplies and men into Syria. Given Turkey's delicate political and economic situation, numerous large-scale terrorist attacks in Turkish cities could have a significant destabilizing effect.
Wider Risks

Blowback from the Islamic State is not the only risk of military intervention. It is unclear how the Syrian government would react to an operation, despite the fact that it has no control over the targeted area. Already angry at Turkey's support for Syrian rebels fighting against its forces in the north, Damascus could militarily engage the Turkish forces crossing the border through ballistic missile strikes or air raids. While these methods probably would not hurt or even disrupt the Turkish operation, they would raise the stakes in an already dangerous conflict and could draw Turkey and potentially its allies deeper into the Syrian civil war.

Iran and Russia, both of which still strongly back the Syrian government, would also be unhappy with direct Turkish involvement in the conflict. Turkey maintains substantial economic links with Iran and Russia, and these countries could punish Turkey economically if it chooses to intervene in Syria. Addressing the reports of an impending Turkish military operation, Iranian Ambassador to Turkey Ali Reza Bikdeli even said that any such move by Turkey would destroy Ankara's ability to influence a peaceful settlement in Syria.

Some extreme rebel groups fighting the Islamic State, such as Jabhat al-Nusra, pose yet another risk to Turkey. While rebel groups such as those within the Free Syrian Army, the Shamiya Front and even allies of Jabhat al-Nusra within the Islamic Front may welcome a Turkish military operation against the Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra's reaction remains unpredictable and tenuous. It is entirely possible that Turkish soldiers may find themselves fighting against more than one powerful Islamist group in Syria.
Intervention Is Still a Remote Possibility

Furthermore, reports from Turkey demonstrate that the Turkish military is still hesitant about an operation in Syria, despite the political will to move forward. The Turkish military is fully capable of completing the mission, but it is understandable that commanders would not be keen on commencing such an important operation without a clear mandate, especially given the uncertain political climate following the indecisive elections. Any mandate at this point could potentially be revoked with the new government. Absent strong Turkish military motivation, the mission is likely to suffer from a lack of coordination and purpose.

It is also worth mentioning that for all these risks, the fear that the Kurds will be targeted is not realistic. Turkey has made it vehemently clear that it will not tolerate the establishment of an independent Kurdish state in Syria, and so there is naturally considerable tension with the Kurdish People's Protection Units. However, the operation, as presently discussed in Turkish media, would largely ignore the Kurds. It would take place not only in an area devoid of Kurdish forces, but also in an area that the already overstretched Kurds have no real ability to occupy, regardless of Turkish military intervention. Talk of the way the operation would prevent the future linking of the Afrin and Kobani cantons misses the geographic and capability constraints on the Kurdish People's Protection Units.

A Turkish military move into Syria is still far from certain, but it is more likely now than ever. Raising the potential of such an incursion could be a political maneuver by the ruling government to secure additional votes from other parties in the runup to early elections. But if Turkey undertakes such an operation, it will have to manage multiple and varied consequences, domestically and abroad.
33  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / An exmaple of what the prior post discusses. on: July 01, 2015, 07:52:48 PM
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34  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Strategy in Real Time. Serious Read on: July 01, 2015, 07:43:29 PM
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Strategy in Real Time: Dueling with an Enemy That Moves
Global Affairs
July 1, 2015 | 08:00 GMT
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By Philip Bobbitt

Strategy is a two-way street. But many commentators act as though formulating a strategy is the same as solving a chess problem. Chess problems are artificially constructed arrangements on a chessboard where the goal is to find a series of moves that leaves the other side no room to evade a checkmate within three or four turns. The sorts of conflicts bedeviling us these days, however, are more like the game of chess itself, in which there is no determinate, continuous series of moves that will guarantee victory every time. Each new contest depends on the actions of the other side, how we react to them, how they respond to our reactions, and so on.

Ignoring this aspect of strategy seems to contribute to the widespread view that victory in warfare amounts to the destruction of the enemy, a facile assumption that is all too unthinkingly held. "Defeating the enemy" may be the definition of victory in football, or even in chess for that matter, but not in warfare. Victory in war is the achievement of the war aim, and if, after Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, we still think that victory is simply the devastation of our adversaries, we have a lot of reflecting to do.
The Triage of Terror

In my last column, I referred to the idea of the "triage of terror," which I discuss further in my book, Terror and Consent: The Wars for the Twenty-First Century. The wars against terror comprise preventing transnational terrorist attacks, precluding the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction for the purposes of compellence rather than deterrence, and protecting civilians from widespread depredation and destruction. Unfortunately, progress in any one of the three theaters of conflict composing the wars on terror often increases the challenges we face in the other theaters. Managing the interrelationship of the three spheres of engagement in a way that prevents success in one arena from grossly exacerbating matters in another — the "triage of terror" — is an important objective of statecraft. For example, a strategy that relies on intervention to suppress the gross violation of human rights through genocide or ethnic cleansing may make states that fear becoming the targets of intervention more anxious to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Strategies that attempt to root out terrorism are often linked to ethnic or sectarian repression or the aggressive repression of human rights. Preemptive counterproliferation strategies by the world's strongest military power could summon burgeoning terrorist armies that challenge the United States through asymmetric means. Understanding the consequences that success in one arena may have for the other wars on terror is a prerequisite for devising an effective strategy in the 21st century.

When asked on "Face the Nation" about the Obama administration's commitment to the War on Terror, CIA Director John Brennan said,

    There has been a full-court effort to try to keep this country safe. Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Libya, others, these are some of the most complex and complicated issues that I’ve seen in 35 years working on national security issues. So there are no easy solutions. I think the president has tried to make sure that we’re able to push the envelope when we can to protect this country. But we have to recognize that sometimes our engagement and direct involvement will stimulate and spur additional threats to our national security interests.

This rather wise and sober assessment prompted something like a scream from the Council on Foreign Relations, which labeled it an "unprecedented recognition" that U.S. "foreign policy can harm U.S. national security." The commentator added that "the next public interview with the CIA director should begin by asking him which engagements and direct involvements he is referring to," and demanded that "Brennan's unprecedented recognition [be] further explored and commented on by the White House, State Department and Department of Defense."

But of course we know which engagements Brennan was referring to because he told us in the very passage quoted. What he did not say was that our foreign policy harms our national security. Far from being an astounding concession, Brennan's remarks linking our actions to our enemies' responses were a rather insightful and realistic observation that would electrify only a careless listener. To highlight the distinction between "stimulating additional threats" and "harming U.S. national security," let me turn to another concept mentioned in my first column: Parmenides' Fallacy.
Parmenides' Fallacy

This fallacy indulges in the frequent, unthinking assertion that we should compare the present state of affairs with the past in order to evaluate the policies that have gotten us to where we are now. In fact, we should compare our current situation with alternative outcomes that would have arisen from different policies, had they been chosen. This is true for prospective policies as well: It is a sophist's argument to deride a proposed policy (say, social security reform or free trade) by simply saying we will be worse off after the policy is implemented than we are now. That may well be true. But it could be true of even the wisest policy if other alternatives, including doing nothing, would make us even worse off in the future.

Let me give a famous example of Parmenides' Fallacy at work. The turning point in the United States' 1980 presidential race came when Ronald Reagan criticized President Jimmy Carter's record during a debate by asking the American people, "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" Though rhetorically devastating, this question is hardly the way to evaluate a presidency. After all, the state of the nation will never stay the same for four years, regardless of who is in office. A more relevant question would have been, "Are you better off now than you would have been if Gerald Ford had remained the president and had had to cope with rising oil prices, the Iranian Revolution, the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and soaring interest rates?" In the same way, we should reframe fallacious prospective questions like, "Will we be better off in five years than we are now if we adopt a certain policy?" The better question to ask is, "Will we be better off in five years by adopting this policy than we will be in five years if we do not?"
Real Strategy in Real Time

We are not necessarily harming national security when we take steps to counter threats that cause our enemies to react in a way that creates new threats. That, in fact, is the essence of strategy: It is not to dream up a series of unilateral actions that will inevitably lead to the accomplishment of our goals, but to recognize that each measure we take will invariably lead to countermeasures, and to anticipate the ultimate costs of reactions, both ours and theirs. Everyone has a strategy, Mike Tyson famously said, until he gets punched in the mouth.

An example of such non-strategic thinking is the idea that the United States is chiefly responsible for its problems, since other states have not wreaked the costs on America that we ourselves have undertaken in the name of deterring them. As another commentator recently observed, "if you look at the past 25 years or so, it is abundantly clear that external enemies have done far less damage to the United States than we have done to ourselves." This confident assertion ("it is abundantly clear") is not a clinching argument, indeed it is not an argument at all. It is merely a rhetorical flourish, and a rather indolent one at that. To be an argument, we would have to know what damage our external enemies would have done to us and to our allies if we had not appropriated large sums for defense and intelligence, if we had not prevented the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and Libya, and if we had not stopped the ethnic massacres in Europe.

The debate on U.S. strategy is a timely one, and nothing I have said is a defense of U.S. policies, past or present. Rather, it is a lament that the debate is being pursued in the such terms as these, which add little to our assessment of the wisdom of any particular policy including especially those policies that attempt to achieve our war aims.

But the shortcomings of this approach are not merely analytical. There are practical consequences of defining strategy as that which we do, which is to strategy what shadow boxing is to boxing. For this approach often manifests itself in a kind of aphasia: If strategy is what we do, regardless of the actions of others, then there is an inevitable bias toward doing nothing, responding to challenges with a portentous silence. Like aphasia generally it is associated with trauma (like a stroke), and the trauma out of which this silence has emerged is the Vietnam War (for my generation) and perhaps the ill-fated intervention in Iraq for those of a younger age.

This attitude can be seen on yard signs and bumper stickers that read: "Stop War: Get out of ____" (fill in the blank: the Balkans, the Baltics, the Middle East). I suppose some people really do believe that if U.S. forces simply leave the field, conflict will abate (as it did in Vietnam after a good deal of political, religious, class and ethnic "cleansing" by Hanoi) and as may yet happen in Iraq should the war there lead to partition after a truly awful period of sectarian violence.

We should be careful to distinguish between two groups who seek such American restraint. Some simply hold that, but for U.S. intervention, there would be no war in the world. For this group, the specter of American imperialism lurks behind all the conflicts of the 20th century. Others, however, believe that—whatever the ensuing violence that might follow an American withdrawal, or the violence that might continue undiminished in the absence of an American intervention—the use of U.S. force abroad is more damaging than beneficial to American interests.

The irony is that while both these groups criticize U.S. policy for being "unilateralist," they are united in advocating a policy that is unilateral in the extreme, for what act could be more autonomous than removing oneself from conflict regardless of the consequences for others? The first group, who see the conspiratorial reflex of American militarism in every significant conflict around the world might wish to pause and ask themselves whether the world is really better for others—for the peoples of the world who don’t live in the United States—if violence is unchecked by U.S. intervention, for this group professes to be principally concerned about the welfare of other peoples even when American interests are at stake. It should give them pause that polls consistently show that a large majority of Iraqis still support the regime change brought about by the American-led coalition, however angry they are about the feckless occupation that followed.

The second group, however, is my principal concern. Putting irony aside, one can’t help but notice that this perspective ignores the value of U.S. alliances, a value that distinguishes us from our principal potential adversaries in the world and which, in my view, is our greatest strategic asset. Real strategy is not just what we do, but it also encompasses more than what our adversaries do. Real strategy is as much about our allies, our potential allies, our potential enemies, and the great body of states and peoples that could go either way.

The late Sir Michael Quinlan observed that in conflict we are always likely to be surprised. That is because we prepare our defenses for the attacks we anticipate and so inevitably drive our opponents to pursue the tactics and strategies against targets we have not foreseen. We have been so often surprised these last several decades—sometimes happily so, oftentimes not—that it must be alluring to imagine that strategies of non-engagement at the least would spare us those surprises that haunt American policy. This is an enervated fantasy. When we are disengaged—when we are not trying to prepare the field for potential conflict and preclude situations that put us at a disadvantage—every act that threatens us and our allies comes as a surprise.
35  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The Geopolitics of US-Cuba Relations on: July 01, 2015, 07:34:40 PM
 The Geopolitics of U.S.-Cuba Relations
Geopolitical Weekly
December 23, 2014 | 09:00 GMT
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By George Friedman

Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to an exchange of prisoners being held on espionage charges. In addition, Washington and Havana agreed to hold discussions with the goal of establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries. No agreement was reached on ending the U.S. embargo on Cuba, a step that requires congressional approval.

It was a modest agreement, striking only because there was any agreement at all. U.S.-Cuba relations had been frozen for decades, with neither side prepared to make significant concessions or even first moves. The cause was partly the domestic politics of each country that made it easier to leave the relationship frozen. On the American side, a coalition of Cuban-Americans, conservatives and human rights advocates decrying Cuba's record of human rights violations blocked the effort. On the Cuban side, enmity with the United States plays a pivotal role in legitimizing the communist regime. Not only was the government born out of opposition to American imperialism, but Havana also uses the ongoing U.S. embargo to explain Cuban economic failures. There was no external pressure compelling either side to accommodate the other, and there were substantial internal reasons to let the situation stay as it is.

The Cubans are now under some pressure to shift their policies. They have managed to survive the fall of the Soviet Union with some difficulty. They now face a more immediate problem: uncertainty in Venezuela. Caracas supplies oil to Cuba at deeply discounted prices. It is hard to tell just how close Cuba's economy is to the edge, but there is no question that Venezuelan oil makes a significant difference. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government is facing mounting unrest over economic failures. If the Venezuelan government falls, Cuba would lose one of its structural supports. Venezuela's fate is far from certain, but Cuba must face the possibility of a worst-case scenario and shape openings. Opening to the United States makes sense in terms of regime preservation.

The U.S. reason for the shift is less clear. It makes political sense from Obama's standpoint. First, ideologically, ending the embargo appeals to him. Second, he has few foreign policy successes to his credit. Normalizing relations with Cuba is something he might be able to achieve, since groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce favor normalization and will provide political cover in the Republican Party. But finally, and perhaps most important, the geopolitical foundations behind the American obsession with Cuba have for the most part evaporated, if not permanently than at least for the foreseeable future. Normalization of relations with Cuba no longer poses a strategic threat. To understand the U.S. response to Cuba in the past half century, understanding Cuba's geopolitical challenge to the United States is important.
Cuba's Strategic Value

The challenge dates back to the completion of the Louisiana Purchase by President Thomas Jefferson in 1803. The Territory of Louisiana had been owned by Spain for most of its history until it was ceded to France a few years before Napoleon sold it to the United States to help fund his war with the British. Jefferson saw Louisiana as essential to American national security in two ways: First, the U.S. population at the time was located primarily east of the Appalachians in a long strip running from New England to the Georgia-Florida border. It was extremely vulnerable to invasion with little room to retreat, as became evident in the War of 1812. Second, Jefferson had a vision of American prosperity built around farmers owning their own land, living as entrepreneurs rather than as serfs. Louisiana's rich land, in the hands of immigrants to the United States, would generate the wealth that would build the country and provide the strategic depth to secure it.

What made Louisiana valuable was its river structure that would allow Midwestern farmers to ship their produce in barges to the Mississippi River and onward down to New Orleans. There the grain would be transferred to oceangoing vessels and shipped to Europe. This grain would make the Industrial Revolution possible in Britain, because the imports of mass quantities of food freed British farmers to work in urban industries.

In order for this to work, the United States needed to control the Ohio-Missouri-Mississippi river complex (including numerous other rivers), the mouth of the Mississippi, the Gulf of Mexico, and the exits into the Atlantic that ran between Cuba and Florida and between Cuba and Mexico. If this supply chain were broken at any point, the global consequences — and particularly the consequences for the United States — would be substantial. New Orleans remains the largest port for bulk shipments in the United States, still shipping grain to Europe and importing steel for American production.

For the Spaniards, the Louisiana Territory was a shield against U.S. incursions into Mexico and its rich silver mines, which provided a substantial portion of Spanish wealth. With Louisiana in American hands, these critical holdings were threatened. From the American point of view, Spain's concern raised the possibility of Spanish interference with American trade. With Florida, Cuba and the Yucatan in Spanish hands, the Spaniards had the potential to interdict the flow of produce down the Mississippi.

Former President Andrew Jackson played the key role in Jeffersonian strategy. As a general, he waged the wars against the Seminole Indians in Florida and seized the territory from Spanish rule — and from the Seminoles. He defended New Orleans from British attack in 1814. When he became president, he saw that Mexico, now independent from Spain, represented the primary threat to the entire enterprise of mid-America. The border of Mexican Texas was on the Sabine River, only 193 kilometers (120 miles) from the Mississippi. Jackson, through his agent Sam Houston, encouraged a rising in Texas against the Mexicans that set the stage for annexation.

But Spanish Cuba remained the thorn in the side of the United States. The Florida and Yucatan straits were narrow. Although the Spaniards, even in their weakened state, might have been able to block U.S. trade routes, it was the British who worried the Americans most. Based in the Bahamas, near Cuba, the British, of many conflicting minds on the United States, could seize Cuba and impose an almost impregnable blockade, crippling the U.S. economy. The British depended on American grain, and it couldn't be ruled out that they would seek to gain control over exports from the Midwest in order to guarantee their own economic security. The fear of British power helped define the Civil War and the decades afterward.

Cuba was the key. In the hands of a hostile foreign power, it was as effective a plug to the Mississippi as taking New Orleans. The weakness of the Spaniards frightened the Americans. Any powerful European power — the British or, after 1871, the Germans — could easily knock the Spaniards out of Cuba. And the United States, lacking a powerful navy, would not be able to cope. Seizing Cuba became an imperative of U.S. strategy. Theodore Roosevelt, who as president would oversee America's emergence as a major naval power — and who helped ensure the construction of the Panama Canal, which was critical to a two-ocean navy — became the symbol of the U.S. seizure of Cuba in the Spanish-American War of 1898-1900.

With that seizure, New Orleans-Atlantic transit was secured. The United States maintained effective control over Cuba until the rise of Fidel Castro. But the United States remained anxious about Cuba's security. By itself, the island could not threaten the supply lines. In the hands of a significant hostile power, however, Cuba could become a base for strangling the United States. Before World War II, when there were some rumblings of German influence in Cuba, the United States did what it could to assure the rise of former Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista, considered an American ally or puppet, depending on how you looked at it. But this is the key: Whenever a major foreign power showed interest in Cuba, the United States had to react, which it did effectively until Castro seized power in 1959.
The Soviet Influence

If the Soviets were looking for a single point from which they could threaten American interests, they would find no place more attractive than Cuba. Therefore, whether Fidel Castro was a communist prior to seizing power, it would seem that he would wind up a communist ally of the Soviets in the end. I suspect he had become a communist years before he took power but wisely hid this, knowing that an openly communist ruler in Cuba would revive America's old fears. Alternatively, he might not have been a communist but turned to the Soviets out of fear of U.S. intervention. The United States, unable to read the revolution, automatically moved toward increasing its control. Castro, as a communist or agrarian reformer or whatever he was, needed an ally against U.S. involvement. Whether the arrangement was planned for years, as I suspect, or in a sudden rush, the Soviets saw it as a marriage made in heaven.

Had the Soviets never placed nuclear weapons in Cuba, the United States still would have opposed a Soviet ally in control of Cuba during the Cold War. This was hardwired into American geopolitics. But the Soviets did place missiles there, which is a story that must be touched on as well.

The Soviet air force lacked long-range strategic bombardment aircraft. In World War II, they had focused on shorter range, close air support aircraft to assist ground operations. The United States, engaging both Germany and Japan from the air at long range, had extensive experience with long-range bombing. Therefore, during the 1950s, the United States based aircraft in Europe, and then, with the B-52 in the continental United States, was able to attack the Soviet Union with nuclear weapons. The Soviets, lacking a long-range bomber fleet, could not retaliate against the United States. The balance of power completely favored the United States.

The Soviets planned to leapfrog the difficult construction of a manned bomber fleet by moving to intercontinental ballistic missiles. By the early 1960s, the design of these missiles had advanced, but their deployment had not. The Soviets had no effective deterrent against a U.S. nuclear attack except for their still-underdeveloped submarine fleet. The atmosphere between the United States and the Soviet Union was venomous, and Moscow could not assume that Washington would not use its dwindling window of opportunity to strike safely against the Soviets.

The Soviets did have effective intermediate range ballistic missiles. Though they could not reach the United States from the Soviet Union, they could cover almost all of the United States from Cuba. The Russians needed to buy just a little time to deploy a massive intercontinental ballistic missile and submarine force. Cuba was the perfect spot from which to deploy it. Had they succeeded, the Soviets would have closed the U.S. window of opportunity by placing a deterrent force in Cuba. They were caught before they were ready. The United States threatened invasion, and the Soviets had to assume that the Americans also were threatening an overwhelming nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. They had to back down. As it happened, the United States intended no such attack, but the Soviets could not know that.

Cuba was seared into the U.S. strategic mentality in two layers. It was never a threat by itself. Under the control of a foreign naval power, it could strangle the United States. After the Soviet Union tried to deploy intermediate range ballistic missiles there, a new layer was created in which Cuba was a potential threat to the American mainland, as well as to trade routes. The agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union included American guarantees not to invade Cuba and Soviet guarantees not to base nuclear weapons there. But Cuba remained a problem for the United States. If there were a war in Europe, Cuba would be a base from which to threaten American control of the Caribbean, and with it, the ability to transit ships from the U.S. Pacific Fleet to the Atlantic. The United States never relieved pressure on Cuba, the Soviets used it as a base for many things aside from nuclear weapons (we assume), and the Castro regime clung to the Soviets for security while supporting wars of national liberation, as they were called, in Latin America and Africa that served Soviet strategic interests.
Post-Soviet Cuba

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Castro lost his patron and strategic guarantor. On the other hand, Cuba no longer threatened the United States. There was an implicit compromise. Since Cuba was no longer a threat to the United States but could still theoretically become one, Washington would not end its hostility toward Havana but would not actively try to overthrow it. The Cuban government, for its part, promised not to do what it could not truly do anyway: become a strategic threat to the United States. Cuba remained a nuisance in places like Venezuela, but a nuisance is not a strategic threat. Thus, the relationship remained frozen.

Since the Louisiana Purchase, Cuba has been a potential threat to the United States when held by or aligned with a major European power. The United States therefore constantly tried to shape Cuba's policies, and therefore, its internal politics. Fidel Castro's goal was to end American influence, but he could only achieve that by aligning with a major power: the Soviets. Cuban independence from the United States required a dependence on the Soviets. And that, like all relationships, carried a price.

The exchange of prisoners is interesting. The opening of embassies is important. But the major question remains unanswered. For the moment, there are no major powers able to exploit Cuba's geographical location (including China, for now). There are, therefore, no critical issues. But no one knows the future. Cuba wants to preserve its government and is seeking a release of pressure from the United States. At the moment, Cuba really does not matter. But moments pass, and no one can guarantee that it will not become important again. Therefore, the U.S. policy has been to insist on regime change before releasing pressure. With Cuba set on regime survival, what do the Cubans have to offer? They can promise permanent neutrality, but such pledges are of limited value.

Cuba needs better relations with the United States, particularly if the Venezuelan government falls. Venezuela's poor economy could, theoretically, force regime change in Cuba from internal pressure. Moreover, Raul Castro is old and Fidel Castro is very old. If the Cuban government is to be preserved, it must be secured now, because it is not clear what will succeed the Castros. But the United States has time, and its concern about Cuba is part of its DNA. Having no interest now, maintaining pressure makes no sense. But neither is there an urgency for Washington to let up on Havana. Obama may want a legacy, but the logic of the situation is that the Cubans need this more than the Americans, and the American price for normalization will be higher than it appears at this moment, whether set by Obama or his successor.

We are far from settling a strategic dispute rooted in Cuba's location and the fact that its location could threaten U.S. interests. Therefore, opening moves are opening moves. There is a long way to go on this issue.
36  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Stratfor: The Geopolitics of US-Cuba Relations on: July 01, 2015, 07:33:38 PM
 The Geopolitics of U.S.-Cuba Relations
Geopolitical Weekly
December 23, 2014 | 09:00 GMT
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By George Friedman

Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to an exchange of prisoners being held on espionage charges. In addition, Washington and Havana agreed to hold discussions with the goal of establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries. No agreement was reached on ending the U.S. embargo on Cuba, a step that requires congressional approval.

It was a modest agreement, striking only because there was any agreement at all. U.S.-Cuba relations had been frozen for decades, with neither side prepared to make significant concessions or even first moves. The cause was partly the domestic politics of each country that made it easier to leave the relationship frozen. On the American side, a coalition of Cuban-Americans, conservatives and human rights advocates decrying Cuba's record of human rights violations blocked the effort. On the Cuban side, enmity with the United States plays a pivotal role in legitimizing the communist regime. Not only was the government born out of opposition to American imperialism, but Havana also uses the ongoing U.S. embargo to explain Cuban economic failures. There was no external pressure compelling either side to accommodate the other, and there were substantial internal reasons to let the situation stay as it is.

The Cubans are now under some pressure to shift their policies. They have managed to survive the fall of the Soviet Union with some difficulty. They now face a more immediate problem: uncertainty in Venezuela. Caracas supplies oil to Cuba at deeply discounted prices. It is hard to tell just how close Cuba's economy is to the edge, but there is no question that Venezuelan oil makes a significant difference. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government is facing mounting unrest over economic failures. If the Venezuelan government falls, Cuba would lose one of its structural supports. Venezuela's fate is far from certain, but Cuba must face the possibility of a worst-case scenario and shape openings. Opening to the United States makes sense in terms of regime preservation.

The U.S. reason for the shift is less clear. It makes political sense from Obama's standpoint. First, ideologically, ending the embargo appeals to him. Second, he has few foreign policy successes to his credit. Normalizing relations with Cuba is something he might be able to achieve, since groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce favor normalization and will provide political cover in the Republican Party. But finally, and perhaps most important, the geopolitical foundations behind the American obsession with Cuba have for the most part evaporated, if not permanently than at least for the foreseeable future. Normalization of relations with Cuba no longer poses a strategic threat. To understand the U.S. response to Cuba in the past half century, understanding Cuba's geopolitical challenge to the United States is important.
Cuba's Strategic Value

The challenge dates back to the completion of the Louisiana Purchase by President Thomas Jefferson in 1803. The Territory of Louisiana had been owned by Spain for most of its history until it was ceded to France a few years before Napoleon sold it to the United States to help fund his war with the British. Jefferson saw Louisiana as essential to American national security in two ways: First, the U.S. population at the time was located primarily east of the Appalachians in a long strip running from New England to the Georgia-Florida border. It was extremely vulnerable to invasion with little room to retreat, as became evident in the War of 1812. Second, Jefferson had a vision of American prosperity built around farmers owning their own land, living as entrepreneurs rather than as serfs. Louisiana's rich land, in the hands of immigrants to the United States, would generate the wealth that would build the country and provide the strategic depth to secure it.

What made Louisiana valuable was its river structure that would allow Midwestern farmers to ship their produce in barges to the Mississippi River and onward down to New Orleans. There the grain would be transferred to oceangoing vessels and shipped to Europe. This grain would make the Industrial Revolution possible in Britain, because the imports of mass quantities of food freed British farmers to work in urban industries.

In order for this to work, the United States needed to control the Ohio-Missouri-Mississippi river complex (including numerous other rivers), the mouth of the Mississippi, the Gulf of Mexico, and the exits into the Atlantic that ran between Cuba and Florida and between Cuba and Mexico. If this supply chain were broken at any point, the global consequences — and particularly the consequences for the United States — would be substantial. New Orleans remains the largest port for bulk shipments in the United States, still shipping grain to Europe and importing steel for American production.

For the Spaniards, the Louisiana Territory was a shield against U.S. incursions into Mexico and its rich silver mines, which provided a substantial portion of Spanish wealth. With Louisiana in American hands, these critical holdings were threatened. From the American point of view, Spain's concern raised the possibility of Spanish interference with American trade. With Florida, Cuba and the Yucatan in Spanish hands, the Spaniards had the potential to interdict the flow of produce down the Mississippi.

Former President Andrew Jackson played the key role in Jeffersonian strategy. As a general, he waged the wars against the Seminole Indians in Florida and seized the territory from Spanish rule — and from the Seminoles. He defended New Orleans from British attack in 1814. When he became president, he saw that Mexico, now independent from Spain, represented the primary threat to the entire enterprise of mid-America. The border of Mexican Texas was on the Sabine River, only 193 kilometers (120 miles) from the Mississippi. Jackson, through his agent Sam Houston, encouraged a rising in Texas against the Mexicans that set the stage for annexation.

But Spanish Cuba remained the thorn in the side of the United States. The Florida and Yucatan straits were narrow. Although the Spaniards, even in their weakened state, might have been able to block U.S. trade routes, it was the British who worried the Americans most. Based in the Bahamas, near Cuba, the British, of many conflicting minds on the United States, could seize Cuba and impose an almost impregnable blockade, crippling the U.S. economy. The British depended on American grain, and it couldn't be ruled out that they would seek to gain control over exports from the Midwest in order to guarantee their own economic security. The fear of British power helped define the Civil War and the decades afterward.

Cuba was the key. In the hands of a hostile foreign power, it was as effective a plug to the Mississippi as taking New Orleans. The weakness of the Spaniards frightened the Americans. Any powerful European power — the British or, after 1871, the Germans — could easily knock the Spaniards out of Cuba. And the United States, lacking a powerful navy, would not be able to cope. Seizing Cuba became an imperative of U.S. strategy. Theodore Roosevelt, who as president would oversee America's emergence as a major naval power — and who helped ensure the construction of the Panama Canal, which was critical to a two-ocean navy — became the symbol of the U.S. seizure of Cuba in the Spanish-American War of 1898-1900.

With that seizure, New Orleans-Atlantic transit was secured. The United States maintained effective control over Cuba until the rise of Fidel Castro. But the United States remained anxious about Cuba's security. By itself, the island could not threaten the supply lines. In the hands of a significant hostile power, however, Cuba could become a base for strangling the United States. Before World War II, when there were some rumblings of German influence in Cuba, the United States did what it could to assure the rise of former Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista, considered an American ally or puppet, depending on how you looked at it. But this is the key: Whenever a major foreign power showed interest in Cuba, the United States had to react, which it did effectively until Castro seized power in 1959.
The Soviet Influence

If the Soviets were looking for a single point from which they could threaten American interests, they would find no place more attractive than Cuba. Therefore, whether Fidel Castro was a communist prior to seizing power, it would seem that he would wind up a communist ally of the Soviets in the end. I suspect he had become a communist years before he took power but wisely hid this, knowing that an openly communist ruler in Cuba would revive America's old fears. Alternatively, he might not have been a communist but turned to the Soviets out of fear of U.S. intervention. The United States, unable to read the revolution, automatically moved toward increasing its control. Castro, as a communist or agrarian reformer or whatever he was, needed an ally against U.S. involvement. Whether the arrangement was planned for years, as I suspect, or in a sudden rush, the Soviets saw it as a marriage made in heaven.

Had the Soviets never placed nuclear weapons in Cuba, the United States still would have opposed a Soviet ally in control of Cuba during the Cold War. This was hardwired into American geopolitics. But the Soviets did place missiles there, which is a story that must be touched on as well.

The Soviet air force lacked long-range strategic bombardment aircraft. In World War II, they had focused on shorter range, close air support aircraft to assist ground operations. The United States, engaging both Germany and Japan from the air at long range, had extensive experience with long-range bombing. Therefore, during the 1950s, the United States based aircraft in Europe, and then, with the B-52 in the continental United States, was able to attack the Soviet Union with nuclear weapons. The Soviets, lacking a long-range bomber fleet, could not retaliate against the United States. The balance of power completely favored the United States.

The Soviets planned to leapfrog the difficult construction of a manned bomber fleet by moving to intercontinental ballistic missiles. By the early 1960s, the design of these missiles had advanced, but their deployment had not. The Soviets had no effective deterrent against a U.S. nuclear attack except for their still-underdeveloped submarine fleet. The atmosphere between the United States and the Soviet Union was venomous, and Moscow could not assume that Washington would not use its dwindling window of opportunity to strike safely against the Soviets.

The Soviets did have effective intermediate range ballistic missiles. Though they could not reach the United States from the Soviet Union, they could cover almost all of the United States from Cuba. The Russians needed to buy just a little time to deploy a massive intercontinental ballistic missile and submarine force. Cuba was the perfect spot from which to deploy it. Had they succeeded, the Soviets would have closed the U.S. window of opportunity by placing a deterrent force in Cuba. They were caught before they were ready. The United States threatened invasion, and the Soviets had to assume that the Americans also were threatening an overwhelming nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. They had to back down. As it happened, the United States intended no such attack, but the Soviets could not know that.

Cuba was seared into the U.S. strategic mentality in two layers. It was never a threat by itself. Under the control of a foreign naval power, it could strangle the United States. After the Soviet Union tried to deploy intermediate range ballistic missiles there, a new layer was created in which Cuba was a potential threat to the American mainland, as well as to trade routes. The agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union included American guarantees not to invade Cuba and Soviet guarantees not to base nuclear weapons there. But Cuba remained a problem for the United States. If there were a war in Europe, Cuba would be a base from which to threaten American control of the Caribbean, and with it, the ability to transit ships from the U.S. Pacific Fleet to the Atlantic. The United States never relieved pressure on Cuba, the Soviets used it as a base for many things aside from nuclear weapons (we assume), and the Castro regime clung to the Soviets for security while supporting wars of national liberation, as they were called, in Latin America and Africa that served Soviet strategic interests.
Post-Soviet Cuba

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Castro lost his patron and strategic guarantor. On the other hand, Cuba no longer threatened the United States. There was an implicit compromise. Since Cuba was no longer a threat to the United States but could still theoretically become one, Washington would not end its hostility toward Havana but would not actively try to overthrow it. The Cuban government, for its part, promised not to do what it could not truly do anyway: become a strategic threat to the United States. Cuba remained a nuisance in places like Venezuela, but a nuisance is not a strategic threat. Thus, the relationship remained frozen.

Since the Louisiana Purchase, Cuba has been a potential threat to the United States when held by or aligned with a major European power. The United States therefore constantly tried to shape Cuba's policies, and therefore, its internal politics. Fidel Castro's goal was to end American influence, but he could only achieve that by aligning with a major power: the Soviets. Cuban independence from the United States required a dependence on the Soviets. And that, like all relationships, carried a price.

The exchange of prisoners is interesting. The opening of embassies is important. But the major question remains unanswered. For the moment, there are no major powers able to exploit Cuba's geographical location (including China, for now). There are, therefore, no critical issues. But no one knows the future. Cuba wants to preserve its government and is seeking a release of pressure from the United States. At the moment, Cuba really does not matter. But moments pass, and no one can guarantee that it will not become important again. Therefore, the U.S. policy has been to insist on regime change before releasing pressure. With Cuba set on regime survival, what do the Cubans have to offer? They can promise permanent neutrality, but such pledges are of limited value.

Cuba needs better relations with the United States, particularly if the Venezuelan government falls. Venezuela's poor economy could, theoretically, force regime change in Cuba from internal pressure. Moreover, Raul Castro is old and Fidel Castro is very old. If the Cuban government is to be preserved, it must be secured now, because it is not clear what will succeed the Castros. But the United States has time, and its concern about Cuba is part of its DNA. Having no interest now, maintaining pressure makes no sense. But neither is there an urgency for Washington to let up on Havana. Obama may want a legacy, but the logic of the situation is that the Cubans need this more than the Americans, and the American price for normalization will be higher than it appears at this moment, whether set by Obama or his successor.

We are far from settling a strategic dispute rooted in Cuba's location and the fact that its location could threaten U.S. interests. Therefore, opening moves are opening moves. There is a long way to go on this issue.
37  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / FP: The Discontents of Basra on: July 01, 2015, 07:16:44 PM
http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/07/01/welcome-to-basrastan-iraq-basra-secession-oil-shiite-south/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=*Editors%20Picks&utm_campaign=2015_EditorsPicks_Promo_Russia_Direct_Jun29%20through%207%2F3%20SO%2071
38  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Stratfor: Prognosis for Pemex Union and Teacher Union on: July 01, 2015, 07:12:29 PM
Analysis
Forecast

    Energy and education reforms will have an immediate impact on two of Mexico's most potent trade unions.
    The National Oil Workers Union and the National Education Workers Union will suffer diminished power and influence.
    This will push organized labor to adapt once again to Mexico's changing social and economic policies.

In the coming months, Mexico will meet key milestones for implementing two of the sweeping reform packages passed by the current administration: energy and education reform — signifying major blows for the country's most powerful unions. First, on July 15, Mexico's national energy regulator will officially open the country's oil and natural gas deposits to foreign capital — the first 14 energy exploration blocks will be up for public bidding by foreign as well as domestic firms. Meanwhile, in September, Mexico's schools will begin implementing teacher evaluations — a critical component of education reform — despite repeated threats from dissident members of the national teachers' union.

The developments are merely the most recent advances of two reform initiatives implemented by the Mexican government in recent years. Though the two packages differ greatly in scope and effect, together they herald substantial changes in the Mexican labor sector, effectively reducing the influence of two of Mexico's most powerful unions. This is nothing new. Amid the socioeconomic reforms of the past decades, organized labor has played an ever-diminishing role in Mexican politics, and if these upcoming policy initiatives are any indication, that trend is not likely to be reversed.
The Unions' Political Rise

Organized labor in Mexico was once a powerful political force. For much of the Institutional Revolutionary Party's first 71 years of rule, national unions such as the Confederation of Mexican Workers served as part of a corporatist system to contain social unrest in the country. The harmony between the party and labor organizations allowed workers to voice dissent and advocate for better wages without affecting production or profitability. At the same time, the unions' partnerships with the ruling party granted them considerable power to stamp out potentially competing, independent unions and make exclusive collective bargaining agreements with state and private enterprises. The National Oil Workers Union and the National Education Workers Union enjoyed oversight over two of Mexico's most critical sectors, which afforded them considerable influence.

A degree of power was also transferred to individual union bosses. When the unions anticipated threatening economic or political reforms, increasingly influential leaders in both the National Oil Workers Union and the National Education Workers Union occasionally led short battles against the government. Under those circumstances, the ruling party often responded with a divide-and-conquer strategy. For example, in 1989, members of the National Coordinator of Education Workers (also known as CNTE), a dissident faction within the union, advocated to oust the larger union's leader, Carlos Jongitud Barrios. Then-President Carlos Salinas de Gortari allowed demonstrations to take place, and eventually Elba Esther Gordillo — an ally of the Institutional Revolutionary Party — was appointed leader of the National Education Workers Union. The event further cemented the union's power and its dissenting opinion of wider union leadership within the larger entity.

It was not the first time the president had been forced to manage labor disputes. Salinas had previously faced off with National Oil Workers Union leader Joaquin "La Quina" Hernandez Galicia, who had expressed negative sentiments about Salinas' presidency, opposing any potential legislation privatizing the energy sector. Eventually the military arrested Hernandez in his home, neatly doing away with the challenge to Salinas and his reform agenda.
The Weakening of the Unions

As Mexico's political system began to open in the 1990s, the relationship between the country's powerful unions and the central government began to evolve in response to growing opposition to the Institutional Ruling Party. In 2000, the party lost its first presidential election in its 71-year lifetime to National Action Party member Vicente Fox. With the National Action Party in power, unions were forced to work with the opposition. Consequently, this led the National Oil Workers Union to increasingly threaten strikes throughout the year. But the government soon instigated a corruption investigation, implicating the union's boss, Carlos Romero Deschamps. As a result of looking into whether the union had filtered funds from Petroleos Mexicanos into the Institutional Revolutionary Party's presidential campaign, the union's strike failed to materialized.

When current Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto was elected in 2012, the unions' sensed an ally. However, by this time the Institutional Revolutionary Party had regained its dominance through an alliance with the opposition. Moreover, the party intended to pass several socioeconomic reform packages, some of which — including energy and education reform — would further erode union power and drastically reshape their respective sectors. Factions in the National Oil Workers Union and the National Education Workers Union became increasingly vocal in their opposition to the reforms. However, National Oil Workers Union leaders — including Deschamps, who is also an Institutional Revolutionary Party senator — felt they had little choice but to cooperate, despite growing unrest within the union ranks. The administration's relationship with its labor was clarified on Feb. 26, 2013, when National Education Workers Union leader Elba Esther Gordillo was arrested, the day after Pena Nieto signed education reform into law. The arrest effectively ended the National Education Workers Union's opposition to education reform, leaving only the dissident and increasingly militant CNTE to protest.

So far, the CNTE has put up a public but largely ineffective fight against the reforms. Its efforts to block implementation have generated the most unrest and media attention in the country. But when the dissident group called to block June 7 elections, it failed to generate the necessary participants to carry out its threat. Now, the National Education Workers Union, one of the largest labor organizations in Latin America, must now answer to federal oversight partly through upcoming teacher evaluations. 

Like their counterparts in the education sector, energy unions are seeing their influence decline in the face of reform. Mexico's energy resources begin to officially open up to foreign investment next month, and the National Oil Workers Union is more disadvantaged than ever during its current round of negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement (effective Aug. 1). It lacks the power to stop the widely-rumored mass layoffs within Petroleos Mexicanos, should they occur as a result of budget cuts. Moreover, Mexico's 2012 labor reforms banned exclusive closed-shop agreements, meaning the National Oil Workers Union likely will encounter growing competition from small, independent unions in the sector.

Though the relationship between the country's organized labor and the Institutional Revolutionary Party has remained largely unchanged since the party's inception, Mexico's social, political and economic reforms have long been weakening the influence of labor unions on the political system. Now the trend only continues, as new education and energy reforms will gradually erode more of their power and political clout.

Labor groups such as the National Oil Workers Union and National Education Workers Union will likely maintain their close ties to the Institutional Revolutionary Party. Nonetheless, as Mexico's socioeconomic environment continues to evolve, the role of organized labor in that evolution will continue to decline.

39  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) and the 4th & 9th Amendments on: July 01, 2015, 06:44:20 PM
GM:

That was a superior discussion of the case.
40  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Top Obama aides knew of Hillary's secret server on: July 01, 2015, 06:38:21 PM
http://www.nationalreview.com/article/420573/hillarys-private-e-mail-server-whitehouse-knew-since-2009?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=NR5PM&utm_campaign=Wednesday%20Email%207%2F1%2F15
41  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Donald Trump on: July 01, 2015, 03:23:07 PM
http://reviveusa.com/trump-rises-to-second-in-iowa-poll/
42  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Radio being phased out in Europe? on: July 01, 2015, 03:07:57 PM
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/06/30/something-is-happening-to-european-cars-that-beck-says-should-be-a-significant-wakeup-call/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Firewire&utm_campaign=Firewire%20-%20HORIZON%207-1-15%20FINAL
43  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: American History on: July 01, 2015, 11:31:16 AM
Good comments.  I wouldn't have had those answers when confronted by this accusation but for my having posted that piece here, thus eliciting your response.
44  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sen. Rand Paul on marriage on: July 01, 2015, 12:09:50 AM
Rand Paul: Government Should Get Out of the Marriage Business Altogether

    Sen. Rand Paul @RandPaul

June 28, 2015
Rand Paul Carlos Barria—Reuters Republican presidential candidate Senator Rand Paul waits before addressing a legislative luncheon held as part of the "Road to Majority" conference in Washington on June 18, 2015.

Paul is the junior U.S. Senator for Kentucky.

While I disagree with Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage, I believe that all Americans have the right to contract.

The Constitution is silent on the question of marriage because marriage has always been a local issue. Our founding fathers went to the local courthouse to be married, not to Washington, D.C.

I’ve often said I don’t want my guns or my marriage registered in Washington.

Those who disagree with the recent Supreme Court ruling argue that the court should not overturn the will of legislative majorities. Those who favor the Supreme Court ruling argue that the 14th Amendment protects rights from legislative majorities.

Do consenting adults have a right to contract with other consenting adults? Supporters of the Supreme Court’s decision argue yes but they argue no when it comes to economic liberties, like contracts regarding wages.

It seems some rights are more equal than others.

Marriage, though a contract, is also more than just a simple contract.

I acknowledge the right to contract in all economic and personal spheres, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a danger that a government that involves itself in every nook and cranny of our lives won’t now enforce definitions that conflict with sincerely felt religious convictions of others.

Some have argued that the Supreme Court’s ruling will now involve the police power of the state in churches, church schools, church hospitals.

This may well become the next step, and I for one will stand ready to resist any intrusion of government into the religious sphere.

Justice Clarence Thomas is correct in his dissent when he says: “In the American legal tradition, liberty has long been understood as individual freedom from governmental action, not as a right to a particular governmental entitlement.”

The government should not prevent people from making contracts but that does not mean that the government must confer a special imprimatur upon a new definition of marriage.

Perhaps the time has come to examine whether or not governmental recognition of marriage is a good idea, for either party.

Since government has been involved in marriage, they have done what they always do — taxed it, regulated it, and now redefined it. It is hard to argue that government’s involvement in marriage has made it better, a fact also not surprising to those who believe government does little right.

So now, states such as Alabama are beginning to understand this as they begin to get out of the marriage licensing business altogether. Will others follow?

Thomas goes on to say:

    To the extent that the Framers would have recognized a natural right to marriage that fell within the broader definition of liberty, it would not have included a right to governmental recognition and benefits. Instead, it would have included a right to engage in the very same activities that petitioners have been left free to engage in — making vows, holding religious ceremonies celebrating those vows, raising children, and otherwise enjoying the society of one’s spouse — without governmental interference.

The 14th Amendment does not command the government endorsement that is conveyed by the word “marriage.” State legislatures are entitled to express their preference for traditional marriage, so long as the equal rights of same-sex couples are protected.

So the questions now before us are: What are those rights? What does government convey along with marriage, and should it do so? Should the government care, or allocate any benefits based on marital status?

And can the government do its main job in the aftermath of this ruling — the protection of liberty, particularly religious liberty and free speech?

We shall see. I will fight to ensure it does both, along with taking part in a discussion on the role of government in our lives.

Perhaps it is time to be more careful what we ask government to do, and where we allow it to become part of our lives.

The Constitution was written by wise men who were raised up by God for that very purpose. There is a reason ours was the first where rights came from our creator and therefore could not be taken away by government. Government was instituted to protect them.

We have gotten away from that idea. Too far away. We must turn back. To protect our rights we must understand who granted them and who can help us restore them.
45  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender, Gay, Lesbian on: July 01, 2015, 12:04:35 AM
OTOH there is this , , , http://shoebat.com/2015/06/29/russian-government-now-wants-to-ban-the-gay-flag-saying-that-gay-delirium-is-threatening-the-entire-civilized-world/
46  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bringing manufacturing home to US on: June 30, 2015, 11:51:06 PM
Coming home isn’t easy.

Ranir LLC learned that lesson all too well. The company, based in Grand Rapids, Mich., has long used factories overseas to make many of the dental-care products it sells to big retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Two years ago, though, Ranir executives were frustrated by the shipping costs and communications hassles associated with a plant in Asia that made replacement heads for one of the company’s most popular electric toothbrushes. Ranir was considering bringing production of the replacement heads to Michigan in 2013 when Wal-Mart, one of the company’s biggest customers, announced an initiative pressing its suppliers to make more goods in the U.S.

That helped seal the decision. Ranir Chief Executive Christine Henisee moved production of the replacement heads to Michigan. But the company knew that for the U.S. operation to be profitable, big changes would have to be put in place to bring down costs.
Journal Report

    Insights from The Experts
    Read more at WSJ.com/LeadershipReport

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Ms. Henisee says the company had tried shifting some production to the U.S. before. But, she says, is “this is one of the first times that we actually have been able to bring products back in with a manufacturing concept that allows for total cost to be competitive.”

To lower costs, Ms. Henisee told her engineers to design a system that stripped out most of the manual labor. They worked with a German company to develop a machine that works in five steps, from machining the brush-head bristles to inserting a metal pin in the assembled head. The company has two of the machines and expects to make about seven million to eight million refill heads a year to meet current demand, with the capacity to go higher.

Ranir, which mainly makes items that retailers sell under their labels, also needed to redesign the brush head itself. In the new design, which the company is seeking to patent, the parts are more exactly molded to fit with the machines as opposed to the hands of human workers.

The company spent close to $3 million developing and installing the new largely automated system. The U.S. facility is now ramping up production, and the company says the U.S.-made replacement heads will be available in Wal-Mart stores in the coming months. Fewer than a dozen people have been hired for the new operation at the company’s Grand Rapids facility, according to company officials, who declined to say how many workers there were at the previous plant in Asia.

Ranir is building a similar line in Germany for the European market—a project that entails an additional $3 million. Still on the drawing board, Ranir says, is a way to automate packaging of the replacement brush heads.

Mr. Shukla is a reporter for The Wall Street Journal in Chicago. He can be reached at tarun.shukla@wsj.com.
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47  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hey kids! Here's how to do anal! on: June 30, 2015, 07:51:10 PM
https://www.facebook.com/cbnnews/videos/10155830768900393/
48  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / By deed Pope says Temple Mount is Palestinian/Muslim on: June 30, 2015, 07:28:23 PM
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/17147#.VZMzzS7Ce9Z
49  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton, Federalist 34, 1788 on: June 30, 2015, 12:03:08 PM
"Constitutions of civil government are not to be framed upon a calculation of existing exigencies, but upon a combination of these with the probable exigencies of ages, according to the natural and tried course of human affairs." —Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 34, 1788
50  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Constitutional Chumps on: June 30, 2015, 11:17:14 AM
e 29, 2015 6:49 p.m. ET
159 COMMENTS

A miserable Supreme Court term got worse on Monday when another 5-4 majority decided to rewrite the Constitution’s Elections Clause to limit legislative redistricting. We’ve deplored legislative gerrymanders as much as anyone, but that doesn’t mean our policy preference should trump the Constitution.

In 2000 Arizona voters approved a ballot measure to amend the state constitution and give a five-member commission the power to draw the map for Congressional districts. The idea was to take redistricting away from politicians who invariably use it for partisan advantage.

Good intention, but the Elections Clause says the “times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof.” And the legislature didn’t sanction the referendum.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg nonetheless writes for the liberals and Anthony Kennedy that when the Framers wrote the word “legislature” they didn’t mean “legislature.” They meant it loosely because “the people themselves are the originating source of all the powers of government.”

The Founders weren’t perfect but they were more precise wordsmiths than the average Supreme Court Justice. For example, when they meant “the people,” they wrote “the people.” So when they wrote “the legislature,” confidence is high that they meant “the legislature.”

The majority’s ruling has “no basis in the text, structure, or history of the Constitution, and it contradicts precedents from both Congress and this Court,” Chief Justice John Roberts writes in withering dissent. The Constitution, he notes, uses the word legislature in 17 instances where it cannot possibly be interpreted to mean “the people,” and Supreme Court precedents have specified that in the Elections Clause the word legislature means “the representative body which ma[kes] the laws of the people.”

When the Constitution was written, state legislatures were given the power to choose the Senators the states sent to Washington, D.C. It took decades, and the Seventeenth Amendment, to give that power directly to voters. “What chumps!” Chief Justice Roberts writes, “Didn’t they realize that all they had to do was interpret the constitutional term ‘the Legislature’ to mean ‘the people’?”

The position of the four liberal Justices isn’t all that surprising because taking redistricting away from legislatures has become fashionable on the left now that Republicans hold the House. But Justice Kennedy’s vote rankles in particular because he has shown good judgment on election law in previous cases including 2008’s Crawford v. Marion County (upholding Indiana’s voter ID requirement), 2013’s Shelby County v. Holder (striking down the Voting Rights Act’s preclearance requirement) and 2010’s Citizens United v. FEC (invalidating a ban on corporate and union independent expenditures).

Partisan gerrymanders deserve criticism, but Justice Ginsburg’s opinion is an act of judicial invention. Like so many other rulings this term, it subordinates the Constitution’s plain language and the Court’s own precedents to a policy agenda. That does more damage to constitutional democracy than any redistricting can.
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