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151  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GPF: Russia-Saudi meeting leads to AA missile deal, Iran silent on: November 24, 2017, 08:31:58 PM
Second post

Nov. 16, 2017 Iran has been quiet about Moscow and Riyadh’s newfound friendship – and the weapons that friendship has procured.

By Jacob L. Shapiro

Last month, well before Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman purged the government of potential rivals, his father, King Salman, did something unprecedented as well: He visited Russia, Saudi Arabia’s erstwhile enemy. After the visit came the usual slew of announced business deals that promise a lot but deliver little. On Nov. 13, however, Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation announced that it would provide Saudi Arabia with its sophisticated S-400 air defense missiles. King Salman’s visit appears to have delivered real cooperation.

A Relationship Redefined

That Saudi Arabia and Russia would redefine the nature of their relationship is surprising in its own right. These were two countries firmly on opposite ends of the Cold War. But even more jarring is that Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional rival, has been silent. Iran and Russia have a complicated relationship in their own right, one marked for centuries by suspicion and distrust. But in recent years they had set aside their differences, becoming military allies to save Bashar Assad and destroy the Islamic State. Now, Russia is promising to supply Iran’s biggest enemy with air defense missiles – and Iran hasn’t made a peep. Something doesn’t add up.

Consider Russia’s position in the Middle East. Most observers claim that by partnering with Iran to save the Assad regime, Russia enhanced its influence in the region at the expense of the United States. This is a misunderstanding. Russia’s intervention was actually pretty limited. At the height of its involvement, it had only 30-75 fighter jets and helicopters operating in the country. Its commitment was small but successful, insofar as it prevented the Syrian government from falling and the Islamic State from rising.

But it did not undermine U.S. strategic goals in the Middle East. If anything, it enhanced them. When the Syrian civil war started, the U.S. was determined to remove Assad. Yet there weren’t enough moderates for it to train and arm, and in any case, the Islamic State looked as though it may take Damascus for itself. And so the United States prioritized its fight against IS over its fight against Assad. Russia was, in effect, helping the U.S. do its dirty work. For all the bluster surrounding their relations, the U.S. and Russia have been coordinating their efforts in Syria in pursuit of a common goal for years.
Russian S-400 Triumph medium-range and long-range surface-to-air missile systems ride through Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow on May 9, 2017. NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images

Now that Assad has been saved and the Islamic State’s caliphate vanquished, the question is: What comes next? With IS out of the picture, the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Israel, Russia, Turkey and Iran – which had if nothing else a common enemy – no longer have a reason to cooperate with one another. Life after IS is actually more difficult for Russia than life with it. Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are all competing to fill the power vacuum left by the group’s departure, and Russia’s long-term interests don’t align with any of theirs.

Unlike the Islamic State, all three countries have the power to threaten Russian interests directly. Take Turkey, for example. It can cut off Russia’s access to the Mediterranean by closing the Bosporus. It competes with Russia in the Caucasus. And as it strengthens, it will begin to project power into the Balkans, another region in Russia’s sphere of influence.

Iran, like Turkey, has interests in the Caucasus. It also shares a border with Central Asia and Afghanistan – another Russian sphere of influence where Iran can cause serious problems for Moscow.

And Saudi Arabia, for its part, poses two challenges of its own. First, Saudi Arabia can still influence global oil prices, where even small fluctuations can hurt the Russian economy. Second, Saudi Arabia is the worldwide leader in exporting jihadism, a threat to a country like Russia, which has a large minority Muslim population that is fast increasing.

Russia has met these challenges not by choosing one country to align with but by trying to forge better relationships with all of them. Its relationship with Turkey is rocky but sustainable. (In fact, in September, Turkey signed its own agreement to receive S-400s from Russia.) Its relationship with Iran is solid but not without drama. A Russian announcement in August 2016 that it was using an Iranian air base for attacks in Syria set off a short-lived political controversy in Iran, sparking backlash from Iranian politicians who felt Russia’s use of the base violated Iran’s Constitution. Now Russia is reaching out to Saudi Arabia, and besides the agreements on military cooperation, Moscow secured a promise from King Salman during his visit last month to stop Saudi proselytizing to Muslims in Russia.

Russia is cultivating other ties too. Officials from Moscow have met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu several times this year and have kept lines of communication open over Hezbollah’s potential acquisition of advanced weaponry. Russia has also expressed some support for various Kurdish groups vying for independence in the region. Moscow has, for example, kept open its embassy in Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, throughout the contentious independence referendum.

And while Russia has said it does not support the PYD, the Kurdish political party in northern Syria, in its push for independence, it nonetheless invited the group to a congress comprising all relevant parties to discuss Syria’s future – much to the chagrin of Turkey, Iran and anti-Assad Syrian opposition groups.

Silence and Blindness

Russian foreign policy can be disruptive, but it would be a mistake to think of it as monolithic or unchanging. The Cold War, for all its faults, simplified foreign policy. (Simple doesn’t mean easy.) It was unclear whether the U.S. or USSR was more powerful. Regions like the Middle East became battlegrounds to see which one was. The U.S. had its allies (Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey) and the USSR had its allies (Egypt, Syria, Iraq). Sometimes countries switched sides, but ultimately it was a zero-sum game, with each side trying to weaken the other.

But the Cold War has been over for more than two decades. Today’s Russia is not yesterday’s Soviet Union. The U.S. and Russia actually share some long-term interests in the Middle East. Neither wants to see any one country dominate the entire region. Washington and Moscow want parity; they prefer that the region’s countries compete with one another rather than cause problems for them. In a perfect world, the U.S. would be embroiled in the Middle East and Russia would be free. But theirs is not a perfect world, so Moscow’s primary objective is to make sure the problems and ambitions of the Middle East stay in the Middle East.

This altogether different strategy of containment brings us back to Iran – and its silence on the budding Saudi-Russia friendship. Iran does not think it needs to attack Saudi Arabia head on. The government in Tehran believes Saudi Arabia will eventually collapse under the weight of its own problems, and that, in the meantime, the best thing Iran can do is engage Saudi Arabia in expensive and time-consuming proxy wars. Iran may not particularly like Russia’s providing Saudi Arabia with S-400s, but it can look past this particular issue because none of its red lines have been crossed. Russia is, after all, still playing an important role in helping the Assad regime – a key Iranian ally – retake the parts of Syria it has lost in the war. That is worth more right now than a public denunciation of some missile acquisitions.

But just because Iran is silent doesn’t mean it is blind to what’s happening. And just because Iran and Russia have cooperated in recent years doesn’t mean their relationship is ironclad. Russia cannot be everything to everyone in the region, and at some point it will be forced to make difficult decisions. In the meantime, pragmatism reigns. By improving relations with Saudi Arabia, Russia is hedging the bets it placed on Iran. By keeping quiet, Iran continues to reap what benefits it can from Russia’s moves. News about the S-400s doesn’t change much, but it underscores just how quickly change can come
152  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GPF: A History of the Saudis' Rise on the Arabian Peninsula on: November 24, 2017, 08:13:18 PM
A History of the Saudis’ Rise on the Arabian Peninsula

Nov. 16, 2017 Only the Saudis have managed to maintain long-term control over much of the peninsula.

Summary

Saudi Arabia is in a state of flux. A royal family purge, including the arrests of several high-profile elites; economic malaise, due to a dramatic slump in oil prices; and social reforms, including expanding rights for women, have all combined to create a sense of uncertainty around the kingdom’s future.

But Saudi Arabia, and its previous incarnations, has faced down serious challenges before. Although the modern Saudi state was founded less than a century ago, the Saudi clan has dominated the Arabian Peninsula for nearly three centuries. Various empires and tribes have sought to bring the region under their rule, leading to disintegration and a constant struggle for power throughout much of its history. Only the Saudis have managed to maintain long-term control over much of the Arabian Peninsula.

But the two principal factors that Saudi power rests on – religion and oil – are not what they used to be. The peninsula is thus likely to fragment once again – a condition that was the historical norm prior to the Saudis’ reign. In this report, we look at the foundations of the kingdom, the rise of the Saudis on the Arabian Peninsula and how the country got to where it is today.

Defining the Arabian Peninsula

The modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the heart of the Arabian Peninsula, which stretches from the Levant in the north to the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea in the south, and from the Red Sea in the west to the Persian Gulf in the east. Contemporary Saudi Arabia is composed of two main, very distinct regions: Hejaz, a cosmopolitan area located along the Red Sea, and Nejd, an arid, desert area consisting of multiple valleys buried in the interior of the peninsula. Nejd begins where the mountains of Hejaz taper off and extends to the oasis region of Hasa along the eastern coast. The Nafud and Rub al-Khali deserts constitute its northern and southern peripheries, respectively.

(click to enlarge)

In 622, the entire peninsula was brought under the control of the first ever Muslim polity (founded in Medina while the Prophet Muhammad was still alive), but the area broke up after his death a decade later. Immediately after assuming his position as the first caliph, Abu Bakr faced rebellion from several tribes, many of which hailed from Nejd. Though these rebellions were put down, Arabia would quickly lose its significance within the caliphate as it extended its reach into the areas taken from the Byzantine and Sassanid empires. The political capital shifted to Damascus and then to Baghdad, leaving Arabia – particularly Hejaz – as an important religious component of the caliphate but far from its political center.

For much of Islamic history, the various imperial dominions that held power in the Middle East – the Umayyads, the Abbasids, the Fatimids, the Ayubids, the Mamluks, the Ottomans – sought control over the Hejaz region, which contains the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, because of its religious significance. Powers that dominated the Persian Gulf exercised influence on the east coast of the peninsula. But Nejd was an obscure, mysterious and foreboding place located deep in the interior of Arabia and closed off from the rest of the world. All of this would change in the mid-18th century, when the Saudi clan and the Wahhabi sect emerged from the region.

Saudi Rule Emerges

For centuries, the tribes in Nejd constantly fought for power. Meanwhile, beginning in the late 10th century, Mecca and Medina in Hejaz were managed by Arab rulers known as sharifs from the Hashemite clan (whose descendants rule modern-day Jordan). It was not until the Ottomans established their control on both the west and the east coasts of the Arabian Peninsula in the mid-16th century that Nejd became the focus of a major power. The empire wanted to control the interior of the peninsula, but the inhospitable terrain and low return on investment made it a low priority.

(click to enlarge)

The Ottomans dedicated far more resources to expanding into Europe and pushing northward beyond the Black Sea basin. Nevertheless, they had an opportunity to expand into Nejd because they controlled both coasts, since the region was far more accessible from Hasa in the east than it was from the west. (Previous empires maintained power only in Hejaz.) But the Ottomans were held back by their need to focus on the wars with the Safavid Empire north of the Persian Gulf.

By the late 17th century, Ottoman power began to wane. The empire’s authority in Arabia never extended far beyond the coasts. In fact, its local allies on the coasts, including the sharifs in Hejaz, became increasingly independent. By the early 18th century, tribes from both Hejaz in the west and Hasa in the east tried to expand into Nejd, heightening the tribal conflict in the region. Meanwhile, the decline of the Ottoman Empire left the economy in Arabia in shambles. The tribes in control of the oasis towns of Uyaina, Qasim, Diriyah and Riyadh sought to defend their holdings.

Diriyah, located on the outskirts of Riyadh, became a pivotal town when Saud bin Muhammad, the founder of the Saudi dynasty, became its emir in the 1710s. When he was killed in 1725, his son, Muhammad bin Saud, succeeded him as emir, but not before a bitter power struggle involving tribal warlords from neighboring areas. An economic downturn led to a decline in commerce, which intensified tribal warfare and anarchy in the interior. Another generation would pass before order would be established.

During this time, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the founder of the ultraconservative branch of Islam known as Wahhabism or Salafism, returned to his native Nejd after studying at seminaries in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Egypt. He began preaching a puritanical interpretation of Islam, which conflicted with the prevailing Sunni creeds at the time.

He was forced to flee and, in 1744, settled in Diriyah, in Nejd region. He entered into a pact with its ruler, Muhammad bin Saud. This was the foundation of the alliance between the Saudis and the Wahhabis that continues today. Together, they oversaw the founding of the First Saudi State in 1744 and launched a jihad to spread the new ideology throughout Nejd and beyond. This was a turning point in the history of the Saudis; without the Wahhabi religious ideology, they would have been just another warlord clan among many in Nejd. The goal was to first conquer all of Nejd and then move on to Hejaz, freeing it from Ottoman rule. By 1808, both regions had been brought under the authority of the First Saudi State.


(click to enlarge)

The Saudi-Wahhabi alliance posed a major threat to the Ottomans, whose power had declined by the early 19th century. The Ottomans had lost control of Egypt to an Albanian governor, Muhammad Ali Pasha, on whom they had to rely to confront the Saudi threat. In 1811, Muhammad Ali Pasha sent a task force led by his son Ibrahim Pasha to retake Hejaz from the Saudis.

After seven years of war, the Egyptians destroyed the First Saudi State. The Egyptians, however, weren’t interested in maintaining an enduring presence in Nejd. This enabled the Saudis to regroup six years later under the leadership of Turki bin Abdullah, the grandson of Muhammad bin Saud, and seize control of Riyadh from the invading forces, leading to the establishment of the Second Saudi State in 1824. This state was much smaller and weaker than its predecessor because of internal strife and the Egyptians and Ottomans’ support of rival tribes, especially the al-Rasheeds of the northern Hail region. In 1891, the al-Rasheeds were triumphant and the Saudis were driven into exile in Kuwait.


(click to enlarge)

Founding the Modern Kingdom

A decade later in 1901, Abdulaziz bin Abdulrehman, the future founder of the modern Saudi kingdom and the son of the last ruler of the Second Saudi State, sought to reconquer the lands of his forefathers. He took control of Riyadh in 1902 but didn’t seize the east coast from the Ottomans until 1913. Abdulaziz also wanted to take control of Kuwait, but the British opposed the move. They didn’t want to jeopardize relations with other rulers they supported, especially the Hashemites, who had helped London defeat the Ottoman Empire.

The collapse of the Ottoman Empire along with the British and French move to divide their Arab holdings weakened the position of the Hashemites, and in 1923, the British allowed Abdulaziz to move on Hejaz. Until then, Abdulaziz had been taking control of territory around the Hejaz region, including the region of Asir – south of Hejaz and north of Yemen – which he conquered in 1920. But six years later, his forces took Hejaz. With the holy cities firmly in their hands, the Saudis could now claim to be not just rulers of an Islamic state but also leaders of the Islamic world.

In 1927, the British recognized the Kingdom of Hejaz and Nejd via the Treaty of Jeddah. The two regions would remain separate domains for five years, at which point they were formally unified during the founding of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. By the early 1930s, the Saudis were in firm control of much of the Arabian Peninsula. This was a historic moment, for until then, no single regime since the time of the prophet could claim authority over the entire area.

But the kingdom was still a weak state that relied on the British for its security needs. Islam alone would not be enough to maintain stability and unity in the country over the long term, especially given the fragmentation of the Muslim world. The third Saudi incarnation was threatened by the emergence of competing forces, especially secular Arab nationalism in Egypt and Baathism in Iraq and Syria, during the interwar period.

The Saudis had tried and failed twice before to hold on to control of a Saudi state. What made this time different, however, was the discovery of oil in Saudi Arabia in 1938 by Standard Oil. Production did not begin until 1949, and it took another decade for the oil sector to be nationalized, but the Saudis eventually became the world’s largest producers of crude oil. Together, the country’s rich oil reserves and religious primacy in the Muslim world helped sustain the Saudi monarchy for decades. In addition, the wealth created from the oil sector enabled the kingdom to project power and influence throughout the region and beyond. Following the end of World War II, the United States effectively became the Saudis’ security guarantor, making up for the fact that the kingdom’s military, despite its massive oil wealth, was weak.

Abdulaziz bin Abdulrehman didn’t live to see his kingdom flourish. His sons took over the monarchy after his death in 1953, but they had many internal problems to contend with – both from within the royal family and from radical elements of the religious establishment. These resulted in multiple crises over the decades, including the 1964 forced abdication of Abdulaziz’s first successor, King Saud bin Abdulaziz; the 1975 assassination of King Faisal bin Abdulaziz, who succeeded Saud; the 1979 siege of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by religious extremists; dissident movements in the 1990s; and the rise of al-Qaida in the 2000s and the Islamic State in the 2010s.

Uncertainty Ahead

To be sure, the Saudis have faced significant domestic crises in the past. But they now must also deal with numerous external problems: the proliferation of jihadism, the erosion of state authority in the Arab world, the rise of Iran and its Shiite Arab allies, an emergent Turkey and the divergence of interests with the United States. All of this comes at a time when the kingdom is at a historic impasse, with power shifting to the third generation of Saudi monarchs. Making matters worse is that funds from the kingdom’s most important revenue source, oil, are drying up because of depressed oil prices.

Members of the Saudi royal family perform prayer on the first day of Eid al-Fitr in the Great Mosque in the old City of Riyadh on Aug. 19, 2012. FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images

The Saudis are having to burn through cash to maintain stability at home. With a large youth population – at least two-thirds of all citizens are under the age of 30 – the social and cultural fabric of the country is shifting. Religion unified warring tribes in the past, but its less likely to hold together the more modern and youthful kingdom that’s emerging today. If anything, it can be used by jihadist extremists to challenge the Saudis’ leadership role in the Muslim world.

For these reasons, the crown prince and future king, Mohammed bin Salman, has been making unprecedented moves against the religious establishment as well as the royal family itself, including imposing social reforms and arranging the arrests of dozens of princes and senior officials. For now, it seems the young prince doesn’t face any serious resistance, but it’s still early in the process. Whether the Saudis can survive this test as they have survived other challenges over the past 300 years remains to be seen.


(click to enlarge)

Regardless of what happens to the Saudi monarchy, the Arabian Peninsula as a whole is already showing signs of fracture; the war in Yemen and the Arab blockade of Qatar are just two signs of this fragmentation. The crisis in Saudi Arabia threatens to accelerate that process. But this is nothing new; the relative resilience of the Saudi regimes of the past 300 years have actually been an anomaly.

Arabia has been geopolitically significant at two points in history: in the 7th century with the rise of Islam and in the 20th century with the discovery of oil. At other points, only the region’s coastal areas were relevant. The weakening of the Saudi state will return the peninsula to this state of affairs, with the coasts once again becoming the centers of power and the interior becoming a broken remnant of its former self.
153  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pope JP: Islam will invade Europe on: November 24, 2017, 03:40:40 PM
https://pamelageller.com/2017/11/newly-revealed-vision-st-pope-john-paul-islam-will-invade-europe.html/
154  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Policeman sacrifices life to muffle jihadi bomb on: November 24, 2017, 03:33:34 PM
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/16/world/asia/kabul-explosion-police.html?mc=adintl&mcid=facebook&mccr=subscribers&subid2=orange&ad-keywords=GlobalTruth&subid1=TAFI
155  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Good list of accomplishments on: November 23, 2017, 11:02:39 PM


http://www.nationalreview.com/article/454028/donald-trump-accomplishments-thanksgiving?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=NR%20Daily%20Monday%20through%20Friday%202017-11-23&utm_term=NR5PM%20Actives
156  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Flynn looking to cut a deal? on: November 23, 2017, 04:06:33 PM
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/23/us/politics/flynn-mueller-russia-trump.html?emc=edit_na_20171123&nl=breaking-news&nlid=49641193&ref=cta&_r=0
157  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Caroline Glick goes after Bret Stephens on: November 23, 2017, 01:26:07 PM
https://www.algemeiner.com/2017/11/21/new-york-times-columnist-collected-cash-from-zionist-group-he-now-calls-disgrace/
   
158  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / My Senator on: November 23, 2017, 01:25:08 PM
https://outreach.senate.gov/iqextranet/view_newsletter.aspx?id=100333&c=SenHarris
159  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Good for the goose, good for the gander on: November 23, 2017, 01:02:50 PM
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/23/opinion/conservatives-weaponize-federal-courts.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region&region=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region


The Dems have been legislating through the courts for decades.  What she’s upset about isn’t that the courts may be used that way, but that they may be used that way by someone else. 
160  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Joe Biden-- waves of illegals on: November 23, 2017, 12:03:03 PM
https://www.facebook.com/myiannopoulos/videos/1056519604485934/?hc_ref=ARQm1k7SclJXEhfmIpncIVTUUJhEEgR7Vd7azwWBP7bo90wRcGq0HfPAvQB9qS71MWA
161  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Milo on: November 23, 2017, 11:41:24 AM
The one and only Milo i.e. thoroughly vulgar, witty, and insightful:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idE_jqBn-pw
162  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Trump calls ICE union chief on: November 23, 2017, 11:37:57 AM
https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/nov/22/trump-calls-ice-union-chief-complaints-betrayal/?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiT1RCa09URmlZalptTldZeiIsInQiOiJpZE9rRmxqeTVUcHJnXC9cL21McVBDZ1p0ekc4bFdvUVBxSGgrY3RtVWhMak1pMWtMR0J6T1BpT2dBMEVzRWltNDgzRnRFNW5Ha3pVVTVBdFAydHNlRnFlSmpIcFhyK28xWXhGc2N2dFU3NzRSbEh1ZitnK29sYTIxQmxEYjhScmRyIn0%3D
163  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Merkel visits Greece on: November 22, 2017, 01:17:31 PM
Angela Merkel arrives at Passport Control in Athens airport.

"Nationality?" asks the immigration officer.

"German," she replies.

"Occupation?

"No, just here for a few days."
164  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GPF: The Right to Strike First? on: November 22, 2017, 07:35:13 AM
War, Nuclear War and the Law

Nov. 20, 2017 Senators are asking the right questions but of the wrong people.

By George Friedman

The U.S. Senate held hearings last week on the president’s authority to use nuclear weapons. The trigger for the hearings was the North Korea situation, and the fear among some that President Donald Trump might launch a reckless nuclear attack against the North Koreans. The question senators were asking was what the power of the president was to initiate nuclear war unilaterally.

This has long been a burning question, but one that has been intentionally ignored for decades. But this question involves not only the use of nuclear weapons, but the president’s authority to initiate all kinds of war without congressional approval. The Constitution states that the president is commander in chief of the armed forces. It also says that Congress has the power to declare war. On the surface, this seems a fairly clear system. The president is in command of the military; however, the authority to go to war rests with Congress.

But throughout U.S. history, presidents have taken it upon themselves to initiate conflicts, particularly minor ones. And since World War II, this has even extended to major conflicts. During this time, the United States has engaged in some conflicts without issuing a formal declaration of war – which must be approved by Congress. Without this formal declaration, congressional approval is unnecessary. The first major war that the U.S. fought without a declaration of war was Korea. President Harry Truman argued that U.S. engagement in the war was a police action authorized by the United Nations. The United States joined the United Nations by a treaty that had been approved by Congress; therefore, he argued, Congress had given its approval to engage in war in Korea by agreeing to join the United Nations, which authorized military action.

Sen. Bob Corker (C) (R-TN), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, confers with Sen. Ron Johnson (R) (R-WI) during a committee hearing on Nov. 14, 2017, in Washington. WIN MCNAMEE/Getty Images

The logic seems to me a bit tortuous, but the judiciary and Congress accepted it. This opened the door for U.S engagement in undeclared wars that were not authorized by the United Nations. Vietnam was fought without a declaration of war, although Congress passed a resolution after the incident in the Gulf of Tonkin that President Lyndon Johnson interpreted as congressional authorization for U.S. involvement. The resolution authorized the president to use any means necessary to protect U.S. forces from attack in Southeast Asia. (It should be noted that U.S. forces had been deployed in the area and were engaged in combat before the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.) In addition, no declaration of war was issued in the war in Afghanistan, the wars in Iraq, or any of the lesser wars that have been fought in recent years, from Libya to Syria to Niger and so on.

The argument in all of these operations was that the Constitution is vague on the requirement of a declaration of war, and that the president’s position as commander in chief gives him the power to wage war; congressional approval of funding for these operations was sufficient. Presidents didn’t want declarations of war because, in general, they did not want the public to think of a minor intervention as war. Johnson wanted to minimize the significance of what he was doing for political reasons. By the time President George W. Bush decided to invade Afghanistan, declarations of war seemed obsolete. The courts deemed this a political matter between the other two branches of government; Congress didn’t call a vote to declare war, which was its prerogative; and the public seemed to accept it.

Nuclear weapons added to the complexity of the situation. During the Cold War, there would have been no more than 30 minutes’ warning before a Soviet missile would land in the U.S., so asking for a declaration of war was impossible. If the president felt he had to launch a pre-emptive attack, going to Congress first would obviously remove the element of surprise. The president therefore had sole authority to respond to a nuclear attack or to initiate an attack. During the Cuban missile crisis, the president did not ask for authorization from Congress to initiate a nuclear strike, which might have been necessary depending on intelligence about Soviet intentions. It was simply assumed he had that power.

The president has had the practical authority since World War II to send troops into combat at his discretion and to use nuclear weapons at will. Last week’s congressional inquiry was odd in that the senators were asking questions of military men that should be asked of Congress. They asked generals if they would obey an illegal order given by the president, implying that a presidential decision to act militarily might be illegal. And this raises another important question: What actions ordered by the president would be considered illegal? It should be the role not of generals but of Congress to define what is legal and what isn’t.

The situation they are addressing has been in place for over 70 years, but Congress has consistently acquiesced, setting precedent after precedent. This is not a question about Donald Trump’s suitability to make decisions about war, but rather about Congress’ lack of insistence on declarations of war as prerequisites for engagement in combat. In the case of nuclear war, Congress could have required that congressional leaders be informed that nuclear weapons might be used and that these leaders must authorize the launch of such weapons.

In any case, the hearings are skirting the real issue, which is that since World War II the president has usurped Congress’ responsibility for war making, or, to put it another way, Congress has been abdicating its responsibility. At this point, the long practice has been that the president can act militarily at will. And the military must obey the commander in chief in any legal order. It’s hard to see that a president’s order as commander in chief can be illegal, unless it would represent a war crime. Is striking a North Korean nuclear facility a war crime? Congress should answer that question.

All the strategies that Congress has adopted to avoid or minimize its role in going to war emerge from the narrow question of who may order a nuclear attack. The Constitution specifically mentions declarations of war, and these declarations have an authority and unmistakable significance that mere resolutions lack. But then Congress enjoyed the ambiguity involved in resolutions and in avoiding responsibility for nuclear war. Its interest in the subject now is appropriate, but Congress’ desire to shift responsibility for war to the president is the issue that ought to be the focus of the hearings.
165  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / stratfor: US-Pakistan conflict on: November 22, 2017, 07:24:46 AM
The ravages of a seemingly endless war have kept the United States mired in South Asia for over 16 years. In August, U.S. President Donald Trump proposed a new solution to the intractable conflict in Afghanistan. The new strategy would focus not on meeting a specific deadline but rather on achieving the conditions necessary to bring peace to the war-torn country. To that end, Trump urged India to play a greater role in Afghanistan's economic development. He also had a few choice words for Pakistan.

The president took the large nuclear power, home to more than 200 million people, to task for continuing to harbor militant groups such as the Taliban and the Haqqani network. To compel a change in Islamabad's behavior, the Trump administration has threatened to revoke Pakistan's non-NATO major ally status and withhold more of the billions of dollars in aid that the United States has given the country each year since 2002. But the threats aren't working. On Nov. 9, NATO commander Gen. John Nicholson said Pakistan is still offering haven to militants. And even if Washington takes harsher punitive action toward Islamabad, it won't achieve the results it's hoping for. Militancy isn't the only enemy in Afghanistan; the United States is also fighting against the basic forces of geopolitics.
The Struggle for Survival

The foundations of geopolitics lie in the assumption that all nations are trying to survive and that to do so, they employ strategies based on the resources they have available to them. For Pakistan, the fight for survival dates back to its very birth as a country. Just two months after gaining independence in the partition of the British Raj in 1947, Pakistan was embroiled in its first war with India over the disputed territory of Kashmir. Pakistan's founder and first leader, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was acutely aware that some circles in India expected their fledgling neighbor state to collapse and began diverting resources away from development to national defense. In the process, he bestowed unrivaled power on the Pakistani army. An ineluctable principle soon emerged that guides Pakistan's foreign policy to this day: India is the enemy.

Tempting as it may be to accuse Pakistan of paranoia, it's important to consider the country's position. Pakistan already shares one border with its archrival. The last thing it wants is to have to contend with New Delhi along its western border — an area whose ethnic and linguistic diversity has given rise to unrest and insurgency — as well. With that in mind, Pakistan must keep New Delhi from establishing a presence along the Afghan border, while working to forge friendly ties with the government in Kabul. (India, likewise, uses development funding to try to buy influence with the Afghan administration.)
Bequeathing a Strategy

After the Soviet-Afghan war began in 1979, the United States helped Pakistan project power into Afghanistan through proxy forces as part of its wider struggle against communism. The CIA, along with Saudi Arabia, funneled money and arms to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency to train, arm and dispatch the mujahideen, a motley crew of religious and nationalist warriors, against the Soviets. Eager to destroy the godless ideology of communism — which in their view had no place in the devoutly Muslim country — the mujahideen eventually prevailed. The Soviets, beleaguered after a decadelong counterinsurgency war in unforgiving terrain, withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. Washington soon followed suit, leaving the rival mujahideen to vie for control of Afghanistan. The ensuing civil war paved the way for a new fundamentalist movement known as the Taliban to rise to power in southern Afghanistan in 1994.

For Pakistan, which had grown frustrated backing the mujahideen parties, the Taliban presented an opportunity. By supporting the organization, Islamabad could try to stabilize Afghanistan and to use the country as a conduit for energy from neighboring Turkmenistan. Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's administration began funding the Taliban, helping the group take control through its conquest of Kabul in September 1996. That's where Islamabad's interests in Afghanistan started to conflict with those of Washington.

The Taliban played host to Osama bin Laden and his organization, al Qaeda. From the mountains in Afghanistan, bin Laden plotted the 9/11 attacks that prompted the United States to invade in October 2001. The Pentagon's main objective in Afghanistan was to prevent militant groups from using the country as a base for launching transnational attacks. Pakistan, meanwhile, maintained its links to its proxies in the Taliban to keep its stake in Afghanistan.
The Limits of Power

More than a decade and a half later, the intransigence of the United States' longest-running war has compelled the Trump administration to reassess Washington's relationship with Islamabad. By every measure, the United States is more powerful and influential than Pakistan is. It boasts the mightiest military in the history of the world along with an $18 trillion economy. Pakistan, by contrast, is a poor country, and its military — though a formidable fighting force — is no match for the U.S. armed forces. Despite the disparity, however, Washington has failed to coerce Islamabad into cutting ties with the Taliban.

The United States' own cost-benefit calculation is partly to blame for this failure. Consider, for instance, bin Laden's discovery in 2011. Finding the world's most wanted man in Abbottabad, a garrison town in northeastern Pakistan, doubtless raised questions in Washington about the Pakistani army's ties with the militants. Nevertheless, the United States continued its aid to Islamabad, which totals $33 billion to date. The Pentagon concluded that the benefits of a security partnership with Pakistan, including access to critical supply routes and help flushing out al Qaeda operatives seeking refuge in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, outweighed the costs of Islamabad's selective ties with militants. Neither President George W. Bush nor his successor, Barack Obama, would risk jeopardizing those benefits.

That may change under Trump. His administration so far has shown a willingness to question long-standing conventions in U.S. foreign policy as the United States takes a step back from global affairs to focus instead on domestic issues. Washington's alliance with Islamabad could be one of them. But even if Trump and his generals follow through on their threats to punish Pakistan, they are unlikely to change its behavior. So long as the country's survival is at stake in the war in Afghanistan, Pakistan will bear the costs of the United States' rebuke and probably seek alternative sources of funding, namely China. And from Islamabad's perspective, the resurgence of Hindu nationalism in India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an existential threat. The movement's hard-line factions, after all, have never reconciled themselves to Pakistan's statehood and still regard it as an affront to their country's territorial integrity. Should Modi win a second five-year term in office in 2019, as he is expected to, his victory would strengthen Islamabad's desire to keep New Delhi from gaining a foothold in Afghanistan — and, by extension, its support for the Taliban.
The View Ahead

Pakistan's actions in Afghanistan derive from the same quest for survival that underlies any country's foreign policy. Ironically, Washington encouraged the very behavior that so vexes it today by helping Islamabad refine its strategy for proxy warfare in Afghanistan during the Cold War. But geography is the real culprit. Even if the last NATO soldier were to vanish from the desolated Afghan landscape tomorrow, Pakistan and India's imperatives to deny each other a space in the land known as "the graveyard of empires" would continue as before.

As part of that mission, the Pakistani army is currently sharpening its country's territorial contours by building a fence along the border with Afghanistan. The initiative is part of a plan to pacify and fully absorb the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, which have defied governance since at least the colonial period, so the army can turn more of its attention toward India. The army has also sponsored a proposal to start giving militants an outlet in mainstream politics as a way to exert greater control over them. (The backlash that the creation of the new Milli Muslim League party inspired from Pakistan's Ministry of the Interior suggests, however, that the effort will be yet another source of contention between the country's military and civilian institutions.) And so, as the United States mulls more serious measures to try to weaken Pakistan's support for the Taliban, it will probably only weaken its partnership with Islamabad instead.
166  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Turkey's currency tumbles towards record low on: November 22, 2017, 07:19:57 AM
Stratfor Worldview


    Forums



Nov 22, 2017 | 00:02 GMT
3 mins read
Turkey: Currency Value Tumbles Toward Record Low
(Stratfor)
Connections

 

News of Turkey's deteriorating currency aligns with Stratfor's 2017 Annual Forecast, in which we mentioned how the lira's continued instability will spook investors, who are already alarmed by the country's political crackdowns.
See 2017 Third-Quarter Forecast

The value of Turkey's currency, the lira, rapidly depreciated to record lows today, falling to 3.97 against the U.S. dollar. In an effort to not breach the unprecedented rate of 4 lira to 1 dollar, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan instructed his ministers to prepare urgent measures to bolster the currency over the next few days. On Nov. 21, Turkey's Central Bank cut its borrowing limits to sustain the lira's value, reduce liquidity and avoid a financial meltdown.

Leading up to the next Central Bank meeting on Dec.14, Erdogan, along with other policymakers, will likely engage in a heated debate over what measures to take next. Historically, the president has been reticent to raise interest rates, preferring to meddle with his country's monetary policy in ways that restrict the Central Bank's ability to take preventative measures in step with global market dynamics. However, the currency slide has Erdogan concerned about the damage it could inflict on the economy. Turkey depends on high levels of domestic consumption, and without purchasing power and consumer confidence, Turkish citizens' trust in the government could falter.

Without purchasing power and consumer confidence, Turkish citizens' trust in the government could falter.

The origins of the currency slide come from within the country but some of the latest drivers of the trend are external. Turkey has one of the world's most fragile economies, largely because the country is heavily reliant on short-term hot money flows. Dependence on short-term profit makes Ankara highly sensitive to global capital flows. This was the case in 2013 when the United States announced a tapering of its Quantitative Easing program, and international capital flooded into the United States — and out of emerging markets such as Turkey. At that time, Turkey was one of the so-called Fragile Five countries that had difficulties adjusting to changes in U.S. economic policy.

Ankara faced the same problem in 2016 when money again flowed into the United States, driving up the dollar as part of the "Trump Trade." Following a year of dollar depreciation, it's no surprise that the lira's own depreciation coincides with a mini-resurgence in the greenback. In early November, the ratings agency Standard and Poor's released a list of the new Fragile Five countries. Of the five, Turkey was the only country from the 2013 list that remained. The other four countries — Brazil, India, Indonesia and South Africa — mended their economies and were replaced by Argentina, Pakistan, Egypt and Qatar. If Turkey is to escape its economic funk, Ankara may want to consider changing its approach.
167  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / One belt road facing push back on: November 21, 2017, 10:35:08 PM
China’s One Belt, One Road Faces Pushback


Countries want China’s funding but not at any cost.

China’s One Belt, One Road, a much-touted initiative to connect the country with Europe, the Middle East, Africa and other parts of Asia, is facing resistance from states whose cooperation Beijing needs to build its highly ambitious infrastructure projects. Last week, Pakistan and Nepal both pulled out of deals to build dams with China because of disagreements over the terms of the deals. Countries that have partnered with China on projects such as these need Chinese finance and expertise to help develop their economies and infrastructure. But these two cases show that some countries are unwilling to just accept China’s terms in exchange for access to its cash. There are limits to China’s economic clout, and Beijing can expect similar pushback from other countries.

On Nov. 15, Pakistan announced that it had withdrawn from the $14 billion Diamer-Bhasha Dam, part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, over its objections to certain terms and conditions set by Beijing. According to the head of Islamabad’s Water and Power Development Authority, China demanded ownership of the project and its operations and wanted its own forces to provide security. Pakistan will use its own financing to go ahead with the dam, which is expected to provide 4,500 megawatts of power – roughly equivalent to the country’s energy shortfall.

Before the dam was included in the $62 billion CPEC project, the Pakistanis had sought financing from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. Both institutions refused to fund the project because of its location in the Pakistani-controlled part of the disputed Kashmir region. The project, which has been in the works for 15 years, has already faced numerous delays and could face even more if Pakistan is unable to supply the money needed to complete the dam.

The CPEC will continue to fund other projects, including roadways, energy facilities, transportation systems and the port of Gwadar. At a time when relations with the United States have deteriorated, Pakistan is all the more reliant on China for development assistance, making the decision to reject Chinese funding for the dam even more significant. Pakistan didn’t make this decision lightly, but it couldn’t accept the terms China was seeking; Chinese ownership of a major infrastructure facility guarded by Chinese security forces was just a step too far.


 

Leaders attend a roundtable meeting during the Belt and Road Forum at the International Conference Center in Yanqi Lake, north of Beijing, on May 15, 2017. LINTAO ZHANG/AFP/Getty Images

Also last week, Nepal announced that it would scrap a $2.5 billion deal with Chinese state firm China Gezhouba Group to develop the Budhi Gandaki hydroelectric project. The hydroelectric plant would have generated 1,200 megawatts of electricity. The deal was signed last June – less than a month after Nepal agreed to participate in OBOR – by the pro-Beijing Maoist-dominated government in charge at the time.

That government has since been replaced by an interim government, which has said that a key part of its decision to pull out of the deal was that the agreement was reached without a competitive bidding process. There is much speculation that factions that support India within the interim government were behind the decision. Nepal has long been part of a struggle for influence between the world’s two most populous nations. With elections due on Nov. 26, the future balance between pro-China and pro-India factions in Nepal remains unclear, but the struggle between these two camps is just one part of why Nepal pulled out of the deal and why China has had trouble ensuring the cooperation of its partners.

In an article published this week, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post highlighted the larger implications of the cancellation of these two deals. That a Chinese paper has been openly critical of how China has handled this issue is noteworthy. Chinese publications don’t often acknowledge problems associated with a signature project of President Xi Jinping. But people are beginning to take notice of the many problems with OBOR. The failure of these deals is related to the fact that OBOR is an overly ambitious initiative that lacks a coherent strategy.

The most developed of OBOR’s six overland economic corridors runs from Xinjiang province in western China through the entire length of Pakistan to the port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea. Pakistan views the project as a major part of its close relationship with China and its efforts to address its chronically weak infrastructure. But Pakistan understands that China’s main interest in the project is to ensure that Chinese firms can profit from it, to find new markets for its goods and to establish a new trade route that isn’t dependent on maritime shipping lanes.

It is unlikely that Pakistan and Nepal will be the only countries critical of China’s approach to these infrastructure projects. Countries in Central Asia, where the Chinese are aiming to develop another critical corridor as part of OBOR, could also raise objections to Chinese demands, which are proving to be unduly onerous on China’s partners. These countries want China’s funding, but not at any cost.




168  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / War on Poverty was a Catastrophe on: November 21, 2017, 03:10:58 PM
https://www.forbes.com/sites/louiswoodhill/2014/03/19/the-war-on-poverty-wasnt-a-failure-it-was-a-catastrophe/#6620686a6f49
169  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: November 21, 2017, 11:46:43 AM
"Note that in both cases, Moore and Trump, the bad stuff was timed to come out after all the choices for other candidates were removed.  They weren't trying to expose filth, the were trying to steal an election. "

"excellent point!"


Yup.
170  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Reason: President Trump devolving power back to Congress on: November 21, 2017, 08:51:53 AM
http://reason.com/blog/2017/11/20/is-donald-trump-of-all-presidents-devolv?utm_medium=emailWith
171  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Germany -- Merkel fails to form government on: November 20, 2017, 02:48:45 PM
    Negotiations to form a German government collapsed Nov. 19, opening a period of political uncertainty as leaders try to form a minority government or even seek new general elections.
    Prolonged political uncertainty in Germany will complicate France's plans for eurozone reforms and delay discussions about financial and institutional reforms for months.
    The situation in Germany could also delay negotiations about the United Kingdom’s future ties with the European Union.

Germany's role as the beacon of political stability and predictability in Europe is now in doubt. Negotiations to form a government collapsed Nov. 19 after the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) left coalition talks, opening a period of prolonged political uncertainty. For weeks, the FDP, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the environmentalist Green party have negotiated over controversial issues such as migration, the environment, and taxes to avoid this scenario. Now, German parties and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier must decide what to do next. The rest of Europe will be watching as well, waiting for a new government to be appointed in Berlin before it can resume talks about the future of the European Union.

Germany Is Divided

Germany's political melee is a consequence of inconclusive Sept. 24 general elections, which produced a fragmented parliament. Germany's biggest parties, the CDU and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SDP), lost support to smaller parties, including the FDP, the Greens, the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and the far-left The Left. Weaker support for the CDU and the SPD, which had ruled Germany in a grand coalition for years, can be partly attributed to voter exhaustion, but the refugee crisis factored as well. Merkel's decision to open Germany's borders to hundreds of thousands of Syrian asylum seekers in 2015 caused concern among some of the German electorate. It helped spur the AfD's strong election performance, and it was one of the reasons coalition talks collapsed: The parties simply could not agree on Germany's future refugee policy. The CSU and the FDP wanted to introduce an annual cap on asylum seekers and make family reunification harder for refugees to prevent additional migrants from entering the country. The Greens and some of the CDU opposed the proposal. Even though the number of refugees entering Europe has since declined, the topic continues to shape German politics.

In the coming days, three scenarios are possible. First, the CDU could seek another alliance with the SPD. The SPD rejected that option on Nov. 20, because it wants to spend some time in the opposition to become more attractive for voters in the future. Still, the prospect of prolonged political uncertainty could make the party change its mind, though it seems unlikely.

The second scenario would involve the formation of a minority government. Merkel's administration would require support from opposition parties on a case-by-case basis to pass legislation. But Germany has never had a minority government before, and Merkel said on Nov. 20 that this is not her preferred option. Notably, it would open the door for potential parliamentary cooperation with far-right lawmakers from the AfD to pass legislation.

The third scenario would be for the German president to dissolve the lower chamber of parliament, the Bundestag, and hold new elections. But before the Bundestag could be dissolved, lawmakers would have to try to appoint a new chancellor, a process that would take up to three weeks. Afterward, Steinmeier would be able to call new elections to take place within 60 days, meaning snap elections could not be held before early March. The problem is that opinion polls show that new elections would produce a similarly fragmented Bundestag, once again leading to multi-party coalition talks. On Nov. 20, Steinmeier spoke against new elections and said that in the coming days he would hold talks with all parties in the German parliament to find a possible government.

Europe Is Watching

The rest of Europe was waiting for a new German government to coalesce before making crucial decisions. The collapse of coalition talks will extend that wait. EU member states were expected to discuss issues such as eurozone reform and immigration at the EU summit on Dec. 14-15, but with Germany under a caretaker government, the summit won't be as decisive as originally thought.

It's a particularly disappointing situation for France. In recent weeks, the French government made several proposals to reform the eurozone, including to create a separate budget for the currency area and to complete the banking union. A German minority government would hurt Paris' agenda because Berlin would have to negotiate every French proposal with the opposition. In some cases, Berlin could even use the situation as an excuse to oppose French ideas altogether. If early elections are called, Germany will refuse to commit itself to any meaningful reforms to the eurozone until after the vote. And even then, lengthy coalition talks would delay the beginning of negotiations with France until at least mid-2018. This next government in Berlin could include the CDU, the SPD or the Greens, which would support EU integration. But a new administration including the FDP would be more Euroskeptical. Moreover, if Merkel isn't the candidate for the chancellery in the elections, the CDU could also move toward more Euroskeptical positions, further complicating France's plans. Another risk facing Paris is that, as German coalition talks linger, momentum for reform at the EU level could be lost.

But France has an opportunity as well. With Berlin focusing on domestic issues, the French government could intensify its lobbying efforts in Europe to gain support for its reform proposals. Though Paris could try to fill the power vacuum in Europe left by Germany, a French diplomatic push probably won't be enough to appease Northern Europe about eurozone reforms.

To a lesser extent, Germany's domestic troubles could affect the Brexit process, too. A special team appointed by the European Union is conducting much of the Brexit talks. These negotiations will continue regardless of what happens in Berlin. But when it becomes decision time, Germany's ucertain political situation could delay an EU decision, such as whether to start negotiations about the United Kingdom's future ties with the bloc. After all, it would be months before a new German government is appointed, and the United Kingdom has to leave the European Union in March 2019. Timing will be crucial.

Germany's general election in September exposed an increasingly divided electorate. The country's largest parties gave ground to emerging forces on the left and right. Germany could join the United Kingdom in being led by a fragile minority government, or emulate Spain and hold two general elections within a year. Either way, one of the pillars of European stability is not looking so stable anymore.
172  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Enemies of Liberty Gather on: November 20, 2017, 01:50:35 PM
https://patriotpost.us/articles/52505
173  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Humor on: November 20, 2017, 01:41:12 PM
https://patriotpost.us/humor/52504
174  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Football on: November 20, 2017, 01:37:51 PM
http://www.dailywire.com/news/23779/trump-has-more-advice-nfl-after-player-sits-james-barrett
175  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: European matters on: November 20, 2017, 01:29:00 PM
BREAKING NEWS
Germany may have to hold new elections. Angela Merkel endorsed the move after coalition talks failed, raising fears of instability in Europe.

Monday, November 20, 2017 1:56 PM EST


Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany faced the greatest crisis of her political career on Monday, after late-night negotiations to form a new government collapsed, raising the prospect of a snap election.
The chancellor expressed a preference for a new election, saying that she was doubtful that a government lacking a majority in Parliament could handle the many challenges it faces.
176  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The natural squat on: November 20, 2017, 11:44:58 AM
IMHO this is very important!


https://quartzy.qz.com/1121077/to-solve-problems-caused-by-sitting-learn-to-squat/
177  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WaPo: Border Patrol agent killed (rock attack?) on: November 20, 2017, 11:30:41 AM


https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/11/19/after-border-agent-is-killed-and-partner-injured-in-texas-trump-renews-call-for-wall/?undefined=&utm_term=.259bcfc6023a&wpisrc=nl_most&wpmm=1

  cry cry cry  angry angry angry
178  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: Economy accelerating on: November 20, 2017, 11:27:22 AM
The Economy is Accelerating To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Deputy Chief Economist
Date: 11/20/2017

We've called it a "Plow Horse" economy, which was our metaphor invented to counter forecasters who said slow growth meant a recession was on its way. A Plow Horse is always slow, but that slowness hides underlying strength – it was never going to slip and fall. Now, the economy is accelerating.

Halfway through the fourth quarter, monthly data releases show real GDP growing at a 3%+ annual rate. If that holds, it would make for three consecutive quarters of growth at 3% or higher. Believe it or not, the last time that happened was 2004.

Last week saw retail sales, industrial production, and housing starts all come in better than expected for October, the latter two substantially better.

And while retail sales grew "just" 0.2% in October, that came on the back of a 1.9% surge in September. Overall sales, and those excluding volatile components like autos, gas and building materials, all signal a robust consumer.

Meanwhile factory output surged 1.3% in October, tying the second highest monthly gain since 2010. Production at factories is now up 2.5% from a year ago, and accelerating. By contrast, factory production was down 0.1% in the year ending October 2016 and unchanged in the year ending October 2015. The current revival is not due to the volatile auto sector, where output of motor vehicles is down 5.9% from a year ago while the production of auto parts is down 0.3%.

The last piece of last week's good economic news was on home building: housing starts surged after a storm-related lull in September. Single-family starts, which are more stable than multi-family starts - and add more per unit to GDP - tied the highest level since 2007. Housing completions hit the highest level since 2008.

As a result of all this data, the Atlanta Fed's "GDP Now" model says real GDP is growing at a 3.4% annual rate in Q4. The New York Fed's "Nowcast" says 3.8%.

Of course, if we get anything close to those numbers, some analysts will claim the fourth quarter is just a hurricane-related rebound. But the conventional wisdom has been way too bearish for years, and Q3 is likely to be revised up to a 3.4% growth rate from the original estimate of 3.0%. Put it all together, and things are looking up. It's no longer a Plow Horse economy. In fact, after years of smothering the growth potential of amazing new technologies, the government is finally getting out of the way.

The Obama and Bush regulatory State is being dismantled piece by piece, and spending growth has slowed relative to GDP. Tax cuts are moving through Congress. These positive developments have monetary velocity – the speed at which money moves through the economy – picking up. "Animal spirits" are stirring. We don't have a cute name for it, but growth is accelerating.

This reduction in the burden of government would be easier, and much more focused on growth, if Republicans had fixed the budget scorekeeping process when they first had the chance back in 2015, or even in the mid-1990s, after having gained control of both the House and Senate.

Instead, they took a cowardly pass. As a result, when assessing the "cost" of tax cuts, Congress still ignores the positive economic effects of tax cuts on growth. Oddly, while refusing to "score" better GDP growth, we understand the budget scorekeepers assume tax cuts lead to higher interest rates, which add to the cost of the tax cuts. In effect, the scorekeepers will use dynamic models to count the negative effects of tax cuts on the overall economy, but not the positive ones!

This kind of rigged scoring system is why the current tax proposals don't cut tax rates on dividends or capital gains, and why some of the tax cuts are temporary. It's also why the top tax rate on regular income for the highest earners is likely to end up near the current tax rate of 39.6%.

We were never satisfied with Plow Horse growth, but we always thought it showed the power of innovation. The power of new technology caused the economy to grow since 2009, despite the burden of big government.

Now with better policies, growth is on the rise. We haven't fixed enough problems to get 3% real growth in every quarter, and maybe not even as the average growth rate over time. That would probably take some major changes to entitlement spending programs. But the recent improvement is hard to miss and signals that entrepreneurship is alive and well in the United States.
179  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Trump's accomplisments and promises kept on: November 20, 2017, 11:18:00 AM
second post:

Norks back on Terrorism list.
180  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: California on: November 20, 2017, 11:14:34 AM
http://www.capoliticalreview.com/capoliticalnewsandviews/
181  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ISNA president with radical Islam group in India on: November 20, 2017, 11:08:42 AM
ISNA President Addresses Jamaat-e-Islami Crowd In India
by John Rossomando  •  Nov 17, 2017 at 6:13 pm
https://www.investigativeproject.org/6947/isna-president-addresses-jamaat-e-islami-crowd-in

 
The leader of the largest Muslim group in the United States, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), addressed a radical Asian Islamist group during a trip to India.  ISNA President Azhar Azeez spoke to India's Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) during a visit to Hyderabad. ISNA posted an announcement of Azeez's visit on its Facebook page Friday.

Jamaat-e-Islami is an Asian version of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. Its leaders advocate laws that criminalize blasphemy against Islam. Its constitution calls for "the reconstruction of society" and the formation of an Islamic State. It tells Muslims to avoid going to "un-Islamic" courts to settle dispute except under "compelling necessity."

Founder Maulana Maududi declared that insufficiently Islamic regimes should be destroyed and replaced by an Islamic State and eventually a caliphate. Maududi inspired Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini and ISIS's self-appointed Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Still, Azeez used a Twitter post to show that he met with Jamaat-e-Islami's leadership in Delhi. ISNA was founded by Muslim Brotherhood members in the United States. The group has tried to distance itself from that past and present itself as the representative of mainstream American Muslims. But its conferences have featured radical Islamist speakers, and this year, it tossed a gay-friendly group called Muslim for Progressive Values from its annual gathering.

In Asia, Jamaat-e-Islami's leaders encourage boycotts against the Ahmadiyya Muslim minority, which led to Ahmadiyyas being evicted from their homes and fired from their jobs.

Jamaat-e-Islami branches in Kashmir and Bangladesh have been tied to terrorist activities.

Bangladesh executed top former Jamaat-e-Islami leaders for war crimes committed during its 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.

JIH supported terrorism against American troops and in the Middle East. It praised "the historic victory against Israeli aggression in Lebanon by the Hezbollah led Lebanese National resistance" in a March 2007 statement in conjunction with other Muslim groups.

Azeez's speech to a Jamaat branch, and his desire to promote it, reinforces the perception that ISNA's attempts at moderation are superficial.
182  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Taylor Act on: November 20, 2017, 10:55:25 AM
The Important Symbolism, but Probable Futility, of the Taylor Force Act
by A.J. Caschetta
The New English Review
November 17, 2017
http://www.meforum.org/7023/important-symbolism-of-taylor-force-act

 
Taylor Force likely won't be the last American killed as a result of Palestinian terror incitement.

The Taylor Force Act (TFA) passed the House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously on Wednesday and is expected to pass the full house with wide bipartisan support. The Taylor Force Act marks a noble and long overdue departure from the "anything goes" attitude toward Palestinian terror incitement of previous administrations, but it's unlikely to have a decisive impact on how the PA operates.

The bill is named for US Army veteran Taylor Force, who was murdered while studying in Israel by Palestinian terrorist Bashar Massalh in March 2016. As it does with all other Palestinian terrorists who die carrying out their attacks, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has been making monthly payments to Massalh's family ever since. These funds, from the PA's "Martyr's Fund," are directed through the PLO, which Abbas also controls.

U.S. congressional leaders responded to Force's murder with rare unanimity and determination to put an end to the so-called "pay-to-slay" program and other forms of PA incitement. Sort of.

The Taylor Force Act is designed to trigger a cutoff of US aid to the Palestinians unless the PA takes steps to end terrorism by "individuals under its jurisdictional control," publically condemns and investigates terror attacks, and stops paying monthly stipends to the families of terrorists.

Authority to certify PA compliance with the law's criteria is vested solely in the State Department.

First, authority to certify PA compliance with these three criteria is vested solely in the State Department (in both House and Senate versions), which for years had refused to budge from its traditional depiction of the PA as a force of moderation and peace partner. Fear of the alternatives to PA President Mahmoud Abbas (now in the 12th year of his 4-year term) has led the department to engage in absurd defenses of his regime in the past, and there is no sign of that changing. Indeed, State has already all but certified PA compliance with the first two of the three criteria in its 2016 Country Reports on Terrorism, which commends Abbas's counter-terrorism efforts.

Moreover, the legislation has been watered down to allow some public entities and projects in Palestinian areas to continue receiving US funding on humanitarian grounds regardless of whether the PA is in compliance. Palestinian water projects, childhood vaccination programs and East Jerusalem hospitals are untouchable. "What good is there in punishing women and children for something they did not do?" explained Senate co-sponsor Lindsay Graham in August.

The legislation has been watered down to exempt some public entities and projects from an aid cutoff.

While no one wants Palestinian women and children to go without medical care, vaccinations, or clean water, the history of terrorism funding teaches us that all aid is fungible. With a little imagination, most aid dollars can be construed as benefiting innocent Palestinians somehow or another. The real peril for ordinary Palestinians is a governing apparatus so indifferent to their welfare that it spends over $190 million annually encouraging them to sacrifice their lives.

Like most autocracies, the PA isn't likely to change its ways until its grip on power becomes unsustainable. Nothing short of a total cessation of US funding has much chance of instigating such change.

Palestinian leaders aren't impressed by what they've seen so far. Shortly after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved TFA in August, the Abbas-led PLO Executive Committee issued a blistering statement pledging to continue providing "aid to the families of the martyrs and prisoners," which it called a "national, moral, and humanitarian responsibility towards the occupation's victims."

The TFA is an important first step in divesting from nearly a half-century of failed PLO leadership.

Others will surely step in to make up for any shortfall of funding in the "pay-to-slay" program. During the Second Intifada, Saddam Hussein sent $10,000 checks (later raised to $25,000) to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, and the King of Saudi Arabia held telethons to raise money for them. Perhaps this time around, as Daniel Pipes succinctly tweeted: "#Qatar will pay."

But at least it won't be us subsidizing terrorist blood money. If nothing else, the Taylor Force Act marks an important first step in divesting America from nearly a half-century of failed PLO leadership. That alone makes its passage worth celebrating.

A.J. Caschetta is a Shillman-Ginsburg fellow at the Middle East Forum and a senior lecturer at the Rochester Institute of Technology
183  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US Congress passes Taylor Act on: November 20, 2017, 10:55:03 AM
The Important Symbolism, but Probable Futility, of the Taylor Force Act
by A.J. Caschetta
The New English Review
November 17, 2017
http://www.meforum.org/7023/important-symbolism-of-taylor-force-act

 
Taylor Force likely won't be the last American killed as a result of Palestinian terror incitement.

The Taylor Force Act (TFA) passed the House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously on Wednesday and is expected to pass the full house with wide bipartisan support. The Taylor Force Act marks a noble and long overdue departure from the "anything goes" attitude toward Palestinian terror incitement of previous administrations, but it's unlikely to have a decisive impact on how the PA operates.

The bill is named for US Army veteran Taylor Force, who was murdered while studying in Israel by Palestinian terrorist Bashar Massalh in March 2016. As it does with all other Palestinian terrorists who die carrying out their attacks, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has been making monthly payments to Massalh's family ever since. These funds, from the PA's "Martyr's Fund," are directed through the PLO, which Abbas also controls.

U.S. congressional leaders responded to Force's murder with rare unanimity and determination to put an end to the so-called "pay-to-slay" program and other forms of PA incitement. Sort of.

The Taylor Force Act is designed to trigger a cutoff of US aid to the Palestinians unless the PA takes steps to end terrorism by "individuals under its jurisdictional control," publically condemns and investigates terror attacks, and stops paying monthly stipends to the families of terrorists.

Authority to certify PA compliance with the law's criteria is vested solely in the State Department.

First, authority to certify PA compliance with these three criteria is vested solely in the State Department (in both House and Senate versions), which for years had refused to budge from its traditional depiction of the PA as a force of moderation and peace partner. Fear of the alternatives to PA President Mahmoud Abbas (now in the 12th year of his 4-year term) has led the department to engage in absurd defenses of his regime in the past, and there is no sign of that changing. Indeed, State has already all but certified PA compliance with the first two of the three criteria in its 2016 Country Reports on Terrorism, which commends Abbas's counter-terrorism efforts.

Moreover, the legislation has been watered down to allow some public entities and projects in Palestinian areas to continue receiving US funding on humanitarian grounds regardless of whether the PA is in compliance. Palestinian water projects, childhood vaccination programs and East Jerusalem hospitals are untouchable. "What good is there in punishing women and children for something they did not do?" explained Senate co-sponsor Lindsay Graham in August.

The legislation has been watered down to exempt some public entities and projects from an aid cutoff.

While no one wants Palestinian women and children to go without medical care, vaccinations, or clean water, the history of terrorism funding teaches us that all aid is fungible. With a little imagination, most aid dollars can be construed as benefiting innocent Palestinians somehow or another. The real peril for ordinary Palestinians is a governing apparatus so indifferent to their welfare that it spends over $190 million annually encouraging them to sacrifice their lives.

Like most autocracies, the PA isn't likely to change its ways until its grip on power becomes unsustainable. Nothing short of a total cessation of US funding has much chance of instigating such change.

Palestinian leaders aren't impressed by what they've seen so far. Shortly after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved TFA in August, the Abbas-led PLO Executive Committee issued a blistering statement pledging to continue providing "aid to the families of the martyrs and prisoners," which it called a "national, moral, and humanitarian responsibility towards the occupation's victims."

The TFA is an important first step in divesting from nearly a half-century of failed PLO leadership.

Others will surely step in to make up for any shortfall of funding in the "pay-to-slay" program. During the Second Intifada, Saddam Hussein sent $10,000 checks (later raised to $25,000) to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, and the King of Saudi Arabia held telethons to raise money for them. Perhaps this time around, as Daniel Pipes succinctly tweeted: "#Qatar will pay."

But at least it won't be us subsidizing terrorist blood money. If nothing else, the Taylor Force Act marks an important first step in divesting America from nearly a half-century of failed PLO leadership. That alone makes its passage worth celebrating.

A.J. Caschetta is a Shillman-Ginsburg fellow at the Middle East Forum and a senior lecturer at the Rochester Institute of Technology
184  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hot Magma under Greenland on: November 20, 2017, 10:30:03 AM


http://joannenova.com.au/2016/04/hot-magma-is-melting-greenland-ice-can-windfarms-save-it/
185  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / God writes straight with crooked lines on: November 20, 2017, 05:25:44 AM
From Australia

https://www.mercatornet.com/above/view/god-writes-straight-with-crooked-lines/20733?utm_source=MercatorNet&utm_campaign=bf3af63726-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_11_20&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e581d204e2-bf3af63726-124674163
186  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / God writes straight with crooked lines on: November 20, 2017, 05:24:50 AM
From Australia

https://www.mercatornet.com/above/view/god-writes-straight-with-crooked-lines/20733?utm_source=MercatorNet&utm_campaign=bf3af63726-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_11_20&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e581d204e2-bf3af63726-124674163
187  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin, LGBT, "discrimination", & discrimination. on: November 19, 2017, 03:02:30 PM
Nice finds! 

Feel to post them on the Martial Arts forum too.
188  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Men & Women on: November 19, 2017, 02:45:02 PM
Slander is oral, Libel is printed. grin
189  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / 20 State Govt takes away right to drive for failure to pay student loans on: November 19, 2017, 02:38:09 PM
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/18/business/student-loans-licenses.html?emc=edit_th_20171119&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49641193&_r=0
190  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The US Congress; Congressional races on: November 19, 2017, 09:05:30 AM
Exactly so.
191  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / History repeating itself w Islamism on: November 18, 2017, 11:29:45 AM
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/we-let-lenin-rise-millions-died-now-its-islamism-dsnmrzl6q?utm_source=FBPAGE&utm_medium=social_&UTMX=:The%20Times%20&%20The%20Sunday%20Times:::&linkId=44760313
192  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / History repeating itself w Islamism on: November 18, 2017, 11:27:12 AM
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/we-let-lenin-rise-millions-died-now-its-islamism-dsnmrzl6q?utm_source=FBPAGE&utm_medium=social_&UTMX=:The%20Times%20&%20The%20Sunday%20Times:::&linkId=44760313
193  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Daniel Pipes interview on: November 18, 2017, 11:22:22 AM
Daniel Pipes on Trump, Iran, and a Fast-Changing Middle East
L'Informale (Italy)
November 13, 2017
http://www.meforum.org/7022/daniel-pipes-on-trump-iran-and-a-fast-changing
194  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Body cam cognitive dissonance on: November 18, 2017, 12:53:40 AM
https://www.themaven.net/bluelivesmatter/news/bodycam-advocates-now-claim-body-cameras-are-a-threat-to-civil-rights-RZI2tR4e9UaYyZdz6Ce3pA
195  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal issues on: November 17, 2017, 02:45:32 PM
The BBC reports that this guy listed investigating paranormal activity on his resume.

http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/360911-republicans-still-backing-trump-judicial-nominee-with-no-trial-experience
196  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Billary and Al are but sacrificial lambs , , , , on: November 16, 2017, 07:08:22 PM
CCP nails it:

"This all about getting Trump"
197  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / OTOH are you fg kidding me?!? on: November 16, 2017, 03:17:24 PM
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-42001038
198  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Federalist Society approved judges on: November 16, 2017, 02:12:27 PM
http://thehill.com/regulation/court-battles/360598-meet-the-powerful-group-behind-trumps-judicial-nominations
199  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / October Industrial Production on: November 16, 2017, 02:05:32 PM

________________________________________
Industrial Production Increased 0.9% in October To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Deputy Chief Economist
Date: 11/16/2017

Industrial production increased 0.9% in October (1.4% including revisions to prior months), easily beating the consensus expected 0.5%. Utility output rose 2.0%, while mining fell 1.3%.

Manufacturing, which excludes mining/utilities, increased 1.3% in October (1.7% including revisions to prior months). Auto production rose 1% while non-auto manufacturing rose 1.3%. Auto production is down 1.6% versus a year ago while non-auto manufacturing is up 2.9%.

The production of high-tech equipment rose 1.2% in October and is up 4.2% versus a year ago.

Overall capacity utilization increased to 77.0% in October from 76.4% in September. Manufacturing capacity utilization rose to 76.4% in October from 75.5% in September.

Implications: Industrial production continued its post-hurricane rally in October, easily beating consensus expectations as the manufacturing sector led the way. But even without the storms, production would have been a solid 0.3%, according to the Federal Reserve. Industrial production rose 0.9% in October and is now up 2.8% versus a year ago. The biggest positive contribution to today's headline number came from manufacturing which rose 1.3%, matching the largest monthly gain since 2010. Auto manufacturing rose 1% in October and is now up at a 27.5% annual rate in the past three months, getting back to pre-hurricane levels of output. Meanwhile, non-auto manufacturing posted its largest monthly gain since 2006, rising 1.3%. This strength was also reflected in manufacturing capacity utilization, which rose to its highest level since 2008. Looking forward, expect further gains in overall production as the economy recovers from the effects of the two hurricanes. The one disappointment in today's report came from mining which fell 1.3%, primarily due to both oil and gas well drilling and extraction. Oil and gas-well drilling has struggled since the storms, but its monthly declines have begun to level off and it is still up a massive 61% from a year ago. Look for a surge in drilling activity in the months ahead once the effects of the storms pass. In other news this morning, the Philly Fed Index, a measure of sentiment among East Coast manufacturers, fell to a still high 22.7 in November from 27.9 in October. On the employment front, new claims for jobless benefits rose 10,000 last week to 249,000. Meanwhile, continuing claims fell 44,000 to 1.86 million. Look for another solid month of job growth in November. Finally, on inflation, import prices rose 0.2% in October while export prices remained unchanged. In the past year however, import prices are up 2.5% while export prices are up 2.7%, both in stark contrast to the price declines in the twelve months ending in October 2016. Yet another reason why the Federal Reserve should and will raise rates in December.
200  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The US Congress; Congressional races on: November 16, 2017, 01:52:29 PM
Great photos Doug!!!  Please post them with explanation in the SJW thread.
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