on: October 29, 2014, 10:32:59 PM
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Things You Wouldn’t Have Believed About President Obama and the 2014 Election
Think back six years to the day President Obama was elected. Tens of thousands gathered in Grant Park in Chicago. There was cheering in the streets across the country. Commentators were breathless and tearful. The president-elect gave an excellent speech. Most Americans exulted at Hope and Change.
Imagine if someone had told you that night that within six years, the man just elected president would have:
Pivoted from a campaign theme of unity to a habit of insinuating Americans who opposed his policies were racists, sexists, classists, or bigots.
Run one of the most divisive reelection campaigns in recent memory on a theme of class warfare.
Lost the Massachusetts Senate seat formerly held by Ted Kennedy to a Republican with health care as the issue.
Driven approval of the Democratic Party to its lowest point in 30 years, with Republicans on the verge of their largest majority in the House in more than half a century.
Allowed western Iraq, then a story of hard-earned recovery, to fall into the hands of a terrorist organization more extreme than Al Qaeda that would declare it had reestablished the caliphate.
Allowed Vladimir Putin to invade and annex a large territory of a major European country.
Done nothing when Russian militants shot down a civilian airliner flying over Europe.
Declared as a "red line" the use of chemical weapons in Syria and then done nothing when it was crossed.
Abandoned several longstanding U.S. allies in the Middle East in favor of Islamist agitators--allowing Egypt, a tourist destination in 2009, to fall into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood and Libya to fall into the hands of terrorists.
Entered negotiations with Iran that did not require Iran to halt its nuclear weapons program.
Caused a humanitarian crisis with a flood of immigrant children on our border, who came here because the President promised not to send them home and declared his intention to grant amnesty by executive order.
Told the American people a Soviet-style lie about this crisis, saying the children on the border suddenly came to the U.S. because of violence which had been going on in Central America for years (a lie which the media accepted with barely a comment).
Signed a law reorganizing the country's health care system despite the fact that neither he nor a single person who voted for it had read it.
Passed his health care law supposedly to achieve universal coverage, only to have roughly as many people uninsured 5 years later.
Caused millions of Americans to have their health insurance plans canceled, after promising repeatedly they could keep them.
Caused premiums to increase by 100% in Delaware, 90% in New Hampshire, 54% in Indiana, 53% in California -- the list goes on.
Spent $2 billion on a health care website that became a national embarrassment.
Assured Americans Ebola would not spread to the United States, weeks before it did.
Insisted all employers provide free contraception to their employees, even over their religious objections.
Won the Nobel Peace Prize while waging two wars and killing hundreds of civilians a year with drones.
Allowed the U.S. to spend four years (and counting) without the capability to send its astronauts into space, forcing us to rely on Putin’s Russia for access to space.
Characterized supporting a traditional definition of marriage (as he did when he was elected) as divisive and discriminatory.
Spent weeks misleadingly characterizing a premeditated terrorist attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya as a spontaneous protest, apparently for political reasons.
Brushed off extensive evidence that senior IRS officials targeted his political opponents, calling it the work of "two dilberts in Cincinnati" which involved "not a smidgen of corruption."
Overseen an IRS that mysteriously lost the hard drives and backups of up to 20 IRS employees at the center of the targeting scandal.
Tolerated damaging national security leaks that cast him in a favorable light.
Placed a respected Fox News reporter under criminal investigation for his story about North Korean nuclear tests.
Employed for years an Attorney General who was held in contempt of Congress for refusing turn over evidence about his knowledge of a program that resulted in the death of a
border patrol agent, and who lied under oath about the DOJ snooping on phone records of AP reporters.
If someone had looked into a crystal ball and made any one of these predictions in isolation, you probably would not have believed it. If you had been read the entire list, you would have concluded that President Obama turned out to be the exact opposite of what Candidate Obama promised--and you would have understood why Democrats would be in such a precarious position heading into election day 2014.
on: October 29, 2014, 05:32:35 PM
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
The End of the Middle East?
Wednesday, October 29, 2014 - 03:00 Print Text Size
Global Affairs with Robert D. Kaplan
By Robert D. Kaplan
Because geopolitics is based on the eternal verities of geography, relatively little in geopolitics comes to an end. The Warsaw Pact may have dissolved following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, but Russia is still big and it still lies next door to Central and Eastern Europe, so a Russian threat to Europe still exists. Japan may have been defeated and flattened by the U.S. military in World War II, but its dynamic population -- the gift of a temperate zone climate -- still projects power in the Pacific Basin and may do so even more in the years to come. The United States may have committed one blunder after another in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, yet through all of these misbegotten wars the United States remains by a yawning margin the greatest military power on earth -- the gift, ultimately, of America being a virtual island nation of continental proportions, as well as the last resource-rich swath of the temperate zone to be settled at the time of the European Enlightenment.
So we come to the Middle East, which, despite all its changes and upheavals in the course of the decades and all the prognostications of a U.S. "pivot" to the Pacific, remains vital to the United States. Israel is a de facto strategic ally of the United States and for over six decades now has remained embattled, necessitating American protection. The Persian Gulf region is still the hydrocarbon capital of the world and thus a premier American interest. Certainly, officials in Washington would like to shift focus to the Pacific, but the Middle East simply won't allow that to happen.
And yet there is an ongoing evolution in America's relationship with the region, and attrition of the same can add up to big change.
For decades the Persian Gulf represented a primary American interest: a place that was crucial to the well-being of the American economy. The American economy is the great oil and automotive economy of the modern age, with interstate highways the principal transport link for an entire continent. And Persian Gulf oil was a key to that enterprise. But increasingly the Persian Gulf represents only a secondary interest to the United States: a region important to the well-being of American allies, to be sure, and to world trade and the world economic system in general, but not specifically crucial to America itself, the war to defeat the Islamic State notwithstanding. However much oil the United States is still importing from the Persian Gulf, the fact is that America will have more energy alternatives at home and abroad in future decades.
Indeed, the United States is on the brink of being, in some sense, energy self-sufficient within Greater North America, from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to the oil fields of Venezuela. U.S. President Barack Obama may veto the Keystone Pipeline System that would bring oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, but industry experts believe that the future will in any case see continued cooperation between the United States and Canada in the energy sector. There is, too, the vast exploitation of shale gas in Texas, Louisiana, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. U.S. companies will, in addition, probably be investing more in the Mexican and (eventually) Venezuelan energy industries in the future, following increasing economic liberalization in Mexico City and the possible, eventual passing of the Chavista era in Caracas. All this serves to separate the United States from the Middle East.
While the United States will have less and less need of Middle East hydrocarbons, the Middle East will for years to come be consumed by internal political chaos that itself exposes the limits of American power. In the era of strong authoritarian Arab states, American power was easy to project. It was just a matter of U.S. diplomats brokering peace treaties, separation of forces agreements, secret understandings, and the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and some of its neighbors. After all, Egypt, Syria, Jordan and other Arab countries all had just one phone number to call -- that of the dictator or monarch in charge. But whom do you phone now in Tripoli or Sanaa or Damascus (even if Cairo is temporarily back under military dictatorship)? With no one really in charge, it is harder to bring American pressure to bear. Chaos in and of itself stymies U.S. power.
The United States remains a global behemoth. And U.S. power, particularly military power, can accomplish many things. The United States can defend Japan and Taiwan against China, South Korea against North Korea, Poland against Russia, and ultimately Israel against Iran. But one thing American power cannot accomplish, as a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan showed, is to rebuild complex Islamic societies from within. And rebuilding societies from within will be the fundamental challenge faced by the Arab world for at least the next half-decade. Thus, America, in spite of its latest military intervention, becomes less relevant to the region even as the region itself no longer represents quite the primary interest to America that it used to. We should keep this in mind now that the war against the Islamic State threatens to distract us from other theaters.
So in the glacial changes that often define geopolitics, the United States (that is, Greater North America) is moving away from the Middle East. This occurs as the Middle East itself slowly dissolves into a Greater Indian Ocean world.
For as the United States requires fewer and fewer hydrocarbons from the Middle East, China and India require more and more. Their economies may have slowed, but they are still growing. The Persian Gulf can -- in the final analysis -- erupt into a nuclear firestorm and America will survive well, thank you. But China and India will have the greater problem. China does not have a foreign policy so much as a resource-acquisition policy. Not only is it increasingly involved in energy deals with Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran, but China is currently trying to build, run or help finance container ports in Tanzania and Pakistan in order to eventually transport both commercial goods from the western rim of the Indian Ocean to the eastern rim and on into China itself. And while all this is happening, Oman, for example, plans to build routes and pipelines from outside the Strait of Hormuz to countries inside the strait, even as China and India have visionary plans to link energy-rich and landlocked Central Asia by pipeline to both western China and the Indian Ocean.
In this evolving strategic geography of the early- and mid-21st century, the Middle East slowly becomes a world defined less by its own conflict and trading system and more by a conflict and trading system that spans the whole navigable southern rimland of the Eurasian supercontinent, with tentacles reaching north into Central Asia. The Indian Ocean thus emerges as the global hydrocarbon interstate linking the oil and gas fields of the Persian Gulf with the urban middle class concentrations of the Indian subcontinent and East Asia.
In such a scenario, the United States does not desert the Middle East, just as China and India do not greatly infiltrate it. But there is movement -- especially psychological -- away from one reality and toward another. And in the process, the Middle East as a clearly defined region of 20th century area studies means less than it used to.
Boiled down to the current newspaper headlines, Obama has not been irresponsible by refusing to get more involved than he has in the sectarian chaos of Syria and deciding for so long to withhold military action against Iran's nuclear facilities. His presidency is simply a sign of the times: a sign of the limits of U.S. power and of the more limited interests the United States has in the Middle East, terrorism excepted. The opening to Iran, as demonstrated by the interim agreement concerning Tehran's nuclear program, is part of this shift. The United States is trying to put its house in order in the Middle East through a rapprochement of sorts with the mullahs so that it can devote more time to other regions. Of course, this has been upended by the war against the Islamic State. But it will remain an overriding American goal nevertheless.
Read more: The End of the Middle East? | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook
on: October 29, 2014, 05:24:42 PM
Started by DCoutinho - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Brazil Sticks With Statism
Odds are that the country’s reputation for economic mediocrity is safe for another four years.
By Mary Anastasia O’Grady
Oct. 26, 2014 7:30 p.m. ET
An economic recession, inflation running at 6.7% and revelations of an audacious skimming scheme at the state-owned oil company Petrobras were not enough to deny Brazilian Workers’ Party (PT) President Dilma Rousseff re-election to a second term on Sunday.
With 99% of the vote counted, the incumbent led with 51.56% of the vote against challenger Aécio Neves, of the Social Democratic Party of Brazil, with 48.44%.
Ms. Rousseff ran as the anti-market, welfare-state candidate, which may be why she fared far better in the poor, dependent north than she did in the prosperous agricultural heartland and here in Brazil’s largest city, where the economy relies heavily on services and value-added manufacturing.
Like the U.S., Brazil has its upper-class, urban voters who feel virtuous backing state intervention in other peoples’ lives and supporting Cuba’s military dictatorship. But there is also an aspirational Brazil—which is made up of risk-taking entrepreneurs, globally competitive farmers and a rising middle class that hungers for greater engagement with the world. These Brazilians badly want the change Mr. Neves represented. They made Sunday’s contest the closest in Brazilian history.
Like the proverbial dog that caught the car, Ms. Rousseff now has to figure out what to do with her next four years. She may believe she can further the consolidation of PT power—her highest goal—if she sticks to the policy mix she has been using thus far, no matter the cost to the economy. Alternatively, she could make pragmatic economic adjustments with the goal of restoring confidence and growth.
The latter is certainly possible. But it is unlikely because the party militants, who have fattened up during PT rule, want more power, not less. She may utter some conciliatory statements and in the short run take some small steps that favor liberty, just as her PT mentor, former President Lula da Silva (2003-10), did when he first took office in order to calm markets that were plummeting out of fear. But Lula soon reverted to form.
Odds are that Ms. Rousseff will do the same, making Brazil’s legendary reputation for mediocrity safe for another four years. Only if a criminal investigation proves that Ms. Rousseff and Lula knew about the graft at Petrobras are things likely to go differently.
The great irony of the campaign is that while Ms. Rousseff and Lula claimed the credit for Brazil’s turn-of-the-century revival, they both opposed the reforms of the 1990s. The privatization of state companies, the limited opening to foreign competition, and the 1994 “Brazilian real” currency plan to defeat hyperinflation all stimulated development and made more generous welfare programs, the trademark of the PT, possible.
But the PT never followed through on those reforms and the “Brazilian miracle” died in the crib. At best the country runs in the middle of the emerging-market pack. More often it brings up the rear.
Neither Lula nor Ms. Rousseff seem to care about development. According to Goldman Sachs , from 2004-13 government spending grew at almost 8% a year, in real terms, which was more than twice the rate of GDP growth. Inflation is now 7% year-over-year on prices for goods and services not regulated by price controls and 8.6% for services alone. Inflationary expectations are rising.
Ms. Rousseff thought she could fix the problem by capping the price of gasoline, which is supplied by Petrobras, and of ethanol, which is made by local sugar mills and used to make flex-fuel. But since production costs are not capped, Petrobras and the sugar mills are sustaining large losses. Some sugar mills are already bankrupt and others that I talked to said they won’t survive if the policy continues.
The PT boasts about helping the poor with welfare but what it gives with one hand it takes—and more—with the other. Rising protectionism, steep payroll and consumption taxes, lousy infrastructure and heavy labor regulation are hidden costs that make all Brazilians worse off.
More worrying is the damage the PT might do to institutions and the rule of law over another 48 months. Civil society here jealously guards civil liberties and pluralism. But as one astute businessman told me, “We are noticing, bit by bit, a trend toward copying Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador. The tendency is to reduce democracy.” One example is Ms. Rousseff’s May decree empowering “popular councils,” which would move the country away from representative democracy à la Venezuela. Congress has so far refused to approve the measure but if the usual vote-buying goes on, that may change.
This is creepy for anyone who has read history. As the 18th-century political philosopher David Hume observed, “It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once.” Today Mrs. Rousseff is a politician who won an election. But Brazilians may someday learn that the one-party state and indefinite rule are the real long-term projects of the PT.
Write to O’Grady@wsj.com
on: October 29, 2014, 05:19:37 PM
Started by G M - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Tom Perez Has No Regrets
Oct. 29, 2014 2:35 p.m. ET
It’s no secret in Washington that Labor Secretary Tom Perez wants to succeed Eric Holder as the nation’s next attorney general. But as a recent tweet reminded us, Mr. Perez has willfully ignored a House subpoena for more than a year . . . and he wants to be the country’s top lawyer?
Last week Mr. Perez gave this shout-out on the social media network to St. Paul, Minnesota Mayor Christopher Coleman: “Congrats to @mayorcoleman & the city of St. Paul for taking the next step to #LeadOnLeave!”—a reference to a Labor Department campaign for paid maternity leave. “#PaidLeave is good for families & our economy.”
Tom Perez, U.S. secretary of labor ENLARGE
Tom Perez, U.S. secretary of labor Bloomberg
Messrs. Perez and Coleman are quite a pair. In February 2012, as then-head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Mr. Perez agreed not to intervene in a False Claims Act case levelled against the city by a whistleblower. In exchange, Mr. Coleman agreed to withdraw the city’s pending lawsuit, Magner v. Gallagher, from the Supreme Court.
Magner concerned the legality of suing for unintentional discrimination (known as “disparate impact”) under the 1968 Fair Housing Act. Mr. Perez made a political name for himself at Justice by using the legal theory to accuse banks of racism and then reap hefty settlements. Many legal scholars considered the actions extortionary, and Mr. Perez—by frantically pushing to prevent the Justices from ruling on Magner—wanted to avoid a legal reckoning.
The House Oversight and Judiciary Committees, along with the minority staff on the Senate Judiciary Committee, launched an investigation. They found Mr. Perez had tried to cover up the quid pro quo and “likely violated both the spirit and letter of the Federal Records Act” by using his personal email accounts to conduct official government business. The House subpoenaed his emails.
Mr. Perez flouted the subpoena and was rewarded by the Obama administration with a nomination for Labor Secretary, which Majority Leader Harry Reid pushed through the Senate after killing the filibuster. Meanwhile, a second disparate impact case was also mysteriously withdrawn from the Supreme Court before the Justices could hear oral arguments. Now the court has accepted a third case.
Mr. Perez’s nomination for AG isn’t a sure thing. Brooklyn prosecutor Loretta Lynch and Solicitor General Donald Verrilli are also in the running, and Mr. Perez sports thin credentials on important matters like national security. But surely his flouting of the law is the biggest problem with his candidacy.
on: October 29, 2014, 05:15:49 PM
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Principle, Rigor and Execution Matter in U.S. Foreign Policy
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
By George Friedman
U.S. President Barack Obama has come under intense criticism for his foreign policy, along with many other things. This is not unprecedented. Former President George W. Bush was similarly attacked. Stratfor has always maintained that the behavior of nations has much to do with the impersonal forces driving it, and little to do with the leaders who are currently passing through office. To what extent should American presidents be held accountable for events in the world, and what should they be held accountable for?
Expectations and Reality
I have always been amazed when presidents take credit for creating jobs or are blamed for high interest rates. Under our Constitution, and in practice, presidents have precious little influence on either. They cannot act without Congress or the Federal Reserve concurring, and both are outside presidential control. Nor can presidents overcome the realities of the market. They are prisoners of institutional constraints and the realities of the world.
Nevertheless, we endow presidents with magical powers and impose extraordinary expectations. The president creates jobs, manages Ebola and solves the problems of the world -- or so he should. This particular president came into office with preposterous expectations from his supporters that he could not possibly fulfill. The normal campaign promises of a normal politician were taken to be prophecy. This told us more about his supporters than about him. Similarly, his enemies, at the extremes, have painted him as the devil incarnate, destroying the Republic for fiendish reasons.
He is neither savior nor demon. He is a politician. As a politician, he governs not by what he wants, nor by what he promised in the election. He governs by the reality he was handed by history and his predecessor. Obama came into office with a financial crisis well underway, along with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. His followers might have thought that he would take a magic wand and make them go away, and his enemies might think that he would use them to destroy the country, but in point of fact he did pretty much what Bush had been doing: He hung on for dear life and guessed at the right course.
Bush came into office thinking of economic reforms and a foreign policy that would get away from nation-building. The last thing he expected was that he would invade Afghanistan during his first year in office. But it really wasn't up to him. His predecessor, Bill Clinton, and al Qaeda set his agenda. Had Clinton been more aggressive against al Qaeda, Bush might have had a different presidency. But al Qaeda did not seem to need that level of effort, and Clinton came into office as heir to the collapse of the Soviet Union. And so on back to George Washington.
Presidents are constrained by the reality they find themselves in and the limits that institutions place on them. Foreign policy is what a president wishes would happen; foreign affairs are what actually happen. The United States is enormously powerful. It is not omnipotent. There are not only limits to that power, but unexpected and undesirable consequences of its use. I have in mind the idea that had the United States not purged the Baathists in Iraq, the Sunnis might not have risen. That is possible. But had the Baathists, the party of the hated Saddam Hussein, remained in power, the sense of betrayal felt by Shiites and Kurds at the sight of the United States now supporting Baathists might have led to a greater explosion. The constraints in Iraq were such that having invaded, there was no choice that did not have a likely repercussion.
Governing a nation of more than 300 million people in a world filled with nations, the U.S. president can preside, but he hardly rules. He is confronted with enormous pressure from all directions. He knows only a fraction of the things he needs to know in the maelstrom he has entered, and in most cases he has no idea that something is happening. When he knows something is happening, he doesn't always have the power to do anything, and when he has the power to do something, he can never be sure of the consequences. Everyone not holding the office is certain that he or she would never make a mistake. Obama was certainly clear on that point, and his successor will be as well.
All that said, let us consider what Obama is trying to achieve in the current circumstances. It is now 2014, and the United States has been at war since 2001 -- nearly this entire century so far. It has not gone to war on the scale of 20th-century wars, but it has had multidivisional engagements, along with smaller operations in Africa and elsewhere.
For any nation, this is unsustainable, particularly when there is no clear end to the war. The enemy is not a conventional force that can be defeated by direct attack. It is a loose network embedded in the civilian population and difficult to distinguish. The enemy launches intermittent attacks designed to impose casualties on U.S. forces under the theory that in the long run the United States will find the cost greater than the benefit.
In addition to these wars, two other conflicts have emerged. One is in Ukraine, where a pro-Western government has formed in Kiev to the displeasure of Russia, which proceeded to work against Ukraine. In Iraq, a new Sunni force has emerged, the Islamic State, which is partly a traditional insurgency and partly a conventional army.
Under the strategy followed until the chaos that erupted after the ouster of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, the response to both would be to send U.S. forces to stabilize the situation. Since 1999 and Kosovo, the United States has been the primary actor in military interventions. More to the point, the United States was the first actor and used military force as its first option. Given the global American presence imposed by the breadth of U.S. power, it is difficult to decline combat when problems such as these arise. It is the obvious and, in a way, easiest solution. The problem is that it is frequently not a solution.
Obama has tried to create a different principle for U.S. operations. First, the conflict must rise to the level that its outcome concerns American interests. Second, involvement must begin with non-military or limited military options. Third, the United States must operate with an alliance structure including local allies, capable of effective operation. The United States will provide aid and will provide limited military force (such as airstrikes) but will not bear the main burden. Finally, and only if the situation is of grave significance and can only be dealt with through direct and major U.S. military intervention, the United States will allow itself to become the main force.
It is a foreign policy both elegant and historically rooted. It is also incredibly complicated. First, what constitutes the national interest? There is a wide spread of opinion in the administration. Among some, intervention to prevent human rights violations is in the national interest. To others, only a direct threat to the United States is in the national interest.
Second, the tempo of intervention is difficult to calibrate. The United States is responding to an enemy, and it is the enemy's tempo of operations that determines the degree of response needed.
Third, many traditional allies, like Germany, lack the means or inclination to involve themselves in these affairs. Turkey, with far more interest in what happens in Syria and Iraq than the United States, is withholding intervention unless the United States is also involved and, in addition, agrees to the political outcome. As Dwight D. Eisenhower learned in World War II, an alliance is desirable because it spreads the burden. It is also nightmarish to maintain because all the allies are pursuing a range of ends outside the main mission.
Finally, it is extraordinarily easy to move past the first three stages into direct interventions. This ease comes from a lack of clarity as to what the national interest is, the enemy's tempo of operations seeming to grow faster than an alliance can be created, or an alliance's failure to gel.
Obama has reasonable principles of operation. It is a response to the realities of the world. There are far more conflicts than the United States has interests. Intervention on any level requires timing. Other nations have greater interests in their future than the United States does. U.S military involvement must be the last step. The principle fits the strategic needs and constraints on the United States. Unfortunately, clear principles frequently meet a murky world, and the president finds himself needing to intervene without clarity.
Presidents' Limited Control
The president is not normally in control of the situation. The situation is in control of him. To the extent that presidents, or leaders of any sort, can gain control of a situation, it is not only in generating principles but also in rigorously defining the details of those principles, and applying them with technical precision, that enables some semblance of control.
President Richard Nixon had two major strategic visions: to enter into a relationship with China to control the Soviet Union, and to facilitate an alliance reversal by Egypt, from the Soviet Union to the United States. The first threatened the Soviet Union with a two-front war and limited Soviet options. The second destroyed a developing Mediterranean strategy that might have changed the balance of power.
Nixon's principle was to ally with nations regardless of ideology -- hence communist China and Nasserite Egypt. To do this, the national interest had to be rigorously defined so that these alliances would not seem meaningless. Second, the shift in relationships had to be carried out with meticulous care. The president does not have time for such care, nor are his talents normally suited for it, since his job is to lead rather than execute. Nixon had Henry Kissinger, who in my opinion and that of others was the lesser strategist, but a superb technician.
The switch in China's alignment became inevitable once fighting broke out with the Soviets. Egypt's break with the Soviets became inevitable when it became apparent to Anwar Sadat that the Soviets would underwrite a war but could not underwrite a peace. Only the United States could. These shifts had little to do with choices. Neither Mao Zedong nor Sadat really had much of a choice.
Where choice exists is in the tactics. Kissinger was in charge of implementing both shifts, and on that level it was in fact possible to delay, disrupt or provide an opening to Soviet counters. The level at which foreign policy turns into foreign affairs is not in the enunciation of the principles but in the rigorous definition of those principles and in their implementation. Nixon had Kissinger, and that was what Kissinger was brilliant at: turning principles into successful implementation.
The problem that Obama has, which has crippled his foreign policy, is that his principles have not been defined with enough rigor to provide definitive guidance in a crisis. When the crisis comes, that's when the debate starts. What exactly is the national interest, and how does it apply in this or that case? Even if he accomplishes that, he still lacks a figure with the subtlety, deviousness and frankly ruthlessness to put it into place. I would argue that the same problem haunted the George W. Bush and Clinton administrations, although their challenges were less daunting and therefore their weakness less visible.
There is a sphere in which history sweeps a president along. The most he can do is adjust to what must be, and in the end, this is the most important sphere. In another sphere -- the sphere of principles -- he can shape events or at least clarify decisions. But the most important level, the level on which even the sweep of history is managed, is the tactical. This is where deals are made and pressure is placed, and where the president can perhaps shift the direction of history.
Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has not had a president who operated consistently and well in the deeper levels of history. This situation is understandable, since the principles of the Cold War were so powerful and then suddenly gone. Still, principles without definition and execution without precision cannot long endure.
"Principle, Rigor and Execution Matter in U.S. Foreign Policy
is republished with permission of Stratfor."
on: October 29, 2014, 05:06:54 PM
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Qatar - Where Obama sent released Guantanamo terrorists .....
The Role of Hamas and Fatah in the Jerusalem Disturbances
Everyone is competing for Qatar money – a fact that only spurs local groups
towards greater levels of violence
Pinhas Inbari October 26, 2014
Jerusalem Issue Briefs Vol. 14, No. 34 http://jcpa.org/article/hamas-fatah-jerusalem-disturbances//
The Muslim Brotherhood seeks to unite all of the region’s Islamic movements
around the idea of the Muslim Caliphate with the Al-Aqsa Mosque as its hub.
-Hamas’ Khaled Mashal lives in Qatar and has helped the Qataris realize that
by ratcheting up the Palestinian issue they can reignite the passion of the
Arab masses throughout the Arab world in support of the Muslim Brotherhood.
-Fatah’s Silwan (Jerusalem) branch was quick to glorify the hit-and-run
killer of the three-month-old American-Israeli baby, Chaya Zissel Braun. On
the issue of funding Fatah activity in Jerusalem, eyes are turned to Qatar.
-Both Fatah and Hamas compete for Qatar’s favor, provoking greater levels of
violence on the ground in Jerusalem.
The deterioration of the security situation in Jerusalem cannot be
understood only on the Israeli-Palestinian level; it is umbilically
connected to the chaos in the Middle East and to the great struggle between
the moderate Sunni regimes and the Muslim Brotherhood, which seeks to make
the Jerusalem issue a rallying cry of the “Arab Storm.” The Brotherhood’s
strategy hopes to unite all of the region’s Islamic movements around the
idea of the Muslim Caliphate with the Al-Aqsa Mosque as its hub.
As demonstrated during Operation Protective Edge, the Brotherhood flaunted
the banner “the siege of Gaza” to incite European Muslims to demonstrate in
the streets with their leftist allies, thereby advancing the status of Islam
on the Christian continent. Today, the Muslim jihadists use the “Save
Jerusalem” campaign to again bring millions of agitated Muslims into the
streets of Europe.
Before the recent hit-and-run terror attack on a Jerusalem light rail
platform that killed an American-Israeli infant, the head of Hamas’
Political Bureau, Khaled Mashal, published a special announcement calling
“on our people to hasten immediately to defend Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa, and on
the Muslim nation to send a painful message of rage to the world that the
Palestinian people and with them the Arab and Islamic nation will not keep
quiet about Israeli crime.”1 Thus, in Hamas’s view it is the Jerusalem issue
that can place the Palestinians at the forefront of the revolution unfolding
in the Arab world, and of the Muslim awakening in Europe.
A Call to Muslim Faithful to Converge on Jerusalem
The clarion call of Al-Aqsa was sounded by the eminent Muslim Brotherhood
jurist, Doha-based Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, when in Cairo’s Tahrir Square
in February 2011, immediately after the ouster of President Mubarak, he
called for Al-Aqsa’s liberation. Subsequently, he published a book titled
Jerusalem: The Problem of Every Muslim.2 In the introduction, the preeminent
scholar of the Muslim Brotherhood says, “O nation of Islam, arise, the hour
has come, and the hour of danger beckons – to Jerusalem, to Jerusalem –
Sheikh Qaradawi got into a bitter polemic with the head of the Palestinian
Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, after Abbas called to inundate Jerusalem with
massive Muslim tourism so as to preserve its Muslim nature in the face of
the “Judaization of the city.” Sheikh Qaradawi has ruled that visiting
Jerusalem is forbidden so long as it is under Israeli occupation;3 Jerusalem
must be liberated by force and not by “tourism.”4
The leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh
Raed Salah, who belongs to the circles closest to Sheikh Qaradawi,5 stated
that “Jerusalem is the capital of the imminently approaching Islamic
In monitoring Hamas’s websites, one gets the impression that pressure to sow
discord in Jerusalem greatly intensified after the overthrow of former
Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood
there and its designation as a terrorist movement.7 Meanwhile, a crisis
erupted between Saudi Arabia and Qatar over the funding of the Brotherhood
branches in the Arab world, including Hamas, based on the claim that these
are terror organizations.8 Presumably, Qatar tried indirectly to help the
Brotherhood in Egypt by inspiring support for them on the Jerusalem issue.
It is also evident that in Syria, Qatar has funded an attempt to establish
terror groups that put Jerusalem at the top of their concerns, such as the
The fact that Khaled Mashal is living in Qatar has helped the Qataris
realize that by ratcheting up the Palestinian issue it can reignite the
passion of the Arab masses throughout the Arab world in support of the
Muslim Brotherhood. As we saw in Operation Protective Edge, Qatar dictated a
tough line against a ceasefire in the hope of bringing the Arab masses out
into the streets. Qatar failed in the Arab world – but succeeded in Europe.
Muslim Brotherhood Pressures Jordan
The use of the Jerusalem issue to exert pressure on the Arab world in
general has greatly increased the pressure on Jordan, which was recognized
in its peace treaty with Israel as custodian of the Jerusalem holy places.9
The pretension of the worldwide Muslim Brotherhood movement to represent the
Jerusalem issue has led the Brotherhood in Jordan to censure the Hashemite
government in this regard and question whether Jordan is really safeguarding
The fact that the Palestinian Authority has joined Hamas’s campaign to “Save
Al-Aqsa,” notwithstanding the agreement that the Authority has signed with
Jordan, will likely lead to difficulties between the latter two. King
Abdullah has harshly castigated Israel on the Jerusalem issue;11 it must be
understood that he himself is in distress.
During the two previous intifadas, Fatah of Jerusalem in fact took pains to
exclude Jerusalem from the sphere of the conflict. Fatah sources say it was
indeed the Fatah Tanzim in Jerusalem that told Arafat, “The interest of the
residents of east Jerusalem in steadfastness – sumud – requires excluding
them from the sphere of violence.” Hence, whereas the West Bank and Gaza
engaged in terror, the Fatah Tanzim made the struggle an issue of sumud,
such as safeguarding illegal construction; and even though the Second
Intifada was dubbed the “Al-Aqsa Intifada,” Fatah took care to distance it
from the holy place.
Today, the situation is the opposite: quiet Gaza is licking its wounds, the
West Bank is also – relatively – quiet, while most of the focus is on
Jerusalem. The main reason is a drastic decline in support for Fatah in
Jerusalem, so that it is the Islamic movements such as Hamas and the
international Hizb ut-Tahrir movement, which advocates a caliphate, that are
directing the events. For Fatah there is nothing left but to be pulled along
Looking for Qatari Funding
With an eye to the seventh Fatah conference, planned for the end of the year
though its date has not yet been set, Abbas met with members of the
“Jerusalem district” of Fatah. Fatah sources in Jerusalem say that the
makeup of the cadres has been changed so that “street punks” and even the
“underworld” have been recruited to foment an intifada in Jerusalem. They
have demanded payment for their activity but so far no budget has been
provided to them. Legal costs for those arrested are supposed to have been
paid, but receipt of the funds is not certain.
Fatah’s Silwan (Jerusalem) branch was quick to glorify the hit-and-run
killer of the three-month-old American-Israeli baby, Chaya Zissel Braun,
posting an obituary for the murderer on its official Facebook page, and also
using the words “heroic Martyr.”12
On the issue of funding Fatah activity in Jerusalem, eyes are turned to
Qatar, the great financier of all the movements that are undermining
regional stability, including in Israel. The large sums evidently being used
by the websites of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood to wage the Jerusalem
campaign indicate that much Qatari money has already flowed their way, and
Fatah is now waiting in line.
Fatah’s very weak standing in the Al-Aqsa compound was apparent in the
attack –wild to the point of life-endangering — on Palestinian religious
affairs minister Mahmoud al-Habash when he visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque at the
end of June this year. His attackers were Hamas and Hizbat ut-Tahrir men,
and the Palestinian Authority’s security forces had a very hard time
rescuing him. 13 The joint attack also conveyed a message that these two
movements, which have struggled over hegemony on the Mount, have reconciled
and are now acting in unison.
Yet everyone is competing for Qatar money – a fact that only spurs local
groups towards greater levels of violence. Fatah’s joining of the Al-Aqsa
campaign as a wagon hitched to fundamentalist Qatar may well herald a
takeover of Ramallah by the radical Islamic movements – unless the
Palestinian Authority regains its bearings in time.
* * *
Roger Gerber explains:
Jerusalem has been subjected recently to a steady barrage of violence against both civilians and infrastructure, resulting in both loss of life and serious damage to about one-thrid of the city's light rail cars. Palestinian Authority President Abbas has spread unfounded incendiary rumors among his populace to the effect that Israeli settlers were "desecrating" Al-Aqsa Mosque and, in a public speech last week, he asserted that "We must stop them (the settlers) from entering by any means possible." It should be noted that under both Arafat and Abbas whenever it was deemed necessary to stir up the populace the imaginary threat against al-Aqsa Mosque was invoked (the brutal second intifada was even dubbed the "Al-Aqsa Intifada"). Accordingly, P.M Netanyahu has charged that "the attacks in Jerusalem are supported by P.A. Chairman Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] who both extols the murderers and embraces the organization that the terrorists belong to, Hamas". Israel's Ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, on October 26 averred that Mahmoud Abbas is “an enemy of Israel, who educates children to hate Jews and wants to establish a Judenrein” state. One wonders whether our State Department is truly oblivious to all this or just pretends not to see or hear it. The following analysis by Pinhas Inbari should be read in conjunction with the complementary piece by Nadav Shragai distributed simultaneously.]
4 Sheikh Kamal Hativ of the Islamic Movement in Israel said in response to a
visit to Al-Aqsa by Egyptian religious figures that “Jerusalem will receive
these ulema as conquerors and not as tourists.” http://www.iaqsa.com/%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%b4%d9%8a%d8%ae-%d9%83%d9%85%d8%a7%d9%84-%d8%ae%d8%b7%d9%8a%d8%a8-%d8%a5%d9%84%d9%89-%d9%81%d8%b6%d9%8a%d9%84%d8%a9-%d8%a7%d9%84%d9%85%d9%81%d8%aa%d9%8a-%d8%b9%d9%84%d9%8a-%d8%ac
5 At one point it was reported that Sheikh Raed Salah had attacked Sheikh
Qaradawi for a ruling that forbade tourism in Jerusalem. Sheikh Raed Salah
hastened to publish a special announcement denying this; on the contrary, he
recognized Sheikh Qaradawi’s authority “as head of the World Federation of
Muslim Scholars.” He supported the sheikh’s visit to Gaza in lieu of
Jerusalem because “Gaza has already been liberated.” http://www.bldtna.com/art,48852
7 Thus, for example, several campaigns were inaugurated such as “Al-Aqsa Is
Ours and Is Not Your Temple,” which were disseminated via Facebook to the
whole Arab world and even to Europe. https://www.facebook.com/pages/%D8%A3%D9%82%D8%B5%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%A7-%D9%84%D8%A7-%D9%87%D9%8A%D9%83%D9%84%D9%87%D9%85-%D9%85%D8%B3%D9%80%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%A7-%D9%84%D8%A7-
9 Even after the Palestinian Authority joined UNESCO, Jordan forced Ramallah
to ratify Jordan’s status as custodian of Al-Aqsa and as the representative
of Jerusalem in UNESCO. http://kingabdullah.jo/index.php/en_US/news/view/id/10779/videoDisplay/1.html
About Pinhas Inbari
Pinhas Inbari is a veteran Arab affairs correspondent who formerly reported
for Israel Radio and Al Hamishmar newspaper, and currently serves as an
analyst for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
on: October 29, 2014, 05:06:34 PM
Started by Bob Burgee - Last post by Bob Burgee
Greetings DBMA Association Members!
5 new fights from the September 2014 Dog Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack have been posted to the DBMA Association section.
2014-09 - Open Gathering - 11 - Single Knife vs. Single Knife
2014-09 - Open Gathering - 12 - Single Knife vs. Single Knife
2014-09 - Open Gathering - 13 - Single Knife vs. Single Knife
2014-09 - Open Gathering - 14 - Single Knife vs. Single Knife
2014-09 - Open Gathering - 15 - Single Knife vs. Single Knife
MANY more fights are in the queue! Please check back frequently as we will be posting these regularly until they are all available to our members!
All the best.
on: October 29, 2014, 04:44:37 PM
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Fed Ends QE, Rate Hikes Now on Radar To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Senior Economist
We count five key takeaways from today’s policy statement from the Federal Reserve.
First, the Fed clearly raised its assessment of the economy. Most notably, it deleted its long-standing reference to “significant underutilization” in the labor market, changing it to say that the underutilization in the labor market is “gradually diminishing.” This may not seem like much, but at the Yellen Fed a better assessment of the job market is a necessary step before raising rates and that hurdle is now much closer to being cleared. In addition, the Fed strengthened its language on consumer spending and completely deleted a reference to fiscal policy restraining economic growth.
Second, quantitative easing is finished by the end of the week, as previously projected. This doesn’t mean the Fed’s balance sheet will suddenly go back to normal. Instead, the Fed will keep reinvesting principal payments from its holdings to maintain the balance sheet at roughly $4.4 trillion. Look for the Fed to keep reinvesting principal through at least late 2015.
Third, the Fed is taking a more nuanced view on inflation, comparing market-based measures (such as the five-year forward inflation rate), which have diminished recently, to survey-based measures, which have remained stable. The Fed pointed out that energy prices should hold inflation down in the near term but inflation should still head back up toward its target of 2%.
Fourth, the Fed maintained its commitment to keep rates at current levels for a “considerable time,” but added language saying rate hikes could happen sooner or later depending on how closely actual economic data match its forecast. We think this means the Fed is getting very close to removing the “considerable period” phrase. Look for the Fed to remove the language at the mid-December meeting, when Chairwoman Yellen will have a chance to fully explain the Fed’s reasoning at the post-meeting press conference.
Last, the two hawkish dissenters at the September meeting are now back on board with Fed policy while the lone dissent at today’s meeting was a dovish one from Minneapolis Fed president Narayana Kocherlakota, who wants the Fed to commit to keeping rates low until inflation hits 2% and wants to keep quantitative easing going at the current slow pace at least through the end of the year.
The bottom line is that the Fed has been and will remain behind the curve. We believe the first rate hike could come in the second quarter of next year. But nominal GDP – real GDP growth plus inflation – is up 4.3% in the past year and up at a 3.8% annual rate in the past two years. A federal funds target rate of nearly zero is too low given this growth. It’s also too low given well-tailored policy tools like the Taylor Rule.
In the meantime, hyperinflation is not in the cards; the Fed will keep paying banks enough to keep the money multiplier depressed. But, given loose policy, we expect gradually faster growth in nominal GDP for the next couple of years. In turn, the bull market in equities will continue and the bond market is due for a fall.
on: October 29, 2014, 04:32:26 PM
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Doctors Without Scruples
And why are soldiers being quarantined?
October 29, 2014
Kaci Hickox, the nurse who was briefly quarantined at a Newark, N.J., hospital after flying into the state en route from Ebola-ravaged Sierra Leone, now says she won’t comply with the three-week home-quarantine requirements in her home state of Maine. “She doesn’t want to agree to continue to be confined to a residence beyond the two days,” her New York-based lawyer, Steven Hyman, tells the Bangor Daily News.The Associated Press quotes Hyman as saying: “She’s a very good person who did very good work and deserves to be honored, not detained, for it.”
At least two other medical professionals have acted as if public-health rules don’t apply to them. The New York Post reports that physician Craig Spencer—like Hickox a volunteer for Doctors Without Borders, in his case in Guinea—“lied to authorities about his travels around the city . . ., law-enforcement sources said”:
Spencer at first told officials that he isolated himself in his Harlem apartment—and didn’t admit he rode the subways, dined out and went bowling until cops looked at his MetroCard the sources said.
“He told the authorities that he self-quarantined. Detectives then reviewed his credit-card statement and MetroCard and found that he went over here, over there, up and down and all around,” a source said.
And let’s not forget Nancy Snyderman, a Princeton, N.J., physician who entered voluntary quarantine after a fellow traveler to Liberia was diagnosed with Ebola. On Oct. 9 the Planet Princeton website reported that “Snyderman allegedly was seen sitting in her car outside of the Peasant Grill in Hopewell Boro this afternoon. A reader reported that a man who was with her got out of the car and went inside the restaurant to pick up a take-out order. Another man was in the back seat of her black Mercedes. Snyderman had sunglasses on and had her hair pulled back, the reader said.”
The state issued a mandatory quarantine order, and on Oct. 13 Snyderman “issued an apology to the public . . . but did not indicate that she had violated the voluntary confinement agreement . . . or take personal responsibility for the violation.”
At least Doctors Without Borders is off the hook for Snyderman. She works for NBC as chief medical correspondent.
Meanwhile, the Defense Department has announced that all U.S. servicemen “returning from areas affected by Ebola in West Africa” will be subjected to “a 21-day monitoring period.” As noted here yesterday, that has already been the de facto policy. The Pentagon press release doesn’t use the word “quarantine,” but every media report we’ve seen does.
The statement quotes a Pentagon spokesman as saying Secretary Chuck Hagel “believes these initial steps are prudent, given the large number of military personnel transiting from their home base and West Africa and the unique logistical demands and impact this deployment has on the force.” It’s hard to disagree, though one might add: and the irresponsible, if not downright dishonest, behavior of various civilian medics.
But of course Hagel’s announcement means that the Obama administration has two directly opposite policies on Americans returning from Ebola lands: quarantine for those in uniform, laissez-faire for civilians. And “laissez-faire” doesn’t quite capture it: The administration not only is not imposing a quarantine on civilians but is actively pressuring states to refrain from doing so. Hickox was released after—and possibly because of—that campaign.
What accounts for the double standard? Or, as a reporter put it to President Obama yesterday: “Are you concerned, sir, that there might be some confusion between the quarantine rules used by the military and used by health care workers and by some states?”
Let’s go through the president’s response point by point.
“Well, the military is a different situation, obviously, because they are, first of all, not treating patients.”
According to the Washington Post, some of them will “test samples for presence of the virus,” but if they are not going to have direct contact with Ebola sufferers, that would seem to militate against quarantining them upon return.
“Second of all, they are not there voluntarily, it’s part of their mission that’s been assigned to them by their commanders and ultimately by me, the commander in chief.”
Perhaps the president is unaware that the U.S. does not have military conscription. Which we suppose would be understandable, since Obama was 11 when the last draftee reported for duty.
“So we don’t expect to have similar rules for our military as we do for civilians. They are already, by definition, if they’re in the military, under more circumscribed conditions.”
Press secretary Josh Earnest had developed that argument further at a briefing two hours earlier:
There are a wide range of sacrifices that our men and women in uniform make for the sake of efficiency and for the sake of uniformity and for the success of our military.
So to take a more pedestrian example than the medical one that we’re talking about, there might be some members of the military who think that the haircut that’s required may not be their best, but that’s a haircut that they get every couple of weeks because it is in the best interest of their unit and it maintains unit cohesion.
We’ll return to the point, but let’s note here that taking servicemen out of circulation for three weeks obviously does not promote efficiency, and that instituting a policy that applies only to the relatively small number of servicemen stationed in Ebola lands obviously does not promote uniformity. That leaves only the catchall “success of our military” category to justify the quarantine.
Back to Obama:
“When we have volunteers who are taking time out from their families, from their loved ones and so forth, to go over there because they have a very particular expertise to tackle a very difficult job, we want to make sure that when they come back that we are prudent, that we are making sure that they are not at risk themselves or at risk of spreading the disease . . .”
It sounds here as if the president is continuing his justification of the military quarantine, but it turns out the “volunteers” he means here are the Doctors Without Borders types, who, he said in his prepared statement “are doing God’s work over there.” (Maybe, but didn’t God say something about bearing false witness?) The sentence continues:
“. . . but we don’t want to do things that aren’t based on science and best practices. Because if we do, then we’re just putting another barrier on somebody who’s already doing really important work on our behalf. And that’s not something that I think any of us should want to see happen.”
All of which leaves unanswered the central question: If a policy of quarantining returning personnel runs counter to “science and best practices,” how does it promote, in Earnest’s phrase, “the success of our military”?
Absent a satisfactory answer to that question, the answer to the question “Why are you quarantining servicemen?” seems to boil down to: “Because we can.” Because it is in the nature of military service to demand a considerable sacrifice of personal freedom. But if the administration viewed that as sufficient justification, it would not have pressed for legislation abolishing restrictions on service by homosexuals.
Anyway, we know of no one who denies that Hagel had the authority to establish the quarantine policy, absent a contrary order from the commander in chief. But the White House also concedes that states have the authority to order quarantines for civilians.
At his Monday press briefing, Josh Earnest answered a reporter’s question about the absence of “an overarching federal policy that rules” by saying this: “You can sort of take this up with James Madison, right? We have a federal system in this country in which states are given significant authority for governing their constituents. That is certainly true when it comes to public safety and public health.”
What is at issue, then, is the administration’s purely discretionary decisions to order quarantines for servicemen and lean on states not to order them for civilians—a contradiction with no obvious basis, and no basis the World’s Greatest Orator and his spokesman have managed to articulate, in philosophy, law or science.
Either servicemen are being subjected to burdens with no basis in “science or best practices,” or the administration is risking public health by prioritizing the personal comfort of civilian medical workers. Why in the world are they doing this?
Odd as it to say about this administration—especially with an election less than a week away—it’s hard to imagine the motive is political. CBS News reports that 80% of respondents in a new poll “think U.S. citizens and legal residents returning from West Africa should be quarantined upon their arrival in the U.S. until it is certain they don’t have Ebola”; just 17% disagree. (Though to be sure, that 17% is almost double the proportion describing themselves in another recent poll as “enthusiastic” about Obama.)
Let us suggest two practical distinctions, either or both of which may explain the disjunction in policy. The first is that forestalling the military quarantine order would have required Obama to overrule a recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—that is to say, to make a decision. Pressuring the governors, by contrast, involves only behind-the-scenes kibitzing and public bloviation.
The second is snobbery. Recall that quote from Nurse Hickox’s lawyer: “She’s a very good person.” She and others like her, according to the president, are doing God’s work, and—in pointed if inaccurate contrast to military servicemen—are “experts.” The logic would go something like this: You can’t quarantine her. She’s one of us.