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 on: February 22, 2018, 07:38:53 AM 
Started by captainccs - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Iran’s Syrian Front
Assad’s atrocities grow as Tehran builds a new anti-Israel satellite.
Smoke rises from the rebel held besieged town of Hamouriyeh, eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, Feb. 21.
Smoke rises from the rebel held besieged town of Hamouriyeh, eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, Feb. 21. Photo: bassam khabieh/Reuters
By The Editorial Board
Feb. 21, 2018 7:24 p.m. ET

Bashar Assad’s Syrian military committed more atrocities this week, bombing the opposition stronghold of Eastern Ghouta and killing at least 200. Rescue workers had to haul dead civilians from the rubble, including a family of five. As everyone deplores the killings, the point to keep in mind is that the driving political power here is Iran and its attempt to make Syria part of its growing Shiite-Persian empire.

Iran has propped up Assad since the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011, and along with Russia is largely responsible for the regime’s survival. After its 2016 victory in Aleppo and the ouster of Islamic State from Raqqa, this axis is now trying to roll up the last opposition strongholds. The trio will then use Russia-sponsored peace talks to re-establish Assad’s control over Syria. Russia will keep its military bases, and Iran wants to establish a new imperial outpost on the border with Israel.

Toward that end, Iran is building a robust military presence of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) troops, Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah, foreign fighters from Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan, and local Syrian militias in Assad-controlled areas. Iran’s ultimate goal is “the eradication of Israel,” as the leader of the IRGC’s Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, said recently.

Military analysts estimate Hezbollah could have more than 100,000 rockets pointed at Israel from its home base in Lebanon and possibly from Syria too. An Iranian redoubt in Syria would open another front in a war with Israel from which to launch more rocket and other attacks. U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster worried publicly in December about “the prospect of Iran having a proxy army on the borders of Israel.”

Tehran’s confidence abroad is growing despite its recent protests at home. Earlier this month Iran-backed forces launched a drone from Syria’s Homs area into Israeli air space. The Israeli military shot down the drone and sent F-16s to bomb the base from where the drone operated, as well as other military targets. The mission was a success, but the Israelis lost a fighter jet, the first such loss since the early 1980s.

The provocation is a sign that Iran is turning its attention from propping up Assad and toward establishing a more permanent presence in Syria, including the construction of military bases and weapons factories. Iranians are investing in Syria’s local economy to help Assad “rebuild,” and working to convert local Alawites to Shiite Islam.

Iran is also exploiting a “cease-fire” in southwestern Syria that the U.S. negotiated with Russia last year. Russia is supposed to stop Iran from building up its forces there, but the U.S. has been left to protest feebly as Russia lets Iran continue.

That leaves the policing to Israel, which has bombed Iranian and Hezbollah sites in Syria many times in the last year, including an Iranian base southwest of Damascus in December. On Sunday at the Munich security conference, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “We will act without hesitation to defend ourselves” and “not just against Iran’s proxies that are attacking us, but against Iran itself.”

Israel’s military is formidable, and the country is protected by a robust antimissile system. But even Israel’s defenses would be strained by 1,500 to 2,000 incoming missiles a day from Syria and Lebanon, especially if Iran succeeds in upgrading Hezbollah’s arsenal to precision-guided weapons. Hezbollah attacks from civilian centers, which means an Israel-Lebanon conflict would be an extensive and bloody undertaking, as Israeli forces would have to attack fighters near homes and hospitals.

If the Trump Administration is worried about this gathering storm, you can’t tell from its actions. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson toured the region last week and called for a “whole, independent, democratic Syria with no special demarcations dividing Syria and with the Syrian people selecting their leadership through free and fair elections.” That’s something John Kerry might have said, with a similar lack of credibility with Iran or Russia.

Mr. Trump promised in October to work with allies to counter Iran’s “destabilizing activity and support for terrorist proxies in the region,” but in Syria the U.S. has shown no strategy for doing so. Meanwhile, an Iran-Israel conflict grows more likely by the day.

 on: February 22, 2018, 07:35:53 AM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Why America Is Going Broke
Entitlements are driving deficits and debt. Absent reform, the problem will soon become a crisis.
Why America Is Going Broke
Photo: iStock/Getty Images
By John F. Cogan
Feb. 21, 2018 6:14 p.m. ET

The federal deficit is big and getting bigger. President Trump’s budget estimates a deficit of nearly $900 billion for 2018 and nearly $1 trillion (with total spending of $4.4 trillion) for 2019. Its balance sheet reveals that the public debt will reach $15.7 trillion by October. This works out to $48,081.61 for every man, woman and child in the U.S. That doesn’t count unfunded liabilities, reported by the Social Security and Medicare Trustees, that are four times the current public debt.

How did the federal government’s finances degenerate this far? It didn’t happen overnight. For seven decades, high tax rates and a growing economy have produced record revenue, but not enough to keep pace with Congress’s voracious appetite for spending. Since the end of World War II, federal tax revenue has grown 15% faster than national income—while federal spending has grown 50% faster.

While most Americans are aware of the budgetary importance of entitlements, the accompanying chart clarifies the magnitude of the problem. It shows the importance of entitlements in determining past and present budget trends, and where they will take us if Congress fails to reform them.

The chart shows federal spending relative to gross domestic product since World War II, broken into three categories. Entitlements are depicted in red. This includes Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, disability insurance, food stamps and a host of other welfare programs. National defense is shown in blue. All other nondefense spending is in yellow. Interest on the public debt isn’t included. Because of currently low rates, interest payments amount to less than half what the government spends on all other nondefense programs.

Where the Money GoesFederal spending as a percentage of GDP,1947-2047Sources: CBO, U.S. federal budget, author'scalculationsNote: 2018-2047 projections
%National DefenseMajor EntitlementsAll other1960’802000’20’400510152025All otherx2038x2.8%

(Chart shows entitlement spending increasing from current 13.8% of GDP to 15.9% by end of Trump's second term to 16.6%!!! and accelerating from there!!)

As the chart makes clear, all—yes, all—of the increase in federal spending relative to GDP over the past seven decades is attributable to entitlement spending. Since the late 1940s, entitlement claims on the nation’s output of goods and services have risen from less than 4% to 14%. Surprising as it may seem, the share of GDP that is spent on national defense and nondefense discretionary programs combined is no higher today than it was seven decades ago.

The contrast between the long-term increase in entitlement spending and the long-term decline in defense spending reflects the profound transformation of the federal government’s priorities from providing for the nation’s defense to redistributing income. The Vietnam War, President Reagan’s defense buildup, and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were costly, but the increase in defense spending in each case pales in comparison with the astonishing growth in entitlement spending.

If you’re seeking the reason for the federal government’s chronic budget deficits and crushing national debt, look no further than entitlement programs. Show the accompanying chart to your friends or acquaintances who continue to assert that defense spending is causing the budget deficit. Since the early 1970s, entitlements have been the federal budget’s largest spending category, the sole source of the federal budget’s growth relative to GDP, and the primary cause of chronic budget deficits.

Today, entitlement spending accounts for nearly two-thirds of federal spending. Defense spending still only accounts for about a sixth of the federal budget, even with recent increases. Defense spending could be doubled and it would still be only half what the federal government spends on entitlements. Significant reductions in the budget deficit can only be achieved by restraining the growth of entitlement spending.

History shows that such restraint is not possible without presidential leadership. Unfortunately, President Trump has failed to step up. His budget proposes to shave a mere 1% from entitlement spending that is growing at 6% a year. The president has ruled out any significant reform of Social Security and Medicare, the two largest entitlement programs. His budget shows that this year Social Security and Medicare expenditures will exceed the payroll taxes and premium payments dedicated to supporting them by $420 billion. Social Security and Medicare deficits will account for half this year’s total budget deficit.

The situation is no better at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Democrats are getting domestic spending increases and Republicans are getting increases to the defense budget. Instead of offsetting higher spending with reductions elsewhere, Congress simply increased both defense and domestic spending in the recently enacted continuing resolution to fund the government. At the same time, by eliminating the need to vote on a debt ceiling this year and ruling out the reconciliation process for any budget bill, Congress signaled that it has no stomach for entitlement restraint.

The continuing resolution’s two-year spending binge has been rightly criticized as excessive. But the size of the increase in spending it authorizes should be kept in perspective. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the resolution will add $174 billion in discretionary spending to the budget in 2019, the year of its maximum impact. At the same time, entitlement expenditures will automatically increase by about the same amount.

What about the future? Social Security and Medicare expenditures are accelerating now that baby boomers have begun to collect their government-financed retirement and health-care benefits. If left unchecked, these programs will push government spending to levels never seen during peacetime.

Financing this spending will require either record levels of taxation or debt. Economics teaches us that high tax rates reduce economic growth and living standards. History teaches us that high public debt aggravates economic volatility and makes a country’s financial system more prone to crisis. Congress can avoid these harmful outcomes only by taking action soon. Its first step should be to send the president’s budget proposal back with a request that he come up with a plan to rein in entitlement spending.

Mr. Cogan is the Leonard and Shirley Ely Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and author of “The High Cost of Good Intentions: A History of U.S. Federal Entitlement Programs” (Stanford University Press, 2017).

 on: February 22, 2018, 07:33:30 AM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by ccp
Mr James Risen  =>

he is so obviously an agent of Putin, sowing discord , chaos and doubt among as many Americans as he  can against a duly elected President.

Why else would he write such a long article about a subject he hates............


I didn't thoroughly read thru it as I don't want to waste my time but I still see nothing to explain to me how any of this changed the results of the election, how it changes the FACT that Hillary was one of the worst candidate , she is extremely corrupt , and everything abut her that was released is true .

 on: February 22, 2018, 07:26:34 AM 
Started by ccp - Last post by Crafty_Dog

Before 1819, there was no Zulu nation.

Shaka kaSenzaghakohona was born in ~1787. Through force, murder and intimidation he united a number of small tribes into the Zulu nation around the year 1819.

The Zulu nation came into existence 167 years after the arrival of Jan Van Riebeeck.

So what did the Europeans take away from the Zulu people?

Next, when and how did black people establish themselves in South Africa? The answer lies in the Mfecane: Mfecane (Zulu: [m̩fɛˈkǀaːne],[note 1] crushing), also known by the Sesotho name Difaqane (scattering, forced dispersal or forced migration[1]) or Lifaqane.

This was a period of widespread warfare and chaos among indigenous ethnic communities in southern Africa during the period ~1815 to ~1840.

As King Shaka created the highly militaristic Zulu Kingdom in the territory between the Tugela and Pongola Rivers, his forces caused a wave of warfare and disruption that swept over other peoples in the region. This was the prelude of the Mfecane.

The movement of people fleeing the violence caused many tribes to attempt to dominate those in new territories, leading to widespread warfare; consolidation of groups such as the Matabele, the Mfengu and the Makololo; and the creation of states such as the modern Lesotho.

Mfecane is used primarily to refer to the period when Mzilikazi, a king of the Matabele, dominated the Transvaal. During his reign, roughly from 1826 to 1836, he ordered widespread killings and devastation to remove all opposition. He reorganised the territory to establish the new Ndebele order. The death toll has never been satisfactorily determined, but the whole region was nearly depopulated.

Normal estimates for the death toll range from 1 million to 2 million.

The black tribal order we know today was established in undeveloped land by primitive warring tribes a full 180 years AFTER the European settlers had made much of this land their own.

#southafrica #shaka #zulu

 on: February 22, 2018, 07:18:59 AM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog

By The Editorial Board
Feb. 21, 2018 7:25 p.m. ET

A unanimous Supreme Court struck a blow for the plain reading of the law on Wednesday, but a pair of dueling concurrences deserve broader attention for what they say about the different methods of legal interpretation on the High Court today.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the full Court in rebuking the Securities and Exchange Commission for reinterpreting the Dodd-Frank Act despite the clear text of the statute (Digital Realty Trust v. Somers ). Paul Somers sued Digital Realty Trust , claiming protection as a whistleblower for filing a complaint about a securities violation. He might have sued under the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley law that protects whistleblowers if they file complaints with the Labor Department within 180 days.

But instead he sued in federal court under Dodd-Frank, which lets whistleblowers who are retaliated against sue and receive double back pay. The problem is that Dodd-Frank defines a whistleblower as someone who provides information about a securities violation to the SEC. Mr. Somers didn’t do that, but the SEC claimed that didn’t matter because Congress intended the law to protect people like Mr. Somers no matter the law’s text.

Citing precedent, Justice Ginsburg rightly wrote that “‘When a statute includes an explicit definition, we must follow that definition,’ even if it varies from a term’s ordinary meaning. This principle resolves the question before us.” She then went on an extended and needless tour of congressional intent that may invite legal mischief down the road.

This drew a highly entertaining concurrence from Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, that agreed with the judgment but rapped Justice Ginsburg’s opinion for attempting to find the “purpose” of a statute primarily in a single “Senate Report.”

Justice Thomas pointed out that the Court is “‘governed by what Congress enacted rather than by what it intended.’” And to prove his point he included a footnote with a hilarious colloquy between former Senators Bill Armstrong and Bob Dole about a Finance Committee report. The exchange is a political “Who’s on First?”

Justice Thomas’s concurrence set off Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the Court’s most left-leaning voice, who wrote her own concurrence defending the Court’s reliance on legislative history, including Senate reports.

It’s a telling exchange. Justice Sotomayor wants the judicial running room of reports and history through which she can drive her political preferences. Justice Thomas wants the Court to follow what the law actually says

 on: February 22, 2018, 01:10:58 AM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog

 rolleyes rolleyes rolleyes

 on: February 22, 2018, 01:06:45 AM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
second post

 on: February 22, 2018, 12:37:23 AM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog

 on: February 22, 2018, 12:36:18 AM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog

 on: February 21, 2018, 03:16:19 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
By George Friedman

Korea After the Olympics

South Korea wants to avoid a war, but reconciliation with the North is no panacea either.

The Pyeongchang Olympics are nearly over, which means the focus will soon return to the North Korean nuclear program. Somewhere along the way, the nuclear program went from being a crisis, likely to precipitate war at any moment, to being an issue of concern. There are thousands of issues around the world that governments are unhappy or uneasy about, but few rise to the level of garnering anything beyond public statements. Plenty of statements about the North’s nukes are still to come, but the sense now is that the core issue is settled and all that’s left is to define how the new reality works.

The Backdrop

Let’s begin by considering the geopolitical imperatives of the relevant actors.

North Korea, like all countries, values its own preservation above all else. Next, it wants to unify the Korean Peninsula under its control, or at least get as close to that as it can. North Korea faces a series of threats. One is the United States, which is determined to block the North from dominating the peninsula. Japan feels the same. Russia and China are ostensibly on the opposing side, but Russia and China do not have many interests in common with North Korea except when it comes to frustrating or repelling the United States. The only reason either Russia or China would support the North’s ambitions would be to undermine the U.S. position in the Northwest Pacific. They will risk little but gladly reap the rewards.


(click to enlarge)

South Korea’s imperative is to uphold its status as a leading industrial and technical power. It has no desire to see Pyongyang fall because underwriting the cost of North Korea’s reconstruction could cripple the South’s economy. Nor does it want a recurrence of the 1950-53 war, which is just another threat to its economic position. Seoul wants to have U.S. guarantees to deter North Korean adventurism, but it doesn’t want Washington to push too far and start a war.

The United States has an imperative to prevent North Korea from obtaining weapons that could strike the U.S. mainland. Washington also has an imperative to defend its position as the dominant air and naval power in the Northwest Pacific in order to contain China and Russia. U.S. bases in South Korea, as well as in Japan, are critical to this effort.

Japan’s imperative is to protect the homeland from nuclear strikes and maintain its maritime access to raw materials and markets. It also needs to prevent the emergence of a unified Korea, which would be a potential rival, forcing Japan to significantly rearm its military – possibly even to develop nuclear weapons if the new Korean state possessed nukes. Japan’s overriding interest is to have the United States defend it against North Korean attack and guarantee its maritime security.


(click to enlarge)

China’s overriding imperative is to gain control over the nearby seas. It is frightened by the prospect that the U.S. could blockade it, so excluding the U.S. from these areas – and from the Western Pacific altogether – would ensure that China has access to the global oceans for its trade. Beijing looks at events in the Korean Peninsula as potentially weakening the United States, and so it has no desire to try to resolve it – to varying degrees, every outcome is a win for China. If the U.S. strikes North Korea, China can portray the U.S. as an aggressor. If it doesn’t, it can portray the U.S. as weak. And if North and South Korea reach an agreement that limits the U.S. presence on the peninsula, or expels it completely, then China’s goals are met.

Russia has no overwhelming imperatives when it comes to the peninsula, save that anything that makes the U.S. appear weaker makes Russia look stronger.

The New Reality

The United States could tolerate North Korea’s nuclear program until it started approaching the point where it was a legitimate threat to the U.S. in early 2017. The U.S. was restrained, however, by South Korea’s imperative to avoid a war that would weaken the South’s economy. The U.S. turned to China to mediate an agreement, which of course failed.

With the United States’ threats drained of some legitimacy, North Korea could ease up. It slowed its effort to complete an intercontinental ballistic missile that could deliver a nuclear payload to the United States. Such a system would require extensive testing of both the missile and the nuclear weapons, and such tests cannot be hidden. So, at the moment, the North Koreans have not developed an ICBM that can threaten the United States, and they likely could not without showing their hand. This reduced the pressure on the United States to attack. Inadvertently, it also kept U.S.-South Korean relations intact, therefore not undermining the U.S. position in the region.

This also opened the door for North Korea to launch its diplomatic offensive, designed to draw the South into some sort of relationship that excluded the United States. It is hard to imagine what this would look like, but it would likely satisfy the South’s wish to avoid war and the North’s wish to diminish the U.S. presence on the peninsula. How the two Koreas could trust each other is of course a question, particularly when one is a nuclear power, but the alternative is hard for the South to accept – strikes against the North’s nuclear facilities triggering a massive artillery bombardment of Seoul and wrecking a great deal of the South’s economy.

The North has dangled the offer, and the South is intrigued. The U.S. can’t stand in the way without looking like a warmonger, but given that development of the North Korean nuclear and missile programs has apparently slowed, Washington has been willing to get out of the way. The issue will be whether the evolution of relations with the North will include an end to or radical modification of the U.S.-South Korea defense pact. Obviously, China would be delighted to assume responsibility for guaranteeing South Korea’s defense against the North, and it would likely be quite sincere. But then South Korea would face the prospect of its old enemy Japan rearming while the U.S. was searching for another country to anchor its strategy in the region. This would sow massive uncertainty, which South Korea doesn’t want.

Seoul will do almost anything to avoid a war, but the danger of an agreement with Pyongyang is that the South could find itself subordinate to the North. (South Korea is much wealthier and more developed, but North Korea has the nukes.) Since that is pretty much what the North wants, the question is what South Korea will do. In the long run, the risk of an agreement for South Korea is almost as great as the risk of war. There are too many unknowns for the South. And that means that this issue will likely become a crisis again before this is over.

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