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 on: January 13, 2018, 11:40:15 AM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog

 on: January 13, 2018, 11:37:42 AM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
A Cold War in the Arctic Circle
NATO plans a new command to counter Russia’s buildup. It should be only a start.
By Paula J. Dobriansky
Updated Jan. 12, 2018 9:48 p.m. ET

The Arctic is a region of tremendous strategic importance for global trade and national security. The High North is also experiencing a massive Russian military buildup, which calls for the U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization to adopt a new strategy.

Vladimir Putin has been hyping the threat posed by U.S. attack submarines deployed in the Arctic Ocean. Meantime, Russia has been using Arctic waters as a sanctuary for its ballistic-missile-carrying submarines—the key component of its strategic nuclear forces—and wants to enhance its regional military infrastructure to protect them. This is driven by Moscow’s longstanding view that a nuclear war can be won by a better-prepared side.

With these strategic imperatives in mind, Russia created an Arctic Command, which became operational in 2015. It has also embarked on a costly military buildup—new airfields, ports, air-defense installations and barracks—and heightened the tempo of military exercises and activities.

Moscow’s Security Council has designated the Arctic as a “main strategic resource base.” The Council on Foreign Relations reported in 2017 that products from the Arctic account for 20% of Russia’s gross domestic product and 22% of its exports. Much of this is energy—95% of Russia’s natural gas and 75% of its oil.

Receding ice adds to the region’s significance. The Northern Sea Route, a path along Russia’s Arctic coast, has become available for ice-free navigation during an entire summer. If current trends continue, it may become available for ice-free navigation year-round. The Northern Route is shorter by 40% than the Suez Canal or Cape of Good Hope route, so this could lead to a major reshuffling of global oceanic transportation. Given uncertainty over whether the Northern Sea Route is in international or Russian territorial waters, its extensive use would give Moscow formidable economic leverage.

Meanwhile, Russia has been pressing ambitious territorial claims that overlap with those advanced by other Arctic nations. Denmark and Russia have asserted ownership of the North Pole and swaths of Arctic sea bed. Canada is expected to submit a major competing claim this year. The disputed territory amounts to some 200,000 square miles and may hold up to 10 billion tons of hydrocarbon deposits, according to Russian estimates.

To date, Arctic governance has been driven through the Arctic Council, created in 1996 by Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the U.S. The council has grown to include 13 non-Arctic observer countries, including China, India and Japan. While the council has worked well on matters within its jurisdiction—such as health and the environment—it has no power to enforce agreements, making it incapable of dealing with security matters.

There is not a major Western military facility in the Arctic and only a few U.S. Coast Guard assets operate there. A new robust Western response to the Russian military buildup in the Arctic is necessary. At the November Halifax Security Forum, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg previewed the alliance’s plans to create an Atlantic Command covering the Arctic. This initiative has broad support, including from the five Arctic NATO members.

The Trump administration supports the new NATO command, but it can do more. It should ensure that the new command has a clear mission set addressing the alliance’s interests in the Arctic—surveillance and monitoring of Russian intelligence and military activities, coordination of maritime search and rescue operations, and buildup of military infrastructure in the region to counter Russian threats to sea lanes and communications. The mission set should be backed by appropriate resources—ships, submarines and aircraft, including surveillance and maritime patrol platforms—provided by NATO allies, particularly those with Arctic interests.

The U.S. should start building advanced icebreakers and conduct more exercises, patrols and training missions. It would also be wise to host the new command’s headquarters on American soil. Strong action to make the robust Atlantic Command a reality would counter Russia’s military buildup and demonstrate continuing U.S. leadership within NATO and around the world.

Ms. Dobriansky is a senior fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. She served as an undersecretary of state, 2001-09.

Appeared in the January 2, 2018, print edition.


 on: January 13, 2018, 11:32:31 AM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog

Black Protest Has Lost Its Power

Have whites finally found the courage to judge African-Americans fairly by universal standards?
By Shelby Steele
Jan. 12, 2018 6:40 p.m. ET

The recent protests by black players in the National Football League were rather sad for their fruitlessness. They may point to the end of an era for black America, and for the country generally—an era in which protest has been the primary means of black advancement in American life.

There was a forced and unconvincing solemnity on the faces of these players as they refused to stand for the national anthem. They seemed more dutiful than passionate, as if they were mimicking the courage of earlier black athletes who had protested: Tommie Smith and John Carlos, fists in the air at the 1968 Olympics; Muhammad Ali, fearlessly raging against the Vietnam War; Jackie Robinson, defiantly running the bases in the face of racist taunts. The NFL protesters seemed to hope for a little ennoblement by association.

And protest has long been an ennobling tradition in black American life. From the Montgomery bus boycott to the march on Selma, from lunch-counter sit-ins and Freedom Rides to the 1963 March on Washington, only protest could open the way to freedom and the acknowledgment of full humanity. So it was a high calling in black life. It required great sacrifice and entailed great risk. Martin Luther King Jr. , the archetypal black protester, made his sacrifices, ennobled all of America, and was then shot dead.

For the NFL players there was no real sacrifice, no risk and no achievement. Still, in black America there remains a great reverence for protest. Through protest—especially in the 1950s and ’60s—we, as a people, touched greatness. Protest, not immigration, was our way into the American Dream. Freedom in this country had always been relative to race, and it was black protest that made freedom an absolute.

It is not surprising, then, that these black football players would don the mantle of protest. The surprise was that it didn’t work. They had misread the historic moment. They were not speaking truth to power. Rather, they were figures of pathos, mindlessly loyal to a black identity that had run its course.

What they missed is a simple truth that is both obvious and unutterable: The oppression of black people is over with. This is politically incorrect news, but it is true nonetheless. We blacks are, today, a free people. It is as if freedom sneaked up and caught us by surprise.

Of course this does not mean there is no racism left in American life. Racism is endemic to the human condition, just as stupidity is. We will always have to be on guard against it. But now it is recognized as a scourge, as the crowning immorality of our age and our history.

Protest always tries to make a point. But what happens when that point already has been made—when, in this case, racism has become anathema and freedom has expanded?

What happened was that black America was confronted with a new problem: the shock of freedom. This is what replaced racism as our primary difficulty. Blacks had survived every form of human debasement with ingenuity, self-reliance, a deep and ironic humor, a capacity for self-reinvention and a heroic fortitude. But we had no experience of wide-open freedom.

Watch out that you get what you ask for, the saying goes. Freedom came to blacks with an overlay of cruelty because it meant we had to look at ourselves without the excuse of oppression. Four centuries of dehumanization had left us underdeveloped in many ways, and within the world’s most highly developed society. When freedom expanded, we became more accountable for that underdevelopment. So freedom put blacks at risk of being judged inferior, the very libel that had always been used against us.

To hear, for example, that more than 4,000 people were shot in Chicago in 2016 embarrasses us because this level of largely black-on-black crime cannot be blamed simply on white racism.

We can say that past oppression left us unprepared for freedom. This is certainly true. But it is no consolation. Freedom is just freedom. It is a condition, not an agent of change. It does not develop or uplift those who win it. Freedom holds us accountable no matter the disadvantages we inherit from the past. The tragedy in Chicago—rightly or wrongly—reflects on black America.

That’s why, in the face of freedom’s unsparing judgmentalism, we reflexively claim that freedom is a lie. We conjure elaborate narratives that give white racism new life in the present: “systemic” and “structural” racism, racist “microaggressions,” “white privilege,” and so on. All these narratives insist that blacks are still victims of racism, and that freedom’s accountability is an injustice.

We end up giving victimization the charisma of black authenticity. Suffering, poverty and underdevelopment are the things that make you “truly black.” Success and achievement throw your authenticity into question.

The NFL protests were not really about injustice. Instead such protests are usually genuflections to today’s victim-focused black identity. Protest is the action arm of this identity. It is not seeking a new and better world; it merely wants documentation that the old racist world still exists. It wants an excuse.

For any formerly oppressed group, there will be an expectation that the past will somehow be an excuse for difficulties in the present. This is the expectation behind the NFL protests and the many protests of groups like Black Lives Matter. The near-hysteria around the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and others is also a hunger for the excuse of racial victimization, a determination to keep it alive. To a degree, black America’s self-esteem is invested in the illusion that we live under a cloud of continuing injustice.

When you don’t know how to go forward, you never just sit there; you go backward into what you know, into what is familiar and comfortable and, most of all, exonerating. You rebuild in your own mind the oppression that is fading from the world. And you feel this abstract, fabricated oppression as if it were your personal truth, the truth around which your character is formed. Watching the antics of Black Lives Matter is like watching people literally aspiring to black victimization, longing for it as for a consummation.

But the NFL protests may be a harbinger of change. They elicited considerable resentment. There have been counterprotests. TV viewership has gone down. Ticket sales have dropped. What is remarkable about this response is that it may foretell a new fearlessness in white America—a new willingness in whites (and blacks outside the victim-focused identity) to say to blacks what they really think and feel, to judge blacks fairly by standards that are universal.

We blacks have lived in a bubble since the 1960s because whites have been deferential for fear of being seen as racist. The NFL protests reveal the fundamental obsolescence—for both blacks and whites—of a victim-focused approach to racial inequality. It causes whites to retreat into deference and blacks to become nothing more than victims. It makes engaging as human beings and as citizens impermissible, a betrayal of the sacred group identity. Black victimization is not much with us any more as a reality, but it remains all too powerful as a hegemony.

Mr. Steele, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, is author of “Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country” (Basic Books, 2015).

 on: January 13, 2018, 11:28:53 AM 
Started by ccp - Last post by Crafty_Dog

California’s Political Charity

Democrats propose a gimmick to help the rich avoid federal taxes.
by  The Editorial Board
Jan. 12, 2018 7:00 p.m. ET

Much has changed in Donald Trump’s first year as President, including some progressive principles. Lo, California Democrats in 2016 campaigned to extend a tax hike on the rich. Now they’re promoting a gimmick to help reduce their wealthy residents’ tax burden.

State Senate President Kevin de Leon, who is challenging U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein in the June primary, complained last week that the new GOP tax law “offers corporations and hedge fund managers massive tax breaks and expects California taxpayers to pick up the costs.” It’s the “worst tax policy in the history of this country. Perhaps the world.”

In fact, some California taxpayers are among the law’s biggest beneficiaries—to wit, Silicon Valley titans such as Apple, Facebook and Google. California tech companies are sitting on more than $500 billion in cash overseas, which they will now be able to repatriate at a discounted tax rate.

But speaking of bad tax policies, Mr. de Leon has proposed legislation to help high earners avoid the new $10,000 state-and-local tax deduction limit. Taxpayers would receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for contributions to a new California Excellence Fund, which they could then deduct as charity. Taxpayers can deduct up to 60% of their income for charitable contributions under the new federal reform.

The Senate leader cites as his model private-school scholarship tax-credit programs in other states that function like vouchers. However, these charitable contributions help nonprofits or parents who want to send children to private schools. Mr. de Leon’s “excellence fund” would exist within the General Fund, and donations would be appropriated by the legislature. The only beneficiaries of this “charity” would be the donating taxpayer—and politicians.

In other words, Democrats in Sacramento want to help the rich dodge federal taxes. According to IRS data, California’s 71,000 taxpayers with million-dollar incomes deducted on average $462,500 in 2015 compared to $6,940 for individuals making between $50,000 and $100,000. Few California middle-class taxpayers will be harmed by the $10,000 deduction cap since the standard deduction has doubled to $12,000.

Neither the IRS nor federal courts are likely to allow this charity dodge. The IRS disallows deductions for charitable contributions to the extent that a taxpayer benefits—for example, paying $10,000 at a charity auction for an artwork valued at $8,000 would only yield a $2,000 deduction. In 1989 the Supreme Court ruled that contributions “made to such recipients with some expectation of a quid pro quo” are not deductible.

The one reform Mr. de Leon isn’t proposing is a cut in California’s top marginal tax rate of 13.3%, including the three percentage-point increase that Democrats pushed in a 2012 referendum. Rates on individuals making more than $250,000 also increased. Democrats successfully pushed to extend the tax hikes through 2030 in November 2016. The federal GOP tax reform means that the effective top state and federal combined marginal rate for Californians increases by 2.7-percentage points in 2018—to 50.3% from 47.6%.

Revenues are soaring due to strong income and capital-gains growth. Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday proposed a $132 billion budget that forecasts a $6 billion surplus. While the Governor wants to add some revenue to the state’s $8 billion rainy day fund, this will quickly vanish in the next recession—unless Democrats raid it first after he leaves office. State tax revenues fell cumulatively by more than $70 billion following each of the past two recessions.

California’s steeply progressive tax code has encouraged a boom-bust revenue and spending cycle. Reducing taxes on high earners would impose spending discipline and ameliorate the effects of the limitation of the state-and-local tax deduction. Alas, Democrats in Sacramento seem mainly interested in boosting their favorite charity—themselves.

 on: January 13, 2018, 11:25:54 AM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Trump’s Iran Gamble
He issues a red line to rewrite the nuclear deal or reimpose sanctions.
By The Editorial Board
Jan. 12, 2018 7:09 p.m. ET

President Trump said Friday that he’s waiving sanctions related to the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal—for the last time. In essence he issued an ultimatum to Congress and Europe to revise the agreement or the U.S. will reimpose sanctions and walk away. His distaste for the nuclear deal is right, but the risk is that Mr. Trump is boxing himself in more than he is the Iranians.

Mr. Trump said in a statement that he is waving sanctions, “but only in order to secure our European allies’ agreement to fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal.” He added: “This is a last chance. In the absence of such an agreement, the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. And if at any time I judge that such an agreement is not within reach, I will withdraw from the deal immediately. No one should doubt my word.”

That’s called a red line, and it means that if his terms aren’t met within 120 days, Mr. Trump will have to follow through or damage his global credibility. Presidents should be careful about putting themselves in box canyons unless they have a clear idea of a way out and what his next steps are.

Does Mr. Trump know? It isn’t obvious. Mr. Trump rightly focuses on the core faults of the accord: major provisions start sunsetting after 2023; the failure to include Iran’s ballistic-missile programs; and inadequate inspections. He wants the European allies that also negotiated the deal—France, Germany and the United Kingdom—to rewrite it with the U.S.

But Iran is sure to resist, and so will China and Russia. French, British and German companies already have billions in business deals invested or being negotiated with Iran, and their political leaders will be loathe to jeopardize them. European leaders have been embarrassingly quiet amid the anti-regime protests in Iran. European Union foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini hosted the foreign ministers of Britain, Germany, France and Iran this week. They expressed support for the deal and said little about Tehran’s protest crackdown.

If the Europeans resist a nuclear renegotiation, Mr. Trump would then have to act alone with U.S. sanctions. While those are potent, to be effective they will have to target non-U.S. companies that do business with Iran, including our friends in Europe.

Some fear Iran would use reimposed U.S. sanctions as an excuse to walk away from the deal and rush to build a bomb, but we doubt it. The more likely scenario is that Iran will continue to court European business and try to divide the U.S. from its allies and block a new antinuclear coalition. The mullahs will claim to be abiding by the deal even as the U.S. has walked away.

On Friday Mr. Trump also challenged Congress to strengthen the nuclear deal’s terms under U.S. law, most likely by amending the 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. This will require 60 votes in the Senate, which means Democratic support. This will test the sincerity of Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who opposed the deal. But in today’s polarized Washington, partisanship no longer stops at the water’s edge. Mr. Trump won’t persuade Europe if he can’t persuade Congress.

The question all of this raises, as British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson put it Thursday, is what is the policy alternative policy to the nuclear deal. The answer is containment with a goal of regime change. The people of Iran have again showed their displeasure with the regime, and the world should support them. We’d back such a strategy, but it isn’t clear that this is Mr. Trump’s emerging policy, or that he and his advisers know how to go about it.

The Treasury Department is moving ahead with sanctions against Iran for its ballistic missiles, including 14 more individuals and entities “in connection with serious human rights abuses and censorship in Iran.” The targets include the head of Iran’s judiciary and the cyber units trying to prevent protesters from organizing and accessing reliable news. But Mr. Trump has been reluctant to counteract Iran’s adventurism in Syria or Iraq, and a policy of regime change can’t be half-baked.

All of this is an enormous undertaking for an Administration already coping with the nuclear and ballistic threat from North Korea. The safer strategy would have been to keep waiving sanctions and let the nuclear deal continue while building support to contain and undermine Iran on other fronts. Mr. Trump can now say he has followed through on his campaign vow on Iran, but building a better strategy will take discipline and much harder work.

Appeared in the January 13, 2018, print edition.

 on: January 13, 2018, 11:00:13 AM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog

 on: January 13, 2018, 10:57:55 AM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog

 on: January 13, 2018, 07:10:45 AM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by ccp
It is amazing to me how so many Republicans can defend Trump's big impulsive mouth.  

Never quoted Paul Ryan before but calling Trump's remarks "not helpful" is putting it mildly.

I agree with most of what Jonah says here and most importantly the long term damage Trump does to the Republicans and our way of thinking in general.  If found this article to be I agree with the most and he basically reiterates my thoughts:

 on: January 12, 2018, 07:38:31 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by G M


I call on all shithole nations to start an immediate boycott of the US. Not one more refugee/illegal alien sent here until Trump apologizes!

 on: January 12, 2018, 07:34:12 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by G M
with minorities with impulsive thoughtless comments:

we need a thread with Trump screw ups not just

Yawn. You mean people who won't vote Republican, won't be voting Republican because of Trump?

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