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Said by someone who has the right to this opinion:

"Anyone who has seen real intel, or who is capable of critical thought, recognized that Steele’s work was probably Russian dezinformatsiya."

Politics & Religion / Re: 2020 Presidential election
« on: January 25, 2020, 10:19:05 PM »
My present assessment is this:

More bad news in the Biden & Son Grifters and Grafters pipeline coming soon.  The Sandernistas will get ornery in response to the treatment of their guy by the Dem establishment and their running dogs in the Pravdas.  Forked Tongue Lizzy will bleed votes to him.  Wife Pete has peaked.  Tulsi, Yang et al are there for color in the reportage.

The first four primaries may well not yield a nominee apparent.

The one to watch for is Bloomberg.  IMHO his ads are effective and he may well surprise upside on Super Tuesday.

Considerable chance of no one winning on the first round at the Convention, at which point the super delegates come in.

Hillary will try making a move.

My present prediction is the final three will be Bernie, Bloomie, and the Dowager Empress with the DE getting laughed out of the building and the Super Delegates going for Bloomie.

Politics & Religion / Re: Soft Coup 3.0: Impeachment
« on: January 25, 2020, 10:10:10 PM »
I saw it reported that after today, President Trump is agreed.

Politics & Religion / George Friedman: Returning to the Beginning
« on: January 25, 2020, 09:07:17 AM »
second post

    Returning to the Beginning
By: George Friedman

In recent weeks, I have been writing on the very ordinary but precious moments of my life. I wrote about the complexity of my family’s holidays and of a vacation, with what I hope came across as humor. All this is in preparation for my return to my original project: to place geopolitics in the philosophical tradition. There may seem to be no connection between the ordinary moments of life and something as exalted as philosophy, but they are intimately connected.

Ordinary life is extraordinary. The task of philosophy and geopolitics is to find the sacred in everyday life, and to do so with deep irony, which requires being able to laugh heartily. For who are we humans to speak of our lives and the sacred? Anyone who tries must do so with a deep sense of its pretentiousness. In elevating a rum punch during a beach vacation to a subject worthy of deep thought, we do three things: We elevate the ordinary, force ourselves to realize that there is little that is ordinary there, and face the chasm separating our attempt to understand the world and the absurdity of the attempt. But in that rum punch, in the game it plays with your mind, there is a freedom to both elevate yourself and mock yourself.

The problem of philosophy is that it tends to be boring. It is boring because it is complex and because it is abstracted from the lives that people live. The great philosophers give you a window through which to see yourself. That window is irony or, for those of us less elevated, humor. The entire idea of philosophy is humorous. Here we are, human beings who know many things, being told that we do not know the most important things. But humans know well the most important things: doing one’s duty, nurturing children, battling nature and society to provide for them, being just without being a martyr, being kind and being forgiving, even to those who won’t forgive.

This is a random list, and many things can be refined and added, but if philosophy is the study of the true and beautiful, then it at best makes elegant the things we already know. Philosophy holds no surprises, except for one profoundly important one: that human beings, in the course of their lives, should contemplate such matters without holding an advanced degree. And with that, philosophy contributes its most important gifts: irony and caution.

Irony is telling a truth in such a way that we can see it through the veil of laughter. As Plato infers, who are we mere humans to dare to think such exalted thoughts? I think of my father, who survived the Mauthausen concentration camp and a Soviet occupation, whom life had crushed too many times, who still had the ability to hope for something better and laughed at me, saying I was such a scrawny child to place his hopes in. He had faced Hitler’s and Stalin’s ideas directly and survived them, yet could still know that all homes, especially the most urgent, must be clothed in laughter.

Philosophy must also cloak the best and worst from the world. A philosopher is not someone with an advanced degree. It is someone who has confronted the best and worst of the world, and discovered that it takes courage to face both. I have an advanced degree and wrote books and articles that were designed not to enlighten but to demonstrate my brilliance through their obscurity. Later, doing other work, I discovered that philosophy does not live in the academy where justice is discussed but in the world, where justice must be lived.

Geopolitics is not recognized as a field, so I made it a business. But geopolitics is at the heart of philosophy. If we agree that all the examples I cited can be summed up by the question “who is man?” then the first answer is that humanity is divided into two parts: man and woman, and all that follows from this. The first discussion of duty must somehow revolve around this.

Geopolitics is a field that tries to define, explain and forecast the relationship among communities. The story it tells is a story of greatness and horror, but it begins in the simplest things that make us human. The first question I have raised in other places is, what creates a community or nation? The answer is the love of one’s own, the love of the things you were born to, and being brought up to know that their loves are yours and their hates are yours as well. But where does the love of one’s own come from? The irreducible truth is that the love of one’s own must be preceded if not with love then at least with lust. To have a child you must have sperm and an ovum. However we reengineer the human being and reproduction, and whatever journey in life the child undertakes, it begins with the sperm and ovum, and most usually the man and woman, retelling the oldest story there is.

Philosophy ought not to be about pontificating, and certainly not advocacy of policies, although listening to a professor discussing the just war is a hoot. But it is a hoot meant not to reveal hidden things but to set rules unrelated to reality. He is saved by the grace of indifference.

This may strike you as pointless or obvious. But that is the purpose of philosophy, to hold up to the light things that you are intimately familiar with and suddenly see something you never imagined you would see there. And those things are easiest to see when you see how preposterous it is for you to be seeing them. Next week, I will try to start climbing the mountain.   

Politics & Religion / Stratfor: East India-Southeast Asia
« on: January 25, 2020, 09:03:04 AM »

China’s expansion into India's neighborhood will continue to drive India’s own outreach in Southeast Asia and the wider Indo-Pacific.
To strengthen India's territorial unity against Chinese threats, New Delhi is also ramping up development in the country's northeast region.
Boosting trade with Southeast Asian states, however, will partially depend on whether India can negotiate a favorable trade pact under the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
India's emboldened eastern push reflects its aspiration to become one of Asia’s key military and economic powers — and the existential threat that China poses to realizing that dream. Beijing's growing influence, along with its increasingly forceful claims over disputed territories along India's border, is driving New Delhi to deepen its own political, economic and security relations in Southeast Asia and the wider Indo-Pacific under its "Act East" policy. Shortly after taking office in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the government initiative, which includes bolstering India's military presence and infrastructure development along its northeast border.

In addition to warding off China's imminent threat to India's territorial sovereignty, developing the country's northeastern wing — whose border with Myanmar positions it as India's gateway into Southeast Asia — has the potential to unlock new export markets for Indian trade, furthering the government's strategy of building a $5 trillion economy. Reaping those benefits, however, will first require striking a favorable trade deal with Southeast Asian states. Otherwise, India will risk falling even further behind China, whose military might, funding capacity and regional clout still far outstrip those of India's.

The Big Picture
Since taking office in 2014, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has prioritized strengthening India's relationships across Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific to counter the rise of China, which remains India's chief strategic rival and the greatest threat to its territorial sovereignty. But a lack of funding and deadlocked free trade negotiations, among other challenges, risk impeding India's ability to assert itself in a region dominated by Beijing.

See India's Own Worst Enemy
The China Factor
A major driver behind India’s Act East policy is its need to balance against China. China’s $12.2 trillion economy is nearly five times the size of India’s, which enables Beijing to subsidize a robust military expansion. It also offers the Chinese government deep pools of capital for loans and investment across Asia and Europe under its trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). India worries a militarily assertive China will challenge Indian sovereignty along their disputed Himalayan boundary, including in India’s northeasternmost state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as a part of Tibet (conversely, India claims Chinese-controlled Aksai Chin as a part of the greater Kashmir dispute). As mutual suspicions drive their infrastructure buildup along the border regions, future border confrontations are all but inevitable. But beyond land, China’s expansion into South Asia and the Indian Ocean under the BRI has added a maritime dimension to India’s security concerns as well, fueling New Delhi's fears of encirclement as China funds ports in Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Because India is the weaker military power, its concerns with China will continue to propel its desire to forge stronger security partnerships with various actors operating in the region to strike a more favorable balance of power. Since 2016, India and the United States have signed two foundational defense agreements covering basing access and encrypted communications. Washington and New Delhi have also upgraded their annual Malabar naval drills by inviting Japan — another key Indian regional partner — as a partner. Complementing these gestures, the Indian navy began year-round, mission-based deployments across seven regions in the Indian Ocean in 2017. India has increased its engagement in various regional organizations as well, including the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (which includes Thailand and Myanmar) and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (which includes Singapore, Thailand and Australia). New Delhi also recently offered the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) a $1 billion line of credit aimed at promoting increased "physical and digital" connectivity between India and the organization's 10 member states.

A Northeastern Front
Beyond security considerations in the Indo-Pacific, another objective of India’s Act East policy hinges on developing the country’s northeastern wing to advance India's territorial unity. Home to eight Indian states, the remote region is linked to the mainland by the roughly 11-mile wide Siliguri Corridor. During a 1962 border war, China conquered the Indian-administered regions of Aksai Chin and portions of Arunachal Pradesh before relinquishing control over the latter. To forestall another Chinese invasion, New Delhi intentionally neglected infrastructure development in the northeast for decades, stunting economic growth in the process. During that time, however, China’s growing military strength and assertion of control in its own border regions — including the road extension in Doklam that triggered a 73-day long border standoff in 2017 — has reinforced the importance of developing the region.

India has a long way to go before it can rival China's economic and military heft, though that won't keep it from trying.

Modi has long emphasized infrastructure development in the northeast. Shortly after taking office in 2014, his government created the National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation — an agency that oversees nearly 300 projects totaling 13,630 kilometers (8,469 miles) in national highways at a cost of about $29 billion. In recent years, New Delhi has also pushed to link India’s northeastern wing with Southeast Asia through neighboring Myanmar. This includes funding the construction of two sections and 69 bridges on the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway, as well as the development of the Sittwe Port in Myanmar to forge sea-based trade linked to West Bengal and overland routes with Mizoram. To further integrate the northeast region with the mainland, Modi’s government has quietly made moves to resolve long-running insurgencies in the region as well. After 22 years of talks, New Delhi is finally nearing a peace deal with a key faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland, a separatist group that operates in several northeast Indian states.

The Gateway to Southeast Asia
Using infrastructure to catalyze the development and integration of the northeastern wing makes eminent sense. But boosting its exports with Southeast Asia in the long term will, in part, depend on negotiating a more favorable free trade pact. Over the past decade, India's import growth has outpaced its exports with ASEAN countries, causing its politically sensitive trade deficit to more than quadruple from $5 billion in 2010-11 to nearly $22 billion in 2018-19. This is due largely to the shortcomings of the 2010 India-ASEAN trade pact, which the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) could help redress by creating the world’s largest free trade zone between the 10 ASEAN states and their six free trade partners of India, China, Japan, Australia, South Korea and New Zealand.

But despite the potential benefits of joining the RCEP pact, India has hesitated to join a trade agreement that includes China for fear it would hurt domestic employment by facilitating a surge of Chinese imports. Facing pressure from various lobbies opposed to the trade pact, Modi refused to ratify the final RCEP agreement in November. India remains the key outlier, raising the possibility of an RCEP-minus-India pact — an outcome that would complicate New Delhi's efforts to boost exports and, in turn, the country's economic growth.

Amid the evolving geopolitical landscape in Southeast Asia, India's desire to counter China's rise and boost trade with Southeast Asia will continue to shape New Delhi's pursuit of its Act East policy. As Beijing builds up its own infrastructure near the border regions and more forcefully asserts its claims of sovereignty over disputed territories, New Delhi will also work to facilitate military and infrastructure build-ups in the region. But given its northern neighbor's superior military and economic heft, India still has a long way to go before it can ever rival China as Asia's leading geopolitical power.

    Methodology and Empathetic Analysis
By: George Friedman

I have spent a great deal of time trying to lay the groundwork for an approach to understanding the relations between nations. I was not searching so much for a methodology as for a sensibility for considering and understanding these relations. A methodology is a highly disciplined system of extracting essential variables and creating a predictive model. The subject of international relations does not lend itself to a simplistic methodology (a term I do not intend as dismissive but simply descriptive). Rather it requires a sensibility. The causes of conflict, for example, are rarely rooted in a neat model. They may emerge but out of a sense of complexity and disorder that permits us to grasp the whole, rather than out of a model that simply extracts the causes. The key word here is “simply.” Causation is so intricate that a general model is impossible. I will argue that a system based on sensibility must be created.

Let’s begin with a smaller and therefore more manageable unit, the nuclear family, using my own family as an example. It’s what I know best, and it highlights the layers that have to be understood and respected when dealing with human beings. Most important, the truth can be hidden even from the speaker.

My father’s family came from the western foothills of the Carpathian Mountains and moved west into Hungary late in the 18th century. My father and his half-brother, born before World War I, became enemies in the 1930s. My father was a social democrat and his brother was a communist. Others have told me that after this time they never spoke directly to each other again. Both were forced into Hungarian labor battalions attacking the Soviet Union. My uncle was captured by the Soviets, taken to Moscow for training as a Soviet apparatchik, and returned to Hungary as a minor Communist official after World War II. My father refused to surrender to the Soviets and returned to Hungary after a terrible journey walking back from the Russian front to Budapest in the middle of winter. The silence endured. Yet when the Communists came to power and my father was to be arrested, my uncle got word to him to flee. We ended up in the United States. When the 1956 revolution came, my father hired smugglers to go into Hungary and rescue his half-brother from the wrath of the momentarily triumphant revolutionaries. As my father had been saved by his brother, he tried in turn to save him. But his brother refused to leave Hungary.

The point is that the silence was far more complex than the words they spoke about each other. There was a depth that had to be understood.

The two boys had the same mother but different fathers. My father was younger so for a while his father likely favored him over his half-brother who was not of his blood. My grandfather fought in World War I and died of complications after the war, and so my grandmother was widowed for a second time. The brothers grew into adolescence with their mother, but the years in which my uncle lived under the rule of his step-father had to be painful. The love of a father for his own blood is real and frequently unrestrained. We do not know whether the step-father influenced his wife to put distance between her love for her first and second sons, but my father belonged to both of them and it is likely he was favored. Many families have such dark episodes, their memory hidden even from themselves. Often the memory is so painful that the animosity can’t be hidden, but must be given a more sophisticated and less honest explanation for its origin.

The formal family explanation for the hatred between the two half-brothers has to do with political ideology. A methodology that argues that different views alienate people is both true and utterly insufficient in this case. After everything that each of them went through, with so many in the family dead, could ideology really cause this abyss? Methodology is too antiseptic to grasp the real origins of human malice. It wants a clear, replicable process, but human existence does not yield to that. Its truth is in the dark corners that we can grasp only through empathy, and not by method.

Empathetic analysis is not sympathetic analysis. It is simply the process of imagining yourself in someone else’s position and the pressures that have come to bear in shaping them. Imagine two boys living in the poverty of the Carpathian foothills who both lose their fathers. That must have plunged them deeper into hunger and despair. After the first husband’s death, the mother remarries. Women were in high demand in those days, given the rate of death during childbirth. Men married later to earn enough money to support a family.

When my grandfather, older than my grandmother, married her, he saved her and my uncle from poverty. But her new husband naturally wanted his own family, and my grandmother gave birth to my father, two girls and another boy. My grandfather was poor by most standards, and he probably favored my father (his first son) over the older step-son, both materially and emotionally.

I take this analysis not from anything I was told but from the simple facts. A half-brother is likely to get the short end of the stick, and his mother must protect her vulnerable newborn and allow her older child to make his own way.

The anger was expressed ideologically, but it was not about ideology. The anger was the force driving a division between a mother, her second husband and their children on one side, and her son from her first marriage on the other. My uncle’s sense of having been hurled into the ranks of the inessential and my father’s commitment to protecting his sisters from his brother (and that is what he said he had to do) provides a more empathetic analysis of the situation.

Is the analysis correct? The explanation that the split was due to ideology is after all these years hard to believe. And there are some key questions that could lead one to a different explanation: Were the half-brothers still bound by a degree of love? My uncle saved my father’s life, and my father tried to save his, both at great risk to themselves. What could it have felt like to have your father die when you’re so young? How did it feel to have him replaced by a stranger who wants his own family? What does it feel like to see your mother having his children and loving them? How do two boys, surviving the hardship of the Carpathians, as tough and unforgiving as the countryside, deal with each other when there are no family therapists to tell them that hunger doesn’t matter?

The family is the foundation of the nation. It is also the laboratory within which human behavior can be modeled. But it is not modeled as you would model the economy or build a war game. Human beings cannot be blended together as a mathematical abstraction; they must be analyzed empathetically, by telling their story and understanding how little choice they had. By grasping the imperative and constraints that controlled their lives, and observing empirically what they did to each other, it is possible to take the ideological explanations both used and understand that the real limits and constraints rest in a different place. But to do this work you must be naive, you must see the obvious, believe what you see and refuse to be diverted by inconsequential sophistication. And above all, you must tell the story.

Now, explaining Iranian foreign policy is enormously more difficult than this, but it begins with some of the same core principles. We are all caught in a web of needs and relationships that force us in certain directions. We can choose to go where we want, when we are rich and safe. Otherwise you have fewer choices and a much higher penalty if you ignore the dangers. And the more power you have accumulated, the less room for maneuver you have, as power slips away with each misstep.

Therefore, the key to geopolitical analysis is understanding the constraints and imperatives, and being a good story teller. In “Speaker for the Dead” by science fiction writer Orson Scott Card, Ender Wiggin takes it on himself to explain with empathy, but without saccharine sympathy, the lives men have lived. I try to do that with nations. We both believe that we have choices, but they are few, and because they are few, our lives, families and nations are in some sense simpler and less mysterious than they appear.

There is a conventional methodology built around constraints (being born in the Carpathian foothills, being poor, having a father die), and then there is a sensibility that serves as a different methodology, called empathetic analysis, built around imperatives (eating, being safe, being loved). For that you must see the story, accept the story’s uniqueness and understand how it compels action. And then you can tell how people live and behave. It requires that you see clearly what has happened and neither condemn nor excuse.

A couple makes a family, a family builds a business, the business creates an industry, and all constitute a nation. One cannot be understood without the others, and no one truly understands or tells the truth as to why he did what he did. When looking at the United States and Iran, diplomacy hides the truth on both sides. Only empathy can reveal it, and empathy is the foundation of geopolitical analysis. We are humans whether peasants or kings, and neither fully understand why they do what they do. But they must be spoken for. Methodology reduces reality to the manageable. Empathy welcomes its complexity.   

Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word
« on: January 25, 2020, 08:18:51 AM »

Scripture not necessary for posts on this thread, your post is perfectly in keeping with the concept of this thread.

Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics
« on: January 24, 2020, 11:09:36 AM »
Well I saw in on the flip side of the pull out of the Playmate of the Month  :-D

Wuhan crisis not in check. The novel coronavirus is continuing to spread, and China is moving into full crisis mode. At least 869 people have been infected in China, and at least 26 people have died. There was also a fifth confirmed case in Thailand and a second confirmed case in the United States. A number of epidemiology models are now predicting that there will eventually be several thousand infections. In response, at least 10 Chinese cities – with a combined population of more than 40 million – have effectively been placed in quarantine. Beijing has also ordered travel agencies to suspend sales of domestic and international tours. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, an alliance of public and private medical entities, announced a multinational effort to develop a vaccine for the new virus, but it won’t be ready for months, if ever. (There is still no MERS vaccine.) As we’ve noted, the biggest and longest-lasting impacts will come from the reaction to the virus, not the virus itself.

Politics & Religion / Re: Soft Coup 3.0: Impeachment
« on: January 24, 2020, 06:51:19 AM »
"The AGs add that the “House’s corrupt motives theory is dangerous to democracy because it encourages impeachment whenever the President exercises his constitutional authority in a way that offends the opposing political party, which is predisposed to view his motives with skepticism and motivated by its own motives to regain that very office.”

, , ,

"Once unleashed, the corrupt motives theory will become a temptation whenever a President is disliked and down in the polls. The mere threat of common impeachment will make Presidents much more beholden to Congress.

"With this in mind, the Republican AGs advise the Senate to “explicitly reject” the House’s legal theory."



Not my take at all.  As I think I have consistently articulated, my take is that the correct approach is OF COURSE HE WANTED BIDEN & SON INVESTIGATED.  (Not shouting, just emphasis)

Science, Culture, & Humanities / Michael Yon comments on Chinese Virus
« on: January 24, 2020, 06:38:57 AM »
Third post

Xi’s Disease Spreading: After this hits the global streets—and it has already—efforts at containment are something akin to containing a global wildfire.

Political and other dimensions are mind-boggling and beyond reach. Epidemiologists and other experts constantly talk about the cruciality of early detection and jumping right on it RIGHT NOW, but if this turns out to be very serious, right now was already yesterday, and listening to the experts we all have to focus on slowing spread by wearing masks and so forth.

There always are cultural aspects, too, such as the habit of mainlander Chinese sneezing everywhere with no attempt cover their faces. They will sneeze in elevators— yes, they do— restaurants, airplanes, more. They ain’t Japanese who will self-quarantine.

To be clear, I am not talking about “Chinese” (difficult to define), but some cultures in Mainland China. Many in Taiwan or Hong Kong and other places are super-civilized, but many of the mainlanders are like something from another time and planet.

The Thai and China governments jointly published a book years ago showing traveling mainlanders how to behave civilized, such as not spitting on restaurant floors, or defecating in department store changing rooms. This drives Thais crazy. Not to mention everyone else.

This is the sort of barbarian invaders that Hong Kongers, Taiwanese, and the rest of us who see, are very concerned about.

They will not hesitate even as known-virus carriers to sneeze on airplanes without covering their faces. Why would they cover their face and soil their hand or whatever when they can just let it fly? They do this constantly.

The virus is doing what viruses do. It bought tickets and flew to Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, USA, more.

Wait ‘till it hits the great incubators of India and Africa. Hopefully it is not that serious but hope is not a plan, or a vaccine.

Politics & Religion / Re: Soft Coup 3.0: Impeachment
« on: January 24, 2020, 06:04:18 AM »
The ‘Corrupt Purposes’ Impeachment
Why the House logic is a danger to all future Presidents.
By The Editorial Board
Jan. 22, 2020 6:50 pm ET
Opinion: The Democrat's Impeachment Case Could Set Dangerous Precedents


Opinion: The Democrat's Impeachment Case Could Set Dangerous Precedents
Opinion: The Democrat's Impeachment Case Could Set Dangerous Precedents
On Jan. 22, 2020, Republican Senators responded to the impeachment case presented by House Democrats, and the possible repercussions it could have on the presidency. Image: Caroline Brehman/Zuma Press
As House managers make their impeachment case, many Americans will dismiss it all as a partisan effort that hasn’t persuaded the country and will die in the Senate. They have a point. But the precedents that Democrats are setting could live on, so forgive us if we explain how dangerous the House’s impeachment logic is to future Presidents and the Constitution’s separation of powers.

Especially pernicious is the new House “corrupt purposes” standard for removing a President from office. The House managers don’t assert that any specific action by President Trump was an abuse of power or a violation of law. They don’t deny he can delay aid to a foreign country or ask a foreign leader to investigate corruption. Presidents do that all the time. Instead they assert in their first impeachment article that Mr. Trump is guilty of “abuse of power” because he committed those acts for “corrupt purposes.”

Day One of the Impeachment Trial, and Joe Biden in Iowa

As an aside here, we should repeat that a President doesn’t have to break a specific law to commit an impeachable offense. Mr. Trump’s lawyers are wrong on this point. Presidents were accused of breaking specific laws in America’s three previous impeachments. But under the Constitution a President can commit “high crimes and misdemeanors” if he commits non-criminal acts that exceed his executive authority or if he refuses to execute the law.

But this means committing specific acts that are impeachable in and of themselves. Examples might be deploying U.S. troops against political opponents, or suspending habeas corpus without Congressional assent. (Lincoln received a Congressional pass in wartime.)

House Democrats are going much further and declaring that Mr. Trump’s acts are impeachable because he did them for “personal political benefit.” He isn’t accused of corruption per se. His Ukraine interventions are said to be corrupt because he intended them to help him win re-election this year. In other words, his actions were impeachable only because his motives were self-serving.

Think about this in the context of history and as a precedent. Every President has made foreign-policy decisions that he thinks may help his re-election. That’s what President Obama did in 2012 when he asked Dmitry Medvedev to tell Vladimir Putin to ease up on missile defense until after the election. Mitt Romney was criticizing Mr. Obama for being soft on Mr. Putin, and Mr. Obama wanted a political favor from the dictator to help him win re-election.

Was Mr. Obama’s motive also corrupt and thus impeachable? We can guess what Mr. Romney thought at the time, but he didn’t say Mr. Obama should be impeached. He tried to defeat him at the ballot box.

As 21 Republican state attorneys general explained in an important letter to the Senate on Wednesday, “It cannot be a legitimate basis to impeach a President for acting in a legal manner that may also be politically advantageous. Such a standard would be cause for the impeachment of virtually every President, past, present, and future.”

The AGs add that the “House’s corrupt motives theory is dangerous to democracy because it encourages impeachment whenever the President exercises his constitutional authority in a way that offends the opposing political party, which is predisposed to view his motives with skepticism and motivated by its own motives to regain that very office.”

Some sages dismiss this argument as slippery-slope alarmism that won’t come to pass. Their belief is that Mr. Trump is uniquely a threat to constitutional order and a future Congress wouldn’t apply the same logic to a more conventional President. Others want to make impeachment more routine as a check on presidential power.

This is wishful thinking. Once unleashed, the corrupt motives theory will become a temptation whenever a President is disliked and down in the polls. The mere threat of common impeachment will make Presidents much more beholden to Congress.

With this in mind, the Republican AGs advise the Senate to “explicitly reject” the House’s legal theory. This might take the form of a Senate resolution at the time of acquittal. The crucial point is to reject impeachment as a regular tool of partisan punishment, reserving it for genuine cases of presidential abuse.

Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics
« on: January 24, 2020, 05:49:38 AM »
Years ago I saw this as a joke in Playboy  :-D

January 24, 2020   Open as PDF

    Chinese New Year 2020: The Year of the Coronavirus
By: Phillip Orchard

Grappling with internal political pressures, a slowing economy, an open rebellion in Hong Kong and an unresolved trade war with the U.S., Chinese leaders may have already been in a less-than-celebratory mood heading into this year’s Lunar New Year festivities, which begin Jan. 25. The last thing the government needed was an outbreak of infectious disease, particularly when hundreds of millions of people are expected to travel throughout the country and beyond. Not only is that exactly what happened, but the disease – a new type of coronavirus – is unknown to science.

The severity of the virus (known as nCoV or the Wuhan Virus) is uncertain, nor is it clear if it will mutate and spread. The World Health Organization has yet to label it a global health emergency. But it’s certainly not yet contained. As of Thursday, there were more than 653 confirmed cases across seven countries, including the United States, and 18 people had died. And despite repeated assurances that it had matters under control, the government on Wednesday began locking down Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubei, where the outbreak started, and three nearby cities. Doctors in Wuhan are reportedly expecting the number of infections to exceed 6,000, and local authorities are planning to build a special hospital in just six days to handle the epidemic.

There’s reason to believe the disease isn’t nearly as big a threat to public health as the one posed by the SARS outbreak in 2003, which killed nearly 800 people. Inevitably, though, the biggest political and economic effects of pandemics come from public panic and panicked government responses, not the disease itself. And given Beijing’s checkered track record for managing these sorts of emergencies over the past two decades, the Communist Party of China’s very legitimacy might just prove to be on the line.

How Bad Is It?

Coronaviruses come in a variety of strains. Some, such as the one that’s one of the many causes of the common cold, are relatively harmless. Others, such as those responsible for SARS and MERS, are potentially lethal. The dangerous coronaviruses seem to be linked to animals. SARS may have originated in bats and then spread to humans via civets, which are eaten as a delicacy in China. MERS also came from bats but spread to humans via camels, once again, perhaps through consumption of raw camel milk or meat. It is therefore reasonable to suspect that the new coronavirus is linked to animals that are eaten. Indeed, the reason China is always likely to be ground zero for the next influenza pandemic is that millions of people regularly come into contact with livestock. As Smithsonian Magazine wrote, “Many Chinese people, even city dwellers, insist that freshly slaughtered poultry is tastier and more healthful than refrigerated or frozen meat.”

Whatever the source, it’s now been confirmed to be capable of being transmitted from one human to another. Even so, the new coronavirus will have a limited direct impact on public health. SARS appeared in 2002, spread quickly around the globe in 2003, infected 8,096 people and killed 774. Then, with the exception of a handful of cases, it mostly disappeared. MERS has infected 2,442 people and killed 842. It still lingers throughout much of the world, particularly in the Arabian Peninsula. And though the reported case-fatality rates for both seem high – 9.6 percent for SARS and 34.5 percent for MERS – bear in mind that many mild cases probably went unreported. The real case-fatality rate is likely lower.
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The damage inflicted directly by the disease is therefore highly unlikely to have much long-term impact. But, particularly in China, the potential economic and political implications can’t be dismissed.

Economic Impact

The problem with new outbreaks is that the public and public officials alike can’t exactly wait until all the facts become clear before taking preventative measures. And it doesn’t take much for fear of the unknown to grind public transportation systems to a halt, empty out shopping centers, movie theaters and restaurants, and, most important, persuade revelers to just stay put this year during the Lunar New Year rather than join the hundreds of millions of people who take part in the world’s largest annual human migration.

The costs add up quickly. The SARS outbreak in 2003, for example, dented Chinese gross domestic product by as much as $30 billion, reducing annual growth by between 1-2 percent. Globally, the bill for the pandemic ran up to as much as $100 billion.

Not all economic activity will be lost for good. Short-term hits to the sorts of sectors most exposed to the epidemic – mostly ones tied to consumer spending – often lead to supercharged recoveries. Chinese growth drivers where short-term disruption would have longer-lasting effects, such as manufacturing exports, industrial production and investment, stayed mostly intact in 2003. Indeed, while Chinese GDP growth dropped from 11.1 percent in the first quarter of 2003 to 9.1 percent in the second, it bounced all the way back to 11.6 percent a year later.

Still, even if nCoV proves more manageable than SARS, there are reasons to think the impact this year will be worse. For one, the SARS epidemic occurred on the heels of the dot com crash, when consumer spending across the region was already somewhat suppressed. (Incidentally, the resulting reduction of international travel may have helped contain the spread of the virus.) For another, locking down an urban area as large as Wuhan – a city at the center of one of China’s most important internal shipping routes along the Yangtze – will be immensely disruptive.
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Moreover, a substantial portion of the lost holiday spending will never be recovered. This is a problem for Asia Pacific nations that, unlike in 2003, are now highly dependent on Chinese tourists. All told, Chinese people took an estimated 130 million more trips abroad in 2018 compared to 2003, and before the outbreak, the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute predicted that more than 7 million Chinese people would head overseas during the Lunar New Year this year. In Thailand, which has already reported four cases of nCoV, foreign tourism accounts for as much as a fifth of economic growth. Around 57 percent of visitors to Thailand last year were Chinese, including more than 2 million in January and February alone. Japan, which hosts the 2020 Summer Olympics, is estimating an economic loss of nearly $25 billion if the virus spreads as widely as SARS.

The biggest difference for China this time around is that the economy can’t as easily shrug off a major shock. In the early 2000s, annual GDP growth was still climbing well above 10 percent. Today, with a long structural slowdown well underway, Beijing is running up staggering debts just to keep growth from swan-diving below 6 percent. Add to this an unresolved trade war with its largest export customer – along with its scramble to implement critical but growth-sapping measures to stave off a financial meltdown before the next global slowdown strikes – and the epidemic starts to look like the sort of thing that could derail Beijing’s best-laid plans for avoiding an economic reckoning.

Political Impact

The outbreak will also complicate a broader, existential challenge weighing on the CPC: preserving its very legitimacy with the public. Delivering steady gains in prosperity is, of course, at the center of this challenge. But breakneck economic growth has become impossible to sustain – and was never going to be sufficient, anyway. The wealthier a country becomes, the more its citizenry demands quality of life that can’t be sourced solely from rising GDP, things like clean air and water, medical services, social safety nets and responsive, corruption-free governance. This is why President Xi Jinping has encouraged the party to shift its focus to “high-quality growth,” and it’s why he’s put environmental and emergency management initiatives at the center of his sweeping reform agenda. No amount of propaganda or censorship can convince his people that a smog-choked sky is actually blue or make devastation from an earthquake disappear.

The 2003 SARS outbreak laid bare the political risks of mismanaging a public health emergency. The government came under withering public criticism for covering up the scale of the epidemic (inadvertently worsening panic), impeding the World Health Organization’s investigation, and moving slowly to contain the outbreak. Bungled government responses to a number of other crises, such as the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, a high-speed rail accident in 2011, and a string of scandals involving tainted milk, tainted vaccines and fiery industrial accidents likewise prompted fierce public outcry. Beijing received higher marks in subsequent health scares, particularly the H171 bird flu outbreak in 2013. And this time around, initially at least, it received international praise for its improved transparency and swiftness in moving to contain the virus. Chinese authorities had isolated and published the nCoV genome by the second week in January, allowing foreign governments to develop critical testing procedures for the virus. Xi addressed the emergency personally last week, ordering “all-out prevention and control efforts.” China’s top political body responsible for law and order said officials who withheld information would be “nailed on the pillar of shame for eternity.”

But facts on the ground are once again giving the public reason to doubt its government’s candor and capability. Authorities have been claiming for more than a month that the virus is “preventable and controllable.” Now, they’re taking extreme measures like locking down the Wuhan metro area, home to some 19 million people, and making belated mea culpas. The government has also struggled to abandon its practice of reflexively cracking down on independent sources of information, despite commands to do so from on high. This has led to contradictory messaging and suppressed information that might have helped contain the virus. Chinese censors initially ordered local media outlets to stick to reprinting official reports, according to the Financial Times, effectively silencing independent reporting. And in early January, eight people were reportedly detained for posting information about the outbreak on social media. As also happened in the SARS outbreak, moreover, the government’s rigidly enforced top-down decision-making structure has once again worsened matters by incentivizing, for example, hospitals to under-report cases and local authorities to go forward with high-profile public gatherings deemed politically important.

For all the criticism they are receiving, authorities in Beijing are trying to address a problem that would bedevil any government. China is very large and very dense. As happened with SARS, panic would almost certainly do more damage than the disease itself. And Beijing may reasonably conclude that resorting to drastic measures may truly be in the public interest, even if they’re at odds with public sentiment. Perhaps more than any government, Beijing has given itself the power to surveil its citizenry, to shut down cities, to silence unfounded rumors on social media – all without permission. Such powers certainly could come in handy in this sort of crisis.

But by hoarding authority – by insisting on the right to micromanage the country – the CPC has raised the bar for what the public expects in response when the country is under attack, whether from foreign powers, economic forces or viral mutations. This is a problem when tight centralization has also, paradoxically, created a rigid top-down institutional culture that’s ill-suited to respond nimbly to public demand. When faced with a crisis, the machinery of the state is programmed to default to the tools it knows best. Censorship, disinformation and problem-solving by brute force are hardwired into the Chinese system, often making it at once flat-footed and prone to overcorrection. Yet, the more pressure intensifies, the more Beijing is doubling down on this model. And the stakes riding on its bet are getting higher.   

Politics & Religion / Re: Media, Ministry of Truth Issues
« on: January 23, 2020, 08:29:12 PM »
I hereby delegate you to make the approach :-)

Politics & Religion / Re: Libya
« on: January 23, 2020, 07:47:06 PM »
Nice back up  8-)

Politics & Religion / Re: Libya
« on: January 23, 2020, 02:17:21 PM »
"Wasn't there a Libya-Turkey arms running connection underlying the Benghazi attacks?"

As stated here or on the Benghazi thread, I am of the opinion that the CIA annex was there to keep an eye on a gun running operation to the Sunnis in Syria (including Al Nusra?) against Assad masterminded by Hillary with some other country (Turkey?) handling the actual logistics. 

Politics & Religion / VA Red Flag Bill
« on: January 23, 2020, 08:15:08 AM »

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