Friday, April 29, 2016

Krauthammer: The World According to Trump

By Charles Krauthammer 
The National Review
April 28, 2016


Foreign policy does not determine American elections. Indeed, of all Western countries, we are the least interested in the subject. The reason is simple: We haven’t had to be. Our instinctive isolationism derives from our geographic exceptionalism. As Bismarck once explained (it is said), the United States is the most fortunate of all Great Powers, bordered on two sides by weak neighbors and on the other two by fish.

Two world wars, nuclear missiles, and international terrorism have disabused us of the illusion of safety-by-isolation. You wouldn’t know it, though, from the Democratic presidential race, where foreign policy has been treated as a nuisance, a distraction from such fundamental questions as whether $12 or $15 is the proper minimum wage.

On the Republican side, however, foreign policy has been the subject of furious debate. to which Donald Trump has contributed significantly, much of it off-the-cuff, contradictory, and confused. Hence his foreign-policy speech on Wednesday. It was meant to make him appear consistent, serious, and presidential.

He did check off the required box — delivering a “major address” to a serious foreign-policy outfit, the Center for the National Interest (once known as the Nixon Center). As such, it fulfilled a political need.

As did its major theme, announced right at the top: America First. Classically populist and invariably popular, it is nonetheless quite fraught. On the one hand, it can be meaningless — isn’t every president trying to advance American interests? Surely Truman didn’t enter the Korean War for the sake of Koreans, but from the conviction that intervention was essential for American security.

On the other hand, America First does have a history. In 1940, when Britain was fighting for its life and Churchill was begging for U.S. help, it was the name of the group most virulently opposed to U.S. intervention. It disbanded — totally discredited — four days after Pearl Harbor.

The irony is that while President Obama would never use the term, it is the underlying theme of his foreign policy — which Trump constantly denounces as a series of disasters. Obama, like Trump, is animated by the view that we are overextended and overinvested abroad. “The nation that I’m most interested in building is our own,” declared Obama in his December 2009 West Point address on Afghanistan.

This is also the theme of Bernie Sanders. No great surprise. Left and right isolationism have found common cause since the 1930s. Socialist party leader Norman Thomas often shared the platform with Charles Lindbergh at America First rallies.

Both the Left and the Right have a long history of advocating American retreat and retrenchment. The difference is that liberals want to come home because they think we are not good enough for the world. Conservatives want to wash their hands of the world because they think the world is not good enough for us.

For Obama, we are morally unworthy to act as world hegemon. Our hands are not clean. He’s gone abroad confessing our various sins — everything from the Iranian coup of 1953 to our unkind treatment of Castro’s Cuba to the ultimate blot, Hiroshima, a penitential visit to which Obama is currently considering.

Trump would be rightly appalled by such a self-indicting trip. His foreign policy stems from a proud nationalism that believes that these recalcitrant tribes and nations are unworthy of American expenditures of blood and treasure.

This has been the underlying view of conservative isolationism from Lindbergh through Pat Buchanan through Rand Paul. It is not without its attractions. Trump’s version, however, is inconsistent and often contradictory. After all, he pledged to bring stability to the Middle East. How do you do that without presence, risk, and expenditures (financial and military)? He attacked Obama for letting Iran become a “great power.” But doesn’t resisting that automatically imply engagement?

More incoherent still is Trump’s insistence on being unpredictable. That’s an asset, perhaps, in real-estate deals, but in a Hobbesian world, American allies rely on American consistency, often as a matter of life or death. Yet Trump excoriated the Obama-Clinton foreign policy for losing the trust of our allies precisely because of its capriciousness. The tilt toward Iran. The red line in Syria. Canceling the East European missile defense. Abandoning Hosni Mubarak.

Trump’s scripted, telepromptered speech was intended to finally clarify his foreign policy. It produced instead a jumble. The basic principle seems to be this: Continue the inexorable Obama-Clinton retreat, though for reasons of national self-interest, rather than of national self-doubt. And except when, with studied inconsistency, he decides otherwise.


Article Link to the National Review:

Today's Stock In Play is Genworth Financial (Symbol GNW)

Taking Capitalism to the Red Planet

By Post Editorial Board
The New York Post
April 28, 2016


Land for new apartments may be hard to come by in the city, but Elon Musk may soon have spots available — on Mars.

The visionary entrepreneur wants to colonize the Red Planet, and now his SpaceX company has set a date to send an unmanned there: 2018.

“Planning to send Dragon to Mars as soon as 2018,” the company tweeted Wednesday. “Details to come.”

Dragon, a craft far heavier than NASA’s unmanned rovers, will launch on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Heavy rocket, later gently descending to Mars’ surface via thrusters.

Well, that’s the plan: SpaceX has yet to test either Falcon 9 Heavy or the landing system — and 2018 is just two years off.

And just getting anything to Mars is so difficult that few countries have tried it. Of 43 attempts, most were mere fly-bys, not landings. And most failed.

Kudos to Musk for daring to dream. And don’t count him out: SpaceX already made history with its vertical landings of rockets on Earth, on land and on sea platforms.

Musk’s 2018 Mars mission won’t get a dime from Uncle Sam, just some NASA technological help in return for sharing data.

SpaceX is one of several big-bucks private-sector firms taking over space exploration — and commerce. The trend vastly broadens the possibilities — and enormously boosts the chances of a permanent human presence off-Earth.

Fanciful as Musk’s colonize-Mars plan may sound, here’s hoping he keeps pursuing his dream. Who knows? As they say about city real estate: If you build it, they will come.


Article Link to the New York Post:

The Surest Way To Lose The War On Terror

The first Western journalist to embed with ISIS on why Western bombs won’t defeat it.


By Jurgen Todenhofer 
The Daily Beast
April 29, 2016


The West has been waging its war on terror for 14 years. The result? Instead of a couple of hundred dangerous international terrorists, we now have over 100,000. And 1.3 million dead in the Middle East.

Now a number of politicians on both sides of the aisle want to defeat ISIS with yet more bombs, and President Obama is sending an additional 250 special operations forces to “advise and assist” in the fight there. Despite short-lived successes, this strategy has not worked for the past 14 years and couldn’t even shut down the Taliban. The war on terror has turned out to be a policy that breeds terror.

Just over a year ago, I became the first Western journalist to embed with ISIS in its occupied territories and to be granted interviews with many of its fighters and leaders over the course of 10 days in Raqqa, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq. As the result of those conversations, as well as dozens of others before the trip, and almost 50 years of experience in the region, I can tell you that the current Western strategy will not work.

The strategy is extremely short-sighted. Every day, the number of international terrorists rises as a result of Western bombing raids, and they have never been greater as evidenced by the events in Brussels, San Bernadino, and Paris. ISIS, which was first established in 2003 as a direct reaction to President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, is an ideology. You cannot destroy ideologies with bombs. Rather, you must discredit them, eliminate their recruiting grounds. Thus far, Western leaders have been unable to do this. It is therefore time for a fundamental change in strategy.

For a start, we must cut ISIS off from new supplies of weapons and ammunition. Shipments of arms to all rebel groups in Syria must cease. Many of them end up in the hands of ISIS, one way or another. Most ISIS fighters I saw in Mosul were equipped with U.S. Army gear—including machine guns, armor and even boots. Though most of it was looted from Iraqi army bases, ISIS also buys a lot from the black market—effectively turning the American-backed Free Syrian Army into the group’s primary ammunition supplier.

Then, we must prevent ISIS from getting more recruits. Dozens of them cross the Turkish border into ISIS territory every day. We must help Turkey close its border to ISIS. The current status quo is unacceptable.

Most importantly, we must deprive ISIS of recruits from the local population by supporting national reconciliation in Syria and in Iraq. This would deprive ISIS of the support of marginalized Sunni segments of the population. If Iraqi Sunnis alone turn their backs on the Islamic State, it will be done for.

Instead, U.S. bombs in Iraq kill Sunni civilians on an almost daily basis. Entire cities like Fallujah, Ramadi, and Baiji are leveled. In Ramadi, the murderous battle lasted three months. The result was the destruction of 90% of the city, hundreds of thousands of displaced people, and almost 2,000 dead civilians. Of the 2,000 ISIS fighters that defended the city, 1,850 were able to get away to foment terror elsewhere. Western politicians and the Western media are wrong to celebrate this catastrophe as a victory.

Using the Ramadi “victory” as a model, 10,000 ISIS fighters are now to be driven out of Mosul, a city with a civilian population of 1 million. Heated battles are already being waged between Iraqi government forces and ISIS at Qayyarah, 40 miles to its south, with enormous air and ground support from the U.S. here. On March 19, American planes attacked the University of Mosul, the second largest university in Iraq. Thirty Iraqi civilians who had nothing to do with ISIS died in the attack. As usual, the deaths of Iraqi civilians merited no mention in most Western media outlets.

Perhaps this strategy is one way to smash ISIS as a “state,” but it will only send the fighters underground. In fact, they would become the most horrendous underground movement of all time—not only in the Middle East, but also in the West.

This scorched earth campaign is reminiscent of the Vietnam War. It runs counter to international law, and it is unwise. We must not remain silent on this issue, because Iraq has already suffered too much. And because there are smarter ways to put an end to ISIS.

Right now, the West has a great opportunity that has gone unrecognized by its leaders. The mood in Mosul and many other Sunni majority cities in Iraq has soured. At first, the Sunnis tolerated ISIS as a lesser evil in comparison with former Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki’s anti-Sunni government.

Now, though, the people of Mosul have had enough of their ISIS overseers.

The Sunnis hold their culture, which is more than 5,000 years old, in high esteem. They are increasingly disgusted by ISIS’ medieval regulations, its daily subterfuges and brutality, and its extreme forms of discrimination against women and girls. It is almost impossible for the inhabitants of Mosul to leave. They are prisoners in their own city, hostages of ISIS.

If the United States and the international community were to force the current Iraqi government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Maliki to grant the Sunnis a fair share in political life in Iraq, a popular uprising of Sunnis against ISIS could happen very quickly—not only in Mosul, but throughout Iraq. And that would be the end of ISIS both a s a state and as a terrorist organization. An ISIS defeated by Arab Sunnis would have no future, not even in Syria.

If Sunnis are treated fairly and reintegrated into society, then and only then will the specter of ISIS be laid to rest.

President Obama: This is how you take out ISIS, not by obliterating cities.


Article Link to the Daily Beast:

Insiders: Clinton would crush Trump in November

In the swing states that matter most, GOP insiders worry about a down-ballot disaster.


By Katie Glueck
Politico
April 29, 2016


In the swing states that matter most in the presidential race, Donald Trump doesn’t have a prayer against Hillary Clinton in the general election.

That’s according to top operatives, strategists and activists in 10 battleground states who participated in this week’s POLITICO Caucus. Nearly 90 percent of them said Clinton would defeat Trump in their home states in a November match-up.

Republicans are only slightly more bullish on Trump’s prospects than Democrats: More than three-quarters of GOP insiders expect Clinton to best the Republican front-runner in a general-election contest in their respective states. Among Democrats, the belief is nearly universal: 99 percent of surveyed said will Clinton will beat Trump.

In three of the biggest swing states—Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida—Republicans were particularly downbeat about the prospect of a Trump-Clinton contest.

“There is positively no way for Trump to win in Pennsylvania,” said a Republican from that state.

“Trump cannot and will not carry Ohio,” a Republican from that state insisted. “He will do well in Appalachia and in the Mahoning Valley but he will get killed in the rest of the state. The danger for the GOP is losing Rob Portman which is a very real possibility under this match-up.”

Added a Florida Republican, who like all participants was granted anonymity in order to speak freely, “Trump is grinding the GOP to a stub. He couldn't find enough xenophobic, angry white Floridians to beat Hillary in Florida if he tried.”

“I not only think [Hillary] will win Florida in November if Trump is the nominee, I think she'll win 30+ states,” said another Florida Republican.

These comments follow two weeks of victories for Trump, who notched a major win in New York before going on to sweep the mid-Atlantic states on Tuesday.

Looking ahead to the general election, Republican insiders fretted that if Trump is at the top of the ticket, he will not only lose in a landslide, but will also endanger Republicans on the rest of the ballot.

“NH is potentially a swing state but Hillary would win in a rout with profound down ballot consequences,” wrote one New Hampshire Republican.

Said a Virginia Republican, “Virginia has shifted to be more suburban than rural. While a Trump candidacy will gin up turnout in the Shenandoah Valley and Southwest, Trump will get killed in the suburbs of the urban crescent. Time to focus on Congressional races and 2017.”

Several Democrats said Trump would so motivate Democratic turnout that they envisioned clear-cut pick-up opportunities across the ballot.

“In a Trump/Clinton matchup, Hillary will win Florida by no less than 5 points and will help the Democrats pick up a Senate seat, a couple of House districts, and a significant number of state legislative seats,” said one Florida Democrat.

Added a North Carolina Democrat, “Hillary Clinton will put North Carolina back in the blue column. She will also have long coattails in North Carolina, helping Roy Cooper take back the Governor's Mansion and in quite possibly the biggest upset this cycle, help Deborah Ross defeat Senator Richard Burr.”

Plenty of Democrats predicted a landslide victory over Trump in November.

“This will be a near historic blow out, 20% at least,” a New Hampshire Democrat said.

“Trump will win some redneck cow counties, but Hillary will crush him in the urban areas of Las Vegas and Reno,” a Nevada Democrat predicted.

“Unless we throw up on ourselves, this is a no brainer,” a Wisconsin Democrat added.

But, some noted, Clinton faces her own challenges, from high unfavorable ratings to the question of whether Democrats currently supporting Bernie Sanders, her Democratic primary opponent, will turn out for her should she win the nomination, as she looks poised to do.

“I think it has become clear that his message resonates with voters on both sides,” said one Florida Republican who expects Trump to beat Clinton in that state if they both capture their parties’ nominations. “He is less of a politician, Hillary is clearly a politician, all you have to do is watch her nod her head and pick the right expression to use.”

People on both sides of the aisle also said that Trump has demonstrated some ability to appeal to white working-class voters who might not otherwise vote Republican.

“Could be close if Trump starts to act normal,” a Pennsylvania Democrat said.

But the vast majority of Democrats and Republicans alike expect the math to work out in Clinton’s favor.

“Trump's crossover appeal provides some challenges,” a Colorado Democrat said. “But for every working class white male Hillary loses she'll pick up three suburban Republican women; and neither group may reveal that to pollsters.”

Fiorina move fails to move the dial

Ted Cruz on Wednesday tapped Carly Fiorina to be his running mate, in a move that struck some POLITICO Caucus insiders as desperate and ineffective.

The majority of insiders surveyed in both parties said bringing on Fiorina makes no difference for Cruz in their respective states — 60 percent of Republicans and 73 percent of Democrats said the same.

“Being teased with a "major announcement" that turned out to be a candidate who is not going to win the nomination [choosing] Carly Fiorina as his running mate was like being promised a T-bone steak and being served a giant nothing burger,” an Iowa Republican said. “It smacks of desperation. It is never going to happen. I would have been embarrassed if I had been on the Cruz team and I was told I had to go out and sell that announcement.”

Added another Iowa Republican, “I'm a Carly supporter - but I don't see how this really moves the needle for Cruz. What is his argument? 'I know I can't win on the first ballot, but vote for me anyway because if it gets to a second ballot then Carly will be my running mate?' That doesn't work on a GOTV call... That's not a jab at Carly, it’s just a recognition that the narrative for Cruz is too daunting.”

Still, 27 percent of Republicans surveyed said the move might help Cruz as he struggles to regain momentum ahead of Indiana, which is shaping up to be a must-win contest for the Texas senator.

“She ran a strong NH campaign and as a woman brings a lot of appeal to the ticket,” a New Hampshire Republican said.


Article Link to Politico:

Clinton Needs Swing Voters, Not Berniacs

Winning them will take more than the finger-pointing populism that’s dominated the Democratic primary campaign.


By Will Marshall
The Daily Beast
April 29, 2016


The nominating contest grinds on, but the Acela primary set the stage for a general election faceoff between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Trump’s solid majorities mean that GOP voters, in their inscrutable wisdom, have spoken, choosing a political neophyte who’s never held any public office, has no discernable governing philosophy, and whose campaign consists mainly of bigoted outbursts and vicious personal attacks on anyone who gets in his way.

In contrast, the Democratic center seems to have held. Bernie Sanders’ call for an anti-capitalist “revolution” enthralled millennials, but his dream of turning America into a European-style welfare state—a colossal Denmark—struck out with black and Latino voters, and with women, who preferred the pragmatic Clinton.

What’s more, Clinton now has a cause that can galvanize a campaign that’s been criticized for lacking passion and inspiration—saving America from Donald Trump. Although some diehard Bernie Bros may decide to sit out the November election, she should have little difficulty uniting her party around the goal of keeping the billionaire bully out of the White House.

Looking ahead, the bigger challenge will be recalibrating her campaign for the general election. That means moving beyond attempts to coopt Sanders’ populist appeal to hardcore partisans and crafting a broader message aimed at persuadable voters across the center.

A new PPI poll provides fresh evidence that the pragmatic center’s demise has been greatly exaggerated. Swing voters still exist, and they likely will play a decisive role in determining which party wins control of the White House and Senate in November.

Conducted by veteran Democratic pollster Peter Brodnitz, the PPI survey examined four presidential battleground states that also feature competitive Senate and House races this year: Florida, Ohio, Colorado and Nevada. We found that just over 20 percent of electorate in these swing states is made up of voters who lend their support equally to Democrats and Republicans, do not strongly identify with either party, and did not vote for the same party in the last two elections.

Who are the swing voters in 2016? Most describe themselves as Independent (84%) and moderate (56%). In political outlook they lie between the two parties: Just 11% are liberals, compared to 49% of Democrats; 24% are conservatives, compared to 69% of Republicans. They are slightly more female than male and a little less likely to have a college degree than voters overall. Nearly a third of them are non-white.

Our survey indicates that to win them, Democrats must move beyond the finger-pointing populism that’s dominated their primary campaign. Swing voters aren’t drawn to an angry narrative of economic grievance and victimhood. Most don’t believe the economic deck is stacked against them (only 39% say it is, compared to 47% of Democrats).

Swing voters are worried about the economy, but they have little interest in a “revolution” to fetter corporations or trade wars with China and Mexico. Instead, they seem eager for a hopeful account of how to make America a stronger competitor in the global economy. They reject Donald Trump’s overblown claims that the U.S. economy is in shambles. Nor do they share the populist left’s hostility toward American business.

On the contrary, they favor policies that help entrepreneurs and businesses succeed as the best way to get wages rising again and help U.S. workers get ahead. For example, they support dramatically lowering the corporate income tax—to 15%—to put U.S. companies on an even competitive footing and prevent more jobs from going overseas.

Here’s the message that comes through loud and clear in this poll: In the general election, Democrats can’t afford to cede the high ground of economic growth and competitiveness.

While they see reducing inequality as important, swing voters show less intensity on this score than Democrats. Like Republicans, they give higher priority to stimulating growth than to fairness.

On trade, the PPI poll found a striking incongruity between the fiercely protectionist rhetoric that has pervaded the primary season and the attitudes of voters in the four battleground states. Fully three-fourths of all voters believe that, to have a strong economy the United States must rely on trade. Strikingly, Democrats are the most likely to agree (82%). They also strongly support new trade agreements.

Strong majorities of voters reject the Trump-Sanders diagnosis that bad trade agreements are to blame for U.S. jobs going abroad; they say cheaper labor is the main reason. And more say they want to train U.S. workers for new jobs in high-tech manufacturing than to bring back manufacturing jobs that don’t require advanced skills, like textiles or automobiles.

Swing voters are interested in new and pragmatic ways to stimulate economic growth and opportunity. For example, they were more likely than Democrats to favor reducing regulatory burdens on U.S. businesses (70-57%). They strongly endorsed (78%) a regulatory improvement commission to prune old rules that have accumulated over decades. They also backed a two-year limit on environmental reviews of new infrastructure projects, as well as reining in the proliferation of state and local occupational licensing requirements, which make it especially difficult for low-income people to market their skills.

Swing voters and Democrats strongly believe that higher levels of skill and education are the key to boosting U.S. competitiveness. They favor creation of a robust system of “career pathways” that combines classroom instruction with on-the-job training, and offers credentials to certify the technical skills workers need to land middle-income jobs.

In general, the swing voters are more fiscally conservative and mistrustful of government than Democrats. To take one example, Democrats by 52-39 favor Sanders’ call for “free college.” Swing voters instead endorsed (60-36) the idea of allowing students to get college degrees after three years, thereby shaving a year off tuition costs.

Democrats and swing voters enthusiastically endorsed “universal pensions” to help all workers save for retirement from their very first job, as well as “HomeK” plans that also allow them to put aside money tax-free for a downpayment on a home. There was also strong support for a carbon tax to slow climate change, and swing voters agreed with Democrats that the bigger danger is that America will move away from fossil fuels too slowly rather than too fast.

All in all, our survey of swing voters in swing states illuminates the key task facing Democrats as they pivot from the primaries to the general election: Fashioning a forward-looking message that unites the interests of swing voters and the party’s core partisans.

That means offering a progressive alternative to an angry and polarizing populism—a hopeful vision for reviving economic growth that works for everyone, not just the fortunate few.


Article Link to the Daily Beast:

John Boehner’s Grudge

By The Editors 
The National Review
April 28, 2016

We get it. John Boehner doesn’t like Ted Cruz. In a witless cheap shot, Boehner called him “Lucifer in the flesh” at an event at Stanford University. Boehner’s attitude is widespread among Republican insiders who are foolishly allowing personal ill will to cloud their reasoned judgment about who, among the candidates left in the GOP race, is the best representative of conservative principles and policies, and about who would be the best candidate in the upcoming general election.

On both counts, Cruz is the obvious choice. Ted Cruz is a constitutional conservative dedicated to reducing the outsized federal government to its proper size and functions, and to restoring to the states and the people as much freedom as possible. This has been the core of his message throughout his career, and throughout this campaign. Cruz is an outspoken opponent of abortion, a dedicated defender of the constitutional right to religious liberty, and a staunch advocate of the right to keep and bear arms — positions that he has considered carefully and that he can defend articulately. He has assembled a thoughtful, capable team of advisers to guide him. If he were president, we would have a good shot at getting a stronger economy, a Supreme Court with a less grandiose conception of its role, a less centralized health-care system, and a more sensible foreign policy.

And he is a disciplined candidate who has built an impressive campaign operation. Head-to-head polling shows him running within the margin of error against Hillary Clinton.

By comparison, the same polls suggest that Trump would run worse than his two Republican rivals: He is currently trailing Clinton by 8.5 points, on average, and currently has a toxic image among key groups in the broader public.

As for the substance, Trump is no constitutionalist, having suggested that as president he would “open up” libel laws to prosecute journalists and order American soldiers to commit war crimes. He has taken liberal stances on a variety of issues — abortion, transgenderism, Israel, &c. — then reversed himself, and he has polluted sound positions, like immigration hawkishness, with his boob-bait-for-Bubba demagoguery. On foreign policy, he has been largely incoherent, and occasionally appalling (e.g., his high regard for Vladimir Putin).

All of this is why prominent conservatives who might not be counted among Cruz’s friends — Lindsey Graham and Jeb Bush come to mind — have urged the party to rally around Cruz as the only reliable conservative left in the race.

They’re right to do so, and not to give in to the petty grudge-holding of John Boehner. In 2013, when Cruz was engineering his ill-fated government shutdown, his Republican critics, including us, warned against interpreting tactical disagreements as evidence of disagreements about objectives. We encouraged conservatives not to indulge in knee-jerk responses that, though cathartic, would ultimately set back our common goals. That argument works in both directions. Whatever his personal feelings, Boehner agrees with Cruz on most questions of principle and policy, and it’s a shame he can’t act accordingly.

With a critical contest in Indiana just days away, Ted Cruz needs the support of any and all conservatives committed to a smaller state and greater individual liberty.


Article Link to the National Review:

Brexiteers Are Pining for Empire

By Pankaj Mishra
The Bloomberg View
April 29, 2016


There are no good reasons for Britain to leave the European Union. "Brexit" makes zero sense geopolitically or economically, as exasperated foreigners, including U.S. President Barack Obama, have repeatedly pointed out. But then, as with many political phenomena today, any explanation of the inexplicable Brexit campaign has to be sought deep in social, cultural and emotional history.

The impulse driving the Brexiteers is the same one former U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson highlighted in 1962, when he declared, "Great Britain has lost an empire and has not yet found a role." The writer Edmund Wilson expressed it, too, when he said that the British elite was "completely unreconciled to the post-war diminishment of Britain."

The members of Britain's Conservative Party who would withdraw from the European Union share the same stubborn belief that their small island remains great enough to stand apart from continental Europe. To be sure, the original British sense of self-sufficiency, and of power and glory, was derived from historical facts. In the 18th century, Britain's geographical isolation, as well as entwined traditions of commerce and individual liberty, clearly distinguished it from rivals on the turbulent continent. Those virtues made ardent Anglophiles even out of hard-headed men like Montesquieu and Voltaire.

Then in the 19th century, Britain’s industrial and commercial expansion reorganized the world into an economic unity, for better and for worse. British colonists, financiers, engineers, explorers, seamen, insurers and administrators broke down many of the geographical, social and economic barriers between continents. These triumphant forays into the world outside Europe both created Britain’s distinctive modern character and gave its prospering classes a sense of splendid uniqueness within a Europe racked by war and revolution.

This long experience of successful imperialism seeded many attitudes recognizable in today's Brexit campaign. It bred a distrust of continental Europeans. Even the acute chronicler of London’s laboring poor Henry Mayhew wrote fearfully in 1862 of the "aliens" in London’s East End, "whom we had long welcomed and pampered in our midst" and who "swarmed westward in lawless, hungry multitudes." Winston Churchill’s father opposed a proposed Channel Tunnel with France in the late 19th century by saying that "the reputation of England has hitherto depended upon her being, as it were, virgo intacta."

The serene possession of a great empire created among elites some lasting mental and emotional dispositions, ranging from the "stiff upper lip" to an imperious self-absorption and poor understanding of the importance of diversity. E.M. Forster blamed the political problems of the British Empire in the early 20th century on superbly educated "public-school men" who "go forth" with "undeveloped hearts" into "a world that is not entirely composed of public-school men or even of Anglo-Saxons but of men who are as various as the sands of the sea."

It could never have been easy for this frequently blundering but cosseted British ruling class to find a mere role after losing an empire. They've sought to keep the old flame alive through occasional neo-imperial adventures, from Suez to the Falklands to Iraq. As Education Minister, Michael Gove, a leading campaigner for Brexit, was obsessed with bringing school history syllabuses in line with the revisionist thinking of self-declared "neo-imperialists" Niall Ferguson and Andrew Roberts. Both Roberts and Ferguson lent their voices to the Iraq War, arguing that the British Empire was an "exemplary force for good," and that imperialism was "an idea whose time has come again."

In recent years, this passive-aggressiveness about the British Empire -- a venture with often benign motives and agents but blighted by violence, racism and exploitation -- has gone mainstream among a section of British right-wingers. Last week Boris Johnson even accused Obama of inheriting his Kenyan ancestors’ anti-imperialist animus against Britain. This was an extraordinarily intemperate attack by the outgoing mayor of London -- the world’s most cosmopolitan city and a shining example of how Britain has done much better than any continental European country in accommodating its foreign-born population.

Brexit is little more than another instance of dead-end thinking by some empire fetishists, powered by the same delusion of a small island regaining its global power and influence. According to this Trump-lite view, isolation might just make Britain great again.

What proponents need to realize is that it's truer now than when Acheson spoke in 1962 that Britain’s "attempt to play a separate power role -- that is, a role apart from Europe, a role based on a ‘special relationship’ with the United States" is "about played out." Empire has long been dead and there are no good reasons for Brexit -- as opposed to a campaign, urgently needed, to exit the stultifying imperial mindset.

Article Link to the Bloomberg View:

Noonan: Simple Patriotism Trumps Ideology

After 16 years, Americans have grown tired of both conservative and liberal abstractions.


By Peggy Noonan
The Wall Street Journal
April 28, 2016


The wind is at Donald Trump’s back, and it’s the kind that doesn’t lessen but build. Last week he won the New York primary with an astounding 60% of the vote to John Kasich’s 25% and Ted Cruz’s 15%. This week he swept the five-state Northeast regional primaries with numbers that neared or surpassed the New York results—54% in Maryland, 57% in Pennsylvania, 58% in Connecticut, 61% in Delaware and 64% in Rhode Island. He beat Mr. Kasich in Greenwich, Conn., the affluent enclave of the old moderate Republicanism. Amazingly, he carried every county in all five states, and every county in New York except Manhattan. With 10 million votes, Mr. Trump is on track to become the biggest primary vote-getter in GOP history. He did well with varied demographic groups, old and young, college graduates, rich and not.

This is the kind of political momentum that tends to grow. A political saying attributed to Haley Barbour is that in politics this is the dynamic: Good gets better and bad gets worse. Very smart analysts and reporters have been translating all these victories into delegate counts, which of course is the key question. But as I look at where we are I think: Get your mind off 1,237; get your mind on the wind at Donald Trump’s back. After all the missteps and embarrassments of the past few months, his support is building.

“I consider myself the presumptive nominee,” Mr. Trump said in his victory remarks. He is.

Nothing wrong with Mr. Cruz and Mr. Kasich continuing to forge on. If you added their votes together the other night, Mr. Trump still would have beaten them. But they’re imagining they still have a shot, and Mr. Cruz just brought in Carly Fiorina as a reinforcement. His admiration of Ronald Reagan is such that he even imitates his blunders. That is what it was for Reagan in 1976 when he picked a running mate before the convention. Desperate gambits are more likely to work when they don’t look desperate.

Here I note an odd aspect of this cycle. Candidates at this point, roughly nine months in, are supposed to be dog-tired, near the end of their personal resources, exhausted and, if they’re not winning, depressed. That’s how it usually goes. But Mr. Kasich is clearly having the time of his life and told me as much in November. Mr. Cruz told me the same thing last week, at a Journal editorial board meeting. I expected to see him tired and dragging. No, fresh as a daisy. Mr. Trump too is clearly having a ball.

I find their joy distressing. America is faced with overwhelming problems, the voters are deeply concerned about our future, and they’re happy little chappies in the cable news town hall. I think they’ve absorbed too well the idea of the power of the happy warrior. I would respect them more if now and then they’d outline our problems and look blue.

In my continuing quest to define aspects of Mr. Trump’s rise, to my own satisfaction, I offer what was said this week in a talk with a small group of political activists, all of whom back him. One was about to begin approaching various powerful and influential Republicans who did not support him, and make the case. I told her I’d been thinking that maybe Mr. Trump’s appeal is simple: What Trump supporters believe, what they perceive as they watch him, is that he is on America’s side.

And that comes as a great relief to them, because they believe that for 16 years Presidents Bush and Obama were largely about ideologies. They seemed not so much on America’s side as on the side of abstract notions about justice and the needs of the world. Mr. Obama’s ideological notions are leftist, and indeed he is a hero of the international left. He is about international climate-change agreements, and leftist views of gender, race and income equality. Mr. Bush’s White House was driven by a different ideology—neoconservatism, democratizing, nation building, defeating evil in the world, privatizing Social Security.

But it was all ideology.

Then Mr. Trump comes and in his statements radiate the idea that he’s not at all interested in ideology, only in making America great again—through border security and tough trade policy, etc. He’s saying he’s on America’s side, period.

And because people are so happy to hear this after 16 years, because it seems right to them, they give him a pass on his lack of experience in elective office and the daily realities of national politics. They accept him even though he is a casino developer and brander who became famous on reality TV.

They forgive it all. Not only because they’re tired of bad policy but because they’re tired of ideology.

You could see this aspect of Trumpism—I’m about America, end of story—in his much-discussed foreign-policy speech this week. I have found pretty much everything said about it to be true. It was long, occasionally awkward-sounding and sometimes contradictory. It was interesting nonetheless. He was trying to blend into a coherent whole what he’s previously said when popping off on the hustings. He was trying to establish that there’s a theme to the pudding. He was also trying to reassure potential supporters that he is actually serious, that he does have a foreign-policy framework as opposed to just a grab bag of emotional impulses.

The speech was an attack on the reigning Washington foreign-policy elite of both parties, which he scored as incompetent and unsuccessful: “Logic was replaced with foolishness and arrogance, and this led to one foreign-policy disaster after another.” Mistakes in Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Syria threw the region “into crisis,” and helped create ISIS. He described democracy-promotion efforts as destructive, costing “thousands of American lives and many trillions of dollars.” Our resources are overextended, our allies must contribute more, our friends don’t trust us, nor do our allies respect us. He called for “a coherent foreign policy based on American interests.” His interest is “focusing on creating stability.” “We must stop importing extremism through senseless immigration policies,” including a “pause for reassessment,” which will help prevent the next San Bernardino.

He positioned himself to Hillary Clinton’s left on foreign policy—she is hawkish, too eager for assertions of U.S. military power, and has bad judgement. This will be the first time in modern history a Republican presidential candidate is to the left of the Democrat, and that will make things interesting. It reminded me of how Mr. Trump, in his insistence that he will not cut or add new limits to entitlement spending, could get to Mrs. Clinton’s left on that key domestic question, too.

He certainly jumbles up the categories. Bobby Knight, introducing him at a rally in Evansville, Ind., on Thursday, said that Mr. Trump is not a Republican or a Democrat. The crowd seemed to like that a lot.

Those conservative writers and thinkers who have for nine months warned the base that Mr. Trump is not a conservative should consider the idea that a large portion of the Republican base no longer sees itself as conservative, at least as that term has been defined the past 15 years by Washington writers and thinkers.


Article Link to the Wall Street Journal:

Simple Patriotism Trumps Ideology

The Inevitable Mr. Trump

A rightly disgusted electorate has been turning the rascals out and replacing them with even less impressive rascals.


The National Interest
April 28, 2016


The Republican Party is very likely to nominate for president, for only the second time in its history, someone who has never sought election before, been a cabinet officer (like William Howard Taft, 1908 and 1912; and Herbert Hoover, 1928) or served in a senior combat position (like John C. Fremont, 1856; U. S. Grant, 1868 and 1872; and Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1952 and 1956). The only precedent was utilities lawyer and public intellectual Wendell L. Willkie, in 1940. To select a person with no public-sector experience at all in such complicated times as these is a hazardous return to the concept of the citizen-leader. But an apparent majority of Republican voters, as well as many Democrats, feel there is no other choice.

The country has been turning the rascals out and replacing them with even less impressive rascals. The people rejected George H.W. Bush for Bill Clinton in 1992, with the semi-deranged billionaire Ross Perot splitting the Republican vote, and then took Congress away from the Democrats and gave it to Newt Gingrich and Robert Dole. George W. Bush and Al Gore effectively drew the 2000 election, but the people took Congress away from the Republicans and gave it to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, and elevated Barack Obama amid a heavy rejection of Bush and euphoria over a nonwhite president, but have been seriously disillusioned and have given the Congress back to the Republicans led by Mitch McConnell and, now, Paul Ryan.

The people are right to be disgusted with the entire political class. Americans, unlike many other citizenries, are not accustomed to their governments being manifestly incompetent, venal and an embarrassment to the entire nation. That is what has happened—and it is little wonder that the country is seeking the renovation of national leadership in unfamiliar places. The last twenty years have seen huge current account and trade deficits, and the legislative and executive branches’ creation of many billions of dollars in commercially unjustifiable mortgages, with the resulting immense housing bubble and Great Recession. They have seen costly and fruitless foreign wars, creating international chaos and humanitarian disaster in the Middle East and playing directly into the hands of the Iranian theocrats, who have been rewarded for their support of terrorism with a green light to develop nuclear weapons. And they have seen the doubling, in seven years, of a national debt accumulated over 233 years of American independence.

The United States has waffled and blundered on antimissile defenses for the Czechs and Poles, the conflict in Libya, the “red line” in Syria, Iran’s right to nuclear arms, and Ukraine. The Western alliance has become a ludicrous talking shop, and the United States a virtual laughingstock, in foreign and security policy. It occupied much of Iraq twice, and left abruptly on both occasions; most of the country is now under Iranian occupation or influence. The United States, followed by parts of the bedraggled Western alliance, is ostensibly aligned with Russia and Iran against ISIS in what remains of Iraq and Syria, but is also contemptuously opposed by Russia and Iran in the contest between the embattled Assad regime and the Western-sponsored Syrian faction that is fighting both Assad and ISIS. It is impossible to imagine any previous modern U.S. presidents so badly misleading the alliance and immersing the West in such a hopeless imbroglio. The foreign policy of the Obama administration appears to be to tell America’s traditional allies and adversaries to swap roles.

It has been a public-policy Gong Show. The country that first proposed the “quarantine” of aggressor states; sustained Britain, Canada and their few allies with unlimited military supplies on long-term credit as they stood against Hitler and Mussolini; led the Western allies to victory in World War II over Nazism, fascism and Japanese imperialism; and then conducted the Western alliance to the nearly bloodless triumph of democracy and the free market in the Cold War—the same United States has so far failed in an era when it has been the world’s only superpower. Naturally, the American people want a president who is not complicit in this ghastly sequence of fiascoes. It is not difficult to imagine the appeal of an undoubtedly successful captain of industry who carpet bombs his opponents with politically incorrect statements and insults with the endearing aplomb of television working-class reactionary Archie Bunker, even when this has led to a number of regrettable infelicities.

The American political class ignored for decades the gradual illegal infiltration of the country by twelve million peasant immigrants, and has concluded trade deals with many countries that entrenched trade deficits that effectively imported unemployment into the United States. Senator Marco Rubio, as he graciously withdrew from the race for the Republican nomination, acknowledged that Donald Trump had foreseen a “political tsunami” that none of the other candidates had. The public has a right to know why they didn’t, and to reward the candidate who did.

On these themes, Trump entered the campaign with a bang, and rounded up a large number of working- and lower-middle-class voters who felt threatened by migrants and unrepresented by elites who don’t care about the economically vulnerable section of the workforce, having squandered American economic strength and national credibility. Insightful commentators such as Peggy Noonan and Mark Steyn have seen and described this phenomenon clearly, while the traditional conservative intelligentsia gathered around National Review, the Weekly Standard and Commentary have reacted like an offended dowager to the coarsened discourse. They seem to feel deprived of an entitlement to take the Republicans back to the right of Ronald Reagan. They have inadvertently made common cause with the liberal Democrats—with a conspicuous lack of success—and are in danger of marginalizing themselves.

As Trump has advanced through the primaries and to the edge of the nomination, he has begun to seek support from less angry and more cerebral voters. His tax proposals are sensible, if a little imprecise, and his major foreign-policy statement on April 27 is a cogent outline of a clear definition of the U.S. national interest. It is neither impetuous as George W. Bush nor as defeatist and contra-historical as Obama. Trump is almost unstoppable as the Republican nominee now, and is already shifting fire to Hillary Clinton. In their only direct clash to date, when Senator Clinton called him a sexist, he shut her down easily by remarking that her husband, to whom she owes her prominence, was the greatest sexist in American political history and that she facilitated his behavior. Senator Clinton’s many untruths, even on absurd issues such as being fired on by snipers in Bosnia, and her lack of a serious record of public achievement, as well as the spirit of change and the unpopularity of the Obama administration to which she must affect some fealty, make her very vulnerable.

The election of Donald Trump as president is now a very reasonable possibility. Among its effects would be a salutary house-cleaning of the federal government, a process of renewal that would doubtless have lapses of taste and judgment, but that would revitalize American public life. The Bush dynasty was an accident of continuity following the very successful Reagan presidency, and it came to have a stifling influence on the Republican Party. The premature defeat of George H. W. Bush by Bill Clinton led to the even more precarious myth of the Bush-Clinton co-dynasty, as there was no excuse for Clinton winning the 1992 election. Barack Obama interrupted the Bush-Clinton alternation by seizing the moment for an admirable and nationally heartfelt gesture of tolerance and broad-mindedness, but he has been a disastrous president.

In the United States, political renewal occurs when it must, and in a peculiar, always surprising and ineluctable way, the office does seek the man (or woman). When Donald Trump leaves Cleveland in July, he will probably be the nominee, and if he continues to recalibrate his campaign to a broader base, the office will seek him. Many of the minorities to whom the Clintons (and even Obama) have given almost nothing but the relentless utterance of clichés and bromides will embrace his appeal—more than the polls now register. As a massively recognized but politically new face, who has focused the election on the real and previously unexplored issues, facing a shop-worn candidate very widely seen as corrupt and unproven despite her longevity in the corridors and anterooms of misgovernment, Donald Trump should be very formidable.


Article Link to the National Interest:

Who Sent Iranian Army Green Berets to Syria?

For the first time since Iran’s 1980-88 war with Iraq, the Iranian army is conducting foreign military operations. But who sent the army’s green berets to Syria?


By Abbas Qaidaari
Al-Monitor
April 29, 2016


TEHRAN, Iran — Earlier this month, Brig. Gen. Ali Arasteh, deputy chief liaison of the Iranian army's ground force, for the first time publicly spoke about Iran’s military operations against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria. He told Iranian reporters, “Brigade 65 is a part of our army’s ground force and we are dispatching soldiers from Brigade 65, as well as other units, as advisers to Syria. This dispatch is not limited to commandos of Brigade 65, as advisers of Brigade 65 are already there.”

With the exception of the 1980-88 war with Iraq, the army had not conducted foreign operations since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. Only the Quds Force, the external operations branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and the Fatehin Brigade, made up of Iranian volunteers, had conducted advisory and ground operations in Syria and Iraq. The army is solely responsible for defending Iran’s borders, though if ordered by the commander in chief, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, it can also undertake assigned foreign missions.

Brigade 65, also known by the abbreviation Nohed, is a special airborne force, and one of Iran’s most elite military units. It was formed prior to the Islamic Revolution, and had a very successful record during the war with Iraq. Its original core was formed in the 1950s, when the army sent 10 senior officers to France. In the ensuing years, two new brigades responsible for hostage rescue missions, irregular warfare, psychological warfare and support were added to the airborne force while Brigade 65 was created. Improved training alongside successful combat experiences — such as at the Manston Dhofar military base in Oman in the 1970s, and reportedly even in the Vietnam War — led this unit to become one of Iran’s best, alongside the Imperial Guard, by the end of the Pahlavi era.

Brigade 65’s participation in operations in Oman was official. This apparently was not the case in Vietnam; however, before his death, Gen. Alireza Sanjabi shared a memory with this author about how he had served as a sniper in Vietnam. Sanjani added, “Before the revolution, most of the training of this brigade was done in the form of joint operations with the British SAS.” Indeed, Brigade 65’s power increased so much that during the early days of the Islamic Revolution, certain members of parliament urged its dissolution since they feared it might attempt a coup. However, it was not dissolved and remains as strong as ever. In the 1990s, there was a mock military operation in Tehran where airborne forces were asked to take hold of all important military and political centers in the capital. Despite fierce resistance put up by the security forces guarding these centers, the powerful “Ghost Forces” were able to occupy the capital in two hours. Ever since, these army green berets have been known as the “Powerful Ghosts.”

Prior to its current deployment, Brigade 65 had not conducted foreign operations since the war with Iraq, as far as is officially known. There are, however, certain unconfirmed reports indicating that members of this brigade conducted reconnaissance missions in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

While the IRGC has been in charge of providing support for the Syrian government since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, the army during the past two years has taken pre-emptive measures in the fight against IS in order to neutralize any possible attack on Tehran. Last year, the commander of the army’s ground force, Brig. Gen. Ahmad Reza Pourdastan, mentioned operations involving the deployment of troops to the Iran-Iraq border and cross-border artillery strikes. He also said that “a rapid response unit as well as specialized sniper training schools have been formed during the past few months.” In addition, advanced military equipment has been delivered to these forces to prepare them to confront any threats.

Iranian classifications put the size of brigades at about 6,000 to 7,000 troops. Thus, it is probable that about 100 to 200 Brigade 65 commandos have been deployed to Syria. News of this deployment was heavily covered by Iranian media outlets. Indeed, only a few days after the deployment, reports of four Brigade 65 fatalities in Aleppo shocked public opinion. Pourdastan quickly described the situation to the press, “During an attack conducted by a few thousand takfiri [militant Salafi] forces and forces of Jabhat al-Nusrah on south Aleppo … four dear members of the [Iranian] ground forces were martyred. In this confrontation, a number of tanks and armored personnel carriers of the terrorist group al-Nusrah were destroyed and 200 terrorists were killed as well.” Based on the latter, it appears likely that the Iranians were the target of a surprise attack.

Following the wave of intense reactions to the deaths of the four Iranian commandos, army commander Maj. Gen. Ataollah Salehi said that the regular forces have no responsibility to render advisory services to Syria, and that there is an organization in Iran that carries out related measures. Salehi said that some volunteers have been dispatched to Syria under the responsibility of that organization and that there may have been some members of Brigade 65 among them. He added that due to the strict rules of the army, it seems very unlikely that its officers would enter Syria on their own and that they had probably done so under the orders of the armed forces' general staff. This statement conveys Salehi’s dissatisfaction with the presence of army forces in Syria.

The Syrian civil war appears poised to enter a new and more serious phase in the coming months. While Russia is reducing its military presence in Syria, Iran is trying to make up for that by deploying its own special forces. Considering the small number of Iranian troops that have been deployed, this may not be an important development from a military standpoint. However, it clearly shows that Iran is determined not to let the balance of power be disturbed in Syria. In the past few months, Iran has participated in the UN peace negotiations, clearly showing that it is not willing to capitulate to its regional rivals, such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, after five years of having its soldiers injured and killed and having spent billions of dollars. Thus, it is possible that if the Syrian government is threatened more seriously, even more army forces will be deployed in Syria alongside the IRGC.


Article Link to Al-Monitor:

Who Sent Iranian Army Green Berets to Syria?

Russia's Military Modernization: Where Next?

By Samuel Bendett
Real Clear World
April 29, 2016


Following years of rumors, and its initial showing during a military parade in Moscow last year, Russia's newest battle tank, the Armata, continues to make headlines.

The Uralvagonzavod factory tabbed to produce the machine announced recently that it could produce an unmanned Armata as well, calling such a tank the weapon of the future.

The famous military production plant already has experience with unmanned machines -- it produces a robotic fire truck on the basis of the T-72 battle tank. According to plant management, mass production of the newest manned Armata tanks could begin later this year -- field testing is well underway.

Uralvagonzavod will be busy in the coming years as it answers numerous government orders for the production, modernization, and upgrade of a broad selection of military equipment. The orders include T-72B3 tanks, BMP-2 armored vehicles, MSTA 2S19M1 self-propelled artillery systems, BTR-82AM armored personnel carriers, airborne combat vehicles, and other products -- all told, the factory will deliver more than 1,400 vehicles to the Russian armed forces.

For the past several decades, the American Humvee armored car, or HMMWV, has set the standard by which other military vehicles are judged, having served in all of America's conflicts spanning the globe, enduring every climate and every imaginable terrain. The Russian military has worked hard to develop its own alternative, finally fielding the Tiger armored vehicle in 2006. Since that time, Russia's GAZ manufacturer and the Russian Defense Ministry have worked to bring Russian design up to domestic and international standards, offering upgrades and pushing the vehicle to compete with American and similar Western designs. In 2010, Brazilian law enforcement eyed the Tigers for use in its SWAT teams, and in 2013, that country completed testing and evaluation of the car for major sporting events in 2014 and 2016.

During the upcoming annual May 9 military parade that will mark the 71st anniversary of the Soviet victory over Germany in World War II, the Russian military will showcase its newest vehicle version, the Tiger-M, equipped with the Arbalet (Crossbow) DM remote controlled weapon system. According to Sergey Suvorov, the official spokesman of the company that manufactures Tigers, the vehicle was supposed to have been equipped with an Italian weapons system, but then the sanctions against Russia kicked in, making the transaction impossible. Besides, the "Italian technology proved too fragile for our climate," while Crossbow performed well in temperatures ranging from -50C to +50C.

According to Suvorov, the Crossbow unit is fully stabilized, and its fire control system has the function of capturing and of automatic target tracking, which allows the operator to conduct effective fire while stationary or when moving -- the vehicle can also be operated remotely when necessary. Crossbow includes two types of guns and an automatic grenade launcher, and the operator can switch between different types of weapons via a computerized fire control system. The future use of of newly equipped Tigers can be surmised from their place in the May 9 parade -- they will accompany Yars mobile strategic missile complexes, suggesting that Russian Strategic Missile Forces will be the first to receive such vehicles. They will guard mobile launchers and ballistic missiles.

Weapons of higher learning

As a sign that the famed Kalashnikov semi-automatic weapon is maturing as a production and export platform, the Kalashnikov weapons company, part of the Rostec state corporation, is about to open its own corporate university. According to Mikhail Nenyukov, deputy director of quality and development at the factory, such a decision should ensure the development of knowledge management among company personnel, claiming such a university would be "a unified system of leadership development, talent management and production competencies" among Kalashnikov employees at all levels, from assembly workers to the most senior managers.

Igor Korotchenko, the editor of Russia's National Defense magazine, considers it necessary to create educational structures within the large corporations and enterprises of the nation's military-industrial complex:

"We have almost no other form of training skilled workers, therefore, such initiatives are welcome. The defense industry today is the locomotive of the Russian economy, and it is necessary to train personnel, especially since there is an ongoing large-scale modernization of production, there are modern machines with digital controls, new technologies and materials being used."

It should be noted that in Soviet times, the country's military-industrial complex drew the best and the brightest workers and designers, offering high, steady salaries and an unmatched system of benefits. Today's Russian defense industry has suffered major attrition and brain drain to the private sector, and the Russian government is trying to ensure that it can train and retain the next generation of skilled workers.


Article Link to Real Clear World:

After Bank of Japan hesitates over easing, markets test its resolve by driving up yen

By Wayne Cole
Reuters
April 29, 2016


The Bank of Japan's shock decision this week not to provide additional stimulus to the struggling Japanese economy has prompted some investors and traders to bet that policy makers are out of bullets, clearing the path for further gains in the yen.

After BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda on Thursday dashed expectations of more easing, the yen has been on a tear. It yen spiked 2.6 percent to 108.11 against the U.S. dollar JPY=EBS straight after the decision to post its biggest daily gain in more than five years and pushed on to an 18-month peak of 107.075 per dollar on Friday. A stronger yen is punishing Japanese exporters and left the Nikkei share index .N225 down 5 percent for the week.

Kuroda has been at the forefront of Japan's efforts to escape the debilitating drag of deflation, launching massive asset buying campaigns before taking interest rates negative earlier this year.

For him to pause on policy, even if only to gauge the impact of past easing, alarmed markets addicted to ever-more aggressive and exotic stimulus measures from the world's boldest central bank.

"The sneaking doubt here is that perhaps we're witnessing the end of the great monetary easing experiment and that's obviously a very dangerous path for the BOJ," says Frederic Neumann, HSBC's co-head Of Asian economic research in Hong Kong.

"The pressure will only grow for the BOJ to do more," he adds. "Without any further action, it is fairly likely that the yen would continue its upward trajectory and equities will continue to be under pressure."

Kuroda did on Thursday leave the door open for more stimulus, stressing there were no limits to what monetary policy can do to address strong risks to the outlook.

"There's absolutely no change to our stance of aiming to achieve 2 percent inflation at the earliest date possible, and to do whatever it takes to achieve this," he told a news conference. "If needed, we can deepen negative rates much more."

The BOJ cut its inflation forecasts in a quarterly review of its projections, also on Thursday. And it again pushed back the timing for hitting its 2 percent price target, by six months, saying it may not happen until March 2018 at the latest.

The yen's resurgence was also an echo of the euro's reaction in March when European Central Bank Governor Mario Draghi said that further cuts in interest rates would not be needed.

Despite launching an expanded package of asset buying, the market took the euro almost 2 percent higher that day and the single currency has been on the rise since.

Just Friday, the ECB's chief economist, Peter Praet, told a Spanish newspaper that the inflation outlook would have to worsen significantly to warrant another rate cut.

The U.S. Federal Reserve has already started to turn off the spigots pouring money into the global economy with its halt to new quantitative easing and interest rate rise late last year.

The End of Global Stimulus?

"We have now seen both the ECB and BOJ show a degree of reluctance to deliver further easing, despite ongoing inflation weakness and currency strength," said David Cannington, a senior economist at Australia and New Zealand Banking Group.

"Is it a sign that the significant and unprecedented monetary policy action globally is drawing to a close?" he asked.

He said that if that was the case, some of the distortions these policies have created, particularly in currencies, could dissipate.

Others, however, argue that policy easings take time to have an impact, often months, and it was only reasonable for central banks to pause to weigh whether they were working.

Some also said they suspected Kuroda wanted to launch the sort of shock and awe campaign that had an actual chance of shaking the Japanese public out of its deflationary mindset. That meant waiting for the right moment rather than taking piecemeal steps.

"Even as markets brood over being snubbed by the BOJ, the broader perspective is that the BOJ simply deferred, rather than decided against, further stimulus," argued analysts at Mizuho.

They say they believe Kuroda was readying for major action mid-year, when the case for bold moves would be reinforced by softer inflation and chronic weakness in industries and exports.

"If so, it could prove to be one sweet summer for BOJ trades - short-yen and long-Nikkei."


Oil prices hit fresh 2016 highs on weak dollar, U.S. output fall


By Henning Gloystein
April 29, 2016
Reuters


Oil prices edged to new 2016 highs on Friday, lifted by a weak dollar and falling production in the United States, although a looming rise in Middle East output capped gains.

Brent crude futures LCOc1 were trading at $48.30 a barrel at 0644 GMT, up 31 cents from their last close. U.S. crude CLc1 was up 24 cents at $46.27 a barrel, with both contracts hitting fresh 2016 highs.

"The market is coming into better balance and we maintain the view that the current oversupply will flip into undersupply in 2H," investment bank Jefferies said on Friday.

"Global spare capacity is now 2 million barrels per day(bpd), or about 2 percent of global demand. This is a precariously low level," it added.

Brent and WTI have risen by almost a third from April troughs and are up over 75 percent above their 2016 lows, lifted by falling output and a weakening dollar, which has dropped more than 6 percent against a basket of other leading currencies .DXY this year.

But Deutsche Bank said a looming rise in production by members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) - due to climbing Iranian output and following outages in Iraq, Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates - could cap recent oil price rises.

"A sustainable rise in OPEC production may be just around the corner, and ... the rally may pause," the bank said.

"Maintenance in the UAE ... is scheduled to end in April, implying a rise from current production of 2.73 million bpd to the previous 2.91 million bpd production rate in May," Deutsche said.

Additionally, Saudi output is expected to edge up by 350,000 barrels to around 10.5 million bpd, sources told Reuters, just as dozens of tankers filled with unsold oil are currently at sea seeking a buyer.

One of the main repercussions of the global oil price rout between 2014 and early 2016 has been a deep economic crisis in crude export-reliant Venezuela, where political risk consultancy Eurasia Group said the government faces default as the state runs out of cash to keep its oil pumps running.

"The government needs to invest about $15 billion per year to maintain current production (2.4 million bpd), and mounting problems will probably lead to a decline of 100,000–150,000 bpd this year," Eurasia Group said.

"Barring a meaningful recovery in oil prices or fresh loans from China in the second half of the year, scarce foreign exchange will probably force the state to default later this year, most likely in the fourth quarter," it added.


Article Link to Reuters:

Friday, April 29, Morning Global Market Roundup: Yen spikes to 18-month peak, Amazon softens Apple blow

SYDNEY/SINGAPORE | BY WAYNE COLE AND NICHOLA SAMINATHER

Reuters
April 29, 2016


The yen surged to an 18-month peak on Friday as investors wagered the Bank of Japan might be done adding fresh stimulus to the economy, hurting prospects for Japanese exporters with a move that rippled through share markets across the Asian region.

Perhaps taking advantage of Japan's absence for a holiday, speculators smashed through the yen's previous top at 107.63 per dollar JPY=EBS earlier this month and drove the currency as high as 107.075. It was last trading at 107.28.

It had been at 111.67 before Thursday's surprise decision by the BoJ not to ease policy further.

The euro likewise dropped to 122.21 yen EURJPY=EBS, not quite managing to breach its 2016 trough around 121.71.

The sheer speed of the move stirred speculation the Japanese authorities might intervene to restrain the yen. Japanese officials on Thursday warned markets that they would be on guard even over the Golden Week holidays on Friday and next week.

Some analysts, however, seemed unconvinced over how much Japan would do to rein in the yen.

"The steady hand on Thursday is consistent with the yen being some way down the BoJ's list of priorities," noted Sean Callow, a senior currency analyst at Westpac.

"With the looming G7 meeting reinforcing the low risk of FX intervention, markets are likely to keep pressing their luck, with no obvious barrier to a test of 105."

The renewed rise in the yen has badly bruised exporters and left the Nikkei .N225 down 5 percent for the week on Thursday. While the cash market was shut on Friday, Nikkei futures on the CME were down another 1 percent at 16,170 NKc1.

Markets across the region suffered in sympathy and MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS lost 0.4 percent, on track for a decline of 1.6 percent for the week.

Chinese shares fared a little better, with the CSI 300 index .CSI300 up 0.3 percent, while the Shanghai Composite index .SSEC gained about 0.1 percent. They were still down 0.2 percent and 0.3 percent for the week, respectively.

South Korean stocks .KS11 slipped 0.3 percent, heading for a weekly loss of 1 percent. Taiwan .TWII slid 1.1 percent, down 2.2 percent for the week.

The malaise looks set to spread to Europe, with financial spreadbetters expecting Britain's FTSE 100 .FTSE to open down 0.7 percent, and Germany's DAX .GDAXI and France's CAC 40 .FCHI to start the day 0.9 percent lower.

AMAZON JUMPS AFTER THE BELL

On Wall Street, shares took a late spill after Apple (AAPL.O) shed 3 percent when billionaire investor Carl Icahn said he no longer has a position in the tech giant.

Amazon (AMZN.O) sweetened the mood a little after the close by blowing away earnings expectations for its first quarter, sending the stock up almost 13 percent.

The Dow .DJI ended Thursday down 1.17 percent, while the S&P 500 .SPX lost 0.92 percent and the Nasdaq .IXIC 1.19 percent. European shares had started weaker but steadied toward their close.

Not helping sentiment was news the U.S. economy braked hard in the first quarter to its slowest pace in two years as consumer spending softened and a strong dollar undercut exports.

Gross domestic product increased at a 0.5 percent annual rate, the weakest since early 2014.

Yet jobless claims fell again and analysts remain optimistic that payrolls data out next week will show another solid gain.

The reversal in the U.S. dollar proved a boon for most commodities with oil reaching 2016 highs for a third straight session. Brent has climbed nearly 80 percent since hitting 12-year lows of around $27 a barrel in late January. [O/R]

Modest profit-taking set in on Friday, with Brent crude LCOc1 off 0.1 percent at $48.09 a barrel, but still poised for a weekly gain of 6.6 percent. U.S. crude CLc1 held steady at $46.03, on track for an increase of 5.2 percent for the week.

The two benchmarks are still up about 20 percent in April and on track for their largest monthly gain in a year.



Thursday, April 28, 2016

Dennis Hastert, a Coward to the End

A very successful man is finally held to some account for his years of craven actions.


By Michael Daly
The Daily Beast
April 28, 2016


Every sex abuse victim ever scared into silence is in debt to the man who had only been publicly known as Individual D until he rose to speak at the sentencing of former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.

Individual D identified himself as 53-year-old Scott Cross and proceeded to describe how he had become one of five teens Hastert molested while coaching an Illinois high school wrestling team.

“I wanted you to know the pain and suffering he caused me then and the pain and suffering he has caused me today,” Cross said. “As deeply painful as it has been to discuss with my family and with you, staying silent for years was worse. It is important to tell the truth about what happened to me.”

Reporters in the Chicago courtroom on Wednesday noted that Cross’s voice quaked and that he verged on tears as he detailed what happened to him after he found himself alone with Hastert in a locker room four decades ago.

“As a 17-year-old boy, I was devastated,” Cross said. “I tried to figure out why Coach Hastert had singled me out. I felt intense pain, shame, and guilt.”

Among those present at the hearing was the victim’s older brother. Tom Cross had been a political protégée of Dennis Hastert and had risen to become the Republican leader of the Illinois state House of Representatives.

The elder Cross is said to have had no idea that his mentor was a monster until after Hastert was charged last year with banking violations related to money the former speaker had been paying to someone still known only as Individual A.

Only on learning of the indictment had Scott Cross told his family that he was himself a victim of Hastert. The younger Cross’s continuing anguish affirmed the elder Cross’s wisdom in supporting a 2013 bill to end the statute of limitations on sexual abuse of children in Illinois; there clearly were no time limitations on the trauma.

Legislators who joined in voting the measure into law included Jim Durkin, the present Republican leader. Durkin is the brother of Illinois federal Judge Thomas Durkin, the very one who was now preparing to sentence Hastert.

But the lifting of the the statute of limitations was not retroactive. Sex abuse of children back in the time of Hastert’s predations was subject to the same three-year statute of limitations as felonies in general.

That did not stop Judge Durkin from describing in clearest terms this man who had gone from wrestling coach to state representative to U.S. representative to speaker of the house, for eight years—the longest tenure of any Republican—second in the line of succession to the presidency.

“The defendant is a serial child molester,” Durkin said

Durkin was equally clear about the larger crimes for which Hastert could not be be charged.

“There’s nothing ambiguous about this,” Durkin said. “This is child molestation. This is sexual abuse.”

At a previous hearing, the judge had noted that when FBI agents approached Hastert about a series of large cash withdrawals he had told them that he was the subject of a shakedown by a former student who was threatening to go public with a false accusation of sex abuse.

Durkin had rightly taken that to mean Hastert had sought to save himself by further victimizing someone he had already victimized, causing this doubly wronged man to suffer “the full weight of the federal government’s resources” and possibly go to prison on false extortion charges.

As Durkin now prepared to send Hastert to prison, the judge had been given a sentencing memorandum prepared by the prosecution. The document notes, “Defendant’s history and characteristics are marred by stunning hypocrisy. When reflecting on his days coaching high school wrestling, defendant wrote, ‘There’s never sufficient reason to try to strip away another person’s dignity.’ ... Yet that is exactly what defendant did to his victims. He made them feel alone, ashamed, guilty and devoid of dignity.”

The memorandum goes on, “While defendant achieved great success, reaping all the benefits that went with it, these boys struggled, and all are still struggling now with what defendant did to them. Some have managed better than others, but all of them carry the scars defendant inflicted upon them. The incidents of sexual abuse occurred at a time in their lives when they stood on the beginning edge of sexual maturity. It is profoundly sad that one of their earliest sexual experiences was in the form of abuse by a man whom they trusted and whom they revered as a mentor and coach.”

With eloquent outrage, the memorandum concludes, “The actions at the core of this case took place not on the defendant’s national public stage but in his private one-on-one encounters in an empty locker room and a motel room with minors that violated the special trust between those young boys and their coach.”

The defense had also submitted a sentencing memorandum, noting Hastert’s years of public service. The document does not mention that Hastert failed to take any action at all when he was repeatedly informed that Rep. Mark Foley had been making improper advances to congressional pages. Hastert had, however, been very quick to join those who called for President Clinton’s impeachment during the scandal involving an intern who was not underage. Hastert had allowed that Clinton was “very able and very capable and very intelligent.”

“But he is also, as we all know, immoral,” Hastert then added.

The defense papers further fail to mention that the $1.7 million paid to the doubly victimized Individual A was money from Hastert’s successful efforts to cash in on his former status in Washington.

How appropriate it is that Hastert’s first stumble toward justice came as the result of a law he helped pass while in Congress. A bank teller who queried him about his numerous large withdrawals of cash cited the Patriot Act’s requirement that the movement of all sums of $10,000 or more be reported.

“Defendant stated that he was aware of the law, but that the Patriot Act was just for terrorism and he (defendant) was not a terrorist,” the government sentencing memorandum reports.

Hastert tried to explain the withdrawals with a series of lies to the bank and to the FBI, saying variously that he was collecting antique cars, investing in stocks and simply putting the dough in a “safe place.” He finally told them that he was being extorted and went so far as to help the FBI record phone conversations with the supposed extortionist.

The problem for Hastert was that the extortionist did not sound like one. The FBI eventually discovered the truth and identified five former students who had been victimized by Hastert. One, Stephen Reinboldt, had since died. His sister, Jolene Burdge, spoke at the sentencing, describing a life that had been irretrievably shattered. She recalled what he had said when he eventually confided in her and she asked why he had kept silent.

“Who is ever going to believe me?”

Hastert had the temerity to attend her bother’s funeral and Burdge had confronted him in the parking lot. Hastert had just stared at her. She too had been left feeling that nobody would ever believe her.

The government sentencing memorandum suggests that Hastert later paid those large sums of cash to Individual A because “defendant knew that if his molestation of Individual A became public, it would increase the chance that other former students he molested would tell their stories. Defendant also knew from his interactions with Jolene Burdge at her brother’s funeral years earlier that she had been deeply affected by what defendant did to her brother, and she was likely to tell her story publicly if anyone would listen.”

If Hastert was not exactly a terrorist, he certainly was somebody who had been counting on fear to keep his victims silent. His was the hope of all sex abusers who prey on children.
And that made Scott Cross all the more a true hero as he stepped forward and addressed the court.

He was joined by Burdge, who was speaking for her deceased brother. She called on Hastert at least to admit what he had done.

“Don’t be a coward, Mr. Hastert,” she said. “Tell the truth.”

But Hastert remained his cowardly and craven self, seeking to hedge on the unhedgeable.

“I mistreated some of my athletes that I coached,” he said. “I’m deeply ashamed to be standing before you today.”

The judge pressed him.

“So you did sexually abuse him?” the judge asked.

“Yes,” Hastert said.

But because of the statute of limitations law that Scott Cross’s brother and Judge Durkin’s brother helped pass is itself limited to 2013 on, Hastert could only be charged with a relatively minor financial violation and with lying to a federal agent.

The prosecution felt it could ask only for a term of zero to six months recommended by the probation department as part of a plea deal—made to spare a victim who wished to remain anonymous from having to testify.

The defense asked for probation, no time at all.

The judge had likely made up his mind before Scott Cross rose to speak. But Cross’s words unquestionably affirmed the judge’s view that Hastert is a serial child molester. And it made the judge seem all the more right in sentencing Hastert to 15 months, not much for a sexual abuser of children, but a significant term for moving your own money around.

Earlier in the two-hour hearing, the lead prosecutor, Steven Brock, had been speaking to Burdge and all the victims when he said,

“We do believe you. You do not stand alone.”

The judge now repeated that assurance directly to Burdge and a Chicago Tribune reporter noted that she mouthed a thank you. The judge also addressed Scott Cross.

“Incredible courage,” the judge said.

Scott Cross left the courtroom with his brother. Tom Cross had once been the protégé of a man who proved to be a monster, but he now has a brother who has proven a worthy model for everybody. The Cross family later released a statement.

“We are very proud of Scott for having the courage to relive this very painful part of his life in order to ensure that justice is done today. We hope his testimony will provide courage and strength to other victims of other cases of abuse to speak out and advocate for themselves.”

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