Wednesday, April 20, 2016

And CJES has run its course as well this morning -- cut and run after a rough 5% gain

Well damn, I though the Mannkind run would extend beyond $1.60 -- but no harm or foul taking a 5% gain in less than an hour and closing out at $1.61; +/- .02

I think MannKind (Stock Symbol MNKD) has bottomed out for today, and is a great Intraday pickup @ $1.505; +/- .03

C&J Energy -- Symbol CJES -- is an early Intraday Buy @ $1.375; +/- .03

Today's Stock In Play is CTI Biopharma (Symbol CTIC)

How to Think About a Running Mate

The electoral gains are negligible. Better to focus on someone who could govern.

By William A. Galston
The Wall Street Journal
April 20, 2016

Vice-presidential nominees make a smaller electoral difference than most political professionals believe, but they matter more for governance than ever before—twin realities that presidential nominees should ponder as they choose their running mates.

As conventionally understood, vice-presidential nominees can serve a range of political purposes for the ticket. They can symbolize the presidential nominee’s desire to bring a divided party back together, as Ronald Reagan did in 1980 when he selected George H.W. Bush,who embodied the Republican Party’s defeated Eastern-establishment wing.

Even when divisions aren’t this deep, the vice president can represent a strand of the party that the presidential nominee doesn’t, as Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen did on the 1988 Democratic ticket with Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.

Alternatively, the vice-presidential candidate can be selected to mobilize a key demographic group, as Geraldine Ferraro was in 1984. And presidential nominees can choose their running mates to enhance their chances of winning the vice-presidential nominee’s home state. The classic example is John F. Kennedy’s selection of Texan Lyndon Johnson in 1960.

These political strategies have a common defect: There is no evidence that they work. In 2010, political scientists Bernard Grofman and Reuben Kline assessed the impact of vice-presidential selection on voters’ choices in the general election. In the 11 presidential contests from 1968 to 2008, they found, the net effect was at most 1% of the popular vote.

Messrs. Grofman and Kline expressed surprise that the vote-gaining impact of Sarah Palin’s selection by John McCain in 2008 was even lower—about half of 1%. But a detailed study of the McCain-Palin campaign by political scientists Brian Brox and Madison Cassels supported that finding. The study examined the dimensions along which Sen. McCain’s advisers expected Gov. Palin to make a difference and discovered significant effects along only one. Overall, Ms. Palin had no measurable impact on partisan voters and at most a small positive impact on independents.

In a similar vein, the Gallup Organization examined the vice-presidential debates in elections from 1976 to 2008. The median effect for both parties was 1 percentage point. Public support for the Republican ticket in 2008 fell from 43% before the Sarah Palin- Joe Biden debate to 42% afterward. Support for the Republican ticket in 1988 actually rose to 49% from 47% after that year’s vice-presidential debate, in which the veteran congressman Bentsen was widely perceived as having drubbed the young senator from Indiana, Dan Quayle.

What about the fabled home-state advantage that vice-presidential nominees are supposed to give their tickets? “The VP Advantage,” a new book by political scientists Kyle Kopko and Christopher Devine,explores state-level election returns since 1884 and individual data starting in 1952. The authors’ conclusion: Although presidential candidates typically enjoy a home-state advantage of between three and seven points, vice-presidential candidates usually don’t—not even LBJ, who was no more popular in Texas than was JFK. One exception: Long-serving officeholders from small states—like Maine’s Edmund Muskie and Delaware’s Joe Biden—who enjoy their constituents’ familiarity and affection.

In most cases, say Messrs. Kopko and Devine, “voters simply vote for the presidential candidate they like best.” In today’s intensely polarized politics, voters’ likes and dislikes will closely track their partisan affiliation.

While it is hard to know whether vice-presidential nominees had a major electoral effect in earlier times, one thing is clear: Since President Jimmy Carter gave his vice president, Walter Mondale, important responsibilities in 1977, vice presidents have played increasingly central roles in governance. They often are the president’s most influential adviser, and they serve as what the military calls “force multipliers,” as Joe Biden did when he oversaw the implementation of the 2009 stimulus bill.

In the run-up to this year’s Democratic Party convention, presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Clinton will get a torrent of advice about potential running mates. Reunite the party, some will say, by nominating a candidate from the party’s populist wing—Ohio’s Sherrod Brown or even Elizabeth Warren. Others will urge the priority of ethnic mobilization: Break new ground by nominating a Latino, or reward your African-American supporters without whom you might well have lost the nomination.

My advice: Pay attention to the evidence and ignore these calls, Mrs. Clinton. It is Bernie Sanders’s responsibility to bring the party back together, just as you did with your generous remarks from the floor of the Democratic convention in 2008. As for ethnic and racial minorities, the tone and terms of this year’s Republican contest and the substance of your agenda should be enough to bring them to the polls.

Instead, choose a person who can help you run your administration and whose qualifications to serve as president if need be are beyond doubt. When it comes to the vice presidency, focusing on governance turns out to be the best politics.

Article Link to the Wall Street Journal:

Wall Street Awaits Earnings After NY Primaries

By Matt Clinch
April 20, 2016

U.S. stock index futures indicated a flat open Wednesday with investors digesting the results of the New York primaries while eyeing a slew of corporate earnings along with fluctuations in the oil price.

Donald Trump will notch a "significant" victory in the New York GOP primary, according to NBC News which cited projected results from Tuesday's polls. On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was projected to win her party's primary, according to the news agency.

Meanwhile, inventors will head into the session with a slew of earnings before the opening bell. Coca-Cola, U.S. Bancorp, Abbott Labs and St. Jude Medical reported then. American Express, Qualcomm, Mattel, F5 Networks, Stryker, SLM and Yum Brands will release updates after the session.

U.S. stocks closed mixed Tuesday, amid a rise in oil prices, as declines in tech and consumer discretionary stocks weighed after mixed earnings reports. Goldman Sachs was the main focus with shares closing up 2.28 percent with the firm reporting first-quarter earnings that topped lowered Wall Street expectations.

The oil price will once again be front and center for many investors on Wednesday, with the commodity seeing a 2 percent fall. This weekend sentiment across the globe with European shares trading in the red and the Shanghai composite losing 2.3 percent overnight.

Back in the U.S., existing home sales data will be released at 10 a.m. ET.

Article Link to CNBC:

Trump's Real Magic Number Is Less Than 1,237

GOP elite whisper about a lower threshold for the front-runner to clinch the nomination.

By Eli Stokols
April 20, 2016

Even before Donald Trump’s big win in New York Tuesday night, the conversations among party officials and high-level operatives about a contested Republican convention were already shifting dramatically.

The magic number of delegates for Trump to clinch the nomination on the first ballot, likely to be his best and perhaps only chance to do so, remains 1,237. But there are now whispers that the real number of delegates Trump must win by June 7, when the final contests take place, may be lower.

“The closer he gets to 1,237, even if he doesn’t get all the way there by the final primaries, the more likely he cobbles it together,” said one RNC member attending the quarterly party meetings in Florida, where sideline conversations are focused on this subject. “There are plenty of delegates that are unbound on first ballot, you’ve just got to go find them.”

When the convention opens in Cleveland in mid-July, roughly 200 delegates will arrive as free agents, unbound by the results of primaries or caucuses in their states. Trump’s campaign is confident they can win as many of them as they must in order to get to 1,237 on the first ballot.

“Trump has to get to 1,237, but there’s a lot of talk about, ‘What is the real number?’” said another RNC member. “Whatever half the uncommitted number is, that’s probably a reasonable number.”

“I think a lot of people think if he gets within 50-100 [of 1,237], he’ll be able to carry it,” said Steve House, the Colorado GOP chairman, who is himself an unbound delegate and is already being courted by the Trump and Cruz campaigns.

The whisper conversations about this indeterminate “real number” that Trump must hit by June 7 reveal a growing if reluctant consensus among party officials and establishment Republicans that if he gets close enough, they can’t take the nomination away.

“If he’s close after June 7, there’ll be a compelling reason for folks to say he’s won the most delegates by a lot and he’s won the most voters by a ton,” said Ron Kaufman, an RNC member from Massachusetts who is close to Mitt Romney and supported Jeb Bush earlier this year.

Kaufman believes this is the likeliest resolution to the GOP’s dramatic primary—and a perfectly acceptable one at that. “In the end, we want to make sure all those millions of people who voted in a Republican primary understand their votes were worthwhile. You just can’t kick all those voters—more than have ever voted in our primary before—to the curb. We want to make sure they’re with us in November.”

Trump still has an opportunity to hit the 1,237 mark before the convention, as he carries new momentum into five other northeastern states that vote next week and where polls already show him ahead.

And he is gearing up to make a major push in California, where 172 delegates are up for grabs on June 7. Of the $20 million budget approved days ago to carry Trump’s campaign through the rest of the primary calendar, roughly $7-9 million have been earmarked for television ads in the state, according to a source close to the campaign.

But an operative close to Trump’s team indicated that the campaign is ready to pull out all the stops to woo unbound delegates if the nomination comes down to it.

“This is like a Super Bowl ticket. The price only goes up,” the operative said. “If I were a delegate, I'd say I'm unpledged and hang my hat out me and dine me. I think there are going to be some free trips to Cleveland...that is time-tested and true in terms of delegates who are unpledged and campaigns doing what they need to do to get to their magic number.”

Our Principles PAC, the primary vehicle for establishment donors working to stop Trump, is also shifting into delegate-targeting mode.

“If he doesn’t have 1237 bound, declared delegates on June 7, then he’s not the presumptive nominee. So we’ll go into the convention and it’ll be an open convention,” said Katie Packer, the group’s director. “Anyone who suggests they know what will happen on that first ballot is lying. I give these delegates a bit more credit than being able to be bribed with a trip to Mar a Lago. We intend to make sure that every delegate understands how weak Trump is and how he has no chance of beating Hillary.”

However high his negatives with general election voters, Trump has proven to be an adroit politician and has taken dramatic steps to professionalize his campaign following weeks of setbacks in Wisconsin, where he lost the primary two weeks ago by double digits, and in a number of states where his organizational deficiencies allowed Ted Cruz’s campaign to sweep up delegates.

Trump has empowered campaign manager Paul Manafort to guide his operation and hired Rick Wiley, a former RNC staffer with strong ties to the party establishment—two fixers tasked with helping Trump fix existing shortcomings and secure the GOP nomination.

His overwhelming victory in New York, where he is in line to win more than 85 of the state’s 95 delegates, may be the result of Trump’s popularity in his home state, the one place where he had an existing political organization that predated his presidential campaign. But there’s no question that in this case, the nomination calendar worked to Trump’s advantage, delivering him an opportunity for a reset following his roughest stretch since voting began.

“It’s like getting your quarterback hurt during your bye week,” one operative close to Trump’s campaign said. “He was in good enough shape in New York that [Manafort] could buckle down and spend some time revamping the larger campaign. And he has.”

Beyond the organizational changes he’s put in place, Manafort is also altering Trump’s own approach. Since he took over as top strategist, Trump hasn’t appeared on Sunday political shows—a forum he dominated for months—and his victory speech on Tuesday night from the lobby of Trump Tower was notable for its relative message discipline, lack of insults and overall more polished tone.

After blasting the RNC’s nomination process as “rigged” last week, Trump made the same point slightly more subtly on Tuesday—merely by basking in his victory.

“It’s really nice to win the delegates with the votes,” he said.

Article Link to Politico:

Trump's Real Magic Number Is Less Than 1,237

The Green Energy Bust

It’s the 1970s all over again.

By Stephen Moore
The Weekly Standard
April 20, 2016

Almost 40 years ago, the last “green" president, Jimmy Carter, went on national TV and glumly told the nation from the Oval Office: "We could use up all of the proven reserves of oil in the entire world by the end of the next decade."

This prediction wasn't just foolish. It turned out to be tremendously expensive to taxpayers, with billions of dollars poured down a rat hole of green energy programs that never worked—including the "Synthetic Fuels Corporation," which was going to provide an economical substitute for scarce oil.

Then Ronald Reagan was elected president and in his first days in office he lifted all remaining Nixon-Ford-Carter-era oil and gas price controls and later repealed windfall profits taxes on the oil industry. This deregulation of the oil and gas markets led almost overnight to a massive increase in domestic oil and gas production and over time a tumbling in the price of oil and gas for two decades. As for the government-sponsored alternative energy programs that had been all the rage during the Carter years: They went bust because instead of oil prices of $50 to $100 a barrel, the price fell below $20. Whoops. The Synthetic Fuels Corporation was long regarded as one of the biggest government "investment" boondoggles of all time.

Well, until 2009. That was the year Barack Obama entered office with a new generation of experts again predicting "peak oil." They lectured us that the price of fuel could soar to $200 or $300 a barrel as fast-growing China and India and other developing countries added more demand for energy. Meanwhile, Obama (on the heels of George W. Bush, whose experts also bought into the oil scarcity nonsense) would ignore the lessons of history and spend well over $100 billion on green energy—battery cars, wind and solar energy, cellulosic ethanol—to replace "dirty energy," as the left calls it, namely oil, gas, and coal.

The excuse for this taxpayer subsidy blitz was that oil and gas supplies were rapidly running out—just as Carter had warned decades earlier. Renowned energy experts told us that oil was "a finite resource" and insisted commodity prices would continue to rise. But no one had the energy story wronger than Barack Obama. From the day he entered office he warned Americans that oil is "a fuel that is rapidly disappearing," and "we're running out of places to drill," and that "we can't bet our long-term prosperity, our long-term security, on a resource that will eventually run out." He even chided his critics that they would soon call for drilling "next to the Washington Monument."

Those lines sound laughable today as global supplies keep deluging the market, with cheap oil now hovering between $30 and $40 a barrel. The shale oil and gas revolution doubled recoverable energy supplies in the blink of an eye. As the Institute for Energy Research recently put it: "Mr. President, America isn't running out of oil, we are running into it." The Financial Times put it best in early 2016: "The world is drowning in oil."

For the vast majority of people, cheap and abundant energy is a gift that will raise living standards worldwide and help the poorest most. The irony, of course, is that the left keeps obsessing about income inequality, but cheap energy is one of the greatest ways in world history to pull up the poor and equalize incomes. It makes everything more affordable.

So why is the left apoplectic? Because the fossil-fuels boom means that green energy is dead again.

To fully appreciate how nonviable green energy is in this new age of cheap oil, consider the economics of electric cars like those made by Tesla. In an article published in the most recentJournal of Economic Perspectives, the authors report that after extensive testing, current battery costs for a Tesla and other electric vehicles are roughly $325 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). How does that cost fare against standard gasoline in the tank? "At a battery cost of $325 per kWh," the authors wrote, "the price of oil would need to exceed $350 per barrel before the electric vehicle was cheaper to operate."

In other words, the price of gas would have to be eight times higher than today for battery-powered cars to make financial sense.

Meanwhile, solar companies are facing the same bleak financial and technological predicament. The infamous Solyndra bankruptcy is proving to be the norm, not the exception, as fossil fuel prices fall. The Wall Street Journal reported in March that "a federally backed, $2.2 billion solar project in the California desert isn't producing the electricity it is contractually required to deliver to PG&E Corp." The Journal story adds that "the solar plant may be forced to shut down" without more government intervention.

The obvious question is this: Could one think of a more foolish national energy strategy than pumping hundreds of billions more tax dollars into this sinkhole? This would be like buying stock in rotary telephones on the eve of the iPhone. Cheap and abundant shale oil and gas are here to stay, but all Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Barack Obama, the Sierra Club, and the United Nations want to talk about is green energy.

Because the economics are so dismal for renewables, the green-energy left is scrambling for Washington lifelines. They got a big assist from Congress late last year when the omnibus spending bill provided a 30 percent tax credit for wind and solar energy—which basically says taxpayers foot almost one-third of the bill. But oil prices are still so low that the Obama administration has called for a $10 a barrel tax—which would regressively raise gas prices by about 20 to 25 cents a gallon—and would use the revenue for still more subsidies to solar and wind power, which account for about 3 percent of our energy production.

It's important to understand that the solar and wind industries wouldn't even exist today—by their own admission—were it not for the endless corporate welfare funneled to Big Green through refundable tax credits, R&D spending, renewable energy mandates, loan guarantees, consumer incentives, and layer upon layer of other payments. Solar Energy Industries Association executive director Rhone Resch admitted to Congress: "The reality is that we will lose 100,000 jobs if we lose the [investment tax credit]—and these are conservative numbers. Ninety percent of solar companies will go out of business."

Yet even with herculean government support systems to prop up pre-industrial-age energy sources, the money is never enough and the industry is still headed over a financial cliff.

Instead of celebrating the 21st-century gift of abundant energy, Washington is doing all it can to make energy more expensive for taxpayers and ratepayers. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are all in on green energy.

This isn't just bad economics, it's even questionable environmental policy. Obama's own Department of Energy reported last month that U.S. carbon emissions fell 2 percent in 2015 mainly because of increased use of clean-burning shale gas. Yet the greens are trying to shut down domestic shale gas production.

No matter what the facts show, the green delusion lives on. "In fields from Iowa to Texas," President Obama fantasized in his State of the Union address in January, "wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power. On rooftops from Arizona to New York, solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills and employs more Americans than coal—in jobs that pay better than average."

In reality, green energy costs Americans twice, as taxpayers and as ratepayers. The math doesn't lie: Coal and natural gas prices (which account for about 66 percent of our electricity production) have both fallen by more than half over the last several years. But retail electricity prices have risen by about 3 percent per year over the same period. Why? Renewable energy requirements force utilities to buy expensive wind and solar power, which drives up utility bills.

The nation is being snookered into another bad energy bet—and this one too will wind up wasting hundreds of billions of dollars. Time to pull the plug.

Article Link to the Weekly Standard:

America’s Allies Fear the Future

By Noah Rothman
April 20, 2016

Despite his promises of retribution for their imagined economic sins against the much-maligned American working-class, they just love Donald Trump in Beijing. It might behoove Trump supporters to devote a moment’s thought to why that might be. From China’s perspective, Trump’s pledges of punitive economic justice meted out ruthlessly against the currency manipulators in the People’s Republic ring utterly hollow and will never materialize. His promises to abandon America’s East Asian allies, however, are not so far-fetched.

The Daily Beast noted on Tuesday that the Chinese national news agency Xinhua has touted with relish how Trump’s approach to foreign affairs would make Barack Obama appear hawkish by comparison and that the celebrity candidate has panicked Japanese officials. If America’s chief competitor in the Pacific is salivating over the prospect of a Trump administration, the Kremlin is positively giddy in anticipation.

Neither Donald Trump nor Vladimir Putin makes much of an effort to disguise their mutual admiration. True to form, Trump has contended that American relations with the Kremlin will be improved when he is president because he will make better deals with Moscow – the terms of which always seem to be favorable toward the interests of the Russian Federation over those of Washington.

Trump’s obsequious flattery of the New Tsar in Moscow extends to apologizing for his regime presiding over the conspicuous murders of journalists and opposition politicians. It’s not entirely clear that this means that a President Trump would seek to emulate this despotic behavior, but it is evident that a Trump administration would retrench in ways that would cede a substantial zone of operations to Moscow in Europe and Asia.

“I say there’s very little downside with Putin fighting ISIS,” Trump insisted following Russian intervention into the Syrian civil war. This was a particularly revealing comment, and what it revealed was not pretty. Russian forces went on to execute strikes on CIA weapons depots, target American-backed fighters on the ground, harass U.S. drones operating over Syria, and invade NATO-allied Turkish airspace resulting in the downing of a Russian warplane. When Putin announced the bulk of his forces were pulling out of the Syrian theater with ISIS for the most part still intact (but with anti-Assad moderate rebel forces in shambles), it should have prompted even the most credulous of Kremlin apologists to reconsider their position. That is, unless the aim of the West’s Putinistas was never to advocate for a new approach to the fight against ISIS but to provide Moscow with all the deference it needs in its quest to reassemble the Soviet Empire.

Just as Japanese and South Korean officials are breaking with tradition and openly fretting about deleterious effects a Trump administration would have on security in their neighborhoods, U.S. allies in Europe are uneasy about the increasingly provocative Russian Bear.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will convene a rare meeting of the NATO-Russia Council on Wednesday, the first of its kind in nearly two years. The extraordinary meeting comes amid a series of reckless maneuvers by Russian military assets that increase the risk of miscalculation or accidental conflict between Russian and allied Western European forces. Last week, Russian warplanesexecuted a mock attack on the USS Donald Cook. 48 hours later, a U.S. reconnaissance plane was intercepted by a Russian fighter which proceeded to perform a barrel roll over the top of the U.S. Air Force aircraft. Both incidents took place on or over the strategically vital Baltic Sea.

“[T]here is little doubt the incidents were warnings by the Russian military for the U.S. to keep its forces away from Kaliningrad, the Russian exclave that is home to critical military bases,” the Wall Street Journal reported. At a time in which Moscow appears set on reacquiring territory lost after 1992 — through invasion, annexation, or dubious referendum — turning up the temperature in the Russian enclave in Europe on the borders of NATO allies Poland and Lithuania is extraordinarily troubling.

Trump and many of his supporters insist that NATO’s members shift too much of the monetary burden for collective defense onto American shoulders and “it’s time for a new approach,” whatever that may entail. As Max Boot noted, even those nations that do not meet the required defense spending threshold (the equivalent of 2 percent of GDP) still contribute to what is collectively the second largest annual defense budget on earth ($300 billion, behind America’s $600 billion). Though the United States assumes the costs of almost three-quarters of NATO’s military operating budget, in 2015 that amounted to less than one-tenth of one percent of total U.S. defense spending. To gauge the value of peace on the content of Europe in dollars is a perverse way to measure the value of stability and continuity, but the actual figures in their proportions render it shallow analysis as well.

Provocative and revisionist great powers like modern Russia are paying attention. They take note of the fact that, amid its calculated displays of aggression and perimeter testing, the United States is contemplating retreat. That will only beget more dangerous displays, more opportunities for miscalculation, and more opportunities for accidental conflict to erupt. As Barack Obama drives the final nail in the coffin of his failed “Russian Reset” with the announcement of the deployment of a substantial deterrent force to Europe, Republicans flirt with surrendering their bona fides on national security to Democrats.

Donald Trump prides himself in his displays of strength. He contends that the American military he commands would be so strong “that no one will mess with us.” Why is it then that only America’s allies are quaking in anticipation of this development while U.S. adversaries appear joyful over the prospect of a Trump presidency?

Article Link to Commentary:

Pentagon: Don’t Sue the Saudis for 9/11

They may have promoted al Qaeda’s poisonous ideology. But Saudi Arabia is too valuable an ally against today’s terrorism to allow ordinary Americans to make the kingdom pay.

By Shane Harris and Nancy A. Youssef 
The Daily Beast
April 20, 2016

There’s a major push in Congress right now for a bill that could hold the government of Saudi Arabia legally responsible for the 9/11 attacks. U.S. military and counterterrorism officials now leading the fights against al Qaeda and ISIS think that bill is a terrible idea.

“We don’t need this debate right now,” one defense official said, like others speaking on condition of anonymity because they’re not authorized publicly to criticize the bill, known as the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act. Saudi officials have lobbied hard against the bill, telling members of the Obama administration, lawmakers, and journalists that the Saudi government has been a stalwart ally with the U.S. and was fighting al Qaeda years before it ever attacked American soil.

That message is resonating inside the Pentagon and in U.S. national security circles. Two former officials, who likewise declined to comment on the record about the bill, said it represented a troubling insertion of politics at a key point in the war against ISIS and would distract from a shared goal of combatting Islamic extremism.

Another currently-serving official said filing lawsuits against Saudi officials placed blame on the wrong party for the deadliest act of terrorism in U.S. history. “As far as I am concerned, Osama bin Laden attacked the United States,” the official said.

In the last two years, the White House and Pentagon officials have repeatedly clashed over the conduct of the wars against ISIS and al Qaeda. The opposition to the bill among defense officials is a rare instance in which those now battling al Qaeda—which carried out the 9/11 attacks—and running an air campaign against its ISIS progeny find themselves in agreement with the White House over the strategy to combat religious extremism and terrorism.

White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said Monday that President Obama would likely veto the bill, which would remove some barriers against bringing lawsuits against foreign government officials who support terrorist attacks that kill Americans. The administration fears that other countries might change their laws to weaken so-called sovereign immunity provisions, thus opening the door to foreign prosecutions of U.S. military personnel, diplomats, and government employees.

Obama will arrive in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Wednesday, amid tensions that were already flaring before the controversy over the proposed law. The president has publicly criticized Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, its treatment of women, and Saudi funding of religious schools that teach a fundamentalist version of Islam.

U.S. officials acknowledged those long-standing grievances, which themselves may threaten to derail the bilateral relations in the long term. But for now, they argued, Saudi Arabia is one of the best U.S. partners in the region. They said its contribution to fighting extremism can be measured in the more than 1,000 suspected jihadists the government has arrested since the rise of ISIS in 2014, and in the Saudi regime proving to be among the most effective states at spotting potential attacks. Tactically, they see Saudi Arabia as an ally in the war against extremism.

The New York Times reported last week that Saudi officials have threatened to sell more than $750 billion in U.S. treasury securities and other assets were the bill to become law. But it’s unclear how the Saudis would unload such an enormous sum without losing much of their investment in a fire sale and setting off a global panic.

For their part, the Saudis have portrayed the sale as a way to protect their assets from being frozen amid lawsuits. But the threat has rung hollow in Washington because it would probably hurt the Saudis more than the U.S.

Still, there are other ways Riyadh could punish Washington. Officials said that Saudi Arabia could threaten to curtail ongoing joint efforts to combat terrorism by withholding military and intelligence assistance, for instance.

The country could also stop buying U.S. made weapons.

That alone could have a large impact. According to State Department statistics released last month, the U.S. has authorized $33 billion in defense sales to the six members of the Gulf Coordination Council since last May, and Saudi Arabia was the biggest purchaser among the GCC states. (The other members are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.)

“Saudi Arabia is one of the top arms purchasers in the world, with the U.S. being a major supplier,” Lori Plotkin Boghardt, an expert on the Gulf at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told The Daily Beast. “One area where they could respond would be to direct weapons purchases to companies of what they consider less complicated countries.”

Still others are confident that no matter how much the U.S. needs Saudi Arabia to defeat ISIS, Saudi Arabia needs the U.S. more. The regime fears Sunni extremist elements could try to undo a kingdom that is already battling falling oil prices and an ensuing economic crisis.

U.S. officials said they weren’t ignorant of the many long-standing issues that have divided the two countries. Some said they shared Obama’s comments, revealed in a recent feature story in The Atlantic, that Saudi Arabia’s decades long support of a certain thread of Islam, Wahhabism, has fueled the ideology that became ISIS and al Qaeda.

As it was described in the piece, Malcolm Turnbull, the prime minister of Australia, recently asked Obama during a private meeting, “Aren’t the Saudis your friends?”

According to the piece, the president smiled and responded: “It’s complicated.”

But the politics of that relationship may have reached a breaking point. Debate over the bill is happening as the Obama administration says it may soon declassify 28 pages from a joint congressional inquiry into the 9/11 attacks that are said to find potential links between Saudi government officials in the U.S. and some of the terrorists.

The bill has also gained support from Republicans and Democrats, including GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. Holding Saudi Arabia accountable, it would seem, is an issue that both parties can agree on.

“If Saudi Arabia participated in terrorism, of course they should be able to be sued,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, a co-sponsor of the bill, said Monday. “This bill would allow a suit to go forward and victims of terrorism to go to court to determine if the Saudi government participated in terrorist acts. If the Saudis did, they should pay a price.”

There’s precedent for the surviving family members of Americans killed in terrorist attacks suing for damages. In 1998, U.S District Judge Royce Lamberth ordered the government of Iran to pay nearly $250 million to the family of a 20-year-old exchange student who died in a bombing in Israel that was carried out by a militant group linked to Iran.

Just two years ago, Lamberth awarded $454 million to 62 relatives of some Marines and Navy corpsmen killed in the 1983 suicide bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, an attack that was also blamed on Iran. Family members of that attack have won billions in damages in other cases.

And on Tuesday, the family of journalist Steven Sotloff filed a lawsuit against the government of Syria, alleging that it provided “material support” to the ISIS militants who kidnapped Sotloff and beheaded him in 2014.

Under U.S. law, Americans can sue foreign governments for acts of terrorism that occur overseas. The proposed bill would allow lawsuits to go forward if the terrorist attack occurred in the U.S.

But it’s not clear that anyone who brings a law would ever see such big judgments as in previous cases—much less ever actually obtain the money. What’s more, there’s no guarantee they’d even have their day in court.

Any successful case would have to demonstrate that a Saudi official who assisted with the plot was doing so in connection with his job, and not undertaking that support entirely on his own without any official knowledge, Peter Margulies, a professor at the Roger Williams University School of Law, told The Daily Beast.

“You’d have to show that in some way the government contemplates this, it’s part of the job description,” Margulies said. The bill as it’s written now wouldn’t remove all the protections that foreign officials enjoy, and significant legal and jurisdictional hurdles would still be in place.

In that respect, the bill is not as “radical” as some of its critics have charged, Margulies said. “On balance… [it’s] a worthwhile effort that will promote transparency and accountability. I think there’s strong evidence that at the very least the Saudi government didn’t diligently monitor the behavior of its mid- and lower-ranking officials” who may have aided the 9/11 hijackers, Margulies said.

But, he added, “It’s not going to be open season on the Saudis.”

Article Link to the Daily Beast:

Wednesday, April 20, Morning Global Market Roundup: Oil price's decline weighs on global stock markets

By Sudip Kar-Gupta
April 20, 2016

Stocks fell around the world on Wednesday as the price of crude declined after a strike by Kuwaiti oil workers ended.

Brent and U.S. crude oil futures prices LCOc1 CLc1 dropped as worries about oversupply in the oil market returned to the fore [O/R].

The FTSEurofirst 300 index .FTEU3 of leading European shares responded by falling 0.3 percent. The MSCI All-Country World index .MIWD00000PUS also fell.

The MSCI World Index .MIWO00000PUS, which tracks stocks from developed economies, slipped 0.1 percent and the MSCI Emerging Market index .MSCIEF dropped 0.7 percent.

Recent gains by European stocks, which reached three-month highs earlier this week, were just a temporary bounce in a longer-term decline, said Andreas Clenow, a hedge fund manager at ACIES Asset Management. The FTSEurofirst remains down around 5 percent so far in 2016.

"We are still in a bear market," Clenow said.

The tumbling oil price also hit commodity-linked currencies such as the Australian and Canadian dollars, which pulled back from their recent peaks. [FRX/]

The end of the Kuwait strike revived the bearish mood brought on by the failure of talks on output by major producers in Dohama last weekend. They could not agree to limit production and reverse a slump in prices since mid-2014.

"We were bearish before Doha. Prices had risen too far on false hopes of a deal. Now that this has been corrected, we're more neutral in our price outlook," said Georgi Slavov, head of research at commodities brokerage Marex Spectron.

"Generally, we think that oil prices have passed their bottom this year, and we expect a Brent price range of $45-$55 per barrel for the mid-term," Slavov added.

Article Link to Reuters:

Oil price's decline weighs on global stock markets

Sticking It to the Tax Man Still Has a Price

By Noah Feldman
The Bloomberg View
April 20, 2016

Ever wanted to sue the tax man? Usually you can’t -- but Gilbert Hyatt found a loophole, and the Supreme Court gave him a symbolic victory Tuesday while depriving him of most actual damages.

Acting out the fantasies of anyone who’s ever been audited, Hyatt sued the California tax authorities in a Nevada court and won a jury verdict of $388 million, later reduced to $1 million.

The high court justices split 4-4 on whether his suit should’ve been permitted at all -- a tie that allowed Hyatt’s moral victory to stand. But then they said the Constitution restricted his damages to $50,000, the maximum he could have gotten if he had sued a Nevada official in Nevada court.

The case is fascinating, and not just because it’s pleasurable to think about turning the tables on the auditors. At stake is the deep question of how states should be able to relate to other states, and the meaning of the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution.

The facts are your typical tax nightmare. In 1991, Gilbert Hyatt sold his house in California, rented an apartment in Nevada, registered to vote there, and opened a bank account. He claimed Nevada residency on his 1991 and 1992 tax returns, saving millions of dollars because Nevada has no income tax.

The California Tax Franchise Board smelled a rat and came after Hyatt hard. According to Hyatt, the California auditors looked into his windows and his garbage, contacted estranged family members, and discussed his affairs with the media, his business contacts and even his place of worship. Hyatt says one auditor spoke of him in anti-Semitic terms and took “trophy-like pictures” in front of his house after the audit.

When all was said and done, the California tax board concluded that Hyatt wasn’t really a Nevada resident and assessed him as owing more than $10 million. Hyatt is still fighting the bill in California after he lost an 11-year administrative appeal of the audit.

Here’s the part where Hyatt struck back. You can’t sue the Internal Revenue Service, which is part of the federal government. And in California, you can’t sue state tax auditors. But Nevada is different. In that particular slice of heaven, you can’t sue the state government for negligence, but you can sue state officials for intentional wrongs they’ve committed against you.

So in 1998, Hyatt sued the California tax auditors in Nevada court, alleging fraud, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. California maintained that the Nevada court should apply California law which would bar any suit against it. But after the Nevada court said it would apply its own laws, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 approved the suit.

The high point of Hyatt’s odyssey came when a Nevada trial court ruled for him against the auditors. A jury, no doubt riled up and also aware that Nevadans wouldn’t be paying a penny for it, awarded Hyatt $1 million for fraud, $52 million for invasion of privacy, $85 million for emotional distress, and $250 million in punitive damages.

The Nevada Supreme Court knocked out all but the fraud claim, which still left Hyatt with a $1 million verdict in his favor. The California tax board cried foul and went to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The auditors advanced two different arguments. First, they said that one state shouldn’t be able to subject another state to a suit in its courts without the first state’s consent. Second, they said that if, indeed, the suit could go forward, California auditors shouldn’t be subject to greater damages in Nevada court than Nevada auditors would be under the same Nevada state laws.

The first claim was the bigger one -- and on that, the court tied, which means Hyatt won because the court had to uphold a previous Nevada decision. A precedent from 1979, also involving California being sued in Nevada courts, says that the Constitution allows such suits. At the time, the liberal justices wanted to allow the suit while some of the conservatives were against it.

That makes sense in light of the general conservative preference for what Justice Anthony Kennedy has called the dignity of states, which ordinarily can’t be sued for money damages in their own courts or the federal courts without their consent. Presumably, if Justice Antonin Scalia had been alive, there would have been five votes to reverse the 1979 precedent. In truth, if states can’t be sued in federal court without their consent (which is wrong, but it’s the law), it makes no sense that they can be sued in other state courts without their consent.

But allowing Hyatt’s suit didn’t guarantee that Hyatt would get paid. The justices held 6-2 that Nevada had to treat California auditors the same way it would treat its own. Nevada state law restricts damages against state officials to $50,000, so the court knocked down Hyatt’s $1 million by 95 percent, leaving him a symbolic victory only.

The basis for the court’s conclusion was that the full faith and credit clause, as construed by the court’s precedents, prohibits states from acting inhospitably towards one another. The majority opinion, by Justice Stephen Breyer, said that differential treatment was hostile. That seems right.

Chief Justice John Roberts, joined by Clarence Thomas, dissented. He was silent on whether Hyatt’s suit should be allowed in the first place, even though he and Thomas presumably think it shouldn’t have been. Roberts rather said that the full faith and credit clause doesn’t require fair treatment of one state by another. Differential treatment is only hostile, he said, if there’s no reason for it. And Nevada had a reason to treat California differently: it wants to protect its citizens from intentional attacks from the outside.

This is a bit odd, since Nevada should have an equal interest in protecting citizens from unjust auditors within. But Roberts did at least give some voice to Hyatt’s aspiration to be protected from auditor abuse. Hyatt will have to appreciate that, since his $50,000 won’t buy him much else.

Article Link to the Bloomberg View:

Behind Brazil’s corruption crisis is a deeper socialist disaster

By Roger Noriega
The New York Post
April 20, 2016

The looming impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is about more than cooking the books to hide election-year spending or looting the state-owned oil company for her campaigns and cronies. What’s really on trial are Rousseff’s socialist policies.

Those policies drove up deficits to win votes, bet too heavily on exports to China and not only failed to retool the world’s ninth-largest economy to compete in the world but drove it into a recession.

Rousseff was first elected in 2010 on the coattails of her mentor Luiz InĂ¡cio “Lula” da Silva — a leftist labor leader who exceeded expectations as president from 2003-2011. Da Silva benefited from the windfall of revenue from exports of oil, natural gas, minerals and agriculture goods — which convinced him that his bloated anti-poverty programs were sustainable.

Unfortunately, both da Silva and Rousseff ignored the dire need to improve education, reform tangled tax codes, fix stifling labor laws, invest in infrastructure or make it easier to create or operate a business.

Protectionist policies intended to preserve Brazilian jobs and industry drove away foreign investors. Instead of jumpstarting private-sector growth and controlling government spending, they expanded welfare programs that drove up their popularity among the very poor.

By the time Rousseff sought reelection in 2014, polls showed that Brazilians blamed her for sluggish growth and rejected her handling of taxes, poverty, hunger and education. But her party machine mobilized poor voters to win a narrow victory over a pro-business reformer.

When the price of oil and other commodities began to drop along with Chinese demand in 2014, Rousseff allegedly hid election-year spending. That deceit is the legal basis of the impeachment vote in Congress’ lower house on Sunday; if a simple majority of the Senate concurs in this judgment some time in the next month or so, Rousseff will be replaced temporarily by Vice President Michel Temer pending the final outcome of a Senate trial.

In recent months, millions of protesters have called for Rousseff’s ouster and da Silva’s prosecution on corruption charges. Wide-ranging investigations have jailed powerful executives and party leaders for conspiring to fund campaigns and bribe politicians using the kickbacks from the state-owned oil company, Petrobras.

Indeed, over half of the members of both houses of Congress are accused of corruption. Rousseff sealed her political fate in mid-March when she offered da Silva a job in her cabinet to shield him from a local prosecutor. That brazen act exposed the president as a willful participant in a coverup.

There’s little doubt corruption has been the catalyst in Rousseff’s downfall. But she might have been able to ride out the storm if not for the economic woes confronting the country.

For example, although welfare spending is credited with helping millions out of poverty, those who rose to the middle class soon discovered that the government’s promises of better jobs were empty.

Also, Brazilians now realize the dire consequences of their Congress bleeding Petrobras of essential exploration and operating funds, as the company’s production waned and its stock value plummeted in recent years. The country slipped into a recession within months of Rousseff’s reelection in 2014, and the economy now is expected to shrink by around 3.7 percent for the second year in a row. Brazil’s inflation and unemployment are creeping up, and “business confidence” is half what it was in January 2010.

Although the recession can be traced to the 70 percent drop in the price of oil and other commodities, Brazil’s politicians also clearly depended too heavily on Chinese demand for commodities so they wouldn’t have to do the hard work of reforming their economy. As Warren Buffet has observed, “When the tide goes out, you find out who’s been swimming naked.”

Yet Rousseff may survive this. The chief justice of the Supreme Court (packed with judges by Rousseff’s own party) has even hinted it may “review” the grounds for impeachment. It seems that the leftist party is prepared to shatter the country’s institutions and economy to keep power and evade accountability.

The political crisis in Brazil is part of a trend in South America — from Argentina to Venezuela, from Ecuador to Bolivia — in which voters have rejected power-hungry populists who have wrecked their economies. The lesson is clear: Leftist politicians who don’t know how economies work shouldn’t try to run them.

Article Link to the New York Post:

How Bernie Lost New York

Caught up in one distraction after another, Sanders never came close to the upset victory he once predicted.

By Gabriel Debenedetti
April 20, 2016

NEW YORK — Bernie Sanders had just arrived at the rally, and missed the incendiary remark entirely. Many on the senator’s campaign had never even heard of Dr. Paul Song, the speaker who had just commandeered news coverage of a massive Washington Square rally in New York by referring to “corporate Democratic whores.”

Nevertheless, by the next morning, the campaign was forced into full scramble mode. Cable coverage of the 27,000-person rally was eclipsed by reporting on the furor surrounding the comment, requiring a Sanders response. After first resisting an apology, the campaign settled on disavowing the remark with a tweet.

Another day, another lost news cycle.

In New York, Sanders finally hit the wall, his winning streak halted by a daily pummeling that forced him on the defensive and stopped his momentum cold. The tabloids dealt him punishing hit after punishing hit. The Democratic establishment, most of it in Hillary Clinton’s camp, piled on harder than the Sanders campaign expected. Caught up in one distraction after another – a quarrel over debate details, a back and forth with Clinton over her qualifications, a trip to the Vatican in the run-up to the election – Sanders never gained his footing or even came close to pulling off the upset victory he once predicted with frequency.

Just two weeks before, on the night of his victory in Wisconsin, everything seemed to be going Sanders’ way. He was flush with cash thanks to his energized small donors and he was riding a wave of momentum after posting six wins in the seven previous contests. His aides had just agreed to the finishing touches of a debate in New York — something Sanders himself wanted after the campaigns had initially agreed to hold it in Pennsylvania. His top staff viewed the increasingly sharp timbre and pitch of the race as confirmation that Clinton herself was frustrated with the direction of things.

But even then, trouble was brewing. As Wisconsin voters went to the polls, a transcript of a halting Sanders’ interview with the New York Daily News editorial board earlier that week was beginning to generate online chatter, raising questions about Sanders’ solutions on his wheelhouse topics like breaking up the biggest banks. The Clinton campaign quickly seized on the transcript, sending it to millions of its backers as part of a fundraising email making the case that Sanders hadn’t thought through how to accomplish his biggest goals.

The next day, fresh off his victory, Sanders received another hit: his advisers read in disbelief a Washington Post headline that they took to mean Clinton had questioned Sanders’ qualifications for the presidency during a "Morning Joe" interview. It was one step too far, they thought – and Sanders himself agreed.

“She has been saying lately that she thinks that I am, quote, unquote, not qualified to be president,” said a fired-up Sanders that Wednesday night, headlining a rally in Philadelphia and delivering up his harshest take yet on the former secretary of state and senator as the political spotlight started shifting fully to New York.

“Well let me, let me just say in response to Secretary Clinton: I don’t believe that she is qualified if she is, if she is, through her super PAC, taking tens of millions of dollars in special interest funds. I don’t think you are qualified if you get $15 million from Wall Street through your super PAC. I don’t think you are qualified if you have voted for the disastrous war in Iraq. I don’t think you are qualified if you’ve supported virtually every disastrous trade agreement, which has cost us millions of decent-paying jobs. I don’t think you are qualified if you supported the Panama free trade agreement, something I very strongly opposed and which, as all of you know, has allowed corporations and wealthy people all over the world to avoid paying their taxes to their countries."

Stunned Clinton staffers, according to several of them, saw it as a declaration of war. Clinton’s army of elected surrogates in New York went on the attack against Sanders, painting the suggestion as absurd and offensive, and the kind of thing one hears from a crass politician, not a political revolutionary — a message that Clinton allies said the campaign heard from Democrats as it was door-knocking across the state. Sanders was repeatedly asked to defend his claim before he eventually backed off.

Meanwhile, Sanders’ Daily News interview continued to reverberate. The senator’s campaign was surprised by the harsh reaction to it, which aides felt was out of proportion. Sanders’ wife, Jane, sought to downplay it by calling it an “inquisition” on CNN.

But Clinton’s team saw it as a chance to underscore its own candidate’s message — that Sanders couldn’t follow through on his promises — and it touted sections of the interview focused on Wall Street and gun control on television and in campaign missives.

“He lost a lot of credibility, and, in many respects, he was unmasked as somebody who many people thought he might be,” said Jay Jacobs, a Clinton fundraiser and Democratic National Committee member from Nassau County who helped oversee some campaign operations in the state, explaining why publicizing the transcript was an obvious move for Team Clinton. “Somebody who was tapping into the anger in the electorate on the left with broad-stroke ideas that sound good, much like Santa Claus delivering gifts at Christmas time, but without the details."

Sanders’ team stayed focused on holding on his signature mega-rallies all over the state, scheduling a series of them in the boroughs — where roughly half of the state’s Democratic primary vote was likely to come from — for the closing days of the race. The candidate stepped up his smaller events highlighting specific issues like public housing, too, but the campaign was working overtime to hype his massive crowds at events in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn before the closing concert-slash-rally in Queens.

He visited churches and released a series of videos of celebrity endorsers — he ended up spending over $3 million more than her on television advertisements, complete with a closing message that invoked New York’s own Franklin Delano Roosevelt — only to be matched by what people close to his team said was an unexpected flood of campaign activity from high-profile Clinton backers in local government.

But with his position in the polls at a standstill – and in a state where the closed primary rules disadvantaged Sanders — his top advisers conspicuously started talking less about winning New York and more about his longer-term ambitions to woo superdelegates before the July convention.

On April 1, Sanders’ message had been definitive: “We are going to win New York." By primary eve, Sanders was downplaying the effects of a loss.

“This is her home state, we forced her to defend it,” said Sanders’ chief strategist Tad Devine on the eve of the primary, pointedly not repeating his own previous predictions of victory. “She has spent millions of dollars on television advertising, [and campaigned all over], as has President Clinton. They’ve thrown some high hard ones at us, the surrogates in particular."

No decision symbolized the uneven and scattershot nature of his New York campaign as much as the one he made to schedule a two-day trip to the Vatican in the final days before the primary.

The decision to leave the campaign trail late Thursday and head to a Vatican City conference was his own – even some of his top aides were unaware it was in the works until he told them. Some local allies were caught entirely unaware. Few developments from Sanders’ trip reached a New York audience on Friday, and the big moment didn’t come until the wee hours of Saturday night East Coast time, when most voters were asleep. By the time they were awake, Pope Francis had weighed in, simply calling the meeting a “common courtesy."

Sanders worked hard to minimize the disruption. Thirty-eight hours after he took off for Rome, he was due back in New York for a Saturday night event. But as he was landing at John F. Kennedy Airport, news came down that his round table event that evening — scheduled to include Al Sharpton and Cornel West — would not feature Sharpton, depriving Sanders of a chance to appear with a prominent African-American leader, one he sorely needed to court.

It was just another unfortunate turn of events in a series of them. But it didn’t stop Sanders from looking out into his crowd of 28,000 in Brooklyn the next night and telling the New Yorkers: “With your help on Tuesday, we’re going to win right here in New York state.”

On Tuesday, he was proved wrong.

“It was a long shot coming into it,” said Siena pollster Steve Greenberg. “If you’re trying to set expectations such that you can perform up to those expectations, or possibly exceed those expectations, I think it was not the wisest thing for the Sanders campaign to try and tell the public that they were going to win New York."

Article Link to Politico:

How Bernie lost New York

New York Primary Winners and Losers

By Niall Stanage
The Hill
April 20, 2016

NEW YORK — After a fierce campaign, especially on the Democratic side, New Yorkers went to the polls on Tuesday. Who got the verdict they wanted, and who took a hit in the Empire State?


Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D)

Clinton scored a huge win and now stands on the brink of extinguishing Bernie Sanders’s hopes of being the Democratic presidential nominee. Barring something totally unexpected, she will be the party's standard-bearer.

Clinton’s win had been predicted by polls, but Sanders supporters, much in evidence in the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn, held out hope of an upset. The only upset was the margin of Clinton's victory. With 84 percent of returns in just before 11 p.m. Eastern time, she was leading by around 15 points.

Clinton will boost her already sizable delegate lead. Sanders is running out of time to reel her in. Of the contests that remain, the three with the biggest number of delegates — California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey — all went for Clinton in 2008 even amid her losing battle with then Sen. Barack Obama. She leads in polls of all three states this year.

At campaign events in the run-up to primary day, Clinton repeatedly told New York audiences that she had their backs during her time in the Senate and that she hoped they would return the favor. They did so emphatically.

Businessman Donald Trump (R)

Trump’s victory was even less of a surprise than Clinton’s; polls had long predicted that he was on course for a blowout win. That duly came, the mogul being projected as the victor as soon as polls closed at 9 p.m.

The win is important because Trump had lost altitude recently. His chief rival, Ted Cruz, defeated him by double digits in the Wisconsin primary earlier this month. He was outmaneuvered in several state-level delegate battles. And his campaign has faced stories of inner turmoil amid the arrival of new faces.

But none of that was in evidence as a jubilant Trump walked through supporters and members of the media at Trump Tower on Tuesday evening to Frank Sinatra singing “New York, New York.”

The businessman claimed he would win “a lot more delegates than anybody projected” and sought to put his own headline on the night insisting, “We don’t have much of a race anymore.”

The Cruz campaign — and Trump’s many opponents within the GOP more broadly — will desperately try to claim otherwise.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D)

New York City’s mayor has walked an unusual path during this year’s primary. He was a slow — and, it seemed to some, reluctant — endorser of Clinton. Then in the campaign’s closing stretch, he faced embarrassment when a comic sketch by the two sparked controversy for a racially-tinged joke — and the former secretary of State pinned responsibility for it on him.

Still, de Blasio chose the winning side. The mayor has been struggling of late. His approval rating earlier this month dipped to an all-time low of 35 percent, according to a NBC New York/Wall Street Journal poll. Clinton’s win comes as a welcome boost.

New Yorkers

It’s been years since New York saw such a political spectacle at the presidential level. The state’s primary is often too late in the calendar, or its result too much of a foregone conclusion, to matter. This year, voters got to see a real fight on the Democratic side for the first time since 1992, when Bill Clinton’s victory stabilized his status as the Democratic front-runner. And there was also the Trump roadshow, as the mogul ventured out of the city to less glamorous locations like Poughkeepsie and Buffalo.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R)

The former mayor backed Trump, though he was always careful to finesse the degree of his support.

In an interview on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper” on primary day, Giuliani noted that he had voted for Trump but added, “I said I supported him, but I don’t endorse him because I’m not part of the campaign.” When Tapper asked, “So, now you’re endorsing him?” the former mayor replied, “If you want to interpret it as an endorsement, you can.”

But the primary result was still a good thing for Giuliani, whose political relevance has dimmed in recent years.


Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R)

Kasich did something important on Tuesday: He relegated Cruz to third place. When all the votes are counted, it seems possible that Kasich could defeat Trump in Manhattan.

On the other hand, the businessman appears certain to defeat Kasich by more than 2-to-1 overall. Kasich's path to becoming the GOP nominee is still all but impossible. Nothing that happened in New York changed that.


Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

The Vermont senator had a very bad night, with his margin of defeat against Clinton steeper than the polls suggested. Even many liberal regions of New York City where he was expected to perform strongly didn’t come through for him.

Sanders has had his chances before to deliver the kind of blow that could have thrown the Clinton campaign into turmoil. He came very close to defeating her in the first contest of the cycle, the Iowa caucuses. Suggestions of a win in the Nevada caucuses were also dashed.

Now, with this defeat in New York, the hour is getting very late for Sanders. He can stay in the contest, but only the very faintest flicker of hope remains.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R)

Cruz came third. In a way, that’s all one needs to know.

The degree to which he was marginalized in New York says nothing good about his chances of winning the nomination. He was virtually invisible in the Empire State, both on the airwaves and in person. His most memorable moment came when he received a distinctly mixed reception during and after a campaign stop in the Bronx.

Several other contests are coming up in the Northeast and the mid-Atlantic region, and the New York result augurs trouble for Cruz’s chances. Being seen as a candidate whose appeal is limited to the conservative states of the South and the Great Plains could be fatal to his chances of thwarting Trump at the Republican National Convention in July.

Anti-Trump Republicans

It wasn’t just the result itself that came as an unwelcome blow to the forces seeking to deny Trump the nomination.

The businessman’s speech took repeated aim at the idea that anyone other than the person wins the most votes should emerge as the nominee.

“It’s really nice to win the delegates with votes, you know — it’s really nice,” Trump said wryly at one point before inveighing once more against “a crooked system, a system that is rigged.”

Film director Spike Lee

Lee has been one of the most vocal of Sanders’s celebrity supporters in recent weeks, going so far as to produce an ad for the candidate. Riffing on the title of one of his best-known movies, the director urged New York’s Democratic voters to “do the right thing” and back Sanders.

Even in Lee’s beloved Brooklyn, however, that argument didn’t carry the day. Clinton looks set to easily carry the borough.

Article Link to the Hill:

A Higher Minimum Wage Is Well-Intentioned but Problematic

By Jonah Goldberg 
The National Review
April 20, 2016

Much has been written about the ignorance, impracticality, and offensiveness of many of the Republican front-runners’ policy proposals. Not nearly enough has been written about the ignorance, impracticality, and offensiveness of the policy proposals emanating from the Democratic side, some of which, unlike Donald Trump’s Mexican-financed wall and Muslim ban, could actually become law.

Consider the race to hike the minimum wage. Bernie Sanders wants it to get to $15 as soon as possible. Hillary Clinton wants to get there almost as soon as possible.

In last week’s Democratic debate, Sanders denounced Clinton for her insufficient ardor in racing to $15. Clinton took umbrage, and the shouting match that ensued led CNN’s Wolf Blitzer to admonish them both: “If you’re both screaming at each other, the viewers won’t be able to hear either of you.”

With the exception of some very cynical labor unions that support a higher minimum wage because it amounts to an indirect subsidy of their members’ earnings and some politicians who know it is bad economics, the Fight for 15 movement is entirely well-intentioned. But good intentions do not automatically translate into good policy.

Last week, the Los Angeles Times reported that California’s recent decision to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2022 is already having nasty consequences, accelerating the demise of the local apparel industry. “I used to pay $5 to get this sewn, and now it costs $6.50,” Felix Seo, the owner of L.A.-based Joompy told the Times, holding up a patterned dress. “But my customer doesn’t want to pay that, so I can’t sell it anymore.”

To stay in business, Joompy will probably have to start importing its clothes. “It will be impossible to make clothes in Los Angeles,” Seo said.

This is an old story. My grandmother was a seamstress in New York’s garment district. Those jobs left for the South almost 100 years ago, as costs in New York became prohibitive. They started leaving the South for Asia shortly thereafter.

Businesses don’t have to send their work to low-wage countries. They can simply hire robots. Already, many restaurants facing mandated wage hikes are moving to replace human cooks and servers with machines and iPads.

The Times article had a great little infographic breaking down “Who Gets a Raise” under the minimum-wage hike by age and race. Latinos got the biggest share, with 54 percent. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a companion chart showing how many of those Latinos will simply lose their jobs, resulting in the real minimum wage: zero.

Ironically, one of the original arguments for the minimum wage was that it would push nonwhites — and women — out of the labor market. Stanford sociologist E. A. Ross defended the minimum wage on the grounds that “the coolie [i.e., Chinese laborers], though he cannot outdo the American, can underlive him.” Some argued that employers should be required to pay immigrants twice the wage of American-born worker so that no firm would hire them.

Simply put, a minimum wage is no different from a tax on firms that use low-wage and unskilled labor. And if there’s anything that economists agree upon, it’s that if you tax something you get less of it.

Even California governor Jerry Brown understands this. He just doesn’t care. When he signed the new minimum-wage law, he proclaimed, “Economically, minimum wages may not make sense. But morally, socially, and politically, they make every sense because it binds the community together to make sure parents can take care of their kids.”

This amounts to grotesque cowardice. If Brown understands that his policy doesn’t work economically, he understands that the moral benefits will not materialize (though he’ll reap political benefits from those aforementioned unions).

Assuming it’s in everyone’s interest to raise the wages of low-income workers, then the government can subsidize those wages without penalizing businesses that give jobs to those most in need of work and work experience. We could, for instance, boost the Earned Income Tax Credit or pay businesses to bump up their payrolls. These approaches have drawbacks too, but they stand a better chance of achieving the moral goals that Brown, Sanders, and Clinton have in mind.

Article Link to the National Review:

How Cheap Oil is Changing the Gulf

Oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia are choosing guns over butter.

By Daniel Benaim
The National Interest
April 20, 2016

As President Obama prepares to travel to Saudi Arabia for a regional summit, several of the rulers he will meet are contending with dramatic changes at home. Plunging oil prices and soaring deficits are compelling Gulf countries to upend theirdecades-old social contract. In a region where government largesse has long ensured popular support, Saudi Arabia and others are implementingspending cuts and economic reforms, slashing subsidies for scholarships and building projects, and preparing to impose new taxes on citizens unaccustomed to paying them. The cuts haven’t (yet) constrained foreign policies of the region’s most active nations—Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar—but could soon.

Many nations cut foreign programs and assistance when funding is tight. Saudi Arabia cut its 2016 budget by $30 billion but increased its defense budget to nearly $57 billion—making it the world’s third-largest spender on defense, which now accounts for a quarter of Saudi government spending. The kingdom has other such expenses: the Saudi-dominated Arab coalition fighting in Yemen has cost hundreds of millions of dollars a month. Riyadh recently hosted twenty Muslim countries’ forces for “Northern Thunder,” a massive military exercise whose troop numbers were reported by some to stretch into the hundreds of thousands. Meanwhile, King Salman recently returned from Egypt, where he announced plans for Saudi to build a massive Red Sea bridge connecting Egypt and Saudi Arabia, was awarded two Red Sea islands and reportedly signed more than $20 billion in deals to finance Egypt’s petroleum needs for five years under generous terms, while also investing in Egypt’s Sinai region, among other projects.

Some see a disconnect between the Saudis’ austerity at home and activism abroad and wonder whether Gulf countries, so mindful of their internal stability, should worry about a backlash. But Saudi Arabia’s heightened activism in the region may be fueled—rather than constrained—by domestic concerns.

In the Gulf countries’ telling, they are besieged by Iran and its proxies beating back an Islamist wave and doing so at a moment when—despite concrete U.S. assurances, massive arms sales and military help against the Houthis as well as ISIS—many perceive the United States to be withdrawing from the region. In this context, Saudi Arabia’s decision to go full-throttle simultaneously on regional assertiveness and economic transformation reflects a sense of urgency.

For King Salman and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, his defense minister, the military campaign in Yemen, where a fragile ceasefire is faltering, provided a way to rally domestic support for a unifying cause at a moment of political and economic flux. Elsewhere in the Gulf, the conflict has helped forge a sense of national mission for Emiratis. The United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait have instituted forms of military conscription, in part to strengthen national identity among their people.

Middle East expert Karen Elliot House noted last month that “what frustrations people have internally are being turned not against Saudi Arabia, but against Iran." Animus toward Shia Iran is a concern that unites Saudi rulers and their predominantly Sunni subjects, who fear that Tehran’s long reach will extend not just to Beirut, Damascus or Baghdad, but into Sana and the Shia communities of eastern Saudi Arabia.

One danger of oil prices low enough to keep Gulf countries running deficits is that political incentives may emerge to stoke the sort of anti-Iranian and sectarian sentiments that flared in January, after Saudi Arabia’s execution of Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr and the assault on the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Indeed, last month Gulf countries formally labeled Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

But if low oil prices persist for years, as some predict, that would eventually force a financial reckoning. Saudi Arabia has more than $600 billion in sovereign wealth, but the International Monetary Fund warned in October that, without more revenue and lower spending, Riyadh could go bankrupt by 2020. Smaller nations such as the UAE and Qatar have a significantly greater cushion but risk undermining their intergenerational compact by depleting sovereign wealth earmarked for the future.

Saudi Arabia’s decision to halt its $4 billion aid package to the Lebanese government appears to have been driven by irritation at Beirut’s tilt toward Tehran. But it could also prove a harbinger of things to come. So, too, could Qatar’s decision to end its lavishly funded Al Jazeera America networkand slash jobs from the Doha-based flagship organization. If the well of Gulf assistance dries up even a little, implications for the region will be felt everywhere, from Jordanian refugee camps, to the central banks of poorer Arab neighbors, to civil war–torn nations that will look to Gulf investment for massive rebuilding should the fighting stop. One potential test case is Egypt, whose economy has required several billion dollars from the Gulf just to stay afloat since mid-2013—and, given its ongoing macroeconomic challenges, may yet require even more than was promised during King Salman’s trip.

In a recent interview, President Obama spoke of the need for Saudi Arabia and Iran to “find an effective way to share the neighborhood and institute some sort of cold peace.” Should fragile ceasefires defy the odds and eventually hold in Syria and take root in Yemen, that would represent a meaningful step toward lowering the temperature on the region’s sectarian conflicts. And there’s reason for some hope that if low oil prices continue into next year and beyond, they could create a fiscal imperative that trumps domestic politics and contributes to a lowering of Saudi-Iranian tensions. Of course, Iran, which has done its part to raise regional tensions, gets a vote as well. And Iran is engaged in its own fiery domestic debate over guns-versus-butter; in Tehran’s case, it pits the Revolutionary Guard’s ballistic-missile tests against political leaders’ desire for growth via sanctions relief, and goes all the way to the Supreme Leader himself.

Even if prices rebound somewhat from recent lows, Gulf nations will face pressure to get their fiscal houses in order. But the reasons Gulf countries have chosen guns over butter may prove more powerful in the short term—and make the region more volatile in the process.

Article Link to the National Interest:

Why the Mosul Offensive Has Yet to Succeed

Frustrations between the Iraqi army, peshmerga forces and local villagers have presented a major obstacle in the operation that was launched in late March to recapture Mosul from IS.

April 20, 2016

NINEVAH, Iraq — At times, Kurdish Gen. Ziryan Shekhwasani accompanied Iraqi army Gen. Najim al-Jabouri to survey through binoculars the battlefield on top of al-Nasr village just a couple of kilometers away. At other times, Shekhwasani stood with his peshmerga troops looking with an air of exasperation at how his Iraqi counterparts were conducting the bloody fight against the Islamic State (IS) militants.

The two generals are the point men of their respective forces, Kurdish peshmerga and the Iraqi army, in this southeastern corner of Nineveh province, a vast area of flat plains occasionally interrupted by a hill or cut apart farther ahead by the Tigris River. Cooperation between the two generals and their forces is key in liberating Nineveh and its prized city of Mosul from IS. Yet it was not difficult to see that the relationship between the two sides is uneasy. The peshmerga here do not have an active combat role and provide more of a back-line support, but they are ready to boost up Iraqi forces in case IS attacks or those forces have to retreat. The frontline here is also close to the town of Makhmour, meaning the Kurds have a vested interest in pushing IS away from the area.

“The Iraqi army units here do not seem to be up to the task,” complained Shekhwasani to Al-Monitor, as he pointed to the superior US-made Humvees and other highly armored bomb-resistant military vehicles that the Iraqi units possess much to the peshmergas' disdain. The peshmerga generally have far fewer of those vehicles, and a large number of the peshmerga use unprotected SUVs or pickup trucks on the battlefields.

“If we had their weapons and equipment, we would have taken the countryside of Mosul in three days,” claimed the clean-shaven Shekhwasani as he was surrounded by his peshmerga troops a short distance from the Iraqi forces.

Regardless of whether such claims are credible, they show the frustration of the Kurds with their Iraqi counterparts and a willingness to point out their weaknesses while they are supposed to be partners in pushing IS out of Mosul and the surrounding areas.

When Shekhwasani complained about the Iraqi army's lack of meaningful progress, the Conquest Operation for the Liberation of Nineveh was just in its second day on March 25. Now, more than three weeks later, not only has the army not been able to push the jihadi fighters out of al-Nasr, but they had to cease all operations on April 5 after the militants carried out a heavy counterattack just hours after the Iraqi army took the village. IS militants inflicted heavy casualties on the Iraqi forces, up to 20 dead by some difficult-to-verify accounts, and pushed them out of the village as a result of the counterattack.

Expelling IS from Mosul and the broader Nineveh province has long been considered a milestone in the plans for an eventual defeat of the group. It is the largest city the extremist organization controls in its vast territory spanning western Iraq and eastern and northern Syria.

But weeks after the start of the Nineveh operation, beside the general unreadiness of the Iraqi units in Nineveh, the temporary halt also highlights that a crucial element for the success of such an operation here in Nineveh is strong cooperation between the Iraqi army, Kurdish peshmerga and local Sunni forces. Despite the existing level of cooperation among these forces, there is also a lot of distrust or sometimes just outright disdain.

The Iraqi side has been more cautious in voicing its view about how the relationship has been going. A couple of Iraqi officers that Al-Monitor spoke to during the offensive were content with the level of their relationship with the Kurdish forces.

“We have high level of coordination with the peshmerga,” said one Iraqi army colonel on the condition of anonymity, as he was gazing at al-Nasr village from afar.

But a junior officer said building trust would be a process. “There is, of course, tension and problems, but our commanders work together,” said the officer on the condition of anonymity.

Local Sunni tribal forces, who are part of the Popular Mobilization Units, also participated in the offensive on strategic al-Nasr village. The Popular Mobilization Units are mostly Shiite formations, but there are also Sunni units within the force in certain areas.

Gathering around a fellow injured Popular Mobilization Units fighter, three Sunni fighters were arguing tensely about the fight on top of the hill.

A fighter on the back of a pickup truck had jumped off his vehicle and hurt his right leg when a rocket-propelled grenade had been fired toward him. He was rushed back behind the dirt berm where the support and command units of the Iraqi and peshmerga forces were gathered.

The fighters were conflicted with regard to the way the offensive was conducted. One said, “Thank God, we have a good relationship with the Iraqi army.”

Another fighter jumped in, interrupting him.

“The Iraqi army needs a lot of help, and if the peshmerga don’t participate in the operations actively, these areas cannot be really taken,” said the older fighter. “Look at what is happening,” he added with disappointment referring to the slow and ineffective pace of the offensive.

The relationship between the Iraqi army and the villagers in the area where the offensive is launched appears to swing between lukewarm to tense. Several displaced villagers who fled to the nearby town of Makhmour were later moved to the Dibaga Camp, as the displaced complained of a hostile attitude by Iraqi soldiers they met.

“When they entered [our village], their treatment was very bad. We heard inappropriate words. They said things we cannot mention,” said Hussein, a pseudonym for a young villager from Kherabardan, one of the three villages Iraqi forces have so far brought under their control. “But not everyone behaved the same way toward us. Some of them were better than others,” he added.

Some residents complained that the advancing Iraqi troops damaged their vehicles. Many members of Iraqi army's Division 15, which has been leading the operations in Nineveh's countryside, are Shiite. Winning the support of local Sunnis here will be an important factor in how the battle will proceed in other areas and how the residents across Nineveh will deal with the Iraqi security forces.

The Iraqi army is facing an uphill battle to take al-Nasr village and the nearby strategic town of al-Qayyara where a former Iraqi army base and airstrip are located. If anything, the track record of the Iraqi forces in the first leg of the Nineveh operation attests to the lack of those troops' readiness to tackle the task on their own and has led to rising criticism. The Iraqi government sent more army units to the Makhmour area to boost up the existing forces and probably prepare for a resumption of the offensive.

“We see with our own eyes large numbers of casualties and failed plans, and [yet] we continue to encourage illusions and fantasy,” wrote Atheel al-Nujaifi, Nineveh's former governor in a Facebook post.

Nujaifi also commands a force of a few thousand Nineveh residents known as the National Mobilization for the Liberation of Nineveh. His force, in cooperation with the peshmerga and Turkish troops, took two villages north of Mosul on April 18.

Without some adjustment in the way the Iraqi army-led Nineveh offensive is going, the fight to push IS out of Nineveh might be far more arduous than expected.

Article Link to Al-Monitor:

Will Islamic World Accept Turkey’s Leadership?

Turkish President Erdogan's ambition was not subtle as he stumped for himself at the Organization of Islamic States summit.

April 20, 2016

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan used the recent Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit as a grandstanding opportunity to pitch his qualifications to lead the Islamic world.

Erdogan hosted the OIC, which bills itself as the "Collective Voice of the Islamic World," in Istanbul for the April 14-15 summit. He used his opening address to blast the West again and to call on the Islamic world to unite to solve its own problems rather than relying on outsiders, who he said are only pursuing their own energy interests.

The gathering took place against a backdrop of sectarian violence in the Middle East that has resulted in bitter rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which was visible at the summit.

Diplomatic analysts were also quick to pick up on the message Turkey projected via the lineup in the traditional pre-summit portrait.

Erdogan, who is at the center of the picture, has Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud to his right, while Iranian President Hassan Rouhani stands four down to his left, thus appearing to reflect the close ties Ankara is developing with Riyadh and its distance from Iran on various regional issues.

Erdogan's choice not to be flanked by Rouhani in the photo appeared to contradict the goodwill between Sunnis and Shiites he exhorted in his opening address later.

In his speech to more than 30 leaders — with the notable absentees being Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah, who are critical of Turkey’s role in the Middle East — Erdogan pointed to the urgent need to surmount sectarianism among Islamic countries.

“My religion is not that of Sunnis, of Shiites. My religion is Islam,” Erdogan said.

Sectarian divisions were also apparent during the summit when Iran lashed out at Saudi Arabia for executing prominent cleric Nimr al-Nimr and other Shiite activists in January. In the final communique adopted at the end of the summit, Iran in turn was condemned for interfering in its neighbor’s affairs and for supporting terrorist groups.

The warm body language between Salman and Erdogan also played into the hands of those who argue that Turkey is turning its back on the West and increasingly looking to the Sunni world for new allies.

The OIC summit came just as the European Parliament issued a scathing report underlining that Ankara has not just slowed down the democratic reform process it committed itself to as part of its bid for European Union membership, but is backpedaling on reforms it had already enacted, particularly in areas such as freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

In his opening address, Erdogan did not waste the opportunity to blast the West, which seems to be his obsession. Pointing to the recent Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, Erdogan said the speakers there had referred to the terror attacks in Paris and Brussels but made no mention of similar attacks in Ankara, Istanbul or Lahore, although hundreds died in those attacks.

“This ambivalence is upsetting for us,” Erdogan said, going on to question why, as Islamic countries, they were expecting assistance from others (meaning the West) to solve conflicts and fight terrorism.

“If we don’t act, others do. But when they do, they do so for the sake of the oil there, not to bring harmony among us,” he added, calling for an Islamic arbitration organization and an Islamic version of Interpol to be established in Istanbul.

Erdogan also brought up another of his pet topics and railed at the composition of the United Nations Security Council, where he said there is not one permanent member to represent the Islamic world.

“It is essential for the UN to be reformed. It is our right to expect this if we want a just world,” Erdogan said. “It is not possible for a system that is based on injustice to contribute to global justice."

Erdogan’s address was noted for his references to “justice,” while making hardly any mention of democracy or the rights embodied in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. His remarks were widely interpreted as referring to Islamic justice.

In their totality, Erdogan’s words to the OIC, whose presidency Turkey is taking over for two years, were taken as a pitch for the leadership of the Islamic world, a view supported and encouraged by the pro-government media in Turkey.

Journalist Kemal Ozturk, arguing in his column against what he said is a mistaken belief that unity cannot be secured in the Islamic world, said this view is “based on preconceptions that are usually bogged down under concepts such as treachery, ignorance, misery and sectarianism.”

Ozturk, a columnist for daily Yeni Safak, which supports Erdogan, pointed to the collective assets of Islamic countries that could be harnessed under strong leadership and indicated that this is a task for Turkey to fulfill.

“We must not forget that Turkey is the largest OIC country, its natural leader and older brother. Therefore, the task of reviving the unity of this organization and strengthening it falls foremost on Turkey,” Ozturk wrote.

It remains an open question, of course, whether all the countries in the Islamic world are supportive of the idea of Turkish leadership.

Political scientist and columnist Nuray Mert, an acerbic Erdogan critic, is pessimistic about the potential of the Islamic world, at least as represented by the OIC, for positive change that is in tune with the modern world.

In her critique of the OIC summit, Mert pointed out that “any claim to political legitimacy with reference to a religion is problematic.”

“It is the political power elite that defines and manipulates ‘Islam’ in terms of their interests. Political manipulation of religious legitimacy hinders criticism and accountability,” Mert argued. She noted that almost all OIC members are authoritarian states ranking low in human rights and high in corruption.

“Although they pose as if they are fighting against violence and radicalism, the religious political power of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states is legitimized by radical and exclusionist interpretations of Islam [and] their support of radical Islamist groups for their respective interests,” Mert said.

“They themselves use violence as a political tool to suppress opposition and minorities, while most of them manipulate sectarianism — which they appeared to criticize at the summit — as a political tool."

Article Link to Al-Monitor:

Will Islamic world accept Turkey’s leadership?