Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday, May 27, Night Wall Street Roundup: Wall St. Puts Finishing Touch On Best Week Since March

By Noel Randewich
Reuters
May 27, 2016

Wall Street rose on Friday and capped off its strongest week since March after U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said an interest-rate hike would likely be appropriate "in the coming months."

Yellen's is the most important voice in a chorus of policymakers recently suggesting that the U.S. economy has improved enough to warrant tighter borrowing costs, with a growing number of investors now expecting a hike in June or July.

While higher interest rates choke liquidity in stock markets, many investors see a potential rate hike as a vote of confidence that the struggling U.S. economy is finding its legs.

"As we look at our place in the global economy, things just seem to be improving to a point where it certainly looks likely that June or July will be the next launching point," said Paul Springmeyer, portfolio manager at the Private Client Reserve of U.S. Bank.

"With the increased strength, we should get up off of those historically low levels where we are."

After Yellen's speech, traders raised their expectations of a June rate hike to 34 percent from 30 percent, according to CME Group.

The Fed next meets on June 14-15.

Data on Friday showed U.S. economic growth slowed in the first quarter, although not as sharply as initially thought.

All of the 10 major S&P sectors rose, with the telecom .SPLRCL and financial .SPSY indexes leading the gainers.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI climbed 0.25 percent to end at 17,873.22 points and the S&P 500 .SPX gained 0.43 percent to 2,099.06.

The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 0.65 percent to 4,933.51.

For the week, the S&P 500 rose 2.3 percent and the Dow added 2.1 percent, the best weekly performance for both since March. The Nasdaq gained 3.4 percent for the week, its best weekly result since February.

For 2016, the S&P 500 is up 2.7 percent.

Friday's volume was muted as investors checked out ahead of a long weekend, with U.S. stock markets closed on Monday for the Memorial Day holiday.

Just 5.6 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, well below the 7.1 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Cyber security firm Palo Alto (PANW.N) dropped 12.36 percent after a wider-than-expected quarterly loss.

GameStop (GME.N) fell 3.93 percent after the video-game retailer forecast lower-than-expected revenue and profit for the current quarter.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 2,034 to 974. On the Nasdaq, 1,905 issues rose and 896 fell.

The S&P 500 index showed 22 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 73 new highs and 19 new lows.

Article Link to Reuters:

Fallujah: ISIS's Latest Failure

Five points to keep in mind as ISIS's grip weakens in Iraq.


By Daniel R. DePetris
The National Interest
May 27, 2016

For more than two years, the residents of Fallujah have been lorded over by the Islamic State, which took control of the city in January 2014 from an understaffed Iraqi security force.

Twenty-nine months later, the Iraqi government is striking back with the goal of retaking ISIS’s most important stronghold in Anbar province. Here are five things to keep in mind:

1. Fallujah the latest in a string of Defeats for ISIS.

If ISIS was a movement on the march in 2014, it is now an organization that is suffering incredible territorial losses. U.S. airpower, an increasingly professional Iraqi army, and an enhanced American training presence have resulted in a series of successive defeats for ISIS in both Iraq and Syria over the past nine months. In November 2015 [4], Sinjar was retaken by a joint Iraqi and Peshmerga offensive; Ramadi was retaken by the Iraqis one month later; ISIS was driven from Shaddadi this past February [5]; and al-Hit was captured by Baghdad last month.

The Iraqi security forces, while still overstretched, have the momentum. ISIS’s oil finances have been depleted by roughly [6]fifty percent and its recruitment of foreign fighters has been reduced exponentially from about 2,000 per month to about 200. A successful ground operation in Fallujah would be yet another setback for ISIS and deprive the group of a staging area that is a short drive from Iraq’s capital.

2. Baghdad Bombings Pushed Fallujah to the Forefront.

Over the last several weeks, ISIS has perpetrated the worst violence that Baghdad has seen this year. A series of synchronized attacks in Shia districts of the Iraqi capital claimed the lives of 150 people in a week. This violence included a May 17 bombing [7] in the Baghdad suburbs of al-Shaab, and Sadr City, which not only locked down the capital, but also likely accelerated the antigovernment protests over corruption and mismanagement that have already been at a boiling point since last summer. For a coalition government whose popularity is at a nadir among the Iraqi populace, preventing further mass casualty attacks in Baghdad is a priority that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had to elevate as his top priority.

3. Mosul Operation Could Be Delayed…Again

The U.S.-led coalition has long assessed that driving ISIS from Iraq’s second largest city would be one of the biggest blows to the organization’s appeal and credibility as a jihadist movement. Unfortunately, the Mosul offensive has been delayed repeatedly due to fractious infighting [8] amongst anti-ISIS factions that want a piece of the city’s liberation. If the offensive to clear and hold Fallujah takes longer than anticipated, Baghdad may need to redeploy troops designated for Mosul towards Fallujah to ensure that the city is adequately protected from ISIS counterattacks.

4. Fallujah is a Political Bright Spot for Abadi

Prime Minister Abadi’s tenure has been difficult. He retains the confidence of the United States, Europe, and the anti-ISIS coalition, but he remains a weak figure in a political system dominated by sectarian quotas, kickbacks, and corruption. Hardline Shia factions in the Iraqi parliament continue to block Abadi’s attempt to appoint a technocratic cabinet with minimal political influence. The Iraqi army’s operation in Fallujah therefore comes at a perfect time for the PM: a successful capture of the city would provide Abadi a boost at a time when he clearly needs it.

5. How Will ISIS React?

ISIS has demonstrated that it will strike back hard whenever it finds itself on the defensive. Territorial, financial, and leadership losses aside, ISIS remains a formidable and ruthless force that is still capable of infiltrating Baghdad’s jam-packed streets. We can expect ISIS to revert back to the Abu Musab al-Zarqawi strategy in the event of further losses on the ground: wholesale, indiscriminate bombings in Shia neighborhoods in the hope of embarrassing Abadi’s administration.

Every inch of land that ISIS loses is a boon for the counter-ISIS effort and for Washington’s campaign to destroy its self-anointed caliphate. But win, lose, or draw in Fallujah, Abadi will still have his work cut out for him. Terrorism is only one problem in an otherwise long list for Iraqis.


Article Link to The National Interest:

'Parking While Black' Is Not Probable Cause For An Arrest

By Noah Feldman
The Bloomberg View
May 27, 2016

Can the police detain and search you on the suspicion that your car might be parked illegally? A federal appeals court has said yes, upholding a felon-in-possession conviction for a man who was searched after Milwaukee police surrounded the parked car he was sitting in and handcuffed its four occupants -- because the car was parked within 15 feet of a crosswalk. The outraged dissenting judge said that the defendant had been stopped for “parking while black,” and insisted that the holding went beyond anything the Supreme Court ever authorized.

The decision, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, offers a Rashomon-like model of diverging perceptions. To read the majority opinion by Judge Frank Easterbrook, a Reagan appointee, you would think that the events were pretty unremarkable. In his telling, the case began when police “saw a car stopped within 15 feet of a crosswalk, which is unlawful” in Milwaukee unless the car is loading or unloading. One police car drew up beside the parked car and another behind. “Shining lights through the car's windows (it was after sunset), police saw a passenger in the backseat trying to hide a firearm.”

On these facts, it might not seem so worrying that the police got everybody out of the car, handcuffed them, and arrested Randy Johnson, who had the gun.

But Judge David Hamilton, appointed by Barack Obama, depicted events very differently in his dramatic dissent. It was “January 8, 2014, in a tough neighborhood in Milwaukee,” the judge wrote. “It's dark, and it's very cold, during the Polar Vortex. … There is about 8 inches of snow on the ground. The streets are quiet.” The car was parked in front of a liquor store, and the motor was running. The driver’s seat was empty.

In Hamilton's telling, the two squad cars were searching for small infractions that might “lead to bigger and better things.” The police saw where the car was parked, which meant, the judge said, that “the car might be parked illegally!” (The italics and exclamation mark are the judge’s.) The crosswalk, he noted, was “both unmarked and snow-covered.”

After blocking the idling car, the police blasted it with headlights, spotlights, and flashlights. According to Hamilton, no one noticed the firearm being hidden. Instead the officers “immediately open the car doors and remove and handcuff the passengers.”

If the two descriptions of the events in question seem extraordinarily different, the same is true of the way the two judges described the controlling law. According to Easterbrook, the seizure of the vehicle’s occupants and the search incident to their arrest fit comfortably within existing precedent.

A different Seventh Circuit case says that probable cause of a parking offense “justifies at least a brief stop.”And the Supreme Court held in 2001 that someone can be arrested and put in custody even for a violation that would give rise to only a fine.

On this basis, Easterbrook held, the occupants of an illegally parked car may be detained and searched. He added that the police didn't have to pause and see whether the car was loading or unloading. The simple fact that it was stopped in an illegal spot was sufficient probable cause.

Hamilton’s legal analysis was strikingly different. He pointed out that the Supreme Court has never held that you can be arrested and searched for a parking violation. The 2001 case that Easterbrook cited, Atwater v. Lago Vista, involved a violation of a seat belt law. Hamilton reasoned that a moving violation is different from a parking violation, because the police can effectively enforce moving violations only if they stop the drivers who are suspected of committing them.

Hamilton added that the police hadn't even successfully established probable cause for a parking violation. The driver was in the liquor store while the car idled -- that is, the car was loading or unloading, and so under the Milwaukee law, even a ticket would have been inappropriate.

Beyond this legal analysis, Hamilton took pains to put the arrest into its context at this moment of racial tension over policing. This was a classic example of "broken tail light" policing -- except that there was no broken tail light. As Hamilton memorably put it, this wasn't an instance of “driving while black,” but one of “parking while black."

The defendants didn't raise race as an issue in the case. And as the majority noted, if the stop had been motivated by race, that would have given the driver opportunity to sue for damages, but wouldn't lead to the exclusion of evidence seized from him.

But Hamilton was getting at a much more important point, namely that there's something deeply disturbing about the idea of police seizing and searching all the occupants of the car just because the car was idling near a crosswalk on a freezing winter's night.

Eventually, the Supreme Court will have to decide whether police may arrest and search the occupants of a vehicle that is illegally parked. Here’s hoping that when they do, they remember the Fourth Amendment right of privacy better than the Seventh Circuit panel did in this case.


Article Link to the Bloomberg View:

Peter Thiel’s Revenge Against Gawker Is Neither Justice Nor Philanthropy

By Jeet Heer
The New Republic
May 27, 2016

Revelations that the Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel has been covertly pursuing a legal campaign to destroy the Gawker Media has generated surprisingly little outrage outside of journalistic circles. Indeed, Thiel has even had defenders like Washington Post legal blogger Eugene Kontorovich, who argued that the billionaire’s behavior was no different than other third-party lawsuits launched by public interest groups like the ACLU and the NAACP. Given the fact that neither the ACLU nor the NAACP ever secretly finance lawsuits in the pursuit of a private vendetta, this seems a ridiculous comparison.

More broadly, Gawker is hard to sympathize with. They initially angered Thiel, he claims, by outing him in 2007. Its flagship site, Gawker.com, is wildly uneven. While they publish much of value, like this 2011 expose of hypocrisy in the Catholic clergy, they also have an undeniable record of publishing scurrilous articles that violate privacy rights, including the Hulk Hogan sex tape.

But Thiel’s Ahab-like mission to destroy it has been even harder to sympathize with. The key problem is that his maximalist and eliminationist goal of inflicting as much damage on Gawker as possible is at odds with an essential civic ideal of the legal system: of trying to reach settlements that balance competing interests.

The Hulk Hogan case is a good example. Terry Bollea, the wrestler’s legal name, is wealthy enough to have pursued the lawsuit by himself, but under normal circumstances would have reached a settlement with Gawker, which offered to do several times. But this wasn’t good enough for Thiel. He wanted not a settlement, but the destruction of Gawker. Theil told The New York Times that “even someone like Terry Bollea who is a millionaire and famous and a successful person didn’t quite have the resources to do this alone.”

In this context, “do this alone” means carrying out a legal search-and-destroy mission. This is why Bollea’s lawyers pursued a legal strategy that denied Gawker the ability to use its insurance money, a tactic hardly in their supposed client’s best interest. The legal strategy being pursued served Thiel’s agenda, rather than its purported goal of seeking redress for Bollea.

Thiel’s explanations for his behavior are puzzling. He told the Times, “It’s less about revenge and more about specific deterrence.... I saw Gawker pioneer a unique and incredibly damaging way of getting attention by bullying people even when there was no connection with the public interest.”

“Deterrence” can only work if the punishment is publicly known, but Thiel pursued his war on Gawker in secret. And if Gawker is indeed “unique,” then who is being deterred by its being destroyed? To say the goal is “less about revenge and more about specific deterrence” is belied by the tactics used, which are all about revenge.

The cant about the “public interest” is refuted by the fact that bankrupting Gawker eliminates any chance of having a solution that balances competing public interests. In this case, there is a conflict between freedom of speech and Bollea’s right to privacy. If Bollea had reached a settlement with Gawker, it would have reflected that balance, punishing Gawker for its violation of Bollea’s privacy but allowing it to continue to exist. But Thiel didn’t want a balanced settlement. He want the total victory of eliminating Gawker from the face of the earth.

Gawker publishes garbage sometimes, but also articles that do serve the public interest, including exposes of Facebook, whose board Thiel serves on. In going after Gawker, Thiel is not, as he presents himself, a philanthropist helping the little guy fight big media, but rather a plutocrat trying to quash voices he doesn’t like to hear. Revenge is neither philanthropy nor justice, and destroying Gawker serves Thiel’s private whims and business goals but not the public interest.


The Liberal Republicans’ Revenge

By Noah Rothman
Commentary
May 27, 2016

“Ryan is thinking long-term,” Catholic University professor of political science Matthew Green told the Wall Street Journal, “he is thinking it’s possible Trump is going to lose.”

That is the most logical way to explain why the nation’s highest ranking Republican elected official remains conspicuously averse to embracing the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee. House Speaker Paul Ryan has refused to follow his formerly Trump-skeptical colleagues’ lead in making the best of a difficult situation. While the majority of the nation’s Republican officeholders are wrapping their arms around a walking rejection of every recommendation made in the GOP’s 2012 Growth and Opportunity Project (aka, the “autopsy”), Ryan and a shrinking cast of holdouts are still set on forging their own course. In fact, Ryan’s resistance to Trump may not be related at all to the results of the November elections.

As the Journal noted, conservatives remain suspicious of Trump for a variety of reasons. Some fear that his demagoguery is antithetical to republican governance as envisioned by the Founders. Others are convinced that the celebrity candidate’s brash rhetoric alienates women, minorities, and young students. They fret that Trump will cement Barack Obama’s winning coalition of voters into an enduring Democratic coalition that will keep Republicans from retaking the White House for several election cycles to come. For Republicans like Ryan, however, Trump represents a rejection of the GOP they’ve helped to build on a foundational, not merely tonal or stylistic, level.

Trump’s policy preferences, to the extent they can be identified, are more aligned with a kind of progressive Republicanism that may be out of fashion in the GOP but is by no means alien to it. Donald Trump may be a Republican out of convenience, but the millions of GOP primary voters who cast their ballots for him are not. “At a time when there is a ton of economic anxiety in America, our country could descend in the wrong direction and embrace the wrong policies that make even more people miserable,” Ryan worried on Wednesday. Those policies Ryan fears the nation is prepared to embrace are not just populist but also progressive.

As the columnist Peggy Noonan astutely observed in February, Trump’s ascension is correlated to the growing perception among his coalition of liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats that they are unsafe, “unprotected,” and that activist government can relieve that anxiety. For Ryan and others cast in the mold of Jack Kemp, this is a rejection of the conservatism to which he and hundreds of other influential Republican lawmakers dedicated their lives.

Conservatives spent 50 years taking over the Republican Party and ushering its progressive elements to the back of the bus. Today, the progressives are back with a vengeance, and they come armed with a list of radical demands. And while polls suggest that Trump’s brand of Republicanism is such a revolutionary departure from the ideology with which rank and file GOP voters are familiar that there is still a striking amount of resistance to him. But progressivism’s natural home was once the Republican Party. It very well may be again.

Modern liberals fancy themselves the inheritors of a progressive tradition that was established by the international left. Forged in the deadly flames of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, made manifest by Woodrow Wilson, given a soul by Al Smith and, consecrated by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, today’s center-left is steeped in liberal mythology regarding the origins of reformism. Democrats picked up the baton of progressivism from Teddy Roosevelt — or so the story goes — and the idea of activist government quickly fell out of favor within the Republican Party after the 1912 elections.

Culminating in the eccentric Wisconsin Senator Robert La Follette’s decision to excise himself from the GOP’s ranks in 1924, the popular myth contends that activist government has been the province of the left for nearly a century. That’s quite the tale of tribal folklore, but it dismisses the decades of work that conservatives did to undermine the progressives within the GOP’s ranks.

Senator Barry Goldwater is occasionally, and recklessly, compared to Donald Trump in terms of electoral appeal. There is an apt comparison between the two men insofar as the nomination of both is indicative of the rise of a previously marginalized vanguard. But while Goldwater’s conservatism was strange and unfamiliar to the GOP, and the country, in 1964, Donald Trump’s progressivism is not.

The 1956 Republican platform was by any reasonable modern definition a progressive platform. “The Eisenhower Administration will continue to fight for dynamic and progressive programs,” the platform read. From the “expansion of social security,” to the “broadened coverage in unemployment insurance,” to “improved housing” and “better health protection,” this was not a libertarian manifesto. “We are determined that our government remain warmly responsive to the urgent social and economic problems of our people,” the GOP’s operating doctrine continued. It was the Eisenhower administration’s governmental activism that led conservative outlets like National Review to abstain from endorsing Richard Nixon in 1960 (the outlet’s non-endorsement was just recently republished as “of interest” to Republicans weighing whether to endorse Trump).

Goldwater’s brand of conservatism – so doctrinaire that he opposed the Civil Rights Act’s Sections II and VII because they would impose on the private sector racial quotas and could not be enforced but through a police presence – was too radical for the nation at the time. He would, however, have the last laugh. Returned to the U.S. Senate repeatedly for the next 20 years, Goldwater watched as his progressive Republican colleagues were replaced one by one with conservatives to one degree or another. Culminating in Ronald Reagan’s ultimately successful insurgent presidential campaign, Goldwater left office in 1987 the godfather of an ideological renaissance.

Republicans did not bury progressivism; they banished it. Even discredited ideologies are not content to remain in exile forever. The Republican Party of Eisenhower and Rockefeller adopted progressivism out of convenience. It was, after all, the national ethos of the 1930s and 1940s. Despite the Republican Party’s dramatic ascension over the course of the last two decades, appeals to governmental intervention are again the nation’s default response to almost every societal ill, real or imagined.

Even amid a staggering series of accomplishments, conservatives have been preached at for years by their supposed compatriots that the elected representatives in whom they placed their trust have betrayed them. “Conservatism hasn’t conserved anything,” contend the right populists, most of whom rallied to Donald Trump’s campaign early and enthusiastically. This constant drumbeat has begun to hypnotize even those principled conservatives whose calling is public service. Paul Ryan and his shrinking band of stalwarts appear willing to frustrate the GOP conference in Congress and his party’s primary voters, and even to jeopardize their careers and legacies to preserve the conservatism in which they believe. Republicans in general, however, seem prepared to again embrace progressivism by popular demand. History suggests this will not be a difficult transition for the party to make.

For decades, conservatives who called the Republican Party their home assured themselves that they had inherited it from their progressive forebearers. Perhaps they were only renting it.


Article Link to Commentary:

How Hillary Loses

Donald Trump can actually win if Clinton makes these four mistakes. Spoiler alert: She’s already making all of them.


By David S. Bernstein
Politico Magazine
May 27, 2016

It’s a terrifying moment for Democrats: Hillary Clinton’s double-digit lead in national polls has evaporated and panic is beginning to set in. Polls now show Donald Trump ahead of Clinton, or at worst only a few points behind. During the insanity of the Republican primary, it was easy for them to believe that Trump could never be president—that in a general election, mainstream voters would regard him as an absurdity. But Clinton remains a shaky candidate with historically high negatives, an email scandal that keeps getting worse and a stubborn primary opponent whose supporters may yet become a midsummer nightmare in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, the Republicans, seemingly in all-out civil war just weeks ago, have quickly fallen in line. Democrats are resigning themselves to a tough, ugly, painful and expensive street fight.

The numbers offer some reassurance for Democrats—but also some bad news

The reassurance is that the recent polls probably don’t mean much. Trump’s current surge is likely driven by Republican voters coalescing around their nominee, and Clinton will almost certainly get a similar bump when Bernie Sanders lets go and Democratic voters return to the fold. Most pundits believe 2016 is still Clinton’s race to lose.

Here’s the bad news: There is now a clear path for her to lose it.

If you drill down enough, it’s clear there are at least four paths to a loss, and any one of them poses a real risk for a candidate likely to follow her usual careful, calculating playbook. The cold math of a potential Clinton defeat is not to be found in national polls, but in the Electoral College—and within each state’s unique demographics and culture. Trump won’t dramatically remake the political map, but he doesn’t need to. He just needs to squeeze a little more out of certain voters in certain states, while Clinton draws a little less.

If Clinton pushes away some of her potential supporters; fails to energize others to vote; and fires up Trump’s base by pandering to her own—well, she just might be able to make the numbers work out for him. If he does pull off the election of the century, Trump’s path to 270 Electoral College votes will begin with 164 practically in the bank, from 21 solid-red states generally considered sure things for the Republican nominee. And here’s how Clinton could push more than enough additional states onto Trump’s side of the ledger—Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Iowa, Virginia, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan—one mistake at a time.

Step 1: Take Hispanic enthusiasm for granted


It’s been a matter of faith in Democratic circles: Trump’s grotesque demonization of Latin-American immigrants will boost Hispanic turnout and Clinton’s share of their vote. As a result, you’re already hearing a lot less about Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, once the odds-on favorite to become Clinton’s vice presidential running mate. Castro was supposed to be part of a big Democratic push for Hispanic votes this year. Now, the thinking seems to be, those votes will take care of themselves.

Early evidence certainly supports that belief. Hispanic-Americans dislike Trump—strongly dislike him—in massive majorities, according to polls. Legal residents are rushing to become citizens, and citizens are registering to vote, just so they can cast a ballot against him in November. That has Clinton supporters believing that she’ll win crucial victories in Florida—where 17 percent of the 2012 vote was Hispanic, according to exit polls—Colorado, Nevada and possibly even Arizona.

But it would be difficult for Trump to keep doing as poorly with Latino voters as he’s done over the past year. And if he’s able to keep his incendiary language to a minimum, there is no guarantee that Clinton’s energy will hold for the many months until the election.

There is also reason to think Clinton’s enthusiasm with Hispanic voters needs stoking. A new Fox Latino poll shows Clinton leading Trump by an impressive-sounding 39 points: 62 to 23. But there’s a problem: That 39-point spread is actually less than the 44 by which Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney in 2012.

Florida, where Democratic confidence is sky-high, carries a critical 29 Electoral College votes. In 2012, according to exit polls, Hispanics made up a larger percentage of the state’s vote than in previous years, and Obama won a higher percentage of them—60 percent—than any Democrat had before. That translated into a 285,600-vote advantage (20 percent) among Hispanic voters for Obama over Romney in the state, which Obama carried by just 73,000 votes overall.

The big question is: Can Clinton sustain that kind of historic lead? All Trump would have to do is roll back the Democratic advantage to 2008 levels, instead of 2012 levels, to reverse the tide. All else being equal, a return to 2008’s numbers—when Hispanics were 14 percent of the vote, and Obama won them by a 15 percent margin rather than 20 percent—would mean Democrats losing 109,200 votes off their advantage. And that could turn Obama’s 73,000-vote Florida victory into a 36,000-vote defeat.

Yes, their numbers are growing. But Hispanics simply don’t like Clinton nearly as much as they like Obama: Her favorable/unfavorable is a net +15 in that Fox Latino poll, while Obama’s is +46. Colorado, where the fast-growing Hispanic population gave 75 percent of its vote to Obama in 2008, is a similar story to Florida. So is Nevada, where all of the major analysts still rate the Senate race between Republican Joe Heck and Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto a tossup—suggesting that they aren’t yet foreseeing a torrent of Democratic-voting Hispanics rush the polls in November.

Oh, and did we mention that Hispanic voters are disproportionately young—a staggering 44 percent of eligible Hispanic voters this year are millennials, compared with 27 percent of non-Hispanic whites, according to Pew—and that Sanders has been pulling large numbers of them away from Clinton, just as much as others their age.

Trump Wins: Arizona (11 electoral votes), Florida (29), and possibly Colorado (9) and Nevada (6)

Running total (in total Electoral College votes): Trump wins between 204 and 219

Step 2: Alienate the young


Millennials, being both more numerous and less cynical than their Generation X predecessors, once seemed likely to usher in a substantial advantage for Democrats among young voters. Except then they stopped turning out. In 2012, the number of 18-to-29-year-old voters dropped by 1.8 million from the previous presidential election year. “It seems likely that the observed young-adult voting surge of 2004–2008 was temporary,” a U.S. Census study concluded, “and not representative of a permanent shift towards greater young-adult engagement in presidential elections.”
 
In 2016, this is likely to affect Clinton’s performance in several college-heavy states that have had relatively high turnout—and high Democratic voting rates—among those age groups. That includes swing states such as Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire and Virginia. Just look at what happened in the past cycle. In Iowa, for example, 18-to-29-year-olds dropped from 17 percent of the 2008 vote to 15 percent in 2012—and were less likely to vote for Obama. The result was a net loss of close to 30,000 votes, in a contest Romney lost by less than 90,000 votes.

And that was with Obama, who did far better than Clinton with young voters.

During primary season, Sanders took a stunning 84 percent of the under-30 vote in the Iowa caucuses. Many of these young Sanders voters may come around to support Clinton over Trump in the general—just as Clinton’s bitter supporters eventually came to support Obama in 2008. The question is, though: How many?

Maybe not enough. As Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report notes, there is a big difference between 2008 and 2016: Then, Clinton’s so-called PUMA die-hards were mostly middle-age suburban women, with long-standing ties to the Democratic Party. In other words: likely voters. Most young Sanders voters, on the other hand, are not yet regular voters, and certainly not the kind of committed Democrats Clinton can count on; her campaign will need a significant get-out-the-vote effort to persuade them to show up in November. That will be more difficult the more she takes the conservative path, pivoting to the center for the general election, and focusing on messages geared toward her core—older—voters.

To see how much young-voter turnout matters, look at North Carolina. In 2008, Obama had a net advantage there among 18-to-29-year-olds of 368,000 votes—and eked out a 14,000-vote victory overall. In 2012, with dampened enthusiasm, Obama’s advantage in that age group dropped by 120,000, and Romney coasted to a 92,000-vote win. What’s more, those young voters are especially likely to be swayed to third-party alternatives, which—see below—could become more enticing this time around.

Trump wins: Georgia (16), North Carolina (15) and Iowa (6), with a chance at Virginia (13)

Running total: Trump wins between 241 and 269


Step 3: Let establishment Republicans find another place to go


The key to a Clinton landslide is turning red voters blue. And once it became clear that conservatives didn’t have the guts to put forward a #NeverTrump protest candidate, “Republicans for Hillary” was beginning to have a bit of a ring to it. But there’s another possibility: A plausible moderate-right candidate could emerge as a genuine alternative. 

Take, for example, former Massachusetts Republican Governor Bill Weld, whose history with Clinton goes back decades. Weld is exactly the type of GOP moderate Clinton has reportedly been wooing as Trump edged closer to the nomination. He endorsed Obama in 2008. He compares Trump’s rhetoric to Nazism. And there are plenty of Republicans like him this year, particularly in the Northeast. Not too many years ago, you could imagine considerable appeal for Clinton among Weld-ian Republicans. But thanks to her primary run, a combination of issues—Sanders pushing her left on economic issues, her unsatisfactory answers on the email scandal—has made that a tougher sell.

And now, instead of endorsing Clinton, Weld has agreed to join Gary Johnson on a potential Libertarian Party ticket, which suddenly looks like a very friendly home for old-fashioned country-club Republicans. It’s not a stretch to imagine Weld’s friend and fellow former Massachusetts Republican Governor Romney, who is clearly disgusted with Trump, could endorse Johnson-Weld. Disgruntled Republican funders loath to back Trump—another demographic being wooed by Clinton—could follow.

Sure, the votes the Libertarian Party siphons off will be primarily those of Republicans. That’s likely to pad Clinton’s lead in some already blue states she doesn’t need to worry about, such as Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. However, the disaffected GOP voters it pulls away from Clinton are potentially critical for her in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and perhaps even Maine, where third-party candidates have a considerable disruptive history. And in the event that, say, John Kasich were to endorse Johnson-Weld, even Ohio could suddenly get shaken up. Sure, that one is a long shot, but even without a big-name endorsement, there’s evidence that a plausible GOP alternative hurts Clinton more than Trump this year. A new Zogby poll of Ohio voters shows that in a four-way race including Johnson (pulling 6 percent) and Green Party nominee Jill Stein (3 percent), Clinton takes the bigger hit, and her lead in the state decreases.

We’ve seen this movie before: It was 1980, and independent candidate John Anderson pulled lots of votes in what we think of as blue states—15 percent in Massachusetts, 13 percent in New Hampshire, 11 percent in Colorado and Washington, 10 percent in Oregon and Maine. Anderson had been a Republican, but the votes he siphoned off would have gone more to Jimmy Carter than to Ronald Reagan—by 49 percent to 37 percent, according to exit polls. Every one of those states went for Reagan. In Maine, the margin was just 3 percentage points.

The emergence of a plausible moderate alternative also threatens to derail a larger piece of Democratic strategy: Clinton hoped to trot out aisle-crossing Republicans to boost her bipartisan credentials. Now, many Republican leaders will have a choice between Trump or Johnson, and not be forced to choose Clinton. Meanwhile, the other big constituency of anti-Trump Republicans—religious conservatives—has given up on finding its own protest candidate. Unlike establishment moderates, these Republicans would never go for Clinton—and will mostly end up boosting Trump’s numbers in states such as Iowa, Georgia, North Carolina and Florida. If Clinton loses in November, her supporters are going to be kicking themselves for not locking in moderate Republicans sooner.

In 2012, Obama won New Hampshire by 40,000 votes, or about 5 percent of the vote. In the Granite State, that was a relative landslide: The margin has been less than 2 percent in three of the past six presidential elections. Should a Libertarian ticket pull an Anderson-like 13 percent of the vote there—and should the bulk of those voters be Never-Trumpers, some of whom would otherwise have gone to Clinton—then the third party could tip a typically close Granite State contest to Trump.

Trump wins: New Hampshire (4), one district of Maine (1) and—if union households desert Clinton over trade (see below)—possibly Pennsylvania (20)

Running total: Trump wins between 246 and 294


Step 4: Fumble on trade


As soon as the votes were tallied in 2012, Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO and Mary Kay Henry of SEIU were claiming unions had delivered Obama’s victory. They argued, with justification, that Ohio, Wisconsin and Nevada got into the blue column because of a massive turnout effort from labor. But earlier this year, both Trumka and Henry expressed concerns that Trump could flip that script.

“Our members are responding to Trump’s message,” Henry said in one interview. “Donald Trump is tapping into the very real and very understandable anger of working people,” Trumka said in a speech.

It’s not just that these workers are drawn to the raw emotion of Trump’s “you’ve been screwed” rhetoric. Polls show that union households tend to oppose free trade quite strongly. Sanders has made free trade a centerpiece of his primary campaign against Clinton. Trump, hoping to woo Sanders voters, frequently praises his position on that issue.

Union voters largely agree with Trump that trade deals—including those negotiated by Democratic Presidents Obama and Bill Clinton—have taken their jobs away. Hillary Clinton has yet to counter this attack in any meaningful way. Her history on trade has been careful and political, which has left her struggling to articulate a strong argument against Sanders, let alone Trump. She gave measured support at the time to her husband’s controversial NAFTA deal, but later called it a mistake; voted in favor of most but not all trade deals as senator; and flip-flopped unconvincingly on the Trans-Pacific Partnership this year.

It’s not hard to see how quickly this could start costing her Electoral College votes in the Rust Belt, where Trump hopes to improve on past Republican performance. (And where, you may remember, Clinton had to apologize for threatening to put coal companies out of business.) In Ohio, for example, 22 percent of 2012 voters came from union households, and 60 percent of them voted for Obama. In Wisconsin, a similar share of the electorate voted 2-to-1 for Obama over Romney. In 2016, both states went for Sanders over Clinton in their primaries. In Pennsylvania, where Trump is planning a major effort, union households provided Obama more than half his net margin.

Trump wins: Ohio (18) and Wisconsin (10), and maybe Michigan (16)

Running total: Trump wins between 274 and 338


The Final Tally


So there you have it. Trump survives a Latino surge in the South and West; Clinton fails to bring home young voters in the Southeast and Midwest; Libertarians give Trump a foothold in the Northeast; the Rust Belt puts the nail in the coffin—and with somewhere between 274 and 325 electoral votes, Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. Yes, the specifics could vary. But it’s clear Trump can cross the 270 electoral-vote threshold even on the low end, with plenty of cushion on the high end to make up for a state that slips through his fingers here or there.
For what it’s worth, it’s also possible Clinton wins in a landslide, as an increasingly unstable Trump shrinks deeper and deeper into racism, xenophobia and conspiracy theories. But what’s clear is that Democrats can no longer count on a lopsided race that even a problematic candidate running a clumsy campaign can’t lose.

Again: It’s a long way to November, and Trump could always self-destruct. But he probably won’t, and 2016 is shaping up as a contest that a careful Clinton campaign can easily lose, state by state, even as she piles up the popular vote in California and other sure-win places. Demographics are not destiny. In fact, they can be a disaster waiting to happen.


Article Link to Politico:

How Hillary Loses

Why U.S. Fighter Jets Keep Colliding In Midair

Thursday’s collision off the Carolina coast—apparently when the two Navy Super Hornets were engaged in mock dogfighting—is just the latest in a series of crashes.


By David Axe
The Daily Beast
May 27, 2016

The collision Thursday between the two F/A-18F Super Hornets is just the latest in a long chain of midair accidents involving U.S. military jet fighters.

In just the last 10 years, air-to-air collisions during training have destroyed or badly damaged no fewer than 12 Navy and Air Force fighters and killed at least two pilots.

The four aircrew of the two U.S. Navy fighter jets that collided in the air Thursday morning 25 miles east of Oregon Inlet, North Carolina, were lucky. They ejected before their damaged planes plummeted into the waves.

Fishermen aboard the trawler Tammy witnessed the collision and promptly pulled two of the Navy fliers from the sea. A Coast Guard helicopter soon fished the other two airmen out of the water. The Coast Guard sped all four aircrew to Norfolk Sentara General hospital in Virginia, where the fighters are based.

The Navy is investigating the accident, and it could be months before we learn the official cause. In any event, it’s safe to say aerial crashes are an all-but-inevitable side effect of high-intensity air-warfare training.

Even in this age of stealth technology, powerful radars, and far-flying precision-guided missiles, American fighter pilots still practice close-in dogfights—which the two jets were apparently engaged in when they struck each other Thursday—turning and accelerating their jets to aim missiles and guns at opponent aircraft.

Air combat is dangerous. Training for air combat is pretty risky, too, as pilots scramble to control aircraft flying hundreds of miles per hour while managing their planes’ sensors and weapons, and also keeping track of other nearby aircraft that are flying just as fast while their own pilots juggle all the same demanding tasks.

“As pilots, we are all trained to know that attention to detail is critical,” Lt. Katrina Nietsch, a Navy pilot, wrote in a recent edition of the sailing branch’s official aviation safety magazine. “However, balancing the details with the big picture is often where situational awareness can be lost.”

This loss of situational awareness apparently led to a midair collision between two Air Force F-16 fighters flying off the coast of Maryland in August 2013. The pilots of the two fighter were practicing close-range interception—one pilot chasing behind the other—when, according to the official investigation, the pilot in the rear position misjudged his speed.

His F-16 slammed into the lead plane from behind, wrecking the lead fighter and forcing the pilot to eject. The at-fault pilot managed to land his own damaged fighter. Air Force investigators blamed the incident on the first flier’s “channelized attention” and “task misprioritization.”

It doesn’t help that pilots’ vision outside their cockpits can be...less than perfect. “The flight environment they must scan includes an entire 180-degree hemisphere—from 90 degrees out to the sides, above and below—to directly ahead,” James Lockridge, a pilot with more than 50 years of flying experience, wrote in Aviation Safety magazine several years ago. “But there are blind areas beneath the cabin floor, above its ceiling and behind the wings.”

Lockridge was describing civilian aircraft. But military aircraft suffer the same limitations—and the limitations matter all the more when those aircraft are locked in a fast-turning mock dogfight.

This problem is actually getting worse for the American combat pilots. The new F-35 stealth fighter, which is slowly replacing almost all other frontline jets in the U.S. arsenal, suffers from a particularly cramped cockpit that affords a comparatively poor view of the outside world—especially when a pilot is wearing the high-tech new helmet that the military is buying specially for F-35 pilots.

In a mock dogfight in early 2015, an F-35 test pilot discovered that he was having trouble seeing the “enemy” plane during tight turns. “The helmet was too large for the space inside the canopy to adequately see behind the aircraft,” the pilot reported.

Not only does limited visibility make it harder for an F-35 pilot to see and shoot down his opponent, there’s an obvious safety risk, as well. As a pilot, you can’t prevent a collision with a plane you can’t see.

But air combat training is dangerous even when your plane’s own design isn’t actively impeding your vision. The Air Force’s F-15 boasts a large, bubble-shaped canopy that, by warplane standards, affords an excellent view of the outside world. But that didn’t prevent two F-15 pilots from colliding during a simulated dogfight over the Gulf of Mexico in February 2008.

Both aircraft crashed. One pilot died. The Air Force officially attributed the incident to “pilot error” but did cut the fliers some slack. The two pilots had suffered a “loss...of flight proficiency” that, investigators concluded, wasn’t their fault.

In November 2007, an F-15 had disintegrated in the air over Missouri owing to a badly manufactured part. The Air Force grounded all of its F-15s for several months so that it could inspect the planes for similar, flawed components. When the F-15s resumed flying in early 2008, their pilots’ skills had eroded—so much so that the two fliers tangling over the Gulf of Mexico “failed to anticipate their impending high-aspect mid-air collision,”according to the Air Force.

That loss of flying proficiency is a constant threat to military aircrew. The training process for high-end air combat is akin to a high-wire act. Military pilots spend a year or more developing the basic flying skills they need even to begin practicing the more advanced combat tactics, including tight-turning dogfights. Once they achieve aerial proficiency, they have to maintain it—by constantly practicing the advanced techniques.

Any letup in training can erode an aviator’s skills and make intensive mock combat prohibitively dangerous until the flier can regain lost proficiency, through painstaking repetition of more basic tasks. Failure to maintain dogfighting skills can cause accidents in the air.

It’s not clear that a loss of proficiency played any role in Thursday’s Super Hornet collision. But lawmakers and senior Pentagon officials have been warning for years now that flattening Pentagon budgets are making safely training aviators harder. And they claim that aircraft accident rates have spiked as a result.

The rate of serious accidents for Army helicopters rose from 1.52 per 100,000 flight hours in 2014 to 1.99 in 2016, Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Texas Republican and chair of the House Armed Services Committee, said in March. Thornberry claimed that the crash rate for Marine Corps aircraft rose from a 10-year average of 2.15 per 100,000 flying hours to 3.96 in 2016.

Gen. Robert Neller, the Marine Corps’ top officer, said his squadrons “don’t have enough airplanes to meet the training requirements for the entire force.” Out of a total inventory of 276 increasingly aged F/A-18s, in early 2016 just 17 of the planes were in good repair and available for advanced flight training.

“The combination of war fighters who aren’t trained and equipment that doesn’t work is a perfect storm,” an aide to the House committee told Defense News, a trade publication. That storm may have contributed to the recent midair collision—or maybe not.

But one thing is for sure. Air-combat practice is risky enough even when pilots are adequately trained and their planes are in working order.


Article Link to The Daily Beast:

‘We Have To Destroy Her Story’: How Hillary Enabled Bill

By Rich Lowry
The New York Post
May 27, 2016

Donald Trump’s philosophy is never to use a scalpel when a meat ax is available, and so it is with his attack on the Clinton scandals of the 1990s.

And yet, in slamming Hillary as Bill’s “enabler” and daring to invoke the allegation of rape against Clinton, Trump is again demonstrating his unsurpassed ability to needle his opponents and expose their vulnerabilities.

Hillary Clinton’s self-image as a feminist champion has always been at odds with her political partnership with a serial womanizer whose electoral career has depended on discrediting and smearing the women with whom he’s had dalliances.

Hillary tends to get a pass, because the 1990s were a long time ago, the media often scold anyone who brings up the scandals and most politicians think it’s bad form to talk about someone else’s marriage. Unconstrained by all these boundaries, Trump is hitting her with his characteristic abandon.

Hillary’s defenders say this is tantamount to blaming her for Bill’s infidelities. Of course, she’s not responsible for his wanderings. But as a fully vested member of Bill’s political operation, Hillary had as much interest in forcefully rebutting all allegations of sexual misconduct as he did.

According to journalist Michael Isikoff, the Clinton campaign in 1992 spent $100,000 on private-detective work related to women. The approach, when rumors first popped up, was to get affidavits from women denying affairs — the reflex of most women is to avoid exposure — and, failing that, to use any discrediting tool at hand.

Hillary was fully on board. When a rock groupie told Penthouse in late 1991 that a state trooper approached her on Gov. Clinton’s behalf, Hillary said, “We have to destroy her story.”

When the Star tabloid reported that Clinton had affairs with five Arkansas women, including Gennifer Flowers, the Clinton campaign waved affidavits signed by all them denying it. (This is what Clinton had advised Flowers to do in a taped conversation.) Then, Flowers admitted to an affair, saying it had lasted 12 years.

In response, Hillary did the famous “60 Minutes” interview with Bill, sitting by him as he delivered a lawyerly denial of the 12-year allegation specifically (he later admitted having sex with Flowers once). Hillary joined the strategy sessions over what verbiage to use in the interview.

When, after Bill was elected president, state troopers began to tell of how he had used them to procure women, the possibility of federal jobs and threats of retaliation were wheeled out to try to keep them silent.

One of the procured was Paula Jones. When she came forward, she was abused as trailer-park trash. Even though her sexual-harassment suit was dubious, her story of a gross come-on by Clinton in a hotel room was credible, and she told numerous people at the time.

Hillary apparently didn’t spare a moment’s thought why her husband the governor would have wanted a private meeting with a 24-year-old state employee. She interviewed superlawyer Bob Bennett to handle the case and insisted on a hardline defense. Bennett spread rumors of nude pictures of Jones and had another lawyer subpoena men to try to find evidence of Jones’ alleged promiscuity.

Hillary was even more instrumental to the defense in the Monica Lewinsky case, setting the tone of the White House response in her “vast right-wing conspiracy” appearance on “Today” (although she made a hedged denial that the charges against Bill wouldn’t be “proven true”).

The allegation with which the Clintons have never truly had to grapple is Juanita Broaddrick’s charge of rape. The media roll their eyes whenever this comes up, but Broaddrick deserves better. Her story has been consistent over the years; she told people about the alleged assault at the time; and her account includes telling details that accord with what other women have said about encounters with Bill.

Perhaps you think Hillary had no choice but to stand by her man, or she made the correct calculation that the broader political project — both of the Clintons and of liberalism — justified waging political war against a few inconvenient women. Even so, there is no doubt Hillary compromised herself, by the standards of feminism 20 years ago, and even more by the standards of today.

Is there anyone more “privileged” than a white male who is a governor and a president? Even if you don’t believe the worst, Bill didn’t live up to contemporary norms of consent, to put it mildly. If consistency mattered, feminists would be demanding safe spaces whenever Bill Clinton approached a college campus.

Trump’s assault on Hillary is a blunderbuss affair (and, given how he’s been on all sides of everything, he himself defended Bill Clinton from these charges in the 1990s). But Hillary’s answer to Trump’s offensive is telling — nothing. Sometimes there’s just not a good answer.


Article Link to The New York Post:

Katie Couric’s Fake Documentary Proves ‘New Media’ Is A Farce

By David French
The New York Post
May 26, 2016

The case is clear. Katie Couric, a person Yahoo employs to be the face of its news division, was caught in a grotesque deception. Then, when she was publicly exposed, rather than apologizing, she doubled down — defending the choice to cast innocent Americans as ignorant rubes rather than allowing them to speak for themselves.

She has lost her credibility. Any news organization that continues to employ her loses its credibility as well.

Here are the facts, as exposed by the Washington Free Beacon’s Stephen Gutowski. Couric served as executive producer and narrator of a documentary called “Under the Gun,” a film written, produced and directed by an anti-gun activist named Stephanie Soechtig. At one point in the movie, Couric asks a collection of Virginia gun owners, members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, “If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?”

This simple question seems to shock the gun owners into silence. They seem to have no answer — as if they’re stupid enough and foolish enough to be thinking to themselves, “By golly, I had no idea felons might try to get guns.” Score one for Couric, right? She exposed those gun nuts for the rubes they are.

Well, it turns out that Couric and Soechtig got “creative.” The VCDL was wisely recording Couric’s interview and released its own tape.

And rather than greeting Couric’s question as some sort of mic-dropping moment, the gun-rights activists had multiple responses. One man argues that men and women who’ve served time and paid their debt to society shouldn’t lose their Second Amendment rights. Another argues that laws on the books clearly prohibit gun possession by certain classes of people. Say what you want about their answers, but they were answers.

At this point, a responsible documentarian either immediately apologizes, promises to investigate exactly how the deception occurred and pledges to re-edit the film — or they contest the VCDL’s evidence. Instead, Soechtig issued this statement:

“There are a wide range of views expressed in the film. My intention was to provide a pause for the viewer to have a moment to consider this important question before presenting the facts on Americans’ opinions on background checks. I never intended to make anyone look bad and I apologize if anyone felt that way.”

The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple’s response was exactly right, saying that he’s “scarcely seen a thinner, more weaselly excuse.” But, as he notes, it’s not just an excuse, it reads as an admission. She’s not contesting the VCDL’s claims.

This is exactly the point where a former network anchor — a person who still enjoys respect in the news business — should step in and impose adult supervision. But in her own comment on the controversy, Couric not only said that she was “proud of the film,” she also supported Soechtig’s statement.

Dear Yahoo, let me put this in plain English for you. Your premier news personality is “proud” of lying. She “supports” a statement that purports to justify those lies as a form of creative “pause.” This would be a firing offense at any decent opinion journal, much less an organization that purports to objectively report the news.

Americans can no longer trust a single news report or a single interview from Couric. They now know that she will unashamedly and proudly deceive them to advance her own ideological agenda.

New media has long claimed that it will be better than the old media — that it will be more responsive, more transparent and more accountable. But for all its faults, we know that old media would almost certainly take this offense seriously. We’ve seen even the most powerful news personalities brought low by fabrications and deceptions.

NBC suspended Brian Williams for his lies — even when Williams issued statements far more contrite than Couric’s. Dan Rather — a broadcast-news giant — “retired” rather than face termination for his own role in passing off fraudulent documents about George W. Bush’s military service.

Simply put, if new media wants to be taken seriously, it needs to act seriously. Here’s what a serious news organization would do: Suspend Couric immediately, launch a thorough and comprehensive investigation of the VCDL’s allegations and then — if the investigation confirms the facts stated above without revealing any material mitigating circumstances — fire her.

Absent serious action, Yahoo will join Couric in sending the message that the truth no longer matters — only the cause. And in this case, the “cause” is a direct attack on Americans’ fundamental constitutional rights. Years ago, The Who declared its cynical take on politics — “Meet the new boss; same as the old boss.” But unless Yahoo steps up, it will turn out The Who wasn’t quite cynical enough. Meet the new media, worse than the old.


Article Link to The New York Post:

Is Sanders Our William Jennings Bryan?

Bernie Sanders, who has a lot in common with the silver-tongued populist who drove the Democrats toward progressivism a century ago, could likewise shape his party’s future for decades.


By Michael Kazin
The Daily Beast
May 27, 2016

No one expected the fiery but obscure politician from a rural state to mount a serious campaign for the presidency, one that took on the national leaders of the Democratic party. In retrospect, the potential was there for an insurgent candidate to thrive. Progressive activists had cheered his earlier declaration that the party “cannot serve plutocracy and at the same time defend the rights of the masses.” Millions of Americans were frustrated and angry about an economy that seemed to benefit only Wall Street and the upper class. Still, the politician picked up few endorsements and no big contributors, and the incumbent Democratic president wanted him to lose.

Yet, William Jennings Bryan still captured the party’s nomination in 1896. Although he lost the election that fall, the Nebraskan and his avid supporters went on to transform the Democrats from a stalwart defender of states’ rights and laissez-faire economics to the champion of a government that would deploy its power to aid the great majority of Americans, then composed mainly of small farmers and industrial workers. As his party’s nominee, Bryan ran for president on two other occasions, losing each time by greater margins. But under his aegis, the Democrats became the citadel of modern liberalism we identify today with Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Could Bernie Sanders accomplish a similar feat, 120 years later? Although he will not defeat Hillary Clinton—who has won hundreds more delegates and millions far more popular votes—the senator from Vermont has emulated Bryan in other ways. He galvanizes big crowds with a spirited left-wing populist appeal and has gained the loyalty of the young constituency the Democrats will need to win both this year and into the future. Like Bryan, he also challenges the party to go beyond class-conscious rhetoric to embrace policies—from universal Medicare, to free tuition at public colleges to a strongly progressive tax system—that would benefit working families and, to a degree, redistribute the wealth.

In 1896, the Republicans blasted Bryan as a socialist, a label he rejected. Sanders wears it proudly. If the Democrats seriously attempt in the near future to drive big money out of politics and commit themselves to building a larger welfare state like those in Scandinavian countries, he will have catalyzed a political sea-change as profound as that which occurred when party leaders embraced the cause of black freedom, knowing they would lose the white South for decades to come.

Yet, such a change will be as fraught with limits and perils as that undertaken by John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson half a century ago. The big investors and corporate chieftains who dominate the U.S. economy—some of whom helped Barack Obama and Bill Clinton win the White House—would fight hard and skillfully against a Sandersized agenda. Unlike in Bryan’s day, most Americans depend, to some degree, on stocks and other investments. A market crash could persuade them that expensive new programs are not worth risking a deep plunge in their retirement accounts. And without a bigger and more powerful labor movement, much less a socialist one, it would be difficult for wage-earners to improve their conditions on the job or become a durable constituency for economic leveling, as they were in the middle of the 20th century. The millions of workers who went on strike and streamed into unions in the ’30s and ’40s played an essential role in making the New Deal, the Fair Deal, and the Great Society possible.

An appeal focused on class inequalities also downplays other vital divisions and identities that have always roiled the body politic. Bryan and nearly all other Democrats in his day were unabashed defenders of Jim Crow. Their populism halted abruptly and cruelly at the color line. Neither did the eloquent Bryan, widely known as the Great Commoner, say much to defend the millions of common Jewish and Catholic immigrants who suffered from discrimination at the hands of his fellow native-born white Protestants.

Sanders, of course, rejects that benighted tradition, one Donald Trump has revived and updated, with his vows to deport all “illegal aliens” and bar Muslims from entering the country at all. In contrast, the left-wing Democrat advocates “racial justice” and immigration reform and condemns the high incarceration rate of African-Americans.

Yet it is not surprising that Sanders has lost primaries in nearly every state with a large black and/or Latino population. His blasts at “the billionaire class” excite white liberals and leftists more than Americans who bear the disadvantages of belonging to a minority race or endangered ethnic group. And Barack Obama is hardly the counterpart, racially or ideologically, of Grover Cleveland, the conservative president who, in 1896, called on his fellow Democrats to bolt the party instead of voting for Bryan, who had repudiated his record of smashing unions and doing nothing to aid the unemployed.

In the end, whether the Sanders campaign turns into more than a fleeting Bryan moment will depend a great deal on what the white-haired firebrand himself decides to say and do from now until November. The Great Commoner was just 36 when he made his initial campaign for the White House. More than twice that age, Sanders is unlikely to mount a second run for the office.

Bryan, who saw no reason to separate his religion from his politics, was fond of repeating a line from the New Testament: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” Sanders is an avowed secularist. But if he urges his followers to vote for Democrats up and down the ticket and then continues to propel the party to the economic left, he has a chance to be remembered as a prophet, instead of as an embittered loser.


Article Link to The Daily Beast:

Oil Prices Retreat From $50 On Oversupply Concerns, Stronger Dollar

By Keith Wallis
Reuters
May 27, 2016

Oil futures slipped in Asian trade on Friday after hitting resistance at the $50 a barrel mark as investors worried higher prices could reactivate shuttered crude output, adding to global oversupply.

Prices were also pressured by a strong greenback that was buoyed by generally positive U.S. economic data amid growing expectations of a near-term rate hike.

Brent LCOc1 fell 34 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $49.25 by 0652 GMT on Friday, retreating further from the previous session's $50.51 peak, its highest since early November.

U.S. crude CLc1 dropped 31 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $49.17 a barrel after touching $50.21 on Thursday, it's highest since early October.

Oil pushed through $50 for the first time in around seven months on Thursday after supply disruptions from Canadian wildfires and attacks in Libya and West Africa helped cut daily output by 4 million barrels, but eased to close down on the day.

"Shale is the new shock absorber to the market," said Tony Nunan, oil risk manager at Tokyo's Mitsubishi Corporation.

"There is a wide range of production costs. Shale's total production costs are around $48-$50 a barrel - there will be producers who make money at $50," Nunan said.

Oil prices, which have risen nearly 90 percent from 12-year lows hit earlier this year, face pricing barriers to moving higher in the next three to five weeks, technical analysts said on Thursday, with Brent facing a significant hurdle at around $52 a barrel.

"In the next few months oil prices could stay in the high $40-$50 mark. We are entering the U.S. driving period so seasonal demand might provide underlying support to oil prices," said Yvanne Lai, senior analyst at National Australia Bank.

Investors were also awaiting the appearance of U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen at an event later on Friday for further indications on when the Fed could raise interest rates.

A meeting of the oil producer's cartel, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries on June 2 may give further direction to oil markets, Nunan said.

"Most people feel the meeting will be neutral or bad," he said, with a neutral outcome leading to no change in oil output, while moves by producers like Saudi Arabia to boost production, would be bad.

"The Fed meeting could be the bigger trigger. An increase in interest rates will mean a higher dollar, a higher dollar means more expensive crude which could trigger a commodities sell-off."

A raft of Fed officials have called for a normalization of interest rates as the U.S. economy and inflation rise, with the odds of a June hike now around 34 percent, compared with 4 percent last week, ANZ analysts said.


Article Link to Reuters:

Friday, May 27, Morning Global Market Roundup: Dollar Rises As World Stock Markets Hold Steady

By Sudip Kar-Gupta
Reuters
May 27, 2016

The U.S dollar rose on Friday while world stock markets were steady, as investors braced for the likelihood of a hike in U.S. interest rates in coming months.

The MSCI All-Country World equity index .MIWD00000PUS edged higher by 0.1 percent.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index .FTEU3 of leading European shares slipped 0.1 percent but remained in touching distance of a one-month reached earlier this week. [.EU].

"Markets are doing remarkably well given that a U.S. interest rate rise might happen as early as next month," said Lex Van Dam, hedge fund manager at Hampstead Capital.

The dollar index .DXY rose 0.1 percent and was on track for its best monthly performance since last November, after a string of U.S Federal Reserve officials raised expectations for a hike in interest rates as early as June, given signs of strength in the world's biggest economy.

Investors were also looking out for further clues on when U.S. rates might go up from a speech due later in the day from Federal Reserve head Janet Yellen.

"I'm not sure if U.S. interest rates will go up in June, but July is quite likely," said Clairinvest fund manager Ion-Marc Valahu, who added that he had recently canceled some earlier "short" positions that were betting on the dollar losing ground.

A stronger U.S. dollar can often lift European stocks, since a weaker euro EUR= can help European companies to export their goods overseas.

However, some traders said stock markets were unlikely to make much headway in the coming month, given the uncertainty over issues such as future U.S. rate rises and Britain's June vote on its membership of the European Union.

"With the headwinds of a possible interest rate hike from the Federal Reserve, and the EU referendum in June, there might not be a huge amount of new money coming into the market," said Manoj Ladwa, head of trading at TJM Partners.


Article Link to Reuters:

Central Banks Can't Go It Alone Anymore

By Mohamed A. El-Erian
The Bloomberg View
May 27, 2016

Whether through signals from the Group of Seven meeting this week or in the outcome of the latest round of European negotiations on Greece, officials of advanced countries increasingly are acknowledging that the problems facing their economies require a new response to take over from the overlong use of narrow short-term tools.

This recognition has been too long in the making and, judging from the regrettable lack of credible and detailed action plans, still needs time to be translated into progress on the ground.

Before the G-7 meeting in Japan, several member countries indicated they understood that their individual and collective policy stances needed to evolve. Germany warned against continued over-reliance on central banks, simultaneously stressing the need for structural reforms. Canada and Japan urged a more aggressive and imaginative use of fiscal policy. And the U.S. warned Japan to resist the temptation to intervene to depreciate the yen.

Earlier this week, Greece’s European partners concluded that they needed a greater emphasis on debt relief for that beleaguered economy. In a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, anInternational Monetary Fund official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said there is there was agreement among all stakeholders that Greece's debt was "highly unsustainable" and needed relief. In addition, the official said the parties "accept the methodology that should be used to calibrate the necessary debt relief. They accept the objectives in terms of the gross financing need in the near term and in the long run. They even accept the time periods, a very long time period, over which this debt has to be met through 2060."

These notable developments reflect an important evolution in mindsets, which are shifting more decisively toward looking at structural and secular conditions, and away from an excessive emphasis on cyclical considerations. This shift is driven by three developments: recurring disappointing economic growth despite extraordinary monetary policy stimulus and, in the case of Greece, eye-popping bailout packages; concern that the benefits of unconventional central bank involvement are being offset by a mounting risk of collateral damage and unintended consequences; and recognition that the political context is becoming more complicated as anti-establishment movements gain momentum amid growing popular mistrust of “elites” both in government and the private sector.

Such thinking should, one would hope, lead to the implementation of pro-growth structural reforms, tax reform in conjunction with lessened fiscal austerity; debt relief for segments with crushing debt overhangs; and effective global policy coordination.

Nonetheless, the translation of greater collective awareness into credible actions remains frustratingly patchy.

Take the case of Greece. Despite the overdue acknowledgement of reality by European creditors -- that debt relief is a necessary (though not sufficient) condition for Greece to have any realistic chance of restoring durable economic and financial viability -- this recognition hasn't been turned into clear action. "Fundamentally, we need to be assured that the universe of measures that Europe –is willing to commit to is consistent with what we think is needed to produce debt relief," said the IMF official who described the negotiations Wednesday. "We do not yet have that."

As a result, the fund is unwilling to back with loans the compromise understanding on Greece reached this week. Meanwhile, it is unlikely that the G-7 will implement a much different policy stance once officials return to their national capitals. As a result, the crucial handoff from reassuring words to effective measures on the ground will once again fail to materialize.

Yet greater awareness is a critical ingredient of durable mindset adaptations and related course corrections, so there is hope that the advanced economies are getting closer to putting in action a much-needed comprehensive policy response. So if not this time, maybe next time. Still, time is not on their side.

A troubling aspect of structural impediments to growth is that the longer they remain unaddressed, the deeper they become embedded in the system. Today’s growth shortfalls become harder to reclaim even as tomorrow’s growth potential is undermined. That, in turn, erodes the potency of any given policy response.

These unsettling economic consequences are amplified by fluid political conditions. Anti-establishment movements are benefiting from the recent history of insufficient growth whose limited benefits have accrued to a small (and already well-off) segment of the population. As the system awaits policy actions, politics is likely to further erode support for established political parties and simultaneously reduce the potential for constructive bipartisan policy making. Meanwhile, the alternative -- a radical shift to the implementation of the more extreme policies advocated by anti-establishment movements -- is likely to be contained by the checks and balances in the system. Indeed, the experience of the Syriza party in Greece provides a vivid illustration of the constraining effect of these institutional guardrails.

Advanced economies should be congratulated for their willingness to incorporate a larger dose of structural and secular considerations into their economic deliberations. But every quarter they wait to enact credible and comprehensive measures adds to the difficulty of removing the impediments to inclusive growth and makes the political context even more complicated.


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Russia And Saudi Arabia Are Headed For A Showdown

Moscow and Riyadh have incompatible goals, from energy to extremism.


The National Interest
May 26, 2016

Today, the Middle East is one of three regions that will define world politics for years to come. While the other two—Europe with its EU problems, and East Asia with simmering Chinese ambitions—have an incremental and more protracted effect on international relations, the Middle East is an arena of violence, sophisticated diplomacy and an unceasing flow of events with global significance. However deliberately regional players and global powers prepare their moves here, an event at any given moment can completely change the strategic picture. One of the most momentous dynamics at the current moment is being created by the relationship between Russia and Saudi Arabia. The potential for a full-fledged confrontation between two countries has accumulated during the last three to five years, and such a showdown could significantly affect several spheres of international relations.

Current tensions between Moscow and Riyadh have two main dimensions. The Russian and Saudi positions differ, first, on the fundamentals of global energy relations, and second, on counterterrorism. Both dimensions have factors that obscure the full understanding of these differences.

OPEC has become a distracting factor in discussions on global energy. The overwhelming majority of analyses suggests that the clearest manifestation of the current differences between Russia and Saudi Arabia on how to manage global oil markets was the breakdown of April’s talks in Doha. According to this reasoning, Russia is eager to coordinate the freezing of oil production together with OPEC. However, Saudi Arabia is not interested, and OPEC cannot act because of the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran. In reality, the gap between Moscow and Riyadh’s approaches to the global oil market goes deeper than the paralyzed OPEC talks.

Thorough analysis of Russia’s energy policy, especially Moscow’s position on global energy security, provides a far more instructive perspective. Indeed, Russia is concerned with the smooth functioning of global energy markets, including oil markets, and security of supply as well as security of demand. In official Russian documents, one can find a developed approach to global energy security, which basically includes Russia’s interests in a framework of stable international energy relations. This approach does exclude an unilateral strategy aimed at harming the interests of other participants in global energy relations. The reason for this is simple: Russia does not humanely preach universal friendship and coexistence, but instead rationally emphasizes the common need for energy producers and consumers to develop cooperation, because aggressive moves without considering the interests of others may amount to throwing stones in the glass house of the global energy system.

At the same time, Saudi Arabia currently seems more concerned with improving its market position, while implementing the so-called Saudi Vision 2030, aimed at moving away from an “addiction to oil.”

In this regard, the barely alive OPEC is a place where the clash of visions between Russia and Saudi Arabia is unfolding. Russia’s national energy-security policy mixes elements of energy security of both energy consumers and producers, with a substantial additional potential for energy transit. Being dependent on world energy markets for its economic development, Moscow has spent the last decade promoting dialogue between energy producers and consumers, as well as between producers, aimed at improving the functionality of world energy markets. The Gas Exporting Countries Forum, a mostly Russian initiative, emerged during this decade as an example of a successful international energy organization that fundamentally differs from OPEC. While OPEC was created as a cartel, advancing exporters’ interests against those of importers, the GECF is a industry-specific organization aimed at improving the efficiency of global gas production through dialogue among professionals. It is very difficult to argue that such an improvement of efficiency is adverse to consumers’ interests.

Riyadh is choosing a different path. OPEC, for decades essentially an extension of the Saudi oil industry, has been hung out to dry, while Saudi Arabia continues to pump more oil in order to crush all its competitors. To quote Bloomberg Businessweek on the Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a son and confidant of the king, and demiurge of the current policy, “the likely future king of Saudi Arabia says he doesn’t care if oil prices rise or fall. If they go up, that means more money for nonoil investments, he says. If they go down, Saudi Arabia, as the world’s lowest-cost producer, can expand in the growing Asian market. The deputy crown prince is essentially disavowing decades of Saudi oil doctrine as the leader of OPEC”.

The Saudi bet is bold; however, it is crucial not to forget that the jury will be out on this policy for some time. King Salman and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman are free to make any decision they want, but it is hard not to consider some fundamentals of Saudi Vision 2030 to be risky. Questions abound: will the kingdom have enough money, even after the partial privatization of Aramco, to pay all its bills, which will increase dramatically with transition costs? Will fourteen years, until 2030, be sufficient to prepare the workforce for a new economy, supposedly free of oil addiction, and change the mindset of the Saudi population, including numerous members of the royal family? Will Saudi social, cultural and religious frameworks allow for these reforms? Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed likes to compare himself to Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. But none of them achieve their success in Saudi Arabia, where women are still not allowed to drive, not to mention other, significantly more complicated issues.

The role of Islam in Saudi Arabia is also important to understand the second dimension of Russian-Saudi differences. If OPEC’s troubles push the essential differences between Russian and Saudi energy policy into the background, the Syrian crisis provides the same kind of distraction in analyzing the gap between the antiterrorism approaches of Moscow and Riyadh. To state that Russia is protecting “its guy in Syria,” Bashar al-Assad, while Saudi Arabia is supporting the opposition’s struggle for freedom, would be a misleading simplification.

To start with the obvious: it is necessary to emphasize that among many groups fighting against the Assad regime, the Islamist ones are the most powerful, with Islamic State being the most notorious. However, while ISIS became the world’s enemy after initial successes in Iraq and Syria, due to its global claims and international deadly reach, other Islamist formations in Syria can compete with ISIS in terms of religious zeal and brutality. The question arises whether these groups will stop fighting if they win in Syria. Or is it just a matter of “competition” among terrorists—ISIS being the most feared now, while other competitors also dream of “outperforming” ISIS in Syria and elsewhere?

The next thing to consider while analyzing differences between Moscow and Riyadh’s antiterrorism approaches is the fact that Saudi support to jihadist groups in Syria has been an open secret for some time. Now it even seems as though Saudi Arabia and Turkey, according to some estimates, are trying to consolidate jihadist units in Syria in a united command structure under the name of Jaish al-Fatah (the Army of Conquest). Coincidentally, Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri has also called for this kind of consolidation.

Last but not least, another factor to consider in analyzing Russian and Saudi differences in fighting against terrorist groups is that the Wahhabi branch of Islam is dominant in Saudi Arabia, and that Wahhabi preachers have cooperated with terrorist groups in Russia—in the North Caucasus, and especially in Dagestan. These facts help to understand both why Moscow is concerned with what is going on in Syria, and why it feels uneasy about Saudi support for various radical groups.

Similarly to tackling global energy problems, Russia offers a wide international approach to dealing with jihadists in Syria and elsewhere. For example, it is urging the United States to launch joint strikes in Syria against Jabhat al-Nusra. So far Washington has refused to cooperate, despite the fact that Jabhat al-Nusra has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States since 2012, and American forces have been conducting their own strikes against the group. Saudi Arabia, supposedly an American partner and ally, designated Nusra as a terror group in 2014; however, Nusra, often called “Al Qaeda in Syria,” is a part of Jaish al-Fatah. Saudi relations with jihadist forces cause alarm for many international observers and contribute to growing Russian suspicion toward Saudi policies. It is clear that the two countries differ on what constitutes radical, dangerous Islamism.

With concerns growing in the world over both global energy security and radical Islam, the distinct approaches of Russia and Saudi Arabia on these issues will have a resonance that transcends bilateral relations. Although the two countries are still careful in avoiding outright confrontation and hostile rhetoric, their incompatible goals in energy markets and Middle Eastern politics are already obvious. The future will show how this competition influences international relations.


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US, Kurds To Clear Path Toward Raqqa, With Or Without Turkey

Because of Turkey's objections to Kurdish involvement, operational plans against the Islamic State keep changing.


Al-Monitor
May 26, 2016

More fronts are opening up against the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria. In Iraq, government forces conducting probes against Mosul, which has been under IS control for two years, are also working to liberate Fallujah, while in Syria a major operation is underway against the IS stronghold of Raqqa.

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) led by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and its women's brigade, the Women's Protection Units (YPJ), launched an operation north of Raqqa with US air support May 24, immediately after US Central Command (CENTCOM) Commander Gen. Joseph Votel's visit to Kobani, Syria, and Ankara. Two Syrian towns on the border with Turkey, Jarablus and al-Rai, are IS' only gates to the outside world and figure highly in the plans, as their loss would be a serious blow to IS. The United States, however, postponed YPG plans to liberate Jarablus because of Turkey's red line against the Kurds, focusing instead on Manbij. But when negotiations with Ankara over Manbij did not proceed in the desired manner, plans shifted to rural Raqqa.

In the Raqqa plan, which Kurdish sources who spoke to Al-Monitor call "the biggest operation of the past two years," coalition planes bombed IS targets south of Ain Issa. As SDF units on the ground conduct a three-pronged advance, about 250 US troops are giving them coordination support behind the front lines.

The objective for the time being is not to enter Raqqa's town center, but to clear the way. Ain Issa is 55 kilometers (34 miles) north of Raqqa.

YPJ Commander Rojda Felat said in a May 24 press briefing, "We are launching this move with the participation of SDF units to free Raqqa. We are supported also by Tahrir ar-Raqqa Brigade and international coalition warplanes. This action also aims to prevent any attacks against our people at Jazeera, Gire Spi and Kobani."

SDF Commander Abu Fayyad said: "Our goal is to save the regional population from the cruelty of IS gangs. With this move we will liberate [the area] north of Raqqa."

Knowing how IS treats women, having a woman announce an operation against the group was an interesting touch.

A source close to the negotiations between the Americans and the Kurds spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity about the operational planning.

"In the first phase they will go as far as 10 kilometers [6 miles] south of Ain Issa. This is the area from where [IS] launches attacks against Kobani, Tell Abyad and Hasakah. There is no intention to enter Raqqa during this phase. When the operation ends around Ain Issa, a second phase will be initiated toward Manbij and rural al-Bab. US will support these operations. But US reservations about operations at Azaz and Jarablus continue. Americans won’t get involved at Azaz and Jarablus fronts because they promised Turkey they will stay out. Americans want to refocus on Raqqa after the Manbij-al-Bab front."

Asked if Kurds would enter Jarablus without US support, or if the United States would stop them from doing so, a Kurdish source said: "The US will not interfere if Kurds mount an operation there. They say, 'You are on your own.'" As for a possible date for the Raqqa operation, the source said: "Americans want a victory at Raqqa and Mosul before their elections. Kurds want to open a corridor from Kobani to Afrin. Of course all this may change with new actors after the elections. That is why the Kurds want to make progress on their own plans before the elections."

Another reason for the Raqqa operation's delay is that the SDF's operational capacity still leaves much to be desired. It is not an option for the Kurdish YPG-YPJ to control Raqqa, because they will encounter local resistance. They also worry that scattering their forces in Arab regions could weaken the defensive lines of Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan). Therefore, Arab forces would have to get in shape to control the situation in the post-IS period.

In the northern front, the situation is still extremely complicated in areas adjacent to the Turkish border. Votel, who came to Ankara after meeting with SDF and YPG commanders at Kobani on May 23, met in Ankara with Gen. Yasar Guler, deputy chief of the Turkish general staff, and Foreign Ministry officials. According to a May 24 report in the daily Hurriyet, Votel was told Turkey will not contribute to a military operation against Raqqa.

The Turkish side did not give a straight answer when asked whether it would support such an operation if the PYD were kept out of it. Ankara repeated that it will not allow the YPG to take over the Azaz-Jarablus line.

But it is increasingly difficult for Ankara to maintain its position on blocking an operation against Jarablus. In his recent visit to Washington, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan submitted to US President Barack Obama a plan to rid the region of IS. That plan called for clearing al-Rai and Jarablus using armed groups supported by Turkey. On April 7, with an operation that involved 10 groups, including Ahrar al-Sham, al-Rai was liberated from IS. But all of those units, supported by artillery fire from Turkey, could hold al-Rai for only four days.

They abandoned their weapons and ran away. IS not only recovered the places it had lost, it also took over four new villages.

According to reports, after the loss of al-Rai, Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MIT) met with those 10 groups for two days in the Turkish border town of Kilis. Turkish officials expressed their dismay about the rout and demanded changes in the groups' commands. Sham Brigade and Nureddin Zengi Brigade changed their officials in charge of operations. Although there are rumors of a second operation against al-Rai, the fiasco partially weakened Turkey's hand.

It is important that Votel went to Kobani despite Turkey's potentially bitter reaction. It is curious, however, that Ankara — which made such a fuss when Obama's anti-IS envoy Brett McGurk went to Kobani and Jazeera on Jan. 30-31 — was surprisingly silent over Votel's contacts with the YPG.

Of course at this point there is no room for optimism that Ankara will erase its red lines vis-a-vis the Kurds. Instead, Turkey is now trying to put together an even more formidable force with Jabhat al-Nusra, which it is trying to steer away from al-Qaeda.


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