Monday, June 13, 2016

Oil Prices Fall As Economic Concerns Rise

By Henning Gloystein
Reuters
June 13, 2016

Oil prices fell on Monday, weighed down by Asia's darkening economic prospects and a related strengthening in the U.S. dollar, which makes fuel imports for countries using other currencies more expensive.

Yet, high Middle East tanker charting and strong car sales in China provided some support, traders said.

Brent crude oil futures fell back below $50 per barrel, trading at $49.89 at 0644 GMT, down 65 cents, or 1.29 percent, from their last settlement.

U.S. crude was down 64 cents, or over 1.3 percent, at $48.43 a barrel.

"A strong dollar is helping bring prices down as well as fairly weak data from Asia," said Matt Stanley of brokerage Freight Investor Services (FIS) in Dubai.

The dollar has recovered 1.2 percent from June lows against a basket of currencies, pushed by the prospect of a potential hike in U.S. interest rates and concerns over Asia's economy.

Japan's business survey index (BSI) of sentiment at large manufacturers stood at minus 11.1 in April-June, compared with minus 7.9 in January-March.

There are also worries about growth in China, largely due to industrial overcapacity and spiralling debt.

With Asia's economic outlook darkening, oil traders have sold out of long positions which have been profiting from an almost doubling in crude prices since hitting over decade lows earlier this year.

"The crude market currently looks to be facing a stiff test of resistance in the $45-$50 per barrel range. With the U.S. rig count rising again over the last two weeks, this level may cap the crude rally for the moment," said consultancy Timera Energy.

Despite this, some analysts expect oil demand in Asia and especially China to remain strong.

Vehicle sales in China rose 9.8 percent to 2.1 million units in May compared with last year, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said on Monday, in the strongest monthly growth since December 2015.

In the first five months of 2016, sales grew 7.0 percent compared with the previous year.

"Against the backdrop of low international oil prices, Chinese crude oil demand will remain well supported this year as demand continues to gain traction from stockpiling activities and refining use," energy consultancy FGE said.

"We expect Chinese crude oil imports to grow by 730,000-760,00 bpd this year," it added.

Shipping data supported the view that crude demand remained strong.

"Middle East charting activity remains robust," said Morgan Stanley.

"During the last four weeks, chartering activity in the region has averaged 9.4 million barrels per day (bpd), nearly the same levels as the prior four weeks," it added.


Article Link to Reuters:

Monday, June 13, Morning Global Market Roundup

European shares extend slide, led lower by oil shares


Reuters
June 13, 2016

A top European share index fell to its lowest level in over a month on Monday, tracking losses in Asian and U.S. stocks, as a retreat in the energy sector led markets lower.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index fell 1.2 percent to 1,293.51 points, its lowest level since May 6, extending a 2.3 percent drop in the previous session.

European shares tracked Asia lower, following a risk-off pattern in global markets as investors grew cautious ahead of central bank meetings this week and a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union next week.

One poll out after the market closed on Friday gave the "out" campaign a 10 point lead, though two subsequent polls over the weekend painted a mixed picture over which side was ahead in the EU referendum debate.

Oil and gas shares were among top fallers, down 1.9 percent after Brent crude futures dipped back 
below $50 a barrel, weighed down by Asia's darkening economic prospects. 


Nikkei stumbles to 5-week low as Brexit woes sap risk appetite


Reuters
June 13, 2016

Japanese stocks stumbled to a five-week low on Monday, marking a third straight day of losses, as Brexit woes sapped risk appetite and hit equities globally.

Continuing strength in the safe-haven yen, which advanced to a six-week high versus the dollar and scaled a three-year peak against the euro, put further pressure on Tokyo equities.

The benchmark Nikkei share average lost 3.5 percent to 16,019.18 points, its lowest since May 6. The Nikkei was dragged down by declines in index heavyweights like casual clothing retailer Fast Retailing Co Ltd and factory automation robot maker Fanuc Corp.

The broader Topix fell 3.5 percent and the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 shed 3.4 percent.

6 Events That Could Make Soros A Winner

By Mohamed A. El-Erian
The Bloomberg View
June 13, 2016

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that yet another respected longtime investor was trying to call time on financial markets that are getting stranger by the day. George Soros started trading again, positioning himself for what he expects to be a significant decline in risk markets that he views as highly overvalued.

For his bets to be profitable, however, timing will matter a great deal. And that has been particularly difficult to get right in markets that are so heavily influenced by the words and actions of central banks.

There was further confirmation last week that the improbable and unthinkable can easily become reality in financial markets these days. Interest rates continued to fall around the world, as Germany's 10-year bond closed just millimeters from negative rates and the average rate on the stock of government debt went below zero for the first time. In Japan, the nominal rate on the 15-year government bond joined its 10-year counterpart in negative territory.

The cascading decline in yields amplified the recent relentless flattening of yield curves -- often a sign of an impending recession, according to historical experiences (though in previous cases, without the degree of central bank involvement that has characterized this period). Still, despite selloffs on Friday, some equity markets, including those in the U.S., flirted with all-time highs and oil had a relatively solid week.

These anomalies -- and many before them -- have fueled fears of trouble ahead. But past warnings have tended to fall on deaf ears, and understandably so. A winning strategy in recent years has been to bet on the ability and willingness of central banks to repeatedly intervene to repress financial volatility and boost asset prices -- often at levels that are well beyond what is warranted by economic and corporate fundamentals.

Most agree that there is a limit to how far central banks can decouple asset prices from fundamentals. There also is broad agreement that, without some improvement in the political system’s ability to enact comprehensive policies that ease the over-reliance on central banks for growth, it will be hard to validate existing asset prices and push them higher in a sustainable fashion.

But this state of affairs isn't sufficient to ensure that bets against the current valuations of stock markets around the world will be highly profitable. Timing matters -- particularly when it comes to pinpointing events that could be catalysts for a correction.

So, starting from the premise that either a policy dislocation or a market accident could have this transformative role, here are six major events to assess and monitor in the weeks ahead:

1. A vote in favor of the U.K. leaving the European Union in the June 23 referendum could have a disruptive impact on markets, especially if that outcome is not followed quickly by credible institutional alternative, such as a free trade-association agreement, that would maintain access to European markets.

2. A major slip by China as it tries to implement financial policies aimed at balancing liquidity support for the economy with the orderly management of a credit boom, soaring internal corporate indebtedness and excesses in the equity markets.

3. Indications that the isolationist tone of the U.S. presidential primaries is more than just rhetoric and posturing, but signals a decisive change in decades of U.S. leadership for economic and financial globalization.

4. Large exchange rate moves that, by reflecting wider divergences in the world’s multi speed economic and policy conditions, spread volatility to financial markets as a whole.

5. A renewed scare about the European banks that have lagged in raising capital and strengthening internal operating approaches and have yet to put behind them the legacy of a period of excessive risk-taking.

6. Greater risk aversion among market participants who -- acting on their confidence that central banks are prepared to continuously step in to ensure stability -- now have taken on significant mismatches of maturities, assets to liabilities, benchmarks or currencies in their search for higher returns. And this is occurring in markets that have tended to experience periodic bouts of relative illiquidity.


Article Link to The Bloomberg View:

Two Wins For Gun Control Buck The U.S. Legal Trend

By Noah Feldman
The Bloomberg View
June 13, 2016

Gun-rights advocates have been on a roll, as lower courts building on Supreme Court jurisprudence have subjected gun control laws to heightened scrutiny.

But last week, the trend stalled. One appeals court upheld laws against carrying concealed guns in two California counties. Another stayed the judgment of a lower court that had struck down Washington, D.C.’s concealed-carry restrictions, signaling it would probably reach a different result. The changed momentum suggests that localities may not lose the ability to regulate concealed handguns – at least for now.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit validated concealed-carry bans in San Diego and Yolo counties. Like many such laws, they require an applicant to show “good cause” to the county sheriff to get permission to carry a concealed handgun.

In an opinion by Judge Willie Fletcher, a Bill Clinton appointee, the court rejected the idea that the Second Amendment includes a right to carry a concealed gun. It dodged the question whether the Constitution bestows the right to carry guns openly, a matter the Supreme Court left unresolved in 2008 when it made individual gun ownership a constitutional right.

The Ninth Circuit did follow the Supreme Court’s approach by looking at history. It pointed out that five state constitutions gave local authorities the right to ban concealed weapons in the years after 1868, when the ratification of the 14th Amendment had redefined the relationship of the federal and state governments. It added that six more states allowed counties and municipalities to regulate firearms more generally.

The court cited an 1897 Supreme Court decision in which the court said that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms is not infringed by laws prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons.”

For good measure, the court explained that Parliament prohibited concealed weapons in England as early as 1541. The English Bill of rights of 1688-89 guaranteed Protestants a right to bear arms that were “allowed by law,” which concealed weapons were not. That makes it hard to say that the Framers’ generation thought that a right to carry concealed weapons was one of the traditional rights of Englishmen.

What’s striking about the opinion is how it managed to avoid the doctrinal framework that the Supreme Court created in its 2008 gun-rights opinion, D.C. v. Heller, and extended in a 2010 decision, McDonald v. City of Chicago.

By defining the question in terms of whether there was a historic right to carry concealed weapons, the court avoided asking what level of scrutiny it must apply to a gun control ordinance. No right, no scrutiny.

Instead, the court could have asked first whether there is a right to own handguns (yes); second, whether there's a right to carry them in public for self-defense (maybe); and only then ask if the guns may be concealed.

That’s more or less what the D.C. district court did in May when it struck down the city's concealed-carry ban. By doing so, the court made it easy to invalidate the law because it couldn't overcome the extremely high barriers required to limit constitutional rights.

The dissenters in the Ninth Circuit tried to say that because California bans openly carrying guns, a ban on concealed-carry amounts to a ban on handguns outside the home – which they thought violates the Second Amendment. The majority replied that it wasn’t considering the open-carry right. That’s not a terribly convincing answer – unless the court expects to strike down open-carry restrictions in the future.

Meanwhile, the same day, a panel of the D.C. Circuit issued a brief order halting enforcement of the ruling against the D.C. concealed-carry ban. The order doesn’t necessarily mean the court will reverse the lower court decision. But it’s a strong signal from a panel with a majority of judges appointed by President Barack Obama.

This matters not only if you don’t want to get shot in D.C., but also for potential Supreme Court review. No court of appeals has yet struck down a concealed-carry ban. So now there's a conflict for the Supreme Court to resolve between rulings in different circuits.

Ordinarily that would worry gun-rights advocates, who, like activists for many other rights have made greater progress in the courts than in legislatures. But at the moment, delay may actually serve their long-term interests.

For them, everything depends on the composition of the Supreme Court. Without the late Justice Antonin Scalia, the leading judicial champion of gun rights, the advocates don’t have a majority. If Hillary Clinton becomes president, they might not have a majority for a long time.

Under these circumstances, it would be wiser for gun-rights advocates not tempt the court with more extreme lower court rulings that would probably be repudiated. Their best bet is to hunker down and hope the court doesn’t overturn the Heller and McDonald cases. Eventually they could try to build on those cases again in the future.

If Donald Trump wins, all bets are off. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer will try to hold on, but the court could have a conservative majority for another generation. In that case, the gun-rights advocates will keep pushing – and eventually, they will get the court to hear their case.


Article Link to The Bloomberg View:

Time To Start Worrying About Taiwan

After years of stability, U.S. policymakers must prepare for a crisis.


The National Interest
June 13, 2016

As newly elected President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan wraps up her first month in office, the United States should expect substantial changes to Taiwan’s relationship with the People’s Republic of China that may complicate relations between the two sides and the United States. While President Tsai does not have carte blanche to drastically revise the status quo, the magnitude of her and her party’s victory affords her significant political capital and freedom of action. Worrisomely, President Tsai and her colleagues appear to be taking advantage of that capital to revise cross-Strait relations. After years on the backburner, Taiwan has returned to the forefront of the U.S. policymaking agenda.

In January 2016, Taiwanese voters elected Tsai to be the Republic of China’s first female president, while handing a legislative majority to her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in a sweeping victory against the incumbent Kuomintang (KMT). Unlike the KMT, which favors closer relations with mainland China, the DPP rejects the 1992 Consensus that established the “One China Principle” and officially calls for independence in its party charter. (The principle broadly states that mainland China and Taiwan belong to the same China and that both sides interpret the meaning of China according to their own definitions.)

The ROC’s foreign policy depends on the extent to which President Tsai can tame the most radical elements of her party and enlist the Legislative Yuan, the ROC’s legislative body, to support her agenda. The DPP’s ideology emphasizes Taiwanese nationalism and the notion of a Taiwan that is politically and culturally distinct from mainland China. It also advocates social liberalism and is commonly associated with small- to medium-sized companies and organized labor. While the DPP wishes for greater independence from mainland China, the party is divided on the nature of that independence. One faction argues for the status quo, which entails de facto separation from mainland China; the other side points to Hong Kong as evidence of the dangers of “one country, two systems” and supports de jure independence. They believe the ROC would weather the diplomatic, economic and military fallout of official independence (especially if they believe the United States would support or at least grudgingly accept such a move). To reassure Beijing and the international community against this possibility, President Tsai has repeatedly expressed her support for consistent, predictable, and sustainable cross-Strait relations based on “existing realities and political foundations.”

Despite the wishes of more radical elements in the DPP, President Tsai does not want a major disruption to the status quo. She hopes to conduct her administration in a way that maximizes the longevity of DPP control of the government. Voters opted for a change in government largely because of domestic and particularly economic issues, rather than as a referendum on the KMT’s foreign policy. Tsai does not wish to repeat the mistakes of the DPP’s previous experience in power, when Chen Shui-bian was elected as president in 2000. Chen’s administration, which also suffered a series of corruption scandals, advanced policies that were provocative towards the mainland and alienated Taiwan internationally. These policies included a referendum on whether Taiwan should rejoin the United Nations as well as changes to historical textbooks to separate Taiwanese and Chinese history. President Tsai believes these policies were counterproductive to Taiwan’s national interests and resulted in the DPP’s crushing defeat to the KMT in the 2008 elections.

Even though President Tsai espouses a more moderate approach to cross-Strait relations than her DPP predecessor, her policies and especially the actions of her party threaten cross-Strait relations. For example, after her swearing in last month, President Tsai established a mechanism to resolve maritime disputes with Japan. ROC Premier Lin Chuan also dropped charges against anti-Beijing protesters and described his newly appointed representative to the United States as an “ambassador,” suggesting that Taiwan is a sovereign country with all the attendant diplomatic privileges. While not constituting a regime shift in government policy, moves such as these undermine Beijing’s confidence in its ability to work with the newly elected government. Both sides enjoyed closer relations during the previous KMT administration of President Ma Ying-jeou from 2008 to 2016, and the PRC will do what it can to precipitate a return to KMT rule. There is some indication that Beijing will aggressively pressure the new president and explore how far it can go in imposing its own terms on the relationship. It has already begun to limit cross-Strait travel and renewed diplomatic relations with Gambia, ending a tacit truce against further diminishing the ROC’s small list of diplomatic partners.

Much depends on the ability of the United States to navigate its declared nonsupport for the ROC’s independence and its statutory security commitments to Taipei. The United States benefited from improved cross-Strait relations under the previous KMT administration. Improved relations freed scarce resources, such as the time and attention of national security decisionmakers, and permitted the Obama administration to improve bilateral relations between the United States and ROC. The United States has an abiding interest in peace and stability between Beijing and Taipei. A return to the hostile noncontact that characterized relations from 2000 to 2008 threatens the peaceful management of other regional issues, such as North Korea or territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas. For the first time in nearly a decade, U.S. policymakers must consider the possibility of armed confrontation between the PRC and ROC, or even China and the United States, over the fate of Taiwan.


Article Link to The National Interest:

GOP Homophobes Suddenly Find A Use For Gays

After years of supporting some of the most discriminatory and hateful legislation aimed at the LGBT community, some top Republicans finally found a way to exploit the community as it grieved the Orlando shootings.


By Betsy Woodruff
The Daily Beast
June 13, 2016

Anti-gay politicians change their tones right quick when they can use LGBT rights to tout their version of the War on Terror.

Some of the politicians most opposed to gay civil rights found the attacks on the Pulse nightclub the perfect opportunity to trot out their favorite talking points—even when those causes had literally nothing to do with the the attacks that left at least 50 people dead.

Ted Cruz, for instance, issued a lengthy statement connecting the attacks to, um, Iran.

“For all the Democrats who are loud champions of the gay and lesbian community whenever there is a culture battle waging, now is the opportunity to speak out against an ideology that calls for the murder of gays and lesbians,” he preached. “ISIS and the theocracy in Iran (supported with American taxpayer dollars) regularly murder homosexuals, throwing them from buildings and burying them under rocks. This is wrong, it is evil, and we must all stand against it.”

The alleged shooter, Omar Mateen, was known to the FBI and called 911 during the attacks to swear his allegiance to ISIS. But there’s no evidence that he coordinated with Islamic State fighters in the Middle East, or even that he communicated with them before the attack. And there’s absolutely nothing to indicate that Iran’s government was even remotely involved in the attacks.

Moreover, Cruz was a staunch and univocal opponent of gay rights over the course of his unsuccessful presidential campaign. When the Supreme Court ruled that gay couples have the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples, Cruz wrote in a National Review op-ed that the ruling undermined “the very foundations of our representative form of government.”

On the campaign trail, he emphasized that he introduced a Constitutional amendment that would let individual states ban same-sex marriages if they chose.

Cruz also demagogued the trans bathroom issue in the final days of his campaign, in a last-ditch effort to suggest Donald Trump was okay with child molestation.

“SHOULD A GROWN MAN PRETENDING TO BE A WOMAN BE ALLOWED TO USE THE WOMEN’S RESTROOM?” onscreen text of an anti-Trump video his campaign released read, “THE SAME RESTROOM USED BY YOUR DAUGHTER? DONALD TRUMP THINKS SO. IT’S NOT APPROPRIATE. IT’S NOT SAFE.”

On the trail, Cruz surrounded himself with some of the most vitriolic opponents of gay rights in the public sphere.

He touted the endorsement of Mike Bickle, a pastor from Missouri who once said legal same-sex marriage was “a unique signal of the end times” and would result in young children learning in sex-ed that pedophilia is good.

Cruz also appeared at a rally organized by a pastor who has called for executing gay people—and made that exact case at the event where Cruz showed up. That pastor, Kevin Swanson, said at the event that if one of his children married a person of the same gender, he would protest the wedding in “sackcloth and ashes at the entrance to the church and I’d sit in cow manure and I’d spread it all over my body. That is what I would do and I’m not kidding, I’m not laughing.”

Rick Scott, Florida’s governor, was also front-and-center in the response to the mass killing. During the 2014 gubernatorial contest, Scott defended Florida’s state constitutional amendment banning same-sex unions.

“I don’t believe in discrimination. I believe in traditional marriage,” he said awkwardly during a debate with then-competitor Charlie Crist.

He had another awkward moment on CNN a few hours after the shooting when Jake Tapper asked him if he was taking any special steps to protect other LGBT people throughout the state celebrating Pride festivities.

“We don’t want anybody in our state to ever be targeted,” he said, not acknowledging the fact that the shooter specifically targeted LGBT people. “We don’t want anybody to be discriminated against. And so in every case, when we believe there is somebody doing the wrong thing, we work hard to make sure we take care of them.”

And Paul Ryan, the Republican Speaker of the House, also issued a statement mourning the victims—that didn’t mention whatsoever the fact that the attack happened at a gay nightclub and targeted LGBT people.

“As we heal, we need to be clear-eyed about who did this,” he said. “We are a nation at war with Islamist terrorists. Theirs is a repressive, hateful ideology that respects no borders. It is a threat to our people at home and abroad.”

Earlier this month, Ryan and the rest of House Republican leadership made a change to the chamber’s rules that was reportedly designed, in part, to to keep Democrats from introducing last-minute pro-LGBT amendments to legislation. That came shortly after Republican leaders used a tactic one Republican congressman described as “bullshit” to block an amendment to a defense spending bill designed to protect LGBT people from workplace discrimination.

And, of course, Donald Trump ripped the president for not using the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” in his remarks a few hours after the shooting. But in the same statement where Trump levelled that criticism, he neglected to mention that the attack happened at a gay club and targeted LGBT people.

Trump and his allies will talk about radical Islamic terror all day every day—but a “gay nightclub”? Not so much.


Article Link to The Daily Beast:

The Year Donald Trump Broke American Politics

Donald Trump glided into politics nearly one year ago—and since then it’s never been the same.


By Olivia Nuzzi
The Daily Beast
June 13, 2016

“That is some group of people—thousands!”

That was how Donald Trump began his first speech as a presidential candidate, on June 16, 2015, after riding down the escalator in the lobby of Trump Tower, to the tune of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In the Free World.”

Two days before, he’d turned sixty-nine years old.

He was, then, a reality television star who’d been a celebrity since the 1970s, when he’d started in the real estate business, following in the footsteps of his developer father.

He was, also, a bit of a joke—he’d publicly toyed with running for the office since 2000, to the extent that no one believed him any longer when he said he might. When I’d asked him, that December 2014, if he was planning on running, it was just to be polite. By that point, having spent the previous three years campaigning to prove President Obama was not an American, he was already a caricature.

According to those who know him, he wanted to run just to prove he could; he wanted to poll respectably, be taken seriously. Then, he wanted to go back to NBC’s The Apprentice, the popular program he’d hosted for twelve years.

It didn’t work out that way, of course.

“It’s great to be at Trump Tower,” Trump said then. “It’s great to be in New York. And it’s an honor to have everybody here—this is beyond anybody’s expectations.”

Little did we know.

Twelve months later, Trump looks like he’s aged in dog years.

His hair is no longer a shade of luminous gold, but a pale yellow. His skin has lost its vibrancy and elasticity, turning his face into a deflated balloon. His eyes are tired and puffy, like he has a sinus infection. He’s thinner now, but still fat. His suits hang from his bulky frame, making him look like an injured football player on his way to the junior prom.

He’s now the de facto Republican nominee. The leader of one of the country’s two major political parties. Trump—a birther, a truther, a tabloid fixture and celebrity who once shaved Vince McMahon’s head and sparred with Rosie O’Donnell—is the face of the same conservative movement that claims as its own such refined entities as the Bush family, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Mitch McConnell.

On Sunday, as those politicians offered their thoughts and prayers in the aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, which left at least 50 dead at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Trump used the tragedy to congratulate himself on his prescience. “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism,” he Tweeted, “I don’t want congrats. I want toughness and vigilance. We must be smart!”

He then called on President Obama to resign, and Hillary Clinton to drop out of the race for the presidency.

Everyone has a theory for how this happened.

The country is angry, a popular one goes, and voting Trump is like saying fuck you to the ruling elites. And that’s true enough. The ruling conservative elites, at least—Speaker Paul Ryan, who endorsed Trump, for instance—are now stuck with a spokesman who openly derides women and nonwhites.

They’re stuck with him during the election that they had planned to use to evolve the Republican brand. In the aftermath of Romney’s crushing 2012 defeat, remember, the Republican National Committee had cautioned that unless they broadened the tent to appeal to new (i.e. non-white) constituencies, they would continue to lose, would fade further into irrelevance.

But irrelevance, it turned out, is not quite the result of evolving in reverse.

On that day, a year ago, Trump stood before a blue curtain and eight American flags. He wore a blue suit, with an American flag pin on the left lapel. His tie was shiny and red.

TRUMP MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! his lectern read.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “I am officially running for president of the United States and we are going to make our country great again…I will be the greatest jobs president that god ever created.”

It was funny then, to a certain class of people who observe this kind of shit for a living, or who revel in the sport of politics.

It was the first time we’d heard refrains like, “I beat China all the time, all the time.” Or, “I have so many websites. I have them all over the place. I hire people, they do a website, it costs me three dollars.”

It was funny, even, to some of the people who support Trump. At his rallies, they laugh. This is a joke they’re in on together.

Very much not in on the joke is the entire industry of experts and pundits and analysts and commentators who laughed so hard and for so long that it drowned out the Republicans who wondered how they could stop him.

In the end, of course, they didn’t.

A lot can happen in a year. Life can end, or begin; love can be lost, or found; the democratic process as we know it can be fundamentally changed; the Republican Party damaged beyond all recognition.

But in some ways, it’s hard to grasp that we’ve only lived this way for a few hundred days. It’s hard to recall a time without the constant stream of insults and scandals and protests and Tweets—so, so many Tweets.

Perhaps it’s because in a single year, Trump created a lifetime’s worth of news.

He said undocumented Mexican immigrants are “rapists”; said McCain is “not a war hero”; suggested Megyn Kelly asked him tough questions because she was menstruating; mocked a reporter for having a physical disability; lied about Muslims cheering in the streets of Jersey City on September 11, 2001; christened his every opponent with a degrading nickname; hated lobbyists but hired them; blamed George W. Bush for 9/11.

He claimed he would save the country $300 billion a year on prescription drugs, which would not be possible; claimed he would both raise and lower taxes for the wealthy; claimed, wrongly, that we are the highest-taxed country in the world. He offered to pay the legal fees of his supporters who violently attack his protesters; lied about donating $6 million to veterans; converted his enemies into supporters.

I could go on and on.

As a feature of most of his speeches—particular on nights where he wins a contest, though they’re all his to win now—he looks back and he marvels at all he’s accomplished.

Who could’ve imagined, he says, that he would end up here?


Article Link to The Daily Beast:

We're All On ISIS's Kill List -- Time To Take Off The Gloves

We’re all on ISIS’s kill list—what are we willing to do about it?


The City Journal
June 13, 2016

Fifteen years after 9/11, Islamic terror is losing its power to shock. Fourteen dead in San Bernardino at a community center. Fifty dead in Orlando at a nightclub. A 19-year-old shot dead at a traffic light in West Orange, New Jersey. Marines and sailors killed at a recruiting station in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Boston Marathon. What’s next? A better question: what isn’t next?

The numbness is taking hold. What once seemed as impossible and distant as a walk on the moon is taking on the air of inevitability: You and I—any of us, all of us—will wake up one day to find that it is our son, our daughter, our parents, or our neighbors who were blown away at a nightclub in the small hours, at a shopping mall at noon, on a bus in the center of town, in a stadium parking lot, or in their beds as they slept.

They are coming. ISIS publishes “kill lists” of Americans. We are all on it, every one of us.

No one yet knows whether the Orlando monster, Omar Mateen, was connected in a formal way to ISIS, al-Qaida, or any of the agents of global jihad. He may have been acting on his own. One thing’s for sure—he didn’t pull the idea of blowing away homosexuals out of his hat. Yet Mateen’s father told NBC that his son’s murder of 50 Americans at a gay nightclub had “nothing to do with religion.” It strains credulity. Most world religions have at one time or another expressed intolerance of homosexuality. Only one that I am aware of is currently putting people to death for the “crime” of being gay—and not just in ISIS-controlled areas.

You don’t have to be Bernard Lewis to know that Omar Mateen was motivated by his Islamic faith to kill gay Americans. It would be nice if we could speak openly about this. It would be even better if our major media outlets wouldn’t twist themselves into politically correct pretzels trying to avoid “speculation” about a motive. Sometimes a jihad is just a jihad.

According to reports, Mateen was a “known quantity” to the FBI. Did they do everything they could to stop him? One hopes. Further, one hopes that they weren’t hindered in their efforts by the anti-Islamophobia brigade that see bias and bigotry in seemingly every attempt to protect Americans from terror. The ACLU claims that surveillance programs like the NYPD’s now-disbanded Demographics Unit are “based on a false and unconstitutional premise: that Muslim religious belief and practices are a basis for law enforcement scrutiny.” The average citizen can be forgiven for thinking that the ACLU would be willing to sacrifice a couple dozen gay night clubbers if it meant neutering law enforcement’s ability to get inside the mosques and coffee bars where American Muslims congregate.

I have a different idea. I think it’s well past time that we took off the gloves. Let the FBI surveil the mosques. Let the NYPD surveil the mosques. Let these agencies do what needs to be done without fear of offending the ACLU, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or the self-loathing secular liberals whose first thought when they hear about attacks like this is, “Oh, no. This will help Trump.”


Article Link to the City Journal:

Trump Is Looking For A Way Out

By Carl M. Cannon
Real Clear Politics
June 13, 2016

Long before Donald Trump made his first foray into Las Vegas real estate, I had an unsettling experience gambling in a downtown Vegas casino. The cards were falling my way until late at night, when I began making subtle mistakes. My stack of poker chips, once piled high, dwindled. Ahead a few thousand dollars at one point, I cashed out with little more than my original stake.

I slept fitfully, and in the morning called my father, who grew up in Nevada and is also a gambler, to relate the previous night’s turn of events. He asked me a single question.

“Were you tired?”

“Yes,” I said. “I got up very early in the morning, traveled here, and played cards until after midnight.”

“That explains it,” he said. “You lost because you wanted to lose.”

“No,” I said. “I hated losing.”

“Of course you did, but your body needed sleep,” he said. “Your body knew that the only way it could get you to quit playing and go to bed is if you lost your money. You’re lucky you didn’t lose everything.”

That was how I learned how powerful our subconscious desires can be. All these years later, the episode puts me in mind of Donald Trump. I’ve only met the man once, and if one of my friends wrote this column, I’d tease him about going all Gail Sheehy -- I don’t usually cotton to journalists who psychoanalyze their subjects. But I believe that Donald Trump, the man who famously disparages “losers,” knows deep down he isn’t equipped to be president.

Let’s call this more reflective subconscious entity “Don Trump.”

Donald Trump loves winning and hates losing, while Don Trump knows that running a smart campaign and beating Hillary Clinton means he’d inherit a job he has neither the qualifications nor the temperament to perform successfully. Don Trump wants to lose. He wants this campaign to be over so Donald Trump can go back to doing what he’s good at: promoting his personal brand and counting his money.

To me, that’s the best explanation for the loony “Mexican” judge comments and other unforced errors Trump has made since clinching the Republican presidential nomination. A man who wanted to win this election wouldn’t make these mistakes.

Let’s start with Susana Martinez. As governor of New Mexico, she’s the chief executive in the state with the highest percentage of Latinos in the country, a border state where Trump’s famous “wall” would be built, and a bellwether that Republicans would like to carry in November. She’s the GOP’s most prominent a female Hispanic, two demographic groups Trump has trouble with. So does he woo Martinez and praise her? No. Because she skips his rally in Albuquerque, he throws a tantrum, gratuitously lashing out at her in her own capital.

“We have got to get your governor to get going,” he told the crowd at his event. “She’s got to do a better job. Okay? She’s not doing the job. Hey! Maybe I’ll run for governor of New Mexico. I’ll get this place going.”

This is Don Trump talking. A candidate trying to win wouldn’t have drawn attention to the fact that the governor was skipping his rally, let alone publicly disparage her. A candidate who wanted to win wouldn’t have mentioned her at all. If he did, it would have come out something like this: “Your governor is doing a great job! She endorsed somebody else in the primary, but we’ll get her on our side because she proves that an independent-minded Republican can carry New Mexico—and we’ll do it together in November!”

Trump was also dismissive of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, another rising GOP star—and the country’s most prominent Asian-American Republican elected official. When Bret Baier of Fox News asked Donald Trump about a published report that she was under consideration as a possible running mate, Don Trump cut Baier off in mid-sentence. “No, not Nikki Haley,” he said. “No, Nikki Haley, no, she wasn’t under consideration.”

Don Trump struck again when The Washington Post investigated whether the candidate had made good on his pledge to make a $1 million contribution to a wounded military veterans’ organization. A billionaire trying to win this election would have donated the dough before it became an issue. Not Don Trump. He sent a check only after the newspaper had the goods on him—and after calling the Post reporter “a nasty guy.”

Which brings us to Don Trump’s most transparent sabotaging of Donald Trump’s campaign to date. This is his infamous slander of the San Diego-based federal “Mexican” judge handling the lawsuit by disgruntled former Trump University students. A man with Trump’s resources who actually desired the presidency would have settled this case before it made news. He could afford to refund the tuition of every former student who complained.

Or, if the lawsuit was too far down the tracks, Trump could have responded to press inquiries by simply saying, “The litigation is proceeding apace and I shouldn’t try the case in the media. The case is being heard by a liberal judge appointed by Obama, but I’m confident we’ll prevail on the merits.”

But see, saying that would have been a missed opportunity for Don Trump to undermine the campaign. And Don Trump rarely misses such an opportunity. So instead, he began jabbering about a second-generation Mexican-American judge who is treating him “very unfairly” by issuing “horrible rulings” because he’s “very strongly pro-Mexican.”

Even as he was saying that no Mexican-American jurist proud of that ethnic heritage could be fair to him in court given the things he’s said in this campaign, Trump insisted that Hispanic voters will flock to him. This was Don Trump’s finest hour of the campaign. It made chumps of the Republican officials who’d reluctantly endorsed Trump while simultaneously making the GOP nominee himself sound incoherent.

I will confess that there is another likely possibility.

Perhaps “Don” Trump doesn’t really exist, and Trump is The Donald all the way down to his subconscious. In that case, the explanation is that Trump simply cannot help himself: He’s so narcissistic and needy and thin-skinned that he must lash out at those he perceives are against him—while thinking he can be president anyway.

I like Don Trump better than that guy. I’m even betting on him.


Article Link to Real Clear Politics:

How Can We Fight Homegrown Terror?

After the Orlando attacks, the importance of domestic defenses is clearer than ever.


By Zalmay Khalilzad
The National Interest
June 13, 2016

The Orlando shooting is unique only in the death toll it inflicted on American soil. Since the founding of the Islamic State in 2014, ISIS leaders have encouraged their followers to wage “lone wolf” attacks against targets in the United States–both civilian and military. ISIS-inspired self-starters followed suit with attacks in Chattanooga, Garland and San Bernardino. Well before today's killing, ISIS violence on the scale of the Orlando attack had become an all-too familiar scene in Europe and across the greater Middle East, where other Muslims bear the greatest brunt of this extremism.

The threat of Islamist terrorism will continue as long as the crisis of Islamic civilization remains unresolved. Globalization, refugee flows, and the spread of technology provide extremists with opportunities to spread their message and recruit supporters around the world. Alternatively, self-radicalized individuals may reach out to external groups such as ISIS for guidance and sense of belonging to an important and large group. The Orlando attack, insofar as it was homegrown yet influenced by terrorists abroad, may prove to be a harbinger of future attacks.

How should the United States confront this threat?

Internationally, the Orlando attacks call for intensified offensive to roll back ISIS and other terrorist groups mobilizing against the United States. Washington is paying the price of its hasty withdrawal from Iraq and flawed policies in Syria, which fueled the rise of ISIS. The ability of ISIS to seize the vacuum and establish a de facto state has served as an inspiration for jihadists around the world.

Specifically, we need increased military cooperation among like-minded nations to:

· Reduce ungoverned spaces that breed terrorist sanctuaries.

· Create conditions that can facilitate balanced and durable settlements in the civil wars that are fueling Islamic extremism.

· Support moderate and secular forces who can prevail and govern in the Islamic world over the long-term.

· Isolate and confront the states and non-state entities that support, provide sanctuary for terrorists and extremists and use them as instrument of policy.

This is a generational effort, and will need to be pursued with prudence. State-building programs are necessary to help friendly forces take control of ungoverned areas. At the same time, large-scale, protracted military engagements in the Muslim world could backfire. The United States is the only power that can engage diplomatically with all sides and prevent any one power from becoming a regional hegemon until a sustainable balance of power is achieved in the Middle East region. We must take these steps without becoming ensnared in the Sunni-Shia sectarian struggle.

As we navigate the foreign policy challenge, we need to harden ourselves against the terror threat by reviewing our defenses at home. The main challenge is how to incentive the Muslim community to police their communities and cooperate to a greater extent with law enforcement. Whatever the investigation reveals about Omar Mateen, the hard reality is that self-radicalization or the radicalism propagated by ISIS-type terrorists is resonating with a small but signIficant part of the Muslim community in the West including the United States.

The United States, particularly compared to its European counterparts, stands as a success story in the way it has integrated Muslim immigrants. While it is true that some Muslims are embracing extremism as they cope with the challenges of modernity, there is little question that the United States benefits, on balance, from the talents of Muslim immigrants who contribute to the American project. My own life experience is an example, but there are millions of others.

The question is how Muslim communities can do a better job of recognizing suspicious activities and identifying those who may be susceptible to jihadist influences. Secular and tolerant leaders in Muslim communities ultimately hold the key to marginalizing and defeating the extremists seeking to infiltrate Muslim communities in the United States.

In engaging Muslim communities, a salient dilemma is how to deal with Americans who are suspected of having ties with extremist and terrorist groups abroad or who are self-radicalizing. Are our policies, programs and capabilities equipped to monitor these activities? Are we doing enough, within the confines of the law, to act preventively or preemptively before “lone wolves” carry out attacks?

The challenge of Islamic terrorism defies any quick, short-term solutions. A comprehensive strategy is needed to address the root causes of the threat, which ultimately emanate abroad. But the Orlando attacks underscore that our domestic defenses are just as vital to preserve our freedoms.


Article Link to the National Interest:

The Political Tension Over LGBT Angle To Orlando Massacre

By Nahal Toosi
Politico
June 13, 2016

As lawmakers from both parties rushed to condemn the mass shooting that left 50 dead in Orlando, Republicans appeared to shy away from noting the LGBT connection, while Democrats explicitly brought it up.

Officials say the shooting, the deadliest such attack in U.S. history, occurred at a gay-themed nightclub and is being investigated as a possible act of domestic terrorism. The alleged shooter, who was killed by police, was a U.S. citizen of Afghan descent, leading to fears of an Islamist extremist connection, though his motive has not yet been established.

The attack saw a collision of a number of sensitive issues in U.S. politics — gay rights, terrorism, Islam, gun control and hate crimes -- that have often put Democrats and Republicans at odds. (Republican statements Sunday also avoided discussing gun control.) That the attack occurred in June, the LGBT community’s pride month, which sees celebrations held around the world, added to the tensions.

Republicans in particular have struggled to deal with gay and lesbian issues as that community has gained acceptance in recent years. The Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage has prompted a backlash among many conservatives in the GOP base who say their religious liberty is under attack as a result.

Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, who each chair their chambers’ homeland security committees, were among the first to release statements Sunday. Both Republicans expressed sympathy for the victims and resolve in the battle against terrorism, with McCaul calling it “a sobering reminder that radical Islamists are targeting our country and our way of life.” But neither noted the LGBT factor.

(A Johnson aide told POLITICO, “The senator is monitoring developments and will update his statement as more information becomes available.”)

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida who failed in his recent bid for his party’s presidential nomination, said he is “grieving for those who lost their lives and praying for those who were injured in this senseless act of hatred, violence and terror.” But even in mentioning the nightclub, Rubio did not specify it was gay-themed.

However, in a phone interview with CNN, Rubio noted the LGBT factor may have played a role. "Common sense tells you he specifically targeted the gay community because of the views that exist in the radical Islamic community with regard to the gay community," Rubio said.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, meanwhile, drew outrage when he tweeted a part of a Bible verse early Sunday that said: "Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." The Republican's office quickly deleted the tweet, which it told The Dallas Morning News had been scheduled in advance and had nothing to do with the shooting.

Democrats made sure to point out the gay connection to the shooting.

President Barack Obama, in a televised statement to the nation, said the place where the attack occurred "is more than a nightclub. It is a place of solidarity and empowerment."

"This is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation is an attack on all of us," Obama added.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton offered assurances to gays, lesbians and others affected by the attack. "Please know that you have millions of allies across our country. I am one of them," she said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said, “The pain of this attack in a mainstay of the Orlando LGBT community is surely magnified as our nation celebrates LGBT Pride month.” Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, also noted that LGBT theme of the nightclub.

And Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a congresswoman from Florida who chairs the Democratic National Committee, wrote on Twitter that she was “heartbroken” and that her “thoughts are with the victims, their loved ones, and the entire Orlando LGBT community today.”

Some Democrats also called for tightening gun control laws, a prospect that is dim considering the lack of will among Republicans who control both chambers of Congress.

"It’s time for Congress to finally act on gun violence and ban military-style weapons, put limits on clips and magazine sizes, ban those on the terrorist watchlist from purchasing firearms and require background checks on all gun sales," said Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, whose statement also prominently called the shooting "an attack on the LGBT community."

Officials are still investigating what led the alleged shooter, Omar Mateen, to open fire at the nightclub. NBC News reported that Mateen’s father said the family was shocked over the attack and that his son had in the past expressed anti-gay sentiments.

The Council on American Islamic Relations, a prominent Muslim activist group, called the attack "appalling."

"There can never any justification for such cowardly and criminal acts, period,” said Nihad Awad, CAIR's executive director.


The Hate The President Dares Not Name

By Post Editorial Board
The New York Post
June 13, 2016

Islamist terror struck America again late Saturday night, this time on the dance floor of Pulse, an Orlando nightclub, in the largest mass shooting in US history.

The death toll of 50 may yet rise, as some of the 53 wounded remain in bad shape.

That our president, in his remarks Sunday, chose not to call it “Islamist” terror is almost irrelevant: He has just seven months left in office; why would he break with his habits of denial now?

It matters more that Hillary Clinton, in her public comments, also refused to name the enemy, instead rushing to talk about “working with allies and partners” to counter the threat — a necessary step, of course, but hardly sufficient.

Donald Trump’s call to be “tough, vigilant and smart” didn’t say a lot more, but at least he was willing to use the I-word.

The early signs are clear: reports of the gunman shouting “Allahu Akbar” and a 911 call declaring his allegiance to ISIS — enough for ISIS, which had called for attacks on America to mark this Ramadan, to decide to claim credit.

It was, of course, also very much an anti-gay attack: Omar Mateen drove more than 100 miles from his home to target Pulse in the runup to Pride Week. That doesn’t make it any less “an attack on all Americans,” as President Obama put it; it merely tells us this particular terrorist had that personal edge to his hate.

Pundits will fixate on all manner of other details: He was a US citizen, born in New York to parents who came here from Afghanistan. He bought the weapons legally, within the last week.

But the United States isn’t going to exile all its Muslims to prevent attacks by a minuscule handful, nor round up all its firearms to frustrate an even tinier minority of gun-owners.

It’s not even clear that the FBI could have done much differently, though it had interviewed him three times in 2013-14, twice after co-workers complained of his boasts to be connected to terrorists and once as the bureau followed up on his connection to a suicide bomber.

Yet the feds are constantly following up on an enormous number of leads — and have made more than 100 terror arrests in just the last year.

No, the main answer is to counter the sources of hate: To crush the Islamic State and whatever rises to replace it as the cutting edge of Islamist hate, and also to finally get serious about targeting the Saudi and Iranian funding of extremist Sunni and Shiite Islam across the globe.

It’s all well to “stand united,” as the president said Sunday. What’s most needed is clarity on what we stand together against.



Article Link to The New York Post: