Thursday, July 28, 2016

Forbes: Bezos Passes Buffett, Becomes Third-Richest Person

By Jonathan Stempel
July 29, 2016

Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Inc (AMZN.O), has become the world's third-richest person as of the market close for the first time, Forbes magazine said, passing Warren Buffett, the chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N).

Bezos' fortune was $65.3 billion as of 4:30 p.m. EDT (2030 GMT) on Thursday, compared with Buffett's $64.9 billion.

Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) co-founder Bill Gates remained the world's richest person, at $77.7 billion, while Spain's Amancio Ortega, who founded the Zara clothing chain's owner Inditex SA (ITX.MC), was second at $72.7 billion. Facebook Inc (FB.O) co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg was fifth, at $54 billion.

Bezos, 52, owns close to 18 percent of Amazon. Its stock has risen by roughly 50 percent since early February, as the world's largest online retailer continued to upend retailing as more people took to the Web rather than the mall to shop.

Amazon's share price rose further in after-hours trading, after the Seattle-based company reported better-than-expected second-quarter results.

Buffett, 85, owns close to 18 percent of Berkshire, but his donation this month of $2.86 billion of Berkshire stock to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and four family charities led to his drop to fourth place. He has donated more than $24.3 billion to the Gates Foundation and family charities since 2006.

Berkshire is based in Omaha, Nebraska, and has roughly 90 business units including Geico car insurance, the BNSF railroad and Dairy Queen ice cream.

In June, Buffett called Bezos a "classic example" of how a business owner could thrive, by having focused at Amazon on how to "delight" customers, and keep them coming back, rather than simply process their orders.

Article Link to Reuters:

Forbes: Bezos Passes Buffett, Becomes Third-Richest Person

Can The World Deal With a New Bank Crisis?

By Satyajit Das
The Bloomberg View
July 28, 2016

As Europe braces for the release of its bank stress tests on Friday, the world could be on the verge of another banking crisis. The signs are obvious to all. The World Bank estimates the ratio of non-performing loans to total gross loans in 2015 reached 4.3 percent. Before the 2009 global financial crisis, they stood at 4.2 percent.

If anything, the problem is starker now than then: There are more than $3 trillion in stressed loan assets worldwide, compared to the roughly $1 trillion of U.S. subprime loans that triggered the 2009 crisis. European banks are saddled with $1.3 trillion in non-performing loans, nearly $400 billion of them in Italy. The IMF estimates that risky loans in China also total $1.3 trillion, although private forecasts are higher. India’s stressed loans top $150 billion.

Once again, banks in the U.S., Canada, U.K., several European countries, Asia, Australia and New Zealand are heavily exposed to property markets, which are overvalued by historical measures. In addition, banks have significant exposure to the troubled resource sector: Lending to the energy sector alone totals around $3 trillion globally. Borrowers are struggling to service that debt in an environment of falling commodity prices, weak growth, overcapacity, rising borrowing costs and (in some cases) a weaker currency.

To make matters worse, the world’s limp recovery since 2009 is intensifying loan stresses. In advanced economies, low growth and disinflation or deflation is making it harder for companies to pay off what they owe. Many European firms are suffering from a lack of global competitiveness, exacerbated by the effects of the single currency.

Government efforts to revive growth -- largely through a targeted expansion of bank lending -- are having dangerous side effects. With safe assets offering low returns, banks have financed less creditworthy borrowers, especially in the shale oil sector and emerging markets. Abundant liquidity has inflated asset prices and banks have lent against this overvalued collateral. Low rates have allowed weak borrowers to survive longer than they should, which delays the necessary pain of writing off bad loans.

In developing economies, strong capital inflows, seeking higher returns or fleeing depreciating currencies, have contributed to a risky buildup in leverage. So have government policies encouraging debt-funded investment or consumption to stimulate aggregate demand.

What’s most worrying, though, is the fact that the traditional solutions to banking crises no longer seem available or effective.

To recover, banks need strong earnings, capital infusions, a process to dispose of bad loans and industry reforms. Yet today, banks’ ability to earn their way out of their problems and write off losses is limited.

Current monetary policy is partly to blame. Zero or negative rates drive down bank lending rates more than deposit rates, which can’t be cut because of the need to maintain deposits and comply with regulatory requirements for stable funding. Traditionally, banks have built capital by earning the margin between low deposit rates and safe, longer-term fixed rate assets, such as government bonds. Today, the term premium -- the difference between short and longer-term rates -- has fallen sharply.

Attracting new capital requires that the industry’s long-term prospects be sound. To the contrary, several structural factors are creating uncertainty about the future of banks and may have permanently reduced available returns. Bank business models in several countries are in need of major reform, which means consolidation and cost reductions ahead. Many countries where banks need assistance remain resistant to foreign ownership, capital and expertise that might help them become more efficient.

Poor institutional and legal frameworks, especially inefficient bankruptcy procedures, discourage new investment in banks or distressed assets. Foreclosures in Italy can take more than four years, compared to 18 months in the U.S. or U.K. In many emerging markets, the pervasive influence of the state among both banks and borrowers complicates the enforcement of claims. Politically connected borrowers can force loans to be rescheduled forever rather than recognized as unrecoverable.

Unanticipated political developments are added complications. Energy prices are affected by geopolitics as much as market forces. The Brexit vote has rippled through the banking system by driving down the pound and radically altering prospects for British financial institutions.

In Italy, political factors are impeding the recapitalization of banks. European Union procedures require progressively writing down equity, subordinated debt and then senior debt, protecting only insured deposits. But “bailing in” creditors in this way would result in writing down around $220 billion of securities held by retail investors, creating a political headache for the government. At the same time, EU banking regulations as well as budgetary and debt limits make it hard for the Italian government to intervene.

Whether a crisis might begin there, perhaps as some fear with the world’s oldest bank, Monte dei Paschi de Siena, is impossible to say. But regulators everywhere should be asking themselves some tough questions: Has the financialization of advanced economies gone too far? Does the role of banking need to be altered to ensure that such crises are less frequent? Increasingly, the answer to both would seem to be yes.

Article Link to The Bloomberg View:

Mark Zuckerberg Is About To Reach Another Level Of Rich

By James Covert
The New York Post
July 28, 2016

Facebook will soon be worth more than ExxonMobil — and Mark Zuckerberg will be richer than the Koch brothers.

The social-networking giant’s stock soared Wednesday after its second-quarter revenue rose 59.2 percent, to $6.4 billion, crushing the consensus estimate of $6 billion, as its computer-loving, smartphone-addicted user base continues to carpet ever-wider sections of the globe.

Profits nearly tripled, to $2.06 billion, or 97 cents a share — blowing past analyst forecasts of 82 cents, as well as the year-ago profit of 50 cents.

The surprisingly strong results — the 13th quarterly beat in a row for Facebook — sent the Silicon Valley giant’s shares soaring 6 percent in after-market trades, to around $130.

As such, Facebook’s market capitalization is poised to hit $375 billion on Thursday, on par with that of oil behemoth ExxonMobil, whose market cap stood at $376 billion at Wednesday’s close.

Facebook’s stock surge also sent the net worth of Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s 32-year-old founder and chief executive, soaring to $56.4 billion — past that of either Charles or David Koch, oil barons who are worth $54.8 billion each, according to Bloomberg.

Advertisers are shelling out ever-bigger bucks to place ads, video and other stuff on Facebook’s fast-growing site and its Instagram mobile app, whose photo-obsessed monthly users now number 500 million.

“We’re particularly pleased with our progress in video as we move toward a world where video is at the heart of all our services,” Zuckerberg said in a statement.

The ranks of Facebook’s overall monthly active users swelled to 1.71 billion worldwide, with 1.13 billion — or two-thirds of total users — logging in at least once a day.

What’s more, Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp mobile apps now boast more than 1 billion monthly active users each.

“Concerns over user engagement and other social competitors are largely overblown,” Colin Sebastian, an analyst at Robert W. Baird, said in a note to clients following the afternoon release of the blowout results.

“Few companies share Facebook’s combination of scale, strong technology orientation, and platform breadth/diversity,” Baird said.

That includes younger rivals like Snapchat — the disappearing-photo sharing app, which some industry watchers have viewed as a threat to Facebook’s and Instagram’s teen user bases.

Twitter, meanwhile, disclosed this week that its monthly user base remained relatively stagnant at 313 million active users, and that its revenue is slowing amid “increased competition.”

Twitter didn’t mention Facebook by name, but the message was clear.

Particularly impressive in Facebook’s results were mobile ads, which generated 84 percent of its advertising revenue.

Article Link to The New York Post:

Welcome To The New Party Of Lincoln

President Obama and Democratic Party opened their arms to Republicans—without compromising their liberal values.

By Jeet Heer
The New Republic
July 28, 2016

To defeat Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton is assembling a much wider popular front than even the Obama coalition. As evidenced by the Democratic National Convention, this front runs from the democratic socialist Bernie Sanders to the centrist Bill Clinton to the disaffected former Republican Michael Bloomberg. Much of the turmoil of the convention has come from the difficulty of bringing together these different factions, which still heatedly disagree on issues like trade and foreign policy.

The recurring theme of the third night in Philadelphia was that the Democrats offer a welcoming home to Republicans alienated by Trump’s antics. The speakers made a convincing case, and more importantly, they did so without offering any sort of compromise.

Polls show that suburban, college-educated whites, who traditionally vote Republican, are balking at voting for Trump. That’s the audience the Democrats went after again and again on Wednesday night. The most obvious pitch came from Michael Bloomberg, who was far from enthusiastic in his endorsement of Clinton but made a powerful case that she’s the only alternative to Trump’s demagoguery. But the former New York mayor served as a voice from outside the party who could explain why even those who disagreed with many Democratic ideas could still vote for Clinton.

“I’ve been a Democrat, I’ve been a Republican, and I eventually became an independent because I don’t believe either party has a monopoly on good ideas or strong leadership,” Bloomberg said. “There are times when I disagree with Hillary. But whatever our disagreements may be, I’ve come here to say: We must put them aside for the good of our country. And we must unite around the candidate who can defeat a dangerous demagogue.”

Vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine made a more positive and personal version of the same speech by citing his father-in-law, Linwood Holton, who had been Republican governor of Virginia from 1970-1974.

“Lin’s still a Republican,” Kaine said. “But he’s voting for Democrats these days. Because any party that would nominate Donald Trump for president has moved too far away from the party of Lincoln. And if you are looking for that party of Lincoln, we’ve got a home for you right here in the Democratic Party.”

President Barack Obama sharpened Kaine’s point but arguing that not only is the Democratic Party a haven for Trump-traumatized Republicans, but also that Trump’s demagogic politics were so extreme that they fell outside the conventional divisions between the two parties.

“We Democrats have always had plenty of differences with the Republican Party, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” he said. “It’s precisely this contest of ideas that pushes our country forward. But what we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t particularly Republican—and it sure wasn’t conservative. What we heard was a deeply pessimistic vision of a country where we turn against each other, and turn away from the rest of the world. There were no serious solutions to pressing problems—just the fanning of resentment, and blame, and anger, and hate.” Obama also contrasted Ronald Reagan’s “City on a Hill” view of America with Trump’s dystopian vision.

Casting Trump in opposition to traditional conservatism and Republican doctrine allowed Obama and Kaine to pull off a daring ideological move: They made an appeal to Republicans without diluting their liberalism. Obama pointedly praised Bernie Sanders even as he made a pitch to Republicans, and he and Kaine both talked about gun control and economic fairness. In effect, they were saying to Republicans: Trump is so toxic that you have to come over to us, and we’ll be happy to have you, but we won’t change our core values.

The last time liberal politicians had the luxury of trying to appeal to moderate Republicans while remaining steadfastly to the left on policy was in 1964, when Lyndon Johnson won over many voters who found Barry Goldwater beyond the pale. If the gambit on display Wednesday night works, we could see a seismic realignment of American politics.

Article Link to The New Republic:

Obama Urges Americans To Get Behind Clinton, Slams Trump

By Jeff Mason and Alana Wise
July 28, 2016

President Barack Obama painted an optimistic picture of America's future and offered full-throated support for Hillary Clinton's bid to defeat Republican Donald Trump in a speech that electrified the Democratic National Convention.

He urged Democrats to enable Clinton to finish the job he started with his election nearly eight years ago in a rousing speech that capped a night when party luminaries took to the stage to contrast the party's new standard-bearer with Trump, whom they portrayed as a threat to U.S. values.

"There has never been a man or woman, not me, not Bill - nobody more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States," Obama said to cheers at the Philadelphia convention on Wednesday night.

Hillary Clinton, the wife of former president Bill Clinton, will accept the party's White House nomination in a speech to end the convention on Thursday night. The election is on Nov. 8.

"Tonight, I ask you to do for Hillary Clinton what you did for me. I ask you to carry her the same way you carried me," Obama said. When he finished, she joined him on stage where they hugged, clasped hands and waved to the crowd.

The two were rivals in the hard-fought 2008 campaign for the Democratic nomination. After winning that election to become America's first black president, Obama appointed Clinton his secretary of state and now looks to her to carry on his legacy.

Republicans have painted Clinton as a Washington insider who would represent a "third term" for what they view as failed policies under Obama, elected to a second term in 2012.

Speaking to delegates, Obama offered an alternative to businessman Trump's vision of the United States as being under siege from illegal immigrants, crime and terrorism and losing influence in the world.

“I am more optimistic about the future of America than ever before," Obama said at the Wells Fargo Center, a basketball and hockey arena.

A former first lady and U.S. senator, Clinton made history on Tuesday when she became the first woman to secure the presidential nomination of a major party. She will lead the Democrats against Republican nominee Trump.

Obama took aim at Trump's campaign slogan and promise to "Make America Great Again."

"America is already great. America is already strong. And I promise you, our strength, our greatness, does not depend on Donald Trump," he said.

"Preach!" members of the crowd shouted. "Best president ever," someone screamed.

Obama listed what he described as progress during his two terms in office, such as recovery from an economic recession, the Obamacare healthcare reform and the 2011 killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

He said American values, not race, religion or political preference, were what made the United States great. "That’s why anyone who threatens our values, whether fascists or communists or jihadists or homegrown demagogues, will always fail in the end," Obama said.

Democrats For Hillary

Senior Democrats and former national security figures lined up earlier on Wednesday to describe Trump as unable to steer America through the dangerous waters of today's world.

By contrast, many prominent Republicans, alarmed by Trump's provocative comments on illegal immigrants and Muslims, were absent from the party convention that nominated Trump for the White House in Cleveland last week.

Trump has proposed temporarily banning Muslims from entering the country and building a wall on the border with Mexico to stop illegal immigrants.

After his convention Trump got a boost in opinion polls. He had a 2-point lead over Clinton in a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Tuesday, the first time he has been ahead since early May.

On Wednesday night, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine accepted the party's nomination as Clinton's vice presidential running mate and in a speech described billionaire Trump as "a one-man wrecking crew" who cannot be trusted in the Oval Office.

Trump, who has never held public office, offered his critics fresh lines of attack on Wednesday, urging Russia to find and release tens of thousands of emails that Clinton did not hand over to U.S. officials as part of a probe into her use of a private email system while she was secretary of state. Clinton has said those emails were private.

Speaking to the convention, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Trump was an opportunist who had no clue about how to make America great or to help working families.

Drawing chants of "Not a clue" from the floor of the convention, Biden took Trump, a reality TV host, to task for his trademark slogan, "You're fired."

"He’s trying to tell us he cares about the middle class. Give me a break. That’s a bunch of malarkey!" Biden said.

New York media mogul Michael Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-independent, assailed fellow billionaire Trump in a speech of his own, calling Trump's presidential bid a "con" and ripping into his history of bankruptcies and lawsuits.

"Trump says he wants to run the nation like he's running his business? God help us," Bloomberg, a former New York City mayor, said to roaring applause. "I'm a New Yorker and I know a con when I see one."

Trump has hammered Clinton as untrustworthy and cast America as a place where security threats abound and law and order are breaking down.

Clinton waged another hard-fought primary battle this year, beating off an unexpectedly strong challenge from the left by Bernie Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont.

Democratic leaders have sought to tamp down lingering bitterness among some die-hard Sanders supporters, and move past unruly displays of dissent that marked the convention's first day on Monday.

Article Link to Reuters:

No One Should Be Above the Law

If you’re powerful enough, it’s not illegal.

By Daniel L. Davis
The National Interest
July 28, 2016

In what appears to be continuing trend, the Federal Bureau of Investigations recently confirmed that the status of America’s powerful elite as being accountable only to their own standard while the rest of the nation is required to follow rule of law. The latest evidence was the FBI’s decision not to recommend charges against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for violating U.S. Code in the handling of classified information. Attorney General Loretta Lynch made it official the next day [3]: she said the “year-long investigation [will] be closed and . . . no charges be brought.”

In a lengthy statement [4] explaining the decision, FBI Director James Comey confirmed that Secretary Clinton had unequivocally violated a federal statute in the storage and communication of classified material via unclassified and unauthorized email messages, including “seven e-mail chains [which] concern matters that were classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Program level when they were sent.” A total of 110 email messages contained highly classified information and another two thousand unmarked messages were determined after the fact to contain classified information.

The other recent example of a public figure getting off virtually scot-free was former General and CIA Director David H. Petraeus. In 2015, he pleaded guilty [5] to a misdemeanor and was not jailed. The Associated Press reported that Petraeus “admitted that he loaned his biographer, Paula Broadwell, with whom he was having an affair, eight binders containing highly classified information regarding war strategy, intelligence capabilities and identities of covert officers,” some of which was classified Top Secret [6].

It is clear, however, that neither Clinton nor Petraeus will be held to account for violating federal law. Petraeus is still one of the most sought-after, highly paid [8] public speakers and Clinton might be elected commander in chief four months from now. Very few other Americans, however, enjoy such lenient treatment for similar violations of the law.

Last November, a Marine reservist, Major Jason Brezler was forced out of the Marines by acting Assistant Navy Secretary Scott Lutterloh, for mishandling classified material [9]. In 2012 Major Brezler sent classified information via email to fellow Marines, warning that a certain Afghan official living on a U.S. base had been sexually abusing little boys and was a security threat. His warning was ignored, and subsequently one of the abused boys went on a shooting rampage, murdering three U.S. Marines on the base.

For his attempt to protect American lives, Major Brezler was stripped of his security clearance and discharged from the Marines.

Despite the fact Major Brezler’s motivation was to protect American lives, Secretary Lutterloh apparently felt the law didn’t allow for personal exceptions. For General Petraeus and Secretary of State Clinton, however, the laws were deemed optional. Simply being a high profile figure with political stature apparently gives violators a free pass in our judicial system.

No one is supposed to be above the law.

Separate legal standards for the elite and the rest of the nation continue the degradation of the confidence rank-and-file Americans have in the nation’s senior leaders. For years now the level of voter’s trust in the government has been dropping precipitously. I’ve seen firsthand this abuse of power go unpunished and observed its consequences.

In 2011, during my second tour of Afghanistan, I witnessed the dramatic gulf between what our senior civilian and uniformed leaders were telling Americans and the truth of what was really happening on the ground. Civilian leaders, such as then-Undersecretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy and military leaders such as former three-star General Curtis Scaparrotti (then deputy commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan), claimed their policies and plans were succeeding.

In March 2011 Flournoy testified [11] before the House Armed Services Committee that her assessment of the mission “found that our strategy was on track, that our forces and civilians were making real progress on the ground, and that we were making great strides in growing an ANSF capable of ultimately providing security in Afghanistan.” I exposed at the time [12] how they were giving assessments they had to know were false. Scaparrotti brushed my report off during a February 2012 press conference [13] by saying he had seen my report and “it is one person’s view” and that he was “confident in my personal view that our outlook is accurate.” Events since have conclusively proven [14] these officials were dead wrong.

Far from being punished for misleading the country, Flournoy is now the Chief Executive Officer [15] of the Center for a New American Security and rumored to be [16] a leading candidate for Secretary of Defense should Hillary Clinton win. Scaparrotti was subsequently promoted to four stars [17] and given a prestigious command [18] in Europe.

It seems that many of the nation’s elite are unconcerned about the loss of trust or public opinions, but these trends are not without consequences. Numerous warning flags give evidence of the growing risk.

One hundred top foreign policy experts in the nation published an open letter [19] to America in which they warned voters of the dangers posed by Trump. Yet, the people rejected the opinions of these elite leaders by voting for Trump in record numbers [20]. Even Clinton barely survived her battle with the previously obscure Bernie Sanders. The Washington Post recently chronicled [21] the concerning rise of militia groups in the United States opposed to our government, increasingly filled not by fringe or paranoid people, but mainstream Americans.

What will happen in our country if these trends continue is impossible to predict with any certainty. One thing is certain, however. The less confidence people have in their government, the more disaffected they feel, the further they feel alienated from the country’s elite, and the more likely they are to challenge the status quo. The status quo certainly needs to change, but doing so under the auspices of an angry, distrusting populace is not the best way to craft effective, rational policies.

Article Link to The National Interest:

Tim Kaine’s Got A Tough Job Ahead

Hillary and her running mate are trying to court both crabby Bernie supporters and conservatives disillusioned with Trump. Is the Virginia governor the man to pull it off?

By Betsy Woodruff
The Daily Beast
July 28, 2016

Tim Kaine was in a tight spot.

His Democratic National Committee speaking slot came sandwiched between a series of antipathy-inciting former Republicans and the president of the United States. So he had awkward acts to follow, and—to an energetic, liberal, Obama-loving crowd—a tough act to open for.

On top of that, his speech came after days of noisy, energetic, cantankerous anti-Clinton demonstration from Bernie Sanders supporters both inside and outside Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo arena. So Kaine’s task was a dicey one: addressing a Bernie-loving crowd in the wake of disillusioned Republicans—and trying to appeal to voters in both demographics. And the Venn diagram of angsty Hillary-friendly conservatives and Bernie Sanders ex-revolutionaries—well, it doesn’t exactly have a ton of overlap.

So when Kaine waltzed onto the wide blue stage on the third night of the Democratic National Convention, he was walking into a lion’s den of sorts.

He left in one piece. Mostly.

This won’t get easier. As his speech indicated, Kaine and Clinton have elected to simultaneously woo crabby Sanders supporters and make passes at disenchanted moderate Republicans who aren’t exactly cool with their party’s nominee encouraging Russia to hack the U.S. government.

Kaine gave it a shot.

“Linwood Holton, he’s still a Republican,” he said of his father-in-law, the former Virginia governor, who was in the crowd for his speech. “But he’s voting for an awful lot of Democrats these days, an awful lot of Democrats, and here’s why: He’s voting for Democrats because any party that would nominate Donald Trump for president has moved too far away from his party of Lincoln. And I tell ya, if any of you are looking for that party of Lincoln, we’ve got a home for you right here in the Democratic Party.”

The crowd cheered.

They cheered again when he mentioned that he serves on the Senate Budget Committee with one Bernie Sanders.

“BERNIE! BERNIE! BERNIE!” they chanted.

“Everybody, we all should feel the Bern, and we all should not want to get burned by the other guy,” he ad-libbed, deviating from his prepared remarks. Audience members laughed and cheered, and the tension dissipated.

He doubled down on the Republican appeals a few minutes later.

“Can I tell you a funny thing about the Senate? That sounds like a yes,” he said. “I spend a lot of time with Republican Senators who, once they have made sure that nobody is listening, will tell you how fantastic a senator that Hillary Clinton was.”

And he mentioned the Trump opposition of former First Lady Barbara Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Kaine mocked Trump throughout the speech, mimicking his mannerisms and ridiculing one of his favorite catch-phrases, “Believe me.”

The crowd was attentively responsive to his speech—at various points chanting his phrases back at him including “NOT A CLUE!” “NOT ONE WORD!” (regarding Trump), “SI SE PUEDE!” and “LISTO!”

He’d walked in on a crowd that was, to put it gently, energetic. Throughout the evening in the lead-up to Kaine’s speech, the thousands of people who packed into the arena vacillated between cheering their favorite lines, booing mentions of Donald Trump, and competitively trying to shout each other down when hawkish centrist Democrats made the case for Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy.

And some lobbed very specifically tailored chants at the moderate-friendly speakers who preceded Kaine. Former CIA head Leon Panetta was interrupted with chants of “NO MORE WAR!” And as former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg—an ex-Republican—walked off stage, a handful of Texas delegates lept to their feet, pumped their fists in the air, and chanted, “STOP AND FRISK! STOP AND FRISK! STOP AND FRISK!”

California delegates hoisted a few dozen anti-TPP signs when Kaine started speaking, and delegates in a number of other states joined them in waving the signs throughout his address. But, overwhelmingly, the response he got was noisy, positive, and pumped. The newly minted vice presidential contender responded to the roaring applause that followed his speech by running down the stage’s steps to shake hands with the crowd—only for Secret Service agents to stop him in his tracks.

So running for veep will take a little adjusting. But this is what it’s going to look like: name-checking Barbara Bush and Bernie Sanders, referring to a mass shooting before aping an opponent’s mannerisms, and seeing just how close he can get to making everybody happy.

Article Link To The Daily Beast:

The 21 Harshest Trump Burns From DNC Day 3

By Dan Spinelli and Bianca Padro Ocasio
July 28, 2016

Democrats roasted Donald Trump on Wednesday night, delivering burn after burn on the convention stage.

The third night of the Democratic National Convention shifted from an infomercial for Hillary Clinton to a systematic takedown of her Republican rival, with speakers delivering both somber warnings and barbed jokes about the billionaire reality TV star.

Here are the 21 harshest burns aimed in Trump's direction.

Early speakers blasted Trump’s values and comments about women.

1. "Donald Trump & Mike Pence have united to form the 'make misogyny great again' ticket."
--Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America

2. “Parents, you are right to fear what comes out of Donald Trump's mouth. Republicans, you should have been careful also. He learned it from watching you.”
--Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid

Others accused Trump of lacking any specifics on policy and holding only a superficial understanding of foreign policy.

3. “Donald Trump says he gets his foreign-policy experience from watching TV and running the Miss Universe pageant. If only it were funny, but it is deadly serious.”
--Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

4. “No major party nominee in the history of this nation has ever known less or been less prepared to deal with our national security.”
--Vice President Joe Biden

5. “He’s not really a plans guy. Not really a facts guy, either.”
--President Barack Obama

Beyond the alleged lack of policy chops, Democrats also ripped Trump's pessimistic portrayal of the country and the world.

6. “Trump strangled the sunny optimism of Ronald Reagan and replaced 'Tear down that wall' with the cynical bigotry of "Build that wall."
-- California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom

7. “Even the Know Nothings, anti-immigrant party of the 1850s, did not stray this far into sheer ignorance and dark fantasy as have the Republicans and their leader Donald Trump.”
--California Gov. Jerry Brown

8. “Contempt for the Constitution, inhumane mass deportation, malice towards different views and different hues. Those are disqualifications from any office, let alone the highest office in the land.”

They also ripped his business record.

9. “Trump says he wants to run the nation like he's running his business? God help us. I am a New Yorker, and I know a con when I see one.”
--Former Republican New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg

10. “Truth be told, the richest thing about Donald Trump is his hypocrisy.”

11. “He is trying to tell us he cares about the middle class. Give me a break. That is a bunch of malarkey.”
--Vice President Joe Biden

12. “To me, it seems like our nation is too great to put in the hands of a slick-talking, empty promising, self-promoting, one-man wrecking crew.”
--Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s running mate

13. “Detroit is 18 months out of bankruptcy. Something Donald Trump knows a little bit about.”
--Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan

14. “I know plenty of businessmen and women who’ve achieved success without leaving a trail of lawsuits, and unpaid workers, and people feeling like they got cheated.”

15. "It is a choice between the secretary of state and the secretary of hate. "
--Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York

16. “Donald Trump, when he sees gun violence devastating our communities, it is just like everything else. He sees it as an opportunity. Another opportunity to convince Americans that they should fear one another.”
--Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy

Former members of the military decried Trump as a potential national security disaster.

17. “Donald praises dictators and insults our allies. His foreign policy would be based on false bravado and bluster.”
--Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona, retired U.S. Marine

18. “Donald Trump is a walking, talking, recruiting poster for terrorists. That is not hyperbole, that's not hyperbole. ISIS literally used Trump in a commercial.”
--Rear Admiral Josh Hutson, formerly of the U.S. Navy

19. “He even mocked POWs like John McCain. I served in the same Navy as John McCain. I used to vote in the same party as John McCain. Donald, you are not fit to polish John McCain's boots.”

20. “When he says he would expand torture, kill civilians, or force the military to commit war crimes, he's defying the values that every service member is taught on day one.”
--Former Marine Corps Captain Kristen Kavanaugh

But perhaps the night's sharpest knife was its most subtle, when Bloomberg indirectly ripped Trump by offering a base-level endorsement of Clinton:

21. “Together, let’s elect a sane, competent person.”

Article Link to Politico:

Rove: The Democratic Bash Won’t Matter

Voters want change, and nobody in Philly has credibly argued Clinton can deliver.

By Karl Rove
The Wall Street Journal
July 27, 2016

Though the slogan for the first day of the Democratic National Convention was “United Together,” the party appeared to be anything but. Hacked emails dumped online by WikiLeaks had confirmed the worst suspicions of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s supporters. The Democratic establishment had been working all along to defeat their man, even discussing whether to plant stories that Mr. Sanders, who is Jewish, doesn’t believe in God.

After Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced her resignation, she was rewarded by being named an “honorary chair” for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Sanders supporters were hardly satisfied. On Monday the Bernie Bunch booed Ms. Wasserman Schultz off the stage. They demonstrated their frustration in the convention hall, and on Philadelphia’s streets, demanding votes on their candidate’s proposals on trade and the party’s rules.

The following day the comedian Sarah Silverman admonished Sandernistas from the podium: “To the Bernie-or-bust people, let me tell you, you are being ridiculous.” Standing at her side, Sen. Al Franken (D., Minn.) nodded as Sanders delegates screamed their disapproval. The two Hollywood intellectuals were followed on stage by Paul Simon, who warbled “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” Convention organizers should have tried to get the song’s original vocalist, Art Garfunkel.

These expressions of disaffection from the Democratic Party’s Birkenstock-and-granola wing are entertaining, yet they are not Team Clinton’s principal strategic challenge. Sure, some Bernieites could defect to the Green Party’s presidential nominee, Jill Stein, or even to Donald Trump. Others might skip the polls and spend Election Day composting. Still, Mrs. Clinton’s bigger problem is that she personifies the status quo in a year when the dynamic is strongly tilted toward change.

Gallup reported last week that only 17% of Americans are satisfied with the country’s condition, the same figure as at this point in 2008.

A July 13 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that a mere 18% of registered voters believe the country is “headed in the right direction,” while 73% said things are “off on the wrong track.”

The same survey found 56% favor someone for president “who will bring major changes to the way government operates even if it is not possible to predict what the changes may be.” Only 41% back “someone who will bring a steady approach to the way government operates even if it means fewer changes to how things are now.”

A June 26 Pew Research Center survey found that 24% of Americans are “satisfied with the way things are going in this country today”; 71% are “dissatisfied.” Fully 77% of voters say Mr. Trump would “change the way things work in Washington” (though only 33% think it would be for the better). Just 45% say Mrs. Clinton would bring change (and 20% say it would be for the better).

President Bill Clinton’s speech Tuesday night didn’t significantly alter this dynamic. Even his political talents couldn’t transform his wife into a “change-agent,” a phrase he repeatedly invoked. If anything, Mr. Clinton reminded voters that Mrs. Clinton has been a political fixture for decades.

Nor did Mr. Clinton do any favors when he described Hillary’s tenure as secretary of state and asked: “How does this square with the things that you heard at the Republican convention?” He said Republicans are running against “a cartoon,” thereby dismissing concerns about private email servers, America’s retreat from global leadership, the rise of Islamic State, and the disasters in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Russia and beyond.

Speeches Wednesday by President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were equally unlikely to help Mrs. Clinton. Instead they added to the impression that she represents a third term for their policies, especially as far as they extolled their administration’s record. The more they claim the economy is good, the country strong, and the world safe, the more disconnected they appear to swing voters.

The White House is telling reporters the president will actively campaign for Mrs. Clinton and Democratic candidates, raising funds starting next week and traveling throughout October. This will only reinforce that the race is a choice between the status quo with Mrs. Clinton and change with Mr. Trump.

Team Clinton’s hope lies in convincing voters that Mr. Trump will bring only chaos. That’s where she should put her emphasis Thursday night and after. The Democratic convention started badly. It’s likely to end that way, too—with the election’s central dynamic, one that works against their nominee, completely intact.

Article Link to The Wall Street Journal:

Why Palestinians Are On The Verge Of Civil War

By Benny Avni
The New York Post
July 28, 2016

The two-state solution, a long-held US-backed plan for a rosy Mideast future, is threatened by Mr. Yesterday — someone hopelessly clinging to the past.

That Mr. Yesterday isn’t Donald Trump, whose aides deleted the words “two-state solution” from the Republican platform. And it isn’t Hillary Clinton, whose would-be veep, Tim Kaine, last year boycotted the Israeli prime minister’s speech to Congress. Hillary and Kaine cherish the two-state solution dearly.

It isn’t Bernie Sanders, whose supporters hoisted a Palestinian flag on the convention floor Monday in lieu of Old Glory. Or Rep. Hank Johnson, (D-Ga.), who this week called Israeli settlers “termites.”

It isn’t even those idiots who burned an Israeli flag in front of the convention hall Tuesday night to protest, well, something. If anything, those Israeli-flag-burners represent the future of America’s progressive left, not its past. They threaten a tomorrow that’ll make us weep for yesterday.

Nor is it the usual suspect, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu.

Nah. Mr. Yesterday, the man who dreads two states more than anyone in America, Europe or Israel, is none other than the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.

This week, just as Democrats struggled with how strongly to support a state of Palestine without angering their shrinking but still powerful pro-Israel base, Mr. Yesterday aimed his lance at a 99-year-old windmill by launching a battle against the Balfour Declaration at an Arab League summit in Mauritania.

The Arab League is a relic that goes mostly ignored (for good reason), and even its summits tend to be sparsely attended these days.

But the perennial beneficiary of such outmoded gatherings, the Palestinians, managed to create some news: Abbas’ foreign minister, Riyad al-Malki, blamed England for the mess in Palestine and asked for help in suing the British government.

Wait, the Brits? What did they do now? Well, Arthur James Balfour, the then-UK foreign secretary, issued a historic declaration that in 1917 promised the Jews a “homeland” in Palestine, which was about to be ruled from London.

Or, according to Malki, they “gave people who don’t belong there something that wasn’t theirs.” So Palestinians will now sue them.

“We are all aware of the significance of the 100-year anniversary,” a senior British diplomat told me Wednesday, adding, however, “I’m not sure looking back is the best way to bring peace.”

Right. But don’t tell that to Mr. Yesterday.

More fundamentally, Abbas has already raised a Palestinian flag at Manhattan’s First Avenue UN headquarters and received blessings for a Palestinian state in places like Geneva, Sweden, Mauritania and the back pages of US party platforms. Yet, he has proved completely useless in creating a state on the West Bank.

And his attempt to pretend the last century of history, in which Jews created an independent and thriving state, never happened raises suspicions that Abbas never really was all that comfortable with the existence of Israel on lands Arabs consider their own.

At the age of 80, Abbas has now spent a dozen years in an office he’d been elected to hold for four. As he nears the end of his career, many in the West Bank wonder if he’s all there. This week’s anti-British gambit will only reinforce those questions.

And if he’s starting to fade? Well, Mr. Yesterday never prepared his people for tomorrow — that day after he steps down or dies. Several leader-wannabes will duke it out then, and — like Arab nations throughout the region’s volatile history — they’ll likely fail to resolve their differences peacefully or quickly.

So all those who get so exercised about how the two-state solution is represented in party platforms better relax. America, Britain, Europe and even Israel won’t prevent Palestinians from peacefully living and thriving in an independent state.

As they always have, only Palestinians will.

As for that other side of the vaunted two-state solution: Even Mr. Yesterday can’t turn back the clock to 1917, or any other time in history.

So Israel will continue to flourish, with or without Palestine by its side.

Article Link to the New York Post:

The End Of Germany’s Golden Age

Angela Merkel was great when things were good, but can she lead in darker times?

By Konstantin Richter
Politico EU
July 28, 2016

BERLIN — A little over a year ago, on a Saturday in June, a large number of ordinary Germans filmed themselves doing ordinary things. They sent their footage to Sönke Wortmann, a well-known director, who cut it down to a 100-minute movie.

Wortmann’s film, called “Germany — Your Self-Portrait,” was released on July 14. It is completely devoid of German angst and it shows families on rollercoaster rides, seniors having breakfast and teenage girls hugging each other for the camera. “Friendship is a big issue in this movie,” Wortmann said in an interview. “Pets. Sports. And cars, of course.”

But while Wortmann set out to make a feel-good film, what he released has the feel of a paean to a Germany that’s on the verge of disappearing. Critics were quick to point out how dated the footage already looks — like archival material from another era.

For the past decade, Germany has been enjoying what will perhaps one day be considered a golden age. The country’s long-ailing economy ticked up in the mid-noughties and weathered the recent crises far better than most. Politically, the nation emerged as Europe’s dominant power. The national football team, playing a thrilling attacking game, improved steadily to win the 2014 World Cup.

And perhaps most importantly, Germany became an attractive place to live. Having grown up in Helmut Kohl’s dour Germany of the 1980s, I can testify that the country has become more liberal, more tolerant, more easygoing.

Today, however, that progress appears to be in doubt. The public mood shifted markedly after hundreds of thousands of refugees entered the country, putting a huge strain on resources and institutions. The right-wing party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), has surged in the polls, benefiting from widespread fears of mass migration and terrorism. Chancellor Angela Merkel, at the height of her popularity when Wortmann’s movie was filmed, now looks weak and vulnerable.

The economy is showing some signs of frailty, too, with heavyweights Volkswagen and Deutsche Bank in particular trouble. And then came the violence: an ax attack near Würzburg, a mass shooting in Munich, knifings in Reutlingen, a suicide bombing in Ansbach.

In the span of just a few days, this string of heinous assaults has shaken a nation that already seemed on the verge of becoming unhinged. Something good has ended — or so it feels — and we don’t know what’s next.

* * *

Germany’s golden age pretty much coincided with Merkel’s time in office.
When she ran for chancellor in 2005, the country was just coming out of a crisis. Then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s economic reforms had begun to take effect, but Germans, unaware of the recovery, voted him out anyway. And when the economy took off, it was Merkel who reaped the benefits.

Today, many worry the good times are coming to an end. Buttressed by its strong manufacturing base, Germany emerged relatively unscathed from the financial crisis. And while other members of the European Union were rocked by the euro crisis — blaming German-led austerity for their woes — the country’s exporting industry kept rolling, profiting, among other things, from a weakening currency. But how sustainable is this? With much of the world in turmoil, an economy so dependent on exports must eventually suffer.

And then there’s demographics. In France and Britain, an aging population is cause for concern; in Germany, it’s a time bomb. The U.N. has predicted that by 2030 only half of the country’s citizens will be working. Merkel thought she had a fix. When she opened the borders to refugees it was a humanitarian gesture, sure, but it was also an effort to rejuvenate the workforce.

Merkel thought Germans would understand. They didn’t. The long-term benefits of mass migration may, in a best-case scenario, indeed outweigh the short-term difficulties. But many in the country — especially older and more conservative voters — only saw the downside. “We can manage,” Merkel told them, and millions answered in unison, “No, we can’t.”

For the AfD, Merkel’s decision was a lifeline. Founded in 2013 by a group of Euroskeptics, the party had seemed to be in decline. Its members are a pretty angry bunch, some of them because Germany traded the Deutsche Mark for the euro, others because they believe that sex education in schools depraves innocent kids. And the one thing that gets all of them going is Merkel’s migration policy.

The party’s leaders aren’t skillful politicians. They lack charisma, and they’ve made many mistakes. But events like those in Würzburg and Ansbach, where attackers were recent refugees, will strengthen their cause, adding evidence to their argument that Merkel’s move has raised the risk of terrorism. An economic downturn would give the party a further boost.

What would happen if a German Donald Trump came along and took control? A couple of years ago, a journalist named Timur Vermes published a novel called “Look Who’s Back,” in which Adolf Hitler returned to contemporary Berlin, becoming first a media celebrity and then a politician. It’s a satirical book, and it gave many of its readers a good laugh. But suddenly, with the establishment in crisis, “Look Who’s Back” seems less like a joke and more like a cautionary tale.

* * *

The relationship between Merkel and the Germans is at its best when the national football team takes to the field during the playoff stage of a major tournament. A player, usually Thomas Müller, scores, and the Germans cheer. And then the camera swerves to show Merkel applauding from the VIP box, and the Germans cheer her too.

At this summer’s European Championships, however, Merkel didn’t show up when the team reached the semifinals. Maybe she knew people would no longer be cheering her. The Germans are confused and disappointed by their chancellor. After shocking her conservative base with her refugee policy, she alienated her newfound fans on the Left with a controversial deal with Turkey. No one knows what she’s thinking anymore, and she’s not talking. The result is obvious in her approval ratings.

For the Germany portrayed in Wortmann’s movie, Merkel was the perfect leader. As long as her fellow citizens were engrossed in sports, pets and cars, she could steer them safely through minor and major crises. She was good in late-night emergency meetings with other world leaders, able to strike complicated compromises that satisfied the Germans even if they didn’t fully understand the details.

But Merkel has many weaknesses too, and these days they’re on full display. She isn’t gifted rhetorically, and she doesn’t know how to convey her emotions. After these latest attacks, she needs to explain in simple terms what, in her view, happened over the past year. She must tell Germans how she felt last September and how she feels now. She should admit that further attacks are likely, and that she was wrong because she didn’t see them coming. And then she should stake out a new middle ground, arguing that, in spite of the violence, it’s still important to help people in need. That returning to a world with fortified walls is no answer to the threat of terrorism.

But Merkel is not the type to make emotional statements. And that’s unfortunate because Germany is becoming polarized. On one side stand the guilt-ridden advocates of Willkommenskultur, who believe Germans have a moral duty to keep borders open for everyone, and that we only have ourselves to blame when terror strikes. On the other, is the angry far right.

Missing from the debate are all those ordinary Germans who starred in Wortmann’s feel-good project. Someone please tell them it’s their turn to speak. They need to understand that the Germany they’ve lived in — the one that is liberal, tolerant and vibrant — cannot be taken for granted and needs their support.

Article Link to Politico EU: