Monday, January 2, 2017

Starting The New Year Memos. Is There A God?

Nations constantly spy on each other.  That is what they do.  What is the problem?  We are upset because we are not as good as The Russians at cyber warfare and they do not have meaningful elections as we do.

I have no trouble with our making their cyber incursions public but Obama took action late and for political reasons.  Just one more action on his part that is a day late, dollar short and grandstanding for political purposes. and this after he pledged an accommodating transition.
Erick Erickson speaks out about Obama's legacy. (See 1 below.)
Go into oblivion Democrats, elect Ellison as head of  the DNC, and keep those "deplorables" voting to defeat you:

Van Jones Says Muslim Keith Ellison Is Future of the Democratic Party


An interesting challenge to  Agnostics and does God exist?:
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A new weekly addition regarding information about GMOA:
Your weekly museum update of free events and exhibitions. 
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Bolton urges American aid be cut . (See 2 below.)
Back to that "two state" solution and what appears is a blind spot. Israel is a sliver in a sea of whales yet, it is the entire cause why the Arab/Muslim world is enraged and Islamic terrorism exists.  Believe that and I have a bridge for sale. (See 3 below.)
George Friedman. (See 4 below.)
Assessing the needs of the military.  (See 5 below.)
1)  Sandy Hook and Barack Obama’s Legacy of Division

As the nation prepares to formally enter the Age of Trump and leave the Age of Obama, it is worth noting that the left cannot honestly assess Barack Obama’s legacy. To honestly assess his legacy would be to conclude his eight years were a pyrrhic victory for progressivism.

Promising “hope and change,” Barack Obama had the audacity, a word that could define his political life and not just his written biography, to stand on the world stage and announce that his nomination, not even his election, was the moment the world began to heal and the oceans began to recede. Eight years later, the world is at war, the nation divided, and the oceans are still rising.
Barack Obama entered the White House with Congress under the complete control of the Democrats. Instead of dealing with climate change, gun control, immigration reform, or any other priority, the President sought to ram through the Affordable Care Act, the result of which was the destruction of the Democratic Party. The Democrats still refuse to acknowledge the legislation has not done what was promised. In fact, it has added new burdens and costs to the working poor. It has not dramatically improved healthcare costs or accessibility in the nation. But Democrats have surrendered all pretenses of honesty on these points to keep a law that soon Republicans will discard.
And what was the price for the Affordable Care Act? Republicans are now more dominant nationwide than any time since Reconstruction. The party that was supposed to be cast aside by a demographic destiny now holds more seats in Congress since the 1920’s and more local, county, and state legislative and gubernatorial seats since the late 1800’s.
Is Sandy Hook also a legacy of the Affordable Care Act? The President and Democrats had complete control of Congress for two years. Gun control is an issue most every Democrat has campaigned on fervently. But, when given all the power and all the possibilities that came with it, the Democrats did nothing legislatively or through the regulatory process to curb gun sales, “assault” weapons, etc. In fact, after Sandy Hook, the President and Democrats used it as a campaign issue against the Republicans to no avail. But when they controlled it all, they did nothing.
The Democrats, in 2009, had the House of Representatives, the Senate, the White House, 27 state legislatures, and 28 Governors’ Mansions, and 17 states with both the General Assemblies and Governors’ Mansions controlled by just the Democrats. But they focused on the Affordable Care Act instead of gun control.
To admit, as Democrats are hesitant to do, that Sandy Hook could not have been prevented by legislation, is to confess the Democrats have spent the last few years lying about it, using death for partisan political gain. Otherwise, one must consider that when the Democrats had the opportunity and power to prevent Sandy Hook, they chose to do nothing. Then, after the tragedy, they used the images and memories of those dead children to attack Republicans, demanding the GOP do what the Democrats could have done and refused to do.
Sandy Hook was not the only act of gun violence in this nation during Barack Obama’s tenure. In fact, during his tenure there have been more mass shootings than under George W. Bush. There have also been more domestic terror incidents under Barack Obama’s watch. Loathe to even consider them acts of Islamic terror, this White House stared evil in the face and called it random acts of violence and a “new normal.”
It is a controversial thing to mention, but true nonetheless, that with Barack Obama in the White House more Americans turned to mass shootings than when George W. Bush was there. One must wonder what it is about Barack Obama’s time in office that led to that. One must note that unlike any President to come before him, Barack Obama seized on these tragedies to advance his partisan agenda and, again, it was an agenda he could have done himself were he not so busy with Obamacare.
The nation itself is more divided than ever and its President, instead of trying to heal the divide has capitalized on the divisions for partisan gain. To say “all lives matter” is considered a racist act. One is only allowed to say “black lives matter” and to do otherwise could see businesses and individuals targeted for harassment. Christians have seen the state come after their businesses and livelihoods. In California, individuals who supported Proposition 8 to maintain traditional marriage were in some cases driven from their jobs. Business owners were boycotted. Democrats who want to ensure no one provides goods or services to Donald Trump are demanding Christians provide goods and services to gay weddings, despite their religious convictions. The Obama Administration demands Christian organizations accept transgenderism, despite both religious and scientific reservations, along with the left’s abortion on demand agenda.
The ultimate assessment of Barack Obama’s domestic legacy is summed up this way. Individuals, across the spectrum of race, age, and ethnicity, voted for Barack Obama in 2012 then four years later voted for the man who pledged to dismantle all Barack Obama had done. They did so not because of racism, but because they were tired of Barack Obama pitting neighbor against neighbor, race against race, class against class, and business against business to accomplish an agenda that went off the rails.
Abroad, Barack Obama’s legacy is no better. China is building and militarizing islands in the South China Sea. We withdrew from then reinvaded Iraq. We announced to the world our timetable for withdrawing from Afghanistan only to see the Taliban wait us out and force our re-entry. Russia holds Crimea and plots daily to undermine Western democracies. Russia likewise attempted to interfere in our own elections. Turkey has headed toward increasing Islamism. Syria crossed multiple red lines showing the world the United States was all talk. Our Libyan Ambassador was killed on the job before ISIS took over due to our destabilizing actions.
The left cannot admit the disaster that is the Iranian compromise. Iran now plots to build nuclear weapons and funds terrorists around the world with money we gave them. Israeli relations have been undermined and Eastern European countries look on nervously. The world sees an Obama Administration that has broken promises, given up, and stepped back from the world stage. Powers hostile to our interests have been emboldened.
The left will dispute all of this. But I doubt history will. Barack Obama’s historic legacy will be that of a nation that turned in against itself and walked away from its obligations abroad. Barack Obama’s historic legacy will be, in two words, Donald Trump.
2)  Bolton to Trump: Cut aid to UN settlement resolution supporters

Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, has reportedly called on the incoming Trump administration to retaliate against countries who supported a recent UN Security Council resolution against Israeli settlement.

Washington-based news site The Hill quoted Bolton as telling New York radio station AM 970 that Malaysia and Venezuela in particular should have their US aid cut.
However, Bolton advised that the US and Israel give the 14 countries that voted in favor of the resolution one last chance to correct themselves. 

"I think what Israel, together with the incoming Trump administration, should do is say, ‘Look, we’re going to give everybody a chance to do this over again, repeal this resolution and pass something that’s acceptable. And if not, we’re going to take steps to show our unhappiness," he was quoted as saying.

Nonetheless, he added that the resolution itself "was vindictive, because everybody knows that Donald Trump has a different policy view and this is intended to try to box him in."

Fourteen out of fifteen of the UN Security Council members voted in favor of the motion on December 23 while the US abstained from the vote on the resolution that called for Israel to stop settlement construction. 

Bolton's  name was rumored to be in the running for a top post in the incoming State Department, possibly Rex Tillerson's deputy, but so far no announcement has been made.

Bolton's comments came as Republicans in both houses of Congress are preparing resolutions that would condemn the United Nations for its recent actions on Israel, as their leadership considers more drastic legislative measures that would sanction the international body.

Rep. Dennis Ross of Florida and Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas both expressed their intentions to introduce condemnatory resolutions within weeks. They are both hopeful they will receive support from across the aisle, as many Democrats have already come out against US President Barack Obama’s decision to abstain from the vote, allowing it to pass.

Republicans are also discussing additional legislation that would cut US funds to the UN based on its moves on Israel.

Congress appropriates roughly a quarter of the entire UN budget on an annual basis.
3) The Two-State Solution Blindspot

avatar by Douglas Altabef‏

Barack Obama and John Kerry regard the two-state solution as nothing less than divinely ordained. The “Solution,” as we will call it, is self-apparent: two states for two peoples, living side-by-side in peace.
Sounds good. But it has proven to be wildly elusive. Why should that be? If two peoples each have their own state, why shouldn’t they be able to live together in peace?
These questions are not rhetorical, but rather reveal the essential problem: the degree of willingness to make peace.

It goes without saying that you can’t shake your own hand. Absent mutual desire, there is not the necessary pre-condition for making peace.

A quick perusal of the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict reveals proposals, offers and attempts by Israel to find the accommodation, the formula, the modus vivendis by which a peace agreement could be signed and a peaceful aftermath could endure.

Each of those attempts was met with rejection. Not with counter-proposals, nor with different constructive ideas for attaining a similar result. The counter-proposals have always been existential stabs to the heart of Israel, disguised as preconditions to making peace.

Primary among these is the Palestinian insistence on the right of all refugees and their progeny to return to where they had previously lived in Israel (or at least where their ancestors had lived). Such an insistence is, of course, demographically designed to end the Jewish character of Israel, intended to make state just one more Muslim country in a region filled with Muslim countries.

So the question is, if the Solution must be the only hope and answer, why aren’t its most ardent proponents working night and day to make sure that its only real precondition — the willingness to make peace — be implemented?

Some would say that the willingness to make peace is a mindset, which cannot be forced on people and is not likely even to exist prior to entering into an agreement. This is patently false.

Wars have always ended when one or both sides decide/s to give up the fight. They might not want to, but they do, usually because there is no choice. The Palestinians have never been pressured to come around to this point. They have not been forced to change their hateful curricula in their schools or their venomous broadcasting.

There have been no sticks for rejectionist behavior — no ramifications or consequences — only carrots. On the contrary, in a breathtaking display of the racism of low expectations, Western patrons of the Palestinians require nothing from them, excepting obligatory condemnations of the terror that they themselves wreak, or at a minimum, incite.

Were the West truly concerned with the implementation of a real peace that would work for both peoples, there would be a major remedial effort aimed at re-aligning the Palestinian political culture to prepare the population for the advent of peace.

The fact that the opposite is taking place has to call into grave doubt not only the true motivations of the Western patrons of the Palestinians, but also and more importantly, what it is that the Palestinians themselves want.

Are Western leaders actually asking Palestinian leaders what they themselves want in all of this? And when presented with a laundry list that can be basically summarized as the dismantling of Israel, why aren’t such Westerners telling the Palestinians to adopt more realistic, non genocidal positions or risk losing Western support? The Solution, as it is being practiced now, is hardly that, but rather the indulgence of a pipe dream and a murderous wish list.
The irony is that most of Israel at one time passionately subscribed to the Solution, only to abandon it after coming to understand just this point: What was being pursued was not a framework for peace, but one of usurpation, pre-emption and supersessionism.

Today, other than an increasingly small group of true believers, Israelis perceive Palestinians as having no good will and believe that the continued promoting of the Solution is tantamount to suicide.

Seizing on settlements as the barrier to peace is not only factually ludicrous, but also represents a tremendous abdication of moral responsibility by Western leaders. Hiding behind settlements allows them to avoid confronting the one party — the Palestinians — that actually has no interest and feels no urgency to come to the table.

If the Obamas and Kerrys of the world were truly interested in achieving the Solution, their approach would be diametrically opposite from what it has been. They would be leaning heavily on the Palestinians, bringing their significant leverage to bear on the situation. The fact that they have not indicates that they have adopted the Palestinian narrative of Israeli culpability for the whole problem.
That mindset will not bring about peace, but only continued hostility. Of course, this is exactly the Palestinian strategy, which is predicated on the confidence that their continued intransigence will only intensify Western anger against Israel. The hoped-for result will be the de-legitimization, isolation and ultimately the dismantling of Israel.

Since a peace agreement would, by definition, require the Palestinians to give up their fight and to accept the existence of Israel, they can’t accept it. Simply stated, peace is not their goal; replacing Israel with a Greater State of Palestine is their true and not even hidden objective.
And where is the solution in that?
4) Nationalism, the United States, and Cyclical Crises
By George Friedman and Allison Fedirka

In the coming year, the United States will remain the overwhelmingly dominant geopolitical power in the global system, and President-elect Donald Trump will be at the helm. His presidency will mark a turning point as the first significant shift towards nationalism at the center of the US political system.
As explained in our 2017 forecast, this rise in nationalism is a global trend, and one of three critical consequences of the 2008 financial crisis that will play a pivotal role in shaping geopolitics in 2017. (The other two are economic stagnation and instability in export-dependent countries.) Its rise stems from the rejection of the internationalist model that has dominated international relations since the end of World War II.

In places like Europe, it is easy to see why internationalism is losing favor. It is less obvious for the US. The European Union (EU) put in place policies and regulations that prioritized the Union’s survival over national interests, and this inherently creates conflicts of interest between the bloc and member states.

This was exacerbated by the 2008 financial crisis. Member countries saw their economies crash while their hands remained tied by Brussels, which was slow to act and offered a narrow range of Band-Aid solutions.

Unlike the EU, the US government does not answer to any regional blocs or international powers. And yet, like the EU, the US will continue to see a strong rise in nationalism in the coming year. Our forecast states that internal stresses will be reflected in US foreign policy, one of the few areas where the president has a say.

While our forecast explains what these effects on foreign policy will look like, here we explain the less obvious forces causing nationalism to rise in the US.

Cycles of Crises

Historically, the US has experienced some type of internal crisis approximately every 50 years. The book, “The Next 100 Years,” details the nature of these past crises and their paths toward resolution. Since its founding, the US has confronted an economic and social crisis every 50 years—the most recent starting with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Approximately a decade before a crisis starts, new socio-economic problems begin to emerge. Trump’s election does not mark the arrival of a crisis, but it does foreshadow the anticipated arrival of one in the 2020s.

The defining internal economic problem confronting the US today is a decline in the middle class’ purchasing power. According to our calculations, the take-home pay for a median income earner—after taxes and other deductibles, and assuming employer-provided health care—totals about $3,600 a month. At current interest rates, that would be enough to purchase a home and a car, and maintain them without savings.

A worker in the lower-middle class would earn about $2,000 a month after taxes and with employer-provided health care. That person would no longer be able to afford more than rent for an apartment. A generation ago, members of the middle class could not only buy a home, they also could enjoy an occasional indulgence, vacation, or superfluous purchase.

Political Shifts

One of the key groups most affected by this decline in purchasing power is the white working class. While it remains the single largest ethnic and social group in the country, this group found itself increasingly lacking in political representation.

Political party lines put in place by the New Deal coalition saw the Democratic Party represent workers and the Republican Party the upper-middle class. But an electoral shift that started in the South in the 1960s sparked culture wars between parties, and Democrats cut ties to one of their former bases: blue-collar workers without college degrees.

It is reasonable to expect that these grievances would influence this demographic’s voter behavior. Trump astutely tuned in to this demographic and used it as his base to win the election. It should be noted that any politician—it didn’t have to be Trump—who could successfully appeal to this group would have been a strong candidate in the November election.

The rise of US nationalism reflects the fact that extended economic dysfunction has inevitable political consequences. These consequences play out at the intersection of the emerging domestic socio-economic crisis and global economic stagnation. From 1991 to 2008, the accepted wisdom was that the more efficient an exporter nation, the stronger its economy. In reality, exporters are only as strong as demand.

The 2008 financial crisis challenged core ideas that promoted the benefits of free trade. The crisis’ other two major consequences were economic stagnation in advanced industrial countries and increased instability and insecurity in export-dependent countries. Post-crisis, export-dependent economies were no longer strong but rather weakening and vulnerable.

The Role of Free Trade

Free trade now must prove its worth, as protectionism—the economic expression of nationalism—gains momentum. Both the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund have noted a decrease in world trade levels and assume there is a direct correlation between growth in trade and growth in GDP.

The relationship between trade and GDP is clear, but no one has actually figured out what that relationship is. A 2008 study by the US International Trade Commission (USITC) concludes that “all the empirical analysis” confirms a link—but none of the empirical analysis points to where the causality lies. The USITC study also points out that for developing countries, whether trade liberalization helps or hurts remains unclear.

The balance between free trade and protectionism has been a major political issue in the US since the country’s founding. While the US economy remains relatively protected from a decline in exports—which account for only 12.6% of GDP—the crisis created space for a re-evaluation of trade relationships.

These trade conversations tied directly to the growing US domestic debate over declining purchasing power and standards of living. Moving to the forefront of national conversations were the questions of job loss from industrial shifts associated with free trade, depressed wages due to global competitiveness, and loss of market share for domestically produced products.

Looking Ahead

When self-interest becomes the focal point of an argument, it is likely to spread to other dimensions of society and politics. The discussion about economic survival bleeds into larger national questions about immigration policy, military commitments abroad, trade agreement terms, and foreign aid—among others.

Furthermore, populations will head towards the path that provides the best advantage. Today, nationalism looks increasingly attractive. For those who suffered after the 2008 crisis, internationalism has not only failed to solve the world’s current political, security, and economic crises, but it’s also seen as the cause of those problems.

This shift towards nationalism in the US should not, however, be overstated. In the US, and at a global level, nationalism may not simply triumph. But this requires internationalism to reinvent itself in a way that seems like a viable alternative. Trump’s election is the first step in this extended process.
Except in the event of war, foreign policy shifts do not happen quickly in the US. The US is undergoing internal stresses that will inevitably be reflected in its foreign policy, which is further explained in our 2017 forecast.
George Friedman
George Friedman
Editor, This Week in Geopolitics
5)  Capabilities Assessment Due April 1

Army leaders have warned Congress about shortfalls in capabilities and responsiveness, a result of tight budgets and ongoing contingency operations. They include aviation, air defense, artillery, tactical vehicles, a wide range of transportation and logistics issues, and military police capacity.

What to watch: Congress wants a report by April 1 assessing Army capability shortfalls and the cost of reducing or eliminating the gaps. That would be well in time for lawmakers to do something about filling the gaps if they have money to spend on the problem.

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