39 thoughts on “News/Politics 7-13-17

  1. Talk is cheap, defense is not. While Germany and the rest of Europe like to talk tough in the Trump era, actually following thru on it is another matter entirely.

    http://carnegieeurope.eu/strategiceurope/71447?lang=en

    “The Anglo-German Addiction to American Defense”

    “The other two leading European military powers, Germany and the UK, show no signs of reducing their strategic dependence on the United States. Take Germany, which Trump has singled out for not contributing enough to NATO. Chancellor Angela Merkel, who remains committed to the transatlantic alliance, has said that she wants Germany to meet NATO’s headline goal of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense (currently, Berlin devotes only 1.2 percent). Even if Germany spent that amount, which would make it the largest European spender in NATO, there is no guarantee that it would become concomitantly militarily active. German public opinion is generally more pacifist than in many other European countries.

    Furthermore, Merkel’s opponent in September’s federal election, Social Democrat Martin Schulz, has used Trump’s urgings as a reason not to spend more on defense. Many German Social Democrats also support the idea of a European army; but without U.S. protection, such an army would require Germans (and others) to spend a lot more on defense—not to mention the military tasks that army might have to carry out.

    The UK, in contrast, is more prepared to invest in and use military force than Germany, and has long had a close strategic relationship with the United States. Referring to the recent maiden sail of the first of the UK’s two new aircraft carriers, the pseudonymous British defense blogger Sir Humphrey neatly explained: “This is a useful reminder for the UK to the US that it is serious about playing its part in supporting US navy carrier deployments.”

    Few officials or politicians in the UK are willing to discuss publicly how Europeans would defend themselves without the Americans. If anything, the British exit from the EU will push London even closer to Washington. Michael Fallon, the British defense secretary, said in March, “Our defense relationship with the US is unprecedented in its depth and scope. As we leave the EU, our bilateral relationships matter more than ever, so we’ll be enhancing our cooperation and investing more in our joint F-35 fast jet programme.”

    For different reasons, Germany and the UK will likely remain addicted to U.S. defense. The alternatives are currently too daunting for Berlin and London. Germany cannot imagine itself as Europe’s leading military power, while the Brexit-bound UK appears to have no geopolitical options other than aligning itself ever more closely with the United States.

    Moreover, U.S. actions speak louder than the president’s tweets. The Pentagon wishes to spend some $1.4 billion more in 2018 on defending Europe over this year’s $3.4 billion. Even Trump has started to feed the Anglo-German addiction: the day Juncker spoke in Prague, Trump said at a press conference with the Romanian president that he was committed to NATO’s collective defense. The U.S. president may repeat that sentiment today in Warsaw.

    Anti-Trumpism alone will not convince Europeans to go their own way on defense. For one, most Europeans expect their relations with the United States to remain stable, according to a June 2017 Pew opinion poll, which suggests that Europeans still prefer to stick with the devil they know. For another, most Europeans are nowhere near psychologically prepared to defend themselves without U.S. protection. French exceptionalism aside, if Germany and the UK are unwilling to curb their addiction to American defense, why would other, militarily less capable Europeans do so?”
    ——————————

    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Because deep down, they like it this way, and need it to stay that way.

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  2. This article pulls together things we have been talking about over the last few days and the last few months.

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  3. And now for our laugh. A friend sent me this one last night with the caption: He really can’t leave any lie un-lied.

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  4. @ 6:39 I’ve always been a bit conflicted about our bases overseas, and especially Germany. On one hand, it can provide poorer men and women with a reasonably long-lived career with some benefits at the end. It’s one of the few public initiatives that Republicans can be relied upon not to sabotage.

    Dad acquired a small pension between his military years and civil service years. That is a combination that I don’t think is still open to younger people now. He got his education by working several jobs, and the GI Bill paid some. I hate to see those opportunities go away. There should be a better way to get them.

    The down side of all those foreign bases is that it feeds the war machine by maintaining wars and the threat of wars for its existence. Ungodly sums of money are aggregated at the top, while dribs and drabs ‘trickle down’ to those actually in harms way.

    And of course, the money spent there puts us further in debt while doing very little for our internal infrastructure.

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  5. Inertia is powerful. The money that flows into countries which host US military bases is powerful. Before another country would ask the US to leave, the American President would need to take a series of ridiculous and embarrassing actions or make a series of idiotic statements. Surely, that would never happen.

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  6. We were essentially asked to leave the Philippines over other issues. Germany could do the same. It may be time for that to happen….

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  7. Perhaps. If we are going to become protectionist and isolated, we will not be able to afford to maintain peace and the free flow of goods, and it makes no sense for us to try to do so.

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  8. Maintaining world peace is best done by countries who can afford it. A bankrupt nation can’t afford all those MOABs and bases and private contractors. Maybe China will step up. At least they don’t have to worry about satisfying political dissidents with big pay-offs. They just put them in front of a firing squad…or roll over them with a few tanks. They get the message.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. 🙂 Amusing. Some friends on FB are angry and horrified this morning after viewing a thread that lists the line of succession should Trump be impeached. Shocked! Angry! Sick! 🙂

    It’s called the other side won …

    Liked by 5 people

  10. DJ, I read a few weeks ago that Al Franken was suggesting his party tone down the talk of impeachment—for exactly that reason. Sometimes the only thing worse than not getting what you want, is getting it. :–)

    Liked by 2 people

  11. When Manila basically couldn’t blackmail the US into keeping open the bases–the Air Force base had pretty much been destroyed by Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption–the US removed every single item, including light bulbs, from the naval base at Subic Bay. Furious didn’t tell the whole story.

    The Philippine president, understandably, wanted to gain control of everything in the Subic Bay ship repair facility and then sell it off to the highest biller. The US Navy wouldn’t play ball.

    20 years later, it has now recovered and small manufacturing is going on in the buildings left behind.

    I have to say, though, chatting 30 years ago with a bridge partner about her life in the Philippines was an eye opener. We were the same age, I had one more child and she was an airdale wife–her husband was a well paid fighter pilot. I was married to a lowly submariner.

    She had 7 servants for her lovely bungalow.

    I asked her what they did.

    “Nanny, cook, valet, two gardeners, errand boy and a laundress.”

    I tried not to seethe–since I was all those things and more, just as many of you are.

    “What did you do with your time?”

    “We had fabulous Bible studies, read, played tennis, volunteers, took jaunts around the Pacific, shopped and enjoyed my children.”

    I didn’t have childcare to play tennis–though I did shovel snow– and my jaunts were around the Atlantic; everything else was the same (!). I chose to believe I was just more efficient . . .

    But it felt so much like the old raj, it was odd and I wondered what all the servants thought of those Americans’ lifestyles.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Debra, the bases the U.S. set up were really for their benefit, a ring around the Iron Curtain at the end of WWII. Their frequent interference as the strong man with their allies may actually have crippled those allies’ own military. An example of this which still rankles Canadians is the scrapping of the Avro Arrow project. The Canadian designed military plane was highly advanced for its time and there were high hopes of Canadians becoming a leader in the field. My great uncle, a skilled machinist, was among those who worked on the project. Then, a financially conservative Conservative federal government was elected, and the U.S. was pressuring Canada to arm with nuclear warheads (designed by the U.S.). The Canadian government decided they could afford planes or they could afford warheads, but not both. They went with the U.S.’s idea, completely scrapping and shuttering the Avro Arrow and putting many out of work. The warheads are now defunct museum pieces, and any dreams of being leaders in military aviation have long since faded as the expense of buying new planes for the military inevitably causes a kerfuffle in the legislature.

    We still have a good military, though it is small. We quietly helped the U.S in Afghanistan for thirteen years, holding the most dangerous area around Kandahar for five of those years and losing 159 soldiers; we shared in the bombing mission of Libya and early on against ISIS; and we still have special forces embedded in the Iraq and Kurdish forces fighting ISIS. One of our sniper teams recently set a world record there – we actually hold three of the five record sniper shots: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/canadian-elite-special-forces-sniper-sets-record-breaking-kill-shot-in-iraq/article35415651/. I have a friend in the military, and he told a funny story about a joint training mission with the U.S. military, in which, in a certain U.S. state, the Canadians were to select and hold a position and the U.S. were to find them and flush them out. He said the Canadian unit stayed in their position for three days and the U.S. military never found them. Big expenditure on sophisticated military technology doesn’t always work.

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  13. Michelle, your service and sacrifices are greatly appreciated. It would be tough to be overseas with small children. When Dad turned 65, he retired and moved to the Philippines as a missionary with his denomination. The base had just closed. He said he shoveled volcanic ash every day, just like snow in New England. Many of the roofs on the base had collapsed from the weight. And there was much chaos among the Filipinos who were just trying to survive after the dual shocks of Mt Pinatubo and the loss of the base. Major bridges and roadways were completely washed away. That took years to replace.

    In spite of all the turmoil, Dad speaks of that time with great satisfaction, and speaks of the Filipinos with great affection. A few of the young men he raised up and mentored still call him every few weeks. He was there almost 20 years, and says he would have stayed if not for family back home. :–)

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  14. NATO — There are mutual benefits derived from the alliance both from the US and Europe. It keeps the two groups politically and economically tied. The US benefits as much as the Europeans in that regard.

    The figure of 2% spending is ironically met by bankrupt Greece — when the EU/IMF/World Bank etc restructured Greece they kept military budget in tact. Demonstrates some people’s priorities.

    The US spends around 4% of their GDP but how much is actually used within the NATO defence system. The US military is in sever jurisdictional and mission overreach. Health care, domestic law and order, climate or any type of science research, flood control, disaster relief, etc have all fallen under the military’s role. The US military has become a state within a state, and a socialist state at that.

    As Debra points out, the military provided health care, jobs and education for countless working class youth. Why not admit the gov’t provides these things, and do it outside of the military cover.

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  15. Roscuro, Canada is probably our most underappreciated friend. Possibly because you guys are low key. Our collective national arrogance and bravado tends to drown out less strident voices. (And this was loooong before Trump came on the scene I’m afraid.) But I’m glad you’re there. :–)

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  16. Ricky — the US had and still has some of the best public universities in the world. The land grant universities and the California system was/is a better system than any public system elsewhere. It draws in the most intelligent people worldwide (despite Trump…). However, there have been some real challenges — Reagan almost destroyed the California system when he was governor. tuition rates, once nominal, are out of control, undergrad has replaced high school (students should be streamed a lot earlier — Europeans do this around 12-14 years of age), etc. The latest challenge is the glorification of ignorance — and the idea that all opinions are equivalent, with low regard for experts in the field.

    A serious challenge is in the high schools. For the US and to certain extent Canada high school is more of a social event and maturation than an education institution with the serious studying reserved for university. In Europe its the opposite, high schools are extremely rigorous and once admitted into university, a student can relax.

    A problem unique to the US is local funding. Instead of the state or federal gov’t funding schools equally, schools rely on district property taxes to fund district schools. This only increases the divide between the cultural elites and the masses as the upper 25% ensure their school districts are adequately funded while the poor deal with mold in the classrooms, maps with the USSSR, etc.

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  17. HRW,

    “As Debra points out, the military provided health care, jobs and education for countless working class youth. Why not admit the gov’t provides these things, and do it outside of the military cover.”

    You mean for free, right?

    Ummm…. no.

    Their service to the greater good and protection of the US earns them those things. They paid a price for those privileges, in some cases a very high price. Anyone who wants those things can step up and earn them, but fewer today have what it takes to be a soldier, mostly because of a lack of the will to do so. They take for granted the protections and freedoms the greatest military in the world has to offer, they’re ungrateful and they give nothing in return except tax money, and that’s grudgingly at best. Much like Europe, Germany, and the rest of the world.

    Personally I prefer required service as countries like Israel do. Conscription requires all to have some skin in the game. An extremely liberal exemption system should be included, for various reasons. There’s plenty of civilian/govt positions associated with the process for folks with exemptions, so they can still assist their country in a non-violent manner.

    This might instill a change of attitudes among many in the US, especially the “highly educated” college students who despise the military because their professor does. They know nothing of it, other than the revised version their educators rant about, so they just don’t know any better in most cases. This way, they’d know BS when they smelled it.

    Part of what made this country great, and what allowed it’s creation in the first place, is their willingness to stand up for what they believed, their homes and families, their way of life, and their neighbors. This is sadly lacking today. We’ve gone soft. A kick in the keister, some push-ups, and grass drills would help cure that.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. And speaking of the GI Bill, here’s some welcome news! :–)

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional Republicans and Democrats have reached initial agreement on the biggest expansion of college aid for military veterans in a decade, removing a 15-year time limit to tap into benefits and boosting money for thousands in the National Guard and Reserve.

    The deal being announced early Thursday is a sweeping effort to fill coverage gaps in the post-9/11 GI Bill amid a rapidly changing job market. Building on major legislation passed in 2008 that guaranteed a full-ride scholarship to any in-state public university — or the cash amount for private college students similar to the value of a scholarship at a state college — the bill gives veterans added flexibility to enroll in college later in life. Veterans would get additional payments if they complete science, technology and engineering courses.

    For a student attending a private university, the additional benefits to members of the Guard and Reserve could mean $2,300 a year more in tuition than they are receiving now, plus a bigger housing allowance.

    House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., praised the bill as a major effort to modernize the GI Bill, better positioning veterans for jobs after their service in a technologically sophisticated U.S. military.

    “It’s really about training the workforce in a post-9/11 GI Bill world,” he told The Associated Press. “Veterans are being locked out of a whole new economy.”

    House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe, the bill’s lead sponsor, said he would schedule a committee vote next week. Pledging more VA reforms to come, McCarthy said the full House will act quickly, describing the bill as just the “first phase to get the whole VA system working again.”

    https://stream.org/house-reaches-deal-biggest-expansion-gi-bill-decade/

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  19. AJ @ 12:51
    Around the 1947-48 period, there was brief discussion about universal military training.
    That is, every young man had to go through a period of basic training. Remaining in was optional. Most of the guys in my high school class were for it. Most of the girls against it.. If I remember correctly, the discussions didn’t last long.
    Military service was encouraged and appreciated in those fays.

    I still think every young man should go through a four month basic training session.
    As, as you say, the Israeli’s do.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. AJ — my point was the US needs to separate these expenses from the military budget. According to the data, the US spends 4% of the GDP on the military but this includes health care and education — items other countries don’t include in their military budget. An other example; the US military has become the largest funder of climate research. The US military suffers from mission creep. The wide variety of expenses in the US military indicates it has become a state within a state. A situation which usually doesn’t end well.

    Conscription is extremely common in Europe. Until recently most continental nations had conscript armies. There’s been a slow movement away from conscription since there really wasn’t any value being created there. The conscripts treated it as joke and a waste of time. Discipline was horrid and most conscripts spent most of their time trying to figure out the slackest way to pass time. Most Europeans are now moving toward professional armies — the traditional Anglo-American method.

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  21. Mission creep is a problem along with all the social “progress” inflicted on people trying to defend their country. You’d be amazed at all the meddling that goes on that has nothing to do with the real job.

    Money therefore is redirected to military social programs instead of maintenance on the fleet. We have friends who have spent their whole careers trying to save money, including their post-careers as contractors, only to see the savings siphoned away to yet another social program.

    Some are entirely appropriate: ending racial segregation, say. But that boat sailed a long time ago. Any military base I’ve ever visited is far more racially desegregated than any gathering in my smug liberal enclave.

    It would benefit many young people to join the military where they would learn to dress properly, clean, follow orders, earn pay and give back. I don’t see that happening with many high school graduates these days.

    But we’re not about excellence any more, are we? We’re all about “equality” whether it makes sense or not. 😦

    Liked by 4 people

  22. From World:

    An ethical blemish
    The Trump team’s Russia meeting raises concerns, even if it wasn’t illegal

    https://world.wng.org/2017/07/an_ethical_blemish
    _______________________________________

    … So far, no evidence suggests the meeting comes anywhere near the definition of treason, as some Democrats have argued, or was likely even illegal, but it’s more than a nothingburger. …

    … The real concern here is most likely ethics. The Russian government has its own purposes in everything it does, and those purposes do not involve the best interests of the United States. It is a hostile power that attacked Ukraine and annexed Crimea, spies on the United States, and launches hundreds of jet fighters into NATO airspace. Americans have a right to know whether Trump aides discussed offering policy concessions (such as a lifting or softening of sanctions) to this adversary of America in return for campaign help. …

    … Even if they didn’t do so, the secret meeting may have put the Trump team in a position to have this hostile foreign government politically blackmail the administration later, as National Review columnist David French points out. (No evidence suggests such blackmail happened, but the meeting opened up the possibility.) And while it may not be illegal for a candidate to go to an American adversary for help in defeating a domestic political opponent, it certainly should concern us. Members of the Trump administration know this, given their previous denials that any such meetings took place, including denials from Trump Jr. himself, before he finally released the emails. …

    Donald Trump as president has done some excellent things. A person can be enthusiastic about the Neil Gorsuch appointment to the Supreme Court, the repeal of the contraceptive/abortifacient mandate, and Trump’s defense of Western civilization during his July 6 speech in Poland, and still be concerned that some of his top advisers seemed eager to meet secretly with Russian officials hoping to influence the U.S. election.

    The meeting, even in its best possible light, is an ethical blemish on the administration. It’s not Watergate or Whitewater, but we need to know more about what happened on that June day in Trump Tower.
    ________________________________________________

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  23. The problem I have with conscription is that in our current social climate, women would be put in combat positions. Call me old-fashioned, but I have a problem with that.

    A couple years ago or so, somebody (could it have been Michelle?) shared an article about how the equipment & physical exertion demanded by those kinds of positions take a much greater toll on a female body than on a male body.

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  24. Chas – Definitely. Even a woman would get in trouble for daring to say that in a more pubic arena.

    As Michelle said, “We’re all about “equality” whether it makes sense or not.” 😦

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  25. Looks like we have a new edition to the list of suspicious deaths tied to the Clintons.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-peter-smith-death-met-0713-20170713-story.html

    “A Republican donor and operative from Chicago’s North Shore who said he had tried to obtain Hillary Clinton’s missing emails from Russian hackers killed himself in a Minnesota hotel room days after talking to The Wall Street Journal about his efforts, public records show.”
    ———————

    “However, the Chicago Tribune obtained a Minnesota state death record filed in Olmsted County that says Smith committed suicide in a hotel near the Mayo Clinic at 1:17 p.m. on Sunday, May 14. He was found with a bag over his head with a source of helium attached. A medical examiner’s report gives the same account, without specifying the time, and a report from Rochester police further details his suicide.

    In the note recovered by police, Smith apologized to authorities and said that “NO FOUL PLAY WHATSOEVER” was involved in his death. He wrote that he was taking his own life because of a “RECENT BAD TURN IN HEALTH SINCE JANUARY, 2017” and timing related “TO LIFE INSURANCE OF $5 MILLION EXPIRING.”

    One of Smith’s former employees told the Tribune he thought the elderly man had gone to the famed clinic to be treated for a heart condition. Mayo spokeswoman Ginger Plumbo said Thursday she could not confirm Smith had been a patient, citing medical privacy laws.

    The Journal stories said it was on Labor Day weekend in 2016 that Smith had assembled a team to acquire emails the team theorized might have been stolen from the private server Clinton had used while secretary of state. Smith’s focus was the more than 30,000 emails Clinton said she deleted because they related to personal matters. A huge cache of other Clinton emails were made public.

    Smith told the Journal he believed the missing emails might have had been obtained by Russian hackers. He also said he thought the correspondence related to Clinton’s official duties. He told the Journal he worked independently and was not part of the Trump campaign. He also told the Journal he and his team found five groups of hackers — two of them Russian groups — who claimed to have Clinton’s missing emails.

    Smith had a history of doing opposition research, the formal term for unflattering information that political operatives dig up about rival candidates.”

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  26. Interesting read, which surprised me since it’s the DailyBeast.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/theres-no-escaping-donald-trumpor-the-imperial-presidency-that-preceeded-him

    “Neil Postman has become a Trumpian Nostradamus of sorts, with his prophetic 1985 tome about how television has a corrosive effect on politics and public discourse. In Amusing Ourselves to Death, he wrote about how the written word requires rational argument and nuance whereas television demands a higher entertainment value with a greater emphasis on images. Social media has exacerbated this, making our discourse not only grounded in images but in brevity. Gifs, 140 characters, meme lords.

    Enter When he orchestrated a massive rally, the Air Force One theme song echoing over the loudspeaker, and delivered the message that “I alone can fix it” – his voters believed him, in part because over time they had been socialized to the idea that presidents can act alone and that Trump was a boardroom CEO who could make executive decisions.

    The bull in a china shop approach to the beginning of his presidency showed that with few exceptions Trump believed it too. This administration filed a record number of executive orders in the first 100 days. The president tried to bully corporate CEOs who were considering outsourcing jobs. Sure, Trump the executive has been foiled in some areas, and our constitutional system has not completely eroded. But the idea that the President is all powerful is both pernicious and pervasive.

    Decades of presidential idolatry and debasement of political discourse will not reverse overnight. But a front row seat for Presidential Apprentice should at minimum ensure reflection as to how we can begin to restore a political system that rewards more humility and accommodation.
    For liberals, what could be a bigger wake-up call to the need to restrain executive power than President Donald J. Trump? And the remaining principled conservatives on Capitol Hill should use the opportunity to find common ground on erecting more safeguards against executive excesses while they have control of Congress.”

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  27. This is funny. My friend David writes (on Facebook):

    “I see people doubting the emails, suggesting they could have easily been forged.

    You DO realize that it was Donald Trump Jr. who released the emails, that you’re accusing him of forging emails to incriminate himself, right?

    So, if you want to argue that he is a liar, and/or so stupid and incompetent that he would forge emails to incriminate himself, go for it.

    But perhaps you might consider whether you’ve had a bit too much Koolaid??”

    Liked by 1 person

  28. “I think tonight Hannity is going to link the Clintons to the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.”

    That wasn’t the Clintons. That one was actually Al Gore’s father, in collusion with the Russians, of course. Duh. Everyone knows that.

    Liked by 3 people

  29. HWesseli@11:43, what is it you think Reagan did to almost destroy the California university system as governor? I grew up in California and started college in 1975, eight months after his term ended. I didn’t go to UCLA but it was one of my top two school choices. My recollection is that it was a fine school and very inexpensive compared to any other schools I looked at.

    Liked by 1 person

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