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Saturday, January 30, 2016

America's Populist Revolution

America appears to be undergoing a major political realignment, if not a revolution "within the form."  Both political parties are in revolt. This is not normal competition.  The candidates representing change advocate significant departures in the way we do business.

First the Republicans.  Trump is here to stay.  He dwarfs the other candidates.  In no way does he represent traditional conservative positions.  But his core message resonates:  Americans have been getting a bad deal, and our immigration, trade, and foreign policies have all contributed to it.  It is amazing he is competitive with evangelicals, who clearly overlook who he is and what he has represented all his life.  See this column by Buchanan, who describes this as a civil war in the GOP, which probably won't be resolved by the election:  Civil War on the Right

Now the Democrats.  Bernie Sanders represents a total rejection of Clintonism.  The Democrats twenty-plus years of accommodation with Big Capitalism has to go.   Obama distanced himself from socialism, but Bernie embraces it and is doing well.  He takes aim at the health care system--which is still a mess despite or maybe because of Obamacare--and Wall Street, which seems to get richer every time there's an economic downturn.  His young supporters feel the effects of inequality.

What is remarkable to me is that many of Bernie's positions and language are shared by the Populist Right:  he refers to the "Banksters," for example.  Bernie is like the Occupy Wall Street movement taking on mass action.  This column by Peggy Noonan on a Sanders' rally is perceptive: Socialism's Second Life

The leadership of both parties wanted Jeb Bush and Clinton.  Now Bush is politically moribund and Clinton looks shaky.   All the energy is with Trump or anti-establishment GOP contenders, and with Bernie.

It is hard for me to believe the parties will nominate either Trump or Sanders.  We may have a three, or even four-way, political race in November, as one or two candidates decide on independent runs.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Beating ISIS Won't Be a Picnic

ISIS is resilient, innovative, and dug in.  So far, US efforts have helped trim them at the margins, but we haven't been able to land decisive blows.  Our attempt to train a moderate force to confront ISIS have failed miserably.  Air strikes have punished ISIS and reduced its personnel, but they can't dislodge ISIS forces from territory.

David Ignatius rightly points out here Long war against ISIS  that so far no one is leveling with the American people just how costly it will be to defeat ISIS.  Or what defeat really means.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

America's Allies Don't Feel Threatened

The Mighty Whig recognizes that we live today in a security paradox:  real security issues are diminishing, but we act as though they are increasing.  In Texas, for example, the homicide rate has steadily gone down, but our state legislature just voted to permit the open carry of firearms.   Now some people at least feel safer.

Here's an opposite element of the paradox: the developed world keeps harping on the new, challenging threats, but they spend less and less money to face them.  That seems to suggest they are not nearly as worried as they say they are.  Or maybe, like Doug Bandow says here, they are just pathetic:  Our Allies Are Persistently Pathetic

He cites some important numbers:  NATO members are spending an average of 1.5 percent of GDP on defense, while the lower limit for membership is supposed to be 2 percent.   They depend on America to save their bacon.  South Korea gets threatened by North Korea, and what's Seoul's  response?  Please America, send us more aircraft.

Another interesting fact from Bandow:  the Saudis spend more per year ($81 billion) than the Russians.  (And yet they are bogged down in Yemen.)

The Republicans are also two-faced about this:  they wail constantly about Russia and other threats, but they cut the Pentagon by $1 trillion over the next decade.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Free Education for All!

And they call Donald Trump a populist!  The Democrats believe college education should be free.  Students are burdened with too much student loan debt.  Solution?  Let's just make college free!  And we'll pass the debt on to...well, on to everyone.

Maureen Sullivan in Forbes talks about how Obama touted this brilliant idea in his State of the Union address Tuesday.  The Big O just called for free two-year universities.  That makes him a moderate.:  state-of-the-union-president-obama-takes-one-more-crack-at-his-education-agenda/#2715e4857a0b61f2fa2723ab 

That the teachers' unions heartily endorsed this proposition should be enough to scare you off from it.

This is all an elaborate smoke screen from the Feds:; they do their best to contribute to the high cost of college tuition with all their subsidies, grants, and low interest loans.

But I'll do the Democrats one better:  why not make more stuff free?  My car loan is killing me, and don't even ask about my mortgage... I'm burdened by them, for chrissake.  Why should the kids get all the free stuff?  What about taxpayers like me?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

El Chapo: Confessions of a Narcotrafficker

The notorious leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, just gave an interview to actor Sean Penn from his hideout in Mexico.  You can find the interview in Rolling Stone here: El Chapo Speaks

Why did Chapo agree to do it?  Perhaps trying to humanize himself and build up some public support before his inevitable capture by Mexican authorities, which happened this week.   Chapo has to be worried about eventual extradition to the US.

You couldn't find a more naive interlocutor than Sean Penn, who has single-handedly kept the Cold War phrase "useful idiot" alive.  Now that Chavez is dead, Penn has moved on to drug lords.  We have to see their side of the things, after all!  Chapo is just a poor peasant kid from Sinaloa, trying hard to make a buck. The War on Drugs--that's the big problem here.   (Rolling Stone, when it is not in the business of making up gang rapes, often pushes for complete legalization of narcotics.)

Absurdly,  Penn never pushes Chapo on the violence issue, and he makes it seem like the guy has only been trying to defend himself.  It never occurs to him that the reason Ciudad Juarez turned into a killing field was because Chapo was trying to take over that important "plaza" from the Juarez cartel.

Chapo has more blood on his hands that Slobodan Milosevic.

The most revealing part of the interview is Chapo's admission that he trafficks in heroin, cocaine, meth, and marijuana, and has a huge distribution network.

Will Chapo escape extradition?  Perhaps not.  Mexican authorities are now discussing it with Washington.  They'd be fools to keep Chapo.  He'll just escape again. /mexico-said-willing-to-extradite-drug-kingpin-el-chapo-to-u-s--ij7maxna

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Saudi Arabia: The Biggest Geopolitical Risk for 2016

The Kingdom has had a lot on its plate lately.  It launched a war to overthrow Assad by proxy, it intervened in Yemen's latest civil war, and now it has escalated its traditional rivalry with Iran by executing a Shia cleric. Does Riyadh expect the US to bail it out when things go sideways?   David Ignatius is right here to highlight some of the Saudis recent mistakes and the anxiety that drives their policy:  Saudis Fragile State

The US has long needed to re-balance its relationship with the House of Saud.  See Pat Buchanan's column here:  will-mideast-allies-drag-us-into-war?   It shouldn't be driving our entire regional policy.  Our initiative with Tehran was in our best interests.  We should have no dog in the fight in Yemen;  the Houthi are "fiver" Shia who hate Al Qaeda.  Now that they are beaten back, AQ is filling the void.