Archive for the ‘US News’ Category

Trump-Style Australian Populists Gain in Polls as Turnbull Flounders

February 28, 2017 Leave a comment

Michael Heath

Anti-immigrant populists and the opposition Labor party advanced in opinion polls as Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government descended into infighting.

One-in-10 people surveyed by Newspoll backed Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party, more than double its support base late last year, amid her attacks on Muslim immigration, free trade and foreign investment in Australia.

Labor climbed 1 percentage point to 37 percent, while the incumbent Liberal-National coalition fell 1 point to 34 percent, according to the survey published by the Australian newspaper Monday. The poll showed that, on a two-party preferred basis, Labor would trounce the government 55 percent to 45 percent in an election.

Turnbull is being undermined by his hard-line conservative predecessor Tony Abbott, seven months after scraping an election victory with a razor-thin majority. Abbott last week conducted a media blitz calling on Turnbull to slash immigration, scrap a renewable energy target to lower electricity prices, abolish the Human Rights Commission, reform the upper house of parliament and cut government spending to undercut One Nation’s supporter base.

Turnbull said the “outburst” was “sad” and wouldn’t distract him from governing; Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, once a loyal Abbott supporter, described the comments as “deliberately destructive” to his colleagues.

‘Enough is Enough’

“I thought it was important to send a very clear message to essentially signal that enough is enough,” Cormann said on Sky Sunday. Abbott was ousted by his party and replaced by Turnbull in September 2015 amid slumping poll ratings after only two years as prime minister.

Turnbull is battling to gain momentum for his government. The former banker is struggling to get spending cuts, designed to balance the budget and safeguard the nation’s AAA credit rating, through a hostile Senate where protectionist minor parties collectively hold the balance of power.

Among them is One Nation, which has siphoned support from the coalition with a mix of conservative social policies, anti-immigrant rhetoric targeting Muslims and economic protectionism.

Hanson, who was first elected to parliament in 1996, has shown before the damage she can wreak on conservative parties. She split the vote in the 1998 Queensland state election, which saw Labor win office. Hanson lost her seat later that year and returned to parliament in 2016, this time in the upper house, along with three One Nation colleagues.

Turnbull’s Performance

The Newspoll, conducted Feb. 23-26, showed dissatisfaction with the prime minister’s performance jumped 5 points to 59 percent. The news was no better for Labor though with dissatisfaction with its leader, Bill Shorten, rising 2 points to 56 percent. Turnbull leads Shorten 40 percent to 33 percent on the question of who would make the better prime minister, according to the survey of 1,682 voters that has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

Abbott’s motivation for attacking Turnbull isn’t clear. He may be trying to lay the ground for a return to the Liberal leadership by presenting himself as the only person who can reach populist voters and bring them back to the fold. Some political commentators speculated last week he may be attempting to weaken Turnbull, and pave the way for another conservative within the Liberal party, such as Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, to take the helm.

Abbott’s former chief of staff, Peta Credlin, told Sky he wasn’t seeking to reclaim the top job, but had a duty to speak out as votes leaked to One Nation.

“The party in Canberra is not listening, understanding or connecting with the party around the country,” Credlin said. “The party is bleeding, the supporters are going and I honestly fear the party will not get them back. It’s on life support.”

Iranian Revolutionary Guards Commander Admits to Having Terror Cells Situated and Ready to Strike in US (VIDEO)

February 28, 2017 Leave a comment

A recent video posted this week shows Islamic Republic strategist, Hassan Abbassi, discussing the destructive potential of Iran’s hidden army within the US.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Commander Abbassi admitted to having terror cells situation and ready to strike in the United States.

Abbassi: I’ll be brief. We have two million Iranians there. Be certain that I will raise a guerilla army from amongst them against you. You know this well. Look how vulnerable you were on 9-11 when four Arabs who don’t know how to fight managed to endanger your foundations.

March is the biggest month for GOP in a decade

February 28, 2017 Leave a comment

March is the biggest month for GOP in a decade

Source: The Hill

March is shaping up to be the most important month for the Republican Party in more than a decade

For the first time since 2006, the GOP controls the White House and Congress.

That power gives Republicans who thwarted much of President Obama’s second term the opportunity to fundamentally change federal policy and win legislative victories desired since the height of the Tea Party movement — if they can unify behind a common agenda.

The wish list begins with passing a budget, reforming the tax code and repealing and replacing ObamaCare.

All three issues are divisive, making the next six weeks key.

The House will be in session for five of them, while the Senate is scheduled only to take a only short two-day break in March.

By the end of that intense run, it will be clear that the Trump agenda is moving along swiftly — or stuck in its tracks.

“The month of March is not a ‘do-or-die’ moment, but it is the next closest thing,” says GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “For the last eight years, Republicans operated as the chest-thumping opposition party, and now is their best chance to show the American people they can in fact govern on some very critical issues.”

The big month effectively kicks off on Tuesday, when President Trump speaks to a joint session of Congress for the first time.

The president will subsequently deliver a budget blueprint and an ObamaCare replacement plan to the Congress.

Replacing ObamaCare is riddled with tough questions on Medicaid, the individual mandate and taxes. On the budget, conservatives want to attack the debt, but Trump has vowed not to make major changes to Medicare and Social Security.

During his speech, lawmakers will also be listening for cues on the wall Trump has promised to build on the Mexican border, and an infrastructure plan reportedly as large as $1 trillion. Those two proposals make conservatives worried about budget deficits nervous.

The first 100 days of a presidency are closely analyzed for success or failure, but both Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have set a 200-day mark, a nod to how challenging it will be to move their agenda.

Key conservatives, including Matt Drudge of The Drudge Report, Sean Hannity of Fox News and radio talk show host Mark Levin, are already getting restless with the lack of action.

Anne Coulter, a prominent Trump backer, recently wrote, “This is the Silence of the Lambs Congress. They’re utterly silent, emerging from the House gym or their three-hour lunches only to scream to the press about Trump.”

If Republicans fail to deliver, Trump may follow conservative pundits in directing fire at GOP legislative leaders.

Some lawmakers have acknowledged the slow start.

During an appearance last week on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the “Congress is stumbling” and Republicans “are tied up in knots.”

Graham, referring to intra-party differences over the House’s border-adjustment approach to tax reform, said, “The House is talking about a tax plan that won’t get 10 votes in the Senate…..Republicans in the House and Senate have problems, and I hope we will get our act together.”

Ryan has pushed back at suggestions the Congress is flailing. During a recent interview with Hannity, he said Republicans are “on track” and predicted this Congress will be the most productive “in our lifetimes.”

If the GOP-controlled Congress can revamp the entire tax code for the first time in 30 years, build a wall, replace ObamaCare, boost the economy, and pass a broad transportation bill, Ryan will be right. But all of those items are heavy lifts.

The White House knows it won’t be easy.

During an appearance at CPAC on Thursday, senior White House adviser Steve Bannon said, “Everyday is going to be a fight.”

Bannon was specifically referencing the media, but he could have been talking about the entire Washington establishment, which he loathes.

The establishment itself seems ready for a war, making it appropriate that March is named after Mars, the Roman God of War.

Democrats have already signaled they will send a clear opposition message to Trump in relation to his speech on Tuesday.

The minority party has sought to delay Trump’s Cabinet picks and sees little reason to cooperate on legislative issues given grassroots anger on the left.

The media is also spoiling for a fight, something Trump and his staff appear ready for.

Trump thrives on controversy and counter-punching his enemies. It worked on the campaign trail, where he defied endless pundit predictions about his imminent demise and fended off countless distractions. But will it work while governing?

President Obama, armed with overwhelming Democratic majorities, got off to a fast start in his first year. He signed a pay equity bill in late January of 2009 and the following month, his stimulus package became law.

The Republican-Congress moved quickly on President George W. Bush’s tax cut bill. The measure wasn’t signed into law until June of 2001, but it cleared the House quickly in March. There is growing speculation that should comprehensive tax reform die this year, the Republican Plan B will be to cut tax rates.

What can get overlooked amid the 24-7 news cycle is that the GOP is in a significant transition from the opposition party to governing.

Most Republicans in Congress have been spending their terms battling a Democratic president and now must make the shift to playing offense on policy. Of the 238 Republicans in the House, only 67 served with Bush. In the Senate, 20 of the 52 Senate Republicans worked alongside Bush.

Those lawmakers must now get ready to work with a GOP president to get things done — including some things they may not be thrilled about, such as raising the debt ceiling.

March will reveal whether the Republican Party can do more than work as an opposition party.

Former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who was pushed out of Congress by the Tea Party, has his doubts. Last week, he predicted the party will not be able to coalesce behind an ObamaCare repeal and replace strategy.

“In the 25 years that I served in the United States Congress, Republicans never, ever one time agreed on what a healthcare proposal should look like. Not once,” Boehner said.

Without any Democratic help, House Republicans can afford a couple dozen defections. In the Senate, they can only afford to lose to GOP votes to repeal ObamaCare using budget reconciliation rules. Replacing the Affordable Care Act will require at least 8 Democratic votes.

There is little political incentive for the Democratic Party, which is now energized by its liberal base, to help Trump. Earlier this month, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told The Washington Post that Democrats could win back the Senate if Trump’s approval rating is at 35 percent next year.

“If Trump’s at 55 percent, we could lose the whole ball of wax,” he said.

So don’t look for Schumer to appear at a lot of White House signing ceremonies.

“If Republicans are successful, they will gain greater support among the electorate,” said O’Connell, the GOP strategist. But if they show themselves to be to be the ‘gang that can’t shoot straight’, Democrats will hang it around their neck like an albatross and gleefully obstruct all the way to the 2018 ballot box.”

What Does America Really Gain From Excess Military Bases?

February 27, 2017 Leave a comment

In a recent piece at the National Interest, MIT Professor Harvey Sapolsky accuses “quick-fix budgeteers” of pushing a new round of military base closures as a “way to create magic money” for the Pentagon or taxpayers.

Sapolsky also claims that the “local economy disappears” when a base closes, and that savings are offset by other federal spending as former bases “are stuffed with other government-funded activities.” Accurately capturing the true savings generated by five successive “Base Realignment and Closure” (BRAC) rounds between 1988 and 2005 must include this other spending, but Sapolsky is wrong to suggest that closing unneeded bases does not produce net savings.

Base closures cost money upfront to clean up bases and hand them over to local communities. But the data shows that savings begin to accrue almost immediately. In the first round of BRAC, the savings began in fiscal year (FY) 1990—the first year of implementation—at a meager $72 million and then rose steadily to $1.5 billion annually by FY 1995. The second round of BRAC was even more impressive, with savings beginning at $548 million in the first year of implementation, FY 1992, and rising to a peak of $3.4 billion in FY 1997. The third and fourth rounds of BRAC in the late 1990s followed a similar pattern.

Sapolsky is correct that the savings from base closures are more significant when activities are eliminated and forces are reduced. The first four rounds of base closures focused on reducing legacy Cold War infrastructure that was no longer needed. Closing these bases allowed the Department of Defense (DoD) to eliminate the activities (and associated costs) needed to support them. Once these base support functions are eliminated, the savings accrue in perpetuity. We are still reaping the savings today from bases that were closed in the 1990s. DoD estimates that together the first four rounds of BRAC produced recurring annual savings of about $7 billion as of FY 2001, and those savings will continue accruing indefinitely.

The fifth and most recent round of BRAC is the exception that proves the rule. It was the only BRAC to occur during a military buildup, and it was more focused on realignments than outright closures. Because activities are not eliminated when they are moved from one base to another, the savings are more limited. Even so, the recurring savings from the fifth BRAC—by far the most expensive and wide-reaching BRAC ever—rose to $5 billion annually by FY 2011.

Sapolsky also claims that, “in the eyes of the BRAC proponents no one gets hurt. It is all win-win.” That is absurd. No one disputes that a base closure disrupts local and regional economic patterns, just as a factory closure does. The relevant point is that maintaining excess overhead doesn’t serve the nation’s interest, just as keeping an underperforming manufacturing facility doesn’t serve a company’s interests. BRAC is disruptive to local economies as existing government jobs (and the contractors that support them) are moved or eliminated. But that disruption is in many cases temporary as new private-sector jobs are created from the economic opportunity a closure creates.

In a dynamic economy, we take it for granted that resources are regularly reallocated, even if we are sometimes sad or inconvenienced when our favorite businesses succumb to competitive pressure. Changing consumer preferences and needs affect the supply of particular products and services. In much the same way, technological and geopolitical change affects both the demand for military hardware, and ultimately its character. This has happened in the U.S. military over the past decade, and it is why another BRAC is needed now.

We can’t ignore the impact that a base closure has on local communities. Many former bases have drawn in a wide range of businesses and industries, ultimately creating a more diverse and dynamic economic environment. But no one who has visited Limestone, Maine, can reasonably argue that the closure of the Loring Air Force Base was economically beneficial to that tiny town on the Canadian border.

On the contrary, Limestone—and much of surrounding Aroostook County—is in the midst of a long, slow, economic and demographic decline that seems all but irreversible. That didn’t start with Loring’s closure. And keeping Loring open longer wouldn’t have halted it. But it would have sapped resources from the Air Force that could have been used for more productive purposes.

Sapolsky implies that Loring and Limestone are emblematic of base closures in rural areas, and that the cases of the Presidio in San Francisco, or Governors Island in New York, are the exceptions.

But this is misleading. Far more typical are two other bases in Maine: Dow Air Force Base in Bangor, and the former naval air station in Brunswick.

The Air Force departed Bangor in 1968, but the Maine Air National Guard still operates there, sharing runways with commercial flights to and from the Bangor International Airport. There are also business parks and a satellite campus of the University of Maine at Augusta on former Dow Air Force Base property. General Electric began operations within months of Dow’s closure, and it is still one of the city’s largest employers.

The people of Bangor were certainly dismayed by the Air Force’s relatively abrupt departure, but they managed to make the best of it. In 1989, as communities around the country were facing the prospect of a new round of base closures under the new BRAC process, the DoD designated Bangor’s conversion of Dow as a model that others should emulate.

Meanwhile, Brunswick Naval Air Station is now Brunswick Landing, a diverse business campus operated by the Midcoast Regional Reuse Authority (MRRA). The base was included in the fifth and final BRAC round, and the last P-3 Orion aircraft departed in 2009. But the MRRA has flown past its five-year goals in terms of employment and business activity. MRRA executive director Steve Levesque told the Portland Press Herald last year “that we have a real opportunity to have 4,000 to 5,000 jobs in the next 10 years.”

No two cases are alike, and every community facing a possible base closure must devise a plan adapted to their needs. But no one should dispute that the U.S. military is carrying excess overhead, and that true savings can be achieved if we can muster the political will to do what is right. Wasteful and inefficient defense spending on bases and facilities that are no longer needed does not make us more secure.

Christopher Preble is the vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute. Todd Harrison is the director of Defense Budget Analysis and a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Image: Fort Ord, California. Flickr/Creative Commons/Presidio of Monterey

Here’s How the Deep State Is Trying to Lead Trump into a Nuclear War

February 27, 2017 Leave a comment


Daniel Lang

Before Donald trump took office, he promised to rebuild the US military by diverting a lot more funding into the armed forces. And when he made that promise, he wasn’t just talking about our conventional forces. He also proposed expanding America’s nuclear capability; a position he recently reiterated in an interview with Reuters. He stated that “It would be wonderful, a dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack.”

If Trump is really going to reinvigorate our nuclear program (a decision that many experts fear could spark another arms race), then he needs to be very careful about who he listens to. That’s because some of the high ranking officials in our government have some certifiably insane ideas on what a nuclear arsenal should look like. Recently a Pentagon panel known as The Defense Science Board, told the Trump administration that they need to remake our nuclear arsenal into a force that is capable of engaging in a “limited” nuclear war.

According to the report, “The Defense Science Board … urges the president to consider altering existing and planned U.S. armaments to achieve a greater number of lower-yield weapons that could provide a ‘tailored nuclear option for limited use.’”

The strategy behind limited nuclear use sounds deceptively simple. You need to escalate a conflict just enough to end it.

As the theory goes, using low-yield nuclear weapons against an adversary’s conventional forces will demonstrate that you mean serious business and might be crazy enough to launch an all out nuclear attack. This will cause the enemy to “blink” and ultimately back down, rather than risk global thermonuclear war or continue conventional hostilities.

There’s only one problem with the idea of engaging in a limited nuclear war. It simply can’t be done. Any limited nuclear war would eventually lead to a full scale nuclear war.

The lynchpin of a limited nuclear war is the tactical nuke. These are nuclear weapons that have a much smaller yield than a strategic nuke. Whereas a strategic nuke might have a yield of half a megaton or more, a tactical nuke is usually somewhere in the ballpark with the atomic weapons that we used on Japan, but usually smaller than that. They’re for use on the battlefield, possibly within close proximity to friendly forces. And there’s a reason why our government has been slowly phasing them out for decades. Just because they make a smaller crater, doesn’t mean they make a smaller impact.

When you use a tactical nuke, you’re still using a nuke. It doesn’t matter that it’s not large enough to destroy an entire city (though some of them can). By using them, you’re telling the enemy that you’re willing to use nukes. You’re saying that you’re willing to rain radioactive fallout on their territory. You’re willing to engage in total war.

The only appropriate response to that is escalation. The enemy has to show you that they can do the same thing. In war, both parties aren’t thinking “gee, how the heck do I get out of this?” They’re thinking, “how do I win” and “how do I get back at the other guy” and “how do I teach my enemy a lesson he won’t forget.” Limited nuclear war doctrine doesn’t burn the bridge between conventional war and full on nuclear holocaust. It builds that bridge.

This should be common sense. All you have to do is imagine what would happen if Russia dropped a relatively small, 10 kiloton nuke on an American military base in Europe. Would the US government respond with capitulation? Nobody in their right mind believes that.

And let’s pretend for a moment that a limited nuclear war is possible. What would that do? It would normalize nuclear warfare. It would make nukes a viable option in every single war. Every conflict would leave behind a trail of radioactive fallout and mass civilian casualties.

Hopefully brighter minds will prevail, because whoever is proposing this notion of limited nuclear conflict, needs to change out their dress uniform for a freaking straight jacket.

Citizen Militia Experiences Explosive Growth Following the Last Election

February 27, 2017 1 comment

ar-15, soldier, militia

Until the 1990’s, civilian run volunteer militias weren’t all that common in the United States. They were the fringe of the fringe in our culture. But after Waco and Ruby Ridge, their ranks swelled and they became a common subject in the news and in pop culture. Their numbers fell again under President Bush, and then grew to new heights under President Obama.

It’s an obvious pattern. Conservative militias multiply like crazy under Democratic presidents, and for good reason. When Democrats take the reigns of government, they always threaten to restrict gun ownership. They then decline under Republican administrations, when conservatives don’t feel as threatened.

However, there may be a new trend emerging. CBS Atlanta recently did a piece on a militia called the Three Percenter Security Force (which obviously showed them in slightly negative light, given the source). The organization is run by Marine Corps veteran Chris Hill, who says that their membership has grown from a few dozen, to roughly 400 members since November. The Marine told CBS that the militia would protect the Second Amendment under any administration, and that “The government or law enforcement agencies, disarming people, it’s a constant threat.”

That doesn’t sound very different from the stated objectives of any conservative militia that has emerged since the 90s. So why is this militia’s membership growing so drastically during the early stages of a Republican administration? What’s different this time? The answer may lie in how the Left has responded to Trump being elected. According to Hill:

“The level of violence I see coming from these protests is alarming, I think that creates more of a need for people like us to be there,” Hill said.

Hill says, just as anti-Trump supporters have a right to organize and protest, his group wants to show their presence.

“We have a duty to protect, our freedom, our liberty, our constitutional Republic.” Hill said. “That responsibility can’t be deferred to you know Congress.”

So radical leftists and conservative militias are experiencing explosive growth at the same time, and neither of them are afraid to present themselves in the streets of America. While I do support the rights of militias, I have to say that this probably won’t end well.

‘No evidence’ yet of Trump campaign contacts with Russia – House Intel Committee Chair

February 27, 2017 Leave a comment

All accusations, no evidence

‘No evidence’ yet of Trump campaign contacts with Russia – House Intel Committee Chair

The House Intelligence Committee probe into possible improper contacts between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia has not found any evidence yet, according to the Republican committee chair.“We still have not seen any evidence” that the Trump campaign communicated with Russia, Rep. Devin Nunes, the House Intelligence Committee chairman, told reporters on Monday.

“As of right now, I don’t have any evidence of any phone calls. It doesn’t mean they don’t exist,” Nunes said. “What I’ve been told by many folks is that there’s nothing there.”

Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser who spoke with the Russian Embassy in Washington prior to the inauguration, was just doing his job, Nunes said. He added that US intelligence services eavesdropping on the call amounted to “inadvertent collection,” but was “very interested” to find out who made the decision to publish Flynn’s name.

“The Logan Act’s ridiculous and you know it,” Nunes told reporters who inquired whether Flynn was acting improperly.

No one has ever been prosecuted under the 1799 law banning US citizens from engaging in foreign policy without government sanction.

Reports that US intelligence services were listening in on the call were leaked in papers critical of the Trump administration following the inauguration, resulting in mounting pressure on Trump to fire Flynn, who resigned on February 14.

Nunes confirmed that the White House asked him to address the New York Times story published on February 14 that claimed there were frequent contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. In addition to Flynn, the Times named former campaign manager Paul Manafort, adviser Carter Page, and Roger Stone.

“I want to be very careful that we can’t just go on a witch hunt against Americans because they appear in news stories,” Nunes said.

Democrats have claimed that Russian security services, personally directed by President Vladimir Putin, interfered in the US presidential election to help Trump, and even accused the Republican of being “Putin’s puppet.”

The accusations began after Democratic National Committee emails were published by WikiLeaks on the eve of the party’s national convention, revealing collusion among senior officials and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. In October, WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of emails from the private account of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. Clinton and the DNC likewise blamed the disclosure on Moscow.

Intelligence Committee’s ranking member, Adam Schiff (D-California), has emerged as one of the loudest voices claiming Russian interference in the US elections and aid to the Trump campaign. No evidence of either claim has ever been provided to the public.

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