Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Putin wants to make Russia great again
The screed below seems to have been written to discredit Vladimir Vladimirovich. Yet in the end he simply portrays Putin as a rational and responsible leader of his country. Russia is a great country and it should be recognized as such. Waging a cold war on it is the foolish and irresponsible thing
Putin’s aims are simple, though achieving them is not. He wants to, in Tsar-like fashion, utterly dominate and control Russian politics. Second, he wants to – much as De Gaulle did in France after the war – restore his proud country to great power status. Everything else is secondary, merely means serving these two overriding ends.
It is in this basic chess playing context that the rise of a startlingly pro-Russian American President must be viewed. First and foremost, Putin wants to cajole the new administration into dropping America’s former rock-solid support for the sanctions placed on the Kremlin, following Russia’s successful meddling in Ukraine. , with the Russian finance ministry estimating they have cost the country $40bn a year. With pro-Russian Francois Fillon likely to become the new President of France and Italy’s support for the sanctions flagging, the constellation of power is right for Putin to do away with this serious economic wound.
Second, Putin wants the Trump White House to codify what is already happening, be it the settlement of the Syrian War on Russia’s terms or the annexation of Crimea. Given the strong impulse in the Trump cabinet (emanating from both prospective national security adviser Michael Flynn and defence secretary designate James Mattis) for combating Isis as a priority, a deal over Syria – wherein the US accepts Assad staying in power in return for joint Russian-American efforts to eradicate Isis in Raqqa – seems eminently doable. And while the taking of Crimea is unlikely to be formally recognised, neither is it likely to be much contested by the Trump White House.
Third, Trump – in line with the hapless EU and the Obama administration – must be kept from coming to the aid of a beleaguered Ukraine. As we have written before, Putin’s strategic interest in Kiev is not in taking over the place, but rather in seeing that it does not emerge as a successful, prosperous, pro-Western alternative to Great Russian nationalism on the Kremlin’s doorstep.
Given the venal, incompetent Ukrainian government this task has been made easier. But at all costs, Putin wants both America and Brussels to accept the present status quo in Ukraine, where a semi-failed, castrated state serves as a constant reminder to the Russian-dominated region of the fecklessness of western promises.
Lastly, and perhaps above all, Putin wants to stay out of the disastrous Trump’s way. The first rule of politics is that when an enemy is about to commit suicide, don’t stand between them and the bullet. As Trump provokes China over trade and tilts away from any form of cooperation with Beijing, and as he demeans the western allies (who admittedly have brought this largely on themselves over decades due to an immoral refusal to pay a fair share for the common western defence), Russia can merely stand by and watch, as Trump antagonises both the past (Europe) and the future (China). Chess players know how to be patient.
The out of touch president
Will he leave any legacy at all?
President Barack Obama went up to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to counsel congressional Democrats on how to save Obamacare. Or at least that’s how his visit was billed.
But to judge from the responses of some of the Democrats, his advice was typical of the approach he’s taken to legislation in his eight years as president — which is to say disengaged, above the fray, detached from any detailed discussion of how legislation actually works.
He was “very nostalgic,” said Louise Slaughter, a veteran of 30 years in the House and the ranking Democrat on the House Rules Committee. But, she added, he left it up to Hill Democrats to come up with a strategy to protect Obamacare.
This is in line with the standoffish relations Obama has had with members of Congress, even with Democrats who are inclined to be and capable of being helpful. Schmoozing with those he gives the impression of regarding as his inferiors has not been his style.
Nor has he ever seemed interested in the content of laws, even his trademark health care legislation. His February 2010 decision to move forward on Obamacare despite the election of Republican Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts meant accepting a bill with multiple flaws, many of them glaringly visible after passage.
But policy just hasn’t been his thing. At the Hill meeting, Obama — according to Massachusetts Democrat Bill Keating — was “basically saying, ‘Let’s not get down into policy language.’” The key word there may be “down.”
The problem with this approach has been apparent since the 9 o'clock hour on election night, when it became clear that Donald Trump was going to be elected president. In 2010, Obama assumed there always would be a Democratic Congress to repair any glitches in Obamacare. In 2016, he assumed that there would be a President Hillary Clinton to keep his pen-and-phone regulations and “guidances” in place.
It’s apparent that Obama is thrashing around trying to keep his policies in place. But more than those of other outgoing presidents replaced by successors of the other party, they’re in danger of being overturned.
One reason is that they were never firmly established in the first place — and not just because the Democrats' 60-vote Senate supermajority existed for only eight months, from July 2009 to February 2010.
Rather, the Obama Democrats' policies, passed through slapdash legislation or through questionably legal regulations, never really captured the hearts and minds of the American people.
Obamacare was based on the shaky premise that mandating often expensive and limited health insurance would be seen as guaranteeing good health care. As a result, as historian Walter Russell Mead recently wrote for The American Interest, “it did not generate enough public support to protect itself from its opponents.”
Regulations imposed on coal and other fossil fuel production — instituted after Democrats, even with strong congressional majorities, were unsuccessful in passing cap-and-trade legislation — failed to impress a population that did not share liberal elites' faith that climate change is certain to produce catastrophe.
And regulations legalizing the presence of millions of undocumented immigrants have failed to pass muster in federal courts, thanks to legal maneuverings as sloppy as the legislative legerdemain that shoved through Obamacare.
Public policies prove to be enduring when they address what people regard as genuine needs and thus create constituencies that politicians dare not defy. Social Security retirement benefits are a prime example. You can jigger the taxes and benefits, as a bipartisan majority did in 1983, but voters who believe they paid for their benefits will insist they not be taken away.
Policies that induce long-term reliance also tend to endure, a prime example being the home mortgage interest deduction. There’s a good argument that this policy, like the Social Security benefit formula, unduly benefits the affluent. But that argument doesn’t move most voters.
In my view, Obama owed his election and re-election to the feeling — widely shared by Americans, including many who didn’t vote for him — that it would be a good thing for Americans to elect a black president.
What they didn’t expect, but got, was a president who governed according to the playbook of campus liberals, imposing — or attempting to impose — policies that he believed would be good for people, whether they knew it or not.
This was governance that was both inattentive to detail and law and out of touch with how policies affect people’s lives. That is why so many of these policies seem headed for the ash heap of history.
Levin: Obama Has Been a One-Man Wrecking Ball, Will Leave Office with No Accomplishments
On his nationally syndicated radio talk show Thursday, host Mark Levin slammed the first African-American president, Barack Hussein Obama, calling him “a one man wrecking ball” and suggesting that he will leave office with no accomplishments.
Below is a transcript of Levin’s comments from his show:
“Barack Obama will go down in history as the first African-American president, and he has no accomplishments.
“In fact, he’s got one destructive policy after another, one outrageous speech after another.
“He leaves increased unemployment, true unemployment, not the government’s propaganda.
“He leaves increased racial tension of the sort I’ve never seen in my life.
“He leaves a country economically on its back.
“He leaves our enemies abroad stronger than they could possibly have imagined.
“He’s eviscerated law enforcement; he’s eviscerated our health care system; he’s eviscerated our courts – having appointed 40 percent of the judges.
“He’s eviscerated the school lunch program; he’s eviscerated NASA; he’s eviscerated the Justice Department, which now is a left-wing hack political operation.
“He’s eviscerated the Environmental Protection Agency, which isn’t about the environment at all. It’s about destroying our industries.
“He’s eviscerated our immigration system and our border; he’s eviscerated our intelligence community in many respects.
“He’s eviscerated our trust by our allies – including the state of Israel.
“Obama has been a one-man wrecking ball. That’s what I’ve called him for eight years, and I’m actually wrong.
“There’s a lot of wrecking balls in this, including the Democrat Party, the media, academia and these clowns in Hollywood.
“Oh, and yes, he’s done enormous damage to our constitutional system, and you really do have to wonder if it can be repaired based on what you hear today from both parties.”
Boomers: Beware SS BS
Shortly before the holiday season, the Social Security Administration sent out an official letter titled “Important Information.” If you are now at the full retirement age of 66 or older, the letter says, “you may keep all of your benefits no matter how much you earn.” That kind of generosity is hard to top, but on the other hand, if you are younger than the full retirement age, “there is a limit to how much you can earn before we reduce your benefits” and the earnings limit is $16,920. Try paying your bills with that. If you are under 66 and earn more than that, “we deduct $1 from your benefits in 2017 for each $2 you earn over $16,920,” equivalent to a tax of 50 percent. If you are turning 66 in 2017, SS allows you to earn $44,880 and grabs $1 for every $3 you earn above that limit, equivalent to a tax of 33 percent. This kind of federal poverty enforcement, however, does not apply to everybody.
As we noted, those in the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) can retire at the age of 55, a full seven years earlier than Social Security allows. By all indications, they are not subject to income restrictions and the government even helps early federal retirees get more money through a secretive Special Retirement Supplement (SRS). For privileged federal employees, this is a Dream Act guaranteed to keep the government ruling class far ahead of the working masses. The Obama administration made no attempt at reform.
Meanwhile, the Social Security Administration has been sending money to former Nazis and continued payments to dead people for twenty years. The Social Security Administration has also attempted to grab money from the children of people who were allegedly overpaid benefits decades ago. This happened on the watch of Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin, who faced allegations that on her watch the Administration hid a report on a $300 million computer boondoggle and retaliated against a whistleblower. Obama nominee Colvin remains “acting” commissioner and reports of retaliation against whistleblowers have continued in 2016. Beyond such waste, abuse and incompetence, the Social Security Administration will still punish productive work in 2017. Happy New Year everybody!
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Posted by JR at 1:16 AM