Monday, April 04, 2016

Playing the Trump card

Comment from Israel

No US presidential candidate in recent history – not even George W. Bush, the favorite target of liberals everywhere – has received as much condemnation and criticism as Donald Trump. And that includes numerous articles in this newspaper. But while I agree that the Donald has an aggressive, abrasive style that is woefully short on substance, I can well understand his growing popularity.

Trump is bold, brash and breaks the mold; he is a kind of anti-Obama enfant terrible, and that plays well in a country that is sick and tired of the “Yes, I can, but no, I don’t” president, whose every ill-conceived endeavor into foreign policy has reduced America to an also-ran, if not a laughing stock.

For while Barack Obama continues to mislead the people about the clear and present danger of Islam, or praises the virtues of reducing America’s influence in the world, Trump dares to tell it like it is and say what everyone is thinking, but misplaced political correctness won’t allow them to say. While Obama basks in “reaching out” to violently anti-West (and certainly anti-Israel) countries like Iran and Cuba; while world leaders pontificate in Pollyanna fashion about the moral imperatives of unchecked immigration by Middle East “asylum-seekers,” Trump clearly warns about strengthening enemies and carelessly opening the front doors of our countries to anyone and everyone who wants in, including terrorist sleeper cells.

Trump is striking a chord with millions of people who just want to be told the truth, straight up, with no sugar- coating or political obfuscation.

The Donald may not end up in the White House, but his numbers clearly add up to a warning – from one of the world’s most successful businessmen – to whoever does end up winning the election: It’s time to stop business as usual.



Cronyism and Corruption in Brazil revealed -- bringing popular uproar

If the late Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises were alive today, he would have used one of South America’s largest countries, Brazil, as an example of his teachings. Not only because the effects of heavy-handed interventionism have finally propelled the anti Workers Party movement that is now taking over the country, but also because of what happened prior to the current turmoil.

As Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff (Workers Party or “PT”) struggles to conquer hearts and minds amidst the legal difficulties her administration has been facing due to the crony capitalist nature of Brazilian politics, millions of Brazilians wearing traditional green and yellow soccer jerseys flood the streets—and social media—with signs reading “Dilma out!”

The anger is understandable. In a country where Brazilians from all income brackets are forced to pay about 36 percent in sales taxes on most goods and services—a regressive tax that ends up hurting the poor—and give up about 28 percent of their income yearly, things haven’t been easy for quite some time.

Trouble began to brew for Dilma’s administration in 2009, when authorities launched an investigation into a network of currency exchanging businesses connected to Alberto Youssef. He was accused of forging contracts and moving billions of Brazilian Reais domestically and abroad using front companies and foreign bank accounts.

As the investigation broadened, authorities learned that Youssef had business relationships with Paulo Roberto Costa, the former director of the state-controlled oil giant Petrobras, major contractors and their lobbyists, and other Petrobras servicers. On March 2014, both Costa and Youssef were arrested.

As Costa agreed to cooperate with the authorities in August of 2014, Brazilians learned that he and several other directors of Petrobras received bribes and passed them along to politicians for their campaigns. In a matter of weeks, authorities got Youssef to join Costa, and revelations about one of the largest embezzlement schemes in the history of the country started flooding the news.

As both men started feeding authorities with the names of contractors involved in the scheme, Odebrecht and Andrade Gutierrez, the country’s two largest construction companies, were dragged into the investigation. Banker André Estevez, owner of Latin America's largest investment bank, BTG, was also involved.

In March 2015, a series of politicians were also accused of participating in the scheme.

By August, José Dirceu, the former prime minister under president Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva, was accused of receiving payments from Odebrecht and Andrade Gutierrez. Brazil Senator Delcídio Amaral (PT) and Lula’s close friend, the farmer José Carlos Bumlai, were arrested. The President of the Chamber of Deputies Eduardo Cunha (PMDB) and several PMDB party leaders were also targeted.

In no time, state prosecutors learned that the embezzlement scheme benefitted political parties in charge of Petrobras’s leadership appointments. At least 53 politicians are under investigation. As federal judge Sérgio Moro showed signs he believed former president Lula had profited from the scheme, prosecutors from the state of São Paulo added insult to injury by accusing Lula of “hiding his ownership of a beach-front condominium.

According to documents obtained by the Brazilian magazine “Época,” Jornal Opção reports, former president Lula was heavily involved in the embezzlement/crony capitalist scheme.

In what local media outlets call an “explosive” piece, Época writers claim Lula was the “lobbyist in chief” of Brazil during his administration and the period he has spent as a private citizen thereafter.

The magazine alleges that most of the former president’s time was spent traveling on behalf of Odebrecht contractors. Writers Thiago Bronzatto and Filipe Coutinho accuse Lula of aiding “Odebrecht billionaires” in deals with other countries using Brazilian taxpayer money.

As the country cries for impeachment, a smaller faction of the population stands with Rousseff and Lula, despite her lack of support among the general population. But as her approval ratings hover in the single digits, it is the country’s working class, not the country’s “wealthy factions” leading the way. As demonstrated by nanny Maria Angélica Lima, the woman turned famous for appearing in a photograph of a family taking part in one of the anti-Rousseff protests.

She told the newspaper: “Lula wasn’t the president everybody expected. Neither was Dilma. We need to take our chances with something new. I was tired of hearing the same lies, seeing the same corruption.”

As Brazilians struggle with increasing unemployment rates and rampant inflation, they also learn Lula—whose past popularity got the world jealous—was the leader of one of the largest crony capitalist schemes in the country’s history, working on behalf of major corporations, securing them deals with the state-owned firm, and doing all of that while on the taxpayer dime. It’s no wonder everyone is so angry.

As Mises once wrote in Human Action, “corruption is a regular effect of interventionism.” What Brazil—and America—now needs is a culture of liberty. More now than never.



Leftist ignorance on display in Britain

Jeremy Corbyn’s defence spokesman sparked a row last night over claims that she did not know the meaning of ‘Defcon One’ – the term for imminent nuclear war.

Gaffe-prone Emily Thornberry shocked aides by asking: ‘Can someone explain Defcon One and Two to me? I’ve only ever seen it in films.’

She made the remark at a meeting of a group set up to review the Labour leader’s pledge to scrap the UK’s Trident nuclear submarines.

A nuclear weapons expert present pointed out that Defcon stands for ‘defence readiness condition’.

The term was coined by US defence chiefs to signal degrees of military threat, ranging from Defcon Five to Defcon One, which means nuclear attack is imminent. The highest alert the US has used was Defcon Two, which it reached in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

The levels date back to 1959, the height of the Cold War, and were little-known outside military circles until the 1983 movie WarGames, about a computer hacker who almost sparked World War Three by accessing US military computers.

A witness who heard Ms Thornberry’s comment said: ‘The room went quiet. Everyone was silently asking themselves, “Has our candidate to be the next Labour Defence Secretary just said she doesn’t know the code for a nuclear war?” ’

Ms Thornberry provoked more controversy later that day when she was accused of snubbing former Admiral of the Fleet Lord Boyce.

After Labour foreign affairs spokesman Hilary Benn suggested asking Lord Boyce for advice on nuclear policy, witnesses say Ms Thornberry replied: ‘He has been out of it for too long. We need someone who can talk about the future. How about getting a physicist?’

It led to a clash with Blairite MP John Woodcock, head of Labour’s defence committee, who was at the meeting of Labour’s international policy commission.

Mr Woodcock, who supports keeping nuclear weapons, told Ms Thornberry: ‘If you won’t listen to someone who was a submarine commander, head of the Royal Navy and Chief of the Defence Staff, our defence policy will have no credibility.’

Lord Boyce, 73, was First Sea Lord from 1998 to 2001 under Tony Blair’s government and Chief of the Defence Staff from 2001 to 2003.

Ms Thornberry, a leading supporter of Mr Corbyn, had previously suggested Britain’s nuclear submarines could become as outdated as Spitfires. She was also branded a snob for tweeting a photograph of a home draped with England flags and a white van on the driveway during the Rochester by-election in 2014. Such was the outcry that she was forced to resign from her front-bench post. This latest dispute is part of a wider Labour Party battle over Mr Corbyn’s attempts to adopt more Left-wing policies.

Defcon stands for ‘defence readiness condition’. The term was coined by US defence chiefs in 1959 to signal degrees of military threat, ranging from Defcon Five to Defcon One
Defcon stands for ‘defence readiness condition’. The term was coined by US defence chiefs in 1959 to signal degrees of military threat, ranging from Defcon Five to Defcon One

A source close to Ms Thornberry confirmed she had referred to Defcon and films, but denied that she did not know what it meant. The source said that, in relation to Lord Boyce, Ms Thornberry had been stressing the need to look forward to nuclear capability in 20 or 30 years’ time – not back to the point when Lord Boyce was in command.

However, in an apparent U-turn, he said that the ex-defence chief would be invited to give evidence to Labour’s review.



Southern resolve

A brief review of Dafoe, A. & Caughey, D., “Honor and War: Southern US Presidents and the Effects of Concern for Reputation,” World Politics (April 2016).

DON’T PICK A fight with a Southerner. That’s the lesson — internationally — of recent research by political scientists at MIT and Yale. They found that American presidents from the South — where there is more of a culture of honor and resolve — were less likely to back down in international disputes. Specifically, disputes “that have occurred under Southern presidents have been twice as likely to involve the use of force, have lasted on average twice as long, and have been three times as likely to be won by the United States.” This pattern was not explained by other characteristics of the president or the domestic or international situation at the time.



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