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Thursday, December 31, 2015

What Will 2016 Bring?

It's time for some predictions for the new year.  What will 2016 bring?  Obviously, no human being knows the answer, but here are some predictions anyway:

1.  Sadly, 2016 is going to see more attacks by terrorists against the West.  The Islamic terrorists are not going to stop.  Indeed, after all their recent "successes" like the Russian plane in Egypt, the Paris slaughter and the San Bernardino attack, the terrorists are more likely than ever to strike.

2.  The world economy is going to get worse and that will be the case both in the USA and abroad.  The major fall in nearly all commodity prices will bring losses and many bankruptcies to companies in the relevant fields.  Countries dependent on production of oil, copper, iron, and the rest will have great difficulties paying their creditors, and the resulting defaults will shake many of the world's financial institutions.  By the end of the Summer, America will be back in recession too.

3.  The Paris agreement on global warming will turn out to be nothing but hot air.  No concrete action will be taken to fight this "problem" which doesn't seem to actually exist.

4.  Hillary Clinton will not be indicted for mishandling classified information by placing it on her private unsecured computer system.  The FBI Director Comey will recommend prosecution, but attorney general Loretta Lynch will decide not to proceed with any charges.

5.  Hillary Clinton will also be the Democrat nominee in the 2016 election. 

6.  The GOP nominee will be Marco Rubio.  (On this one, I admit to bias, but it's my post, so I'm allowed.)

7.  The election will result in a major victory for the Republicans.  They will carry the states won by Romney and also pick up victories in Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and Colorado (and perhaps some other states.)  The GOP will increase its seats in the House by at least ten.  The Senate will remain in GOP control.

8.  The end of 2016 will see continuing fighting in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Notice The Difference

Nearly 44 years ago, the people working for the president of the United States were caught spying on his political opponents in order to gain a political advantage for that president.  The event took place in the Watergate apartment building in Washington and the end result was the resignation of president Nixon for whose benefit the spying was done.  There were a few operatives who broke into the Democrat National Committee office in the Watergate in an effort to get documents and other information that would help Nixon in the 1972 election.  There was a firestorm in the media which grew into a near certainty of impeachment for Nixon and his resulting departure.

Today, the Wall Street Journal broke a story that is actually quite similar to Watergate.  The report is that the NSA and other security agencies used electronic surveillance methods to spy, among others, on members of the House and Senate and American political groups who were opposed to the deal president Obama struck with Iran with regard to nuclear weapons.  These same spy agencies also listened to the communications of Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, but that is a different matter.  What is important here is that in order to promote Obama's political objectives (the Iran deal), agents of the government spied on Obama's political opponents.  It's the same thing that happened in the Watergate.

Will we see outrage from the media that the NSA is undertaking intercepts of the communications of members of Congress?  So far, the answer is a resounding NO!  Will the Congress act to determine the perpetrators and punish them?  Most likely we will see some more hearings but no action.

Actions that brought down the president 44 years ago are today considered normal behavior by Obama in dealing with his political opponents. 


The Fog of War -- or -- Reporters Who Have No Idea What They Are Talking About

In the last two days, I have read articles describing the situation in Syria as:

1)  Hezbollah is losing so many soldiers that many of the survivors are refusing to serve any longer;
2)  The non-ISIS Sunni rebels are nearing collapse;
3)  The Assad forces are nearing collapse;
4)  The Russian airstrikes have brought the Assad forces to the brink of major victories;
5)  The Iranians are sending thousands of troops to shore up the Assad forces;
6)  The Iranian forces are, for the most part, withdrawing from Syria;
7)  The Israelis are conducting a covert campaign in Syria against both Hezbollah and Iranian forces; and
8)  There have been two or three air strikes by Israel in 2015 in Syria against weapons convoys to Lebanon, but otherwise, Israel has stayed away from involvement in Syria.

There is just no way that all of these can be accurate or even close to accurate, but they get published nevertheless.

It makes me wonder who is doing the reporting about Syria.  Do these people have any idea what is actually happening there?


The Texas Mosque Fire Turns Out To Be Arson With a Twist

On Christmas day, a mosque in Texas was destroyed by fire.  No one was injured, but it took 80 firefighters to put out the blaze.  Now police have made an arrest for arson in causing the fire.

Let's stop here.  No doubt, you are expecting to hear about some yahoo who decided to burn out the Moslems on Christmas.  You would, however, be wrong.  The fire in the mosque was started by a longtime member of that congregation.  The arsonist worshipped at the mosque five times each day for over seven years.

We do not know yet what the motive was for the arson at the mosque.  Maybe it is like those "hate crimes" on some college campuses that have been traced back to some groups who then protest the "racism". 

The important point, however, is not why this was done.  It is rather that the arson was not a hate crime of any sort.  All those who immediately decided that the fire was proof of how there is anti-Moslem feelings across America will need to revise their opinions.  I doubt that they will.  After all, why be bothered with the facts?


China: No Hope And Chang

Thirteen years ago, a supposed "expert" on China, Gordon Chang, wrote a book about the coming Chinese economic collapse.  Since that time, Chang has continued to predict disaster in East Asia.  Today we got the latest installment of this ongoing prediction of doom.  According to Chang, China is either entering a recession that will last for decades or a depression; neither is a particularly good prospect.

So is Chang finally correct?  Is China descending into the economic abyss?  The only correct answer to that question is "maybe".  China's problem is that the force that drove its economy for decades of growth can no longer work very well.  Forty years ago, China was a backward place that was greatly in need of investment in all sorts of things.  It needed modern transportation systems (like airports, rail lines, and highways).  It needed modern housing.  It needed modern offices and other business locations.  And for the last forty years, China has built these things.  It has invested and gotten a modern country.  But once a city has a modern airport, it does not need a second one.  Once there is a high speed rail line between Shanghai and Beijing, there is no need to build a second.  Once there is adequate housing for the Chinese, the continued building of apartment buildings just results in empty apartments for which there is no need.  All that investment that the Chinese have been making for decades no longer works.  And that's the big problem.  All those millions of Chinese who have invested in the boom or who work in the industries that produced products used in these investments are now at risk.

It's not just the Chinese who suffer, though.  As China stops investing and building, all the industries world wide that furnished the needed products to China are getting slammed.  Copper is used mainly in electric wiring.  When building construction in China started to fall, the demand for copper collapsed and the price plunged.  Mines in Peru, Australia and elsewhere lost big.  Steel production also fell in a major way.  As a result the world price of iron ore has fallen by close to 75%.  Miners in Brazil and many other countries have suffered major losses.  Indeed, the collapse of commodity prices around the world is, more than anything else, the result of the end of the Chinese investment economy and the concomitant reduction in demand.

According to Chang, the problem in China is compounded because Beijing financed most of the investment through debt.  Chinese debt is about 3.5 times its GDP according to the figures used by Chang.  If the economy contracts, there is no way that such a large debt can be serviced.  The result will be default and massive losses for lenders around the world.  That outcome would spread the Chinese recession/depression around the world.

There is no need for such a gloomy outcome, however.  China may stagnate rather than collapse.  It could even achieve a slow growth rate.  That would not be great for China, but it would likely avoid a worldwide disaster.  A major increase in growth in the other developed world economies could also offset a Chinese contraction.  That would require a switch in the USA from the stagnation policies of president Obama to a strongly pro-economic growth posture (which will be dependent on the results of the 2016 election.)  A push for growth in Europe could also help provide support for the world economy.

The truth is that Chang has been wrong for more than a decade in his discussions of China and its economy.  Let's hope that he remains wrong into the future.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

More Corruption From the Clintons

It's hard to believe that there could be more corrupt behavior by Hillary and Bill Clinton uncovered at this point, but it's happened again.  This time, it has been learned that the office that enforces the ethics rules that applied to Hillary as Secretary of State "exempted" her and Bill from reporting income paid for their speeches if the cash was given to the Clinton Foundation.  That means that for years, Bill and even Hillary gave paid speeches completely under the radar.  The money went to the Clinton Foundation which used most of it for expenses that kept Hillary's campaign organization up and ready for 2016.  Over 80% of all expenditures by the foundation were not for charity. 

Think about this.  The chief diplomat of the USA and her husband gave speeches for millions of dollars and despite all the laws about requiring disclosure of such speaking fees, the Clintons stayed silent because the cash was funneled to a supposed "charity".  It's a disgrace!  Who knows what foreign governments gave cash to Hillary and Bill in hopes of a favor from the State Department?  Who knows what favors were traded for all that cash; we cannot follow the money trail when Hillary did not even report the payments as required by law.

That's the thing about the Clintons; each time you turn over a rock, there's another bit of muck that comes to the surface.


The Media Defenders Circle the Wagons

I don't like Donald Trump as anyone who reads this blog understands by now.  I do, however, have to give him credit for refusing to put up with the political games played by the mainstream media.  We had another example of this today when Savannah Guthrie of NBC News asked him about comments he made regarding Bill Clinton.  Specifically, Guthrie asked Trump if "an alleged extramarital affair" between Clinton and Monica Lewinsky made Bill fail game for the campaign.  Trump's response was direct; he told Guthrie that the affair was not "alleged".  He also told Guthrie that since Clinton admits the affair took place, there is no need to say "alleged".  At that point, Guthrie backed off and agreed.

The point here is not whether or not Bill Clinton's affair with Monica is relevant to the campaign.  No, the point is that the media was busy muddying the water about what happened during the Clinton presidency and Trump did not let that happen.  Believe it or not, there is a substantial portion of the American people who are unfamiliar with what happened between Bill and Monica.  NBC was trying to remake the affair into something that was just "alleged" rather than a reality.  Bravo to Trump for stopping that attempt.

And as for the relevance of the matter, we need to remember that it was Hillary Clinton who said that when a woman says she was raped, we must believe her unless it is disproven.  Of course, when Juanita Broderick claimed that Bill raped her, Hillary was out there denouncing her and enabling Bill.  When it was alleged that Bill, as president, had used his position to have repeated sexual encounters with a young White House intern, it was Hillary who said this was just the product of a vast right wing conspiracy (in other words, she refused to believe what we all know to be the truth.)  When Paula Jones claimed to be sexually molested by Bill, Hillary again led the charge to label Paula as "poor white trash" not worthy of belief.  (Of course, Bill later paid Paula close to a million dollars to settle her claims.)  And when it was disclosed that Gennifer Flowers and Bill had a lengthy affair while he was governor of Arkansas, Hillary again led the charge to discredit that claim.  Simply put, what Hillary has said about protecting women is disproven by her actions when the claims were against Bill.  It's all very relevant.