Monday, June 26, 2017

The Decline of the African-American family - By Dean Kalahar

Race in America is set against the backdrop of horrible historic realities, minefields few want to cross -- just ask Representative Paul Ryan. But if we are ever to focus on children who, for no fault of their own, are often raised in environments where a stable father is missing, violence is predictable, education is eschewed, drugs are prevalent and dependency threatens freedom; we must stand up and speak facts before another generation of children are lost.
Racism is the normal explanation for the decline of the black family, but that analysis does not hold up. Thomas Sowell has shown that “the black family survived centuries of slavery and generations of Jim Crow where most black children grew up in homes with two parents.” In fact, “when blacks were just one generation out of slavery, the census data of that era showed that slightly higher percentage of black adults had married than had white adults.” One would be hard pressed to believe that race issues in America are bigger today they were in the past.
Still others look to socioeconomic discrepancies for difficulties within the black family. Again Sowell’s research shows that “the particular culture or ‘human capital’ available to a people has often had more influence on their economic level than their existing material wealth, natural resources, or individual geniuses.” Even factoring for economic differences and severe social disadvantages, examples of a vibrant black family institution in America’s are too numerous to ignore.
• In the 1890s, there were four public high schools in Washington D.C.; one black, the M Street School/Dunbar High School, and three white. In 1899, Dunbar averaged higher standardized test scores than students in two of the three white schools. From 1870 to 1955 Dunbar repeatedly equaled or exceeding performance on national standardized tests.
• As late as 1910 more than two-thirds of the black population of Chicago lived in neighborhoods where most residents were white.
• In 1950, 72 percent of all black men and 81 percent of black women had been married.
• Every census from 1890 to 1950 showed that black labor force participation rates were higher than those of whites.
• Prior to the 1960’s the unemployment rate for black 16 and 17-year olds was under 10 percent.
• Before 1960, the number of teenage pregnancies had been decreasing; both poverty and dependency were declining, and black income was rising in both absolute and relative terms to white income.
• In 1965, 76.4 percent of black children were born to married women.
So what changed the equation?
By the 1960s, American society was riddled with generations of “white guilt.” In reaction and repentance sparked by Dr. King’s nonviolent civil disobedience and the systemic introspection of social norms by whites, Americans overcompensated with sweeping entitlement programs under President Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” and by turning a blind eye to accountability on longstanding values and principled behavior within the African American community. While affirmative action and desegregation jump-started social change, the unintended consequences of shifting the cultural incentives upside down were ignored.
This caused what Democrat Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan called “defining deviancy downward.” And with Civil Rights Act of 1964 giving legal credence to making any sort of behavioral judgment toxic, the cultural glue that held together the African-American family was fundamentally changed.
This destabilization has created turbulent neighborhoods that have devastating costs to children ranging from poverty, educational deficiencies, violence, crime, drugs, and a culture of victimization and entitlement.
Basic developmental psychology tells us that boys and girls growing up without fathers and stable homes are overwhelmingly more likely to lack self-discipline and personal responsibility than children growing up with married parents. The economic, emotional, and spiritual guidance that two parent families provide are the cornerstones of effective family institutions. Without that stability, institutional collapse is eminent.
The statistics since 1960 support this analysis.
• Between 1960 and 1964, blacks were rising into professional and other high-level positions at a rate greater than the five years following passage of the Civil Rights Act.
• The 1960 census showed the first signs of a decline in black marriages, with acceleration in later years.
• Since the 1960s the black labor force participation rates have been lower than whites and unemployment rates for black 16 and 17 year olds has never dropped below 20 percent.
• In 1980, 31 percent of all black first-born children were born to teenage mothers.
• By 1992, 54 percent-of all black children were living only with their mothers.
• From 1990 to 1994, 77 percent of first births to black women were premarital.
• In the 1980s and 90s, an absolute majority of those black families with no husband present lived in poverty.
• By the 2000s, 75% of blacks with a high-school degree or some college were not married.
• In 2005, Black people accounted for 13% of the total U.S. population yet they were the victims of 49% of all the nation's murders; and 93% of black murder victims were killed by other black people.
• Less than half of black students graduated from high school in 2005.
• In 2009, 73% of black children were born to unmarried mothers.
• In 2012, blacks in New York constituted 78% of shooting suspects and 74% of all shooting victims even though they are less than 23% of the city’s population. Young black men in New York are 36 times more likely to be murdered than young white men.
• Today, black males between the ages of 14 and 17 commit homicide at ten times the rate of white and Hispanic males of the same age combined.
• In many urban areas, the black illegitimacy rate is well over 80 percent.
• The national unemployment rate for blacks is over 13%, nearly five points above the average for all Americans. And black teen unemployment is over 40 %.
The good news is that things can be turned around because a thriving nuclear family is at the heart of African-American tradition.
First, we must acknowledge that well-intentioned social have uprooted traditional cultural incentives and legitimized an entitlement attitude that is counterproductive and harms children.
Second, we must stop ignoring bad behavior and choices in the African-American community. Discriminating between proper and bad behavior as a legitimate judgment, it is not discrimination or bigotry. Basic psychology tells us when you are allowed to get away with and are rewarded for bad behavior; you reinforce and get more progressively worse behavior that harms children.
Third, there must be an admission that clinging to a counterproductive culture that is supposedly “authentic” in the name of group pride or to avoid self-reliance and personal responsibility is not only historically incorrect, it harms children. Thomas Sowell has shown that no group has ever successfully improved their circumstances by doing so.
Lastly, the African-American community, with or without the civil rights “establishment,” must acknowledge and demand that the family is, and will forever be, the originator and primary transmitter of social capital -- values and character traits -- that enable children, on becoming adults, to seize opportunities and become productive citizens. Toxic role models that guide children into a culture of destructive behaviors must be challenged.
In short, if the family structure is a primary predictor of an individual’s life chances, and if family disintegration is the principal cause of the transmission of poverty and despair in the black community over the last 50 years,  then family integration will stabilize the institution and offer children hope.
For once and for all, we must reach out and “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Walking on eggshells out of fear or guilt, being angry at the sins of the past, or throwing money at a problem that only the heart can solve must end.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Why Germany Is Once Again a Threat to the West - By Nikolaas de Jong

In the mainstream media, the policies of the German prime minister, Angela Merkel, are often portrayed as a form of atonement for Germany’s past sins of imperialism and genocide. Letting in a million refugees is supposedly the absolute negation of the Holocaust, and pressing for further European cooperation is seen as the opposite of Germany’s old attempts to violently bring the rest of Europe under its control. And for these very reasons, progressive politicians and intellectuals around the world are now looking up to Merkel as the defender of pluralistic Western values.
At first sight, this praise for Merkel doesn’t seem so far-fetched, even for conservatives who fundamentally oppose her policies. After all, she is acting out of genuine goodwill and charity towards the downtrodden of the Middle East, isn’t she? And we may disagree about the feasibility and consequences of further European integration, but given Europe’s bloody past it seems perfectly understandable that Germany’s prime minister is calling for more harmony among European nations.
Nonetheless, it is important to point out that the popular image both of Angela Merkel and of modern Germany is deeply flawed. Because far from representing a negation -- or a misguided attempt at negation -- of past German policies and attitudes, the modern German mentality is in many ways a mutation or an update of the same mentality that has guided Germany since the eighteenth century, and especially since the unification of the country in 1870.
Let us begin with the more obvious parallel: German support for further European integration. Despite all the German talk about subordinating narrow national interests to the European project, careful observers must have noticed the coincidence that the Germans always see themselves as the leaders of this disinterested project, and that the measures deemed to be necessary for further European cooperation always seem to be German-made.
Are the Germans really such idealistic supporters of the European project? It is more probable that in reality they see the European Union as an ideal instrument to control the rest of Europe. Indeed, in 1997 the British author John Laughland wrote a book about this subject, The Tainted Source: the Undemocratic Origins of the European Idea, which is still worth reading for anyone who wants understand what kind of organization the EU actually is. According to Laughland, the Germans are such big supporters of the European ideal because they know that all important decisions in a confederation of states can ultimately only be taken by or with the approval of the most important state -- in this case, Germany.
Thus, on closer scrutiny, there is a strong continuity between the foreign policy of Wilhelm II, Hitler, and Merkel. And this continuity can easily be explained by looking at Germany’s position within Europe. On the one hand, Germany is the strongest and largest country in Europe, but on the other hand it is not strong or large enough to dominate the rest of Europe automatically. In consequence, ever since German unification in 1870, the country has been presented with the choice either to subordinate its wishes to those of the rest of Europe -- which has always appeared rather humiliating -- or to attempt the conquest of Europe, in order to ensure that Germany’s wishes would always prevail. Unsurprisingly, the Germans have consistently chosen the second course, and both World Wars were attempts to permanently bring the rest of Europe under German control.
The most prominent foreign policy decisions of Merkel can also be interpreted as attempts to expand German dominance in Europe. For instance, during the refugee crisis Germany tried to force Eastern European countries to take in refugees, not only because Merkel wanted to ease the burden upon her own country, but also because it was an ideal way to find out to what extent Germany could impose its will upon the new and independent-minded Eastern European members of the EU. Another example of the new German attempt to dictate policies to the rest of Europe is the Greek banking crisis. Whatever the considerable economic blunders successive Greek governments have committed over the years, it is undeniable that the ultimate goal behind Germany’s harsh demands towards the Greeks was the extension of German economic influence over other EU members.
However, the most frightening thing is that the parallels between Merkel’s mentality and that of her authoritarian predecessors go deeper than mere geopolitics. Because the philosophical premises underlying modern German policies are also at least partly similar to those that motivated Germany in both World Wars.
First of all, Merkel’s ideas about both immigration and European integration have a decidedly utopian character, an echo of the old obsession with the construction of a New World Order, which motivated both Hitler and the German leaders in the First World War. Merkel dreams of a society where immigrants and natives will together build some kind of ideal new world, opposed to the selfishness and materialism that has characterized Western societies until now. Also, Merkel’s attitude has a strong emotionalist undertone, which has been a characteristic of German philosophy since Immanuel Kant. Germans often derided the cold rationalism of the French and the money-grubbing of the Americans and British, as opposed to their own emphasis on the inner workings of the soul, love of the fatherland, and so on. Now, the Germans are reprimanding the governments of other countries, especially America, because they do not seem to share the German optimism about mass immigration, and only seem to care about hard facts.
Another parallel with the old German ideology is the collectivist strain in Merkel’s multicultural project. The German government seems to assume that the rights of German citizens must always be subordinated to those of Third World immigrants, which ultimately simply means that individual rights are subordinated to whatever the state wants. Besides emotionalism, collectivism has also been a prominent characteristic of the German ideology since the eighteenth century, once again in opposition to the “atomic” individualism of classical liberalism that prevailed in the United States, England, and France. When Germans talked about freedom, they did not mean individual freedom in the conventional sense, but rather the good fortune of citizens to live in a country that is efficiently governed by an all-powerful state. This is also what Merkel, and presumably her American and European supporters, mean when they are talking about freedom.
To conclude: far from being the defender of Western values like individual liberty and individual rights, the modern Germany is acting in a very German way indeed. After an adjustment period of some decades following the Second World War, during which the country had to atone for its past misdeeds and keep quiet, Germany is once again trying to impose its rule and a new form of its vicious ideology on Europe and the West. It is of crucial importance that we all recognize Merkel’s policies for what they are, and take decisive action to stop her.

Access journalism and fake news

The Zman explains the link between the two:
It has been thrown down the memory hole, but Jordan decided the way to help black sports reporters was to give them exclusive access and deny access to honkies. Guys like Ahmad Rashad and Michael Wilbon were given special access. This made their careers, but it also ushered in the era of access journalism. Players granted access to reporters who were willing to sing their praises in their columns and on TV shows.

Something similar happened around the same time in Washington politics. The Clinton machine was ruthless in controlling the media. They would shutout reporters that did not play ball. There’s always been some of this, as people are naturally going to be nice to those who are nice to them and not so nice to people they see as adversaries. The difference was, the Clinton team turned this into a formal policy and the Washington press corp went along with it. They liked being treated like players so they acted accordingly.

The Bush people could not play the same game, as the Washington media is universally liberal, but they did a little bit of it with operations like Fox and the talk radio guys. Rich Lowry of National Review remodeled the magazine to be a GOP mouth piece for exactly this reason. It gave them access to Republicans. The Weekly Standard largely existed as a public relations vehicle for the Bush family. Much of what has gone wrong with Buckley Conservatism is due to the perils of access journalism.

This is why we see the explosion of fake news. The NBA guys want access or at least the illusion of access. To that end, they tweet out rumors and fake news in the hope of getting a reply from an agent or front office guy. That way they can then shoot down their own rumor or fake news with an actual quote from a real person. “After talking with person X, I can now report that the rumor I reported is false.” Fake news about rumors produces gossip that is eventually addressed by a real person in the news.

That seems to be what’s going on Washington with all the fake news. No one in the Washington media bothered to develop contacts in the Trump team. Instead, they mocked and harassed them through the campaign, figuring they were currying favor with the Clinton people. Now, they have no access so they create fake stories hoping to get a response from the Trump people. In lieu of real reporting, it is provocative fake reporting in the hope of gaining access to real people in the Trump White House.
This is all pretty much news to me, but it's as explanatory as anything else I've heard suggested. Personally, I find it a little strange that Fake News has exploded at the very time that it has never been easier for the average individual to do a little looking around the Internet to debunk it.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Vox Popoli: They broke their oaths

They broke their oaths
Oathkeepers are no more keeping their oaths to defend the American Constitution and thereby secure the Blessings of Liberty to the posterity of the People of the United States than conservatives have conserved anything.
Rich @itswildrich
White Nationalism - the radically "racist" idea that Whites have a right to preserve their homelands and culture. Just like everybody else.

Oath Keepers‏ @Oathkeepers
That is NOT what white nationalism is all about. They advocate 'saving' their race at expense of harming innocents; i.e. anyone not white.

Supreme Dark Lord‏ @voxday  now
Why do you support the elimination of American posterity? A nation is a people, not borders or an idea. You have failed your oaths.
They have broken their oaths. They are rightly dismissed with contempt as "Oathcuckers". They may not like to hear that, but it is obvious to anyone who understands the purpose of the Constitution they are sworn to uphold.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare,
and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Posterity is not an idea. Posterity is not geography. Posterity is not paperwork. Posterity is descendance and DNA. Far too many U.S. citizens today are no more the posterity of We the People than they are of the Iroquois, the Cherokee, or the Mohicans, whose ancestral lands they now inhabit.

The Latest Escalation in Syria – What Is Really Going On? - THE SAKER

By now most of you have heard the latest bad news of out Syria: on June 18th a US F/A-18E Super Hornet (1999) used a AIM-120 AMRAAM (1991) to shoot down a Syrian Air Force Su-22 (1970). Two days later, June 20th, a US F-15E Strike Eagle shot down an Iranian IRGC Shahed 129 drone. The excuse used each time was that there was a threat to US and US supported forces. The reality is, of course, that the US are simply trying to stop the advance of the Syrian army. This was thus a typical American “show of force”. Except that, of course, shooting a 47 year old Soviet era Su-22 fighter-bomber is hardly an impressive feat. Neither is shooting a unmanned drone. There is a pattern here, however, and that pattern is that all US actions so far have been solely for show: the basically failed bombing of the Syria military airbase, the bombing of the Syrian army column, the shooting down of the Syrian fighter-bomber and of the Iranian drone – all these actions have no real military value. They do, however, have a provocative value as each time all the eyes turn to Russia to see if the Russians will respond or not.
Russia did respond this time again, but in a very ambiguous and misunderstood manner. The Russians announced, amongst other measure that from now on “any airborne objects, including aircraft and unmanned vehicles of the [US-led] international coalition, located to the west of the Euphrates River, will be tracked by Russian ground and air defense forces as air targets” which I reported as “Russian MoD declares it will shoot down any aircraft flying west of the Euphrates river”. While I gave the exact Russian quote, I did not explain why I paraphrased the Russian words the way I did. Now is a good time to explain this.
«В районах выполнения боевых задач российской авиацией в небе Сирии любые воздушные объекты, включая самолёты и беспилотные аппараты международной коалиции, обнаруженные западнее реки Евфрат, будут приниматься на сопровождение российскими наземными и воздушными средствами противовоздушной обороны в качестве воздушных целей»
A literal translation would be:
“In areas of the combat missions of Russian aviation in the skies of Syria any airborne objects, including aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicle of the international coalition discovered to the West of the Euphrates river, will be tracked by Russian ground based an airborne assets as air targets”
So what does this exactly mean in technical-military terms?
A quick look inside a US fighter’s cockpit
When an F/A-18 flies over Syria the on-board emission detectors (called radar warning receivers or RWR) inform the pilot of the kind of radar signals the aircraft is detecting. Over Syria that means that the pilot would see a lot of search radars looking in all directions trying to get a complete picture of what is happening in the Syrian skies. The US pilot will be informed that a certain number of Syrian S-300 and Russian S-400 batteries are scanning the skies and most probably see him. So far so good. If there are deconfliction zones or any type of bilateral agreements to warn each other about planned sorties then that kind of radar emissions are no big deal. Likewise US radars (ground, sea or air based) are also scanning the skies and “seeing” the Russian Aerospace Forces’ aircraft on their radars and the Russians know that. In this situation neither side is treating anybody as “air targets”. When a decision is made to treat an object as an “air target” a completely different type of radar signal is used and a much narrower energy beam is directed at the target which can now be tracked and engaged. The pilot is, of course, immediately informed of this. At this point the pilot is in a very uncomfortable position: he knows that he is being tracked, but he has no way of knowing if a missile has already been launched against him or not. Depending on a number of factors, an AWACS might be able to detect a missile launch, but this might not be enough and it might also be too late.

The kind of missiles fired by S-300/S-400 batteries are extremely fast, over 4,000mph (four thousand miles per hour) which means that a missile launched as far away as 120 miles will reach you in 2 minutes or that a missile launched 30 miles away will reach you in 30 seconds. And just to make things worse, the S-300 can use a special radar mode called “track via missile” where the radar emits a pulse towards the target whose reflection is then received not by the ground based radar, but by the rapidly approaching missile itself, which then sends its reading back to the ground radar which then sends guidance corrections back to the missile. Why is that bad for the aircraft? Because there is no way to tell from the emissions whether a missile has been launched and is already approaching at over 4,000mph or not. The S-300 and S-400 also have other modes, including the Seeker Aided Ground Guidance (SAGG) where the missile also computes a guidance solution (not just the ground radar) and then the two are compared and a Home On Jam (HOJ) mode when the jammed missile then homes directly on the source of the jamming (such as an onboard jamming pod). Furthermore, there are other radar modes available such as the Ground Aided Inertial (GAI) which guides the missile in the immediate proximity of the target where the missile switches on its own radar just before hitting the target. Finally, there is some pretty good evidence that the Russians have perfected a complex datalink system which allows them to fuse into one all the signals they acquire from their missiles, airborne aircraft (fighter, interceptor or AWACS) and ground radars and that means that, in theory, if a US aircraft is outside the flight envelope (reach) of the ground based missiles the signals acquired by the ground base radars could be used to fire an air-to-air missile at the US aircraft (we know that their MiG-31s are capable of such engagements, so I don’t see why their much more recent Su-30/Su-35 could not). This would serve to further complicate the situational awareness of the pilot as a missile could be coming from literally any direction. At this point the only logical reaction would be for the US pilot to inform his commanders and get out, fast. Sure, in theory, he could simply continue his mission, but that would be very hard, especially if he suspects that the Syrians might have other, mobile, air defense on the way to, or near, his intended target.
Just try to imagine this: you are flying, in total illegality, over hostile territory and preparing to strike a target when suddenly your radar warning receiver goes off and tells you “you got 30 seconds or (much?) less to decide whether there is a 300lbs (150kg) warhead coming at you at 4000mph (6400kmh) or not”. How would you feel if it was you sitting in that cockpit? Would you still be thinking about executing your planned attack?
The normal US strategy is to achieve what is called “air superiority/supremacy” by completely suppressing enemy air defenses and taking control of the skies. If I am not mistaken, the last time the US fighters operated in a meaningfully contested air space was in Vietnam…
By the way, these technologies are not uniquely Russian, they are well known in the West, for example the US Patriot SAM also uses TVM, but the Russians have very nicely integrated them into one formidable air defense system.
The bottom line is this: once the US aircraft is “treated like a target” he has no way of knowing if the Syrians, or the Russians, are just being cheeky or whether has has seconds left to live. Put differently, “treating like a target” is tantamount to somebody putting a gun to your head and letting you guess if/when he will pull the trigger.
So yes, the Russian statement most definitely was a “threat to shoot down”!
Next, a look into the Russian side of the equation
To understand why the Russians used the words “treat like an air target” rather than “will shoot down” you need to remember that Russia is still the weaker party here. There is nothing worse than not delivering on a threat. If the Russians had said “we will shoot down” and then had not done so, they would have made an empty threat. Instead, they said “will treat as an air target” because that leaves them an “out” should they decided not to pull the trigger. However, for the US Navy or Air Force pilot, these considerations are all irrelevant once his detectors report to him that he is being “painted” with the beam of an engagement radar!
So what the Russians did is to greatly unnerve the US crews without actually having to shoot down anybody. It is not a coincidence that the Americans almost immediately stopped flying West of the Euphrates river while the Australians officially decided to bow out from any further air sorties.
It cannot be overemphasized that the very last thing Russia needs is to shoot down a US aircraft over Syria which is exactly what some elements of the Pentagon seem to want. Not only is Russia the weaker side in this conflict, but the Russians also understand the wider political consequences of what would happen if they took the dramatic step to shoot down a US aircraft: a dream come true for the Neocons and a disaster for everybody else.
A quick look from the US Neoconistan and the quest for a “tepid war”
The dynamic in Syria is not fundamentally different from the dynamic in the Ukraine: the Neocons know that they have failed to achieve their primary objective: to control the entire country. They also know that their various related financial schemes have collapsed. Finally, they are fully aware that they owe this defeat to Russia and, especially, to Vladimir Putin. So they fell back on plan B. Plan B is almost as good as Plan A (full control) because Plan B has much wider consequences. Plan B is also very simple: trigger a major crisis with Russia but stay short from a full-scale war. Ideally, Plan B should revolve around a “firm” “reaction” to the Russian “aggression” and a “defense” of the US “allies” in the region. In practical terms this simply means: get the Russians to openly send forces into Novorussia or get the Russians to take military actions against the US or its allies in Syria. Once you get this you can easily see that the latest us attacks in Syria have a minor local purpose – to scare or slow down the Syrians- and a major global purpose – to bait the Russians into using forces against the US or an ally. It bears repeating here that what the Neocons really want is what I call a “tepid” war with Russia: an escalation of tensions to levels not even seen during the Cold War, but not a full-scale “hot” WWIII either. A tepid war would finally re-grant NATO at least some kind of purpose (to protect “our European friends and allies” from the “Russian threat”): the already terminally spineless EU politicians would all be brought into an even more advanced state of subservience, the military budgets would go even higher and Trump would be able to say that he made “America” “great” again. And, who knows, maybe the Russian people would *finally* rise against Putin, you never know! (They wouldn’t – but the Neocons have never been deterred from their goofy theories by such minor and altogether irrelevant things as facts or logic).
[Sidebar: I noticed this time again that each time the US tries to bait Russia into some kind of harsh reaction and Russia declines to take the bait, this triggers in immediate surge into the number of comments which vehemently complain that Russia is acting like a pussy, that Putin is a fake, that he is “in cahoots” with the US and/or Israel and that the Russians are weak or that they have “sold out”. I am getting a sense that we are dealing with paid US PSYOP operatives whose mission is to use the social media to try to put the Kremlin under pressure with these endless accusations of weakness and selling-out. Since I have no interest in rewarding these folks in any way, I mostly send their recriminations where they belong: to the trash]
Does the Russian strategy work?
To reply to this, don’t look at what the Russians do or do not do in the immediate aftermath of a US provocation. Take a higher level look and just see what happens in the mid to long term. Just like in a game of chess, taking the Gambit is not always the correct strategy.
I submit that to evaluate whether Putin’s policies are effective or not, to see whether he has “sold out” or “caved in” you need to, for example, look at the situation in Syria (or the Ukraine, for that matter) as it was 2 years ago and then compare with what it is today. Or, alternatively, look at the situation as it is today and come back to re-visit it in 6 months.
One huge difference between the western culture and the way the Russians (or the Chinese for that matter) look at geostrategy is that westerners always look at everything in the short term and tactical level. This is basically the single main reason why both Napoleon and Hitler lost their wars against Russia: an almost exclusive focus on the short term and tactical. In contrast, the Russians are the undisputed masters of operational art (in a purely military sense) and, just like the Chinese, they tend to always keep their eyes on the long-term horizon. Just look at the Turkish downing of a Russian Su-24: everybody bemoaned the lack of “forceful” reaction from Moscow. And then, six months later – what do we have? Exactly.
The modern western culture is centered on various forms of instant gratification, and that is also true for geopolitics. If the other guy does something, western leaders always deliver a “firm” response. They like to “send messages” and they firmly believe that doing something, no matter how symbolic, is better than even the appearance of doing nothing. As for the appearance of doing nothing, it is universally interpreted as a sign of weakness. Russians don’t think that way. They don’t care about instant gratification, they care only about one thing: victory. And if that means to look weak, that is fine. From a Russian perspective, sending “messages” or taking symbolic actions (like all 4 of the recent US attacks in Syria) are not signs of strength, but signs of weakness. Generally, the Russians don’t like to use force which they consider inherently dangerous. But when they do, they never threaten or warn, they take immediate and pragmatic (non-symbolic) action which gets them closer to a specific goal.
The Russian reaction to the latest US attack on Syria was not designed to maximize the approval of the many Internet armchair strategists. It was designed to maximize the discomfort of the US lead “coalition” in Syria while minimizing the risks for Russia. It is precisely by using an ambiguous language which civilians would interpret in one way, and military personnel in another, that the Russians introduced a very disruptive element of unpredictability into the planning of US air operations in Syria.
The Russians are not without their own faults and bad habits and they make mistakes (recognizing the Ukronazi junta in Kiev after the coup was probably such a mistake), but it is important to differentiate between their real weaknesses and mistakes and their very carefully designed strategies. Just because they don’t act in the way their putative “supporters” in the West would does not mean that they have “caved in”, “blinked first” or any other such nonsense. The first step towards understanding how the Russians function is to stop expecting that they would act just like Americans would.
P.S: By the way, the Syrian pilot shot down made it out alive. 

GOP health care reform: maybe it is better to ‘fail’ than ‘succeed’ - By Thomas Lifson

I am starting to suspect that wily old Mitch McConnell is a step or two ahead of the game, and has absolutely no desire to see the GOP’s purported Obamacare “repeal and replace” bill actually pass the Senate.  As is increasingly obvious, neither the Senate nor the House bill is a genuine redesign of health care financing, but rather a tinkering with the structure of Obamacare in hopes of making it a little less counterproductive.

Charles Krauthammer deftly identified the scenario ahead for this faux-reform, should the GOP “succeed” – and it is a predictable disaster:   
Rush transcript via Grabien:
“I think the best political outcome for the Republicans is that this never emerges from the Senate and the issue will then be behind them. Yes, they will suffer from not having delivered on a promise but if they pass anything like this, you will have endless stories about, sob stories about people who have been hurt by the inevitable changes and the Republicans are going to bear the albatross of healthcare that the Democrats bore for eight years and it really damaged them.”
In one sentence: “Why would the GOP voluntarily take ownership of a disaster crated by the Democrats?”
It is clear to me that the only way to fix the health care financing system in the United States is to put payment in the hands of patients, who have an incentive to shop carefully for the best value. This means some version of a tax-favored health care savings account with the ability to utilize unspent funds for future years, or for other consumption in the long run. Needless expensive complexity is introduced when third parties (insurance companies, governments) pay for care.
But such a radical restructuring would hurt many private interests. Entire bureaucracies would become redundant, as would many currently viable businesses that live off of the complexity.
I suspect McConnell’s game is to allow Obamacare to collapse, and for the Trump administration to supply exemption from its requirements to states where no insurance companies participate in Obamacare exchanges. As that number of states increases, Obamacare is effectively repealed.
The GOP base, which has been promised repeal and replace for almost a decade, deserves better than taking ownership of a fundamentally flawed system.

Afghanistan: Just walk away - By David Archibald

Our involvement in Afghanistan is untenable because the country is untenable.  No matter what is done, Afghanistan will fail because of its galloping population growth.
When the U.S. became involved in 2001, the country had a population of 20.5 million.  Now it is 34.4 million, up nearly 70 percent.  In the intervening 16 years, the U.S. spent about one trillion dollars and 2,000 lives in stabilizing Afghanistan.  All the stability and free food provided just created a perfect breeding environment for the natives.
The population growth rate has settled at 3.0 percent per annum.  At that rate, in another 16 years, there will be 55.2 million Afghans, most of whom will need imported grain to keep body and soul together.  The Afghani proclivity to breed will only be curbed by starvation.  That will happen at some stage because, even if we wanted to underwrite that population expansion, getting the necessary quantity of food into the country will become more and more difficult.  Perhaps that situation is beginning now.  The U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization has reported that 8.4 million Afghans are in an acute food insecurity crisis.
The Afghan government budget is $8 to $10 billion per annum, of which it raises about $2 billion.  The balance is mostly provided by the U.S. taxpayer.  That is also untenable in the long term.
To put all this into context, let's revisit the recent history of Afghanistan, back to 2008.  In the presidential campaign of that year, Barack Obama characterized Iraq as the "bad war" and Afghanistan as the "good war."  It was easy to predict that President Obama would not direct a withdrawal because of what he had said in the 2008 campaign.  And that meant that the can was kicked down the road for another eight years. 
The withdrawal from Afghanistan will be physically difficult, because everyone knows that the place will collapse as soon as the U.S. leaves, and security for the last servicemen out will be problematic.  In fact, it may have to be a fighting retreat.  There is another major complication looming in that our next major war is likely to be with China, which will initiate proceedings with the maximum disruption and stress on the U.S. command structure.  The airbase at Bagram is only 400 miles from the Chinese border.  It and other bases with U.S. troops are likely to be bombed at the outset of a war.  Not only are our outposts in Afghanistan a waste, but they will make us more vulnerable in a war we need to win.
Afghanistan will go back to being a hellhole run by the Taliban, who will go back to plotting attacks on us.  But that is easily dealt with by the Trump policy of banning types of unpleasant people from entering the country.  At least that is something that the president has tried to do so far.  It will become imperative. 
David Archibald is the author of American Gripen: The Solution to the F-35 Nightmare.