“No doubt, the NRA is influential. Not so much because of the campaign contributions it makes to candidates, but because it can count on an energized grass-roots base of gun-rights supporters to turn out at the polls and badger elected officials with calls and emails. But that influence has limits, and there are plenty of reasons to believe that it is on the wane.
For one thing, the proportion of Americans with guns has been steadily declining, to its lowest level in decades, though there are recent signs that the decline has leveled off. (The reason why the number of guns continues to rise despite this demographic trend is that the remaining gun owners are buying more and more weapons.) Meanwhile, gun ownership is growing more heavily clustered in certain states. That limits the voting power of the gun lobby.”
Syria demonstrates something that has been evident for decades: The United Nations is unsuited to play a major role in complex, modern wars, particularly when permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, each with a veto over its actions, are involved. But there is also no chance that any other multinational organization with the possible exception of NATO might serve as a platform for collective action to stop a war. And after Libya, even NATO is unlikely to do that outside Europe.
So this is what the Syrian war suggests about future conflicts: They will be intricately complex; they will involve conflict-specific configurations of participants; there will be no humanitarian intervention to stop them; and the United Nations will be a nonfactor. But that isn’t all. It gets even worse.
— Read on www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/24205/what-syria-reveals-about-the-future-of-war
Syria has strengthened or reaffirmed some relationships (US/Israel), but has challenged others (US/Turkey and Russia/Iran, the latter of which was never strong). The clear victors appear to be Russia and Iran, but even these victories appear to be under threat. The complex realities of Turkish, American, and now Israeli involvement in Syria is demonstrating how little real power Russia brought to Turkey, and increasing risks that will prove unpopular at home. Iran’s gains are already undermined by domestic turmoil.
Syria is clearly Obama’s greatest foreign policy blunder, but it isn’t clear yet how much can be extrapolated from a sample size of one.
You know you want one because, well, why not?
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Unfortunately, recent trends in the US are not encouraging. The response of the US in 2017 was:
- Lie about the accuracy of the data
- Stifle the collection and dissemination of the data
- Muzzle scientists likely to publicize “inconvenient” findings
- Question the integrity of the scientists who make statements that contradict the official doctrine of the administration
- Blame extreme events on the victims
“If people foresee 2018 bringing comparable or worse disasters than 2017, however, that could put us in a better position to prepare for the likely occurrence of new extreme events. No one wants to be in the position Puerto Rico was in following Hurricane Maria, even if companies like Tesla are there to help. And although preparedness requires time and huge amounts of money, greater awareness is an important first step.”
“But there was something especially dismal about this year’s announcement. Many Americans know that the world has gotten more dangerous in the last few years (which would be true, by the way, no matter who won the 2016 election). But the necessity of daily life—of doing homework, having a career, going to the gym, getting dinner on the table—has compressed that fear into an ignorable background hum. And so the country once known for its can-do spirit has begun to adopt a personality tic more common in besieged cities and late Soviet states: Well, yes, the situation is terrible, but who has time to feel something about it?”
Anyone up for some live music?
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This perspective from Hoisington Investment Management sees slower growth in 2018.
- The consumer savings rate dropped to a 10-year low of 2.9% in November 2017, from 5.9% in October 2015. This expansion of consumer credit accounts for much of the economic growth in 2017 and will not be sustained.
- In 1820 the economist David Ricardo theorized that funding the Napoleonic Wars through debt or through tax increases were equivalent, an untested theory called the Ricardian Equivalence. Recent anslysis has shown Ricardian Equivalence to be correct. Applied today to Trump’s tax cuts, in their words:
In short, these results align with Ricardo’s theory; although individual winners and losers may arise, a debt-financed tax cut will provide no net aggregate benefit to the macro-economy.
- The brunt of recent tightenings by the Federal Reserve will finally start to be felt in 2018.
- The yield curve will flatten.
Finally, their summary:
The flatter yield curve will further tighten monetary conditions. This monetary environment coupled with a heavily indebted economy, a low-saving consumer and well-known existing conditions of poor demographics suggest 2018 will bring economic disappointments. Inflation will subside along with growth, causing lower long-term Treasury yields.
‘Rather than see Trump as a product of a rotten power structure, as Greenwald does, and the 2016 election as a wild reaction against that power structure, as Greenwald also does, it was easier for most American liberals to frame his victory as an accident. And rather than look within to eradicate the conditions that wrought Trump, it was more comforting to pin his rise on an external foe.
The Russian scandal proved ideal. “Across the political aisle, American elites are preoccupied with rejuvenating a Cold War in the name of believing that all of our problems are traceable to the Kremlin,” Greenwald argued. The notion that “Putin is not some fumbling dictator but some kind of an omnipotent mastermind,” he went on, “stems very much from this human desire to believe that when things go wrong, it can’t be our fault.”’
The YPG has been the primary ally of the United States in its mission to smash the so-called Islamic State. That mission is now mostly complete, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said the United States will shift gears to focus on stabilizing former Islamic State areas now under YPG control, including by training Kurdish security forces.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan didn’t take kindly to this news, accusing the U.S. of building a PKK “terror army” on Turkey’s southern border. America’s strategic recommitment to the Kurds seems to have been one reason for the sudden rush to war.
Erdogan’s choice of Afrin was simple: It is the only YPG-held area not protected by the U.S. Air Force. Due to the political geography of northwestern Syria, Kurdish forces in Afrin haven’t primarily fought the Islamic State. Instead, they mainly faced Turkish- and American-backed rebels vying for control of the border region north of Aleppo. For the U.S. to give air support in Afrin would have meant being drawn into a “proxy war with itself.”
Today, South Korea recognizes that stabilizing, rebuilding and integrating North Korea will take a massive effort, but it also believes that it will be relatively peaceful. History has made Koreans leery of external intervention, but Seoul assumes most North Koreans will see South Koreans as fellow countrymen and therefore accept—even welcome—unification engineered by their southern brethren and immediately embrace democracy, the rule of law and the free market system.
While this would be optimal, unification may not be that easy. There is much to suggest that the removal of the Kim regime, whether by internal or international conflict, would be followed by armed resistance. The steady diet of xenophobic propaganda that North Koreans have been fed for 70 years may make them see South Koreans, whose culture has evolved in a different direction, as foreigners who happen to look like them and speak the same language. The lack of access to information has left North Koreans ill-prepared to distinguish truth from propaganda; if the regime were to collapse, they could be vulnerable to calls for resistance by regime remnants or other forces opposed to the reunification of Korea. In Iraq, the United States underestimated the impact of decades of brutal repression and propaganda by Saddam Hussein, whose toppled regime was still able to rally loyalists and insurgents to take up arms after his removal. South Koreans may do the same in North Korea.