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America from the Outside

                                       Eagles+Birds+Wallpapers_

This report was written ten years ago but may as well have been written today – a $750 million dollar embassy in Baghdad with intelligence officers, last year missed the rise of Islamic State – there is still a lack of co-operation between agencies and one questions if counter terrorism, intelligence gathering & or analysis would not be best partially or fully outsourced to the private sector. If not being outsourced then an independent audit and review carried out. http://www.foia.cia.gov/document/0001229684-0

The Congress as with the Westminster system of government is going to have the occasional polarization over certain issues. Congress has been on a trajectory of polarization which is not going to reverse anytime soon and impedes the legislative process and undermines confidence. Polarization has been the norm in Congress throughout most of America’s history but what about some form of reform. Maybe a forum…”If the dominant metaphors for politics in America are the market and the arena, both holding vigorous competition central to how we think politicians and citizens should behave, perhaps we should find room for an alternative venue: the forum.” http://www.hks.harvard.edu/fs/dking/Extreme_Politics.pdf

What implications are there for domestic and foreign policy with this current system. Health Care & Social Security are two major challenges that have been around for more than ten years and so has the fiscal cliff and yet we keep seeing the same old battered can being kicked down the road. Maybe the House of Representatives could reassert itself somehow and be a conduit for law making…I am not an expert on US legislative process and it is outside of my area of expertise. 2017 is critical mass for the Dept. Social Security where money out will be more than money in – http://www.socialsecurity.gov/oact/solvency/THarkin_20130318.pdf

Economic Flaws – Systemic risks within the economy are real and not perceived based on and not limited to – algorithms, derivatives, collateral debt obligations, lack of a truly free market and more. The 401K is directly linked to the stock market – other countries have a broad spread in the superannuation portfolio which minimizes the risk of devaluation as occurred in circa 2008. The Federal Reserve Bank needs some form of review of its mandate/s. The head of the Fed from Allan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen have all failed to address underlying problems in monetary policy. The Federal Reserve Bank is a private company and the owners and board are an interesting read. Fiscal flaws are the responsibility of the government.

The establishment of Fannie May & Freedie Mac by government and regulated by government for the mortgage market (they basically dictated the interest rate for mortgages with around 50% of the marketplace in which they operated) and even as of 2005 Greenspan was waxing eloquently about how wonderful they were –  “Critical to the success of this innovation has been the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in promoting mortgage securitization–the key to the development of secondary mortgage markets in the United States. Their efforts spawned the vast asset-backed securities market that, along with credit derivatives, has contributed to the transfer of credit risk from highly leveraged originators of credit–especially banks and thrifts–to less-leveraged insurance companies and pension and mutual funds, among other investors.http://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/speeches/2005/20050519/default.htm

The speech found in the link above, is a wonderful read and full of praise for two G.S.E.s that directly contributed to the G.F.C.
How can the marketplace be free with this type of activity occurring and who was at fault, legislators or regulators or both ? Impunity seems to run hand in hand with government along the yellow brick road. Now going back to the Federal Reserve Bank and specifically the NY Fed, why were Maiden Lane LLC, Maiden Lane II LLC, Maiden Lane III LLC established – to take billions of dollars of toxic debt out of the marketplace – http://newyorkfed.org/markets/maidenlane.html#tabs-1

Look at the relationship with J.P. Morgan Chase and the loan where the NY Fed earns profits. Oh but this is all justifiable because it is a free and open market. Has anyone questioned greed, corruption and or dishonesty within the system and apology in advance for my skepticism here, but that would not be politically correct in our modern world and far to cynical. There is nothing wrong with democracy or a free marketplace capitalism…I believe that both of these have benefits and are better than the alternatives. The debt ceiling level and the process of dealing with it is flawed because the answer is not lifting it, time and time again and printing money…it does not address the structural reforms that are required to control it.

What is wrong with Operation Twist http://useconomy.about.com/od/Fed/g/Operation-Twist.htm
I refuse to be drawn into any Zionist debate or argument regarding the Federal Reserve Bank or any conspiracy theories about the same. Facts and figures can do the talking…but I personally believe that the underlying premise of a government monopoly on the money supply is detrimental to the economy and ultimately limits people’s freedom as it promotes the expansion and control of the state is wrong in that it is most flawed. I will cite Australia as an example with twenty two years of successive growth as a combination of the resources boom and well managed monetary and fiscal policy from the Australian Federal Reserve Bank & the government.

Foreign Policy Flaws – Lost opportunities to build and establish strong working relationships post Cold War. Underestimating or over estimating the capacity, strengths and weakness of either US capabilities or the country and culture of intervention/operation. Failure to meet objectives and counterproductive operations in various regional conflicts.  Nicaragua, Vietnam, Iraq Gulf War, Iraq War, Afghanistan, Libya and others. With Nicaragua –  The Republic of Nicaragua v. The United States of America – the International Court of Justice ruled that the U.S. had violated international law by supporting the Contras.
http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/index.php?sum=367&p1=3&p2=3&case=70&p3=5
http://www.alternativeinsight.com/Foreign_Policy_Failures.html
The reader can search for other countries and current flaws in foreign policy.

Constitutional Flaws – the ten questions asked by Professor Sanford Levinson from The School of Law at The University of Texas at Austin are worthy of reading and the very least, serious consideration…the two links at the end of the page are also worthy of  perusal. http://www.utexas.edu/law/news/2006/100906_che.html

The writer is not anti-American. What American men and women do every single minute of every single day in the pursuit of freedom and liberty I am most appreciative of and applaud their courage and commitment to upholding the idea of democracy and global stability. These people are from a range of government and non-government groups and place their lives on the line. If the United States of America can lead by example, then it would be think globally acting locally first.

To conclude, this is one view that does not matter if it is correct or incorrect and I hope it stimulates thought regarding any real or perceived flaws in North America, Europe or the world. Globally we are facing serious challenges that require effective solutions to be found as a united world.The hegemonic behemoth that is struggling to retain global stability has become a basket case in international politics. If America can not or will not perform triage on itself and undertake radical surgery, the multi-polar world will rapidly correct this and place it in a hospice.

John Coffey, retired Foreign Affairs Officer at the US State Department points out about Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power by Zbigniew Brzezinski:  Brzezinski highlights greater significance to the nation’s domestic problems such as a crushing national debt; a financial system driven by self-destructive greed; widening inequality; decaying infrastructure; a citizenry ignorant of the world; and a gridlocked political system.

May the captains of industry and global governors guide, protect and direct towards a sustainable future with…

  Truth, Trust & Transparency.

African Conflict & Sustainable Development

 

The following is taken from Center for Strategic & International Studies
Document
A Report of the CSIS Program on
Crisis, Conflict, and Cooperation
October 2014

Africa is the continent with the highest concentration of countries that are affected by violence and conflict and that appear regularly on lists of fragile states. CSIS senior fellow Robert D. Lamb sat down with Africa Program deputy director Richard Downie to talk about the conflicts and crises Africa is likely to face in the future and how the United States has positioned itself to deal with those challenges.

In Angola, the United States played an unhelpful role in prolonging the civil war through its continued support for U.N.I.T.A. [the National Union for the Total  Independence of Angola]. But elsewhere, it’s played a constructive diplomatic role, helping negotiate an end to conflicts in South Africa, Namibia, and Mozambique. This region—Zimbabwe aside—has for the past two decades been by far the most stable region of Africa.

China’s influence in Africa has been a net positive, actually, providing Africans with much-needed infrastructure and increased opportunities for trade and investment. At the same time, China’s avowed policy of noninterference in domestic politics has meant it’s been willing to do business with some of the continent’s most corrupt, authoritarian regimes, such as those in Sudan, Angola, and Zimbabwe. This has been a boon for incumbent autocrats. But it’s hard to make the case that China has directly fueled conflict and extremism in Africa. It shares with the United States an interest in peace and stability, and conflict threatens its business interests, in places like South Sudan, for instance. As its ties in Africa get deeper, China’s doctrine of noninterference is going to come under more strain.

China does limit U.S. influence in Africa although not to the extent commonly portrayed in the media mainly by offering itself as an alternative suitor to African governments who have no interest in heeding U.S. advice on promoting democracy and good governance.

There are two big, intractable problems that have implications for security in the region. The first is poor governance, which continues to blight a number of [African] countries. Indeed, that number has increased in recent years, reversing some of the positive progress made in the 1990s and early 2000s. One particular manifestation of this problem is leaders who remove constitutional term limits. By altering, or threatening to alter, constitutions in order to stay in office, leaders like Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso undermine their nations’ institutions and run the risk that opposition to their incumbency will take on increasingly desperate, even violent, forms.

The second big problem is the lack of viable African security institutions to respond to conflict in a timely, professional manner. The continent currently lacks political leaders with the skill and vision to take ownership of the issue and produce models for a homegrown and financially sustainable African security architecture.

In July 2014, former UK foreign secretary William Hague described a turbulent global landscape as one not simply experiencing a series of regular disruptions; instead, he suggested that the world was suffering from “systemic disorder.” In a similar vein, former U.S. national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski characterized the environment as “historically unprecedented in the sense that simultaneously, huge swaths of global territory are dominated by populist unrest, anger, loss of state control.

Indeed, every day seems to bring news of emerging crises and deeper chaos, with few signs the world’s troubles are abating. China’s assertive posture in Asia has the neighbors scrambling to bolster their armed forces, reinforce territorial claims, and buttress relations with the United States. Russia’s confrontation with Ukraine and NATO holds the prospects of conflict in Europe. A worsening in one or both of these regions could herald a new economic downturn worldwide.Beginning in North Africa in late 2010, the Arab Spring offered the promise of economic opportunity, justice, and self rule. But four years later, the region has more often witnessed despair, economic paralysis, and violence. The players include countless militias, insurgents, terrorists, government security services, and political factions all contesting control of territory, populations, and resources. The integrity of Libya, Syria, and Iraq are in serious jeopardy at the same time insurgent groups like ISIS are surging in influence and capability and in some places governing as a state.

At the heart of this turmoil are two distinct but related phenomena. States are less able or willing to exercise power and authority over their people, territory, and (shrinking) resources, while actors at the sub state level are simultaneously wielding greater capabilities than ever before. This is not a new state of affairs, but the trend has worsened sharply over the past year. Incompetent or corrupt regimes are failing to provide basic services and opportunity to their populations. Filling that void are ethnic- or sectarian based groups and sophisticated criminal gangs that are not only supplanting traditional government roles but challenging states on the battle field. The ongoing confrontation between ISIS and several powerful nations bears witness to this reality.

Caught in the middle are millions of citizens with scant economic opportunities, security, and little control over their own lives. With their own governments often at fault, many people look to alternative sources of authority and service provision. Violent extremist groups offer a respite for those seeking relief, along with a promise of empowerment and even revenge very appealing choices for many individuals in this environment, given their lack of other options.

Despite the strong desire by many to avoid these cofounding problems, there is little doubt that the United States will remain deeply engaged in finding solutions. The prospects for continued violence, radicalization, and global “systemic disorder” appear to be very strong, and the United States and its partners must prepare themselves for a rough ride ahead.

At the end of the Cold War, humanitarian assistance by civilian aid workers to alleviate suffering evolved into “humanitarian intervention.” This dramatic shift in conflict from interstate wars, which declined during the last decade of the twentieth century, to intrastate conflicts arising from weak and fragile states tested the capacity of both civilian and military agencies to find appropriate responses to the dual crises of human suffering and bad governance.

Urban growth was rapid over the course of the twentieth century, and it will continue to advance quickly over the next 20 years. The overall world population reached 7.3 billion people in 2014 and is projected to exceed 8.3 billion by 2030. Notwithstanding its scale, this rate of population growth will not match the projected scale of urban growth over the same period: urban populations will grow from 3.8 billion in 2014 to more than 5 billion in 2030. Most of this growth will occur in Asia and Africa.

Every year, millions of men, women, and children relocate to periurban spaces. The newly urbanized commonly find themselves forced to live in the most insecure spaces, such as along the edges of ravines, on flood prone streambeds, on unstable slopes, or in slums and shantytowns so densely populated that they become marked with ignominious titles such as Lagos’s “Face Me, I Face You” complexes. The speed and nonuniformity of this migration overwhelms existing urban infrastructure and service provision capacities, generating interrelated negative social, health, and economic externalities. The severity of this insecurity is nowhere more apparent than for the 930 million inhabitants in developing countries, specifically in sub-Saharan Africa, who live in a slum.

Organized crime and the potential for violence from terrorist or insurgent networks pose a further challenge to human security in quickly urbanizing environments. Problems found in mega cities economic disparity and high unemployment make them a prime breeding ground for violent non state actors. Many fear the sheer size of these cities will allow criminal groups to flourish undetected by local government or legal authorities. The absence of rule of law and basic services has the potential to provide safe haven to organized criminals, insurgents, and other violent non state actors.

Transnational criminal organizations corrupt and intimidate governments and facilitate illicit trafficking, which makes them one of the more pernicious non state actors. UNODC emphasizes in its 2013 West African Threat Assessment that underserved communities particularly those in border areas can profit from the flow of contraband, “leading them further and further from the reach of the state.”

Livelihoods that benefit from governance vacuums are unsustainable but usually preferable to poverty. Those involved in illicit trade are willing to defend themselves violently when their livelihoods are threatened whether by the state or by rivals. To make matters worse, wealth accrued through illicit trafficking is often sufficient to buy cooperation from high levels of government, meaning corruption is both enabled by and an enabler of organized crime.

Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa are still experiencing a new kind of threat as stateless armies of criminal actors threaten the peace and security of many countries. In 2014, we still face the problem of accepting how long it takes to build strong institutions, grow civil society, and restore economic growth. Foreign assistance budgets are developed in five year bundles, yet reality tells us that state building is a 20 year task at a minimum. A generation is usually needed to see the results of stabilization and institution building, yet the high level of demand for the immediate resolution of conflict, often characterized by impatience and quick fixes, checking a box on a “to-do” list, fails to create a genuine understanding of how any short-term development interventions support a path to national development and a return to stable governance.

The rapid changes and instability emergent today require a comprehensive and effective response that brings people together to resolve differences peacefully and strengthens their ability to better overcome future potential conflict or strife.

I would like to focus here in conclusion, on two sub- Saharan African countries  that have overcome some  challenges and made some progress towards a modern democratic civil society. South Africa & Zimbabwe have enormous natural resources some of which contribute to their GDP and also a revenue stream for the government which can be further strengthened with bilateral trade agreements with their trading partners. Both countries share a common history in that they have had precolonization and colonization and are now in the third stage of their history which is post colonization.

The countries share a border and there is a certain amount of commonality with the challenges that they face moving into the Twenty First Century. South Africa & Zimbabwe are both part of the South African Development Community and the African Union. Ideally for progress to happen and for them to reach their full potential, truth, trust and transparency in government are paramount. Sustainable development that is part of a transformative state requires a collaborative and consultative approach with all of the stakeholders. There are many real challenges ahead, some of which were addressed in the Millennium Development Goals. The Sustainable Development Goals have continued the MDGs and also focus on future remaining challenges.

Governments can to be proactive regarding matters such as health, education, employment, infrastructure, gender equality, food security, population growth, structural reforms(whether they are regulatory, or institutional, or political, or fiscal, or social) and climate change, which will benefit the current citizens and future generations. It also is the duty and responsibility of foreign governments to work with these two countries to establish mutually beneficial relationships that benefit the citizens.

The proactive approach that government needs to address with structural reform is highlighted by a 2012 report by KPMG (http://www.kpmg.com/Africa/en/IssuesAndInsights/Articles-Publications/Press-Releases/Documents/Africa%20Fraud%20Barometer%20June%202012.pdf ) where it claims ” Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa make up 74 percent of all fraud cases reported in Africa. While fewer cases are reported in South Africa, the overall value of these cases is far greater in Nigeria”.

The writer welcomes and feedback and or ideas regarding the subject and appreciates the work that C.S.I.S. carries out and the contribution that is makes globally.

China & TheTwenty First Century

China 2015 White Paper Beijing issued its first white paper on military strategy, ushering in greater military transparency by giving details of the direction of its military buildup to other nations. The document of about 9,000 Chinese characters revealed a list of new expressions that have never before appeared in Chinese white papers.

In the preface it reaffirmed China’s adherence to peaceful development and its “active defense” military strategy. It interpreted the policy as “We will not attack unless we are attacked, but we will surely counterattack if attacked”. “China will never seek hegemony or expansion,” it added.

On China’s security environment, it mentioned increasing security challenges brought by certain countries, citing the growing US military presence in Asia and Japan’s major adjustment in its security policies.

For the first time, the paper noted that “some offshore neighbors take provocative actions and reinforce their military presence on China’s reefs and islands that they have illegally occupied”. “It is thus a long-standing task for China to safeguard its maritime rights and interests.”

Vietnam and the Philippines have kept building on some of China’s islands in the South China Sea. Accordingly, the paper said the navy of the People’s Liberation Army will “gradually shift its focus from ‘offshore waters defense’ to a combination of ‘offshore waters defense’ and ‘open seas protection'”.

China Military

China’s air force will soon commission the J-10B fighter jet, the most advanced military aircraft the country has ever developed on its own.

[Photo provided to China Daily]

It also mentioned an adjustment in preparations for military struggle. Following the guideline set in 2004 in order to win “informationized local wars”, the new expression highlighted maritime military struggle.

Regarding outer space, the paper reaffirmed China’s opposition to the weaponization of outer space and its disapproval of an arms race in outer space.

As for cyber space, it said “China will expedite the development of a cyber force” and enhance its capabilities in cyber situation awareness and cyber defense.

The paper also noted that as Chinese national interests stretch further abroad, it will “strengthen international security cooperation in areas crucially related to China’s overseas interests”.

It said the PLA will engage in extensive regional and international security affairs, and promote the establishment of the mechanisms of emergency notification, military risk precaution, crisis management and conflict control.

The paper highlighted future cooperation with Russian armed forces, saying the PLA will foster a comprehensive, diverse and sustainable framework to promote military relations.

On cooperation with the US, China intends to build a “new model of military relationships” that conforms to the two nations’ new model of major-country relations.

It will strengthen defense dialogues, exchanges and cooperation with the US military, and improve the mechanism for the notification of major military activities as well as the rule of behavior for safety of air and maritime encounters.

Zhao Weibin, a researcher on China-US military relations with the PLA Academy of Military Sciences, said though the paper named the US, Japan and some neighbors which pose security challenges, it is not written to counter them.

“In this chapter on the security environment, we just objectively assessed China’s situation.”

Wen Bing, a researcher on defense policies with the academy, said China has become one of the few countries that have published white papers to clarify military strategy. According to him, the US, Russia and Britain have issued similar reports.

“That is indeed a big step in China’s military transparency.”

Wen suggested the readers of the report examine every word of it, as “there are so many new expressions and ideas, through which you can better understand today’s PLA.”

Further to this white paper, The General Political Department of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has compiled Chinese President Xi Jinping’s speeches and writings on national defense for release in the military system.

The book, compiled and released under the approval of the Central Military Commission, includes major strategic thinkings, theories and policies reflected in 36 key articles by Xi between Dec. 2012 and March 2015.

The PLA General Political Department urged soldiers and officers to study the book to improve the army, with guided sessions to explain key theories and deepen the reader’s understanding.

China said on Wednesday that it was deeply shocked and dissatisfied with the Philippine president’s remarks likening China to Nazi Germany, warning Manila to stop provoking Beijing on the South China Sea issue.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that the Philippines has tried to occupy Chinese islands for decades and has kept “colluding with countries outside the region to stir up trouble and sling mud at China”.

“I once more seriously warn certain people in the Philippines to cast aside their illusions and repent, stop provocations and instigations, and return to the correct path of using bilateral channels to talk and resolve this dispute,” she said.

During a speech in Japan on Wednesday, Philippine President Benigno Aquino compared China’s actions to Nazi Germany’s territorial expansion before the outbreak of World War II.

Tensions have risen recently as the Philippines, as well as the United States and Japan — two nations that are not directly involved in the issue — repeatedly criticize China over its construction on some of its islands in the South China Sea.

China has said its projects mainly aim to provide a civilian service that will benefit other countries.

US President Barack Obama conceded on Monday that “it may be that some of their (China’s) claims are legitimate”, but he urged China to stop construction on the islands. The US has sent reconnaissance planes over Chinese islands with reporters on board.

Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai told The Wall Street Journal it was “very surprising to us that the US has overreacted to the situation and is escalating the situation.”

He said China is more concerned than anybody about the safety and freedom of navigation in the region, given China’s huge trade volume going through the South China Sea.

“If somebody wants to see escalation of tension, then that could be used as an excuse for advancing their military deployment, for setting up Cold War-type alliances and for setting up new missile defense systems,” he said.

During Aquino’s visit, Tokyo and Manila are likely to agree to start talks on a framework for the transfer of defense equipment and technology. Japan last year eased restrictions on arms exports set after World War II.

“As a major victim of Japan during the war, it is really cynical for the Philippines to unite with Japan and link China to Nazi Germany,” said Chen Qinghong, a Southeast Asian studies researcher at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

“Manila wants Tokyo to help press Beijing on the South China Sea issue. And Japan — which is under great international pressure for its attitude on history as the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II approaches in August — seeks to transfer the regional focus.”

In previous posts I have written about understanding China and the rise of the Red Dragon in this “The Asian Century”. I wonder how may of us in the West truly independently understand the complexities of this state and the global challenges we will face during the 21st Century as our global power structure transitions.

Zimbabwe Challenges

https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/06/03/ominous-warning-signs-resurface-in-zimbabwe/

Ominous Warning Signs Resurface

in Zimbabwe

Ominous Warning Signs Resurface in Zimbabwe

The southern African nation of Zimbabwe has fallen off the international radar screen in recent years, but alarm bells should be ringing loud and clear. Over the course of the past few months, we have witnessed an ominous series of warning signs: bitter political infighting within the country’s ruling party, the worsening of already deplorable economic conditions, the abduction and disappearance of a prominent human rights activist, and a surge of inflammatory rhetoric and political violence. According to a report by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, these are all telltale signs of growing atrocity risk — and precisely why the United States, and its allies, must wake up and take a proactive stand.

Political violence has long shaped the landscape of Zimbabwe, home to an estimated 14 million people. After a bloody liberation struggle against British colonial rule, Robert Mugabe, the only head of state Zimbabwe has ever known, spoke of reconciliation, peace, and social cohesion at independence in 1980. Mugabe’s words, however, brazenly belied the reality on the ground. Wartime emergency measures were kept in place, and we now know that plans for massacres against the Ndebele people in Midlands and Matabeleland provinces — what would later be known as Gukurahundi — were well underway. This calculated campaign of terror against an ethnic minority, executed with assistance from North Korea, was a key component of Mugabe’s plan to eliminate any opposition to his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). This scorched-earth campaign left at least 20,000 people dead and thousands more displaced. Thirty years later, no one has been held accountable, and the perpetrators remain in positions of power.

For a brief moment during Zimbabwe’s coalition government, from 2009-2013, the situation seemed as if it might be improving. The shattered economy stabilized and slowly began to recover, political space re-opened, and the most blatant forms of state-sponsored aggression declined. In reality, however, ZANU-PF and Mugabe were merely adjusting their tactics: Instead of physically assaulting opposition leaders in front of TV cameras, they undermined their influence through manipulation of the courts; instead of firebombing newspapers, they quietly intimidated the media and civil society activists; instead of beating up and maiming opposition supporters, they craftily rigged the polls to win the vote in July 2013. This more subtle approach worked, even leading to a softening of European sanctions earlier this year.

Over the past several months, however, the mood in Zimbabwe has markedly changed.

On March 9, prominent human rights defender Itai Dzamara was abducted in broad daylight. Diplomats claim that his disappearance bears all the hallmarks of an operation by Zimbabwe’s intelligence services, which has long operated with impunity under the direction of Mugabe and his security chiefs. More than two months later, Dzamara remains missing. Not only have the police ignored a High Court judgment, which ordered them to provide bi-weekly updates on the investigation and search for Dzamara, but a government minister went so far as to suggest that Dzamara staged his own disappearance.

Dzamara’s abduction is not an isolated incident. Zimbabwe’s history is replete with examples of human rights and opposition political activists who have been abducted, tortured, forcibly disappeared, or murdered by state agents. Most recently, on April 26, ruling party operatives publicly assaulted six traditional leaders at a campaign rally in Mashonaland, in full view of the police, for supporting an independent candidate running for local office. Two of the headmen have been reported missing by the local press.

The recent uptick of incendiary rhetoric espoused by leaders in ZANU-PF has also raised red flags. Last month, for example, Zimbabwe’s current Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, while on a campaign stop in Midlands, likened Zimbabwe’s political opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), to Satan, announcing to the crowd “we have come to cleanse you of the sins of the MDC.” Importantly, Mnangagwa — who is also minister of justice and the most likely successor to the 91-year-old Mugabe — was a chief architect of Gukurahundi as then-minister of defense.

This type of dog-whistle rhetoric — including from Mugabe himself — is eerily reminiscent of Zimbabwe’s dark past. The ethnically-charged words are strategically chosen: meant to strike fear in the hearts and minds of would-be voters, but also to send a clear warning to those in ZANU-PF who might challenge Mugabe’s authority. In December 2014, for example, during the height of a frenzied intraparty struggle for power, Zimbabwe’s longtime vice president and liberation war hero Joice Mujuru — nicknamed “Spill Blood” — was ousted after allegations that she had planned to assassinate Mugabe. To date, Mujuru has maintained that the accusation is false and many observers, both inside Zimbabwe and out, believe the smear campaign was part of a more sinister plot to neutralize a political rival who had been gaining popularity.

Even prior to this latest incident, Mujuru knew full well the ramifications of crossing Mugabe and ZANU-PF, whether intentional or perceived. Her late husband, Solomon Mujuru, a highly revered figure in Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle and former defense minister, was killed in an eerily suspicious house fire in 2011. Following Joice Mujuru’s political demise this past year, the first lady of Zimbabwe and current chairwoman of the ZANU-PF Women’s League, Grace Mugabe, declared that if Mujuru were killed, “dogs and fleas would not disturb her carcass.”

In Zimbabwe, this type of odious rhetoric has often coincided with political violence: It was a common tactic deployed during land invasions in the early 2000s, during a forced “urban clearance campaign” in 2005, and exemplified by targeted political attacks during and after the 2008 election period, when Robert Mugabe lost a first round but then unleashed a cascade of violence to force the opposition to withdraw.

The latest developments in Zimbabwe come at a time when the country’s economy is again collapsing and the political elite are tearing themselves apart in a battle for succession. Monitors of mass atrocity risk typically watch for ethnic exclusion, hate speech, and indicators of political and economic stress. The greatest indicator of a country’s atrocity risk is whether it has suffered from similar events in the past. All of these factors are currently, and ominously, present in Zimbabwe.

This is a dangerous moment for the citizens of Zimbabwe, and for the southern African region writ large.

This is a dangerous moment for the citizens of Zimbabwe, and for the southern African region writ large. The United States government recently dispatched a delegation, including one of the State Department’s top human rights officials, to Harare. But the Obama administration will need to keep a keen and close eye on the ongoing events in Zimbabwe, including tasking the intelligence services for an assessment of the potential for mass violence. This should include elevating the issue of Zimbabwe to the president’s Atrocities Prevention Board, which can readily address the early warning indicators of mass atrocities that currently prevail. Just as important, authorities in the capital, Harare, must know that the world is watching. Preventative steps must be taken now by engaging with the African Union (which Mugabe currently chairs), other African heads of state, as well as the United Nations Security Council to dissuade the Mugabe government from going down this tragic road once again.

Mugabe and his inner circle of ZANU-PF loyalists must also understand that those who continue to commit violence against their own people will ultimately be held accountable. The United States and its allies should make it profoundly clear, both publicly and in private, that visa bans, asset seizures, and even war crimes prosecutions are all viable policy options that remain on the table.

Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images

Camp David USA Tax Reform

Dave Camp

Offers Revamp of Tax Code

If the United States of America continues walking down this garden path, they will surely run out of breadcrumbs to return back to their origins of freedom, liberty & fraternity. 

The delightful garden of wealth and prosperity with the secure hedges and windbreaks of elm, oak and pine and where capitalism reigned supreme, will be behind them as the forest ahead is a thick and perilous maze where the rights enjoyed by many will be surrendered to a few. 

The complexities and challenges ahead will require a unique adroit dexterity in  leadership and good governance from those who have the aptitude and ability to live between vision and reality, to firstly identify the real challenges, to secondly source the effective solutions and to lastly implement the same.

When I lived in New York (2005-2009) I remember hearing on a daily basis God Bless America…now all I hear in an echoed call is

God Save America

BY DAVID LIGHTMAN AND KEVIN G. HALL

MCCLATCHY WASHINGTON BUREAU

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Republican-led House of Representatives’ tax-writing panel proposed on Wednesday the first complete overhaul of the nation’s tax code since 1986, a plan that both political parties are likely to debate throughout this election year.

Chances are the effort will go nowhere in this Congress, a point conceded even by Republican leaders. But the 979-page blueprint, which includes collapsing individual tax brackets to 10 and 25 percent for virtually all taxable income and lowering corporate tax rates, allows both parties to argue that they’re champions of a simpler, fairer tax code.

Both sides recognize that the public is eager for a more understandable and sensible tax code. The issue also presents an opportunity for both parties to talk in reasonable terms about a big issue, the kind of dialogue often missing in ongoing debates about immigration, federal debt limits and spending cuts.

“This legislation does not reflect ideas solely advanced by Democrats or ideas solely advanced by Republicans,” said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Chairman and the author of the proposal.

The plan, he said, “recognizes that everyone is a part of this effort and can benefit when we have a code that is simpler and fairer.”

The White House found the plan a “constructive, specific proposal” that should trigger dialogue about how to proceed, said spokesman Josh Earnest. He cited several reasons for optimism, notably loophole closings and using revenue for infrastructure improvements.

The top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee offered a similar view.

“Chairman Camp’s tax reform proposal opens up a discussion that Democrats have wanted to engage in on a bipartisan basis,” said Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich.

The Senate’s top Democratic and Republican tax writers issued a join statement that said, “We look forward to working with members in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle to move the conversation forward.” Republicans saw promise in using the plan to counter Democratic criticism that Republicans are too extreme and too partisan.

The Camp plan would narrow the seven current tax brackets into two. Individuals who earn less than $37,400 a year would pay a 10 percent tax rate on taxable income, as would joint filers with income below $74,800. Everyone else would pay a 25 percent rate.

In a bid to entice Democrats, who insist on higher taxes on the wealthy, the plan would have a 10 percent surcharge on individuals with adjustable gross incomes above $400,000 and joint filers above $450,000. It also would reduce how much mortgage interest could be deducted from taxable income for home loans of more than $500,000, and end the ability to deduct state and local taxes from a federal return.

The proposal would cut the corporate tax rate to 25 percent from 35 percent.

 

It would return the tax rate on capital gains, now at 20 percent, to the rate of ordinary income, which for most Americans would become 25 percent. But about 40 percent of capital gains and dividends could be excluded from taxation under the proposal.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday that the plan had “no hope” of passing this year, while House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, was equally glum.

Boehner did favor the idea of collapsing tax brackets.

“To bring down rates, you clean out a lot of the garbage that’s in there and the special interest issues that are in there. And so I think we ought to have a real conversation about this, and this is the beginning of that conversation,” he said.

 

Interest groups reacted quickly to the Camp plan. The Private Equity Growth Capital Council, which represents well-heeled private-equity firms, criticized the proposal, which calls for rolling back tax law that allows the managers of these firms to have their earnings taxed not as wages but at the lower rate of investment income.

“It is so disappointing that Chairman Camp chose to single out private equity, real estate and venture capital investment by exacting a 40 percent tax increase that will discourage new investment,” the council said.

 

The proposed revamp also would change the way high-income earners can save for retirement. It would restrict them to Roth-style retirement accounts that use after-tax income – as opposed to pretax income, as is the case for the conventional 401(k) retirement plans held by many working Americans.

This change would affect 5 percent of the workforce, Camp said, and involves those who set aside more than $8,750 a year in tax-deferred accounts such as 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts.

There’s less to that idea than there appears, cautioned Len Burman, a nationally recognized tax expert who’s a professor at Syracuse University.

“At best it’s just a timing gimmick. It’s a shift in the timing of revenue. It looks like we collect more right now, but we’re giving up more in the future,” he said.

That’s because conventional retirement accounts are taxed upon withdrawal in retirement, when there’s a large pot of money because of compounding gains. Roth IRAs involve after-tax income, sort of paying future taxes up front. They’re used to shelter income and lower estate taxes because they can be left alone and passed on to beneficiaries such as children after the account holder dies.

“Roths are really advantageous for super wealthy people, who are the people I have the fewest concerns about when it comes to retirement savings,” said Burman.

Lesley Clark contributed to this article.