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.

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.

 

Conflict Cocktail Compositions

Conflict

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Click here – http://youtu.be/Lk7BWjMEMHw – to listen and read

The history of the human species reveals that we are only ever two things and these are constructive and destructive.

There are many references to these two sides of human nature that are found throughout literature and the Bible has many examples of these. There are many opposites…sun & moon, positive & negative, war & peace, black & white, red & green, up and down and many others inclusive of life & death. We’re born & we die, it is as simple as that…in between of course there is cabaret.

Conflict has existed since the beginning or our time here on Earth and will continue till that day when it finally ends.

To briefly look at where we are today and where we humans possible will be at the end of this first quarter of the Twenty First Century the writer recommends the reader to look at modern history in two writers from France & England. There are other writers, and more modern and ancient history that one can review, in an attempt to understand where we are at today and how we got to this point in our timeline.

Click here –  http://youtu.be/GRxofEmo3HA  – to listen & read

 

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The condition of man… is a condition of war of everyone against everyone. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Hobbes

We are born weak, we need strength; helpless, we need aid; foolish, we need reason. All that we lack at birth, all that we need when we come to man’s estate, is the gift of education. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Jacques_Rousseau

 ‘ One Hundred Years of War ‘ – http://www4.samford.edu/belltower/031313/boyatt.php  

One questions the past century and the trajectory that we are currently on which was set in the latter half circa 1950-2000.

 

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The slow evolution of the human species and have we moved forward towards a better tomorrow ?

2000-2025

In his book Strategic Vision – America and the Crisis of Global Power ‘ Zbigniew Brzenzinski argues that America can and should be actively engaged in navigating this period of crisis. The book seeks to outline the needed strategic vision, looking beyond 2025. There are other matters that both Brzezinski and the writer of this post have not explored in detail. These other matters are of concern and are not limited to these three – Population Growth, Climate Change, Sustainable Development

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ym8JjY4fy-M&feature=share&list=PLnQH3w6MZnkhbFd9irW9UsGQm0pJocZsJ&index=2

 

The World After America : By 2025, Not Chinese but Chaotic

Unlike the failed twentieth-century aspirants to world power, China’s international posture is at this stage neither revolutionary nor messianic nor Manichean. China thus seems to understand–and its investments in America’s well-being speak louder than words because they are based on self-interest–that a rapid decline of America’s global primacy would produce a global crisis that could devastate China’s own well-being and damage its long-range prospects. Prudence and patience are part of China’s imperial DNA.

Deng Xiaoping’s famous maxim “Observe calmly; secure our position; cope with affairs calmly; hide our capabilities and bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile, and never claim leadership.”

Sun Tzu – the wisest posture in combat is to lay back, let one’s opponent make fatal mistakes, and only then capitalise on them. 

 

Deng Xiaoping took China from Mao to Today.  

Brzezinski does conclude that ” since America is not yet Rome and China is not yet its Byzantium, a stable global order ultimately depends on America’s ability to renew itself and to act wisely as the promoter and conciliator of a rising new East. 

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China has cemented itself in Africa with such dexterity that the foundations have cured for a strong and continued ‘mutually beneficial’ relationship based upon infrastructure for resources. There is a trade off here because this relationship between China & Africa is based upon this business model that is not ‘apples for apples’, but it has worked thus far. Whoever runs Africa this decade rules the world in the next…this statement may not be historically accurate, but the idea is understood.

The change that is required to sail through the difficult uncharted waters in tomorrow was required yesterday.The uncharted waters are not a reference to 2050, this is a reference to the next five years specifically and the remainder of Q1 of the 21st Century. Sustainable development is vital if we are to survive into the next centuries. Sustainability of our species is not possible on the current trajectory and there are major global challenges ahead.

How do we fight poverty ? Okay that is not easily answered because as we assist those who live in poverty to move into the middle class, they then contribute to a larger carbon footprint as consumers. America has tried to slow the growth of China by saying that the Chinese must reform and address the MDGs without contributing to global pollution – e.g. not to use fossil fuels for the generation of electricity etc.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/6309792/God-creation-science-religion-the-conflicts.html

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Which Course of Course

Old habits die hard as they say and one wonders if we can in fact change our course. At present the world is sailing with a lee shore (lee shores are dangerous to water craft because, if left to drift, they will be pushed into shore by the wind, possibly running aground) and that if we do not or can not change the consequences are catastrophic.

But which course to take ? A responsible government has a thinking society…that would be a very good place to start. 

Over the past fifty years the communication age taught consumers what to consume, how and why to consume. 

What symphony can the world write to sooth our troubles. This conflict cocktail composition that we’re intoxicated from is merely because the welfare of man is in an eternal state of conflict. 

May we all drink clean cool water from now on…I’m thirsty and is there any left ?