House backs $675 billion spending bill for Pentagon
By MATTHEW DALY
Thursday, June 28
WASHINGTON (AP) — The House on Thursday approved a $675 billion spending bill for the Defense Department that includes a 2.6 percent raise for the military.
The 359-49 vote sends the bill to the Senate, where the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a similar measure this week.
The House bill provides $146 billion for equipment and upgrades, including $22.7 billion for 12 Navy ships, two Virginia-class submarines and three fast-moving littoral combat ships. The relatively small ships are intended to operate in congested areas near the shore against small boats and mines.
The bill also includes $9.4 billion for 93 F-35 aircraft and more than $4 billion for Black Hawk, Apache and other helicopters.
Rep. Kay Granger, a Texas Republican who chairs the defense appropriations subcommittee, said the bill provides the military with needed resources “to respond to and deter threats from countries like Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, and also counter violent extremists throughout the world.”
The bill includes an amendment by Arizona Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego to bar the Pentagon from buying goods or services from Chinese telecommunications giants ZTE and Huawei. ZTE is accused of violating trade laws by selling sensitive technologies to North Korea and Iran. Huawei has ties to the Chinese government and is considered a security risk.
“Broad majorities of Democrats and Republicans in Congress know that China has led a dedicated and long-term campaign to steal American secrets, techniques and know-how,” Gallego said in a statement. He called his amendment “a small step in a larger fight to build a comprehensive strategy to defeat and deter Chinese attacks on our national and economic security.”
President Donald Trump met with Republican lawmakers last week after the Senate moved to block a White House plan to allow ZTE to buy component parts from the U.S.
Scrutiny over the ZTE agreement comes as the Trump administration has been engaged in a sweeping trade dispute with China. Trump has ordered tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods in response to Beijing’s forced transfer of U.S. technology and intellectual property theft.
House Speaker Paul Ryan called the funding bill crucial to the nation’s defense and said it provides the biggest pay raise for service members in nine years.
The bill also addresses what Ryan, R-Wis., called a “military readiness crisis.”
Over the last five years, aviation accidents have led to the deaths of 133 Americans, Ryan said — a “grave trend” that the bill seeks to reverse. The bill includes nearly $246 billion to boost training, maintenance and other military readiness programs.
“We’re taking steps to make sure more lives aren’t lost because of outdated, subpar equipment,” Ryan said, adding that lawmakers were “keeping our promise to build a 21st century military worthy of the sacrifices made by the men and women who serve.”
Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., chairman of a House Armed Services subcommittee on seapower and projection forces, also cited a “readiness crisis,” noting that 80 military casualties occurred last year during peace-time training and operations, compared with 24 deaths in combat operations.
“This is a direct result of the lack of resources available for training, maintenance, modernization and other essential readiness programs,” Wittman said, calling the numbers of deaths unacceptable.
“We are finally getting our readiness back on track and providing our service members with the resources they desperately need. We can’t afford to stop now,” he said.
The White House said it generally supports the House bill, but said the plan to buy three littoral combat ships was unnecessary. In a statement, the White House urged Congress to buy just one of the nimble ships at an expected cost of $647 million, saving at least $950 million.
Construction of one littoral combat ship in the next fiscal year, combined with three ships funded this year and three more approved in 2017, would keep U.S. shipyards “supplied with ample work to remain viable for the U.S. Navy Next Generation Frigate FFG(X) Program,” the White House said.
The White House also objected to a proposed $3 billion cut in the military’s operations and maintenance accounts, and $245 million in cuts to advanced munitions.
Turkey May Not Be Abandoning Ties With the West
June 25, 2018 by Scott A. Olson
Soon after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed victory in Sunday’s election, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard N. Haass, tweeted a grim assessment: “What we are witnessing is the end for now and possibly longer of Turkey being a political and strategic member of the West.”
Evidence suggests he may be correct. But, with all due respect to Dr. Haass, the case can still be made for optimism that Turkey won’t ultimately turn its back on the West. That case rests on three crucial pieces of evidence:
—Exhibit A: Turkey is highly reliant on foreign direct investment. One of Turkey’s biggest economic vulnerabilities is its over-reliance on foreign capital. That over-reliance has sometimes plunged the lira’s exchange rate and whipsawed Turkish economy.
Erdogan understands that history better than most and has touted his economic stewardship as a primary argument for his continued leadership. He has also watched his political fortunes rise and fall with his country’s economy, so he is unlikely to risk economic free fall in pursuit of radical social change if it jeopardizes his power.
True, time has revealed Erdogan’s agenda to remake Turkey’s historically secular society in line with more conservative Islamic norms. But even if he is willing to go down such a radical path, public opinion is unlikely to follow.
—Exhibit B: Erdogan lacks a commanding electoral mandate. Early results reported by Turkey’s state news agency tallied Erdogan’s share of the vote at around 53 percent — more than enough to avoid an uncertain second-round contest.
True, Turkey’s high thresholds for representation in its unicameral parliament ensure that the president and his coalition will command a healthy majority of parliamentary seats. And previously approved constitutional reforms, coupled with emergency measures that have silenced opposition, imbue Erdogan with tremendous power to change Turkish law. But that doesn’t erase the fact that nearly half the Turkish electorate voted against Turkey’s president and his parliamentary allies.
And many of those whose votes made the difference will surely expect positive economic results if they are to remain supportive. Hence, notwithstanding his electoral success, Erdogan lacks the political capital for radical long-term change, and he knows it.
—Exhibit C: Erdogan is too good a politician to hazard Turkey’s economy by overplaying his hand. Since coming to power in 2003, Erdogan’s agenda has grown more nakedly Islamist, and his leadership has become increasingly authoritarian. In addition, the president has proven himself allergic to democratic norms, brutally cracking down on dissent by journalists, activists and political opponents alike.
But obscured in this well-worn narrative is Erdogan’s considerable political acumen. Yes, he has tipped the political playing field in his favor. But he remains a rational actor with his finger firmly on the pulse of public opinion. However willing he may be to push the frontiers of his mandate, he is no less in tune with prevailing attitudes among Turkish voters and elites.
These, Erdogan knows, can shift quickly if he fails to deliver on the promise of economic growth. And he is too adept a political operator to let his Islamist and authoritarian tendencies blind him to even slight erosions of his political base. As much as he may be able to engineer electoral outcomes, he nonetheless cannot engineer popular attitudes, at least not in the long-run.
None of this is to say that Turkey won’t, in the end, reorient itself away from the West. Like all close elections, Sunday’s contest invites much soul searching by Turks and their leaders alike.
No doubt, Erdogan will frame the result as a decisive validation of his agenda and a green light to more radical reforms. But political rhetoric notwithstanding, Western leaders should pause before discounting Erdogan’s awareness of the practical limits of his power.
Yes, a radical reorientation of Turkey’s foreign policy is possible, but it is by no means inevitable.
About the Author
Scott A. Olson is a former congressional staffer and a recent graduate of the University of Oregon School of Law. He is a Political Partner of the Truman National Security Project. Views expressed are his own.
A Bright Future for the War on Global Poverty
June 25, 2018 by Antony Davies and James R. Harrigan
In the late 1700s, Thomas Malthus became convinced that the combination of a fact and a trend spelled doom for the human race. The fact was that more than 95 percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty. The trend was that the world’s population was growing exponentially. The conclusion was clear: The human race was headed for starvation and extinction if population growth wasn’t controlled. But something interesting happened over the subsequent two centuries that proved Malthus wrong.
Malthus’ error was ironic because he greatly underestimated by how much the world population would grow. At the time Malthus wrote, it had taken humans their entire history to reach a world population of 1 billion people. Today, humans add that many people to their ranks each decade.
This massive population growth should have made Malthus’ predictions of doom and gloom all the more prescient, but it didn’t. And the reason is counter intuitive: Human beings are not, in the end, an unmitigated drain on the earth’s resources.
Human beings do consume resources, but they create more than they use. Wood wasn’t a resource until humans discovered how to fell trees and cut lumber. Coal wasn’t a resource until humans discovered how to mine and burn it. Oil wasn’t a resource until humans invented methods for extracting and refining it. Uranium wasn’t a resource until humans tamed the atom.
Malthus predicted resource depletion. What transpired was resource creation. Not only did people create resources, they grew those resources faster than the population. According to United Nations’ figures, extreme poverty, which exceeded 95 percent in Mathus’ day, dropped to 80 percent by the 1900s, 60 percent by the 1960s, to less than 10 percent today.
Contrary to Malthus and modern-day Malthusians, the world has become a much, much better place as the human population has exploded.
And we’re not simply rising out of poverty; the nature of poverty itself is changing.
A poor person’s standard of living in a developed country today exceeds an average middle-class person’s standard of living a century ago, and rivals a rich person’s standard of living two centuries ago. U.S. Census surveys reveal the near universality of a high standard of living among Americans, including the poor. More than 80 percent of U.S. households have washing machines and clothes dryers. Almost 100 percent have refrigerators, stoves, televisions and phones. Nearly 100 percent report no leaking roofs, no broken windows, no exposed electrical wiring, no plumbing problems, no holes in their walls or floors.
And the good news isn’t limited to living arrangements. According to the FBI, the rate of firearm deaths is down 50 percent over the last 30 years. The rate of non-fatal firearm crimes is down 75 percent. Worldwide, the rate of deaths due to wars is down 95 percent. Child labor rates are down 50 percent. Globally, income inequality is down, gender inequality is down, and longevity, education and income are all up. Even sulphur-dioxide emissions and deaths due to air pollution are down by 30 percent.
Both at home and globally, we are making tremendous strides in solving problems across the board. We still have further to go and always will, but it’s good to pause once in a while, identify what we’ve done well, figure out how we’ve managed it, and consider how it can be improved and replicated.
It’s also good to remember how good we have it, comparatively speaking. The poor now live better than the rich did just a few generations ago. If that trend continues, and there is no reason to believe it won’t, then the future is bright indeed.
About the Author
Antony Davies is associate professor economics at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. James R. Harrigan is CEO of FreedomTrust.
DREXEL HOSTED SPECIAL 50TH ANNIVERSARY EVENT TO CELEBRATE THE BEATLES’ ICONIC
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, the Drexel Theatre presented a special screening of the classic 1968 animated feature film on July 12. Now restored in full 4K digital resolution, this timeless icon of psychedelic pop culture combined the pioneering animation techniques of the time with dazzling visual invention, witty dialogue, and of course, glorious music, including “Eleanor Rigby,” “When I’m Sixty-Four,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “All You Need Is Love,” and “It’s All Too Much.”
About Yellow Submarine
Once upon a time… or maybe twice, there was an unearthly paradise called Pepperland – a place where happiness and music reigned supreme. But all that was threatened when the terrible Blue Meanies declared war and sent in their army led by a menacing Flying Glove to destroy all that was good. Enter John, Paul, George, and Ringo to save the day! Armed with little more than their humor, songs, and of course, their yellow submarine, the Fab Four tackle the rough seas ahead in an effort to bring down the evil forces of bluedom.
About the Drexel Theatre
For generations, the Drexel Theatre has been central Ohio’s first source for independent film and the best of Hollywood and international cinema, striving to specialize in simply the best films from around the world.
About Friends of the Drexel, Inc.
Established in late 2009 by a group of committed community leaders and arts patrons, Friends of the Drexel, Inc. is an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to a more creative and prosperous future for the Drexel Theatre. Its mission is to secure and sustain the future of the historic Drexel Theatre as a distinctive cultural asset to Bexley and the greater Columbus community. It envisions the Drexel as a sustainable provider of unique arts content as well as a vibrant community meeting place that preserves the charm and eclectic, neighborhood film-going experience in a warm and inviting, yet technologically-advanced, facility.
Contact: Rolanda Copley
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The Children are Lost and Someone Must Pay