Category Archives: Governments

The Pension Crisis Gets A Catchy Name: “Silver Tsunami”, by John Rubino

Promises, promises. Inadequate contributions, ever-escalating benefits, and an aging baby boomer population are behind a pension crisis that’s becoming more apparent by the day. From John Rubino at dollarcollapse.com:

Pensions really are in crisis, but the story is so full of large numbers, obscure projections, and dry terms like “unfunded liabilities” that not many people are paying attention.

The same is true for a lot of other big trends out there, which is why those sounding the alarm eventually settle on pithy/scary (if not always accurate) terms to get people’s attention. Global warming, for instance, or nuclear winter.

Now the pension crisis may have found its hook:

‘Silver Tsunami’ hits as pension costs devour California school budgets

(San Francisco Chronicle) – What happens when state funding improves, but local school budgets get worse? And how did we get into this situation in the first place?

It’s simple. School systems are getting hammered by the rising costs of pension and health care commitments. Meanwhile, they are being pinched by external factors including declining student enrollment, increased competition and frozen federal funding.

California is not an anomaly. Districts throughout the nation are facing the same squeeze.

So why isn’t anyone paying attention? Three main reasons:

Money is boring: And only boring people like chief financial officers talk about money and use phrases like “unfunded liabilities.” Interesting, cutting-edge people talk about “disruptive innovations” like personalized learning, or anything with the word “maker” in it.

Money is politically messy. Everyone wants funding for their favorite education project. In this zero-sum world, no one wants to talk about making tough choices. Even fewer want to discuss sensitive topics such as pension and health care liabilities.

Education finance has never been part of our nation’s education wars. Most of the opinion makers in education are like the Great Houses of Westeros in the HBO series “Game of Thrones.” They are much happier fighting each other to the death about issues like unions and charter schools than focusing on the more powerful forces that could destroy them all.

In “Game of Thrones,” that force is the White Walkers. In education, it’s the “Silver Tsunami” — the tens of billions of dollars in pension and other post-retirement benefits guaranteed to retirees.

To continue reading: The Pension Crisis Gets A Catchy Name: “Silver Tsunami”

Advertisements

The Great Game Comes to Syria, by Conn Hallinan

An alliance between Russia, Turkey, and Iran may emerge from the Syrian war. Such an alliance would be inimical to US interests, but the US would have only itself to blame. From Conn Hallinan at counterpunch.org:

Photo by Freedom House | CC BY 2.0

An unusual triple alliance is emerging from the Syrian war, one that could alter the balance of power in the Middle East, unhinge the NATO alliance, and complicate the Trump administration’s designs on Iran. It might also lead to yet another double cross of one of the region’s largest ethnic groups, the Kurds.

However, the “troika alliance”—Turkey, Russia and Iran—consists of three countries that don’t much like one another, have different goals, and whose policies are driven by a combination of geo-global goals and internal politics.  In short, “fragile and complicated” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

How the triad might be affected by the joint U.S., French and British attack on Syria is unclear, but in the long run the alliance will likely survive the uptick of hostilities.

But common ground was what came out of the April 4 meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Meeting in Ankara, the parties pledged to support the “territorial integrity” of Syria, find a diplomatic end to the war, and to begin a reconstruction of a Syria devastated by seven years of war. While Russia and Turkey explicitly backed the UN-sponsored talks in Geneva, Iran was quiet on that issue, preferring a regional solution without “foreign plans.”

“Common ground,” however, doesn’t mean the members of the “troika” are on the same page.

Turkey’s interests are both internal and external. The Turkish Army is currently conducting two military operations in northern Syria, Olive Branch and Euphrates Shield, aimed at driving the mainly Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) out of land that borders Turkey. But those operations are also deeply entwined with Turkish politics.

Erdogan’s internal support has been eroded by a number of factors:  exhaustion with the ongoing state of emergency imposed following the 2016 attempted coup, a shaky economy, and a precipitous fall in the value of the Turkish pound. Rather than waiting for 2019, Erdogan called for snap elections this past week and beating up on the Kurds is always popular with right-wing Turkish nationalists. Erdogan needs all the votes he can get to imlement his newly minted executive presidency that will give him virtually one-man rule.

To continue reading: The Great Game Comes to Syria

“Everyone Was Afraid to Be Branded as a Racist,” Interview with Mona Walter, by Natalia Osten-Sacken

An interesting interview with a woman who emigrated from Somalia to Sweden, renounced Islam and became Christian. From Natalia Osten-Sacken at gatestoneintstitute.org:

  • “If I speak about Islam, they interpret it as hating Muslims. But I do not hate Muslims. I believe that this ideology is dangerous for all mankind. The Muslim community will also suffer under the Sharia.” — Mona Walter, Swedish activist from Mogadishu, Somalia.
  • “Jesus said we should love our enemies, but not that we should be stupid.” — Mona Walter.
  • “I always say to my Christian friends, ‘What do you think, what will happen to you if Islam becomes dominant here?'” — Mona Walter.

Mona Walter, age 45, is a Swedish activist from Mogadishu, Somalia. In the early 1990s, she fled as a refugee to Sweden. There, she abandoned Islam and converted to Christianity. The act resulted in criticism and death threats. The mainstream media consider her a person working for religious freedom. Other organizations accuse her of fueling anti-Islamic movements.

Mona Walter. (Image source: AlfaTV video screenshot)

Natalia Osten-Sacken: I have heard your statements stigmatizing Islam as an intolerant and hateful culture. If it is so, why did you not notice it in Somalia?

Mona Walter: In my country, we had our own African culture. People did not deal with religion so much. There was no Sharia, we had our own secular law. We came here as young, secular people. It is worth mentioning, that we belonged to the Sufi Sunni faction.

When I came from Somalia to Sweden, I experienced a huge clash of cultures, because Islam here is more extreme and fanatical than in my country. What is very important – we were Islamized after 1991, here in Sweden. In these closed areas, immigrant ghettos are deprived of democracy.

Islamized? By whom?

By imams. Some came from Somalia, but there are others who do the same in their own immigrant communities. They traveled to Saudi Arabia, they studied there and after they return, they became the heads of these areas. They control everything, and above all, women.

They preach Sharia in mosques and tell everyone that they must believe in this system and Islamic values. If you do not do it, if you try to integrate into the Western society, in their eyes you become an infidel.

They force women to cover their bodies. If you do not, you are regarded as a whore. When I first arrived in Sweden in 1994, we were forbidden to wear our African clothes, traditional Somali dresses. They forced it on us. They said that we were not real Muslims, that we were an infidel country because we had secular law.

To continue reading: “Everyone Was Afraid to Be Branded as a Racist,” Interview with Mona Walter

What Will Weapons Inspectors Find in Syria…And Does it Matter? by Ron Paul

The US will bomb when and where it wants, regardless of whether there is or is not conclusive evidence that “justifies” the bombing. From Ron Paul at ronpaulinstitute.org:

Inspectors from the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have finally arrived in Douma, Syria, to assess whether a gas attack took place earlier this month. It has taken a week for the inspectors to begin their work, as charges were thrown back and forth about who was causing the delay.

Proponents of the US and UK position that Assad used gas in Douma have argued that the Syrian and Russian governments are preventing the OPCW inspectors from doing their work. That, they claim, is all the evidence needed to demonstrate that Assad and Putin have something to hide. But it seems strange that if Syria and Russia wanted to prevent an OPCW inspection of the alleged sites they would have been the ones to request the inspection in the first place.

The dispute was solved just days ago, as the OPCW Director-General released a statement explaining that the delay was due to UN security office concerns for the safety of the inspectors.

We are told that even after the OPCW inspectors collect samples from the alleged attack sites, it will take weeks to determine whether there was any gas or other chemicals released. That means there is very little chance President Trump had “slam dunk” evidence that Assad used gas in Douma earlier this month when he decided to launch a military attack on Syria. To date, the US has presented no evidence of who was responsible or even whether an attack took place at all. Even right up to the US missile strike, Defense Secretary Mattis said he was still looking for evidence.

In a Tweet just days ago, Rep. Thomas Massie expressed frustration that in a briefing to Congress last week the Director of National Intelligence, the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of Defense “provided zero real evidence” that Assad carried out the attack. Either they have it and won’t share it with Congress, he wrote, or they have nothing. Either way, he added, it’s not good.

We should share Rep. Massie’s concerns.

To continue reading: What Will Weapons Inspectors Find in Syria…And Does it Matter?

MSM Is Frantically Attacking Dissenting Syria Narratives, And It Looks Really Bad, by Caitlin Johnstone

The Bureau of Propaganda known as the mainstream media is perturbed that unauthorized people are asking unauthorized questions about the US’s latest Syrian misadventure. From Caitlin Johnstone at medium.com:

I write a lot about how, in a political environment that is saturated in disinformation and propaganda, it’s important to ignore people’s words and watch their actions instead to get a clear picture of what’s really happening. You could not ask for a better illustration of this than the recent behavior of the mass media with regard to Syria.

The always excellent Moon of Alabama put out a piece yesterday detailing the immense deluge of attack editorials disguised as information that have been churned out recently about anyone who questions the establishment Syria narrative, including a single day in which no less than seven smear pieces were issued by prominent publications. Seven. In one day.

If you look at the words within these smear pieces, you will gather that there has been a sudden disturbing emergence of evil bloggers, tweeters and activists who are hell bent on deceiving you into falling in love with Bashar al-Assad and pledging allegiance to the Russian flag. If you look at what these outlets are actually doing, however, you see a very different picture indeed: an aggressive, spurious campaign to inoculate the English-speaking world against the influence of anyone who disagrees with yet another war against yet another Middle Eastern country.

And people are noticing. It’s getting too blatantly obvious, like a stranger coming up to you and talking about climate change while openly masturbating; what he is doing would eclipse interest in whatever he is saying. The frenetic publication of hit pieces against anyone who fails to fall in line with the establishment Syria narrative is fast becoming the real story here.

In the span of a few days the UK government, using its media arm coordinated an attack on multiple anti-war activists, Journalists and Academics, including myself @partisangirl, @VanessaBeeley, @Ian56789, @sahouraxo, @Tim_Hayward_ and @PiersRobinson1. This IS A #FakeNewsStorm.

— @Partisangirl

To continue reading: MSM Is Frantically Attacking Dissenting Syria Narratives, And It Looks Really Bad

Korean Summit: It’s Not About Us, by Justin Raimondo

The real diplomatic story on the Korean Peninsula is this week’s summit between the North and South Korean leaders, not the summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. From Justin Raimondo at antiwar.com:

Yesterday they told us that President Trump was intent on war – he was about to invade Korea¸ unleash “fire and fury,” and millions would die.

Today many of these very same people are telling us that President Trump has been “snookered” by the wily Kim Jong-un, who doesn’t really mean all the pre-summit concessions he’s already made quite publicly. Trump, they say, is about to give away the farm to the North Koreans without getting anything in return.

The only constant note emitted by the Trump-hating chattering classes is their obsessive focus on That Man in the White House. Yet this development actually has little to do with Trump, at least in its origins: indeed, it’s not about us. The Korean summit came out of the election victory of President Moon Jai-in, whose signature campaign issue was reintroduction of the late lamented “Sunshine” policy of rapprochement with the North.

Moon and Kim will meet this week in a preliminary summit leading up to the supposedly bigger event, the Trump-Kim super-summit. Or so the conventional wisdom would have it: after all, isn’t everything in the world really about us?

Well, no, but you’ll have a hard time telling the pundits and policy wonks that. They don’t realize that the real summit is taking place this week in Korea, as the two leaders form a united front against Washington’s War Party – hoping to enlist Trump on their side.

As for the President, he’s optimistic but rightly says “we’ll see if it works out,” even as he lists the concessions already made by the North, which include:

  • A commitment to complete denuclearization
  • A pledge to end nuclear testing
  • A pledge to end ICBM tests.
  • A statement dropping their longtime demand for the withdrawal of US troops from South Korea.

Significantly, the office of President Moon and the North Koreans have jointly declared their intention to formally end the Korean war, presumably by signing a peace treaty, replacing the current armistice.

Prediction: Trump will make a big show of accepting it, and implicitly taking credit for it. But, hey, the Koreans don’t care who gets the credit, nor do they care about the vagaries of American politics except as they affect the ability of the Korean nation to reunite and recover from their national trauma.

To continue reading: Korean Summit: It’s Not About Us

Lies and Deception in the Failed US Strike on Syria, by Federico Pieraccini

There are all sorts of holes in the US government’s official account of its most recent Syria bombing. From Federico Pieraccini at strategic-culture.org:

At 4am on April 14, the United States, France and the United Kingdom executed a strike on Syria. The Syrian Free Press reported:

US Navy warships in the Red Sea and Air Force B-1B bombers and F-15 and F-16 aircraft rained dozens of ship- and air-launched cruise missiles down on the Syrian capital of Damascus, an airbase outside the city, a so-called chemical weapons storage facility near Homs, and an equipment-storage facility and command post, also near Homs. B1-Bs are typically armed with JASSM cruise missiles, which have a 450 kg warhead and a range of 370 kms. US Navy warships launched Tomahawks, which have 450 kg warheads and an operational range of between 1,300 and 2,500 kms. The British Royal Air Force’s contingent for the assault consisted of four Tornado GR4 ground-attack aircraft armed with the Storm Shadow long-range air-to-ground missile, which the UK’s Defense Ministry said targeted ‘chemical weapons sites’ in Homs. These weapons have a range of 400 kms. Finally, France sent its Aquitaine frigate, armed with SCALP naval land-attack cruise missiles (SCALP is the French military’s name for the Storm Shadow), as well as several Dassault Rafale fighters, also typically armed with SCALP or Apache cruise missiles. According to the Russian defense ministry, the B-1Bs also fired GBU-38 guided air bombs. Undoubtedly weary of the prospect of having their aircraft shot down after Israel lost one of its F-16s over Syria in February, the Western powers presumably launched their weapons from well outside the range of Syrian air defenses, with all the targets located just 70-90 kms from the Mediterranean Sea, and having to fly through Lebanon first.

Recapping the information on the strike, the US and its allies used the following assets:

● 2 destroyers (USS Laboon, USS Higgins)

● 1 US cruiser (USS Monterey)

● 1 French frigate (Georges Leygues)

● 5 Rafale jets

● 4 Mirage 2000-5F

● 4 British Tornado fighter-bombers

● Virginia-class submarine USS John Warner

● 2 US B-1B bombers

Their ordnance brought to bear consisted of the following:

● The cruiser Monterey launched 30 Tomahawk missiles

● The destroyer Higgins 23 Tomahawks

● The destroyer Laboon 7 Tomahawks

● The submarine John Warner 6 Tomahawks

● 2 B-1 bombers 21 JASSM missiles

● 4 British Tornado GR4 fighter bombers 16 Storm-shadow missiles.

● The French Languedoc fired 3 MdCN land-attack missiles.

The US Pentagon reports the strike group targeted:

– 76 missiles at the Barzah research center in Damascus:

(Source)

– 22 missiles at an undefined “chemical” structure:

(Source)

– 7 missiles against an undefined “chemical bunker”:

(Source)

To continue reading: Lies and Deception in the Failed US Strike on Syria