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The Florida Midterm Election Mess: A Recap

Atilla Sulker | United States

The recent midterm elections yet again exemplify the volatility of Florida politics. Like in the 2000 presidential election in which Bush defeated Gore by a small margin following a recount, the sunshine state continues to be plagued by a great confusion in regards to who has been elected.

Florida has been a key swing state for some time. As recent as the 2016 presidential election, it has been the focus of electoral controversy. Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump defeated his opponent Hillary Clinton by a margin of less than 2 percent in the State- Trump leading with 49% and Clinton barely trailing with 47.8%.

In the most recent Senate election, incumbent Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott defeated incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Bill Nelson by a very slim margin of less than 0.5%. Scott won by a mere 12,562 votes, i.e. by 0.2 percentage points. Counties leaning in Nelson’s favor include Miami-Dade, Leon, and Broward Counties. Scott claimed a larger percentage of votes in Miami-Dade than did presidential contender Donald Trump in 2016.

Florida law requires that if a candidate wins by a margin of 0.5% or less, an automatic recount is triggered. Governor Scott filed a lawsuit on November 8th, making the accusation of election fraud. Scott boldly proclaimed: “I will not stand idly by while unethical liberals try to steal an election”. Scott was leading Nelson by around 57,000 votes at the close of the election, but this lead diminished to less than 15,000 within a few days.

Scott also appeared on Hannity recently where he expressed his disappointment with Senator Nelson, accusing his lawyers of trying to steal the election and referring to Nelson as a “career politician”.

In response to Scott’s accusations, on November 8th, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum tweeted: “Mr. @FLGovScott — counting votes isn’t partisan — it’s democracy. Count every vote”.

Broward County has been the center of focus in the election controversy, where a large wave of new votes were discovered after election night. Scott stated on Hannity: “We don’t know how many more votes they’re gonna come up with, but it sure appears they’re gonna keep finding as many votes as it takes to try to win this election”.

Trump responded to the Broward County incident on November 9th: “Mayor Gillum conceded on Election Day and now Broward County has put him “back into play.” Bill Nelson conceded Election – now he’s back in play!? This is an embarrassment to our Country and to Democracy!”

On November 10th, Trump also tweeted: “Trying to STEAL two big elections in Florida! We are watching closely!”

Mayor Gillum, in response to Trump’s November 9th tweet, tweeted:” What’s embarrassing to democracy is not counting every vote — and you, of course. Count every vote.”

One twitter user under the name MaximusM76‏ who claims to be a supporter of Gillum responded to Gillum: “You are wrong Sir. I voted for you.. but you are wrong. NOT every vote should be counted. Fraudulent votes, which encompass several categories, should not count.”

Along with the senatorial race, the gubernatorial race in Florida has also been subject to much controversy. On election night, Representative Ron Desantis was leading Mayor Gillum by enough votes to bypass the 0.5% recount margin, but by November 10th, this lead had shrunk enough to fall within the margin of half a percent.

Gillum announced his concession from the race on election night, but retracted this concession on November 10th. Gillum loudly issued his clarion call: “I am replacing my earlier concession with an unapologetic and uncompromised call to count every vote.”

Florida continues to show its swing state characteristics and its evenly split tendencies. Rick Scott beat his 2010 gubernatorial opponent Alex Sink and 2014 opponent Charlie Crist by margins near 1 percent. These races remain hotly contested, but the razor-thin margins of this month’s elections and the mandatory recounts underscore that it is not an understatement to focus on the significance of the impact of small margins in any major Florida race.


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How China Overtook the USA Where The USSR Couldn’t

Daniel Szewc | Poland

There are multiple reasons why China, a country which had to endure the dictatorship of a communist even worse than Stalin, Zedong Mao, managed to lift itself from the ashes, whilst Soviet Russia couldn’t do it.

Geography

To get the elephant out of the room, the only variable that is inherently more favorable to China than it is for Russia is geography. After WW2, the USSR’s access to warm water ports was the best in all of Russia’s history, yet it is undeniable that there was a muzzle on the bear. The Greenland-Iceland-UK triangle in the North Atlantic, Bosphorus, and Dardanelle, and the Danish straits being controlled by NATO all stood in the USSR’s way. The American Navy, which stood ready to invade the Eastern Russia coastline, also prevented the USSR from having complete territorial control.

In contrast, the People’s Republic of China had a better situation- an underperforming India busy with Pakistan to the South East, impoverished people to the South, and devastated Japan to the West. This allowed the Revolutionary Army of China to concentrate less on defending its borders than the USSR had to.

Economy and Ideology

From the era of Xiaoping Deng seizing power in the Middle Kingdom, China was an active participant in the global market, since they accepted revisionist Marxist doctrines. In practice, they became communist in name only- the gray market was allowed to flourish, and redistribution was minimized, but the authoritarian control maintained. Gorbachev’s, Jaruzelski’s and Kohl’s “opening to the West”, meant a lack of accepting Western cultural demoralization and the slow economic shift to the left, that is still making its way to this day. China, on the other hand, became America and Europe’s supplier of goods, therefore a complete blockade of them would drastically lower the living standards in America and Europe, and cause Westerners to rise up against their governments. Extreme tariffs against goods produced in the USSR would have a minimal effect, simply because Americans did not prefer Soviet products, and the USSR’s products were unfit for American consumption.

To further explain in how much of an disadvantage China was originally, it is enough to say that they didn’t enjoy de facto home rule for the period of European colonisation, even though the Chinese emperor did de jure administer most of it’s territory- in comparison, the only era that could be remotely called “non-home rule” since the Dimitriadis (an era of Polish foreign rule in Russia during the early 17th century) was the Bolshevik rule- most of the party’s presidium was Jewish during that time, even though most people may not know it- Trotsky (Lev Davidovich Bronstein) and Lenin (Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov) for example, were the grandkids of Orthodox Jews and changed their surnames to aliases to hide their roots.

China’s line of attack based itself upon prior experiences that they have learned from- as Otto von Bismarck said: “Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others”


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Russia Alleges U.S. Dropped White Phosphorus Bombs on Syrian Village

By Ryan Lau | @agorisms

Late Sunday night, Russia accused the United States of dropping bombs containing white phosphorus in a raid in Syria. The Kremlin alleged that two planes flew over a small town in Syria’s Deir Ez-Zor province. At that point, says Russia, they released the white phosphorus bombs, which caused massive fires.

Russian Lieutenant General Vladimir Savchenko said Sunday that Washington carried out a similar raid with the white phosphorus bombs on Saturday. “Following the strikes, large fires were observed in the area”, he told RT. Information regarding deaths and injuries for both alleged attacks is not yet available.

What is White Phosphorus?

White phosphorus is a war chemical with a number of purposes. The smoke is usable for both offense and defense. When lit, it burns very quickly and brightly, serving as a useful smokescreen to hide behind. These blankets of smoke are quite common and are generally legal.

However, it can also be highly deadly. When used offensively, the gas can burn through skin, all the way down to the bone, in a short timeframe. Because of this, the Geneva Conventions placed heavy regulations on the incendiary white phosphorus missions. Essentially, the substance is legal as a smokescreen, but not as an instrument of death. To ensure this, they barred all use of it against civilian targets, as well as against military targets in civilian areas. The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons also bars the use of incendiary weapons against civilians.

The Pentagon’s Denial

Despite the harsh allegations, the U.S. is denying that either strike used white phosphorus. In fact, Commander Sean Robertson said Sunday that such an attack would be impossible because he did not have the chemical. “None of the military units in the area are even equipped with white phosphorus munitions of any kind”, the U.S. official declared.

However, Russia is not without controversy of its own in regards to the matter. In March, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British organization, accused the Kremlin of using incendiary bombs against a rebel base near Damascus. Russia has since denied these accusations in full. Neither country, however, has denied entirely the use of military force against largely civilian targets.

A History of Misuse

This is not the first time that the U.S. is coming under fire over chemical weaponry. In 2005, they admitted to using white phosphorus as a weapon in efforts to secure Fallujah in Iraq. “It was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants”, said Lieutenant Colonel Barry Veneable, speaking on behalf of the U.S. The country also admitted to using it for incendiary purposes just one year earlier, in the First Battle of Fallujah.

Before admitting this, however, they had denied using the substance. They claimed, on the other hand, that they were only using it as a smokescreen. When the truth came to light, it was a major mishap for the country’s public relations. Questions rose in regards to what else the military was hiding from the people and the world.

Just last year, controversy arose again about the banned incendiary. In June, the Washington Post reported that the U.S. had used the gas twice in Syria as an incendiary. The New York Times, on the other hand, gave a different look. A military official told the paper that the U.S. had used the gas, but only in legal methods.

Mass Casualties in Syria

While Russia and the U.S. continue their patterns of denial, the evidence is growing that Syria is also using banned tactics in their civil war. Residents reported this weekend that President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces had used barrel bombs in Southern Idlib, where rebel forces reside. According to the report, at least two children died as a result of the attacks.

Syria has also faced questions regarding their own use of white phosphorus and other chemical weapons in the past. In total, over 350,000 people have died since the dawn of the war, many of whom were civilians.


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US, Russia, and China Relations – Part 2

By Joshua D. Glawson | United States

US-China Relations: China has many trading partners; the US is the largest. As of recently, Trump has proposed possible tariffs to be added to imports from China into the US, which could hurt relations between the two. However, China does hold a significant amount of US Treasury debt, in fact they hold the most for outside of the US countries. This is to say that each of these countries has a significant financial incentive to maintain good relations, yet according to the Cato Institute, there is no formal Fair Trade Agreement between the two.

A Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is necessary between US and China in order to better relations and trades. This comprehensive set of rules will give confidence to business, especially in areas of intellectual property and technology transfer. China is notorious for not keeping strong regulations on Chinese companies infringing on copyrights and IP. The same FTA could be a good step forward with Russia as well, but many in the US are in fear of Russia becoming more powerful if that were to happen. Nevertheless, contrary to what some believe, free trade benefits the citizenry more than it would the governments’ political elite.

MIT stated, “In 2016 China exported $2.27T, making it the largest exporter in the world. During the last five years, the exports of China have increased at an annualized rate of 1.7%, from $2.04T in 2011 to $2.27T in 2016.” Whereas, “In 2016 China imported $1.23T, making it the 2nd largest importer in the world. During the last five years, the imports of China have decreased at an annualized rate of -2.8%, from $1.39T in 2011 to $1.23T in 2016. The most recent imports are led by Crude Petroleum which represents 8.25% of the total imports of China.” In 2016, the US imported from China around $436B in goods and exported around $122B in goods to China.

The Chinese have ramped up their militarization and continue to press forward into the South China Sea, against the wishes of the UN, the US, and other Western countries. Along with this growth of regional military presence, the US is equally showing a presence in the Sea as a means to attempt to thwart further possible aggression by the Chinese. So, economically, China and the US are tied together in a seemingly eternal marriage of trade, but when it comes to regional hegemony the two clash when it comes to determining who has legitimate authority and power.

This rising tension further perpetuates the idea that an FTA may help ease the stress between the two. Yet, China’s Communist President Xi Jinping has also pushed his Asian continental series of high-speed railways in what he has called “The One Belt, One Road, Initiative.” According to a report at Axios, this is still a part of the Chinese Navy’s military budget and growth, estimated anywhere between $4T and $8T, likened to a modern Silk Road.

Chinese-Russian Relations: China is Russia’s biggest source of import and export. As of 2016, Russia imported around $35.5B from China and exported nearly $30.3B to China. The two, although they share a border, have not had a longstanding good relationship, since the US has increased the US military presence in the Asian Pacific and along the waters of China and Russia, China and Russia have increased cooperation in military drills as a means to show comradery against the US hegemony.

Not only has US military presence irked Russia and China alike, but the US’ threats of tariffs on Chinese goods without an FTA could potentially lead to worsening relations between the US and China while strengthening those between China and Russia. Equally, the economic sanctions on Russia by the US, are probably inadvertently assisting the relations between China and Russia since China is now Russia’s biggest importer and exporter. If indeed it is verified on all levels that Russia mingled in the 2016 US Presidential elections, that could ensure severed ties between the US and Russia, providing more reason for Russia to join forces with China.

Both China and Russia have worked together in the past. Not only are they regionally close, but politically they are far more similar than the US is with either one of them. The Soviets joined China to fight against the Americans in both the Vietnam and Korean wars. The Chinese also joined the Americans to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, showing the complexity of their relations.

Concluding Statements: The timidly fluid relations among the US, China, and Russia, has been economically lucrative while concurrently the escalating militarization of each of these States has brought the world to attention over the fear of a potential World War far more catastrophic than any in the past. While China is gaining economically, some of their exploitations of trade tariffs and their expansion of military may become their Achilles heel.

As for Russia, sanctions against them only help benefit the elite, while hurting the country overall. The best bet to ensure bettered relations between the US and Russia is by setting up a secure FTA. An FTA should also be established with China in order to maintain good economic and political relations between the US and China. It would then behoove Russia and China to follow suit. The ongoing lingering force of the US military around the world will surely be one of the US’ downfalls, as it blatantly instigates and infuriates countries all over, but it absolutely frustrates both Russia and China especially within their own regions.

The sure way to peace is the age-old tale of continuing in free trade, having Justice systems that provide equality under the law and cease the prowess of global military might or dominance. Countries that normalize positive trade relations between one another will find that the economic incentive is far more valuable than the harms caused by going to war with one another.

Likened to a parable, wars between butchers and candlestick makers leave the town with tarnished knives and a lack of light; but if the butcher and candlestick maker agree to trade instead of fight, their steel is strengthened and their lights shine brightest.


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Real Strongmen Aren’t Victims

By Craig Axford | @CraigAxford

Every dictator throughout history has cast himself and his supporters as victims. Oppressors aren’t sympathetic figures, but the oppressed are. So are saviors.

For Hitler, it was the Jews and others that failed to live up to the Nazi regime’s manufactured Aryan ideal. For Lenin, Stalin, and their successors it was the somewhat vaguely defined bourgeoisie that led the parade of enemies of the state invented by Soviet leaders. If we reach back to the rise of the Caesars we find wealthy and powerful men like Julius and Augustus Caesar portraying themselves as victims, as the common man struggles against a corrupt elite that wishes to hold them down.

Occasionally there might be some small slice of truth to the grievances that those grasping for power exploit to win popular support. But even legitimate complaints become exaggerated examples of oppression in the end. Regardless, having gained complete or near complete power, one would think these strongmen would be able to impose stability rather than perpetually calling out that they are victims. But true resolution eliminates the possibility of keeping an enemy handy that they can readily blame. For strongmen avoiding accountability is paramount.

Donald Trump, for all his authoritarian tendencies, is not Adolf Hitler. Even Vladimir Putin, a man who has been known to both assassinate and imprison his opponents, does not come close to that scale. That said, these men are no lovers of democracy and are skilled at manufacturing victims and threats of both the exaggerated and fake variety.

Authoritarians are not interested in making the trains run on time. Authoritarians derail the trains, blame the derailment on some group or another that they know a significant portion of the population is already suspicious of or despises, paint themselves as victims, then take credit for fixing the problem after workers have repaired the tracks and restored things to the way they were before the derailment. We actually saw this pattern in Trump’s dealings with North Korea, and will likely see it attempted again at some point soon in the case of immigration and border security. Indeed, Trump has set himself up beautifully to use this technique on a variety of issues in the coming months.

The case of North Korea is worth going into in some detail in order to demonstrate just how authoritarians go about manufacturing a problem in order to “solve” it. The so-called crisis on the Korean Peninsula has been slowly unfolding for generations. Had there been anything like an easy solution for it, it would have been solved decades ago.

But the fact of the matter is that even before North Korea acquired nuclear weapons it had thousands of conventional artillery pieces aimed at the heart of Seoul. Any effort to deal with the situation militarily would have, even under the best-case scenario, ended up with hundreds of thousands of dead and wounded on both sides of the 38th parallel, followed shortly thereafter by a massive humanitarian crisis. It was for this reason that sanctions were widely considered the safest way to apply pressure. Obviously, sanctions didn’t prevent North Korea from eventually developing nuclear weapons. But that doesn’t mean we should have sent in the army or dropped a bunch of nukes on them ourselves while we still had the chance. Some problems just don’t have good or obvious solutions.

North Korea’s long history of provocative words and actions have always been greeted by presidents from both political parties with either stern but diplomatic rebukes – sometimes followed by additional sanctions – or silence. Trump broke this pattern when he began responding with bellicose rhetoric of his own. As both sides began exchanging more and more heated words, a previously unthinkable US military response suddenly appeared thinkable. At that point, Trump had his crisis. All that remained was to extinguish the fuse that he had lit.

So, Trump signaled a willingness to talk and eventually agreed to a summit. In Singapore and in comments he has made since the president has practically embraced Kim Jong Un. The North Korean dictator has effectively been welcomed, at least for now, into Trump’s club of respected dictators. The president has declared complete denuclearization to be only a matter of time and claimed that thanks to his talent as a dealmaker the nuclear threat has passed. The fact that not a single nuclear weapon has been given up or that Kim Jong Un has so far refused to even disclose how many weapons he has hasn’t in the least diminished Trump’s assessment of the North Korean dictator or his conviction that he’s reached a peaceful resolution to the “crisis.” Problem solved.

Likewise, the current administration has manufactured a crisis along the border with Mexico. The number of undocumented immigrants crossing the southern border of the United States was at or near their lowest level in recent memory when Trump imposed his so-called “zero tolerance policy” and began separating children from their parents as they came into the United States. But that the number of undocumented immigrants entering the US had been dropping for years is an inconvenient fact if you’re trying to demonize the people seeking a better life in America. That said, we can be reasonably confident that soon Trump will recognize the lower number of people crossing the border and begin to take credit for it. At that point, he will tell us that the undocumented immigrant “crisis” has been “solved.” As proof, he will direct our attention to statistics that are merely the latest data point along a trend line that began dropping dramatically long before his administration.

By describing every problem as an emergency, authoritarians are able to create and maintain the siege mentality so vital to their efforts to hold onto sufficient public support. The policy of every authoritarian government is to create disruption, paint themselves as victims, and blame it upon a group that people can readily identify as outsiders. For this reason, those of us opposing the rise of authoritarianism must remain clear and consistent when it comes to the language we use to describe the manufactured crises men like Trump and Putin will continue to generate as they pursue their quest for greater power.

Families fleeing extreme poverty and violence in Central America do not represent either an economic or existential threat to the United States. Any differences we have with our NATO allies are small and do not justify the efforts currently underway to destabilize the alliance. Automation has historically had a far greater negative impact on manufacturing jobs than trade agreements. Burdening the world economy with tariffs because the president argues that even a slight trade imbalance with another country is an indication America has been “taken advantage of” will not only fail to change that reality but will ultimately make the problem worse.

There’s a reason that every problem wasn’t a grave emergency under previous presidents. None of them were primarily in the business of marketing fear. If America really is “the home of the brave”, instead of hitting the panic button every time Donald Trump says there’s a crisis we should be telling him to give it a rest.

Follow Craig on Twitter or read him on 71Republic.com


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