A New Gilded Age


We live in a new gilded age where a small group of individuals have incredible wealth. And with this incredible wealth the mega billionaires are interested in changing the world (example: Donald Trump). While in New York City this week it was fascinating to observe just how powerful-influential the philanthropists have become by visiting major New York City landmarks.

The plaza outside of the Metropolitan Museum of Art has the name David H. Koch plastered on its fountains. And the New York Public library has a building named after Stephen A. Schwarzman. The nature of philanthropy is complicated. One wants to praise these billionaires for their generosity but one also desires to question a system that enables such disparities in wealth and opportunity.


CJCS Dunford Speaks About Niger Ambush: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford was refreshingly transparent in his recounting of the timeline of the ambushed US and Nigerian forces in Niger that resulted in 4 Americans and 5 Nigerian soldiers being killed by ISIS fighters. The team was embroiled in battle for an hour before requesting help, and it was an hour after that when French Mirage fighter jets arrived on the scene. US drones arrived overhead within 20 minutes of the call for assistance. An investigation will reveal key details: Why did they wait an hour to call for help? Did the reconnaissance mission change after it began that night? Why was one US soldier found nearly a mile from the rest of his 12-man unit? Members of Senate Armed Services Committee have been kept in the dark about US involvement in Africa, and scrutiny of the US role in that region is sure to follow.

Brexit Talks Not Going Well For Theresa May: UK Prime Minister Theresa May is charged with leading the process to leave the European Union (EU). Talks are not going well. When she updated the House of Commons on the progress of the negotiations last week, it was compared to Groundhog Day – hearing the same thing they’d heard previously again, with no additional progress or plans.

Business groups have lobbied for a transition agreement with the EU by Christmas, before companies make their 2018 financial plans. But May was adamant there could be no “implementation period” unless the UK had settled its “future partnership” (trade agreements) with the EU, which is unlikely to happen until next summer at the earliest and could fail altogether. Labor warned that a delay in agreement to a transitional period was “a recipe for job losses, businesses disinvesting and an economic downturn.”


President Trump’s Comment Causes Delay In Sentencing For Bowe Bergdahl:President Trump tacks words onto otherwise good sentences, often changing their meaning. On October 16, the president was asked about Bowe Bergdahl, the Army soldier found guilty of deserting in 2009, then held captive by the Taliban for five years before being returned to the US in 2014. Sentencing was scheduled for Monday, but the judge delayed after a legal battle erupted over the word “but” in Trump’s most recent remarks about the case.

Though Trump said he couldn’t speak about it, he added these words: “But I think people have heard my comments in the past.” Trump has previously described Bergdahl as a “dirty, rotten traitor” and called for him to be executed by firing squad or thrown from a plane sans parachute. Bergdahl’s defense team showed the video of Trump’s remarks from December 2015 to the judge, arguing that what Trump thinks matters because, as Commander in Chief, he is ultimately the boss of the judge and prosecutors. The judge agreed to delay, saying Trump’s comments were “disturbing and disappointing,” adding there is a vital public interest in “maintaining confidence in the military justice system” and the public “is going to be influenced by context.”

Fractured Opposition In Venezuela: The Democratic Unity coalition had high hopes for the October 15 elections, but citing abstentionism, won only 5 of 23 states. The coalition agreed to not swear in their governors before the Constituent Assembly, a pseudo-legislative body that supersedes the authority of the opposition-led congress. However, 4 of the 5 governors did just that, and the lone holdout, Juan Pablo Guanipa of Zulia, was chided by the President. The Constituent Assembly is loyal to President Nicolas Maduro, but has been seen as cementing a dictatorship in Venezuela and has little, if any, international credibility as no major Western or Latin American nations have recognized its legitimacy. The coalition’s greatest victory was in December 2015 legislative elections, and now faces an uphill battle in the run up for next year’s presidential vote.


EPA Runs Over Truck Emissions Rule: US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt is moving to repeal an Obama-era rule that controls emission standards for truck components and greenhouse-gas emissions linked to climate change. The rule was scheduled to take effect January 1 and had been widely embraced by the trucking industry and public health advocates. But after a private meeting in May with officials from Fitzgerald Truck Sales, the company that would benefit most from the rule’s repeal, Pruitt issued the notice proposing repeal of the rule

In September, heavy-truck and engine manufacturers and other associations urged Pruitt to not rescind the rule, arguing that glider kits “should not be used for circumventing purchase of currently certified power trains.” EPA’s own analyses show that if the glider rule is eliminated, the nitrogen oxide and soot that would continue to be released would be equivalent to repealing the most recent carbon rules for cars and light trucks or existing power plants.


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Civil-Military Relations (a topic explored in yesterday’s edition)

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