The John Batchelor Show

Monday 13 March 2017

Air Date: 
March 13, 2017

Photo, left: 
Co-host: Thaddeus McCotter, WJR, The Great Voice of the Great Lakes, @ThadMcCotter
Hour One
Monday 13 March 2017  / Hour 1, Block A: Tom Joscelyn, Long War Journal senior editor & FDD, in re: Yemen: former Pres Salah was displaced, then cut a deal with Houthis to let them run amok over most of the country; “you can’t take Sanaa without Salah.”  Saudis are backing a rival since the Houthis are significantly backed by Iran.  Houthis’s natural base takes them out of their northern stronghold and into the center of the country, to project power through more of the country.  Complex dynamics: April 2015-April 2016, al Q (purebred, central organization) controlled much of the southern coast because of the Houthis, “sick cycle.”  AQAP includes local leaders and some who make decisions for global al Q endeavors, that is, senior management.  Most senior al Q leadership is in Syria and Yemen.  When it controlled the port of al Mukalla*, it gained millions a day from shipping; however, it lost the city.   *[]
Monday 13 March 2017  / Hour 1, Block B: Tom Joscelyn, Long War Journal senior editor & FDD,  and Bill Roggio, Long War Journal senior editor  & FDD, in re:  OK to kill Shia pilgrims, but otherwise not civilians; al Q killed a lot of women and children in Iraq.  Split into Nusrah Front, and a bigger part became ISIS. 
Africa:  merger.  Different al Q-related groups developed in different ways at different times; now merged into  The Group to Support Islam and Muslims.   Ansardine leader is now the overall leader.  Openly loyal to Ayman al-Zawahiri. 
The Iranian-backed Houthi offensive has significantly undermined U.S. counterterrorism efforts.
Governance in Yemen has been a longstanding problem. But the Houthi offensive in late 2014 knocked President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi from power at a time when the U.S. was counting on his government to act as a vital counterterrorism partner.
There is a debate over how close the Houthis and Iran really are. Some have argued that the Houthis should not be thought of as an Iranian terror proxy, such as Hezbollah. While this accurate – the Houthis have their own culture and traditions – there is no question that Iran and the Houthis are allies. And it is in Iran’s interest to work with the Houthis against Saudi-backed forces in Yemen, while also encouraging Houthi incursions into the Saudi kingdom.
The U.S. government has long recognized Iran as one of the Houthis’ two key backers. (The other being former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his network, which is discussed below.) In its Country Reports on Terrorism 2012, the State Department noted:
Iran actively supported members of the Houthi tribe in northern Yemen, including activities intended to build military capabilities, which could pose a greater threat to security and stability in Yemen and the surrounding region. In July 2012, the Yemeni Interior Ministry arrested members of an alleged Iranian spy ring, headed by a former member of the IRGC.
That warning proved to be accurate, as the Houthis made significant gains just over two years later. The U.S. and its allies have intercepted multiple Iranian arms shipments reportedly intended for the Houthis. And senior U.S. officials have repeatedly referenced Iran’s ongoing assistance. Late last year, Reuters reported that “Iran has stepped up weapons transfers to the Houthis,” including “missiles and small arms.”
In September 2015, then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter listed America’s “core interests in the region.” Among them, according to Carter, was “supporting Saudi Arabia in protecting its territory and people from Houthi attacks, and supporting international efforts to prevent Iranian shipments of lethal equipment from reaching Houthi and Saleh-affiliated forces in Yemen.” The Houthis have responded by launching missiles at American ships, as well as ships operated by other countries.
Monday 13 March 2017  / Hour 1, Block C:  Gordon G. Chang, Daily Beast &, @GordonGChang, in re: Anbang, which arose from nowhere and suddenly bought the Waldorf Astoria (among others), and now is offering billions to buy 666 Fifth Avenue, owned at least till recently by the Kushners. However, it failed to buy Dick Clark Productions and had to lose its deposit. Made in China, 2025: By 2025, China proposes to be self-sufficient in computers, biotech, other fields, and no longer have to buy goods or services from foreigners.  China has just approved 28 trademarks long ago requested by Trump companies and held up until early 2017.
You have to hand it to Beijing for picking a particularly bad time to launch a predatory industrial policy.  See:
Trump Will Host Chinese President at Mar-a-Lago
Mike Allen: “President Trump plans to host Chinese President Xi Jinping at the gold-plated Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida next month for a lowering-the-temperature summit with vast economic and security implications.”
“No golf is planned during the meeting of the globe’s two superpowers — this will mostly be a working session, according to officials familiar with the planning. The tentative dates are Thursday afternoon, April 6, through Friday, April 7.”
Key takeaway: “For a White House that views China as threat #1, Trump’s willingness to meet with Xi — and give him the Mar-a-Lago treatment, no less — will be seen as a reassuring sign by establishment powers in the U.S. and around the world.”
President Trump plans to host Chinese President Xi Jinping at the gold-plated Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida next month for a lowering-the-temperature summit with vast economic and security implications, Axios has learned.
No golf is planned during the meeting of the globe's two superpowers — this will mostly be a working session, according to officials familiar with the planning. The tentative dates are Thursday afternoon, April 6, through Friday, April 7.
Why it matters: For a White House that views China as threat #1, Trump's willingness to meet with Xi — and give him the Mar-a-Lago treatment, no less — will be seen as a reassuring sign by establishment powers in the U.S. and around the world.
Monday 13 March 2017  / Hour 1, Block D: Captain Jerry Hendrix, USN (ret), @JerryHendrix11 ,Breaking Defense, in re: 350-ship Navy had twelve carrier strike groups: Pres Trump aims to restore US fleet to that number.  May need more than twelve.  We have ten active, will have eleven when the Gerald R Ford comes on line n 2017.  We need to focus on escort ships, and aircraft have the range imposed by Chinese, Russian, and even Iranians.  At end of Cold War, we thought we didn't need [that much].  Balance between what you need in wartime and what you need to maintain peace. We're down to six, sometimes two, escort ships, which is inadequate.  Virginia-class or Ohio-class subs.  It takes three carriers to keep one at sea. Russia and China are expanding their navies; vide String of Pearls from South China Sea over as far as Africa; overall, China is building a global basing structure. Major concern: Azores and Iceland are two critical pieces of real estate.
US Needs 12 Carrier Strike Groups in the 350 Ship Navy.   Donald Trump campaigned explicitly on the promise to grow the size of the United States Navy to 350 ships from its low of 271 ships in the fall of 2015 as part of his plan to broadly rebuild the nation’s military after years of strenuous operations and capacity decline. The last time the US Navy held 350 ships in its inventory was during the late 1990s, a decade that saw the maritime force shrink from 530 to 318 ships. It was an era of uni-polarity, expanding alliances, peace keeping, nation building and permissive maritime environments. Carriers launching airstrikes into the former Yugoslavia could nestle close to shore in the Adriatic, secure in the knowledge that no one was coming out to attack them. Older nuclear powered escort cruisers, which could keep up with the high-speed carriers without being concerned with running out of fuel, were retired, and then older variants of the anti-air defensive Ticonderoga class cruisers were decommissioned as well. An entire class of 31 anti-submarine Spruance class destroyers were mothballed well ahead of schedule then sunk as targets during training exercises. More recently all 51 of the nation’s convoy escort frigates left the fleet without replacement. While the Navy retained 22 cruisers and continued to build robust Arleigh Burke class destroyers, it was clear that the service was, in the parlance of the Pentagon, “accepting risks” in the deployment of its fleet in the face of rising threats.
Hour Two
Monday 13 March 2017  / Hour 2, Block A:   David M Drucker, Washington Examiner Senior Congressional correspondent; John Fund, NRO, in re:  The GOP’s High-Risk Strategy for Health Law Repeal   “President Trump and House Republicans are pressing forward with a high-risk strategy to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, disregarding the views of medical professionals and potentially imperiling the party’s political future in conservative states where many voters stand to lose their health care,” the New York Times reports.
“The effort could cause upheaval in an already roiled insurance market next year, as Republicans face voters for the first time with Mr. Trump in the White House — though that turmoil would happen only if the plans manage to clear a divided Senate.”
“Mr. Trump is showing only a tenuous grasp of the legislative process and mercurial leadership in rounding up support. But Republicans who spent seven years promising to scrap President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement say their strategy is worth the risk.”
Palin Slams GOP Health Care Bill  In an interview with Breitbart, Sarah Palin slammed House Republicans’ healthcare proposal, predicting that President Trump “will step in an fix it.”
Palin began her interview dubbing the bill “RINO-care” and saying it still had aspects of “socialism” about it.
Said Palin: “Remember this is government-controlled healthcare, the system that requires enrollment in an unaffordable, unsustainable, unwanted, unconstitutional continuation of government-run medicine, and even in this new quasi-reformed proposal, there is still an aspect of socialism,” said Palin, a Trump ally. That’s the whole premise here.”
Should Health Care Be the GOP’s Priority?  Peggy Noonan: “The GOP’s first big legislative endeavor, the repeal of Obamacare, has been understood as a classic fight between party leadership and the more conservative and libertarian wings… I wonder if it will not also become a struggle between the leadership and the Trumpian core.”
“The new bill lacks an air of appropriate crisis… We are in the midst of the kind of crises that can do nations in. It is pleasant to chirp, as Speaker Paul Ryan does, of ‘choice’ and ‘competition’ and an end to ‘paternalistic’ thinking on health care. Is it responsive to the moment? Or does it sound like old lyrics from an old hymnal?”
Monday 13 March 2017  / Hour 2, Block B: David M Drucker, Washington Examiner Senior Congressional correspondent; John Fund, NRO (2 of 2)
Monday 13 March 2017  / Hour 2, Block C: Malcolm Hoenlein, Conference of Presidents, in re: Iranian proxies threaten Israel from southern Syria. Nikki Haley spoke strongly on the matter.  Build-up of Hezbollah as main fighting force for Assad, who’s entirely dependent on them.  He called the US :”Invaders” for appearing in northeastern Syria to battle ISIS.   IRGC now operates 90 Iranian docks, earns $13 bil annually form shipping weapons internationally with no international controls.   Desert Hawk in Latakia and Tiger Forces n Homs have about 5,000 troops each; are warlords replacing the official Syrian security apparatus, giving Iran access to the Golan.  . . .  Gutteres called for dismantling Hezbollah. Mohammed bin-Salman, Saudi Deputy Crown Prince running the war in Yemen, is in DC.  Saudi king is in Tokyo; was in Indonesia where he narrowly escaped an ISIS assassination attack!  Oil at less than $50 adds pressure. Multiple small Iranian boats again came within 600 yards of US ship, harassing to divert attention.  State Dept transferred $200-million-plus to Palestinian Authority while the PA emphatically continues to train children from toddler to university to live life in order to kill Israelis and Jews. 
Monday 13 March 2017  / Hour 2, Block D: Indiana Hoenlein, peripatetic explorer and archeologist, in re: Beit Shamesh.  See the Roman road: Israel was laying a water pipeline to Jerusalem, performed the requisite archaeological checks, found 2,000-year-old Roman road excellently preserved, route similar to a modern one; 18 feet wide, linked settlements. Main hwy called Emperor’s Road; time of Hadrian (c 130 CE). Also found 67 CE revolt of the Jews, and Umayyad period coin,  (29 CE), and Agrippa the First, minted in Jerusalem. Someone tell UNESCO that the Jews have been there for a while.
Malcolm Hoenlein, Conference of Presidents, in re: Bibi Netanyahu to visit China? Egypt and Hamas are warming their acquaintance, opening the Raqqa Crossing several days a month; Egypt also becoming highly amiable to Iran since relations with Saudis are strained. 
Hour Three
Monday 13 March 2017  / Hour 3, Block A: Mary Kissel, Wall Street Journal Editorial Board & host of Opinion Journal on WSJ Video; in re: ACA; the GOP owns this operation now and has both a political and a moral obligation to come up with a good replacement before it replaces Obamacare. May not suddenly pull out of markets and leave millions of Americans uninsured.
The Fed: recession nded n 2009, yet the Fed has kept interest rates abnormally low ever since. Savers get nothing for saving, and this encourages excessi0ve risk-taking.   The Fed is ‘way behind the curve in raising interest rates, which are rising due to market forces and obliging the Fed to race to catch up.     Why have Yellin and Fischer done this?  Political fears! It's a politicized institution that doesn't like to be unpopular: feared that the stock market might fall off a cliff and generate bad headlines.  It's also been expanding its balance sheet by buying assets, distorted certain parts of our economy.  Need to sell off and [quit horning in to inappropriate realms].
Monday 13 March 2017  / Hour 3, Block B:   Josh Rogin, Washington Post, in re: the Congressional bill that de-funds the Palestinian Authority while it actively, aggressively pursues training Palestinian children as small as toddlers to kill Israelis, and Jews everywhere.
“Last year we introduced the bill. This year we are going to pass it. President Trump will sign it,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), the chairman of the Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee for state, foreign operations and related programs. The bill is named after Taylor Force, a former Army officer who was stabbed to death last year by a Palestinian attacker while on a student trip to Israel. Standing alongside his parents late last month, Graham said, “We’re going to honor the memory of your son.”
Graham argues that withholding U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority is the only way to get Abbas’s attention and pressure him to dismantle what has become a sprawling bureaucracy dedicated to compensating families of young Palestinians involved in attacks.
The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment. But there are signs Trump might be amenable to the idea. Top Trump administration officials have focused on terror incitement in public statements. The White House is proposing huge cuts to foreign assistance across the board and aid to the Palestinians is an easy target.
Monday 13 March 2017  / Hour 3, Block C:   Richard A Epstein, Hoover Institution, Chicago Law, NYU Law, in re: Dr Ben Carson, now confirmed as head of HUD.  Congress mandating set-asides for affordable housing without federal funding.  New construction then plummets. “Furthering Affirmative Action” program. Cost of compliance exceeds net benefit.  Need to revert to simple market activity.
Monday 13 March 2017  / Hour 3, Block D: Richard A Epstein, Hoover Institution, Chicago Law, NYU Law, in re: Housing, HUD: Westchester, esp Chappaqua.  Difficult to commute from suburbs to where the jobs are.   . . . Have to match building/development to the immediate infrastructure. . . . Let the supply increase and the distribution will take care of itself.
Ben Carson will be fought by his bureaucrats; he needs to hire excellent aides.
Hour Four
Monday 13 March 2017  / Hour 4, Block A:  A Wretched and Precarious Situation: In Search of the Last Arctic Frontier by David Welky (1 of 4)
Monday 13 March 2017  / Hour 4, Block B:  A Wretched and Precarious Situation: In Search of the Last Arctic Frontier by David Welky (2 of 4)
Monday 13 March 2017  / Hour 4, Block C:  Robert Zimmerman,, in re:  Capitalism in Space  Restore Ownership  The rockets and capsules built by SpaceX and Orbital ATK are not owned by NASA, nor are they designed solely to serve NASA’s needs. Instead, the companies own them, and have designed them to have value both to NASA as well as other customers. This in turn requires the companies to keep the cost down so that all their customers can afford the product. Ownership also allows the companies to sell their product widely and make profits from it, regardless of whether NASA buys it. For example, Falcon 9’s design was aimed specifically for the commercial communications satellite market. Though it can haul cargo and crew capsules to the ISS, its design makes it affordable and useful to many other satellite companies. Thus, SpaceX can make money from it, which in turn lowers NASA’s cost.
Similarly, Dragon and Starliner are being designed not just to serve NASA but also a wider customer base. Boeing, for example, has signed an agreement with Bigelow Aerospace to use Starliner to provide cargo and passenger service to Bigelow’s privately built space stations, which it hopes to launch by 2020.114 SpaceX and Sierra Nevada meanwhile have offered their Dragon and Dream Chaser manned spacecraft to other countries as an inexpensive way to develop a space program. Instead of building their own rockets and spacecraft from scratch, Third World nations can buy these affordable American spacecraft and rockets and do science research in space, quickly and for relatively little money.
In contrast, though Lockheed Martin purportedly owns Orion, it has had no control over the capsule’s concept or overall design. Instead, that control belongs to NASA, which has justified it to Congress and the public as a vehicle for sending humans beyond Earth orbit, to the Moon, to the asteroids, and even to Mars. To achieve NASA’s goals, the agency has required Orion to meet these ambitious expectations. The result has been higher costs, and a very expensive spacecraft that is not practical for Lockheed Martin to sell to other customers. For example, the original heat shield for the spacecraft initially was based on the heat shield design used by the Apollo capsules of the 1960s. NASA figured it would save money to use this older design, since that heat shield design already had been proven successful during actual flights returning from beyond Earth orbit at the high speeds and temperatures such flight paths produce. Unfortunately, even before the first Orion test flight, it was discovered that this design did not scale up well for the larger Orion capsule. The surface of the Orion heat shield ended up too uneven. The old design also proved far too expensive to make, as it required too much manual labor to inject by hand the heat shield’s ablative material into a honeycomb pattern of more than 330,000 individual cells. Similarly, NASA’s interplanetary requirements for Orion has forced Lockheed Martin to give the spacecraft more radiation shielding (even if insufficient for interplanetary flights) than carried by the Dragon or Starliner capsules, further raising its development and operational costs.115
The ownership situation with Boeing’s SLS rocket is even more tilted in the government’s favor. NASA designed it solely for deep space missions and then handed out contracts piecemeal to different companies to build the rocket’s different components. The rocket therefore essentially belongs to NASA, whose goals – exploring space – have nothing to do with reducing cost or obtaining profit. Even if NASA were interested in marketing it to the commercial market, which it is not, the cost for a single SLS is many times more expensive than the most costly ULA launch (priced at $460 million). No satellite company can afford it. NASA and the companies building SLS’s components thus have only one customer, the government, and the only way they can hope to make money on it is to charge the government a lot to build it
The hodge-podge of contractors involved in building SLS. Adapted from 2012 NASA PowerPoint presentation.
NASA   Recommendation: The government should leave the design work and ownership of the product to the private sector. The private companies know best how to build their own products to maximize performance while lowering cost, especially because it is in their own self-interest to do this well, as a unreliable rocket will not attract many customers. NASA engineers and administrators in turn might be very skilled, but their priorities tend to focus on management and regulation. If NASA or the Air Force require a service they should request it from the private market, becoming a customer like everyone else.  This will result in increased competition and performance at a lower cost.
Monday 13 March 2017  / Hour 4, Block D:   Robert Zimmerman, (2 of 2)