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Queen Elizabeth's Nuclear War Escape Plan Has Been Updated for Brexit Backlash

February 4, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

God save the queen—from nuclear war? That’s right. After the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world to the brink of annihilation, officials in the United Kingdom came up with a plan to save Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, if the Soviet Union launched a nuclear attack. Codenamed Operation Candid, the plan involved sneaking the couple onto the royal yacht Britannia, which would hide in lochs off the coast of Scotland.

“She was going to lurk in the sea lochs of the North West coast of Scotland, moving at night from one to the other, because the mountains would stop the [Soviet] radar getting to her,” explained Peter Hennessy, author of The Secret State: A History of Intelligence and Espionage, in a 2010 interview with BBC Radio Four.

Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia off the coast of Scotland, 1997.

In the lead-up to Brexit on March 29, 2019, government officials updated the evacuation plan with a different—and undisclosed—location, The Sunday Times reports.

Originally, the plan called for other senior U.K. ministers to evacuate to a bunker with the codename “Turnstile” near the city of Bath. “The Queen had to be kept separate because only The Queen can appoint a Prime Minister,” Hennessy said.

“She could not be with the Prime Minister and the War Cabinet because they would get wiped out the moment they operated from this bunker. The signals traffic would give the [Soviets] a very good idea of what was happening.”

For practical reasons, the plan called for the Home Secretary to be on the same boat as the queen. “The Home Secretary was with her so they could have a Privy Council with the Queen’s Private Secretary, the Duke of Edinburgh and The Queen to appoint the new Government out of the ruins,” Hennessy said.

Queen Elizabeth II and her Private Secretary Sir Martin Charteris reviewing papers late at night on board the Britannia, 1972.

In the late 1960s, the U.K. had to abandon Turnstile as the secret meeting place because it feared the Soviets had discovered its location. Under the new plan, senior ministers were split up between several secret locations.

Officials updated the plan again in 1997 by changing the queen’s designated escape ship from the Britannia to the Hebridean Princess. In early 2019, fears that a no-deal Brexit would spark riots …read more


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How a Slave-Turned-Spy Helped Secure Victory at the Battle of Yorktown

February 4, 2019 in History

By Thad Morgan

James Armistead was a slave who provided critical intel to the Continental Army as a double agent during the Revolutionary War.

In the autumn of 1781, the American colonial army fought in the Battle of Yorktown, the final and arguably most consequential battle for American independence from British rule. By all accounts, this monumental victory, which forced the surrender of British General Lord Cornwallis and his squadron of nearly 9,000 troops, would not have been possible without crucial insider intelligence from James Armistead, a patriot who worked briefly yet effectively as a double agent for the Continental Army throughout the Revolutionary War.

He was also a slave.

Before actively choosing to serve the budding republic that denied him his freedom, Armistead already had a fairly close-up view of the conflict: His owner, William Armistead managed the military supplies for the state of Virginia after the war began in 1775. In 1780, James and William moved from the Virginia capital of Williamsburg to the new capital, Richmond, and the following summer James got permission to join the armed forces himself.

At the time, slaves could fight on either side of the war, with freedom as an incentive for their service. Armistead didn’t take up arms in the war, however. Instead, in 1781, he was stationed under the Marquis de Lafayette, commander of the allied French forces and a key ally of General George Washington, to infiltrate the British army through espionage.

Read More: 5 Patriot Spies of the American Revolution

A Revolutionary Double Agent

Getting information on the enemy was critical to Lafayette, who needed to stem the losses his forces were suffering at the hands of Cornwallis’s larger and better supplied army. The French general was also under orders to capture the infamous traitor Benedict Arnold, who was causing chaos after offering his services to the British.

Posing as a runaway slave, Armistead quickly infiltrated British forces via Arnold’s camp. While at first he took on menial tasks, his vast knowledge of the terrain—a trait that wouldn’t seem suspicious for a local runaway slave—was useful to both Arnold and Cornwallis for British intelligence during the war. So they assigned him the task of spying on the colonies.

Armistead’s work as a double agent made traveling between the camps easier, as he didn’t stand out as a peculiar presence by either side. It also made collecting …read more


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How the First 10 U.S. Presidents Helped Shape the Role of the Nation's Top Office

February 4, 2019 in History

By Lindsey Konkel

Over a span of six decades, the first 10 presidents of the United States—from George Washington to John Tyler—helped define the role of the executive branch as we know it today.

On February 4, 1789, electors chose George Washington to be the first president of the United States. Washington’s term, and those of the next 10 presidents, would prove to be a critical six decades in American history.

Previously, states had governed much like independent countries under the Articles of the Confederation. But in 1787, delegates met in Philadelphia to discuss the need for a stronger, more cohesive national government. They devised a plan for a federal government and the fundamental laws that would govern the nation. They laid out this plan in the new Constitution of the United States.

Washington oversaw the passages of the Bill of Rights, appointed the first Supreme Court, signed the Jay Treaty with Great Britain—and voluntarily stepped down after two terms in office, setting a key precedent.

View the 10 images of this gallery on the original article

The Constitution provided for a central government with three branches—legislative, judicial and executive. Congress would lead the legislative branch, the Supreme Court would lead the judicial branch, and the President would head the executive branch.

The nation’s first presidents, from Washington to John Tyler, helped define the role of the presidency and the executive branch in both domestic and foreign affairs. Their terms also saw the emergence of partisan politics and the two-party system that we recognize in American politics today. Below are the nation’s first 10 presidents, in order, and what they accomplished in office.

George Washington

Term: 1789-1797, Party: none

During his two terms as president, the U.S. government was in its infancy, and George Washington was critical in guiding the new government through its organization. He oversaw the passages of the first 10 amendments, called Bill of Rights, to the United States Constitution. He established a cabinet of presidential advisors and appointed the first Supreme Court and district court judges.

In foreign affairs, Washington signed the Jay Treaty in 1795. It was an attempt to diffuse mounting tensions over English military posts along America’s northern and western borders and to prevent another costly war between the United States and Great Britain.

The Constitution did not place term limits on the presidency, though …read more


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Our Politics Should Prioritise Economic Growth over Redistribution

February 4, 2019 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

IT is fashionable to believe — per environmentalists
— that our politicians are already too growth obsessed. But
growth is, in fact, chronically underdiscussed in public discourse
given its importance. It is crucial that it receives greater
airing, lest current sclerotic growth rates impoverish our

According to the US St Louis Fed database, from 1960 to 2017 the
UK economy grew at an average rate of just under 2pc a year, in per
capita terms. Since 2010, when we would have expected robust
catch-up growth following the Great Recession, that has slowed to
1.3pc a year. Many economists muse that this slower rate is a
“new normal.”

These seemingly modest differences mask massive divergences in
living standards over time. If the UK had grown at just 1.3pc a
year since 1960, we’d be 33pc poorer than we found ourselves
in 2017. Looking forwards paints a starker picture. If 1.3pc annual
growth is entrenched, we will be 50pc richer by 2050. But if we
could get that annual growth rate up to 2pc or even 2.5pc, then we
would more than double GDP per capita over that period.

This power of compounding is why Nobel Prize winner Robert Lucas
said: “Once you start thinking about growth, it’s hard
to think about anything else.” Yet UK economic debates
overwhelmingly focus on short-term macroeconomic management or
policies to redistribute money, rather than growth. Budget measures
get pored over for weeks despite changing income levels for the
affected by a couple of percentage points at most. Our debate time
for this rather than ideas to enhance innovation suggests we
aren’t growth conscious enough.

This is even more true given the extended benefits of material
growth. Sustained growth delivers better health outcomes, improved
environmental quality, more leisure time, and beneficial spillovers
to the world’s poorest countries. Raising the growth rate
makes our aging challenge easier too — improving the debt
outlook for a given level of public services, or allowing more to
be spent on public services for a given debt outlook.

Yet, depressingly, the Government’s Office for Budget
Responsibility projects productivity growth over the long-term as a
fait accompli. It doesn’t bother even modelling different
scenarios for it when making public finance forecasts. Among our
establishment, the belief we cannot do much to change our growth
fate dominates. This, again, is hardly suggestive of growth being a
policy priority.

That pessimism should be challenged. In his recent Stubborn
book, George Mason University economist Tyler
Cowen persuasively argues that maximising sustainable long-run
growth should be our overwhelming societal objective.

That does not mean temporary stimulus spending or letting
environmentally destructive activity rip. Both would give us an
economic sugar-rush at …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The President Understands Afghanistan: It Is Time to Just Leave

February 4, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

As he began his presidency Donald Trump had the right idea about
Afghanistan: “Let’s get out.” However, he
surrounded himself with conventional thinkers who thwarted his
wishes and refused to provide him with withdrawal options. After
two years of additional, unnecessary American deaths, he apparently
again is pushing for troop cut-backs.

Perhaps for this reason, administration officials are
negotiating with the Taliban seeking a peace agreement that will
allow an American pullout. The Kabul government, which purports to
be both an essential U.S. ally and legitimate representative of the
Afghan people, is on the outside looking in.

Nevertheless, progress supposedly has been made. But who will
hold the Taliban to its promises, the president’s hawkish
critics ask? Whatever the treaty’s terms, enforcement would
require a continued U.S. military presence. Once American troops go
home, they won’t return, absent overwhelming need. Saving the
Kabul authorities won’t count. Thus, if the administration
fulfills the president’s wish to pull out America’s
14,000 military personnel, the ability to hold the insurgents to
their promises will disappear.

The troops should come
home. Quickly and permanently.

That doesn’t matter. The troops should come home. Quickly
and permanently.

The Afghan war has largely disappeared from U.S. consciousness.
With American combat participation way down, many people, other
than those with family members or friends in the armed services,
don’t even know that their nation is still engaged. Yet U.S.
forces are aiding the Afghan military and casualties continue to
mount. Washington struck al-Qaeda and ousted the Taliban more than
17 years ago. Since then American forces, along with contingents
from European and other allied nations, have continued to fight.
Afghanistan is the longest war in American history, beating out the
Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and
Korean War combined.

And for what? After 9/11, the U.S. needed to wreck al-Qaeda for
striking America and punish the Taliban for hosting al-Qaeda. Those
objectives were quickly accomplished. Since then the effort has
been nation-building, attempting to turn Afghanistan into a
liberal, Western-oriented democracy ruled from the center.
It’s a typically American vision — if only those
stubborn Pashtuns would act like, say, Hoosiers! — but
attempting to turn it into reality has proved to be a fool’s

The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction recently
reported that the number of districts under government control was
less than 56 percent, down from 72 percent in just 2015. Taliban
activity is up in formerly pacific areas, even where it never had
much influence. The insurgents have begun hitting urban centers
once thought beyond their reach. Suicide attacks are increasingly
common in Kabul. Government casualties are up, with the most
effective Afghan units …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Consent Decrees: Not Just for Cops

February 4, 2019 in Economics

By Walter Olson

Walter Olson

Two weeks ago I wrote a piece in this space about Jeff Sessions’s
parting act as attorney general, in which he signed off on
guidelines for how the U.S. Department of Justice reaches consent
decrees with local and state governments it sues. The guidelines, I
argued, appear to be generally modest in scope and respond to
decades of criticism of the consent-decree device as it has played
out in fields such as education, welfare, and mental health. In
particular, I said, much of the press misleadingly covered the memo
as simply Sessions’s revenge against decrees (especially recent
ones) governing city police departments charged with systematic
misconduct, when the guidelines in fact apply much more broadly
than just in the police context and don’t even specifically mention

Now Washington Post opinion writer Radley Balko, an old
friend whose writing on police misconduct I often cite, has written
a detailed response to my piece. I agree with
many of his points and do not intend to dispute others, which often
arise from differences in emphasis. But there is at least one
important point on which we disagree.

New Justice Department
guidelines apply to more than police departments and must respect

Balko writes that “contrary to Olson, I think they [police
consent decrees] do a lot of good.” I never argued the
contrary about them. To be sure, there are police-reform advocates
who have wondered whether decrees have really accomplished all that
much good; I link to some of their views in this brief Overlawyered post. And
Balko himself discusses the 2015 Washington Post investigation that
found mixed and disappointing outcomes after two decades of
decrees, even if he draws the contrasting lesson that we should be
willing to countenance very long periods of federal supervision
because it’s so hard to change police culture. But it
isn’t necessary to resolve the issue either way. What I argue
is that whatever good decrees accomplish, that good should be
pursued consistent with principles of federalism, fairness toward
those in and out of court, and some prudent limits to the ongoing
arbitrary exercise of Department of Justice power.

Here is more common ground: Neither I nor, so far as I can see,
the Sessions memo argued that decrees are necessarily illegitimate
as a legal or constitutional matter. To the contrary, we all assume
that such decrees will often have a sound legal basis and will
continue to be negotiated in the future.

On the media-criticism theme of my piece, Balko writes that it
“doesn’t seem unfair” for the media to
“speculate” that Sessions’s well-documented
earlier criticism …read more

Source: OP-EDS