African News and Tabloid News

I lived and worked in Angola during the 1980’s.  The media (newspapers, television and radio) were controlled by the government,  Television’s lead story was how successful the government leaders were in areas of health, housing, job creation, and many other social areas.  Medical care for most Angolans was horrible.  Nobody really believed it.  I’ll call it African news, but it is probably a terrible label, as state controlled media exists in every continent.

Then there is the tabloid news.  Fox News is probably the worse as they allow guests on who generally see large looming conspiracies.   The “Deep State” is total nonsense.    It is based on the idea of some “Obama loyalists” inside the Justice Department, FBI,  and the intelligence community, all plotting (currently and in the past) against Donald Trump.   What is true, is the people Donald Trump fired, and really wants prosecuted for anything have not, because they didn’t do anything illegal.  This includes James Comey and Andrew McCabe, who served as the Director of the FBI and Acting Director.  Similarly with FBI agent Peter Strzok, whose name comes up constantly as part of the deep conspiracy,  Not only have McCabe and Strzok not charged with anything criminal, they are suing the government because they were forced out for political reasons.

If Fox News wants a guest to slam opponents hard and go on about deep state conspiracy stuff, they call up Attorney Joe diGenova who recently said on the Laura Ingraham’s (Fox News) podcast:

JOE DIGENOVA (GUEST): We are in a civil war in this country. There’s two standards of justice, one for Democrats one for Republicans. The press is all Democrat, all liberal, all progressive, all left – they hate Republicans, they hate Trump. So the suggestion that there’s ever going to be civil discourse in this country for the foreseeable future in this country is over. It’s not going to be. It’s going to be total war. And as I say to my friends, I do two things – I vote and I buy guns.

This is the lawyer that Trump wanted as his personal lawyer, but due to a conflict of interest, never was hired.   Fox News should have banned diGenova, but it looks like they are using him more and more. I guess it helps their ratings.  It is a short step from “buy guns” to “use guns” because everything (government/the media) is now controlled by evil democrats.

Good news is comprehensive reporting from journalists around the world.  It comes from investigation.   Today’s New York Times just arrived, and of course the headline story was the  whistle-blower/Ukraine  scandal.  And I’m sure they will be doing their best to get to the facts straight, not just repeat what Trump has said.  This is not African news, nor Tabloid news, it is solid and credible reporting and it’s what I want to pay for and what I spend my time reading.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Frequent Fox News guest tells Laura Ingraham “we are in a civil war;” suggests everyone buy guns to prepare for “total war”

Behind the Whistle-Blower Case, a Long-Held Trump Grudge Toward Ukraine 

 

Saudi Arabia attack – Who do you trust?

“Half of Saudi oil production wiped out” was the headliner.   I predicted that Saudi Arabia had shut down a lot of their processing and storage facilities simply as a precaution while inspections were underway.  Saudi Arabia yesterday announced that 70% of their production was restored.  They are able to maintained contracted tanker liftings using their reserve oil.  WTI oil prices are around $58/bbl, about what they were before the attack.

The question still remains, as to whether the Houthis or the Iranians were behind the attack.   I don’t know.   Our President is a non-stop liar.    According to politifact.com,  69% of the 720 statements he has made were in the category of Mostly false, false or pants on fire.   Only 4% of his statements were true.

If you work with Donald Trump,  then you have to toe the line, and you better find a way to support him, or you will be out the door in a second.   So, I guess the question keeps coming around, who do you believe?

Not Trump nor Prince Mohammed Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.  And that doesn’t leave me believing the Iranians either.   I believe more in that the drones or any missiles were not sent from Iran, because it is not in Iran’s national interest to provoke a war with the Saudi’s.     But, there are a number of UN inspectors, which I feel will be far more impartial.

It definitely was the crisis that wasn’t.  The petroleum industry including  oil rigs, processing and export facilities, refineries and petrochemical plants are all vulnerable to drone attacks.  They were before the attack, but the public awareness wasn’t there.

It is easy to accuse Iran, but as I said, it just doesn’t make any sense they would provoke a war with the Saudis.  Of course, the Houthis are completely different.   They are already at war with Saudi Arabia.

 

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Links:

https://www.politifact.com/personalities/donald-trump/

 

 

 

 

The loss of our “soft power”

I just felt that the transcript of Fareed Zakaria’s My Take  fit so well within the last blog on the Saudi attack.   Fareed looks at all the crises:  North Korea Disarmament talks, China Trade war,  Israel – Palestine conflict,  Afghanistan disengagement and talks with the Taliban,  and concludes Trump has failed badly,  because he isn’t a good negotiator.

But he held out some hope for a US-Iran deal, something which would allow the Iran nuclear deal from unraveling.  Fareed’s piece was likely concluded just prior to the drone attack on Saudi Arabia.   The US now threatens to bomb Iran, in part because that’s what the Saudi’s would like.   Now,  none of these conflicts are new, except the hostilities between the US and Iran.  This occurred because Trump and the Republican party waged war against the Iranian nuclear deal.  The China trade wars are new, but the problem of China’s unfair trade practice are not new.

So, bottom line, Trump hasn’t really resolved any of the international conflicts he inherited from Obama, and has added Iran nuclearization to the heap of threats.   I would add climate change as sixth major threat, which Donald Trump has taken a giant step backwards by pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord.   The next president will arrive in 2020 with his or her plate full.

Diplomacy is the art of the compromise.   It is our strength.   It is why the US pushed for international organizations, like the UN, World Trade Organization, World Health Organization, the International Atomic Energy Commission which is still doing the inspections in Iran, and many others.   It is soft power, and it looks like we are losing it.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

 Trump’s foreign policy is in shambles (Fareed Zakaria)

Soft Power

 

Saudi attack – Part 2

There’s a lot of news and commentary out there.  The big one is how long until the Saudi’s production is restored.  Of course, the damages are still being assessed.  Saudi Arabia will draw from emergency supplies, so for the immediate future, there will be no disruption in tanker liftings. Some production will be restored in days, but it appears to be weeks or months before all the oil production is back.  Oil prices are usually quoted in terms of Brent or West Texas Intermediate (WTI) on the futures market.  As I write this at 6:30 am on Monday, I see WTI at $59.53/bbl up 8.53% when trading began on Sunday.    This is down from $61.14/bbl as of Sunday night.  I’ve included the website oilprice.com in the links for those who like this stuff.   Looking at the chart on WTI, they hit a bottom on Dec 25, 2018 at $42.53/bbl then peaked on April 22, 2019 at $65.55/bbl.   So, this “incredible spike”  is unusual because it occurred on one day, but movements of 10% or more in a couple of months are pretty common.  These are traded futures values of oil, and include the anticipated price changes based on reported inventory levels and geopolitics.   I believe in a month or two,  this event will be buried in the usual fluctuations in crude prices.

Second,  Trump’s reaction is way over the top.  He announced he’s given approval to make withdrawals from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve if needed.    It won’t be necessary.    He’s threatening to retaliate against Iran, which seems ridiculous to me.   Yes, Iran helped arm the Houthis, but around the world, the US helps governments or their enemies, without a second thought.   Libya comes to mind, when we assisted the civil war there in 2011.   Our assistance to insurgents in Syria was very open.

Finally, the comments from Mike Pompeo to blame Iran and not the Houthis, even after they claimed responsibility for the attack, still seems weak.  Others have spoken out.   Senator Rand Paul arguments closely align with my own – see link.  The UN is the right place for presenting everything we know about the attack.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Oilprice.com 

CNN:  Sen Paul: Don’t bomb Iran

CNN: US is ‘locked and loaded’ 

NYT:  Saudi Oil Photos implicate Iran, US Says

Maybe it should state “US thinks” as it is clear the evidence is weak reading through the article,  I guess I’d like to know if cruise missile attack did occur, could it have been seen from satellite photos?  Good article.

The attack on Saudi’s oil installation

The recent attack on Saudi’s oil installation, was incredible with 5.7 million barrels of oil per day shut-in, roughly half of their oil production. For comparison the US produces about 12 million barrels per day.  So, economically, Saudi Arabia is losing 300 million dollars per day.  However, the New York Times reported that analysts who closely follow the Saudi oil industry, were hearing the damage to the facilities was not severe resulting in only a few day’s outage,  This sounds like some of the shutdown was really just a precaution.   The oil analysts are predicting a rise in oil prices when trading begins Sunday (September 15) night, likely to change quickly as engineers assess the damage.  Spot oil prices in the next week will be a reflection of how long until Saudi production is restored.

The question is, right now, who did this?  The Houthi’s are claiming responsibility for the drone attack, yet the Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State, claims it was Iran.   I beginning to get the idea that the US just doesn’t know where the drones came from, and Iran seemed a convenient culprit.  The US is not taking this to the UN Security Council, which would be the obvious place to begin to show all that we know.   Pompeo did not say that the drones were sent from Iran, just that they were responsible for the attack.

The attack took place 500 miles from Yemen.   UN investigators have reported that the Houthi’s had drones capable with a range of 930 miles.  The Houthi’s said the attack was done by 10 drones.

The current war in Yemen began in 2015, and the civilian losses due to war or starvation have been terrible.  It is a proxy war, with Saudi Arabia and the US helping the Yemen government with aerial bombing and Iran’s support of the Houthis.    There are excellent summaries of the conflict on Wikipedia.

I think Trump is looking for a pretext to attack Iran.  Also, he has no problem of supplying Saudi Arabia with a pretext to attack Iran.  It also makes no sense that, given the current conflicts between the US and Iran, that Iran would be involved in an attack on Saudi Arabia.   Iran is suffering economically due to the sanctions imposed by Trump.  It is desperately trying to convince the rest of our allies not to be pressured by the US in extending these sanctions.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Houthi Movement

 

 

 

 

Weaker alone and it’s getting worse (China, Iran, Climate Change) + Over the top distractions

Trump has started a number of highly disruptive “wars” without a clear end in sight.  The two big ones is his economic war with China and the political war with Iran.   A third huge division among us and our allies is our recent action against international cooperation in climate change.  Our Department of Justice is currently waging war against our automobile manufacturers who are working with California to improve exhaust emissions standards.  I guess the idea is that we all must breathe the same polluted air.   I’ll leave this last one for separate blog.

— Trade War – No end in sight.

The trade war with China, just seems to get worse every month.  According to experts, China has engaged in unfair trade practices.  But, the current trade wars are just the US and China.  We failed to obtain international support.  We created the World Trade Organization to address issues such as unfair trade practices and currency manipulation.  Now we take action without their involvement.  Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) which included 12 countries (China not one of them) and would have been the best counter measure against China’s unfair practices.  Trump has correctly stated that prominent Republicans and Democrats were against it.   Likely, if Clinton were elected president, then she would have attempted to make  changes in the agreement.

The TPP agreement is long and complex.  It has survived without the US in a new agreement, the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (CPTPP).   The US was insisting on certain provisions which would be best for the US. and none of the other countries before we signed it.  See links below.  When Trump pulled out, all the contested provisions were pulled out.  It includes however, what seems at the top of Trump’s wish list – respect for intellectual property as follows:

It [CPTTP] includes the most detailed standards for intellectual property of any trade agreement, as well as protections against intellectual property theft against corporations operating abroad.

Manufacturing as measured by the US ISM manufacturing employment index, last month hit a two year low of  47.4 in August 2019, down from a high of 60.17 on September 2017.  See link.

Trade wars are a lose-lose proposition.   There are 18 countries which are party to the CPTPP agreement including Japan, Mexico, Australia, Singapore and Canada.  They are stronger together, and the US is now weaker as it stands alone.

—  IRAN

Now Iran.  As long as the sanctions were lifted, Iran obeyed by its commitments.  They had a strict monitoring program.  The agreement basically called for the US to lift sanctions as long as Iran was in compliance.  When Trump imposed economic sanctions by refusing to import oil from Iran, it put the US in violation of the agreement.  Further, the US was pressuring other countries and companies not to lift Iran’s oil.

Thus, Iran correctly stated that they had the right not to be bound by the terms of the agreement, primarily on the amount of uranium it could enrich.   None of our European allies want Iran to get nuclear weapons, so they are pleading with the US, to drop the sanctions, so Iran can be brought back into compliance.  President Macron is leading this effort.  The head of the UN atomic energy watchdog agency (IAEA)  is in Iran now,   Iran makes no secret of its violations of the treaty and in fact will comply with thorough IAEA inspections,   It is simply tit-for-tat against actions taken by the US.

Trump’s theory, that once Iran felt the pain of sanctions, it would do anything to please the US hasn’t worked at all.  In fact, it has been a terrible failure.   Treaties are tough to put together, but much easier to fall apart.

I’ll stop here.  I’ve got a lot more to say on Trump’s misguided policies on reducing our carbon emissions and minimizing the real threat it is creating throughout the world, including droughts and extreme weather events.  But that will be a separate blog.

— DISTRACTIONS

I have to contend with a huge number of distracting events in July and August.  It’s really nuts.  Vice President Mike Pence wants an American on Mars by 2024, about 6 years earlier than planned, price tag around 500 billion dollars (a trillion here and there eventually adds up to real money) plus the militarizing of space with the Star Wars themed “Space Force.”   Then the trip to Ireland, was a publicist nightmare.  His grandfather was Irish, but he fled Ireland as a refugee escaping violence and poverty, just the folks Trump is trying to ban from the US.  Plus,  it was a terrible snub to stay at the Trump hotel, far outside of Dublin, for “security reasons.”  Nobody bought this one.   See link.

What else:  Trying somehow link Bill Clinton and Jeff Epstein by repeating social media nonsense,  buying Greenland and insulting Denmark (whose next?), the Trump drawn hurricane maps to include Alabama, pulling funds for Puerto Rico hurricane rebuilding effort to build the Mexican border wall (seeing just how far the National Emergency Act can be stretched), and a barrage of tweet attacks against Jay Powell for basing his decisions on interest rates on economic data and Fed Reserve objectives, rather than Trump’s polling numbers.  Remember, Jay Powell was Trump’s nominee to the Fed and highly qualified for this position by both Democrats and Republicans.

I’m not sure if any of the above means much. Our policies on Iran, China and Climate Change are real issues where an immediate course correction is necessary.  More like 180 degree turn, as we are “stronger together.” This will have to wait until the 2020 elections.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Manufacturing Unemployment index is down

Wikipedia: Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (CPTPP)

Atomic watchdog chief in Iran for high-level talks

The distractions:

Mars Confusion 

Pence’s disasterous trip abroad

The Irish love anyone who can drink beer and has a bit of Irish heritage.  I believe they’ll make an exception with VP Mike Pence.

Irish Times Review of Mike Pence’s visit

 

 

 

 

 

War of Words

“I’m not going to enter a war of words with anybody, including the American president,” Denmark’s prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, told a Danish television channel on Wednesday.  Ok, that’s right.  Don’t back down and don’t escalate,

A few days ago, I was already to post a slightly humorous comment on Greenland, saying the Prime Minister should have told Trump, “Well, if you want Greenland, then give us Puerto Rico. ”  That was going to be my joke.  Then, it came out that the White House actually discussed swapping Puerto Rico for Greenland.   That’s super crazy.

Buying Greenland was a crazy distraction.  The Prime Minister of Denmark,  Mette Frederiksen, was absolutely right to call the idea “absurd.”   Even more absurd is the cavalier way Trump proposed this.   Trump was right that this had been considered during Truman’s presidency in 1946.   But, this was done under tight security, and no one knew about it for 45 years, when it was discovered by a Copenhagen newspaper in declassified documents in the National Archives.

Today, we have a military base (Thule air base) on Greenland.   Denmark has been a strong ally of the US.  Danes have fought with the US in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.    However, unlike Trump,  the Prime Minister is a strong environmentalist, and Denmark is making great strides in reducing carbon emissions.  It would be hard not to be a strong believer in climate change, as it is so evident in Europe and of course, in Greenland.

So, Trump hopped into Air Force 1, to attend the G7 meeting in beautiful Biarritz, France where the hot issues will be Iran, trade issues and climate change.

On climate change,  President Bolsonaro  of Brazil in making his country  great again, has done great harm to the Amazon.  I warned this was going to happen.   The people who voted for him are now choking on smoke in Sao Paulo.    Donald Trump intensified the Trade War, not only with China but with our European allies.  EU is trying desperately to save the Iran Nuclear agreement, after the US pulled out.

So, the G7 meeting will be a “war of words”  with the US now more as  the trouble maker than the problem solver.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/08/16/trump-greenland-purchase-harry-truman-denmark/

Who will win the 2020 Presidential Election?

States where democrats or republicans won big in 2016 are likely to do the same in 2020.  It is all about who can win  the big swing states.

These states, and their electoral votes  are:  Michigan (MI, 16 votes),  Wisconsin (WI,10), Pennsylvania (PA, 20), Florida (FL, 29), Arizona (AZ, 11).   All total, these 5 states have 86 electoral votes.

There’s not universal agreement on the swing states.  Some forecasters include North Carolina (NC, 15),  New Hampshire (NH, 4) and Iowa (IA, 6) adding another 25 electoral votes to the “who really knows” category.

There’s also a lean republican category, which includes Georgia (GA, 16) and Ohio (OH, 18) for another 34 votes.  Some feel Florida should also be in this category.

So, the lazy man’s approach is to take the solid atates’ vote (Rep 125, Dem 188), and all the possible swing states (86 + 25 + 34 = 145) and divide by 2, giving each party 72 votes.  Nobody gets 270 votes, but the Democrats with 260 votes are a lot closer than Republicans with 197 electoral votes.

This approach didn’t work in 2016 and it’s not likely to work in 2020.  It isn’t enough for the candidates to convince voters that they should be president for the next four years, they must be able to get their supporters to show up at the polls.

Another perverse aspect of forecasting – any positive results are likely to make supporters of a particular candidate less likely to show up at the polls, because they figure their vote is unnecessary.  This is the complacency factor, that dogged Hillary Clinton.

However,  the 9 states  (WI, PA, FL, AZ, NC, NH, IA, GA, OH)  is where all the action will be centered.  Well maybe just 8 hot spots because NH has only 4 electoral votes.   Pennsylvania and Florida are super hot spots.

Still very early but let the games begin!

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

Trump should not be impeached

No one would travel down a blocked road.  They would turn back once they knew the road was blocked.

If the House  passes articles of impeachment, it would then go to the Senate, and the Republican majority would vote against impeachment.   So, Trump would win and declare victory.  After all, he has said that the Russian investigation was a big hoax.  The Mueller report did not exonerate the President on obstruction of justice.   Democrats are right that there is a lot of evidence to support impeachment proceedings.

Trump will have some excellent lawyers come to his defense the moment the House Judiciary Committee begins hearings.   One of them is renown legal expert Alan Dershowitz who wrote a book, “The Case Against Impeaching Trump” which I have not read, but got the essence of his arguments from numerous appearances on cable television, mainly Fox network.   The legal defense will begin with there is no evidence that the President directly interfered with the Mueller probe.  Trump really went through others in an effort to impede the investigation.  Secondly, any obstruction attempt  was unsuccessful.   Finally, his lawyers will charges against him do not rise to the level of impeachable offenses.

It should be difficult to impeach a President, because the President is chosen by the electorate.   A trial of impeachment is never a fair trial.  The argument for maintaining a high threshold for impeachment, is that the legislature, in a political trial, is overturning the decision of the electorate.   I can see why civil libertarians  like Alan Dershowitz  will side with the president.  The  right to vote becomes much less important if the legislature can easily remove a sitting president.  Impeachment has none of the safeguards of protecting the rights of the accused, to be innocent until proven guilty.

We have only two precedents on the Senate impeachment trials, Bill Clinton (1999) and Andrew Johnson (1868).  Both trials failed to get the two-thirds vote necessary to remove the president.  Voting in both trials coincided with  party lines, clearly demonstrating the partisan nature of the trial.  In Clinton’s case.  the Senators deliberations were conducted in a closed door session.

Thus, in these  critical months before the election,  the real issues take not center stage, as they should.  The only proper and successful way to remove Donald Trump from office is through the ballot box based on the fact that there are better candidates to lead our country.  Anything else is a distraction.   My cable news station has 3 channels which are strongly Republican (2 on Fox and OAN) and they will be lambasting the impeachment hearings every minute they can.   All Democrats will be doing is creating political theater, likely to turn off voters.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Trade Wars and Protectionism

Stocks rose yesterday, and will probably give back their gains today.  Lots of slow down, but no melt down like 2008.

Per the Wall Street Journal on August 13:

The Trump administration abruptly suspended plans to impose new tariffs on about $156 billion in goods from China, saying the move was driven by concerns about the impact an escalating trade fight would have on businesses and consumers ahead of the holiday shopping season. The shift fueled a rally on Wall Street, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 1.44% to 26279.91. But it wasn’t immediately clear if the retreat marked a significant step toward resolving the more than yearlong trade conflict between the U.S. and China.  Under the reprieve, the U.S. agreed to postpone until Dec. 15 tariffs of 10% on smartphones, laptops, toys, videogames and other products that were set to take effect on Sept. 1. The value of those goods imported in 2018 was about $156 billion, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.

Did Trump just now realize that tariffs could result in higher cost to consumers?

The New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman,  yesterday (Aug 13)  had some comments which sounded complimentary of Trump:

Trump was right in arguing that America should not continue to tolerate systemic abusive Chinese trade practices — intellectual property theft, forced technology transfers, huge government subsidies and nonreciprocal treatment of U.S. companies in China — now that China is virtually America’s technology equal and a rising middle-income country.

Friedman quickly changes his tune.  Good objectives coupled with a failing strategy  leads nowhere.  Actually, tariffs hurts rather than helps the US economy.    Friedman mentions Trump is obsessed with the trade deficit.  As long as workers are paid low wages in China, it is not really a fixable problem.

See Thomas Friedman’s column, Trump and Xi Sittin’ in a Tree.   If you don’t know this song, the next line goes  K I S S I N G.  However, this is another tree, where the sides are too far apart for meaningful discussions, and neither has a way down from their high perches.   Friedman writes,  “Both men have overplayed their hand and are desperate to be seen as the winner in their trade war.”

Fareed Zakaria gave a more broad perspective of how imposing tariffs on a country do not accomplish anything but an immediate retaliation, and the consumer pays the price every time.   CNN link 

Finally,  our Make America Great Again President can no longer claim that the stock market made exceptional gains since he’s been in office.   See  CNN comparison.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

A Lose-Lose Strategy for Iran

The Iran Nuclear Deal was a great milestone in international cooperation with one single goal – Iran should not be able to develop nuclear weapons in for the foreseeable future.   The deal required Iran to limit its stockpile of uranium, to levels determined to be insufficient to develop a nuclear weapon.  It would be subject to the most thorough monitoring of its uranium enrichment.   The monitoring would be done by an international group of experts (IAEA).   In exchange, the US and its allies would lift the harsh sanctions leveled against Iran.

The Iran Nuclear Deal was agreed to by China, France, Germany, Russia, UK, US and the EU.  The sanctions imposed not only created hardships for Iran but for our allies as well.  John Kerry and other negotiators worked diligently to kept the coalition of our allies  together, so the pressure would be on until a verifiable means of keeping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon was achieved. The Republicans, including Donald Trump, were constantly on the attack against the deal.  Trump vowed to scrap this deal, reimpose sanctions and then renegotiate a new deal, which would fully satisfy the US interests.  The problem of course, was the Iranians were in compliance with the deal and for us to unilaterally pull out would be a breach of international law.   It had been approved by both the US Congress and the UN Security Council.

However,  Trump made it clear that there had to be a new deal, and sanctions against Iran was the only way this was going to happen.   The most important sanction was a refusal to buy any oil from Iran or do any business with Iran.  Further, he anticipated other countries would do the same, and force Iran back to the negotiating table, for the “Trump Iranian Deal.”   Israel and Saudi Arabia (and other Gulf coast countries) would simply like to a US invasion of Iran.  No other signatory countries felt re-imposition of sanctions was necessary, because Iran was living up to its part of the deal.  They refused to re-open the negotiations with the Trump administration because they were living up to their side of the bargain.   They insisted that if the US continued in non-compliance with the JCPOA, they too were no longer bound to the agreement.

Today, July 1, 2019, Iran finally pushed back against the US.  Re Wikipedia:  “On 1 July 2019, Iran announced that it had breached the limit set on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium. Shortly after the announcement the IAEA confirmed that Iran’s total enriched uranium stockpile exceeded the deal’s limit.”   We have no diplomatic recourse.  We lost our place at the negotiating table when we violated the deal and re-imposed sanctions.  The fear was that Iran was not a country to be trusted and they would develop secret uranium enrichment plants out of sight of inspectors.  Just the opposite has happened.  They have breached the agreement in full view of inspectors in retaliation for the US violation of the agreement and our pressuring of other countries to cease doing business with Iran, or we will level sanctions against them.

We have embarked on a horrible lose-lose strategy.   This was not “denuclearization” because Iran does not possess a nuclear weapon.  This was to keep them from doing so, even though many Iranian would like to be a part of the nuclear club.  The deal was good not just for the US but for the rest of the world.   If one believed that the future of Iran was hell bent on assisting terrorist organizations, then this deal was extremely important to keep nuclear weapons out of Iran.   Trump has not had one meeting with Iran since he came to office.  My only hope is that in 2020, with a new president, we can once again, lift the sanctions, and they will return to the deal.  But honestly, if this escalates, all bets are off.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Wikipedia: JCPOA:  Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

 

 

Hitting the “Nationalism” button too often

It gets at times pretty scary.  What nationalism means, at least to Trump supporters, is we do what is in our interest.  Actually, the US foreign policy always has put the country’s interest at its top priority.  It’s really the short-sighted policy of Trump when our policy extends to telling  other countries  what to do or we will try to screw them over big time.   I have said about a 100 times, you can’t win a trade war or an arms race, because your enemies will retaliate, a guaranteed lose-lose outcome.  Trump’s nationalist policies have shut out international cooperation of other countries in helping solve problems.   China could have helped us with to denuclearize North Korea, but not any longer.  Most of the time, Trump’s threats are really hot air.   At the last minute, he’ll find a reason not to take immediate action, but still leave this lingering idea that other countries are doing really shameful things.   Sort of like, you’re bad and we’ll get even later.  Very dumb and kind of childish.    And he will always, always claim victory. Saber rattling, blaming others and just plain lying are sad ways to run foreign affairs.

Case in point is our Venezuela policy.  Obviously, Trump was quick to support opposition leader,  Juan Guaido on the wrong assumption that the military would throw their support behind him, Maduro would be history.   He attacked the “Biden-Obama” administration for not taking action against Maduro.   He did not mention that during the 11 years Hugo Chavez was in power, intent on destroying democratic and civil liberties, and establishing a corrupt system of governance,  George Bush could do little to prevent this.   Trump claimed his policies worked in Venezuela, as he pressured the Russians to pull out of Venezuela.   In March 2019, (about a million Trump tweets ago) Russia  responded saying this wasn’t true and they were going to honor their commitments made to Venezuela.    See link in below.

Venezuela is a great example of Russia, China and the US each doing what is in their national interest.  Russia and China have invested heavily in Venezuela, which underlies their support of Maduro.   The US would like to see Maduro gone and restoration of a stability in the country.  The  recent visit by UN Commissioner on Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet did not make headline news.  The Trump administration has cut off all funding for the UN Human Rights Council, calling it a leftist organization.  The ultra conservative National Security Adviser, John Bolton,  has really lead the way against using the UN to resolve crises.

“The destiny of more than 30 million Venezuelans resides in the will and the ability of its leaders to put the people’s human rights above any personal, political or ideological ambition,” Bachelet said… The UN human rights chief plans to set up an office in Venezuela to monitor the ongoing humanitarian crisis there. Michelle Bachelet said the dire situation must not be allowed to “deteriorate any further.”

There isn’t a quick solution to Venezuela.  Bachelet’s visit was definitely a step in the right direction.   It says to Maduro to stop lying to its people.

Perhaps, the next great example of misguided nationalism, comes from Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on imported Mexican goods.  Of course, it never happened.  Trump’s version of events is that he pressure Mexico to take action against illegals entering into Mexico by threatening tariffs.  What really happened, is that Mexico offered nothing new, and these “concessions” were made months earlier.   See links.

There are a number of great examples how this overblown nationalism theme has failed.  I’ll leave the Iran drone episode to another blog, and move on to our constant attacks on Germany.    In 2018, Trump took aim at Germany, for their cooperative agreement with Russia to build a second Baltic sea pipeline to supply Germany with natural gas.   Germany was, of course, acting in their national interest.  Trump understood that liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the US to the EU could decline once the pipeline is complete.   See my blog:  https://newsandviews.net/2018/08/08/pipeline-dollars-to-russia-are-not-acceptable/

Using natural gas to generate energy is better than using coal,   The EU  needs the Russian gas, is because the existing production from UK and  Norwegian gas fields have been declining for years.  So, Germany and other EU leaders  are doing what is their national interest, and at this point, I guess, will  just ignore Trump’s comments.

It’s fine for a politician to proclaim his love for his country.  But, any real progress in international affairs must be multi-national, and with this, some of our goals would be compromised.  I guess it’s comes down to a choice of achieving some progress with existing international institutions and agreements, or striking out alone, and coming up empty handed.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Russia scoffs at U.S. demand that it pull troops from Venezuela

US will stop funding UN Human Rights Council

As Trade War Spreads to Mexico,  Companies lose a safe harbor

Who won the Mexican Trade War of 2019

The Democratic Candidates for President

My God, there are a lot of them.  I’ve broken them down into 4 groups:  Top dogs (4),  Possible, but not likely  (4),  No chance (15), and don’t vote for these people because they have never held elected office in their lives (2).

Top dogs:  Biden, Harris, Sanders, Warren

Possible, but not likely:  Klobuchar, Booker, Buttigieg and O’Rourke

No chance:  Bennet, Bullock, Castro, Blasio, Hickenlooper, Inslee, Messen, Moulton. O’Rourke, Ryan, Swalwell,

Don’t vote for these people:  Williamson, Yang

I check Williamson’s website, and it shows she really knows her issues.   I just think she should start by being a Senator or Governor, to show us she’s cut out for the job.

I know exactly what you are thinking – where is Oprah?  She publicly said she would not run.  Mark Zuckerberg is also not running.  Some primaries in February will help separate out the true candidates from the rest.  Then,  8 months from now, on March 3, comes a whole slew of primaries.  I think the field will drop to about 8 candidates.

 

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Wikipedia:  Democratic Presidential Primaries

The tanker attacks

Let’s first look at the facts:

On June 13, two tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman.  The first attack occurred  on the Norwegian tanker,  The Front Altair.   It loaded with the flammable hydrocarbon mixture naphtha from the United Arab Emirates. They  radioed for help as it caught fire. A short time later, the Japanese tanker,  Kokuka Courageous, loaded with methanol from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, was attack and also called for help.  Fortunately, there was only one injury reported.

Tankers have between 8 to 12 separate tanks for holding petroleum products.  They are structured so a fire in one tank does spread to other tanks.   The tankers are being taken to the United Arab Emirates where their cargo will be offloaded.

The attacks occurred in the Gulf of Oman. The US military has stated that the evidence points to Iran. It’s evidence comes from a speedboat which pulled up along side of the Kokuba, and shows one of the crew trying to remove a limpet landmine.   These mine can be attached to the side of a tanker by magnets.   The US claims that members of Iran’s revolutionary guard were on the speedboat and trying to cover up evidence of the attack’s source.

The British have stated they concur with the US, stating there is high certainty the  attack was from Iran.   The United Arab Emirates has stated they feel this was the attack was “state sponsored” but importantly, did not point the finger at Iran.  Saudi Arabia concurs with the US, and urges the US to take decisive action.

For political reasons, it is easy for Saudi Arabia and UAE to side with US, against Iran.   UAE is attempting to buy military equipment from the US.   At the same time,  the US is making it increasingly difficult EU countries to buy Iranian oil.

Company president Yutaka Katada said Friday he believes the flying objects seen by the sailors could have been bullets. He denied any possibility of mines or torpedoes because the damage was above the ship’s waterline. He called reports of a mine attack “false.”   Katada said the crew members also spotted an Iranian naval ship nearby, but didn’t specify whether that was before or after the attacks.

The owners of the Norwegian tanker have not weighed in on this.

Iran has vehemently denied any involvement.   Experts in Middle East politics are puzzled, saying Iran would have nothing to gain from an attack on foreign tankers.  I agree.

If I had to guess who had the most to gain,  I would argue that it would be Saudi Arabia or UAE.  They would benefit from an attack on Iran.  And maybe UAE is wrong and it wasn’t a foreign government responsible for the attack.  If land mines were used, as the US is convinced, attached to the side of the ship, this would spill cargo and certainly put the crew at risk,  but it would not sink a tanker.  There are plenty of groups which would benefit from increase tensions between the US and Iran, and total US support of Saudi Arabia as the powerhouse of the Middle East.

There is developing a huge divide in the Middle East, along Sunni-Shia lines.  A proxy war is rapidly developing in Libya, with Egypt, UAE and Saudi Arabia on one side (Tobruk government).    Middle East policy seems to go along with what Prince MBS of Saudi Arabia wants.    Remember Iran and Iraq are both Shia, while Saudi Arabia and UAE are Sunni.   By choosing the Sunni group lead by Saudi Arabia,  we will undermine our relations with   Qatar, Turkey and Iraq.

It is in the interest of the US to reduce tensions rather than choose sides.  I go along with the latest Houston Chronicle opinion,  “Oil tanker attacks aren’t worth war with Iran.” See link below:

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Links:

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/Oil-tanker-attacks-aren-t-worth-war-with-Iran-13999257.php