Archive for the ‘Condi Rice’ category

Wall Street Money?

February 5, 2016

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are going toe to toe for the Democrat Presidential nomination. One of Sanders’ stump speech trademarks is Clinton’s acceptance of $675,000 for speeches given to Wall Street firms. Last night she called him on it and asked what exactly did this money do to change her views on policies? Hillary asked whether Bernie had a specific charge or was he just trying to “smear” her reputation? Hmmm.

Three hundred thousand plus does seem like a lot of money for an hours work. But is it?

Access to someone like Hillary, especially if she should become President would be “priceless”. And for these large banks, $325,000 is not too much money considering what they spend on lobbying anyways. And Hillary is not a new recipient, former Secretary of States Powell and Rice both have received large honorariums.  So, is Bernie pointing out a naked attempt to influence a public figure and potential President, or is he just pointing out a questionable practice?

More probable these firms were willing to spend these large sums of money because Clinton (and former senior Government officials) had both fresh insight and direct knowledge of happenings around the world, including developments in foreign capitals. Hillary also had insight into thinking within the White House and the Administration’s view of the domestic economy. For global financial firms in the business of advising clients around the world, information such as Clinton might have is critically important.

Sanders makes a point of saying he has not accepted Wall Street money and has gone further, saying he has no “Super Pac” money either. Sanders emphasizes his campaign money comes from small donations by average Americans. The implication is that he will be immune to special interest pressure. Hmmm.

From an appearance perspective, Hillary might wish she had not accepted these paid speaking engagements.  Sanders appears to have hit an awakening feeling that income inequality and general dissatisfaction with the American Dream is tied to Wall Street. In the general election, Wall Street money will not be an issue since if it isn’t Wall Street, its big oil, the NRA, or maybe even the Koch brothers. The Democrat primary, however, is another question.

Wall Street money is like salt and water. Too much is lethal while not enough is deadly too. Clinton can’t deny these paid speeches and can only minimize the damage to her campaign. Regardless, should Hillary become President, Wall Street will be only one of many potential special interests trying to reach her.

With the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, corporations are “people” and as such have a first amendment right to donate money to politicians. The issue remains whether free speech demands a kick back for the money donated. We shall see no matter who is elected President.  The Supreme Court doesn’t seem so supreme in this light, however.

No Talking

April 22, 2008

Former President Jimmy Carter has brought home in 3D color just how far out of reality that George W Bush and Condi Rice are when they utter Dick Cheney’s (AIPAC supplied) script, “we don’t negotiate with terrorists”.  Carter’s visit to Syria and meetings with Syrian and Hamas leaders demonstrated the huge hole in the Bush approach.  How can you reach and agreement with someone you do not talk to?

The situation seems so obvious that you are left with only two conclusions:

1. The Bush/Cheney/Rice trio are just about the dumbest threesome that any Government could put forward.  (There is a lot going for this conclusion based on cumulative evidence on everything from Katrina to Guantanamo to Iraq to the sinking dollar to doubling the national debt.)

2. The current status of Hamas shooting rockets into Israel is actual what the Israelis want and the US policy is simply to aid this Israeli choice.  (For sure the Israelis would prefer no rockets being fired but they more prefer the status quo in negotiations with the Palestinians so that they can build more settlements in occupied lands.)

When Jimmy Carter goes off on his own and meets with Hamas and Syria, and finds out that there could be movement and potentially agreements reached if a good faith effort were undertaken, you get to see how two faced the American position is.  For sure, if the US was interested in peace in the Middel East, including Iraq, they would be double teaming this Carter initiative.  The US lack of action speaks volumes about our Governments real intentions.

What can we do about it?

1. Vote for someone (President and in the fall members of Congress) who will seriously pursue peace in the Middle East.

2. Start your own campaign to reduce your dependence on foreign oil.

3. Vote for the Presidential candidate that will undertake a real national effort to wean the country from fossil fuels.

Circular Argument

April 10, 2008

It was a sorry sight at the Congressional hearings on Iraq.  General Patraeas and Ambassador Crocker sat before both the House and the Senate and answered the same questions in the same evasive manner as we have come to appreciate.

1. Question:  How are things in Iraq now one year after the surge?

    Answer: Conditions in Iraq have significantly improved thanks to the surge.

2. Question: Can we begin bringing home the troops?

    Answer: The current situation is “fragile” and we strongly recommend holding the level flat for several months (like through the fall’s election).

3. Question:  So,it hasbeen a year, you say the surge was a big success but we can’t bring the troops home?

     Answer:  That’s correct.

4. Question: When do you think we can bring the troops home?

    Answer:  We can not say.  We will have to evaluate that in the future.

The American public must wake up to the fact that this set of question and answers is endless.  The next time Patraeas visits, he can use the same speech and same answers.  The deaf mute “Crocker” did represent the case well for the State Department.  No ideas, no action, and no results.

It is past time for a new strategy for both the Middle East and Iraq.  This new approach goes straight through Syria and Iran, both of whom the US does not talk with, and involves the Saudis and the Israelis.  There needs to be a new approach and that approach should require far less troops and far less money.

International Diplomacy is an Art

April 1, 2008

Little Georgie Bush is on his own in Eastern Europe and making all sorts of statements disconnected from the main US interests and equally unhelpful in finding a way out of the Middle East mess.  We already know that George was a C+ student at Yale and can not be expected to command the broad understanding of the interconnections of foreign policies.  But it is not too much to expect that the State Department would provide him some diplomatically correct words if he insists on saying anything at all.

In a speech in the Ukraine, President Bush taunted the Russians by saying that the US (meaning Dick Cheney and George Bush) STRONGLY supported the entry of Ukraine into NATO.  If that was not enough, he went on to say, “and Russia will have no vote on this matter.”   So much for any help from the Russians on any Middle East conflict resolution (read Iran).  You have to admit that understanding the neoconservative flavor of Bush and Cheney’s rhetoric is relatively easy but why they say such things is mind boggling.  It is just wrong headed and clearly on a disaster course.

The US is at a point where the President should know and involve the Russians in important foreign policies such as:

  • Containment of Iran and its nuclear weapons ambitions
  • International coordination of efforts to combat extremists, especially Islamic ones
  • An ending to the Iraqi insurgency
  • A settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian situation
  • An end to the North Korean nuclear activities

But our man George seems to see the world as “one offs”, everything being totally separate issues.  For George, each issue requires a short briefing and then a fiery speech, and then more mountain biking.  It is simply mind boggling that for almost 8 years we have had a President who can not connect what he does today with what he did yesterday, and has no idea how both will affect tomorrow.

Bush Does Jordon

March 31, 2008

Our gallant President is off on another foreign trip, this time to Eastern Europe.  I wonder if he thinks he is Michael Jordon and this is a farewell visit.  If he is lucky, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condi Rice have already obtained the Russian concessions to placing radar and missiles in Poland and Czech Republic.  The President can prance around, make pontifical statements, and plunge the US down another dead end path. 

What foreign country could (or would) launch a missile attack on Europe or the US and think for a minute that they would not be wiped out?  The countries most often cited are Iran and North Korea but I simply wonder about North Korea.  Is not Russian air space in the way, and wouldn’t North Korea come over the North Pole to strike the US?

When you factor in the technical difficulty of a missile hitting another missile, especially one carrying multiple war heads, you must conclude that the threat of retaliation is the only sensible (bluff-wise and economics-wise) counter measure.  (It is true that Dick Cheney and his merry men might want to invade first and ask questions later.) 

At a time when the US budget is hopeless tipped towards larger and larger deficits, and the quagmire of Iraq is adding each year to the national debt, you would think the Government would take measure of what we can afford as well as what we need.  But not this President.  He has not even considered that his 28% approval rating means something.  All Americans would be better off with George spending the rest of his term riding his mountain bike in Texas.  At least that way we could save the cost of jet fuel for Air Force One. 

No Cease Fire

March 5, 2008

The current reluctance of Secretary of State Condi Rice to call for a “cease fire” between Israel and Hamas is a good example of why this Administration will make no progress on any diplomatic front.  The George W Bush crowd is tied to ideology and not pragmatism.  Worse its ideology is half baked.

The Gaza situation is clearly complicated and no one side is all right or all wrong in this dispute.  Hamas continues to sponsor or actually fire rockets into Israel for no apparent reason other than they do not like the Israelis.  Israel takes it for a while and then returns fire in a controlled manner.  Sooner or later, Hamas rockets hit someone and the Israelis are motivated to respond with anger and force.  It is almost like a huge massive response is what Hamas was looking for in the first place.  It looks like a death wish by Hamas.

Reality needs to take control of both US and Israeli policy makers.  Hamas and Hezbollah do not have the necessary means to fight Israel without outside support.  This support comes in financing, supplies and material, and training space.  A further reality is why Hamas fights at all.  The lot of the Palestinians is not very attractive.  They have been shunned by most Arab nations and relegated to a lower cast role.  In the end, Hamas’ leadership are people.  People in a land of poverty who attain leadership miraculously earn a living. 

So the reality of the situation is that as long as it is in the best interest of those funding Hamas, to oppose Israel or even the US, by funding extemist activities, there will be hostilities.  Rejecting Hamas as a legitimate force (in fact Hamas was elected by a majority of Palestinians) makes their war-like behavior seem justifiable (resistance against an oppressor).  In my opinion, the road to peace begins with recognition, not isolation, of your enemy.

Peace in the greater Palestine will require some very difficult concessions by all parties.  Since most of funding for the conflict is from Countries outside Palestine (US, Iran, Saudi Arabia to name the big three), it will take the people living in greater Palestine (Palestinians and Israelis) to become sick of war and killing, and seek peace without the aid of their funders.  As long as they continue to be supported (and manipulated) by powers outside the region, it will be too easy to conclude that the other side is losing and to wait a little longer.

It is time for a cease fire! 

The Dance of the Disingenuous

November 25, 2007

This week will begin the “Annapolis” talks.  At long last Secretary of State Condi Rice will host a summit of sorts where the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is to be discussed.  It has been 7 years already of the Bush/Cheney Administration and the Rosetta Stone of Middle East peace is just getting Presidential attention.  You talk of the horse before the cart, well the Bush/Cheney crowd wrote the book.

It should not take a genius to recognize that as long as the Israelis and the Palestinians are fighting, and the question of the future of the Palestinians was unsettled, there would be a source for unrest through out the entire Middle East.  Or saying it differently, unless the US worked diligently (with or without Israel’s cooperation) on Israeli-Palestinian peace accords, there could be no peace or civil order in the rest of the Middle East.  With Israel and the Palestinians living peacefully together, a Saddaam Hussein could have been isolated and removed without an invasion.  With the Palestinians secure and with hope for the future, Iran could be isolated and made to see their best interest would be served without nuclear weapons.  And of course, without Israeli invasions of Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank, and overflights into Syria, the Syrian foreign policies could have evolved in a much more cooperative way.

But that is all behind us.  Bush/Cheney have dug a large hole and do not recognize they must stop digging if they want to get out.  Condi is a very weak and ineffective Secretary of State.  She is an accademic who is living in the wrong generation since her expertise is from the cold war period.  Dick “I love oil” Cheney will be in the back ground throwing as much sand as possible into the diplomatic machinery.  George “I love to have my picture taken and to make speeches” Bush will headline the US delegation but do not expect much.  The Arabs may be dysfunctional and the source of at least half the Israel-Palestinian problem, but they are not stupid.  They can see Bush for what he is and will act very cautiously during these talks.

To the 2008 Presidential candidates…  here is another problem you will inherent from the Bush Administration.

Old Europe Visits Texas

November 10, 2007

Chancellorin Angela Merkel, the elected leader of Germany, is visiting Crawford this weekend.  She must lead a dull life to want to visit Crawford and she must be smoking something to want to spend time with George.  But none the less she is there.

The Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung reported her visit in the context of all the other European leaders who have visited before.  There is no shortage of subjects of mutual importance such as Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Russia, but the recent visit a French President Nickolas Sarkozy may be the underlying reason.  If Mr. Freedom Fries wants to visit the US and snuggle up to George and Dick, then the leadership of Europe may be up for grabs.  Merkel is a shrewd politician and despite the odor in Crawford may see the symbolism of a “one up” visit to Crawford as a way of telling Sarkozy that Germany is still more important (Sarkozy only made it to Washington, DC).

I can image the following short conversation between George and Angela.

Angela:  How’s it going George, those poll numbers don’t look so good.

George: Ya, there lower than whale poop.  I gave Dick and Rummy a little too much rope and they proceeded to mess things up big time.  Now mind you all our political friends have done just fine with the war spoils and the big tax reductions we gave them, ha ,ha, ha. 

Angela:  So you think Iraq was a mistake ?  You aren’t planning to say that publically are you?

George:  Heck no.  But I can tell you that and maybe together we can figure out how we can help each other.  You know, how I could help you get another term, and maybe how you could throw Germany’s support to some of the initiatives I have going in the Middle East.

Angela:  But George, do you have a overall plan?  How does America policy fit Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Israel, the Palestians, Turkey, Russia , China, Cuba and Venezuela.  Are any of these tied together?

George:  Angela, don’t go getting technical on me.  This is a very complicated world and things sometimes just happen.  Dick and Condi are working hard on this.  They are doing a heck of a job.

Angela:  I see.  Well maybe in a few months you can visit Germany and we can eat bratwurst in Berlin.  I could show you where the wall once stood and you can make a speech and have your picture taken.

Mercifully this will be an over night Crawford visit and Angela will be able to move on.

Why Iran and Not Pakistan?

November 5, 2007

The Bushcovites, otherwise known as the sons of Cheney, or at times simply an anal division of the neoconservatives, have been terribly confused about Iran.  On one hand they want Iran to stop supporting the insurgents in Iraq and on the other hand they want them to stop their nuclear development program.  So to make their point the Administration has leaked story after story about bombing or even invading Iran.  Why has the Administrations chosen this obviously counterproductive approach?

The reasons are pretty much the same as for invading Iraq.

  • The US is much stronger militarily and could win easily
  • There is plenty of oil waiting for Western development
  • Plenty of oil means big pay days for Bush and Cheney’s friends
  • Israel strongly wants a pre-emptive strike
  • Israel’s friends will give good press and plenty of money to Bush and Cheney
  • Pakistan has no oil

Peace in the Middle East, including Iraq, is only possible with an entirely different foreign policy.  The Middle East is largely about a lot of poor people and a few really, really rich people.  Well Pakistan is like the Middle East but with a lot more people.  They have a recent history of corrupt governments and a strong military.  It is in the military where the peace is kept and the sectarian elements are controlled.  President Musharaf has combined the two rolls and has been relatively free from corruption charges.  His situation is hardly a joy.  He has India on one side and the Taliban on the other.  His country is poor by any standard and the Islamic militants are as crazy as any in the Islamic world.

But there is a much bigger issue before us.  Pakistan has the bomb and a lot of nuclear material.  They have also a history of willingness to share their know-how and could do so again.  If the Middle East is to get the bomb, most likely it will come via Pakistan.

Yet the Bushcovites continue to shout about Iran and let the Pakistan dog sleep.  Some times events catch up to you and when they do, everyone can tell if you have done your homework.  Bush, Cheney, and Leather Boots clearly have got it wrong again.

Are the Birds Coming Home to Roost?

November 4, 2007

Over night President Musharaf of Pakistan declared marshal law, a surprise to no one, except maybe the White House.  And with that declaration, we see once more the incompetence of Bush, Cheney, and “Leather Boots” Condi Rice.  Let’s hear it for more Democratic governments around the world.

The issue is not that a Democracy might be the best and most stable form of government (although I am not at all sure there is a lot of evidence to support that).  Rather it is to recognize that Democracy is a very complicated form of government and it takes a rather educated and wealthy population to abide by democratic laws.  (Giving up power and the access to money, is not easy.)  Relatively few countries in the world have much of a democratic history and many that had democratic governments ended up voting it out and slipping into some form of dictatorship.

Ranking far ahead of democracy are

1. Rule of law…  When a country and its government choose to operate by a set of laws, this represents a major step forward.

2. Civil order…  The absence of pirates, robbers, and any other type of disorder is valued by most citizens.

3. Property rights…  Next to personal safety, most people want to feel that their personal belongings are safe from seizure.

4. Freedom of speech and movement…  With in some broad limits (non-democratic forms of government usually do not like criticism), a citizen’s freedom to travel, use computers, and telephones is considered a valuable right.

5. Human rights…  Freedom from torture and “cruel and unusual” forms of punishment (like caning, stoning, and branding) are signs of enlightenment.

For many reasons some governments choose to hold strict control of who can be the ruling leader.  Countries like China and Russia recognize that their citizens are not ready to shoulder the responsibilities of a Democracy but are working to provide the five values listed above (to varying degrees).  Countries like Egypt have long recognized that a truely free vote would lead to a sectarian government where freedoms will be only as seen ok by the sectarian leaders.

But none of this has ever bothered our President or his Secratary of State.  Democracy works for us, so it must be right (right now) for others.  When the Palestinians used Democracy to pick their leaders, the population voted to kick out the corrupt Fatah Party and select Hamas.  Bush and company immediately showed the world what he really thinks about Democracy by denouncing the new Hamas government and refusing to recognize it.

With respect to Pakistan, it should take us about 5 seconds to understand that Democracy is not suited for Pakistan at this time.  The stakes are enormously high.  Pakistan has nuclear weapons, a history of sharing its nuclear technology, and some of the most radical Islamic clerics around.  What you need in Pakistan is stability with an eye towards modernization.  Musharaf is that person.

So Bush will need to eat his words once more (and well he should).  He has a track record of sermonizing the world’s leaders.  Once more there is a need for a Baker-Hamilton type group to visit the key Capitals around the world and explain that George and Dick really got this one wrong.  They should continue and explain that it is too embarassing for Bush to admit publically a mistake, but never the less, “the world should adopt democray” ranks right up there with “the iminent threat of Iraq” as foolish, wrong headed, policies. 

This is just another reason for Cheney to resign, Robert Gates to be named the new Vice President, and then George the Bush to step aside.  Only then could we look forward to a sane 15 months, left in the term, with a leader up to responsibilities of the job.