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The problem with Syria


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If you are a policy wonk and you love human nature, studying the Middle East, and specifically Syria, is fascinating. There are tons of ancient history and complex issues encompassing religion, tribalism, wealth and power.

Syria is located on the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. To the north is Turkey. To the east is Iraq. South is Jordan and west is Lebanon. Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt are not far. This is just an extremely difficult area the world.

Basically, as I see it, we have a president who is desperately trying to hold onto power. We saw something similar in Egypt and Tunisia recently. The United States does not have close ties with Syria. Therefore, our leverage over Syria is limited. So, the question becomes how do we influence Syria? For conservatives, the answers are not satisfying. There is no direct way that we have to influence Syria. Russia and China have direct ties to Syria. They have the ability to truly influence how Syria behaves. For the most part, over the last several weeks, neither Russia nor China has been all that interested in stopping the violence within Syria. It is only recently that the UN Security Council has taken up a resolution to seriously end the fighting and massacres. This latest Security Council resolution to impose a cease-fire was spearheaded by Russia and the European Union.

As I see it, there are no good solutions without strong intervention from Russia and China. We can do what we can to try to influence Russia and China, but I do not see a role for United States getting directly involved in stopping the violence. This is different than Libya. In Libya, we had strong backing from Britain and France. They were willing to get directly involved. There’s no such willingness from Britain or France to do such in Syria. I think there’s a huge role for the Arab League to get involved. As a matter of fact, I think they should take the lead. The Arab League in conjunction with Russia and China can fix this problem. We should have a strong but supportive role.

What are your thoughts?

By |2012-04-21T20:16:00-04:00April 21st, 2012|Foreign Affairs|Comments Off on The problem with Syria

Exactly what is Tim Geithner proposing?

Paul Krugman, Nobel prize-winning economist, doesn’t like what he hears. Over the weekend, many news outlets have leaked portions of the “new” bank plan. Here are Krugman’s thoughts.

Over the weekend The Times and other newspapers reported leaked details about the Obama administration’s bank rescue plan, which is to be officially released this week. If the reports are correct, Tim Geithner, the Treasury secretary, has persuaded President Obama to recycle Bush administration policy — specifically, the “cash for trash” plan proposed, then abandoned, six months ago by then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

This is more than disappointing. In fact, it fills me with a sense of despair.

After all, we’ve just been through the firestorm over the A.I.G. bonuses, during which administration officials claimed that they knew nothing, couldn’t do anything, and anyway it was someone else’s fault. Meanwhile, the administration has failed to quell the public’s doubts about what banks are doing with taxpayer money.

And now Mr. Obama has apparently settled on a financial plan that, in essence, assumes that banks are fundamentally sound and that bankers know what they’re doing.

It’s as if the president were determined to confirm the growing perception that he and his economic team are out of touch, that their economic vision is clouded by excessively close ties to Wall Street. And by the time Mr. Obama realizes that he needs to change course, his political capital may be gone.

Let’s talk for a moment about the economics of the situation.

Right now, our economy is being dragged down by our dysfunctional financial system, which has been crippled by huge losses on mortgage-backed securities and other assets.

As economic historians can tell you, this is an old story, not that different from dozens of similar crises over the centuries. And there’s a time-honored procedure for dealing with the aftermath of widespread financial failure. It goes like this: the government secures confidence in the system by guaranteeing many (though not necessarily all) bank debts. At the same time, it takes temporary control of truly insolvent banks, in order to clean up their books.

That’s what Sweden did in the early 1990s. It’s also what we ourselves did after the savings and loan debacle of the Reagan years. And there’s no reason we can’t do the same thing now. (more… )

I think that I’m going to have to agree with Mr. Krugman. I think the fact that Wall Street is happy can’t be good for the rest of us. How does shoveling money at Wall Street help us? We have to the “right” thing with regard to the banks. I’m not sure what that is, but I know it shouldn’t be throwing my money at the problem. Some of these banks may need to go under.

My two cents.

By |2009-03-23T13:15:15-04:00March 23rd, 2009|Economy|Comments Off on Exactly what is Tim Geithner proposing?

McCain's Love Affair With Lobbyists

I guess that all affairs must end some time. It is sad and painful when you get found out. Well, it appears that Senator John McCain and his ‘maverick’ image were found with a couple of lobbyists. This is the same McCain who “boldly” fought for campaign finance reform. If you listen to the news, one might believe that McCain hated lobbyists when in fact the opposite was true. McCain got in trouble with lobbyists over 20 years ago as part of the Ketting Five. The New York Times reported that McCain may have had an affair with a lobbyist but that wasn’t the important part of that article. The take-home message was that McCain remains very close to a number of lobbyists.

Well, Newsweek, among other new outlets, reported that McCain’s close ties to several lobbyists need to be cut. It looks bad for the ‘maverick’ image. McCain’s campaign is packed with lobbyists.

(more later)

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From Newsweek:

Stung by the news that two aides once lobbied for the Burmese junta, John McCain last week rolled out a sweeping new conflict-of-interest policy for his campaign, requiring all staffers to fill out questionnaires identifying past or current clients that “could be embarrassing for the senator.” Aides say that McCain was furious over the Burma connection (which he learned from a NEWSWEEK story) and was “adamant” about banning campaign workers from serving as foreign agents or getting paid for lobbying work.

But the fallout may not be over. One top campaign official affected by the new policy is national finance co-chair Tom Loeffler, a former Texas congressman whose lobbying firm has collected nearly $15 million from Saudi Arabia since 2002 and millions more from other foreign and corporate interests, including a French aerospace firm seeking Pentagon contracts. Loeffler last month told a reporter “at no time have I discussed my clients with John McCain.” But lobbying disclosure records reviewed by NEWSWEEK show that on May 17, 2006, Loeffler listed meeting McCain along with the Saudi ambassador to “discuss US-Kingdom of Saudi Arabia relations.” (more…)

By |2008-05-19T16:11:37-04:00May 19th, 2008|Corporate Wrongs, Election 2008|3 Comments
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