Ukraine is a complicated question worldwide. It is a relatively large Eastern European economy – certainly the biggest, after Russia, among the former Soviet Republics. It is also a major natural gas conduit for sales of Russian natural gas from Russia to the European Union.
As such, it’s important to Russia, not just as a transit point for natural gas to its biggest customers in Europe, but also as a large economy that exports a lot of its agricultural products, its workers and its steel to Russia. Having an economy such as this in the Russian-led customs union would lend legitimacy to an organization the Russians have been trying to transform into a European Union-type economic alliance.
In this post I’m going to attempt to lay out some issues, as well as some possible outcomes and solutions.
First, let’s get something straight. There have been rumblings that the U.S. government has somehow been funding the protesters in Ukraine, hoping to topple the corrupt, pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych. This is a silly idea. Why would the United States work to create a power vacuum? Why would the United States want to facilitate the rise to power of Julia Timoshenko, who by many accounts is just as corrupt as Yanukovych AND has ties to organized crime? It doesn’t make sense.
During a Senate floor speech on Monday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) used his time before his colleagues to call their attention to current protests in Venezuela and what protesters, who are mostly students, have been trying to accomplish.
Rubio’s speech started as a way to issue a reply to a report issued by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA). The democrat’s report was delivered after he returned from a trip to Cuba. According to Sen. Rubio, Harkin’s views on the lives of common Cubans are not accurate, mostly because his accounts seem to gloss over the real facts, leaving the tyrannical and repressive nature of the Cuban government out of the picture.
According to Rubio, Cubans flee their home country out of fear of repression and in hopes of finding a place where they can work and where they are free to associate with others peacefully precisely because they do not have those experiences where they come from. Repression, Rubio stated during his speech, is what the Cuban government is really good at.
It’s a topic libertarians are generally not eager to discuss but, while everyone’s focused on healthcare and immigration, perhaps now’s a good time to talk about foreign policy and some rather stunning developments in the middle east that seem to suggest the US continues to lose influence and respect in the region. Saudi Arabia, in what many consider an almighty snub, has refused a seat on the UN Security Council and, at the risk of piling on, it appears that the Obama administration is to blame.
What should worry the Obama administration is that Saudi concern about U.S. policy in the Middle East is shared by the four other traditional U.S. allies in the region: Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Israel. They argue (mostly privately) that Obama has shredded U.S. influence by dumping President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, backing the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, opposing the coup that toppled Morsi, vacillating in its Syria policy, and now embarking on negotiations with Iran — all without consulting close Arab allies.
While The Huffington Post was quick to declare satisfaction over Saudi Arabia’s “international hissy fit,” their assertion that the declining relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia was a minor non-event since the two countries don’t really need each other in the ways that count sounds a bit contrived.
Today is the 10 year anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War. It is a good time reflect on what, if anything, was gained. It is also a time for those of us to learn about what, if anything, can we learn from the mistakes of the war.
I supported the Iraq War when it began. I looked at the evidence leading up to the war and I came to the conclusion, as most Americans did, that the regime of Saddam Hussein was in possession of weapons of mass destruction and that the status quo that was in place after the end of the Gulf War was simply unsustainable. Also, I was also intrigued by the possibility of bringing democracy to the Middle East to combat the appeal and vision of radical Islam. Furthermore, I do believe the Bush Administration sincerely believed that Iraq possessed WMDs. I do not think this was an attempt to steal Iraqi oil or other conspiracy theorist nonsense.
However, I was wrong. I’m enough of a man to look at the evidence that has emerged in 10 years and more importantly the results of the war and acknowledge that I was wrong to support the Iraq War. I do not believe the war has served the interests of the United States. I also believe that the high losses, in both blood and treasure do not justify the results achieved.
Written by Chip Knappenberger, Assistant Director of the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
The Washington Post has an article today on the battle over the Keystone XL pipeline. There is a sense of urgency on both sides as the decision on the project is expected to be fast approaching.
The Post features arguments from pipeline proponents that the project will provide an economic boost to the state of Nebraska, and from pipeline opponents that the oil carried though it will lead to more carbon dioxide emissions than previously thought, thus upping the impact on global warming and climate change.
But the numbers being tossed about don’t tell the whole story.
First, a look at the new economic claims. An analysis from the Consumer Energy Alliance concludes that during the two year construction phase of the pipeline, the economic activity in Nebraska will increase by a bit more than $400 million per year—generating directly or indirectly, about 5,500 new jobs. Sounds impressive, but this boost is short-lived. After that, for the next 15 years, the economic input drops down to about $67 million/yr, supporting about 300 jobs. A net positive, but not as much as many proponents claim.
As you know, the Obama Administration recently rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, a head-scratcher given that gas is expected to rise upwards of $4 a gallon in the coming months. It’s also odd given the dire need for jobs, and the pipeline would have certainly aided those efforts.
Oddly, however, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said yesterday that his boss, President Barack Obama, wasn’t to blame for the rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. According to the White House, congressional Republicans are to blame:
I like to think that while I am a very well informed person when it comes to US political news, I generally remain somewhat detached regarding what the latest artificially created crisis du jour facing the nation is. I find that regardless of what dire consequence both sides try to convince us will happen if the other side gets their way, life goes on, business as usual for the rest of us, and inevitably some compromise is reached which allows both sides to claim victory. It is a cycle I’ve seen play out so many times in my relatively short time on Earth that I find it quite comical. However, I do find my blood pressure rise ever so slightly when contemplating the mismanagement and lack of leadership in energy policy in this country. The recent Keystone XL Pipeline debacle is a perfect example of how DC politicians chose to put political posturing ahead of US energy security, national security and true environmental policy.
With the economy in a sustained recession, unemployment at or above nine percent for approaching three years, and tens of millions of Americans struggling just to put food on their table, perhaps few people or organizations have been showered with such hostility and ill-repute as have “corporations.” Yet, of all of the root causes of our current economic malaise, such contempt may nowhere be more misplaced.
Obama, after the shellacking his party took in the 2010 elections and with no end in sight to the economic downturn, has turned to finding a scapegoat or two to deflect blame for the anger and frustration America feels. His two favorite targets are Republican “obstructionism” and those evil, faceless corporations that steal from the poor to sate their insatiable greed.
Maybe he has a point though. After all, we all know that Steve Jobs became one of the richest men in the world as the head of Apple by hiring legions on thugs to go out across America to households and college campuses, brandishing guns and clubs and threatening violence if the poor masses did not give these brutes their money in exchange for little pieces of molded plastic and silicon and copper which Jobs called “Macs” and “iPods”, “iPhones” and “iPads”. His reign of terror was so complete that every time Jobs released a new version of these little pieces of plastic, hundreds and thousands of people would camp out overnight at one of his stores to give up their money in exchange for these gadgets, in the hope that by voluntarily doing so his thugs would not show up at their homes, schools and places of businesses and threaten them there.
Though I didn’t notice it at the time, techPresident’s Nick Judd makes a very astute observation about the recent Bloomberg/Washington Post GOP presidential debate on the economy:
- Number of times the Internet was mentioned by name in a debate about the economy: 2.
- Number of jobs that were in the American information sector in 2007: 3,496,773.
Texas Governor Rick Perry will unveil his economic plan in Pittsburgh (emphasis mine):
My plan is based on this simple premise: Make what Americans buy. Buy what Americans make. And sell it to the world. We are standing atop the next American economic boom…energy. The quickest way to give our economy a shot in the arm is to deploy American ingenuity to tap American energy. But we can only do that if environmental bureaucrats are told to stand down. My plan will break the grip of dependence we have today on foreign oil from hostile nations like Venezuela and unstable nations in the Middle East to grow jobs and our economy at home.
Congress raiding our Oil: About to require the sale of U.S. SPR (Strategic Petroleum Reserve) to fund additional spending
Today, as part of H.R. 2354, Congress is requiring the sale of $500 million of Strategic Oil Reserves - and then requiring any money from those reserve sales be used to fund additional spending as part of the general treasury.
This sets a terrible precedent, threatens our national security and is in all likelihood not entirely legal.
On the floor of the house today Congressman McClintock called it a scandal - and we agree. This is nothing more than accounting tricks and blatant disregard for the very idea behind the Strategic Oil Reserve.
The vote is tomorrow, spread the word.