Sunday, October 28, 2012

Private Equity Acquires the U.S.

I am somewhat worried that Romney's plan for America is similar to Bain Capital's private equity strategy.  He and his Republican partners will take over America, suck all the money out, and leave her a fragile, empty shell of what she used to be.  That's why Romney won't spell out his plan for how he will cut taxes 20% without reducing revenue.  He doesn't care about revenue to run the government; he just wants his money, along with that of his wealthy colleagues.  Big corporations benefit from government largess as much as, or maybe more than, the poor 47% that Romney despises as worthless, such as active duty soldiers who pay no taxes.  The rich get government subsidies both for their companies (e.g., government insurance for too-big-to-fail banks), and for themselves as executives (e.g., capital gains taxes), not to mention their companies that are almost entirely dependent on government funding (e.g., defense contractors). 

So Romney gets elected. cuts taxes, and privatizes everything now performed by the government, That's why he and the Republicans are so concerned about maintaining defense spending.  They don't care about the troops; it's the defense contractors that they are worried about.  They will privatize everything from air traffic control to diplomacy, and pay their fat-cat contractors much more than they pay government employees to provide the same services.  The government will go broke, but they will become richer in the bargain and move on to China or Africa, or wherever the next market victim is perceived to be. 

Since I am concerned about how influential Jews have become in the last 50 or so years, I anticipate that many will leave and go to Israel, taking their profits from America with them.  The Asians, another successful immigrant group, may do the same, taking their winnings back home to Asia. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Jewish Takeover of America

The New York Times article on Mayor Bloomberg's PAC names three personal PACs of billionaires that have been very active in this presidential campaign -- George Soros on the left, the Koch brothers on the right, and now Bloomberg in the middle.  The Koch brothers are not Jewish, but they could easily have been replaced on the list by Sheldon Adelson, who is Jewish, and who has been one of the major supporters of conservative Republicans.  So, you have three obscenely rich Jews who are driving this election. 

I don't know the ancestry of all of them, except that I know Soros was born in Hungary and immigrated to the US.  It looks like from Wikipedia that Bloomberg's grandparents came to the US from Europe well before World War II.  Adelson, like Bloomberg, was born in Boston; his mother had immigrated from the UK.  So, of the three, only Soros is a post-WW II emigre. 

Of course, the candidates they are are supporting -- Obama and Romney -- are not Jewish, which shows there may still be some racial barriers for Jews.  Joe Lieberman did not do well when he ran for Vice President.  However, as a black and a Mormon, Obama and Romney do not represent the old, traditional WASP power structure, as George W. Bush did.  Furterhmore, there is lots of gentile money in the political game, fromt he Koch brothers, for example.  Nevertheless, the fact that the New York Times cites

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Romney and Amb. Stevens

The father of Amb. Chris Stevens has asked that his son's death in Libya not be politicized in the presidential campaign, according to Bloomberg.  Romney and Ryan have latched on to Stevens' death like flies on honey, in an effort to make Obama responsible for it.  Romney is dancing on Stevens' grave because he thinks it will help him become President.  Stevens' death has been one of the best things that has happened for Romney in recent weeks. 

But it's unseemly.  Romney and the Republicans have no manners, no grace, no sympathy.  Romney's joy at Stevens' death is like his contempt for the 47% of the population he said were just worthless takers of government largess. 

The Republicans in general dislike the Foreign Service.  I think it's because in general Republicans don't like smart people, such as professors at good universities.  I had a professional run-in with Republican Senator Jesse Helms, when he tried to have HIV/AIDS declared a highly contagious disease for visa purposes, which would have meant that everyone with HIV/AIDS would have been denied a visa to the US.  My office in the State Department was responsible for international health policy.  The M.D. with whom I worked and I went to the doctors and scientists at HHS and other organizations to see if there was any scientific basis for that policy.  The scientific consensus was that there was not.  We got both assistant secretaries of State responsible for this policy, the Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs and the Assistant Secretary for Oceans, Environment and Science to sign off on a reply to the proposed regulation saying that it was wrong, but it had to go through Secretary of State James Baker, via his Under Secretary Bob Zoellick.  Zoellick sat on the memo forever.  He was probably justified.  Baker would probably have recognized that the Helms' position was incorrect and should not have been made HIV/AIDS an automatic bar to entry into the US.  However, if he had confronted Helms, Helms would probably have cut the State Department budget by millions of dollars, and would have made life miserable in many ways.  So, Zoellick protected him from having to make that decision. 

In a similar story, the New York Times reported that the new senior envoy to Libya, Laurence Pope, retired from the Foreign Service in 2000 when Jesse Helms' office blocked his nomination to be Ambassador to Kuwait, because Pope would not espouse the Republican party line regarding our need to attack Saddam Hussein in Iraq. 

So, Romney and Ryan carry on the Republican tradition, epitomized by Jesse Helms, of hatred of the Foreign Service.  They may even relish making political hay out of the death of a patriotic Foreign Service officer who gave his life for his country.  Romney has no conception of what it is like to give one's life for his country.  He spent the Vietnam War on the French Riviera, and none of his five sons has served in the military, according to the Huffington Post

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Follow-up Congressional Letter 2

Thank you for your letter.  I appreciate your support for continued American engagement in the Middle East. As the investigation into the attacks on American embassies continues, please keep in mind the importance of the State Department budget. I don’t know what factors influenced State’s decisions regarding security for its embassies and consulates, especially in Libya, but I would guess that budgetary considerations were near the top of the list. The fact the whole United States Government budget is unsettled, including State’s as part of that, has a terrible impact on the functioning of the government.

A major factor in my decision to retire from the Foreign Service years ago was the government shutdown under President Clinton and Speaker Gingrich. I ended up being stranded in transit between the US Embassy in Warsaw and the Embassy in Rome because of the shutdown. As a soldier in Vietnam, I had already had a bad experience with the US government failing to support its troops. I didn’t welcome it happening again as a Foreign Service officer. 

Once again, the US is failing to fully support its troops and its Foreign Service officers abroad. I saw on the news that Sen. Bennet is a member of an eight-member, bipartisan committee trying to resolve the current budget impasse in Congress. I hope that he and his colleagues will be able to work out some compromise to avoid the “fiscal cliff.” There are actually American lives at stake, both at home and overseas. There will be a lot of finger pointing over Ambassador Stevens’ death, and some of those fingers should point at Congress.

Follow-up Congressional Letter 1

Thank you for your letter regarding US foreign assistance.  I welcome your support for continued US engagement in the Middle East.  However, as a retired Foreign Service officer, I am more concerned with the State Department’s operations budget than the foreign assistance budget

I think that lack of funds or uncertainty about funds was a major consideration in State’s decision not to provide more security to the consulate in Benghazi, resulting in the death of Ambassador Stevens.  The whole mess with the US budget and the “fiscal cliff” was a major factor leading to his death.  In all the investigations into his death and all the finger pointing, some of those fingers should point at Congress

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Cheers for Angela Merkel

While the US is deciding whether Obama or Romney would be the best American leader for the next four years, I'd like to give a shout-out to someone who has served their country well for years -- Angela Merkel of Germany.  Today Germany is the strongman of Europe.  Merkel is taking a lot of criticism for how she is handling the Euro crisis, including today as she visits Greece, according to the NYT.  On the other hand, she gets criticized at home for being too lenient in handing out German cash to the poor countries of Europe.  She has become one of the most important politicians on the world stage, eclipsing to some extent Obama, Cameron, Hollande, even Putin and the Chinese.  She has helped make Germany prosperous at home in difficult circumstances.  Germany probably been the most exemplary country showing that it is possible to have good wages and full employment in a globally competitive world.  Good for her. 

Obama and the Bubble

Many of the commentators have been saying that the reason Obama did so poorly in the debate with Romney was that he has spent four years in the White House bubble, where everyone is a yes-man afraid to confront him.  This overlooks the fact that Obama meets with foreign leaders who are not afraid to talk back to him, to demand things from him, to say that he is wrong.  However, it was not a good sign when Obama refused to meet with any foreign leaders during the UN general assembly.  Did he know that he was not up to it? 

We usually don't see what actually happens when Obama meets with foreign leaders.  There are usually only a few high level aides present.  We got a glimpse when Obama and Netanyahu sparred during a photo session at the While House about a year ago.  The consensus seemed to be the Netanyahu took Obama to the woodshed.  That may be one reason Obama did not want to meet with Netanyahu again just before the debate. 

We don't know how Obama does in bilateral meetings with foreign leaders, but we know that the has them.  He may let Hillary Clinton take the lead.  But in any case he does not live inside the "no-drama" Obama bubble all the time. 

MTCR Terms Changed for South Korea

The reports that South Korea has been granted special permission to build missiles that exceed the guidelines of the Missile Technology Control Regime are confusing.  Reports in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal said that South Korea and the US had agreed to extend the range of missiles that South Korea would build.  However, the MTCR is not an arms control treaty that limits the range of South Korean missiles; it is a suppliers agreement that limits the US and other members, who agree not to supply Korea with missiles or technology or parts for missiles beyond the agreed range.  Thus, it appears that the violator of the MTCR is the United States, not Korea. 

I assume that the US has gotten the agreement of the other 33 supplier-country members of the MTCR to this extension of range and payload.  It should not be a bilateral decision when the US is a member of a suppliers' group. 

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Indian Nuclear Progam Was Bad Precedent for Iran

During the Bush administration, the US agreed to look the other way at India's development of nuclear weapons, despite the significant risk of a war between India and a nuclear-armed Pakistan.  India developed nuclear weapons years ago to defend itself against China, which already had them.  Then Pakistan developed nuclear weapons to defend itself against India.  While all that may make sense from a strategic perspective, it was terrible from a nonproliferation perspective.  We have basically said it is okay for India and Pakistan to have nuclear weapons to defend themselves against their enemies, or to have "mutual assured destruction," but we say that it is not okay for Iran to develop those same weapons to defend itself against its sworn enemy Israel, which already possesses nuclear weapons. 

In its original form, the Non-Proliferation Treaty granted special status to countries that possessed nuclear weapons when the treaty was negotiated, but many of the non-nuclear states objected to this dual status.  The NPT obligated the nuclear powers to disarm, but that has been a slow, almost non-existent process.  I recent years there has been a wider acceptance of the NPT by some countries, Brazil and Argentina for example, but not by others, Israel and Iran in particular.  Israel is in the position of forcing Iran to follow the NPT, which it adheres to, while Israel refuses to join it or follow it.  Israel insists that Iran obey an international treaty that Israel refuses to obey. 

Israel and India stand in somewhat similar positions, neither adhering to the NPT..  However, thanks to the US under Bush, India has been given a somewhat official pass, while everyone just agrees to look the other way regarding Israel's nuclear weapons.  The bottom line is that the NPT, which was under attack from its very inception for having a double standard, now has a variety of standards. 

As a result, although the NPT's verification mechanism, the International Atomic Energy Agency, monitors Iran's nuclear activities to some extent, since Iran is an NPT member, the IAEA is barred from Israel.  Because of the breakdown of the NPT's mechanism, Israel and the US cannot rely on it.  Thus, Iran's nuclear activities are removed the the UN's oversight and become the subject of bilateral threats to invade from Israel and the US.  The UN continues to try to work with Iran, but thanks to all the loosening of the NPT regime, the UN has little legal or moral authority.  By its past refusal to strictly enforce the NPT, the US has lost significant moral authority to restrict Iran's nuclear program.  Having lost its moral authority, it must fall back on its threats of military force.