Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bush and the Iranian Nuclear Program

An op-ed today in the NYT on Bush's failure to invade Iran, by Ari Shavit misses the point.  Shavit has gotten lots of praise for not hiding Israel's flaws in his recent book, My Promised Land.  However, his article just says that Bush should have attacked Iran rather than Iraq.  It's an example of Jewish hatred of Iran that I cited in my previous post, despite Shavit's reputation as an enlightened Israeli.

Where Bush erred regarding Iran's nuclear program was in India.  India has flouted the nuclear non-proliferation regime, mainly embodied in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, for decades.  It has had a clandestine nuclear weapons program ever since it started working on nuclear energy.  At the end of his administration, Bush basically said, "Never mind about the NPT, India can have its nuclear program, civilian and military."  He made India the example for other proliferating countries, like Iran.  He said you can break all the rules, and once you become a true nuclear weapons state like the US and Russia, you can keep your nuclear weapons.  This is clearly what Iran wants, if it develops nuclear weapons, and India shows that it is a possibility.

I am not convinced that Iran has made the decision to develop nuclear weapons, and there are many examples of countries that have decided not to.  Brazil was once in a position similar to Iran's, having a nuclear energy program that could facilitate the development of nuclear weapons, and Brazil abandoned it and joined the NPT.  That could still happen with Iran.  Of course, one difference is that Brazil's potential nuclear rival was Argentina.  Brazil and Argentina mutually agreed to give up their military programs.  Iran's rival is Israel, and maybe Saudi Arabia.  Israel is not likely to give up its nuclear weapons program.  Saudi Arabia does not have one, and this is not a serious rival, although it has the money to buy one.  By retaining its nuclear weapons program, Israel is probably the main factor encouraging Iran to pursue an Iranian bomb.

Another example of a nuclear rivalry is India and Pakistan.  India has gotten the US seal of approval on its program.  Pakistan has not, but it is so far along, that there is not much the US can do about it.  It is probably in America's interest to allow the more responsible Indians to vastly overpower the Pakistani nuclear arsenal as a way of decreasing the likelihood that the crazier Pakistanis might use theirs.  However, there should be a better way to accomplish the goal of lowering tensions on the subcontinent without undermining the non-proliferation regime for the whole world, including Iran.

Why Stay in Afghanistan?

I don't buy that we are planning to leave American troops in Afghanistan for ten more years because we are afraid of terrorist attacks originating there.  Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden set up operations there because it was a weak state out of the public spotlight.  Today there are many other countries in a similar situation -- Somalia, Mali, Libya, and others.  The Taliban pretty much hate Americans, but there are lots of others around the world who feel the same.

On the other hand, Afghanistan would be a useful base of operations for an invasion of Iran next door.  The decision to keep troops in Iran probably has more to do with American and Jewish hatred of Iran than it does with the security of Afghanistan.  It's not enough to appease Netanyahu for a US-Iranian nuclear agreement, but it's better than nothing.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

JP Morgan and Dimon Guilty

During the 2008 financial meltdown, JP Morgan was often portrayed as the best big bank and the one most willing to work with the government to relieve the crisis.  That is probably true, although Wells Fargo seems to have been relatively safe, too, if less interested in helping the government.

The recent settlement between JP Morgan and the government indicates that even the best bank was not very good.  It was up to its ears in bad transactions for its customers and investors.  It was creating the selling the junk that led to the financial crisis and that destroyed the savings of many home buyers.  Jamie Dimon, the best of the big bank CEOs, turns out to have been pretty dirty.  Something is rotten on Wall Street.  During the recent stock market run-up to Dow 16,000 banks have been among those leading the way up, despite the fact that they seem to be corrupt.  This and the recent insider trading convictions/settlements, like SAC's, indicate that most of all of Wall Street is dirty, and thus likes their fellow dirty institutions, like the big banks.

This is not unusual; it happens in all countries where greed gets out of control, but it's unfortunate that it is happening to the US now.  It's just another sign of decline.  In a better country, the government would have reacted and reined in the miscreants.  In this huge fraud, the profits from these illegal trades are so big that even a multi-billion dollar settlement is just a slap on the wrist.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Tom Friedman on Israel and the US

Tom Friedman's column in the November 13 NYT made many of the points that I worry about.  I worry that the US is inclined to worry more about Israel's security than America's security.  It's interesting that these points are made by someone who is Jewish -- certainly ethnically, maybe religiously, I don't know.  He says we (the United States) are not just lawyers hired to negotiate with Iran on behalf of Israel and the Sunni Arab states.  We have our own interests to protect.  It's ironic that he makes this point while many conservative, Republican politicians seem much more concerned about Israel than they do their own country. And these conservatives ignore the fact that the positions they represent are those of Arab countries that have been generous (unofficially) to terrorists and who are sponsoring some of the most objectionable factions in the Syria fighting.  It reminds me of the "Charlie Wilson's War" movie in which he says that he is kept in office in his quiet Texas Congressional district by Jewish money from New York.  All he has to do is support Israel and protect his constituents right to bear arms.  Otherwise, nobody cares how he votes.

I don't understand why many conservatives support Israeli interests over American interests.  It's like that book, What's the Matter with Kansas, looking at why Kansans typically vote against their own personal interests in favor to some political theory that generally works against them.  I am glad Friedman calls for Americans to look out for their own interests, but I'm not sure whether we will or not.

Meanwhile, Roger Cohen defends the French position at the Iran talks, in which they blocked an agreement to the delight of the Israelis and the Sunnis.  He argues that the French are pursuing a hard-line, aggressive foreign policy across the board, while the US in wimping out.  There may be some truth in this, but I am not convinced.  I still think that France was influenced by Jewish/Israeli pressure to block the agreement, like conservative, Republican, American legislators.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Insider Trading by SAC

The insider trading agreement with SAC (Steven A. Cohen's hedge fund) shows how common insider trading is on Wall Street.  These guys are not so smart; they are crooks.  The stock market is not a level playing field, and the SEC has fallen far behind in trying to make it level. To some extent the Republicans under Bush and Cheney tried to tie the SEC's hands, but the bankers and hedge fund managers have been successful in lobbying everybody, Republicans and Democrats, to let them run amok, except maybe Elizabeth Warren.  She is an honest woman who scares them to death.  

Of course that means it's hard for small investors to trade in this market, because the insiders can make it turn on a dime, leaving main street behind holding the bag.  The policemen are asleep.  There have been several successful insider trading prosecutions, but that only shows how widespread the problem is.  For every successful prosecution there are probably 10 or 100 traders who have not been caught.

Insider trading is only one aspect of the corruption on Wall Street.  The 2008 debacle caused by worthless securities based on morgages showed there is lots of dishonesty in the securities business.  Salesmen and traders for the biggest banks, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, etc. were dishonest about what they were selling.  In most cases they new they were selling junk, and they sold it anyway.  

60 Minutes Benghazi Retractions

60 Minutes' retraction of its Benghazi report shows what a mess Benghazi was.  This is months after the attack and CBS still got it wrong.  So, it's not surprising that Susan Rice might have gotten something wrong when she appeared on TV news shows just a day or so after the attack.    The Republicans no doubt blame the State Department for hiring low quality people to defend Benghazi, but I blame them for forcing the government to outsource almost everything, including security for embassies.  Of course, Benghazi was not an embassy; it was not even a consulate.  It was some kind of special purpose cover mission for some wild, crazy CIA activities in Libya, which were run not out of the mission building, but out of some safe house a few blocks from the embassy.  The CIA officers were clearly the Keystone Cops in this operation who let Ambassador Stevens die through cowardice or incompetence.  The CIA station chief in Libya should be censured and fired.  The head of Blue Mountain Security should be no longer be allowed to do business with the US government, since the lying security agent who spoke to 60 Minutes worked for Blue Mountain.  This is a scandal, but not for the State Department; it's a scandal for the CIA which failed to come the Ambassador's aid and for the Republicans who failed to fund adequate security for the Benghazi mission, forcing it to outsource its security to a bunch of unknown, worthless foreigners.  

Israelis at Iran Negotiations

I think it is likely that the French were acting on behalf of the Israelis when they blocked an agreement on Iran's nuclear program.  A newer NYT article puts some of the blame on the Iranians, which is no doubt partly true, but it is most likely that Jews -- French, American and Israeli -- threw a monkey wrench into the works.  Today's NYT article reports that US delegation head Wendy Sherman flew immediately to Israel to brief Israeli reporters, but refused to include US reporters stationed in Israel in her briefing.

I worry that the French delegation at the Geneva talks on Iran was representing the views of French Jews, who have a lot of political influence in France.  It indicates that in France, as in America, many Jews have divided allegiances between their home country and Israel.  Years ago, France was instrumental in helping Israel develop its atomic bomb program.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Education Failure

I'm disappointed that the education tax proposal, Amendment 66, did not pass yesterday.  It basically means that Colorado has thrown in the towel.  Coloradans have said that China won.  Our kids will work for your Chinese kids when they reach working age, because the Coloradans are so poorly prepared for life by their schools.  Today's adults will have a little more money in their pockets, while they borrow Chinese money and condemn their children to a life of poverty.  But it feels good now, especially if you smoke pot.  Colorado: home of stoners who hate school.