The Venezuelan Implosion

In case you missed it in the uproar over the Covington Kids (God bless them) over the last few days the situation in Venezuela has come to a head.

A few days ago there was what looked like an attempted military coup which was put down. Only two days later the President of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Juan Guaido, has declared Maduro’s presidency as constitutionally illegitimate. He has been recognized as the legitimate head of the government by the United States, Canada, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and others. Mexico and Bolivia have not. Maduro has severed diplomatic relations with the US and given US diplomats 72 hours to leave. The State Department has replied that Maduro is no longer head of Venezuela’s government and we are not leaving, quite brave on Pompeo’s part, or foolhardy, depending on how things turn out.

And so that is the situation now in the country with the largest oil reserves in the world, and with a government that Bernie Sanders would be proud of, as people fight over rats to eat and haven’t seen toilet paper in years.

Now what?

The big powers in the western hemisphere are the US, Brazil, and Colombia. Brazil has a pretty new, right-wing populist government under Jair Bolsonaro, and yes, there are many parallels and comparisons to Trump. There were also reports that the refugees from Venezuela played a part in his election, after years of a left-wing rule of their own.

So Brazil is somewhat weaker than it has been but it is still the neighborhood leader and an ally of the US. Colombia tends to follow Brazil.

Maduro is backed by Cuba, Iran, and Russia. In other words, the usual suspects. Solve this correctly, and we not only save many, many Venezuelan lives but we also damage terrorism in the western hemisphere quite a lot. Both matter.

It’s probably (according to most analysts) a bad idea for the US to get directly involved militarily, but it would also be very unwise to sit by idly.

I think Brandon J. Weichert has it reasonably close to right in The Spectator when he says this.

From its perch in North America, the United States can do much to support a humanitarian aid mission into Venezuela (air dropping supplies, for instance) while lending covert assistance to Colombia, Brazil, and Venezuelan dissidents. Yet, the most powerful punch that the United States could pack would not be through overt military force, but rather through covert action and diplomacy.

For instance, Cuba is key regional problem in this scenario. Cuba has been the conduit through which Iranian, Russian, and Chinese support for the Maduro regime has flowed. America must impose harsh sanctions against Havana until it ceases its illicit involvement with Maduro. I never understood why the Obama Administration attempted to normalize relations with Cuba. It only empowered Havana to misbehave more in Latin America.

Also, the United States Southern Command must be given greater resources. At present, USSOUTHCOM is woefully underfunded and has few military assets that it could deploy to help buttress American allies in the region. Some U.S. Navy warships should be diverted from other theaters and sent to operate under the command of USSOUTHCOM.

The essential element in this scenario would be American leadership as opposed to direct American military intervention. While this method may take longer and, therefore, prolong human suffering in Venezuela, this is the only viable option. After all, freedom isn’t free, and the United States has had ample evidence over the last several decades that it cannot fight for other peoples’ independence.

The locals must do the heavy-lifting here and the United States being a global power must put pressure on the outside forces (namely Cuba) that are empowering the Maduro regime’s disgusting reign.

That sounds pretty sensible to me. There’s always resentment when US troops are involved, but something needs to be done, and Brazil (and perhaps Colombia) is likely the best one to do it, with US backing and support. Both have borders with Venezuela. Nor would it hurt to have a USN presence to hold the ring.

And as the local superpower, and acting in accordance with long tradition, going back to President Monroe, it is the American role to let our South American neighbors figure out their own problems, without other powers sticking their noses in.

I also note that the hospital ship USNS Comfort is close to wrapping up a mission to various South American countries. It probably should be extended if necessary in the area.

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The Peace Prize

The Norwegians finally got it right. So often, their picks for the Peace Prize have been head-scratchingly obtuse, perhaps unless one was a European Progressive. But this time, they have picked an actual hero. From FrontPage Magazine.

This year the Norwegians have finally done themselves proud. One of the two Nobel Peace Prize winners is Nadia Murad, a Yazidi girl who was captured by fanatical Muslims belonging to the Islamic State in northern Iraq. These Muslims in ISIS have killed thousands of defenseless Yazidis, whose only crime was that they were not Muslims. Murad was beaten and repeatedly raped. Six of her nine brothers were killed. Yet she escaped, and now perseveres, having been named by the United Nations as a “Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking of the United Nations,” in spreading her own tale and that of her people, a task which takes her around the world, telling the Yazidi story and listening to others tell of similar atrocities, about the trafficking of women prisoners who are war booty for the jihadis.

Listening to the radio, I heard with alarm several people on a talk show describe Nadia Murad as a “Yazidi Muslim.” She is not a Muslim. She must never be thought of as a Muslim. She is a Yazidi, a small religious sect with roots in Kurdistan and Armenia, that has always been the object of Muslim hatred. The killings of Yazidis by the Muslims, Arab and non-Arab, of the Islamic State have, during the last few years, been conducted “on an industrial scale,” as Amal Clooney, Murad’s lawyer, told the U.N.

Nadia Murad stands up not just for the Yazidis, but for all the other non-Muslim or non-Arab minorities who have been oppressed — harassed, persecuted, and often murdered — by their Muslim captors, and not just in Iraq. Over the centuries the Armenians, Maronites, Greek Orthodox, Jews, Samaritans, Zoroastrians, Alawites, and orthodox Shia, have all suffered from Sunni Muslims. Nadia Murad now has her bully pulpit, for her own mistreated people, and she obviously intends to use it.

This is first time that a victim of Jihad and Islamic terrorism has been recognized with a Nobel Peace Prize. If it leads to greater attention to what has happened to the Yazidis, and to other groups of non-Muslims similarly situated, and to a greater focus on the Muslims who are responsible for the attempted genocide of the Yazidis, that would be a salutary development. Meanwhile, be on the alert when the subject of Nadia Murad comes up on any show to which listeners can call in. Make sure that she is properly identified as a Yazidi, a non-Muslim victim of Muslim mass rapes, just as her six dead brothers were victims of Muslim mass murder. Call in, especially, to correct anyone identifying her as belonging, as I have heard someone say, to “a small Muslim sect.” You could, while correcting that error, also add that Yazidis in Iraq have made contact with Israelis, and Nadia Murad herself has visited Israel, and expressed great admiration and sympathy for the country and its people, seeing an obvious parallel: […]

If Nadia Murad keeps telling her own tale, what she endured in all its ghastliness, and does not leave anything out, if she describes how the members of the Islamic State would recite verses from the Qur’an both before and after raping Yazidi girls, if she goes still further and dares to discuss the Qur’anic passages and hadith stories on which the Islamic State bases its behavior, she will have performed a great service, as the first Nobel Peace Prize winner to tell unpleasant truths about Islam. Think of her Prize as a way of cancelling the embarrassment of Arafat’s award. And Muslim states would have a hard time explaining any attempts to criticize or silence such a formidable person. […]

Nadia Murad has so far in her travels addressed audiences in Ireland, in France, in the U.K., in Canada, in Germany, and in the United States, telling her tale, and the tale of her people:

Four years ago I was one of thousands of Yazidi women kidnapped by Islamic State and sold into slavery. I endured rape, torture and humiliation at the hands of these militants before I escaped.

I was relatively lucky. Many Yazidi girls and women went through worse and for much longer.

Over 2,000 are still missing. Many have been killed.

In early August 2014 Islamic State invaded the Sinjar region in northern Iraq with the mission of exterminating the Yazidis. They called us a ‘pagan minority’, and because we don’t have a holy book we have been described as ‘devil worshippers.’”

In Kocho, my village of 1,800 people, over 300 men were shot and their bodies buried in irrigation ditches. Six of them were my own brothers.

Since then the Yazidis have received sympathy and solidarity all over the world. Rightly, many countries and the United Nations have recognised the genocide committed against us by Islamic State. But we now need concrete action to get justice and allow us to rebuild our community and homes. We have been displaced and dispersed around the world. Many countries, including Germany, Canada, and the United States have given us refuge.

There’s little for me to add to such a story, except for my pleasure that one, Nadia Murad survived her ordeal, and two, that the Norwegian Parliament has made such a perspicacious pick after all the insipid (and worse) ones they have made over the years.

May she continue to tell her story, and may it serve her people well.

 

Anniversaries

Seventeen years ago today the World Trade Center was hit. It was a disaster visited on us on the scale of Pearl Harbor, made worse because its victims were civilians. It was also an intelligence failure, the perpetrators should have been easy to catch, all were what we now call ‘known wolves’. Our government ignored the warnings.

And so began the so-called Global War on Terror.

Other than the Kabuki theater of airport security, and the invasion of American’s rights by our government, there have been two campaigns. One in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. Neither has been successful, although Iraq came close before Obama ordered the big bug out.

But it has kept a lot of money flowing from the government to a lot of special interests. Seventeen years is a long time – if we can’t win a war against some 7th-century tribesman (and there are legitimate reasons why that is harder than a modern society) in that time, well, maybe we should just call it a day. We can always blow it up again when they get out of line.

No real shame in that. Alexander the Great couldn’t get it done, neither could the British Empire at its height, or the Soviet Union. It’s a quagmire and a money pit.

But six years ago, we saw the results of feckless leadership, we saw it in Benghazi.  Daniel John Sobieski wrote about it for American Thinker.

The arrogance of the man who lied to the parents of the Benghazi dead in front of their sons’ caskets as they were returned to the country they fought for is mind-boggling.  As he attempted to rewrite many chapters of his failed presidency in a speech at the University of Illinois, he called the accurate and documented reports of the criminal negligence of secretary of state Hillary Clinton and himself during the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack on our Benghazi compound a mere “conspiracy theory.”

Conspiracy theories don’t produce body bags, sir, but perhaps you don’t remember that night all too well because you spent the time four brave Americans were being killed under your command in Libya readying up for a Las Vegas fundraiser.

Kris Paronto, former Army Ranger and CIA contractor who fought with his colleagues on the roof of the CIA annex in Benghazi, remembers that night and tweeted his response to the then-president’s arrogant and dismissive ridicule of their sacrifice and your incompetence:

Benghazi is a conspiracy @BarackObama ?! How bout we do this,let’s put your cowardly ass on the top of a roof with 6 of your buddies & shoot rpg’s & Ak47’s at you while terrorists lob 81mm mortars killing 2 of your buddies all while waiting for US support that you never sent

Obama and Hillary had plenty of warnings that the security at Benghazi was woefully inadequate, that the compound was swimming in an ocean of terrorist training camps.  They ignored these warnings, and when the attack happened, they did nothing when a rescue mission could have been mounted.  Instead, stand-down orders were given to would-be rescuers, and following the attack, the infamous video lie was concocted and spread over the airwaves, with President Obama repeating it no fewer than six times in a speech before the United Nations.

Hicks, the last man to speak to Ambassador Chris Stevens, has exposed the video lie, documenting how he told Hillary’s State Department what was happening in real time that fateful night and how her State Department ignored warnings from Chris Stevens and others about the gathering terrorist storm and the woeful  lack of security.

Now retired, private citizen Hicks goes farther, telling Fox News Hillary Clinton broke laws while condemning four Americans to death at the hands of terrorists:

Just as the Constitution makes national security the President’s highest priority, U.S. law mandates the secretary of state to develop and implement policies and programs “to provide for the security … of all United States personnel on official duty abroad.”

This includes not only the State Department employees, but also the CIA officers in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012.  And the Benghazi record is clear: Secretary Clinton failed to provide adequate security for U.S. government personnel assigned to Benghazi and Tripoli.

The Benghazi Committee’s report graphically illustrates the magnitude of her failure.  It states that during August 2012, the State Department reduced the number of U.S. security personnel assigned to the Embassy in Tripoli from 34 (1.5 security officers per diplomat) to 6 (1 security officer per 4.5 diplomats), despite a rapidly deteriorating security situation in both Tripoli and Benghazi.  Thus, according to the Report, “there were no surplus security agents” to travel to Benghazi with Amb. Stevens “without leaving the Embassy in Tripoli at severe risk.”

Keep reading, there’s more at the link.

This is the action of at best, a feckless, but more likely seditious, if not actually treasonous government. This is the history of the so-called deep state, and why it must be rooted out. It is not American government as we have known it. I’m not sure what label to apply to it, but I want nothing like it in America.

It is the major threat to the liberty of America, and Americans.

Turkey Talk

A couple points about Turkey, first from  Monty L. Donohew at American Thinker.

When there is war, conflict, or instability, vulnerable human beings flee, seeking refuge in safer countries. […]

When there is war, conflict, or instability, vulnerable capital and wealth also flee. The “problem” of fleeing capital is different, however. Because capital and wealth are not as encumbered and physically restricted as are human beings, especially in the modern electronic age, capital moves far from the source of instability. Capital flight makes support of human refugees even more difficult, as capital often flees nations burdened with the obligation of support, nations in close proximity to the underlying cause of flight.

Unlike human refugees, who consume resources and capital, fleeing capital is welcome with inviting arms by safe havens. Capital and wealth must “go somewhere,” and if they land in the banks and markets of a particular nation, that nation reaps the reward of that investment.

Pretty much common sense to my mind, although it is anything but common these days.

And who is the strongest of all these days? I’d be inclined to say the United States, and it has the other advantages of being a known safe haven for money and people, with perhaps the strongest rule of law tradition in the world, the largest and most active markets, and by far, the strongest military (which it is strengthening) to back it all up.

Think some Turks (and Iranians, for that matter) are looking to get themselves and their money into America. Yep. Me too. And that also strengthens America, and against all comers.

Consider the many causes of the flight of capital in recent years. Are competing markets as strong and stable as they were seven years ago, and more importantly, are they as strong and stable as is the U.S. market? Capital is fleeing Canada. Capital is fleeing China (strange — people who command wealth get a bit skittish when several hundreds of their kind simply disappear). EU instability has caused capital to flee Europe (link behind subscription wall). Capital has flown from India. Capital has flown from Russia, although early indications are that new Trump sanctions may not encourage additional capital flight. Capital is fleeing Latin America. There are a multitude of examples, but the point is, too, that capital is not fleeing the U.S.

Not all capital flight winds up in the U.S., of course, but it’s safe to say that a good percentage is winding up here. Simple economics: more money chasing the same goods or investment opportunities causes prices to increase. With share prices high, companies can grow, expand, modernize, and invest. The investment increases the value of companies, generates returns for investors, and generates revenues for the U.S. government.

And this may well be where the conventional wisdom on tariffs and economics falls down, not my field, but it sounds rational, and people with money are usually somewhat rational.

Jed Babbin writing in The American Spectator also had a few things to say about the Sick Thug of Europe.

It [The Wall Street Journal] wonders why the United States, which usually intervenes to calm global markets, isn’t doing so to save Turkey from itself.

The answer is so simple that even the media ought to understand. Turkey, a NATO ally, has for over a decade treated us as an enemy instead of a friend. President Trump is beginning to return the favor. What Turkey has done, and Mr. Trump is starting to do, is all the result of the actions of Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan who has created an Islamic quasi-dictatorship where a secular democracy once stood. […]

Erdogan’s New York Times article concludes that, “Before it is too late, Washington must give up the misguided notion that our relationship can be asymmetrical and come to terms with the fact that Turkey has alternatives. Failure to reverse this trend of unilateralism and disrespect will require us to start looking for new friends and allies.”

Erdogan has already done so. His alliance with Russia and Iran to save Assad demonstrated conclusively that he is no longer America’s ally. It is entirely inconsistent with Turkey’s obligations as a NATO member.

President Trump has, so far, neither knuckled under to Erdogan’s demands nor taken all of the actions that he could to force Erdogan to stop acting as our enemy. That may be changing.

The Turkish economy is in shambles, almost in as bad a situation as Iran’s and Venezuela’s. The Turkish lira fell in its value against the dollar by about forty percent earlier this year. Last week, Trump announced that he was doubling the tariffs on steel (to 50%) and aluminum (to 20%) imported from Turkey, which caused the lira to sink by another twenty percent and made international banks that hold Turkish debt very nervous.

I don’t need to add too much to that although you should read all of both articles, they are excellent. But Erdogan would be well advised that one of the quickest ways to ruin a nation is to attempt to tell the United States what to do. Even King George, a quarter millennium ago, found that to be a bit more than the British Empire could accomplish. That’s a history lesson Erdogan could contemplate to the benefit of his citizens.

“Well Roared, Paper Tiger “

And so the EU has passed a law prohibiting European companies from following the US sanctions on Iran. They’re so cute sometimes.

The sanctions target the use of US dollars in any transactions, as well as autos, civil aviation, coal, industrial software, and metals. The ones scheduled for November are more far-reaching.

According to Soeren Kern

In a joint statement, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the foreign ministers of France, Germany and the UK openly admitted that for the EU the Iran deal is all about money and vowed to protect European companies from US penalties:

“We are determined to protect European economic operators engaged in legitimate business with Iran, in accordance with EU law and with UN Security Council resolution 2231. This is why the European Union’s updated Blocking Statute enters into force on 7 August to protect EU companies doing legitimate business with Iran from the impact of US extra-territorial sanctions.

“The remaining parties to the JCPOA have committed to work on, inter alia, the preservation and maintenance of effective financial channels with Iran, and the continuation of Iran’s export of oil and gas. On these, as on other topics, our work continues, including with third countries [China and Russia] interested in supporting the JCPOA and maintaining economic relations with Iran.”

Well, as an aside, that’s a goodly share of the problem with the EU generally, it’s all about money, just listen to project fear in the UK compared to the love of Britain coming from leave. Greed is not the most important thing in the world. In any case, Most European businesses aren’t buying this horse dung.

The document, riddled with EU jargon, states:

“The Blocking Statute allows EU [economic] operators to recover damages arising from the extra-territorial sanctions within its scope from the persons causing them and nullifies the effect in the EU of any foreign court rulings based on them. It also forbids EU persons from complying with those sanctions, unless exceptionally authorized to do so by the [European] Commission in case non-compliance seriously damages their interests or the interests of the Union.”

In other words, the EU is prohibiting EU citizens and companies from complying with US sanctions and is authorizing EU companies hit by US sanctions to sue the US government for compensation in European courts.

In addition, European companies that do pull out of Iran without approval from the European Commission face the threat of being sued by EU member states.

Even the European press isn’t buying this nonsense. It’s a vanity project to show themselves they aren’t dependant on the US and guarantee their legacy. Well, Obama tried that, how did it work out?

Radio France Internationale (RFI), a French public radio service, said that the effects of the Blocking Statute would be “more symbolic than economic.” It added:

“The law would be more effective for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) doing business in Iran. For large corporations, the solution lies in negotiating waivers or exemptions with the United States. But such requests from France, Germany and the United Kingdom have already been rejected by Washington.”

La Croix wrote:

“Suffice to say that the implementation of this blocking law remains very hypothetical, as it goes into uncertain legal territories.

“Total, Maersk and Peugeot have already decided to leave Iran. Moreover, companies investing in Iran do not seem to believe much in the effectiveness of the regulation. The oil group Total, the ship-owner Maersk or the automaker Peugeot have already decided to leave. German group Daimler announced its withdrawal from Iran yesterday. These groups are more afraid of the US’s ability to implement sanctions than the EU’s wrath.”

In Germany, the public broadcaster ARD published an opinion article by Brussels correspondent Samuel Jackisch titled, “Well Roared, Paper Tiger — EU Defenseless against US Sanctions.” He said that the EU’s new policy was “logical, but largely meaningless,” and an attempt by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to “defend her political legacy.” He added:

“The EU can try to turn the tables on transatlantic relations, but in the end the US still comes out on top.

“The German export industry’s business with Iran may not be small at around three billion euros. However, the bottom line is that the same companies export 35 times as much to the USA. The EU is demanding that its largest corporations risk the entire cake for a few more crumbs.”

German public broadcaster ZDF wrote:

“The peculiar construction of the EU Blocking Statute remains: Ordinarily, regulations and laws prohibit something. For example, an anti-dumping law prohibits companies from price dumping in order to force competitors out of the market. But the EU Blocking Statute is a call to action: Do trade with Iran and do not let threats from the US president dissuade you!

The newspaper Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung quoted the Chief Executive of the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DIHK), Martin von Wansleben, who described the EU’s measure as a “helpless political reaction.” He said that its purpose was to show that the EU does not bow to US sanctions. For individual companies, he said, the blocking regulation has “no relevance.”

In Austria, Der Standard wrote:

“The Blocking Regulation is not an effective antidote to US sanctions, as the historical example suggests…. Although Washington should refrain from extraterritorial sanctions, the US market is too important for corporations to expose themselves.”

In Italy, Südtirol News quoted stock market expert Robert Halver of Baader Bank:

“Due to the US sanctions against Iran, German industry will not touch Iran. If you realize that German industry is doing a hundredfold business in America, you will not do business with Iran, because then sanctions against German companies will exist. Therefore, Iran is certainly going to bleed very heavily at the moment.”

As John Bolton noted:

“Now there may be some small European companies that continue to do business, but they will be insignificant,” John Bolton said during an interview with FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo on Tuesday. “Russia and China may continue to do business, but I don’t think they’re enthusiastic about this. They’re not going to be stepping up their efforts.”

Who’s out? These folks, for a start. Some familiar names there.

Daimler follows similar decisions by: Adidas (Germany); Allianz (Germany); AP Moller-Maersk (Denmark); Ciech (Poland); Citroen (France); CMA CGM(France); DZ Bank (Germany); Engie (France); ENI (Italy); Lloyds (UK); Lukoil (Russia); Maersk Tankers (Denmark); Oberbank (Austria); Opel(Germany); Peugeot (France); PGNiG (Poland), Renault (France); Scania(Sweden); Siemens (Germany); Swiss Re (Switzerland); and Total (France).

In other words, as both Bolton and the President have noted, you can trade with the US or you can trade with Iran. You can no longer trade with both. Pick one.

In one corner is a failed state, the world’s largest promoter of terrorism, and a country that appears to be on the verge of a revolution.

In the other corner is the world’s largest economy backed by the world largest military, which has guaranteed your freedom and security for generations.

You choose. Choose wisely.

 

The Week; Some things Never Change

We live in a time of change, but the essentials don’t

I live about fifty miles from North Platte, and you know, many of those who contributed to the Canteen during World War Two were from the surrounding communities, although likely the majority were from the city. I can remember people who told of getting up at 3 am to catch the train to North Platte, with their homegrown food (thus not subject to rationing) put in a full day greeting the troops, and returned home around midnight. Every day, from Pearl Harbor until well after VJ Day, never missing a day. All of it, the time and the food, at no cost to the troops or the government.

Returning to our regular programming…

International News

The financial section

No such thing as too much Hayek!

Wow! Just Wow!

Keep it clean!

Mostly from PowerLine and Bookworm as usual. And a few from Ace’s.

Well, It seems I’m being called. See you later, maybe! 😀

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