Category Archives: Politics

09May/16
Iran Saudi Arabia

Power Consolidation in Saudi Arabia Leads to the Ouster of Oil Minister

As tensions continue to run high between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the Saudi’s are busy making strategic moves to consolidate power with its government. Should things between the Saudis and Tehran escalate into some type of a violent confrontation, the Saudis want to be sure they have adequate control over the oil industry and OPEC.

Based on his end goals, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of the Royal family has announced by decree that Ali Al-Naimi is being replaced as the country’s oil minister by Khalid Al-Falih, the chairman of state-owned oil company Aramco. The move was necessitated by the perception that al-Naimi had lost much of his power-base in OPEC. This became apparent when he was unable to secure enough votes to support Saudi Arabia’s desire to freeze oil prices at current levels.

This announcement is important on two levels. First, Prince Salman is making it clear that the Saudis need to remain as the de-facto leader of OPEC in order to control oil prices and avert aggression from Iran. Secondly, it offers further evidence that the Prince is in fact taking over as the country’s leader in many of the most important domestic areas. The hiring of Al-Falih will give him more control over what happens to oil prices than he was likely to have with Al-Naimi still sitting as his oil minister.

Having control over OPEC has become increasingly more important for the Saudis as the Iranians have begun pushing hard to increase oil production levels. After years of living under restrictive economic sanctions set forth by the US, Iran is desperately trying to find ways to increase production and bring in much needed revenues. The assumption is those revenue would be used to support the country’ nuclear weapons program and beef up its military in anticipation of confrontation from unfriendly nations.

25Apr/16
Nuclear tests North Korea

President Obama Brushes Off North Korea’s Promise to Halt Nuclear Tests

After North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong issued a statement that his country was ready to agree to end its nuclear tests in exchange for a promise from the US to cease joint military exercises with South Korea, US President Barack Obama made it clear he has no intention of trusting North Korea’s empty gesture. This is far from the first time such a gesture has been made.

President Obama’s response to Yong’s statement came during a joint press conference being held with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany while the two world leaders were reviewing international issues with the press. According to Obama, “We don’t take seriously a promise to halt.”

President Obama went on to say the US is prepared to sit down and have a serious conversation with North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-Un about the relationship between the two countries as soon as Kim is prepared to give a clear indication he is willing to cease the development of nuclear weaponry.

Yong’s announcement comes on the heels of several missile tests that have occurred over the past few weeks.

According to the President, “What is clear is that North Korea continues to engage in continuous provocative behavior, that they have been actively pursuing a nuclear program, an ability to launch nuclear weapons, and although more often than not they fail in many of these tests, they gain knowledge each time they engage in these tests.”

It’s curious North Korea’s overture comes just days before Kim announced North Korea would hold its first ruling party congress in over 35 years. It is widely believed this event is being held to further promote Kim as the country’s supreme leader while also showing his fellow countrymen how far the nuclear program has progressed. The event is scheduled to begin on May 6.

18Apr/16
tdy_alexander_gop_160425.nbcnews-ux-1080-600

Senator Cruz and Governor Kasich Join Forces to Battle Trump

As the GOP primaries make its way through the Midwest and parts of the Northeast, the party is beginning to look like a pared down version of the WWE. On the schedule over the next couple of weeks will be the tag team of Senator Ted Cruz (TX) and Governor John Kasich (OH) versus GOP delegates’ leader Donald Trump.

In what has to be considered an unprecedented move, Presidential candidates Cruz and Kasich have decided to orchestrate efforts in order to try to deny Trump enough delegates to walk away with the GOP nomination. Their desire is to force the nomination proceedings into an open convention, hoping that the delegates will turn their votes over to an establishment Republican.

As both candidates explained the agreement when they made simultaneous announcements, Cruz intends to stand down during the primaries in Oregon and New Mexico while Kasich intends to return the favor by standing down in Indiana. Currently, Trump has secured 845 of the 1,237 delegates he needs to secure the nomination, assuming other interested parties don’t have other plans to somehow try to circumvent the nomination process.

According to Jeff Roe, Cruz’s campaign manager, “Having Donald Trump at the top of the ticket in November would be a sure disaster for Republicans.”

Kasich’s strategist John Weaver told reporters, “Our goal is to have an open convention in Cleveland, where we are confident a candidate capable of uniting the party and winning in November will emerge as the nominee.”

The real danger of this kind of strategy is alienating voters across the country who have already made it clear who they want representing the Republicans in the general election. As it stands, some GOP insiders have suggested establishment Republicans are fine with the idea of letting the party implode if it means keeping Trump out of the White House.

11Apr/16
Hilary Clinton Static noise

Did Hilary Clinton Bar Reporters From Hearing Fundraising Speech With a Noise Machine?

With the nomination process intensifying in the US between the Democrat candidates Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, accusations about the strangest things have become common fare. This past week, an accusation for the ages came to the forefront.

First a little background, during the 2012 Presidential election lead-up, both President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney were confronted by the press for barring reporters from private fund-raising events. The press felt it was an issue of transparency and they wanted access to both candidates at a crucial time.

Fast forward to this past week. Mrs. Clinton was attending a fundraiser on her behalf at the private residence of Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. Since the event was being held in outdoor accommodations on the Governor’s lawn, local residents as well as the press thought they would at least be able to hear what was taking place as part of the event.

According to Stan Bush, a reporter with the local CBS affiliate, the Clinton people had a way to thwart any attempt by outsides to partake in the festivities. Bush tweeted that members of the Clinton campaign used static noisemakers pointed at the crowd outside during Mrs. Clinton’s speech to her campaign contributors.

While proof of this accusation may be difficult to come by, Bush did have a clear audio recording of the going ons in the area prior to Clinton’s speech, and then an audio recording with jumbled sounds coming from a large speaker during her speech.

Of course, Sanders wasted no time pointing out that while he too had held fundraisers at private residences, the press was invited to participate in all three cases. It should be noted that if the Clinton people did in fact use static noisemakers, they broke no rules. However, this is politics and sensibility seems to get tossed out the door.

04Apr/16
South china sea

Are Asian Countries Tiring of China’s South China Sea Escapades?

With each month, tensions in the South China Sea continue to grow as more Asian countries are starting to fight back against Chinese aggression in the area. Just this past week, there were three incidences that worked to cast a light on the region’s growing impatience over China’s claim to the entire South China Sea waterway.

The week’s tensions started when an Indonesian Naval vessel captured a Chinese Fishing boat that was operating illegally near the Natuna Islands, which falls within Indonesia’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea. As the vessel was being towed to port, a Chinese Coast Guard vessel showed up and started ramming the fishing boat until it was freed from capture. The Indonesian government was upset because the aggression happened in waters that are clearly under the country’s control.

Just days later, the Japanese Navy was given permission to dock two destroyers and a submarine in the Subic Bay region of the Philippines. This happened one-day prior to United States and Philippines military personnel joining in schedule war games designed to show unity between strong allies. The Filipino government, which has been central to bringing formal complaints against China’s territory grabs in the region, is working to get support from both the US and Japan.

In more recent days, Vietnam had its Coast Guard seize a Chinese vessel near Bach Long Vi Island in the Gulf of Tonkin. The vessel looked like a standard fishing boat, but was actually carrying diesel fuel that the vessel’s captain claimed was intended for Chinese fishing boasts in the area.

This is a noticeable change in attitude as the Vietnamese Coast Guard routinely chases Chinese boats out of the country’s areas of control, but seldom goes so far as to seize them. There is little doubt these actions are a by-product of what is happening in the South China Sea.

With a formal international hearing related to the South China Sea scheduled for later this year, there could be a growing number of disputes in these waters as each country tries to reclaim that which they feel is legally theirs.

21Mar/16
Barack Obama trip to Cuba

US President Barack Obama Begins Historic Trip to Cuba

For the first time in 88 years, a sitting United States President has set foot on Cuban soil. As promised months earlier, President Barack Obama and his entourage, including First Lady Michelle and his daughters, touched down on Sunday, March 20 in Havana on Air Force One.

It’s been more than 50 years since relations between the US and Cuba were put on hold as a result of the “Bay of Pigs” invasion of 1961. Since then, the US government has been routinely accused of trying to lead operations to oust former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

President Obama’s visit is scheduled to last a little less than 48 hours in duration. While he meets with President Raúl Castro and other Cuban officials, his wife and daughters are expected to get a whirlwind tour of Havana’s best restaurants, shopping malls and cultural points of interest.

During his scheduled meeting with President Castro at the Palacio de la Revolución, President Obama intends to unveil his agenda. That agenda includes finding ways to open doors and improve relations between the two countries, while also laying the groundwork for trying to get the Cuban government to do a better job addressing human rights issues within their country.

Ultimately, the administration would like to see more trade and tourism between the two countries and a loosening of traveling restrictions for US citizens who want to visit family members on the island of Cuba.

Back in December of last year, Obama said in an interview with Yahoo news regarding his objectives with Cuba, “Our central premise is that if they are suddenly exposed to the world, opened to America and our information and our culture and our visitors and our businesses, invariably they’re going to change.”

As should be expected, President Obama will be honored at a state dinner and afforded the opportunity to deliver a speech of hope for the future to the Cuban people. Earlier in the day, the President plans to take in some baseball action as the Tampa Bay Rays play against Cuba’s national team in Havana.

18Mar/16
Donald Trump

The Wild Wild Week of Donald Trump

With GOP front-runner Donald Trump enjoying a comfortable lead, one would expect everything in his world is under control. As it turns out, things are effectively out of control with tensions running high and outside influences starting to rock the boat.

In recent weeks, protesters have been infiltrating Trump rallies in an attempt to shut down the events. Beyond a little pushing and shoving, a protester was punched in the face and a reporter was arrested for what amounted to be nothing more than being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

If that wasn’t disconcerting enough, the real fireworks started on March 11 in Chicago when protesters and Trump supporters clashed after the proceedings at a rally were abruptly shut down as tension started mounting. Five people were arrested and two police officers injured. The events of the day led Trump organizers to cancel a rally scheduled for the following day at the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion due in large part to what they perceived to be a hostile environment.

During the weekend, Trump, who had moved on to campaign in Ohio, was giving a speech in stage in Fairborn. In the middle of speech, a man from the audience broke through a barrier and rushed the stage. There was a lot of resulting commotion, forcing several Secret Service members and Trump security staff to rush the stage and stop the man.

Thomas DiMassimo, a 22 Wright State University senior, was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and inducing panic. When asked why he charged the stage, DiMassimo told a CNN interviewer “I was thinking that Donald Trump is a bully, and he is nothing more than that. He is somebody who is just saying a lot of bold things; he’s making bold claims. But I can see right through that and I can see that he’s truly just a coward. And he’s opportunistic and he’s willing to destroy this country for power for himself.”

While members from both sides of the isle are calling for civility, it’s clear the country’s unrest is being reflected in political venues. Unfortunately, it looks like this could be status-quo over the coming weeks as candidates continue sorting themselves out.

 

07Mar/16
South china sea

The Escalating Problems in the South China Sea

Over the past 10-20 years, the Chinese government has been using intimidation to control waters in the South China Sea. This has taken place while the rest of the world has been focused on issues related to ISIS, Russia and the rest of the Middle East.

In recent statements coming out of Beijing, the Chinese are laying claim to all waters in the South China Sea because the sea bears the country’s name. For counties like Vietnam, Japan and the Philippines, that kind of ridiculous explanation just isn’t going to get it done.

The South China Sea is listed as international waters for the purpose of fishing and navigation. In recent times, the Chinese have used naval operations to deter international fishing boats from strategic parts of the South China Sea while Chinese engineers have been turning reefs into man-made islands. Claims have been made by Japan and the Philippines that these man-made islands have been designed with landing strips large enough to initiate military operations.

In 2015, the Philippines filed a complaint with the Hague Arbitral Court regarding legal access to certain parts of the South China Sea as well as ownership of strategic islands. While a formal international hearing on the matter is scheduled for later this year, Beijing has stated they will refuse to participate or abide by any legal rulings handed down. The Court was created as part of a treaty signed by the Chinese.

In the meantime, menacing tactics are still being used as recent as this past month. In an area known as the Jackson Atoll, Filipino fishing vessels were forced to leave the area by the Chinese Coast Guard. In response, the US has increased its naval patrols in the area as a show of force against Chinese aggression in the area.

Regardless of what other countries are saying and/or doing, it is clear there’s major problem brewing in the South China Sea. Should the Hague issue a ruling in favor of the Philippines and other Asian nations, there will come a time when the international community is going to have to confront the Chinese about its illegal expansionism.