Archive for ‘Europe’

12/26/2016

WHAT WILL TRUMP DO ABROAD?

China: In 1971, after the UN voted to recognize the mainland People’s Republic of China in lieu of the Nationalist Chinese government on the island of Taiwan, Nixon visited Mao Tse Tung in 1972, and agreed to withdraw 8,000 U.S. troops from Taiwan. President Carter then recognized the People’s Republic as sole legitimate government in 1979, and the U.S. severed all official ties to Taiwan. The U.S. then started doing business in China under Reagan in 1980, and in 2001, George W. Bush helped them get into the tariff-free World Trade Organization. After the 2016 election, Trump didn’t realize that by communicating with the Taiwanese leader, he would be setting off a storm. Trump’s lack of knowledge of international law and history is a great concern.

Foreign Trade: The U.S. has had trade deficits with foreign nations since 1981, when Reagan took office. Trump said he couldn’t believe how much they’ve soared. While there is some truth to the need for better balance, Trump has not seriously thought through the issue. He speaks a good nationalist populist line, but he does not demonstrate an understanding of global economics. He talks about imposing 15% to 35% tariffs on goods imported from abroad. Most Republicans oppose such taxes, arguing they’d only be passed on to American consumers in the form of higher prices. Cheap clothing from abroad would suddenly cost a lot more. So would TVs, radios, and electronics. Prices for the vast majority of things purchased from abroad would increase. The bottom line is if tariffs are imposed, all American consumers will pay. When people talk about NAFTA, (which only affects 3 countries), it means they don’t understand trade. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the real player, since almost all nations belong. If the U.S. imposes tariffs, all WTO members will be authorized to punish the U.S. with retaliatory tariffs, and our exports to other nations will be priced out of the market. Bullies don’t get their way in trade—it’s a two-way street Donald.

Mexican Deportations: If Trump commands the army to go door-to-door to round up millions of Mexican workers, who may be in the U.S. illegally, there is a strong likelihood his order will be disobeyed. It would take an extremely long time to carry out, and the costs would be astronomical. We are a nation of laws, not dictators. Detainees would be entitled to due process before deportation. While Trump may stage some “show trials,” he would never rid the country of all illegals. Although he may continue to make verbal broadsides by calling “all” Mexicans rapists, without supporting evidence, the courts are not that abusive. The main reason nothing much will happen to illegal aliens is that the Republican business community needs them now more than ever. Certain segments of our economy would simply collapse without them.

Mexican Wall: Trump made the ridiculous assertion that he was going to build a wall from Brownsville, Texas to San Diego, California, a distance of 1,553 miles. He then added the absurd idea that he would make Mexico pay for it. The Great Wall of China stretches more than 1,500 miles and it is about 25 feet high. It took the Chinese literally hundreds of years to complete it. Even with modern equipment, building a wall separating the U.S. and Mexico would take an extremely long time. A baby born today would never see it. The cost of constructing such a wall would be astronomical, bankrupting the U.S. Treasury. Maintaining it with guards posted at every tenth of a mile or so, 24 hours a day, would also be extremely pricey. The smarter members of Congress laughed at Trump’s silly idea, as there is absolutely no chance of it being implemented.

Middle East: Trump has not shown any inclination to be an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians, or the rest of the Muslim world. As a result, he will have a tough time doing anything useful in the Mideast. He talks about defeating ISIS, but how does one defeat an attitude? How does one stop an individual suicidal bomber? One has to first acquire an understanding of the enemy mind. Thus far, Trump has not shown any intellectual capacity to even begin to understand.

Military: Trump said the military could be supported for much less than we spend on it. While he’s certainly correct, the Republican Congress is not going to propose any spending reductions, so nothing will change in that regard. We will continue to waste millions. The bigger problem is Trump’s ability to draw us into a shooting war. Although Congress holds the power to declare war, Presidents with hot heads, like Trump, can force their hand. Though Trump never served in the army, he went to a military academy as a teen. My suspicion is that he was arrested for battery or sexual assault as a teen, and his father kept him out of a juvenile court reformatory by asking a sympathetic judge to send him to a military school. Trump’s background bothers me, since the best predictor of future behavior is past conduct. Have no doubt, Trump will use military force.

NATO: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was originally set up as a check against a perceived Soviet threat in Western Europe. Their mission has now morphed into areas outside Europe. While all NATO nations need to belly up to the bar to pay for the treaty organization, and efficiencies could be made, Trump was mistaken to threaten a U.S. withdrawal. I doubt the Republican Congress will end our commitment to NATO.

Russia: Godless Russian communists are seriously our best friends against the fundamentalist religious Islamic fanatics. The old Soviet Union included areas where Islam was practiced and they have people who could easily infiltrate terrorist organizations. Having said that, Putin has suppressed free speech, manipulated elections, and violated international law by invading the Ukraine, conduct an American President cannot condone. Trump and his Exxon Sec of State see nothing but an oil deal with Russia. Sadly, energy alone should not govern our relationship.

Tanzania: There are 52 independent nations in Africa. One would expect a President to have at least a minimal understanding of each. One important country is Tanzania, where our U.S. Embassy was bombed by terrorists in 1998. On April 27, 2016, Trump pronounced Tanzania “Tan-ZAY-nee-uh,” instead of the correct “Tan-zu-KNEE-uh.” This elementary school gaff was troubling, as it indicates Trump has no real working knowledge of even important African states, like Tanzania.

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04/19/2013

Roots of Chechnya Separatism

Towards the end of the Soviet War in Afghanistan (1980-88), Mikhail Gorbachev withdrew troops from what was Russia’s Vietnam. He proceeded in 1988 to advocate reform from within, as he promoted glasnost (openness) and perestroika (rebuilding). Open elections in the Soviet Union followed in 1989, for the first time in 70 years. 200,000 marched in 1990 before the Kremlin, calling for an end to the central Soviet government.

Independent satellite states, like Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and others that had been occupied since the end of World War II, insisted on freedom and demanded that the Russians get out.

More significantly, the Soviet Union itself, comprised of 14 Republics, forged together in the 1920s after the Russian Revolution, also demanded independence from centralized Soviet control. The USSR soon imploded from within, as states like the Ukraine, Estonia and Latvia, and 11 others gained independence. A reactionary coup tried to reassert control, but the Soviet egg had been broken, and it couldn’t be put back together again.

After Russia lost control over the states occupied since 1945, and the 14 Republics that formed the Soviet Union, all that remained was the Russian land that predated the Russian Revolution. The problem was the separatist spirit was alive and longstanding religious or ethnic forces sought to break up Russia. This is where the Russians drew the line and fought to hold their territories.

After Boris Yeltsin replaced Gorbachev in 1991, as President of the new Russian Republic, he presided over the 1st Chechen War (1994-96). He tried to stop a secessionist revolt in Chechnya, which borders North Ossetia to the west, and the Republic of Georgia to the south. When a 2nd Chechen War (1999-09) erupted, Islamic forces invaded Dagestan, and the Russia people turned to former KBG Chief Vladimir Putin to replace Yeltsin. Putin promptly took a hard line to subdue the separatists, as he bombed the Chechnya capital at Grozny. The war later migrated into Ingushetia in 2007, located between Chechnya and North Ossetia.

Although Chechnya is a part of Russia, its people differ ethnically and have beliefs at odds with the Russians in Moscow. While they say they are freedom fighters, Russia calls them terrorists.

After the World Trade Center attack in 2001, the U.S. and Russia became allies against their respective terrorist enemies. Since Chechnya is opposed to the Russian government, and the U.S. is allied with Russia, the U.S. is now a target of some Chechnyans.

11/04/2012

Undecided Voters: Foreign Policy Issues

The better choice on each issue is in the left column, indicated by a (D) for Democrat, (R) for Republican, or (N) for neither.

(D) TRADE WITH CHINA: Although Romney called China a currency manipulator and promised to prosecute them in the World Trade Organization (WTO) for the right to impose tariffs (10-11-11) (11-9-11) (11-12-11) (1-7-12) (1-19-12), since the Great Depression, both parties have worked together to eliminate tariffs, and in recent years, the Republicans have been the loudest advocate of free trade. It is highly unlikely Romney will seek or impose protective tariffs, or interfere with free trade.

(D) TRADE WITH CUBA: Although Romney said he would not open trade with Cuba, until Fidel Castro is dead (1-23-12) (1-26-12), there is actually no reason to treat Cuba any different than the People’s Republic of China, Vietnam, or any other country we now trade with, who was once our enemy. Open the door now.

(D) EURO CRISIS: If the banks and economies around the world were collapsing, Romney said he would act to prevent contagion. (10-11-11). He also said Europe should take care of their own problems (11-9-11), and if Europe had a financial crisis, he wouldn’t give them a blank check, or save their banks (1-16-12). He was critical of the European for using IMF Funds (11-9-11). It appears, as usual, Romney wants to cover both sides of the issue.

(D) IMMIGRATION: Romney promised to crack down on immigration. (8-11-11). He said employers who hire illegal aliens are magnets. (9-7-11) (9-22-11). He would make businesses check the E-Verify data base. (10-18-11) (12-15-11) (1-19-12) (1-26-11). He thinks illegal aliens without jobs will self-deport (1-26-12). He said amnesty for illegal immigrants is another magnet that only encourages more. (12-10-11). He would not give aliens tuition assistance. (9-12-11) (9-22-11) (10-18-11). He would not give them Driver’s licenses. (9-12-11). He wants people with math and science degrees (11-22-11), and English language emersion for immigrants. (1-23-12) (1-26-12). He opposes special routes to citizenship (1-16-12). Although many Republicans favor what Romney has said, business owners in his own party wish to continue hiring illegal aliens, so they can keep paying cash under the table, to avoid payroll taxes and other legal obligations.

(D) MILITARY SERVICE: Romney, who received several deferments during the Vietnam War, found it extraordinary that only a few families were paying the price for freedom (1-7-12)

(D) IRAQ: Obama carried out his campaign pledge to end the misguided War in Iraq. Romney said he thought we had to go to war against Iraq. (1-16-12). Why is that even remotely true?

(D) BIN LADEN: President Obama was the Commander-in-Chief over the raid that eliminated Osama bin Laden. If a Republican had been President when the mission was accomplished, they would be carving his face into Mt. Rushmore. On the assumption Bin Laden was responsible for 911, it was a job well done, and Obama should be credited.

(D) ASSASSINATION: Romney said he thinks the President has a right to order the death of any “American citizens” suspected of terrorism (11-12-11) Sorry, Mitt, no such right.

(D) LIBYA: President Obama waged an almost flawless campaign to help the Libyan freedom fighters remove Gaddafi, their long-time dictator. He refused to put U.S. troops on the ground, but supplied aid to the rebels, and succeeded in bringing change to Libya. Republicans, who spend time on the recent incident in Bengazi, can’t see the forest for the trees.

(D) AFGHANISTAN: We should withdraw from Afghanistan as soon as possible, so our troops can come home, and we can save billions. Romney was vague about Afghanistan during the Republican debates. He said he would defer to generals and conditions on the ground. (6-13-11) (8-11-11) He thinks our commanders in the field don’t want to withdraw. He wouldn’t cut and run. He thinks Obama’s announcement of a withdrawal weakened us (1-16-12) He accused Obama of withdrawing early, but then he also said he would stay until 2014. (11-12-11) (11-22-11) He gave no reasons for wanting to stay until 2014. (1-7-12). He wouldn’t negotiate with the Taliban, since he said they’re terrorists. He incorrectly said they declared war on us. (1-16-12). Romney wants to win in Afghanistan by defeating the Taliban (1-23-12) He also said he wants a gradual transfer to Afghan Security Forces. Frankly, I think Romney wants to be President and will say just about anything, depending on who’s listening.

(D) LAWS OF WAR: Romney said the rights that apply to criminal law are different than those applicable in war (11-22-11)

(D) GUANTANAMO: As to the Guantanamo Prison, Romney thinks we have a right to deny al Qaeda due process. (1-16-12).

(D) PAKISTAN: Romney is concerned about the fact Pakistan has nuclear weapons (2-22-12) He believes they are a fragile nation close to a failed state. He wants to bring Pakistan into the 21st Century (11-22-11) He wants them to let us go after the Taliban and Haqqani Network inside Pakistan (11-12-11). We need to stay out of Pakistan, Mitt. You’re playing with fire there.

(D) SYRIA: Romney said Syria is a threat to Israel (1-26-12), and an ally of Iran. He would use covert means to end Assad’s dictatorship (11-12-11) He would not however impose a no-fly zone over Syria. He would use sanctions and covert means (11-22-11) I say let’s stay out of their war altogether.

(D) ISRAEL: Although Republicans accuse Obama of sticking a thumb in Israel’s eye (8-11-11), the American problem is not too little support for Israel, it’s too much. Our bipartisan American foreign-policy has been controlled by Israeli special interests for a long time. Romney is frightening, because he sounds like a weak leader, who would allow outsiders to control our foreign policy. Romney said it was wrong for Obama to criticize Israel for illegally constructing settlements in occupied Palestine (9-22-11) Weak Republicans like Romney would abandon our long-standing objection to Israel’s illegal taking of the Palestinian territories in 1967. (8-11-11) Since Obama courageously followed international law, we need him to keep Israel from taking the U.S. even deeper into their conflict. Romney pandered to the Jewish community while in Florida (1-26-12), and it’s not surprising his first foreign policy trip would be to Israel (11-22-11) We need a leader much stronger than Romney, one who would stand up to Israel.

(D) IRAN: Romney has a desire to impose crippling sanctions against Iran to keep them from developing nuclear weapons, which he called unacceptable (9-22-11) He falsely accused Obama of not putting crippling sanctions against Iran (1-7-12) He supports Iranian dissidents. He favors regime change and would take military action to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons (11-12-11) He called Obama weak on Iran (12-15-11) Romney said if Iran shut down the Straits of Hormuz, it would be an act of war (1-23-12). He thinks they will sneak dirty bombs into the U.S. through Latin America (2-22-12) Romney would indict Ahmadinejad for violating the Genocide Convention (11-22-11)

(D) LATIN AMERICA: Romney actually thinks the Hezbollah is working in Latin America (11-22-11) (2-22-12) Get real Mitt.

(D) RUSSIA: In one debate, Romney sounded like he didn’t know the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. He was still talking as though Russia was an enemy, as he accused Obama of giving them what they wanted. (11-12-11). Romney worries me.

(D) FOREIGN AID: Romney thinks the U.S. spends more on foreign aid than we should (10-18-11). We are still the richest nation on earth, and if we want allies, we need to give some aid.

(D) HOMELAND SECURITY: Romney would let people who are a “lower risk” go through TSA screening quickly. (11-22-11). Sounds like he wants to set up a fast track for his friends like Donald Trump, while the rest of us wait in line.

05/08/2012

Russia’s Putin is no Gorbachev

Russia has a new virtual czar named Vladimir Putin, who was sworn in yesterday for a third term as President, despite the fact the legitimate Russian Constitution limits him to just two terms.

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union over 20 years ago, Russia remains an important country, since it continues to hold a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and remains influential in many developing nations. Although Russia adopted market and political reforms under Gorbachev in 1991, Putin’s recent power grab, has set Russia back in the eyes of the world.

The problem is many Russians like Putin lack a role-model for good governance. They have no George Washington to look up to, a man who could have been the first American king, if he had only wanted a crown. Since George abhorred the very idea of monarchy, he settled for President, and proved his real faith in democracy, as he voluntarily left office after two 4-year terms.

The problem in Russia is most of their well known figures were either czars or brutal dictators. Peter the Great, whose army expanded Russian interests along the Baltic, was no democrat. When Napoleon’s Grand Army invaded Russia in 1812 to liberate humanity from the tyranny of monarchs, the Russians stood on the wrong side of history, and defended the czar. When Alexander II freed the serfs in 1861, he forgot to give them any land, and of course doomed them to a never-ending cycle of poverty.

Even after the birth of the Bolsheviks, Russians gained no lasting role-model. While Karl Marx condemned the Czar, arguing wealth was accumulated through the exploitation of labor, no one today uses his icon. Vladimir Lenin, whose bust was everywhere in the Soviet Union 30 years ago, has been relegated to the pages of history. Certainly no one now could emulate Joseph Stalin, whose murderous dictatorship carried on for nearly 30 years, (1924-53).

The man Putin and others could admire is Mikhail Gorbachev (1985-91), but for some reason his lead is not being followed. Gorbachev was perhaps the greatest man of the 20th Century, as he unilaterally withdrew Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1988, advocated glasnost (openness), and promoted perestroika (a rebuilding). He ushered in open elections in 1989, for the first time in 70 years. He received the Nobel Peace Prize, as he took out old-line communists, and faced off against 100,000 reactionaries, whose coup attempt against him failed. Gorbachev single-handedly dissolved the Soviet Union from within in 1991, as 14 former Soviet republics celebrated their independence.

Following Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin served as President (1991-99) until he resigned in 1999. When Vladimir Putin, finished his term (1999-00), there was hope Russia was on its way to a free and open system, as Putin was elected in his own right (2000-04), and then re-elected for a second four-year term (2004-08).

Russia however turned in the wrong direction in 2008, when Putin failed to leave government, and instead cut a deal with a little inconsequential man named Dmitry Medvedev, who kept Putin’s seat warm for four years, while Putin served as Prime Minister (2008-12). After Medvedev abolished the Constitutional ban against serving more than two terms, Medvedev stepped down, making way for the Presidential return of the power-hungry Putin.

As President for nine years and Prime Minister for four, Putin has already been in charge for 13 years, and he should now leave the Kremlin. Gorbachev did not dissolve the dictatorial rule of the old Soviet guard, only to see it replaced by a new round of corrupt men. While Russia badly needs another Gorbachev, they got stuck instead with Putin, and more of the same. The Russian people must re-assert their Constitutional term limits, take Putin and Medvedev out, and replace them with a modern-day Gorbachev.

 

05/07/2012

France: What Socialist Win Means

FRANCE NOW SOCIALIST: While Republican strategists in the U.S. totally distort the meaning of the word “socialist” by claiming President Obama has become one, since he signed a bill that preserved capitalism, by placing private sector insurance companies, instead of the government, in control of America’s health care system, French voters are not that gullible, and they were not at all confused last week when they elected Francois Hollande, the Socialist Party candidate, to be their next President.

U.S. CONFUSION: Many in the U.S. confuse the meaning of political and economic systems. Political systems can range from monarchy, or dictatorship, on the one extreme, to democracy, or Republican forms of government on the other. Economic systems include pure free market capitalism, on one hand, socialism in the middle, and communism on the other end of the spectrum.

POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC SYSTEMS CAN BE MIXED: Countries are free to mix together different types of economic and political systems. Saudi Arabia has a dictatorial monarchy, coupled with a capitalist economic model. The one-party dictatorship in North Korea functions within a communist framework. Voters in the U.S. democracy lean towards more capitalism and less socialism, while those in other republics, like France, are now opting for more socialism, and less capitalism.

U.S. REQUIRES ONLY DEMOCRACY: The U.S. Constitution requires only a Republican form of government, or in other words, a democratic electoral process. The Constitution makes no mention of “capitalism” or “free markets.” U.S. House members and Senators are free to implement whatever regulations of commerce they wish, using more or less capitalism, or socialism.

SOCIALISM BEGAN IN EUROPE: After the first Socialist Party was founded in Germany in 1861, over time it gained popular support throughout Europe. While progress was made in the Russian Revolution in 1917, as the absolute monarchy of the Czar was overthrown, the movement went too far in the civil war, as a harsh dictatorial communist state gained control. Socialists, who had supported personal liberties and regular democratic elections, had no place in Stalin’s Soviet Union.

DICTATORSHIPS ARE PER SE BAD: To be clear, no country should ever return to the old Stalinist communist model, as it was dictatorial, and denied opportunities to modify economic policies in the market, or through the ballot box. One way or another, individuals had to be free to influence politics and economics.

CONTROLLED-ECONOMIES FAIL ON SUPPLY-SIDE: When government-controlled command economies decide what goods to manufacture, and determine supply, without regard to consumer demand, systems become dysfunction, shortages arise, and black markets develop. If central planners fail to open up enough retail outlets, service declines from the absence of competition.

CAPITALISM PREFERRED AS TO RETAIL GOODS: Supply should never be determined from the top down, but rather from the bottom up. It should be based on the collective demands of consumers, not guesses by bureaucratic planners. Market economies are useful when it comes to boots, blue jeans, and other goods. It is the bottom up message that creates efficiencies.

UNREGULATED CAPITALISTS TEND TO MONOPOLIZE: The government does however have an important role to play in free enterprise, particularly in maintaining competition, which is essential for the system to work. Total free market capitalists, when completely left to their own devices, ultimately devour their own. Where power concentrates, firms get too big to fail, and governments must step in with antitrust laws to bust them up. Without antitrust actions one corporation in each economic sector ultimately dominates, eliminates all competition, and the same inefficiencies observed in command economies surface.

UNREGULATED CAPITALISTS WOULD ABUSE LABOR: Without regulatory laws, workers in a pure free market economy would serve at the whim of their employers. There would be no collective bargaining, no occupational health or safety rules, wages would have no floor, and injured or laid-off workers would go uncompensated. There would be no pensions, or retirement for that matter, since everyone would just keep working.

UNREGULATED CAPITALISTS WOULD POLLUTE: Without restraints on a totally free market economy, factories would be able to dump polluted water into rivers, and motor vehicles would belch noxious exhaust fumes into the atmosphere, unabated.

SOCIAL DEMOCRATS HAVE ENACTED GOOD LAWS: Laws to improve living conditions and to give individuals some degree of security against unemployment, accident, illness, old-age, and the like were needed, and have been enacted by state legislatures using their police powers, and by the federal lawmakers under the Congressional power to regulate commerce.

SOCIALISM IS BETTER FOR ESSENTIAL SERVICES: While the free market is better when it comes to consumer goods, the pure capitalist system has many flaws in the delivery of essential services, since it does not concern itself with equitable distributions of wealth. Many people suffer when the government stays out and gives private enterprise a free hand as to everything. A system in which only those who can afford essential services can buy them, and those who cannot go without, is not a good one, and is prone towards revolution. While pure capitalists believe government should never interfere in economic affairs, no matter how much disparity exists, Social Democrats have made the world a better place, and it could be improved even more, if more nations would follow the French lead.

04/12/2012

European Bases Should Be Vacated

In addition to the large number of U.S. military facilities in Germany, there are several in other European countries, that are draining funds from the federal treasury, without yielding much of anything in return, and they should be closed.

BRITAIN: In addition to supporting seven NATO facilities in the United Kingdom, the U.S. leases the following installations:
Air Force: RAF: Lakenheath, Brandon, Suffolk
Air Force: RAF: Menwith Hill, Yorkshire Dales
Air Force: RAF: Mildenhall
Air Force: RAF: Croughton, Upper Heyford
Air Force: RAF: Alconbury, Cambridgeshire

NETHERLANDS: The U.S. Air Force contributes to the Joint Force Command Brunssum (NATO) in the Netherlands.

PORTUGAL: The U.S. Air Force leases a base at Lajes Field in the Azores, which are Portugese Islands in the Atlantic. We also contribute funds to support a NATO facility in Portugal itself.

SPAIN: The U.S. Navy uses the Rota Naval Station in Spain, and our Air Force has bases in Andalucia.

ITALY: The exact number of U.S. bases in Italy is not clear. One author claims there are over 100, while another source lists just a few. The U.S. uses at least the following:
Army and Air Force: Aviano Air Base (NATO)
Army: Caserma Ederle, Vicenza
Army & Air Force: Camp Darby, Pisa-Livorno
Army: San Vito Dei Normanni Air Station—Brindisi
Navy and Air Force: Naval Air Station Sigonella (NATO)
Navy: Naval Support Activity Gaeta
Navy: Naval Support Activity Naples
Navy: NCTS Naples

KOSOVO: Since the Serbian bombings in the 1990s, the U.S. has had a presence in Kosovo. The U.S. Army uses Camp Bondsteel and Film City-Pristina.

BULGARIA: Since Bulgaria joined NATO in 2004 and the EU in 2005, the U.S. presence in Bulgaria has grown. The U.S. Army has bases at Aytos Logistics Center (Burgas Region) and Novo Selo Range (Sliven Region), while the U.S. Air Force has a presence at Bezmer Air Base in the Yambol Region, and Graf Ignatievo in the Plavdiv Region.

GREECE: The U.S. Navy uses a Naval Support Activity at Souda Bay, on the island of Crete. We have also maintained facilities at Hellonicon and Nea Makri.

04/09/2012

Germany: Let’s Close All U.S. Bases

For a long time since the end of World War II, 67 years ago, the Europeans, and in particular the Germans, have posed absolutely no threat to our national security, yet we continue to maintain 62 facilities in the fatherland that could be shut down. While 20 are scheduled for closure by 2015, the remaining 42 should also get the ax, since we do not need them, and can no longer afford them.

The 42 facilities, not currently slated for closure, (listed below) are in the states of Bavaria (13), Baden-Wurttemberg (8), Rhineland-Pfalz (17), Hesse (3) and North Rhine-Westphalia (1). The 20 set to close between 2012 and 2015 follow.

NOT SLATED TO BE CLOSED, BUT SHOULD BE:

ANSBACH (Bavaria) (8)
Army: Barton Barracks
Army: Bismarck Kaserne (the word means barracks)
Army: Katterbach Kaserne
Army: Shipton Kaserne
Army: Bleidorn Housing Area
Army: Urlas Housing and Shopping Complex
Army: Oberdachstetten Storage Area
Air Force: USAF Ansbach

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN (Bavaria) (1)
Army: Artillery Kasermne

HOHENFELS (Bavaria) (1)
Army: Hohenfels Training Area/Joint Multinational

ILLESHEIM (Bavaria) (1)
Army: Storck Barracks

VILSECK (Bavaria) (2)
Army: Rose Barracks
Army: Grafenwohr Training Area

BOBLINGEN (Baden-Wurttemberg) (1)
Marines: Camp Panzer Kaserne

HEIDELBERG (Baden-Wurttemberg) (1)
Army: Heidelberg Army Airfield

MANNHEIM (Baden-Wurttemberg) (1)
Army: Hammonds Barracks

STUTTGART (Baden-Wurttemberg) (5)
Army: Kelly Barracks
Army: Panzer Kaserne
Army: Patch Barracks
Army: Robinson Barracks
Army: Stuttgart Airport

BAUMHOLDER (Rhineland-Pfalz) (1)
Army: Smith Barracks

DEXHEIM  (Rhineland-Pfalz) (1)
Army: Anderson Barracks

GERMERSHEIM (Rhineland-Pfalz) (1)
Army: Germersheim Army Depot

KAISERSLAUTERN (Rhineland-Pfalz) (5)
Army: Kaiserslautern Military Community
Army: Kleber Kaserne
Army: Pulaski Barracks
Army: Rhein Ordnance Barracks
Army: Semback Kaserne

LANDSTUHL (Rhineland-Pfalz) (1)
Army: Landstuhl Regional Medical Center

MAINZ-GONSENHEIM MOMBACH (Rhineland-Pfalz) (1)
Army: USAG (Garrison) Wiesbaden Military Training Area

MAINZ-FINTHEN AIRPORT (Rhineland-Pfalz) (2)
Army: USAG Wiesbaden Training Area
Army: USAG Wiesbaden Radar Station

MIESAU (Rhineland-Pfalz) (1)
Army: Miesau Army Depot

PIRMASENS (Rhineland-Pfalz) (1)
Army: Husterhoeh Koserne

RAMSTEIN (Rheinland-Pfalz) (1)
Air Force: Ramstein Air Base

SPANGHAHLEM (Rhineland-Pfalz) (1)
Air Force: Spangdahlem Air Base

WACKERNHEIM (Rhineland-Pfalz) (1)
Army: McCully Barracks

GRIESHEIM (Hesse) (1)
Army: Dagger Complex Darmstadt Training Center

WIESBADEN (Hesse) (2)
Army: Wiesbaden Army Airfield
Army: Storage Station Mainz-Kastel (Weisbaden)

GEILENKIRCHEN (North Rhine-Westphalia) (1)
Air Force: NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen

SCHEDULED FOR CLOSURE:
BAMBERG (Bavaria) (2)
Army: Bamberg Local Training Area (2015)
Army: Warner Barracks (2015)

SCHWEINFURT (Bavaria) (5)
Army: Askren Manors Housing Area (2015)
Army: Conn Barracks (2015)
Army: Ledward Barracks (2015)
Army: Yorktown Housing Complex (2015)
Army: Rottershausen Storage Area

HEIDELBERG (Baden-Wurttemberg) (5)
Army: Patrick Henry Village (2014)
Army: Campbell Barracks (2015)
Army: Mark Twain Village (2015)
Army: Nachrichten Kaserne (2015)
Army: Patton Barracks (2015)

MANNHEIM (Baden-Wurttemberg) (5)
Army: Benjamin Franklin Village (2012)
Army: Funari Barracks (2012)
Army: Sullivan Barracks (2014)
Army: Coleman Barracks (2015)
Army: Spinelli Barracks (2015)

SCHWETZINGEN (Baden-Wurttemberg) (2)
Army: Kilourne Kaserne (2015)
Army: Tompkins Barracks (2015)

LAMPERTHEIM (Hesse) (1)
Army: Lampertheim Training Area (2015)

The German economy has benefited greatly from the large sums of U.S. dollars spent in their country since the end of WWII, but it is now time for the U.S. to get its own financial house in order, by withdrawing all of our remaining troops and closing all of our facilities.

01/03/2012

Britain Should Adopt the Euro

Many Americans have a hard time understanding the European Union (EU), because countries that do not use the Euro currency are nevertheless allowed to be EU members. They cannot relate, since every U.S. state is required to use the Dollar, with no option.

The Euro, which was introduced in 2002, is presently the official currency in only 17 of 27 EU nations.  Seven countries, who enlisted in the EU in 2004 and 2007, will convert between 2012 and 2014 under timetables adopted at the time of admission. Three small non-EU tax havens also use it: Monaco, and San Marino and Andorra. But three EU states have opt-out, including: Britain (Pound Sterling), Denmark (krone), and Sweden (krona).

Since the recent economic crisis, it is unlikely the UK will replace the Pound with the Euro in the immediate future. Although the Euro would make foreign trade easier, and the failure to adopt it will adversely affect international investment, jobs, and economic prosperity, 66% in Britain have opposed a monetary conversion, because they fear a decline in national sovereignty and a loss of control over their economy. They worry a transfer of power from the Bank of England in London to the European Central Bank would give Frankfurt the ability to control interest rates, inflation, and unemployment. For these political and economic reasons, the UK decided not to adopt the Euro and continued using the Pound.

The question now is whether Britain’s refusal to join the monetary union will harm the EU? In the event of an EU recovery, will the UK start to become irrelevant? Since the Euro was a major success in terms of European unification during its first ten years, my guess is the new currency will survive the current crisis and the EU will emerge even stronger. Old England may in the long run be held down by the weight of their own Pound. In regional circles over time, the English currency will start to be viewed as funny money, since Europeans will be using the Euro. If Britain does not officially convert, their people may start to do so in the ordinary course of business, as a matter of fact, and inevitably the Pound may be lost anyway. Just when most think the adoption of the Euro would be the wrong move, some intelligent future British Prime Minister should courageously advocate its adoption.

11/29/2011

EU: Not Ready For U.S. of Europe

The origin of the European Union dates back to 1952, when six nations formed the European Coal and Steel Community. The Treaty of Rome (1957) broadened the relationship into a Common Market, known as the European Economic Community (EEC). A European Court of Justice (ECJ) followed to monitor compliance. A Customs Union (1968) was added to abolish duties between members, and to set a common tariff as to foreign goods.

The EEC grew to 12, as the UK, Ireland, and Denmark enlisted in 1973, Greece was added in 1981, and Spain and Portugal joined in 1986. The Schengen Agreement (1985) gave EEC citizens the right of free movement in and out of the other member states.

The EEC became the European Union (EU) in 1992, under the European Union Treaty. The EU soon grew to 15, as Sweden, Finland, and Austria signed up (1995). Questions arose as to how much power the EU should have, and what authority should be retained by the states. While customs and commercial policy were yielded to the EU, many other law-making areas remained national. Although the EU had a Parliament, questions arose as to the number of votes each state would have in the EU. To correct some of these issues, the Treaty of Nice (2000) was ratified.

At the same time, the EU created an Economic and Monetary Union (1999). A European Central Bank opened in Frankfurt, which issued the Euro (2002), and abolished national currencies. Britain, Denmark, and Sweden opted out of the Euro, as criteria were set for new EU states, before they could adopt the Euro. The states no longer governed monetary policy, as the Central Bank set interest rates. Although the Bank opposed deficits by national governments, members retained control over fiscal policy. Critics of this said the EU could not maintain tight monetary policies, while states were allowed to have expansive fiscal policies.

The EU states made an attempt to be guided by one written Constitution, in lieu of a series of treaties, but the effort failed when France and the Netherlands rejected it (2005). Nevertheless, 10 additional countries became members of the EU in 2004, and Bulgaria and Romania brought the number to 27 in 2007.

The states of the EU are currently administered by a 27-member Commission, which is their primary source of legislation. The Commission has the power to issue regulations and directives to states. The EU also has a 27-member Council of Ministers, which has the final say on most legislation. Since each state has one vote in the Council, smaller countries have disproportionate influence. The European Parliament is a 732-member elected body, but it has no general law-making power. It must base what it does on existing treaties. It may challenge the acts of other institutions and reject budget proposals, but the Council remains more powerful. Since the Parliament is relatively weak, issues of representative democracy have been raised. The EU also has a 27-member European Court of Justice which has the authority to review: EU treaties, the conduct EU institutions, and enforcement actions brought against the states.

While the EU currently has law-making functions, they are largely limited by treaty to common market issues. They have no authority to legislate regarding national pensions, or health care, for example. The EU has no general power to tax and spend. Under the current arrangement, it would be difficult for a majority of states to change the behavior of another country.

To complicate matters, it will be a real challenge in Europe to take benefits away, because people have rights to them under various Human Rights Treaties. Europeans enjoy the right to collective bargaining, and protection in the event of an unfair dismissal at work. They have a right to fair and just working conditions. They have a right to social security and health care.

The immediate problem in the EU is national governments control their own fiscal policies, and the crisis of the Euro is without a mechanism to save it. The difficulty in creating a fiscal union, or a political union which would entail a loss of state sovereignty, is the strong sense of nationalism that exists in most European countries. A radical change in thinking will definitely be needed before the peoples of the EU could ever become a United States of Europe.

11/03/2011

Greek Referendum: Democracy 101

After Greece joined the European Economic Community (1981), ratified the European Union Treaty (1992), and adopted the Euro currency as part of the EU Monetary Union (2002), they gave up their sovereign right to print money, or to spend in excess of limits set by the European Central Bank.

Although Greece was required by the Central Bank to maintain a Balanced Budget, and to limit their National Debt to no more than 60% of GDP, the Greeks failed to control spending, and their Debt rose well beyond the EU limits, to a crisis level.

Under the recent Greek Bailout Plan, promoted by the leading EU powers Germany and France, Greece was required to cut their budget in consideration for loan forgiveness and other assistance.

There was one small problem with the bailout plan: someone forgot to ask the Greek people if they approved. In the birthplace of democracy, the EU attempted to dictate from the top down, ignoring the principle that consent must come from the governed.

If Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou had allowed the EU to proceed without submitting a referendum to the people, seeking their approval, and draconian spending cuts were made without regards to the wishes of the people, a revolt may likely have erupted in Athens. It is naïve to assume Greeks would simply allow the Central Bank in Frankfurt to reduce their jobs and pensions without a fight.

Papandreou wisely realized the only way benefits could be cut and taxes can be raised in Greece is with the consent of a majority of the people. While the referendum poses risks, such as a vote that disapproves of the EU plan, observers must recognize that the absence of democratic participation would have led to an even greater risk of civil war, and at the very least, the violent removal of George Papandreou and his government.

The absolute best case scenario is for the Greek people to approve of the referendum so the EU plan has the will of the people behind it. We should not criticize George Papandreou for resorting to time-honored Greek democratic principles to solve this crisis.