Biden, Arabs and City Councils

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Saudi Arabia chose to reduce their oil production by 2 million barrels per day at a time when energy prices are fueling worldwide inflation. The move leads to higher prices for oil and Russia will be a big beneficiary.
The action has stirred talk in Congress of retaliation against Saudi Arabia, such as stopping arms sales and removing weapons already in the country.
I think our response is myopic and wrong.
We have been buying less oil from the Saudis as we increased our gas production and now give greater support to renewables.
The Saudis, in turn, have been moving closer to Russia and China.
Like Turkey, they play both sides. India does it, too, but we’re not thinking of retaliating against them.
I think we should take the long view on the Saudis’ behavior.
They are a repressive regime that shares much with Russia and China yet wants to stay open to the West. Let’s not shut the doors. Changes are happening in Saudi Arabia which are, gradually, likely to move the country even closer to the West.
Iran is the problem in the area. Presently there is much unrest and a push to take the clerics out of government. When that happens, there will be a significant realignment of forces in the region.
An American presence that is open and forgiving will be in a better position to influence events.
Not rejoining the Iran Nuclear deal will be a positive development.
I understand Biden’s worry that the effects of the reduction in oil production by the Saudis may have an impact in the upcoming mid term elections by further increasing inflation. But this may be underestimating the American electorate.
The war in Ukraine and the Russian retreat are huge accomplishments for the West and Biden deserves a great deal of credit for it. It is there in plain view.
Are democrats selling this success to undecided voters and enlightened Republicans?
Freedom demands sacrifices and Biden may need to remind voters of it.
Inflation will top off in the near future and ending the war will play a big role.
But to get there we must keep our support for Ukraine going strong.
While a large number of Republicans remain loyal to former president Trump, even though he attempted to deny Biden the presidency and reinstate himself for another term, enough Republicans realize the damage done to the country and that their party needs to repair itself by confronting its antidemocratic side.
Under Trump, Ukraine would have been in Putin’s hands long ago, for Trump would not have objected to the invasion.

As to City Councils.
On Monday, in Los Angeles, a tape recording emerged of a private meeting held a year ago involving three city council members and a labor union chief. During the meeting, disparaging racial remarks were made.
There has been an outcry and demands that the council members step down. The union chief has already done so.
Yesterday, President Biden added his voice to the demands for council members’ resignation.
I think this response is too meddlesome.
Race is a complicated issue. The world is going through a transition dealing with it. Europe is roiled by immigration and race is a big factor.
To expect purity from our elected officials or from any of us is not rational.
People deserve chances to rectify their behaviors.
Additionally, this is a matter for Angelenos to sort out.
Mr Biden’s focus should stay on the big picture.

Mr Biden, Sell Us the War!

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Sell the war to the American public. It is a remarkable achievement, one that we should all be proud of. Sell us the war!
You have been key in rallying the western alliance. You have motivated, encouraged and persuaded the fence sitters. To you belongs a great deal of the credit for where Ukraine now stands.
Do not underestimate this triumph.
I recall you getting lots of flak for pulling out of Afghanistan. But if you hadn’t done so your focus would have been divided and your resolve diminished.
There has not been a moment like this in our recent history.
This is a far greater achievement than the first Gulf War in 1990 (Bush the elder) and the war in Bosnia in 1995 (Clinton).
This war has been a major determinant of inflation but our economy has slowed enough that Jerome Powell in the Federal Reserve kept the latest rise in interest rates to .75 bps. The markets have responded positively.
Gas prices may remain high while Putin continues to squeeze Europe by reducing gas supplies but the western alliance has held strong in spite of such pressures.
Trust that Americans will understand the importance of backing Ukraine.
The recent choice of providing them with warplanes is hugely important. Now it is becoming clearer that Putin can and must be driven back.
Your political courage in resisting the Russian offensive deserves full acknowledgment.
Had Trump been reelected, Putin would’ve had no problem annexing Ukraine.
Why, Putin would have been a regular guest at Mar-a-Lago and Trump would have been invited to the installation of Russia’s new puppet regime in Kyiv.
But the freedom of a courageous people would have been forgotten.
Sell us the importance of the war so we can avoid losses in the House and Senate this November.
With the Supreme court’s overturning the federal mandate protecting women’s right to an abortion, a significant percentage of women will show up at the ballot box to express their displeasure.
Meanwhile, the hearings on the January 6th attack on the Capitol make obvious the tyrannical intent of Mr Trump and should be a source of embarrassment to most who voted for him.
Beware of the polls suggesting you are unpopular. There are groups of people who will not see the evidence even when put in front of them, but they will not be consequential when it matters.
This first year and a half of your tenure has been remarkable. Covid is retreating and even Joe Manchin chose to turn around and back your bill.
Your recent performance in Saudi Arabia was excellent. You did not come back with a tangible concession but you stuck to your guns and did not flinch from restating your belief that the prince was responsible for Jamal Khashoggi’s death.
Sell us the war, Mr President. It is an achievement that is transforming Europe and the West and all Americans should own it.

Oscar Valdes,,, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts.

Biden and MBS, the Saudi Prince

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It is hard for me to write this blog, having learned that Biden has agreed to a trip to Saudi Arabia later this month to ‘reset’ the relationship with the kingdom.
Reset implying we ignore what has happened before and start anew.
MBS, Mohammed Bin Salman, has been less than princely, having ordered the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of the regime, a Saudi national and a distinguished Washington Post contributor. The murder took place in 2018 as concluded by our intelligence services.
Biden was rightly outraged by such behavior at the time and spoke openly about it during his campaign for president, but now he’s changed his position.
The advocates of realpolitik are delighted. I am disappointed.
Do resets help at all?
Obama called for a reset after Russia invaded Georgia in 2008. It did nothing, for Putin invaded Crimea in 2014 and has been ravaging the Ukrainian nation for the past three months plus.
One can argue that the relationship with the Saudis is different. It is. But so should be the standards we hold them to.
With this planned reset, however, the prince gets away with the assassination of Khashoggi.
Authorizing such act took planning on the part of the prince. It took thinking of the consequences. It was not a rash act. And the prince concluded he could get away with it. His nation has oil and the world needs it. Thus, the world will come to him. The world will give him a pass. He was right.
Biden was outraged enough by such behavior that at one point he called the Saudi nation a pariah nation.
Then the war in Ukraine happened, prices at the pump rose sharply, Americans complained and are now expected to punish democrats at the polls this November.
In making the choice of doing a reset, little thought was given to the idea of speaking directly to all of us and saying, ‘the war in Ukraine is requiring major sacrifices from us, and one is the high prices at the pump. But we are working on it. As your president, I will keep doing all I can to lower such prices. But we should not negotiate with those who have shown a profound disregard for human rights.’
At no point has the Saudi prince gone before the world and said, ‘I take responsibility for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi for it happened while I was the de facto ruler of this kingdom.’
Don’t expect it, either.
Somehow, the leaders of our world believe it is simply too much to ask from one of their own. Impunity comes with the high positions.
I am disappointed that Mr Biden, having done an exemplary job at leading the western nations against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, did not trust that most Americans would appreciate his effort.
It is not that Mr Biden lacks persuasive abilities, but somehow he didn’t trust himself on this one.
Saudi Arabia has been an ally. They can play a role in defusing tensions in the Middle East, but the behavior of the prince is and remains unacceptable. It should not be whitewashed. Giving him a pass can be seen as real politik but it ends up being bad politik for it devalues us.
Our stance in Ukraine has been most decorous. The morality of the cause of the defense of freedom in Ukraine has been invoked to marshal greater and greater efforts from other nations and it has been paying off.
Allowing the Saudi prince to get away with murder does not square with that stance.
I read also that the Saudis are miffed that America is placing much emphasis on the development of renewable energy. While good for the environment it does not fit with the Saudi business model.
When Biden goes to Saudi Arabia he will shake hands with the prince but something will be lost. And what is lost may even have repercussions in our stance on the war with Ukraine and it could weaken it.
Is staying in power, at any cost, worth the effort? I say no.
The Saudi prince felt threatened by Jamal Khashoggi. Democrats feel threatened by oil scarcity and higher prices.
The vaunted reset is akin to saying, when scared we compromise, and we don’t mind coming down a peg or two in our moral standing.
Finally, here’s my personal request to Mr Biden as he gets ready to meet with the prince and the Saudi Royal family. Make it clear that there will be no exchange of gifts between the two.
And please, though they see themselves as kingly, do not bow to them.

Oscar Valdes,,, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts.

Mr Biden. The Choice of Fed Chairman

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Your final decision is getting close.

It’s down to renaming Jerome Powell or choosing Leslie Brainard.

Here’s my argument for Powell:

He’s done an excellent job. The markets are moving in the right direction and he’s earned the respect of most people. His detractors, Senators Sanders and Warren figuring prominently, are at the core of the left wing of the party, the same wing that has played a big role in delaying legislative negotiations and for which you’ve paid a price in the drop of your approval rating.

Thankfully, the infrastructure bill finally passed last night, after strenuous effort on your part.

Powell has done what he can about inflation.

The fact that people are choosing not to return to work because they have money in their pockets, is not his creation. The pandemic required monetary stimulus and he did it. He’s now begun to decrease the purchase of bonds.

How high will inflation rise is anybody’s guess. With both Powell and Brainard the Federal Reserve will be in good hands, but Powell has the advantage of having been in the thick of the battle. And it is not over yet.

From what I can see you need to be careful with the perception that the left wing has much influence over you.

The whole lot could have done a little more for you countering the harsh criticism you’ve got for getting us out of Afghanistan, which I believe was the right choice. Maybe I missed it, but did Sanders and Warren and AOC and the leader of the progressive caucus step up to offer a word of support? Just one word? Don’t think so. Why not?

You beat Trump but still he got 74 million votes. That’s a whole lot of votes. And they may even forgive him his role in the Capitol riot on 1/6/2021. Unbelievable but there it is.

You don’t have much margin to play with. This could go against you easily. And then we’ll have to wring our hands the last two years of your presidency because nothing can get through unless Mitch McConnell gives his consent.

You’ll get tired of inviting him to the Oval Office where he will listen and grin, then say, ‘Well, Mr President, that’s what my constituency believes. So sorry.’

You’ll look down and think to yourself, ‘How in hell did it get away from me?’


Oscar Valdes.