27 December 2019   Leave a comment

Russia, China, and Iran are conducting four days of naval exercises in the northern Indian Ocean. The exercises come despite the increased tensions between the US and Iran and it is difficult to figure out exactly what message Russia and China are sending. If an open conflict between the US and Iran were to break out, it is highly unlikely that either China or Russia would intervene–even though both countries have a strong interest in Iranian oil, the interest is not sufficient to risk an open conflict with the US. Nonetheless, joint military exercises are difficult and expensive and one would be derelict to dismiss their significance. The exercises will definitely complicate US attempts to further isolate Iran from the international economic system. The exercises also come as Japan decided to send a destroyer to the region after a very contentious debate:

“Despite being a U.S. ally, Japan’s troop dispatch is not part of a U.S.-led coalition protecting Middle East waterways, apparently an attempt to maintain neutrality in a show of consideration to Iran.

“Under the plan, Japan will send about 260 Maritime Self-Defense Force personnel with a destroyer and a pair of P-3C reconnaissance aircraft, mainly for intelligence-gathering in the Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait connecting the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.”

Japan’s interest in protecting the flow of oil from the Middle East is obvious since it gets 80% of its oil from the region. But Japan has tried to maintain good relations with both Iran and the US so it is a difficult balancing act.

Paul Krugman has written an op-ed for The New York Times on the effects of great wealth on the political process in the US. He uses information that was gleaned from published reports by The Guardian, a reliable lefty newspaper (it is not an accident that a British newspaper would report on something that many US media outlets apparently are unwilling to investigate). The article quotes from the research conducted by US academics Benjamin I Page, Jason Seawright, and Matthew J Lacombe. The researchers do not mince their words:

“Our new, systematic study of the 100 wealthiest Americans indicates that Buffett, Gates, Bloomberg et al are not at all typical. Most of the wealthiest US billionaires – who are much less visible and less reported on – more closely resemble Charles Koch. They are extremely conservative on economic issues. Obsessed with cutting taxes, especially estate taxes – which apply only to the wealthiest Americans. Opposed to government regulation of the environment or big banks. Unenthusiastic about government programs to help with jobs, incomes, healthcare, or retirement pensions – programs supported by large majorities of Americans. Tempted to cut deficits and shrink government by cutting or privatizing guaranteed social security benefits….

“Both as individuals and as contributors to Koch-type consortia, most US billionaires have given large amounts money – and many have engaged in intense activity – to advance unpopular, inequality-exacerbating, highly conservative economic policies. But they have done so very quietly, saying little or nothing in public about what they are doing or why. They have avoided political accountability. We believe that this sort of stealth politics is harmful to democracy.”

Forbes, a reliable righty journal, did an analysis of how wealthy politicians have become very prominent in world politics in recent years. The phenomenon of rich politicians is hardly new; but the amount of concentrated wealth in the hands of so few will be difficult for democracies to manage.

Posted December 27, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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