Thursday, July 24, 2014

Big Sticks and Unintended Consequences

BIG STICK – The EU is expected to announce today its much anticipated “stiffer” sanctions against Russia for the bombing of flight MH-17. Those sanctions must include Russia’s energy and banking industries if they are to have any substantive affect on Putin. In the past the EU has been quick to express their outrage over Russia’s incursion into Georgia, Crimea and the Ukraine. But they have been unwilling to back up their rhetoric with tough economic sanctions because they have been fearful of what the blowback would mean to their own economies. The EU’s tepid response has emboldened Putin’s aggressive behavior. Will the murder of 290 innocent civilians bring a more substantive response?

Russia’s is one of the world’s major producers of oil and natural gas. Its weakened economy is highly dependent on the revenues generated from oil and gas exports. Basically Russia is one of the world’s largest gas stations and its only customer is the EU. A boycott of Russian hydrocarbons by the EU would be a body blow to the Russian economy.

While France, Germany, Italy and the Brits wring their hands over the economic repercussions for hitting Russia where it hurts; little Holland has no such qualms. Holland, through its Shell Oil Company, is one of Russia’s major investors. It would most certainly take an economic beating were it to agree to cease doing business with Putin. But Holland wants justice for the 150 Dutch citizens who died on MH-17. 78% of the Dutch citizens say they support tough sanctions against the Russian energy industry even though they know it will hurt them at home. Will the rest of the EU have the courage to stand behind the Dutch?

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES – Sarah Palin is in the news…again. Normally we would not waste our time or yours by commenting on the machinations of a failed candidate whose only purpose in life is self promotion. But the former part time governor of Alaska’s inflammatory rhetoric may have struck a nerve that ends up hurting her and her party in ways she didn’t anticipate.

The subject of Ms. Palin’slatest detour from reality is the impeachment of President Obama. Palin is out on the campaign trail lining her pockets while voicing her support for Tea Part candidates. Her oft repeated message is clear: “We need to impeach this imperialist president for his abuse of power and his continual violation of our laws as stated in the constitution.” While her screeching mantra is like fingernails on a blackboard to those on the left, it is gaining traction with the right. We are already seeing victorious Tea Party primary candidates pick up on her call for impeachment. If you are a Democrat, that could be a very good thing.

If you hearken back to the 2012 campaign you will recall that Republican state legislatures all across the country passed a series of new, stringent voter I’d laws. The Republican talking points said that new laws were passed to quell the tsunami of voter fraud that was sweeping across the country. Apparently there being no evidence of voter fraud was of little relevance to their cause. In truth the laws were passed to quell the surge of minority voters heading to the polls in support of the president. If you can’t beat them…stop them from voting. The Republican push for voter suppression was further proven when those same Republican state legislatures cancelled or scaled back early voting in minority districts while leaving the early voting hours in place in predominantly white districts. The bottom line is that the Republican efforts to suppress minority votes infuriated the minorities. They responded by surging to the polls in record numbers; sweeping the president to a landslide victory. Could Sarah Palin’s nonsensical Tea Party push for the president’s impeachment call minority voters to the polls like the voter I’d train wreck did in 2012?

Democrats are very concerned that voter turnout will be light and predominantly white; as is typically the case in mid-term elections. If that happens, Republicans could strengthen their majority in the House and gain control of the Senate. Were that scenario to occur, a vote to impeach would not be beyond the realm of possibility. Sarah Palin’s Tea Party call to arms just might motivate an unintended audience.

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