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Morning Musings

  • An ABC News story this morning says that when it comes to the CIA, secrecy prevails. Stop the presses. Not sure why this is a bad thing. Some would argue, presently company included, that there is too much out there to begin with. Disclosures for genuine policy or academic reasons is one thing; political voyeurism for people with political agendas – a favorite pastime in this city – is quite another.
  • Waterboarding? Politico says, ‘darn right‘…
  • Real Academia Española, the guardians of the Spanish language, take note, the politically correct police at Dartmouth University has decreed that “fiesta” is a racist word. And folks thought Don Quixote was just a fantasy. While they’re are it, might as well ask Ford motor company to rename the Fiesta. Drop the “i” and we’ll have an Italian, Festa. As my grandparents used to say, “Están locos de remate.”
  • Five or so years of “world first, U.S. maybe” foreign policy is having the intended effect on the American people. According to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, a majority of Americans want the United States to step back from the world stage.
  • Two European banks may face criminal charges for violating U.S. sanctions on Cuba, Iran, and the Sudan. In this town, there is a cottage industry of anti-sanctions lobbyists and lawyer lobbyists. It is especially active, and vocal, in trying to undermine or discredit U.S. policy towards Cuba. A much-repeated talking point: these sanctions do not work. Tell that to BNP Paribas, one of France’s largest banks whose stock dropped several points yesterday on news that it may need to set aside close to $1,000,000,000 to cover potential penalties for alleged violations of U.S. law and regulations. Someone leaked to the media that there are ongoing negotiations with the U.S. government and the French banking giant, one of only a few foreign banks that happen to have offices in Cuba. The other bank mentioned in several stories is Credit Suisse. In a Bloomberg story, one BNP official said: “We know that Americans have no fear to levy multi-billion penalties on banks … [t]he update from BNP is not reassuring.” I guess not every at BNP felt the same way. They should have thought of that while they were doing whatever they were doing with respect to Havana, Tehran, or the Sudan. 
  • Several Republican Members of Congress were pleased with the release of a White House e-mail – a ‘smoking gun‘ – detailing the official response to the Benghazi attacks. Four Americans were killed, including the U.S. Ambassador. While the Obama national security team’s official response is important to detail, that is history. The video narrative notwithstanding, the world understands that most of them are incompetent. The real issue remains that absolutely no one has been held accountable and many U.S. facilities are at risk. This issue needed a lot more oversight than one Congressional Committee, or two, poking around to score for political points.
  • According to The Hill newspaper: MasterCard said that it was “gathering information in connection with recent congressional hearings to better understand the policy issues around virtual and anonymous currencies.”
  • As events in the Ukraine appear to be going from bad to real bad, rest assured that the sanctions are coming, the sanctions are coming. A high-ranking Russian official is now saying that such talk is putting the United States International Space Station program at risk. He took to Twitter to suggest that Russia could suspend taxi rides on the Cold War-era Soyuz rockets to the station. This really does sound like the Cold War, except it is a little hotter these days. I know a lot of people in this town who wish the SpaceX Dragon program was ready to send humans to the U.S. International Space Station …
  • While Secretary of State John Kerry engages in damage control over the Israel apartheid comments that he made during a secret meeting of the Trilateral Commission, Sen. Rand Paul introduced a bill yesterday that would condition any U.S. foreign assistance to the Palestinian Authority on peace with Israel. On the former, one wonders if Sec. Kerry understands how offensive that word not only to Israel, but to the large numbers of South African émigrés living in Israel? And as for Paul’s bill, good luck. It’s a great approach that has been tried before, but it will likely be watered down.
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