Tag Archives: John McCain

Five Stories You Might Have Missed

The American presidential race is finally entering its final stretch.  With a little more than a week left in the campaign, both candidates are sharpening their attacks against one another, and the news coverage has largely devolved into a horse race in Pennsylvania, Colorado, and a handful of other tossup states.  From a global perspective, perhaps the most interesting story from the campaign trail this week was Joe Biden’s warning that the next American president would be tested early in his new administration.  The McCain campaign seized on the comments, quickly producing an apocalyptic commercial warning of the dangers facing the United States and hinting that McCain was the only candidate who could successfully navigate those dangers.  Despite the gaffe, Obama seems well-poised to win the presidential election next Tuesday.

But enough on the American election.  Here’s five stories you might have missed with all the attention on the race for the presidency: 

1.  Responding to sharp declines in global oil prices over the past few weeks, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) announced it would cut its output by 4.5 percent from November.  On Friday, oil fell to $62.25 per barrel, its lowest level since June 2007 and a sharp decline from the nearly $150 per barrel over the summer.  Oil prices have fallen dramatically as a result of the global financial crisis, which has resulted in sharp declines in demand for oil.

2.  A 43-nation meeting of Asian and European leaders on Friday met to consider a range of issues, including a new system of global financial regulation.  As home to the world’s largest foreign currency reserves, China has come under increasing pressure to help address the global financial crisis.  So far, China has avoided making any public commitments regarding the crisis.  But according to Charles Grant, director of the London-based Centre for European Reform, “All countries with current account surpluses have people knocking on their doors at the moment and China with the biggest surplus will be the most courted.”  A global summit scheduled fro next month will address global financial regulation in greater detail, and China looks to be a key player there.

3.  Israel appears to be headed towards early elections as Tzipi Livni, who replaced Ehud Olmert as leader of the governing Kadima party, was unable win the support of the ultra-orthodox Shas party.  The differences between the two parties center largely on the status of Jerusalem in negotiations with the Palestinians.  Shas demands that Jerusalem be the undisputed capital of Israel and maintains that the status of Jerusalem is off limits in negotiations.  But by refusing to even consider the status of Jerusalem as part of a broader settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, Shas’ position undermines the likelihood of a negotiated settlement.

4.  Iceland became the first western country since the United Kingdom in 1976 to seek a rescue package from the International Monetary Fund.  Facing an economic contraction as large as 10 percent next year and a decline in currency value of 70 percent during the crisis, the government of Iceland requested a $2 billion loan from the IMF as part of a larger $6 billion rescue package provided by other Nordic countries.   As part of the IMF package, the government of Iceland will have to impose severe financial restrictions, including curtailing government spending with a goal of balancing the structural budget in the medium term.

5.  The government of Mexico has pushed through changes in the country’s oil sector intended to make the country energy independent and halt declining production.  The changes would grant greater flexibility to Pemex, the national oil company of Mexico but imposes strict limits on the ability of private or foreign oil companies from tapping Mexican oil resources.

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Top 10 Policy Mistakes

The presidential campaign has begun to heat up following the Democratic and Republican Party conventions.  Recent polls place McCain ahead of Obama for the first time in the head-to-head race.  Reflecting the closeness of the race, each candidate is promising to move away from politics as usual.  But their proposals have important implications for global politics.  In part, the relative size and power of the United States in the world makes this necessarily the case.  As the world’s largest oil consumer, U.S. oil policy directly affects world prices, thereby affecting the lives of millions of people in the developing world through higher or lower energy prices, for example.

Demonstrating sound judgment is therefore vital.  This concern has been at the heart of both candidate’s critique of the other side.  McCain’s criticism of Obama, for example, had until recently centered on the concern that he was too inexperienced to understand international relations.  Obama’s critique of McCain has been that he is part of the Republican majority in Washington DC for years, and that the policies adopted by that majority have not been good for the country.

This week, Foreign Policy magazine published its top 10 bad policy ideas for both parties’ presidential candidates, arguing that each candidate has made some important mistakes in their political platforms. 

For McCain’s mistakes, it listed

1. Creating a League of Democracies
2. Calling for a Gas-Tax Holiday
3. Requiring a Three-Fifths Majority to Raise Taxes
4. Flip-flopping on Immigration
5. Drilling Our Way Out of the Oil Crisis
6. Balancing the Budget through Victory in the War on Terror
7. Making the Bush Tax Cuts Permanent
8. Supporting Abstinence-Only Education and the Global Gag Rule
9. Calling for 45 New Nuclear Power Plants
10. Backing Cap-and-Trade Without a 100 Percent Auction.

Obama’s mistakes:

1. Renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement
2. Opposing the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement
3. Talking Openly About Bombing Pakistan
4. Sitting Down with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
5. Pushing the Patriot Employer Act
6. Promoting Coal-to-Liquid Fuels
7. Eliminating Income Taxes for Seniors Making Under $50,000
8. Boosting Ethanol Subsidies
9. Taxing Oil Companies Extra
10. Opening the Strategic Petroleum Reserve

I’ll leave it to you to decide which candidates’ mistakes are more forgivable.

Five Stories You Might Have Missed

There were many important and interesting stories this week.  WTO talks have resumed, the economic slowdown in the United States appears to be spreading to Europe and Japan, and Russia continues to reassert its position on the world stage.  But for now, here are five stories from the previous week you might have missed.

1.  Republican presidential candidate John McCain launched an attackon rival Barack Obama yesterday.  Obama cancelled a scheduled visit with wounded American troops in Germany after the Pentagon raised concerns about the potential political use of soldiers.  In a new television ad, McCain claimed that Obama would rather woo foreign leaders than visit US soldiers.  Obama countered that he refused to allow American soldiers to be used as pawns in a game of political back and forth.  The visit was supposed to be part of Obama’s international tour last week, when he visited leaders in Afghanistan, Iraq, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.  The tour, which included a speech drawing more than 200,000 Berliners, was heralded as a success by the Financial Times editorials staff.

2.  Former Bosnian Serbian leader Radovan Karazic was arrested in Belgrade on Tuesday.   Karazic was the leader of Serbian forces responsible for Srebrenica massacre, where 8,000 people were murdered.  Karazic was wanted by the International Court of Justice and has been charged with crimes against humanity and genocide.  He had going by the name Dragan Dabic and earning a living as naturalist and alternative medicine guru since 1995.

3.  On Wednesday the Israeli Defense Ministry preliminarily approved plans to expand Jewish settlements in the West Bank.  The proposal must still be approved by Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.  Under international law, the settlements are illegal, but more than 450,000 Israelis live in such settlements.  According to Palestinian officials, Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are the most fundamental obstacle to peace in the region.

4.  Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has proposed to expand his cheap oil initiative, known as Petrocaribe, to more countries in Central America.  Chavez developed the plan as a way to curry the favor of countries in the region, hoping to sway allies in struggle against the United States government.  The plan allows countries to purchase oil from Venezuela at a reduced price and to finance purchases over low interest rates over 25 years.  High oil prices have increased participation in the plan, and now, even center-right governments in Central America are singing up.

5.  Tens of thousands of workers have taken to the streets in Johannesburg, South Africa.  Workers from across the country are participating in a nation-wide strike called by the country’s largest federation of local unions, COSATU.  Workers are protesting declining standards of living due to economic slowdown and a proposed 27.5 percent increase in the price of electricity.