A game of chess has been waged for decades over a part of the world that has seen more than its share of similar games over the last 2,000 years. Turkey, as the crossroads between continents, has always been at the heart of many games of geopolitical intrigue that have sometimes flared into war. Lately, however, the flares have been gasflares ignited along its periphery – valuable fuel often burned as a by-product with nowhere to go.
The game this time is all about putting a pipeline across Turkey to bring that natural gas into Europe. And for a variety of odd reasons, March is a critical month for how it will be played out. The key players are all sources of natural gas – Russia, Iran, and Israel. We will likely know in a month just who wins and who loses.
This is not an ordinary election year in many ways. For one, it’s not really an election year – the actual voting doesn’t happen until 2016. It’s also going to be the first Presidential election without Obama since 2004 as the White House becomes open.
But more importantly, everyone seems to understand that the economy and the politics of this nation are both changing. Stuff is seriously up for grabs. A desperate cry for attention might make all the difference.
Enter into this a bid for more Congressional oversight of the Federal Reserve, an idea backed by no less than 30 Senators, 3 of which are clearly running for President. It seems like a good idea all around – what can be wrong with more oversight? That depends on what’s being overlooked now, of course, and what can be done with existing law.
Plus, of course, we have the omnipresent Fed itself. Does it need to be reigned in?
Why is foreign policy so difficult? If you were to ask Tip O’Neill, he’d tell you that “All politics is local,” a phrase he credited to his Dad. Take that mindset and set it loose in an integrated world and pretty soon you have nations talking right past each other with no hope of ever finding common ground.
That’s what brings Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to Washington on 3 March to speak to a joint session of Congress – but not President Obama. It’s also what makes it very likely that this will be an epic disaster for at least some of the parties arranging this trip.
In most of the world, the one thing we can be sure of is constant change. In the US House, we have come to rely on inaction in the face of change as Speaker Boehner stood resolutely in charge of a body too fractured to do anything. As comedian Dave Allen observed, “When you’re up to your bottom lip in muck, there is only one rule – don’t make waves.”
A big wave is about to come through the US House as Boehner faces a serious challenge from the Tea Party wing of the party. So far, two Representatives, Louis Gohmert (R-TX) and Ted Yoho (R-FL) have announced they are challenging him. How exactly it will shake out is anyone’s guess, but something is about to happen. Make popcorn.
If you had to sum up 2014 in one short sentence, what would it be? Barataria is a blog of social commentary and observation in the largest sense, which naturally includes a lot of politics and economics – the places where the citizens of this great nation express their true values. So for the the purposes of this humble effort, one thing comes clearly to mind for this year:
The system largely works.
That may sound horribly pro-establishment, especially with the terrible failures of the system that made the news this year. Police brutality went unpunished as many people came to fear that there is an open season on their families simply for having the wrong skin color. The Republicans took the Senate easily with a record low turnout, an expression of apathy more than direction.
But this points to the power of the systems we have as much as the successes do, and why the goals looking ahead have to be about getting control so that these mechanisms do what we need them to. The systems work – as they didn’t at all in 2008 and sporadically after that – but for whom?
In the stillness of a cold winter day, obligations chilled between frosty holidays, two years stretch out in a lounging recline to define the moment. One is the year past, and the other is the year ahead. For the whirl of politics, defined in soundbites and constant lobbying, the break is an unusual calm for clearer heads.
Next year, 2015, will be the year in which the campaign for a new President takes shape. That will in turn define 2016 in politics and set us up for what is certainly shaping up to indeed be the Year Everything Changes in 2017. For the long journey that will come to define whatever hero we place in the office to define our world at the start of the next boomtime. For all that, it is shaping up to be one person who can take it – if she really does want it.
This next year is likely to be the one that defines Secretary Hillary Clinton, and in so doing may define the next great era of the United States. It’s all about how she manages “inevitability”.
As is so often the case today, bad news is good news. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) had a terrible loss when an important provision of the Dodd-Frank financial reform was weakened over her very vocal objections, slipped into the critical budget deal when no one was supposed to be looking. But if you read the press, it was good for her because it increased her stature at a time when calls for her to run for President are only getting louder.
There are now two prominent calls for her to run, one by MoveOn and another independent one pushed by a group of major Obama backers. A true hero usually heeds the third call. The way the press is writing her story, that’s about to come. What does it all mean?