Wednesday, August 10, 2016

August 10, 2016 - Why Saudi Arabian layoffs could be a good sign for peace, and other stories

Saudi Arabian layoffs; bad news for workers, good news for Yemen?
New reports out of Saudi Arabia indicate thousands of foreign migrant workers have been laid off and are now living like de facto refugees. The layoffs occurred because the parent company ran out of money, and the workers are apparently owed months of back wages. In the context of the Saudi immigration system, however, this has put them in a tragic kind of Catch 22--the workers cannot leave the country until their former employer arranges an exit visa for them and the employer cannot grant an exit visa until they pay the wages owed.

Officially, this is an isolated incident to individual failing companies. Unofficially, it appears to be the latest sign that the oil-fueled prosperity of Saudi Arabia may be finally drawing to a close due to months of low oil prices, an unsustainable welfare system, and an expensive and appalling war in neighboring Yemen.

This is clearly bad news for the migrant workers, who find themselves in desperate conditions. However, it may be great news for Yemenis, and Americans who are weary of America's alliance with one of the most despotic regimes in the region. For years, the Saudis have held disproportionate influence in the Middle East because of their financial clout, much of which was spent on US contractors and US government debt. As Saudi Arabia's wealth finally withers away, we should expect the US alliance, and US-backed War on Yemen to wither with it. For millions of Yemenis, that day can't come soon enough.

Democratic VP candidate describes current war as illegal
An odd bright spot emerged in the 2016 presidential race over the weekend as Democratic VP Candidate Tim Kaine questioned the legality of the ongoing war on ISIS, breaking with both Hillary Clinton and President Obama on the subject. The war is quite plainly illegal--given that it relies on an authorization passed 15 years ago, long before the current target even existed. Still, it is remarkable to see Kaine continuing to espouse this view, given that his running mate does not share it.

The move probably has little practical impact, as it will surely be eclipsed by Clinton's more hawkish stance.

Trump goes off the cuff again; disaster ensues
On Tuesday, Donald Trump reaffirmed his belief that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the results offered indisputable evidence that, in fact, bad publicity really does exist.

Here, I'm speaking of the off-the-cuff remark where Trump seems to suggest violence as the only possible remedy if Hillary gets elected. Here's the direct quote:
Hillary wants to abolish -- essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know.
Like most of Trump's remarks, this one seemed to be in a half-joking tone. But in context, there's no mistaking what it would imply. Since he's referring to remedies after an election Hillary hypothetically wins and citing the Second Amendment, one assumes he's not alluding to a bunch of gun-toting signature-gatherers, but to something more violent.

Naturally, many are quick to view this as a kind of new low for Trump or just US politics generally. As for me, however, I confess I'm desensitized to the matter. Because every time I hear the latest Trump outrage, my first (and fully involuntary) reaction goes like this: "well, at least he hasn't killed anyone (yet)."

Admittedly, it's probably not ideal that this is my standard for assessing political candidates. And the fact that Trump comes out favorably on this score is not due to him having a consistent peaceful outlook; rather, it's simply because he hasn't held political office before. Nevertheless, it remains a true statement so far as we know. And of course, it's a statement that would not be true for either President Obama or Hillary Clinton.

Of course, Team Clinton rarely misses an opportunity to compete with Trump for the most asinine comment of the day, and Tuesday, they offered one of their best replies to date. In a statement that bore no obvious indications of sarcasm, Clinton's campaign manager said the following:
This is simple -- what Trump is saying is dangerous. A person seeking to be the president of the United States should not suggest violence in any way.
Got that everyone? Remember that this is the candidate who has, in this very campaign cycle, suggested that the aggressive war in Libya was smart power, who definitively asserted--without proof--that the nuclear-armed nation of Russia had hacked the DNC to influence the election, and whose advisers recently made it known that one of their first priorities will be to overthrow the Syrian government. That candidate, Hillary Clinton, believes that Trump is saying uniquely dangerous things and that presidential candidates "should not suggest violence in any way."

Based on these facts, we have reached the conclusion that Hillary Clinton will be voting for either Jill Stein or Gary Johnson this November, since they're the only ones who fit this criteria.

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