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2015 It's time to embrace common sense

Taking us to almost 1/7th of the way into the 21st Century, 2014 was a year of gambles, many involving Vladimir Putin and his various henchmen. They aided-and-abetted and profited from his gamble of $50+ billion on the Sochi Olympics. He added more treasury rubles to buy an F1 race for Sochi around the empty arenas. Hey, Russia was 'open for business'.

Barack Obama gambled that Americans would continue to not recognize his historic failures at every turn, from recession recovery to environmental flim-flammery, to usurpation of Congressional powers, to foreign policy meltdowns, to fanning the flames of racial politics, to even his addiction to golfing during crises.

Canada and Australia showed common sense also seen growing in India and in reforms in Japan and elsewhere. The two baby boom nations one with Antarctica as a close neighbour and the other the home of the North Pole were on the same page.

Putin - a breach too far

First to Putin. He gambled to use the world stage of the Olympics to create a wealth-building tourist destination on the Black Sea. It became a moneypit. Then, not many miles away, he directed a takeover of the Crimean Peninsula, gambling no one would care. As a direct result of this Soviet-style adventurism, plus the denied incursions into Eastern Ukraine, many thousands of Russian soldiers and Ukrainians died.

Perhaps Putin believed his Olympics hyperbole or believed that because he got away with manipulationg Russia into his own personal fiefdom he could get away with anything. After all, what could the West do, he had absolute power, an integrated economy with the West and nuclear weapons. His bluster skills against the American President had most recently made a mockery of Obama's 'red line' in Syria. And, of course, he had lots of oil and gas to keep his treasury humming.

Perhaps Putin felt he could extort Ukraine and Europe with energy, to get his way, while expanding Russia bit by bite. They needed his oil and gas, commentators fretted. They'd stand down.

As 2014 ended, however, Putin needed them as customers more than they needed him. Oil was in freefall, gas plentiful because of fracking, and the ruble was in rubble, falling much faster than oil even as Western sanctions bit him back, along with an increasing circle of cronies. And the West didn't stand down. NATO flexed its muscles and targeted sanctions multiplied.

Will common sense prevail in Russia? The common wisdom is no, that he can hold on. Sanctions can't topple such a well-connected dictator.

But as fortunes are depleted and financial escape routes disappear, Putin-friendly oligarchs are said to be lacking in confidence, to say the least.

The sanctions can go farther, and will, according to signals from the West.

They can topple leaders, especially ones under siege from military families whose lost members this year have been unsatisfactorily explained.

Revolts and revolutions can happen quickly. And the impact of a dashed 'revolution of rising expectations' which led Russia back from the USSR brink for 25 years cannot be under-estimated.

If Putin doesn't pull back his troops and discuss a better Crimea 'solution' than it remaining part of Russia, the people and/or the oligarchs may have to express the common sense in Russia.

Barack Obama promised the world, instead delivered non-stop golf

The people did notice. Obama's disgusted and deflated former supporters stayed home during the mid-term congressional elections even the voting cemeteries weren't as active and he created an historic loss for the Democratic Party. The Democrats lost across the board, not just in Congress where the Senate and House are now firmly in the hands of the GOP, but in statehouses and governors' mansions. Nationwide, the GOP holds the reins, except in the White House.

The Republican Party, full of energy, infectious debates over policy and direction, now have lots of new blood destined for future leadership roles. They pasture-ized Democrats thought unassailable, many of whom were responsible both for the Clinton bills which led to the 2008 recession and the inaction in 2006 which could have prevented it or at least much-softened its blow.

House and Senate financial committees led by Democrats Barney Frank and Chris Dodd, the latter wanting to be in the White House, had blocked the Bush White House 2006 demands for action on mortgages so things would be bad enough in 2008 to elect a Democrat into the White House. The rest is history. It won't treat them kindly. They let the recession happen so they could gain political advantage. In many world states they'd be in jail for such a crime.

Then, displaying his contempt for Congress unless they voted for his legislation, never having passed one of his budgets, even when held by the Democrats Obama acted non-stop after the mid-terms had created a lame-duck Congress and did things illegal or undo-able with a watchdog Congress seated. That includes legally suspect amnesty for millions of 'illegal immigrants' which is how you attract more illegals and reduce the stream of those wishing to wait their turn. And it includes helping Cuba recover from its loss of first the USSR, and now Venezuela, as sugar daddies, as the price of oil plummets.

What's really in the deal (negotiated in Canada, under the noses of the left-wing Canadian political media who failed to notice and still haven't reported the wheres and whens)? Does it include giving up Guantanamo Bay, a U.S. property for over 110 years? We're told we may find out. What's certain is that Congress will start holding Administration feet to the fire. And that Obama will play as much golf as possible, every day, having learned he doesn't actually know how to be President.

Harsh? Obama is all rhetoric. Indeed, far too much rhetoric and far too little decisiveness, known for dithering on all the great issues. Obama has created and worsened racial conflicts. He gave hope for change before the Arab Spring and when that ferment took off he backed away, leaving dead bodies in Iran, Yemen, Syria, Egypt and Benghazi. The cause of democracy was set back. And the only enduring democracy in the region, Israel, was lectured instead of supported. All of this gave rise to inspired hope for change in the narrow minds of ISIS. As Hunter S. Thompson once observed, "the scum also rises."

Blood brothers Canada and Australia

Budgets matter. They don't balance themselves. Taxes are a drag, man. Don't put all your eggs in a resource basket, but be there when you're needed and be a trading nation to the world. Both Canada and Australia have huge geography and people advantages, in transportation options and education levels. Neither are navel gazers, both are fully engaged in the world's political and cultural affairs, and are contributing in every sphere at full speed.

Both nations are led by administrations which put a government priority on doing what they must, doing it better, and reducing the costs of non-essential functions, lessening the strain on taxpayers and boosting their economies. Regulation will always have a large role in a modern, technological democratic state, but both have put the excesses of nanny statism in their rear-view mirrors and promote economic and political freedom and tax reform. Both remain socially liberal. Coping with past blunders by their predecessors, they are pivoting quickly to the future, and both are in sync with the emerging interests and ideas found in SouthEast Asia and Western Europe.

A Liberal Prime Minister of Canada once proclaimed the 20th Century to 'belong' to Canada. Ultimately, it belonged to the United States after turbulence and mayhem spilled much blood and potential from the human race. But both Canada and Australia are making the case not always visible in the political hurly and burly at home that these Commonwealth brothers can lead the cause of common sense forward.

Let theirs be the conservative gambles on the resourcefulness of their peoples that inspire the most admiration and imitation in 2015. Russia and the U.S. are still suffering for their nanny state government gambles for months and years to come. May the future damage they suffer be less than what preceded it.

Happy New Year.


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