30 April 2009

UPDATES: Warning of the Flu Outbreak May Have Come Last Year

UPDATE: Bioresearch Online is reporting that warning of the Replikins, Ltd. (a biotech/biopharm. company) provided a warning of the flu outbreak (correctly identifying index location and likely strain) a year ago, using genomics technology which tracks changes in the viral mutation and replication rate. From the report:
Replikins, Ltd. published a FluForecast® warning in April 7th, 2008, a year before the recent Mexico and California H1N1 cases. The company was able to state the likelihood of H1N1 outbreaks based on its patented Replikin Count™ genomics technology, which examines specific regions in virus genes which have been linked with past epidemics. The April 2008 announcement, attached below as published on the Web, stated that in H1N1 the company had then detected the highest concentrations of these specific regions ever seen, except for those from the 1918 pandemic which killed millions of people. Today, the company is actively pursuing licensing partnerships to apply its groundbreaking technology not only to early warning systems, but also to the development of synthetic vaccines to prevent or slow future epidemics. A synthetic H1N1 Replikins Vaccine is available for testing, and related products are described below and on the company's website.
The link to the original report is here. The original report makes clear that viral counts were rapidly rising at that time:
Replikins Ltd. has found that the Replikin Count(TM) of the H1N1 strain of influenza virus has recently increased to 7.6 (plus/minus 1.4), its highest level since the 1918 H1N1 pandemic (p value less than 0.001). A rising Replikin Count of a particular influenza strain, indicating rapid replication of the virus, is an early warning which has been followed consistently by an outbreak of the specific strain.
Organizations typically fight the last battle much more effectively than they predict those in the future. In this case, the WHO and CDC may have relied too heavily on traditional clinical reporting and identification, rather than newer reporting technology. If the Replikins report proves to be fully accurate, the major health monitoring organizations will need to change their monitoring standards.

Here it is - the all things swine flu links page.

Yesterday afternoon, the World Health Organization raised the pandemic flu alert to Phase 5, implying that a global pandemic is imminent. If a pandemic is declared, it would be right in line with the 19th-century's 40 year cycling for influenza pandemics (the last one was in 1968, and was also caused by a swine flu that made the jump to humans). Helpful links to follow the latest include the National Swine Flu Situation Page, the government's Pandemic Flu site (both of these have maps linked to confirmed cases only), the WHOs information page on flu, and the CDC's site. Interestingly, the CDC also has May listed as Asthma Awareness month - one hopes that people don't start confusing asthma attacks with flu victims.

On a somewhat lighter note, the PigFluMap, isn't the world's most accurate, but it's a lot more interesting to see the varied reporting numbers (suspected, possibles, etc.). A word of warning - it has a really annoying ad that pops up everytime you refresh the map, but it does seem to pull in every suspect case out there, along with state, regional, and country stats.

CNN had a fascinating story yesterday of a WWI soldier (the grandfather of one of their producers) who survived the 1918 'Spanish' flu pandemic twice while serving. It provides a fascinating historical look at a world at war during a pandemic that may have killed as many as 50 million globally. Numbers of deaths during pandemics have gone down significantly since that period, largely due to better treatment, public education, and response systems.

Of course, there are plenty of conspiracy theories and outright mythology circulating. On the left - it's all a big scheme to put money in the pocket of 'big pharma,' thus capitalizing on the misery of the oppressed. On the right, it's a crisis too good to waste - more big government coming your way!

Meanwhile, I'm headed for San Antonio (yes, near Mexico with one school already closed and confirmed cases in the city), but don't anticipate anything more exciting than a good conference.

25 April 2009

Send Your Ideas for Limited Spending to the White House (no, it's not April Fool's Day)

The AP is reporting that President Obama wants to hear ideas for limiting government spending from federal workers:
"After all, Americans across the country know that the best ideas often come from workers, not just management," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address. "That's why we'll establish a process through which every government worker can submit their ideas for how their agency can save money and perform better. We'll put the suggestions that work into practice."

How about: stop putting out gigantic bills that will indebt the next three generations? Of course:
Obama said his administration would make $2 trillion in deficit reductions in the next decade, a pledge he has made repeatedly during his first three months in office. He also said he wants to re-evaluate priorities in the capital and urged Congress to pass legislation that would force lawmakers to pay for new policies and avoid large deficits. He also told agencies they could keep a part of the money they save.

If you're interested, send your comments to: http://www.whitehouse.gov

UPDATE - Porter Goss: No Cover from the Obama Administration

UPDATE 2: Porter Goss published a damning OpEd in the Washington Post this morning. In it he explicitly condemns members of Congress (no doubt, he was particularly referencing Pelosi) for convenient memories.
In the fall of 2002, while I was chairman of the House intelligence committee, senior members of Congress were briefed on the CIA's "High Value Terrorist Program," including the development of "enhanced interrogation techniques" and what those techniques were. This was not a one-time briefing but an ongoing subject with lots of back and forth between those members and the briefers. ... Today, I am slack-jawed to read that members claim to have not understood that the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed; or that specific techniques such as "waterboarding" were never mentioned. It must be hard for most Americans of common sense to imagine how a member of Congress can forget being told about the interrogations of Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed. In that case, though, perhaps it is not amnesia but political expedience. ... The chairs and the ranking minority members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, known as the Gang of Four, were briefed that the CIA was holding and interrogating high-value terrorists.

The Congressional leadership needs to 'man-up,' now, before their own words and deeds are released by name for the public to examine. Those in glass houses need to be careful of what they throw.

UPDATE 1: To further illustrate the confused message coming from the administration, read both the President's call on the CIA to change their wicked ways, and his assurance to the agency that its members have his full support.

ABCs Jake Tapper published an article yesterday in which he cited a number of current and former CIA officers who shared their concerns that the Obama Administration is now on a path that leaves them exposed and 'without cover.' A former lawyer for the agency, Mark Lowenthal was one of the sources:

"We ask these people to do extremely dangerous things, things they've been ordered to do by legal authorities, with the understanding that they will get top cover if something goes wrong," Lowenthal says. "They don't believe they have that cover anymore." Releasing the photographs "will make it much worse," he said.

Even though President Obama has announced that the Justice Department will not prosecute CIA officers who were operating within the four corners of what they'd been told was the law, Lowenthal says members of the CIA are worried. "They feel exposed already, and this is going to increase drumbeat for an investigation or a commission" to explore detainee treatment during the Bush years, he said. "It's going to make it much harder to resist, and they fear they're then going to be thrown over."

The officers have good reason to fear this, if history is any guide. The Washington Examiner related the story of Ted Olson, who provided legal advice to President Reagan. Olson became the subject of a long-running independent counsel investigation for providing legal advice that later became politically unpopular among members of Congress. The investigation took up years of his life, went nowhere in the long run, and damaged his reputation. There's a great danger that the current thirst for 'truth' turns to a thirst for vengeance. Persecuting those who did their jobs believing their actions to be legally correct and acceptable, and possibly endangering members of the military and intelligence communities who are currently deployed when further exposures are made, is irresponsible at best. Giving a pep talk to Langley won't reassure officers who have done a dangerous job for years, and expected to be covered by the White House, no matter who holds the presidency.

The way that the administration seems to be handling this issue has, at times, appeared almost schizophrenic. Stephen Hayes exposed some of the confusion in the recent edition of The Weekly Standard. The gravest concern raised in his article is not the apparent internal debate in the administration, and between various factions of the Democratic Party, but rather than selective leaking of the memos and possible investigations, will be only for political gain. That possibility should concern any citizen.

20 April 2009

One Step Closer to Nationalization

This evening's Marketplace (NPR) spent a great deal of time on an interview between Kai Ryssdal and John Dimsdale. Their discussion raised my hackles almost immediately, mostly because they nailed the Obama Administration's moves to take control over large banks. It's probably a violation of copy right laws to copy the entire inteview (I strongly suggest you read and listen to it), but I'll comment on some key moments.

The interview started by referencing a New York Times article from this morning that explained that the government may convert its preferred shares in banks into common stock.
And not helping at all was a story in The New York Times today that the Treasury Department's thinking about changing the terms of the investment it made in the big Wall Street banks as part of the bailout package. Our Washington Bureau Chief John Dimsdale is here to explain what might be happening. And why.

According to the NYT article, the Obama Administration is touting this as a means of sparing Congress from putting more funds out:
President Obama’s top economic advisers have determined that they can shore up the nation’s banking system without having to ask Congress for more money any time soon, according to administration officials.

It's probably true that the Administration would have trouble getting Congress to agree to more TARP funds at this point (they're taking enough flack on TARP 1 & 2). But is the Administration being honest?
In a significant shift, White House and Treasury Department officials now say they can stretch what is left of the $700 billion financial bailout fund further than they had expected a few months ago, simply by converting the government’s existing loans to the nation’s 19 biggest banks into common stock.

Kai and John certainly don't seem to think so.
DIMSDALE: Right, common shares are voting shares. The government can easily become the biggest shareholder of some banks and decide who is going to be on the board. It'll influence other decisions, business decisions. Not to mention the potential conflicts of interest when the nation's lawmakers become big shareholders of a company. Buying common shares is much closer to nationalizing the banks.

That's right boys and girls, the Administration is pushing all the buttons to make conservatives hot under the collar, but depsite the nasty 'n' word being thrown around, it's not the worst thing that could come out of the Administration's strategy:
DIMSDALE: Well, there's no guaranteed return with common stocks. And there are no dividends. Taxpayers are not at the head of the line to be paid back. There is more of an upside potential if banks turn around, and that would be good for government revenue and the taxpayers, but that dilutes the returns for private, common-share investors. Which is why the banks that have the ability will try to, as soon as possible, get out from under the government investments. Jeff Davis thinks that in the near future some of the stronger banks, perhaps Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, BB&T Bank, will raise private capital, buy back the government investments, and that would be good for them, Davis says, but not for others.

So, under this strategy, the government buys the largest shareholder position, using our tax dollars, and we're less likely to get repaid. The banks obviously don't want this happening, so they're going to try to repay the TARP funds just as quickly as they can, but:
Ryssdal:
The government is going to be left with wards of the state, or quasi zombies. And the J.P. Morgans and the BB&Ts are saying, in effect, we don't want to be part of that crowd.
Ryssdal: Yeah and of course the next big battle is whether or not the banks are even going to be allowed to repay back that TARP money, right?


Thanks, Kai! You made my drive home so much more acid-inducing than it already is!

19 April 2009

Good Call - the US Withdraws from the UN's Conference on Racism

The United States has withdrawn from the UN's upcoming Conference on Racism, largely because (as stated in a Bloomberg report):

"The Geneva conference will review progress on the 2001 Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, or DDPA. The UN says about 4,000 delegates will attend, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."

The DDPA was and is a huge problem. It essentially declares Israel to be fully at fault in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and while skirting the line of Holocaust-denial, blames Israel for racist oppression of the Palestinians. The entire conference is an issue as well, since the most vocal member states all enact racist and sexist policies. Any confrontation of these policies is impossible through this body however, as the same members have managed to turn around any criticism, calling it racist offensive. It's a neat trick to accuse your enemies of what they would charge you with, but it doesn't make it more accurate. The article continues:

While the Geneva draft text is an improvement on the 2001 document rejected by the U.S., it still reaffirms “in toto” the DDPA statement, the State Department said on April 18.

“The DDPA singles out one particular conflict and prejudges key issues that can only be resolved in negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians,” acting State Department spokesman Robert A. Wood said in a statement. “The United States also has concerns with relatively new additions to the text regarding ‘incitement’ that run counter to the U.S. commitment to unfettered free speech.

There has been a lot of worry and bother over whether or not the new Administration would cave to pressure, and participate in the conference, thus giving its members cover. It's good to know that the US is still going to draw a firm line - at least for now.

15 April 2009

Cognitive Dissonance?

First to the cognitive dissonance half of this post: at his address on the economy at Georgetown University yesterday, President Obama said, "We must build our house upon a rock ...We must lay a new foundation for growth and prosperity — a foundation that will move us from an era of borrow and spend to one where we save and invest; where we consume less at home and send more exports abroad. ... And most of all, I want every American to know that each action we take and each policy we pursue is driven by a larger vision of America’s future — a future where sustained economic growth creates good jobs and rising incomes; a future where prosperity is fueled not by excessive debt, reckless speculation and fleeing profit but is instead built by skilled, productive workers; by sound investments that will spread opportunity at home and allow this nation to lead the world in the technologies, innovations and discoveries that will shape the 21st century. That is the America I see. That is the future I know we can have. ..." The President also said, "All of these actions — the Recovery Act, the bank capitalization program, the housing plan, the strengthening of the nonbank credit market, the auto plan and our work at the G-20 — have been necessary pieces of the recovery puzzle. They have been designed to increase aggregate demand, get credit flowing again to families and businesses and help them ride out the storm."

Here's the cognitive dissonance: how can we move to a society of savings while simultaneously bulking of lending and credit? Debt is debt, even if it's easily repaid, and it's still there. I've written about this issue a number of times, and I'm still not sure of the correct answer. However, I do know that we can not simultaneously increase debt and reduce it. The massive increases in government spending over the previous two months (combined with the proposed increases in the budget) only make this idea more dissonant.

14 April 2009

UPDATES: President Obama's Address on the Economy at Georgetown University

UPDATE 1: Full text of the speech can be found here.

Standard intro's and thanks, with plenty of ums and uhs before spitting out names.

"... even our critics will agree that we've been busy."

"... I want to explain our strategy as clearly as I can. ... Each policy we pursue is driven by a ... vision ... that will generate 'good jobs...'" (what's a 'good' job?).

"This recession is different. ... This recession was caused by a perfect storm of poor-decision-making."

At least he briefly holds home-buyers also responsible for bad decision-making, as well as lenders who offered bad loans, before moving on to the standard 'bad guys' list.

"We had no choice but to attack all fronts of our economic crisis simultaneously. ... My Administration boosted demand by passing the largest economic recovery plan ever [I'll say] ... "
He went on to make the 3.5M jobs claim again, and that the stimulus is not responsible for increasing the deficit and debt (huh?). He then stated that dealing with the long-term deficit (a contradiction in terms; deficit refers to annual negatives not to long-term accrual of debt) and national debt is all about getting health care costs under control, not about actual government spending. What a bizarre argument.

The President is claiming that the 'nationalization argument' doesn't work (implying that no nationalization is occurring), because it would cost more in the long-run. But then argues that intervention and forced restructuring is OK (and apparently isn't nationalization). I'm not sure if he sees the internal contradiction. If borrowers can't repay TARP funds when they want and in full, than the government is regulating that as well. If we're nationalizing, we should at least admit to it and deal with the fallout. Case in point, he's just started discussing requiring new business plans from GM and Chrysler.

Ahh, on to the G-20. "All agreed to [stronger] regulatory reforms ... and to triple [lending by the IMF] ... This is not charity because America's success depends on our ability to [export]."

"The actions are starting to generate ..." work, jobs (cited the Fire Station House that has screamed that gov't. funds had nothing to do with the stoppage of their lay-offs), credit, etc.

Concluding the first part with calling for regulatory reform (it sounds like he's bought into the notion that bad regulation is the real reason for the recession), new education, clean energy (says that we're behind other nations on this. Hmm - like France (nuclear), Britain (oil), Spain (oil), etc.?), etc. In other words, the only way to stop a recession from coming again is to spend, spend, spend (but apparently only the government because he mentioned moving to a saving and spending society), and regulate everyone and everything. I'm hearing no details here, just a restatement of his goals that have been out there since the campaign. Used the parable of the house on the rock vs. the house on the sand, to say that moving on his agenda will put America's house on the rock.

Major points ("pillars of our new foundation"):
1. Regulate Wall Street much more toughly
2. 20% higher college graduation rates; tax credits for college-attendees; teacher-performance pay; movement of students into fields that cause them to 'make things' (what - are you going to dictate degrees?)
3. Green energy. "We've allowed a lot of other countries to outpace us ... the investments we've made in the recovery act will double America's supply of renewable energy in the next three years." Big claim! Sticking with cap and trade on carbon.
4. Stop "sky-rocketing [health] insurance premiums," move to electronic records, make "quality healthcare affordable for everyone." "We've made a committment to fully fund health care reform without [raising costs]." Pure BS, that one. Efficiencies won't fund what you're proposing.
5. Get rid of the debt after economic recovery. Mr. President, by the time recovery comes around, we'll be so deeply in debt, it won't be paid for three generations! Tinkering with savings on the margins isn't going to cut it.

He wants us to focus on the "... medium and long-term budget picture." He's basically making the arguement that investment and spending now will eventually pay off. How do we know this? I've yet to see anyone on his economic team present data that shows why their projections would work, and there's nothing on the recovery.org site that gives this either. He slams entitlement programs (but includes the defense budget in that -huh?), and says we "... will need to get serious about entitlement reform ... by getting serious about health care reform." He's not letting go of that bone. Says that SS-reform and shutting down tax loopholes along with health care reform will balance out the budget long-term.

"That is the house upon the rock: proud, sturdy, and unwavering ..." The American Dream is now the House Upon the Rock - just a leeetle bit out of the context.

13 April 2009

The UN Security Council Speaks - Big Whoop-Dee-Dee

The UN Security Council has decided that in lieu of actually taking real action against North Korea, it will tell UN members to 'tighten sanctions.' What makes them think the UN members will do anything about this when so many have refused to enact the sanctions already in place? According to a BBC article:

"The Security Council condemns the 5 April 2009 launch by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, which is in contravention of Security Council resolution 1718 of 2006," said Claude Heller, the Mexican president of the Security Council.

The statement also ordered the UN Sanctions Committee to begin enforcing both financial sanctions and an existing arms embargo against North Korea.

UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the council's move, saying it sent "a unified message".

But the BBC's Matthew Price at the UN says it remains to be seen how far member states will go to enforce the sanctions.

Indeed.

Finally, Something Positive to Say for President Obama

Yesterday's perfectly coordinated rescue of the Maesk-Alabama's captain, finally gives this blog a reason to admire a decision by President Obama, who pre-authorized the use of deadly force and a rescue. Three pirates were killed, and a fourth (who was in the negotiations according to some reports), and now the world faces the larger question of what to do with international criminals. Larry Johnson discusses this at No Quarter, where he has posted a portion of his interview with AP over the rescue.

In the meanwhile, Capt. Phillips and the US Navy and Air Force SPECOP members are the heroes of the day, and President Obama made a good call.

12 April 2009

Happy Easter

Alleluia, the Lord is risen. The Lord is risen, indeed. Alleluia!

10 April 2009

Good Friday

O, My people! What have I done to thee that thou shouldst testify against me?

No politics this weekend.

09 April 2009

Isn't This a Nice Thing for the Kingdom our President Bowed To?

According to Reuters:

RIYADH Reuters) - A Saudi man has divorced his wife by text message, a newspaper said Thursday.

The man was in Iraq when he sent the SMS informing her she was no longer his spouse. He followed up with a telephone call to two of his relatives, the daily Arab News reported.

Saudi Arabia practices a strict form of Islamic Sharia law, and clerics preside over Sharia courts as judges. Under the law a man can divorce his wife by saying "I divorce you" three times.

I forget, why should we show obsequious respect to a leader who tolerates this in his country? Politeness would be one thing, but what happened to 'women's rights are human rights?' Human rights under these systems seemed to be reduced to showing Sharia respect, rather than the rights of people. That bow, disguised as a two-handed shake (in which one hand did not participate - see the link on the word respect), is really starting to grate on my nerves.

Barney Frank Loses All Semblance of Dignity

At a speech at Harvard, a student (Joel Pollack) asked Barney Frank how much, if any, responsibility he bore for the economic meltdown. Frank attacked Pollack, essentially calling him a right-wing conspiracy tool, and refused to answer the question. Pollack was dignified, quiet and respectful, but persistent. When Frank said he hadn't been the Chair (of the House Financial Services Committee,) until 2007, and asked what he could have done anyway, Pollack asked about better monitoring of bonuses and Frank's ties to Frannie and Freddie. Scores Pollack - 1, Frank - 0.

One thing is clear, Barney Frank permits no one to question him, ever. Not about the money he took from Frannie and Freddie, not about his ties through his former partner with Fannie and Freddie, not about his repeated defense of their lending practices and refusal to permit regulation, not about his current roll as a powerful chair - never.

I'll say this for Frank; he never fails to astound with his level of deception, hypocrisy and downright nastiness. Neither do some of these other clowns:

video

08 April 2009

Vandals Destroy Monument to Fallen Hero

No matter what your beliefs, feelings about the war or the previous Administration, this is an utter disgrace.

From Families United:

Vandals Destroy Monument to Fallen Hero -
We NEED Your Help!


Vandals in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan have, for the second time, targeted a memorial to LCPL Justin Ellsworth, KIA Fallujah, Iraq- 2004. (Before and After Pictures Below) The first time the vandals ripped the American flag off the pole, poured gasoline on it, and burned the flag atop the boots, rifle, and helmet.

Justin’s father, John Ellsworth, has been a vocal supporter of our troops and is now the President of Military Families United, the nation’s leading military family advocacy organization in Washington, DC. Military Families United has been an outspoken voice for our troops and their missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as advocating for strong national defense policies and increased funding for our troops.

We need your help to stand up to the politically motivated dishonoring of America’s heroes. Families United has started a fund that will collect money to repair memorials vandalized by those that seek to disgrace the service and sacrifice of our American Heroes. The Families United Memorial Restoration Fund will work to quickly repair and restore the monuments to our Fallen Heroes, not just Justin, but every fallen Hero. Families United is committed to making sure that the American people know about these heinous and disgraceful acts. CLICK HERE TO DONATE TO THE FUND


A letter from John Ellsworth, LCPL Justin Ellsworth’s father is below:

For those of you that do not know me, my name is John Ellsworth and I am the Vice President of Families United. My son made the ultimate sacrifice for his country when he was killed while serving in Iraq in 2004. To honor my son, the citizens of the City of Mt. Pleasant, Michigan erected a monument in September of 2005. The citizens of Mt. Pleasant collected the funds and paid for the monument and the city provided the area near the Michigan Vietnam Memorial. In July of 2007, vandals tore down the flagpole and burned the American Flag over the monument.

This happened again on Monday night when hateful vandals tore apart my son’s monument and stole the bronze inverted rifle and kevlar.

My family and I are absolutely devastated at this action and feel like we are mourning his loss all over again. These vandals have taken an honorable and elegant monument to our son and made it a focal point of their hatred and destruction. They have not only dishonored the memory of my son, but also the service and sacrifice of every American veteran that has risked their life in defense of this country.

John Ellsworth, Proud Father of LCPL Justin Ellsworth, KIA 11/13/04

Families United needs your help to rebuild this monument to restore honor to LCPL Ellsworth’s service and sacrifice. In order to send a message to these criminals, we want to replace the destroyed and stolen pieces of the monument as soon as possible.

And that is why we need your help today! Please consider making a tax deductible donation to the Families United Memorial Restoration Fund - so we can rebuild this monument which serves as a tribute to those that have served and died defending our country. Your contribution will help us stand up for our veterans, military families and active duty troops against this type of unbelievable, illegal and disgraceful vandalism.

Your tax-deductible contribution to this fund will ensure that our fallen heroes or their families never have to worry about political activists trying to dishonor their service to this country.

Whether it’s a contribution of $25, $50 or $100, we would be grateful for your help today. If you want to donate more, that would be even more helpful.

Before

After

Forward this email to a friend. Click Here To Donate

This is Rich - Iran tells the US to Offer Honest Dialogue and Change

While using the word dialogue, Iran managed to still verbally spank the US and the President. Ahmadinejad offered dialogue only if the US will become honest, and give up its evil ways. In case you thought he meant just President Bush, Ahmadinejad clarified that he meant the US policies that 'go back for tens of years.' Funny, I always thought disguising a weapons program under the guise of an energy program was pretty dishonest. And calling for the destruction of Israel, while denying the Holocaust is just despicable. Meanwhile, the gaftastic VP Biden changed his mind last year, and switched (from allowing that Israel has the right to first strike) to instructing Israel to take to possibility of first strike off the table. If someone had called for my destruction, and then developed a weapon to end all others, I'd go for the first strike. Just saying ....

I wonder if talking to Iran is going to prove any more successfuly than talking to N. Korea. Any takers?

07 April 2009

UPDATE: Washington Will Do Something (or other)!

Update 1: How much do you want to bet that North Korea actually means its threat to take 'strong action' should the UN dare to sanction it.

As predicted here and elsewhere, when N. Korea fired off an ICBM test disguised as a satellite launch over the weekend, we and Japan demanded that the UN security conference do something. Just as predictably, China and Russia flipped us the bird. It really doesn't even matter if this launch was an actual failure, if there really was a satellite in the nose cone, or if Kim Jong Il had succeeded in playing revolutionary songs from space. The UN will do nothing, and the words of these agreements mean nothing without action to back them up. President Obama can give 'strong' speeches all he wants - it changes nothing. If our only response to proliferation is to say that we need to cut our weapons (a laudable goal to be sure, but irrelevant to N. Korea), and that we won't really do anything, than N. Korea has no incentives to change its behavior.

02 April 2009

Highlights from the G20 Final Communique

From Reuters:

-- "To treble resources available to the IMF to $750 billion, to support a new SDR allocation of $250 billion, to support at least $100 billion of additional lending by the MDBs (multilateral development banks), to ensure $250 billion of support for trade finance, and to use the additional resources from agreed IMF gold sales for concessional finance for the poorest countries."

That constitutes "an additional $1.1 trillion programme of support to restore credit, growth and jobs in the world economy".

Compared to the US stimulus spending to date, this is almost a drop in the bucket. It appears to represent a minor concession to President Obama's push to spend out way "out of" (more like into, but why nitpick at a grand time like this) debt and the recession.

-- The measures taken will "by the end of next year, amount to $5 trillion, raise output by 4 percent, and accelerate the transition to a green economy".

-- "Central banks have pledged to maintain expansionary policies for as long as needed and to use the full range of monetary policy instruments, including unconventional instruments, consistent with price stability."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but haven't most of the monetary policy instruments already been used, and what the heck is an unconventional instrument - could it be printing wads of cash?

-- To put in place "credible exit strategies from the measures that need to be taken now to support the financial sector and restore global demand ... thereby reducing the scale of the fiscal consolidation necessary over the longer term."

Don't worry your pretty little heads about this one. We're just going to take over all the banks and major private firms, pretend that we know what we're doing with them, and then have an 'exit strategy' when we're done screwing around with them.

-- "To extend regulation and oversight to all systemically important financial institutions, instruments and markets. This will include, for the first time, systemically important hedge funds."

-- "To endorse and implement the FSF's tough new principles on pay and compensation and to support sustainable compensation schemes and the corporate social responsibility of all firms."

Now all the world's governments can tell corporations everywhere what they should and should not produce, what compensation is 'appropriate,' and which chosen few will be allowed to make money. I wonder if they sang Kumbaya while the made that decision.

-- "To take action against non-cooperative jurisdictions, including tax havens. We stand ready to deploy sanctions to protect our public finances and financial systems ... We note that the OECD has today published a list of countries assessed by the Global Forum against the international standard for exchange of tax information."

What are they going to do? Invade the 'tax havens?' Those tax havens are sovereign countries.

-- "To extend regulatory oversight and registration to Credit Rating Agencies to ensure they meet the international code of good practice, particularly to prevent unacceptable conflicts of interest."

OK - I'm somewhat interested in this one. Those agencies have a lot of power, and have no consistent standards of good practice.

-- "We reaffirm the commitment made in Washington: to refrain from raising new barriers to investment or to trade in goods and services, imposing new export restrictions, or implementing World Trade Organisation (WTO) inconsistent measures to stimulate exports.

We're going to take over the world's finances and businesses, but don't worry, trade won't suffer in the least.

Call me a cynic, but I see little that will make a difference or that is appropriate (unless you're a power-mad president or PM, then it might be), but we'll see. I've attached the link here for the full communique. The wording of the opening paragraphs ("We the leaders of the Group of Twenty ...") provides for some amusement if nothing else

UPDATED: They're Shaking in their Boots!

UPDATE 1: Yup - the UN Security Council will do nada, because two permanent members want it to do nada. Why should we even bother with them?

From Reuters:

'The U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity on the sidelines of a G20 meeting in London, said Washington would react if North Korea launched a missile."There are U.N. Security Council resolutions so I would expect we would be talking to the U.N. Security Council about how to respond," the official told reporters.'

I guess that will show the mean old bad man! Because he really pays attention to anything else the UN says, right? I'm not saying we shoot arbitrarily shoot the launch down, but I seriously doubt a verbal spanking from the UN Security Council will cause Kim Jong Il to do anything except laugh. And giving him a 'stern' talking to, isn't likely to change things. Fueling the rocket seems like a pretty good sign of their determination to launch a missile that is no different than an ICBM. S. Korea wants us to shoot it down, but that's also not likely. With a successful missile test, N. Korea will have a valuable item to sell to other countries - say enemies of Israel.

01 April 2009

Grade Obama's Performance

Here's your big chance to influence the MSM's cesspool otherwise known as MSNBC.

President Obama overstepping his leagal authority? - How can that be?!

Even the corrupt Sen. Dodd is expressing consternation and confusion about the legal authority under which the Administration is acting with respect to the auto industry. The TARP legislation was specifically designed to make funds available to financial institutions, but as with last year's auto bailout, the Obama Administration wants to use those funds for GM and possibly Chrysler. While the Administration will undoubtedly make the same arguments advanced by President Bush (that the Treasury Secretary has broad discretion and that the auto industry has its own lending institutions that qualify), both the Democratic and Republican Congressional leadership seems uneasy about the power grab. I wrote about this the other day, but it does seem that the President and his Administration are intent on imposing their will on the private sector. Rep. Frank is helping them along with his proposal to dictate compensation packages for all employees of any institution receiving federal assistance. I love the new NBC show, Kings, but this is taking the whole life imitating art thing too far.

But, too cheer us all up, Fox Nation has provided us with a new music video to accompany tea party coverage. It's a lot of fun, so link over (I'll upload when Blogger stop freaking out on me) and enjoy.

Obama in Europe

This is hilarious. Thank you to the Christian Science Monitor for an early morning laugh.
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