Saturday, October 30, 2010
Obama prepares for his scariest Halloween in office, as the Republicans come knocking...
Anger, fear as elections near
The impact will be felt Tuesday. Republicans are poised to reap the benefits of the enormous dissatisfaction with the status quo. How deeply and how broadly remains for the voters to decide, but there is little doubt that the outcome will change the balance of power in Washington.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days. In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things. Values have shrunken to fantastic levels: taxes have risen, our ability to pay has fallen, government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income, the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade, the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side, farmers find no markets for their produce, the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone.
More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.
Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply.
Primarily, this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failures and abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.
True, they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit, they have proposed only the lending of more money.
Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored conditions. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers.
They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.
The money changers have fled their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths.
The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.
Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money, it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.
The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow-men.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Since 2001, Congress has given the Pentagon more than $1 trillion to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over the same period, Congress and the Pentagon have added a second trillion dollars to the nonwar (base) part of the Pentagon budget. You'd think all that added money would give us larger forces, a newer hardware inventory and better trained people. Instead, the windfall made our forces smaller, older and less ready to fight.
A rare few in Congress have begun to notice that more money has bought less defense. They portend a major shift in the consensus on defense spending. The coming change is a byproduct of the realization that the Pentagon is an integral part of a federal government with spending that is out of control. The Pentagon and the majority of champions of higher defense budgets in conservative think tanks and Congress are trying to head off the coming cuts with seemingly dramatic, but substantively feeble, initiatives. Here are the facts underlying the need for real reforms.
At $707 billion, the defense budget is today higher than it has ever been since the end of World War II. That statement has been true since 2007; under the Gates plan, it will remain so out to the year 2020 if war spending stays constant. This spending level is unrelated to the military threat. During the Cold War, from 1948 to 1990, when we faced the sizeable forces of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, annual Pentagon spending averaged $440 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars. Today, big spending advocates point to China as the future threat we must prepare for, but if we add the defense budgets of China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and Cuba together, and then double that sum, the Pentagon still spends substantially more.
As to the current threat (terrorism), we almost certainly spend more in one day than the terrorists spend in an entire year. The size of our defense budget today is not the product of the external threat. It is the result of internal Pentagon dynamics, none of them healthy. Since 2000, Congress and presidents have funded the Pentagon with $7 trillion out to the year 2011. Of that amount, $1.3 trillion has been for the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Thus, the nonwar parts of the Pentagon budget will have received $5.7 trillion.
We can calculate what the Pentagon would have received for the same period in the absence of the wars and of any spending above inflation: $4.7 trillion. That means the Pentagon's "base" budget received a plus-up of almost $1 trillion for 2000-2011. What did the Pentagon and Congress do with this trillion-dollar windfall? The Navy budget received an additional $293 billion, 2011 funding increased over 2000 by 44 percent. Yet the size of the Navy's combat fleet dropped from 318 ships and submarines to 287, a decline of 10 percent. This is not a smaller, newer fleet; it is a smaller, older fleet - about four years older, on average, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Is it more ready to fight? Almost certainly not; for the past year, the press has repeatedly reported on severe maintenance problems throughout the fleet, and Navy combat pilot training in the air has remained at historic lows.
The situation in the Air Force is worse. It received a windfall of $320 billion, an increase of 43 percent. During the same 2000-2011 period, the number of active and reserve fighter and bomber squadrons went from 146 to 72, a decline of 51 percent. Like the Navy, it's also older on average: According to CBO, it is now about nine years older and at a historic high of about 23 years. (Our aircraft are older than our ships.) Air Force budget data tell us that fighter pilot air training hours today are only one-half to one-third of what they were in the 1970s, an era not touted for high readiness.
The so-called good news is from the Army. It received a plus up of $297 billion, a 53 percent increase. The number of brigade combat teams grew from 44 to 46, an increase of 5 percent. A 53 percent increase in money bought a 5 percent increase in combat forces. But still, CBO tells us that major Army equipment inventories are mostly older. More ready to fight? In 2006, the House Armed Services Committee held hearings and leaked a memo documenting historic lows in the readiness of active Army units. The analysis has not been publicly updated; we should worry that it has gotten worse, not better.
In sum, an extra trillion dollars for the Pentagon has been processed into forces that are, with minor exceptions, smaller, older and less ready to fight. The defense management leadership in the Pentagon and Congress has squandered a trillion dollars. Those who recently have become politically active out of disgust with the mess in Washington should be particularly incensed over the Pentagon's horrific performance."
Smaller, Older and Less Prepared
Where is the Payoff for Huge Pentagon Budget Hikes? ? ?
By WINSLOW T. WHEELER
Since 2001, Congress has given the Pentagon more than $1 trillion to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over the same period, Congress and the Pentagon have added a second trillion dollars to the nonwar (base) part of the Pentagon budget.
You'd think all that added money would give us larger forces, a newer hardware inventory and better trained people. Instead, the windfall made our forces smaller, older and less ready to fight.
A rare few in Congress have begun to notice that more money has bought less defense.
They portend a major shift in the consensus on defense spending. The coming change is a byproduct of the realization that the Pentagon is an integral part of a federal government with spending that is out of control. The Pentagon and the majority of champions of higher defense budgets in conservative think tanks and Congress are trying to head off the coming cuts with seemingly dramatic, but substantively feeble, initiatives.
Here are the facts underlying the need for real reforms.
At $707 billion, the defense budget is today higher than it has ever been since the end of World War II. That statement has been true since 2007; under the Gates plan, it will remain so out to the year 2020 if war spending stays constant.
This spending level is unrelated to the military threat. During the Cold War, from 1948 to 1990, when we faced the sizeable forces of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, annual Pentagon spending averaged $440 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars. Today, big spending advocates point to China as the future threat we must prepare for, but if we add the defense budgets of China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and Cuba together, and then double that sum, the Pentagon still spends substantially more.
As to the current threat (terrorism), we almost certainly spend more in one day than the terrorists spend in an entire year.
The size of our defense budget today is not the product of the external threat. It is the result of internal Pentagon dynamics, none of them healthy.
Since 2000, Congress and presidents have funded the Pentagon with $7 trillion out to the year 2011. Of that amount, $1.3 trillion has been for the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Thus, the nonwar parts of the Pentagon budget will have received $5.7 trillion.
We can calculate what the Pentagon would have received for the same period in the absence of the wars and of any spending above inflation: $4.7 trillion. That means the Pentagon's "base" budget received a plus-up of almost $1 trillion for 2000-2011.
What did the Pentagon and Congress do with this trillion-dollar windfall? The Navy budget received an additional $293 billion, 2011 funding increased over 2000 by 44 percent. Yet the size of the Navy's combat fleet dropped from 318 ships and submarines to 287, a decline of 10 percent.
This is not a smaller, newer fleet; it is a smaller, older fleet - about four years older, on average, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Is it more ready to fight? Almost certainly not; for the past year, the press has repeatedly reported on severe maintenance problems throughout the fleet, and Navy combat pilot training in the air has remained at historic lows.
The situation in the Air Force is worse. It received a windfall of $320 billion, an increase of 43 percent. During the same 2000-2011 period, the number of active and reserve fighter and bomber squadrons went from 146 to 72, a decline of 51 percent. Like the Navy, it's also older on average: According to CBO, it is now about nine years older and at a historic high of about 23 years.
(Our aircraft are older than our ships.)
Air Force budget data tell us that fighter pilot air training hours today are only one-half to one-third of what they were in the 1970s, an era not touted for high readiness.
The so-called good news is from the Army. It received a plus up of $297 billion, a 53 percent increase. The number of brigade combat teams grew from 44 to 46, an increase of 5 percent. A 53 percent increase in money bought a 5 percent increase in combat forces.
But still, CBO tells us that major Army equipment inventories are mostly older. More ready to fight? In 2006, the House Armed Services Committee held hearings and leaked a memo documenting historic lows in the readiness of active Army units. The analysis has not been publicly updated; we should worry that it has gotten worse, not better.
In sum, an extra trillion dollars for the Pentagon has been processed into forces that are, with minor exceptions, smaller, older and less ready to fight.
The defense management leadership in the Pentagon and Congress has squandered a trillion dollars.
Those who recently have become politically active out of disgust with the mess in Washington should be particularly incensed over the Pentagon's horrific performance.
Winslow T. Wheeler spent 31 years working on Capitol Hill with senators from both political parties and the Government Accountability Office, specializing in national security affairs. Currently, he directs the Straus Military Reform Project of the Center for Defense Information in Washington.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Goldwater, the John Birch Society, and Me
William F. Buckley, Jr.
"Goldwater, the John Birch Society, and Me"
In the early months of l962, there was restiveness in certain political quarters of the Right. The concern was primarily the growing strength of the Soviet Union, and the reiteration by its leaders of their designs on the free world. Some of the actors keenly concerned felt that Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona was a natural leader in the days ahead.
But it seemed inconceivable that an anti-establishment gadfly like Goldwater could be nominated as the spokesman-head of a political party. And it was embarrassing that the only political organization in town that dared suggest this radical proposal—the GOP’s nominating Goldwater for President—was the John Birch Society.
The society had been founded in 1958 by an earnest and capable entrepreneur named Robert Welch, a candy man, who brought together little clusters of American conservatives, most of them businessmen. He demanded two undistracted days in exchange for his willingness to give his seminar on the Communist menace to the United States, which he believed was more thoroughgoing and far-reaching than anyone else in America could have conceived. His influence was near-hypnotic, and his ideas wild. He said Dwight D. Eisenhower was a “dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy,” and that the government of the United States was “under operational control of the Communist party.” It was, he said in the summer of 1961, “50-70 percent” Communist-controlled.
Welch refused to divulge the size of the society’s membership, though he suggested it was as high as 100,000 and could reach a million. His method of organization caused general alarm. The society comprised a series of cells, no more than twenty people per cell. It was said that its members were directed to run in secret for local offices and to harass school boards and librarians on the matter of the Communist nature of the textbooks and other materials they used.
The society became a national cause célèbre—so much so, that a few of those anxious to universalize a draft-Goldwater movement aiming at a nomination for President in 1964 thought it best to do a little conspiratorial organizing of their own against it.
In January of that year I had a telephone call from William Baroody. It was, he said, a matter of great national importance that I spend Tuesday and Wednesday of the following week with Senator Goldwater in Palm Beach, Florida. I would be one of three—along with Russell Kirk, the philosopher and author of the seminal 1953 text The Conservative Mind, and public-relations man Jay Hall, who had represented General Motors in Washington. I said I could be there up until 5 p.m. on day one and all of day two. I had a speaking date in St. Augustine on the first night. Baroody simply repeated that the meeting was very important.
Baroody was the head of the American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing think tank founded in 1943. We had met only cursorily, though I knew him to be an influential figure in behind-the-scenes conservative politics. He was invigorated by meetings with small groups, which he much enjoyed dominating. It was clear that he greatly aspired to be important to Goldwater, and perhaps to a Goldwater White House.
I arrived at breakfast with the other invitees at the imposing Breakers Hotel and ventilated the critical point: were we here assembled to answer Goldwater’s questions, or to proffer advice on the presidential campaign two years ahead? If the latter, this had to mean that Goldwater had resolved to enter the campaign, which would be big news: so far, he had steadfastly declined to take that step.
Baroody, by nature domineering, was emphatic on the subject. Under no circumstances should anything be said touching on a presidential campaign, inasmuch as Goldwater had not himself decided whether to run and did not want to spend time discussing the issue.
Russell Kirk was not prepared simply to leave the matter closed. “What is more important,” he asked Baroody, “than to try to get Goldwater elected President?”
Baroody was obliged to agree that this would be a wonderful national achievement. “But he has said no.”
“They always say no,” I volunteered.
“Bill, he has said no on at least five different occasions. If he thought we were going to spend the day on that subject, he would just walk away.”
Kirk objected. “I’m the least experienced politically of the people in this room. But I’ve seen the polls—we’ve all seen the polls—and Bill has a point: why should we shrink from telling him that’s what he ought to do?”
It required someone of Kirk’s arrant innocence in consorting with brute political forces to make his point so insistently. He let go of it only after Baroody promised that he would seek out, some time later, an opportunity for Russell to argue it personally with Goldwater. “Maybe you can tell him something about William Pitt that will change his mind.”
Kirk smiled. “Very well. So what do you have in mind for us?”
“We’ll have to coast on that.”
Goldwater was in Palm Beach visiting, incognito, with a sister-in-law who was resident there. He arrived at our hotel suite at about 11:00 in extravagantly informal garb, cowboy hat and dark glasses, a workman’s blue shirt, and denim jeans, together with his beloved Western boots. He did bring along a weather-beaten briefcase, though I never noticed his opening it the whole day.
What followed was an hour of general discussion on the policies of President Kennedy and the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. Baroody noted Kennedy’s surprising drop in the polls: 61 percent of the public thought he spent money too freely, a third thought him unduly weak in opposing Soviet challenges in Berlin and elsewhere.
Moving on, Baroody brought up the John Birch Society. It was quickly obvious that this was the subject Goldwater wished counsel on.
Kirk, unimpeded by his little professorial stutter, greeted the subject with fervor. It was his opinion, he said emphatically, that Robert Welch was a man disconnected from reality. How could anyone reason, as Welch had done in The Politician, that President Eisenhower had been a secret agent of the Communists? This mischievous unreality was a great weight on the back of responsible conservative political thinking. The John Birch Society should be renounced by Goldwater and by everyone else—Kirk turned his eyes on me—with any influence on the conservative movement.
But that, Goldwater said, is the problem. Consider this, he exaggerated: “Every other person in Phoenix is a member of the John Birch Society. Russell, I’m not talking about Commie-haunted apple pickers or cactus drunks, I’m talking about the highest cast of men of affairs. Any of you know who Frank Cullen Brophy is?”
I raised my hand. “I spent a lot of time with him. He was going to contribute capital to help found National Review. He didn’t.” Brophy was a prominent Arizona banker.
Goldwater said he knew nothing about that, but added that Brophy certainly was aware of Goldwater’s personal enthusiasm for the magazine and especially for its Washington editor, Brent Bozell. “Why isn’t Brent here?” he turned to Baroody.
“He’s in Spain.”
“Well, our—my—Conscience of a Conservative continues to sell.” Bozell, who was also my brother-in-law, had ghostwritten the book, which had given Goldwater a national profile.
Kirk said he could not imagine Bozell disagreeing on the need to excommunicate the John Birch Society from the conservative movement.
But this brought another groan from Goldwater. “You just can’t do that kind of thing in Arizona. For instance, who on earth can dismiss Frank Brophy from anything?”
Time was given to the John Birch Society lasting through lunch, and the subject came up again the next morning. We resolved that conservative leaders should do something about the John Birch Society. An allocation of responsibilities crystallized.
Goldwater would seek out an opportunity to dissociate himself from the “findings” of the Society’s leader, without, however, casting any aspersions on the Society itself. I, in National Review and in my other writing, would continue to expose Welch and his thinking to scorn and derision. “You know how to do that,” said Jay Hall.
I volunteered to go further. Unless Welch himself disowned his operative fallacy, National Review would oppose any support for the society.
“How would you define the Birch fallacy?” Jay Hall asked.
“The fallacy,” I said, “is the assumption that you can infer subjective intention from objective consequence: we lost China to the Communists, therefore the President of the United States and the Secretary of State wished China to go to the Communists.”
“I like that,” Goldwater said.
What would Russell Kirk do? He was straightforward. “Me? I’ll just say, if anybody gets around to asking me, that the guy is loony and should be put away.”
“Put away in Alaska?” I asked, mock-seriously. The wisecrack traced to Robert Welch’s expressed conviction, a year or so earlier, that the state of Alaska was being prepared to house anyone who doubted his doctrine that fluoridated water was a Communist-backed plot to weaken the minds of the American public.
About the Author
William F. Buckley, Jr. is the founder and former editor-in-chief of National Review. The
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Monday, July 5, 2010
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Thursday, May 6, 2010
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 998.5 points intraday. It happened so fast that if you were in the restroom or doing paperwork, you missed it. The market recovered about 650 points of that drop by the close.
Here are some of my initial reactions to what it all might mean...
1. For starters, let's all keep in mind that these things don't happen in a healthy tape. The jitters from Greek rioting and possible contagion were the necessary preconditions for a crash like that.
2. The "Fat Finger" thing is nonsense. Maybe someone made a sizable error, but one cannot deny the fact that the algo-driven tradebots poured gasoline on the fire. The machines were triggering stops and wrecking everything in sight before human beings with qualitative senses could get a handle on what was happening. Congress is planning the hearings as we speak.
3. For me to enter a sell order for a retail brokerage client of 500 shares of Microsoft ($MSFT), I need to go through 3 screens of verification and order confirmation. How is it possible that someone with the clearance to sell 16 billion shares of the S&P Spider could even have a typo? If I have 3 screens to confirm a trade, how much order verification does he have?
4. Look at your keyboard...the "M" for million is not even next to the "B" for billion. There's an "N" in between the two keys. Dude, how fat is your finger?
5. If you were intentionally trying to chase the last of the individual investors from this market you couldn't have written a better script than "accidental trade vaporizes trillions in value from US stocks". People are just disgusted already.
6. Cramer was so money today. Whatever you think about him in general, he's the guy that came on CNBC down 1000 and told you that these were fake quotes, to go buy Proctor & Gamble ($PG) down 20 points. He was cool, calm and perfect in that slot.
7. We still don't know whether or not any of the trades from that session will be unwound by broker/dealers. There were a ton of stop loss orders hit and people missed fills entirely in many cases. We should hear about that soon. Let the bickering begin!
8. Anyone who told you he bought down 1000 is lying to you. Bids were raised off those levels in seconds.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
No individual raindrop ever considers itself responsible for the flood.”May 2010 flood ,Nashville, TN.
"Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope... and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
- Robert F. Kennedy
Monday, May 3, 2010
From the man who coined Goldman Sachs (GS) the "vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity" ... we have Matt Taibbi's latest take via Rolling Stone. Again, let it be said that some of the best work on our financial oligarchy is being done by a guy in a music magazine. That tells you what a farce corporate media has become. Then again, when almost all outlets are funding the same lobbyist groups (or mirror images) as those funded by the banking cartel... is is surprising?
Some great cutaway quotes:
Just under a year ago, when we published "The Great American Bubble Machine" [RS 1082/1083], accusing Goldman of betting against its clients at the end of the housing boom, virtually the entire smugtocracy of sneering Wall Street cognoscenti scoffed at the notion that the Street's leading investment bank could be guilty of such a thing. Attracting particular derision were the comments of one of my sources, a prominent hedge-fund chief, who said that when Goldman shorted the subprime-mortgage market at the same time it was selling subprime-backed products to its customers, the bait-and-switch maneuver constituted "the heart of securities fraud."
Goldman isn't dead – far from it. But this new SEC suit officially places it at the center of a raging national discussion about the hopelessly (BLEEP!) state of American business ethics. As a halting, first-step attempt at financial regulatory reform makes its way toward a vote in the Senate, the government has finally thrown open the door and let a few of the rottener skeletons tumble out.
On the surface, the failure-to-disclose rap being leveled at Goldman feels like a niggling technicality, the Wall Street equivalent of a tax-evasion charge against Al Capone. The bank will try and – who knows – might even succeed in defending itself in a court of law against these charges. But in the court of public opinion it was doomed the instant the SEC decided to put this ghastly black comedy of a fraud case on the street for everyone to see.
In metaphorical terms, Paulson was choosing, as sexual partners for future visitors to the Goldman bordello, a gang of IV drug users, Haitians and hemophiliacs, then buying life-insurance policies on the whole orgy. Goldman then turned around and sold this poisonous stuff to its customers as good, healthy investments.
These flighty Tourre e-mails boasting of cashing in on a disaster and chuckling over the "surreal" experience of power-lying right in the face of a business partner are Goldman's very own Ben Roethlisberger drunken (BLEEP!)-waving moment. It is hard to imagine any company from now on doing business with Goldman and not picturing its fruitcake executives text-boasting to each other about the pleasures of screwing over their own clients.
So within the space of a few days, Goldman issued three different explanations, which progressed from (a) we absolutely, positively didn't do it, to (b) if we did do it, we didn't make any money doing it, and finally on to (c) if somebody did it, it was only that French cat Tourre, and here's his head if you want it. These guys couldn't find the truth if it was sitting in their lap playing the ukulele, and that's the basic problem that the entire financial-services sector – an industry that requires trust and confidence to thrive – is struggling to overcome.
And finally... and Matt should of added at the end ... "thankfully, you dear reader - at least if you are in the United States, have an explicit backstop of all this so the next time these bets go bad en masse.... we'll be needing your grandkids money, thanks! Until then Goldman will be able to fund themselves at below market rates aka Fannie, Freddie since everyone knows the government will protect them... heads they win, tails they still win. It's like your local gambling sharkie- fully backstopped by the United States of Oligarchy."
In the year since – and this, to me, is the main lesson from the SEC case against Goldman – the public has quickly come to accept that when it comes to the once-great institutions of modern Wall Street, literally no deal that makes money is too low to be contemplated.
There is more fraud out there, and everyone knows it: front-running, manipulation of the commodities markets, trading ahead of interest-rate moves, hidden losses, Enron-esque accounting, Ponzi schemes in the precious-metals markets, you name it. (no Matt - that's crazy talk! shhh! All that is happening is a few good hearted insitutions are "creating liquidity" - just ask them.) We gave these people nearly a trillion bailout dollars, and no one knows what service they actually provide beyond fraud, gross self-indulgence and the occasional transparently insincere public apology. (liquidity Matt!!)
The Goldman case emerges as a symbol of all this brokenness, of a climate in which all financial actors are now supposed to expect to be burned and cheated, even by their own bankers, as a matter of course.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
"Arizona: The Wrong Answer"
by Desmond Tutu
"I am saddened today at the prospect of a young Hispanic immigrant in Arizona going to the grocery store and forgetting to bring her passport and immigration documents with her. I cannot be dispassionate about the fact that the very act of her being in the grocery store will soon be a crime in the state she lives in. Or that, should a policeman hear her accent and form a "reasonable suspicion" that she is an illegal immigrant, she can - and will - be taken into custody until someone sorts it out, while her children are at home waiting for their dinner.
Equally disturbing is what will happen in the mind of the policeman. The police talk today about how they do not wish to, and will not, engage in racial profiling. Yet faced with the option of using common sense and compassion, or harassing a person who has done nothing wrong, a particularly sinister aspect of Arizona's new immigration law will be hanging over his head. He can be personally sued, by anyone, for failing to enforce this inhumane new act.
I recognize that Arizona has become a widening entry point for illegal immigration from the South. The wave has brought with it rising violence and drug smuggling. But a solution that degrades innocent people, or that makes anyone with broken English a suspect, is not a solution. A solution that fails to distinguish between a young child coming over the border in search of his mother and a drug smuggler is not a solution. I am not speaking from an ivory tower. I lived in the South Africa that has now thankfully faded into history, where a black man or woman could be grabbed off the street and thrown in jail for not having his or her documents on their person.
How far can this go? We lived it - police waking a man up in the middle of the night and hauling him off to jail for not having his documents on his person while he slept. The fact that they were in his nightstand near the bed was not good enough.
Of course if you suggested such a possibility today to an Arizona policeman he would be adamant that he would never do such a thing. And I would believe him. Arizona is a long way from apartheid South Africa. The problem is, under the new law, the one or two who would do it are legitimized. All they have to say is that they believed that illegal immigrants were being harbored in the house. They would be protected and sanctioned by this law.
Abominations such as apartheid do not start with an entire population suddenly becoming inhumane. They start here. They start with generalizing unwanted characteristics across an entire segment of a population. They start with trying to solve a problem by asserting superior force over a population. They start with stripping people of rights and dignity - such as the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty - that you yourself enjoy. Not because it is right, but because you can. And because somehow, you think this is going to solve a problem.
However, when you strip a man or a woman of their basic human rights, you strip them of their dignity in the eyes of their family and their community, and even in their own eyes. An immigrant who is charged with the crime of trespassing for simply being in a community without his papers on him is being told he is committing a crime by simply being. He or she feels degraded and feels they are of less worth than others of a different color skin. These are the seeds of resentment, hostilities and in extreme cases, conflict. Such "solutions" solve nothing. As already pointed out, even by people on the police force, Arizona's new laws will split the communities, make it less likely that people in the immigrant communities will work with the police. They will create conditions favorable to the very criminals these laws are trying to disarm.
The Latinos in Arizona have not come to Arizona because they want to live in communities wracked with violence and crime. I would guess that the most recent arrivals have fled their border towns and the growing violence there as drug lords tightened their control of the communities. They want to live and raise their children in peace, just as you or I do. I am certain that, given the chance, the leaders of the Latino immigrant communities in Arizona would enthusiastically work with the state to find constructive solutions to these problems. I am very sure that they would like, as much as others, to rid Arizona of the drug smugglers, human traffickers and other criminal elements infiltrating their communities.
We can only hope that this law will be thrown out of the courts in short order. I do not disagree with the calls to boycott the businesses in the state until it is turned around. In the meantime, it has opened the door to some smart state leaders sitting down with the leaders of the Latino communities in Arizona and hammering out some solutions that actually work. Hopefully these solutions would recognize the difference between a drug smuggler and a man willing to stand outside a gas station in the hot sun for hours in the hopes that someone will give him some work for the day.
The problem of migrating populations is not going to go away any time soon. If anyone should know this, it should be Americans, many of whom landed here themselves to escape persecution, famine or conflict. With the eyes of the world now on them, Arizona has the opportunity to create a new model for dealing with the pitfalls, and help the nation as a whole find its way through the problems of illegal immigration. But to work, it must be a model that is based on a deep respect for the essential human rights Americans themselves have grown up enjoying."
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
America Is Losing It's Imperial Status,and Global Institutions Such as The IMF,G20 and BIS Are Filling The Void by The Washington's Blog
IMF As Grim Reaper of Austerity?
As I wrote last June:
When the International Monetary Fund or World Bank offer to lend money to a struggling third-world country (or "emerging market"), they demand "austerity measures".
As Wikipedia describes it:
In economics, austerity is when a national government reduces its spending in order to pay back creditors. Austerity is usually required when a government's fiscal deficit spending is felt to be unsustainable.
Development projects, welfare programs and other social spending are common areas of spending for cuts. In many countries, austerity measures have been associated with short-term standard of living declines until economic conditions improved once fiscal balance was achieved (such as in the United Kingdom under Margaret Thatcher, Canada under Jean Chrétien, and Spain under González).
Private banks, or institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), may require that a country pursues an 'austerity policy' if it wants to re-finance loans that are about to come due. The government may be asked to stop issuing subsidies or to otherwise reduce public spending. When the IMF requires such a policy, the terms are known as 'IMF conditionalities'.
Wikipedia goes on to point out:
Austerity programs are frequently controversial, as they impact the poorest segments of the population and often lead to a wider separation between the rich and poor. In many situations, austerity programs are imposed on countries that were previously under dictatorial regimes, leading to criticism that populations are forced to repay the debts of their oppressors.
What Does This Have to Do With the First World?
Since the IMF and World Bank lend to third world countries, you may reasonably assume that this has nothing to do with "first world" countries like the US and UK.
But England's economy is in dire straight, and rumors have abounded that the UK might have to rely on a loan from the IMF.
And as former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker said :
People seem to think the [American] government has money. The government doesn't have any money.
Indeed, the IMF has already performed a complete audit of the whole US financial system, something which they have only previously done to broke third world nations.
Al Martin - former contributor to the Presidential Council of Economic Advisors and retired naval intelligence officer - observed in an April 2005 newsletter that the ratio of total U.S. debt to gross domestic product (GDP) rose from 78 percent in 2000 to 308 percent in April 2005. The International Monetary Fund considers a nation-state with a total debt-to-GDP ratio of 200 percent or more to be a "de-constructed Third World nation-state."
What "de-constructed" actually means is that a political regime in that country, or series of political regimes, have, through a long period of fraud, abuse, graft, corruption and mismanagement, effectively collapsed the economy of that country.
The IMF is - in fact - now saying that the U.S. must live more austerely.
As the Washington Post noted Saturday:
In the lingo of the International Monetary Fund, the future of the world hinges on "rebalancing and consolidation," antiseptic words that would not seem to raise a fuss.
But the translation is a bit ruder, something on the order of: "Suck it up. The party's over."
To keep the global economy on track, people in the United States and the rest of the developed world need to work longer before retiring, pay higher taxes and expect less from government. And the cheap imports lining the shelves of mega-chains such as Wal-Mart and Target? They need to be more expensive.
That's the practical meaning of a series of policy papers and statements issued in recent days by IMF officials, who have a long history of stabilizing economies and solving global financial problems, as they plot a course to keep the world economy growing and reduce the risk of another "great recession."
It means a pretty serious reworking of expectations in the developed world: changes in labor rules, product prices, currency values and even the social contract between governments and an aging citizenry.
"It is not that living standards will lower, but they will not increase as fast as they have been," said Domenico Lombardi, a former IMF executive director. The ideas being discussed by world leaders "are coded words," he said. "They don't like words like 'imposing higher taxes' and 'cutting spending.' "
The level of the correction needed is large, perhaps 10 percent of gross domestic product. In the United States, that would amount to roughly $1.4 trillion annually, to be cut from government programs or raised through new taxes.
Dean Baker notes:
Back in the 90s the IMF came to be known as the "Typhoid Mary" of emerging markets as its policy prescriptions led to sharp economic downturns in one country after another.
The "grim reaper" might be a better analogy.
IMF As World's Central Bank?
Not only is the IMF treating America like another failed state, but the IMF may - in some ways - replace the U.S.
As I pointed out last May, the IMF may be taking over world's financial regulator:
The Group of 20 countries have made the [IMF] the linchpin in their efforts to combat the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression
The Washington Post notes:
Global financial chiefs agreed yesterday to reshape the International Monetary Fund, moving to broaden its mission ...
The IMF, which in recent years had become largely an advisory body to nations in crisis, will now be charged with aggressive monitoring of the global economy. Underscoring that role, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said yesterday that Washington had consented to a rigorous IMF review of the U.S. financial system for the first time since the fund was created at the end of World War II.
And the IMF's currency - Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) - may become the world's reserve currency. See this and this.
And some say that the IMF will become the world's central bank.
According to Jim Rickards - director of market intelligence for Omnis - the purpose of the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh on September 24 was as follows:
The IMF is being sort of anointed as a global central bank.
Rickards also said that the plan is for the IMF to issue SDRs as a global reserve currency to replace the dollar, and then America will gradually depreciate the dollar to reduce the size of its enormous debt:
However, the Wall Street Journal argued in October that - while the IMF would like to be the world's central bank - the G20 is relegating it to a lesser role:
International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn is using the IMF's annual meeting here to campaign for turning the fund into a kind of global central bank with at least $1 trillion for lending developing nations in a crisis.
But a very different reality is taking shape: The IMF is essentially being turned into the staff of the Group of 20, an organization of industrialized and developing nations that doesn't have a headquarters, staff or rules for membership. With the leaders of the G-20 effectively functioning as the board of directors of the global economy, they need the IMF's help to carry out their role.
Ellen Brown argues that the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) has been, and will continue to be, the real power behind the throne, even though the IMF seems to be gaining power.
I don't know who is right. But it does seem like America is losing its imperial status, and that global institutions such as the IMF, G20 and BIS are filling the void.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Anti-Human Earth Day
by Edward Hudgins
April 22-- Today is a religious holiday that should make us all into atheists. April 22, marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. For many people it's simply a day to think warm and fuzzy thoughts about clean air, crystal lakes, verdant forests and soaring eagles. Until the 1990s May Day marked the worship by the communists of an abstraction called the "workers" at the expense of real flesh-and-blood workers and every other human being on the planet. The result was human carnage. Now Earth Day marks the worship by eco-extremists of the planet itself at the expense of all we humans who inhabitant it. If the cult continues to grow, the results will be the same as that wrought by the Reds.
There is nothing wrong with individuals wanting to keep woods, flowers, ponds and the like on their own private property for their own enjoyment, nor with wanting to reduce the real, measurable damage caused to humans, for example, by air and water pollution. In any case, the worst pollution problems have pretty much been dealt with in past decades.
But today the eco-extremists have converted legitimate concerns into a cult. Tell someone you don't recycle, for example, and they treat you like someone might have a century ago if you made fun of Jesus. When recycling makes economic and environmental sense, a market develops for the recycled items and there is no need for government involvement. (As a kid I collected newspapers to sell to recycling centers to earn spending money.) But often recycling imposes millions of dollars in net costs and harms the environment. What with fleets of trucks to collect your bottles, which you're first supposed to waste water washing out, and those energy-gulping facilities that grind up or melt down the glass, it is often better just to bury the stuff.
Much has been written about the inability of environmentalists to show how many alleged problems actually harm humans. Does reducing the amount of some substance in the water from two parts per billion to one part really make any difference?
Much has been written about the bad science behind many environmental programs and serious problems those programs create for humans while delivering microscopic benefits. DDT is not the danger some made it out to be, but failure to use it to eradicate disease-carrying insects has resulted in thousands of deaths.
What requires more attention is the fundamental values problem with environmental extremism. The ultimate source and standard of all values is human life. Rocks and mud, oceans and mountains, fish and fowl are of no intrinsic worth in and of themselves. They're neither good nor evil. They just are. It is in relation to we human beings that things are of value.
We must use our reasoning minds as individuals to discover the means of our survival and flourishing. An animal is of value because we can use it for food or admire its beauty. Water is of value because we can drink it or swim in it. Rocks and trees are of value because we can build houses with them for our shelter or climb them for our enjoyment. Swamps might not be of value because they are at just the spot on which we want to build a house.
And, of course, "we" does not mean some abstract collective. It means each of us as individuals. That's the point of private property. We each should be free to own and use assets for our own good as individuals.
Eco-extremists take human individuals out of the picture. They speak of the value of eco-systems, habitats and wetlands without reference to humans in general or to specific individuals who might own and make use of material assets. In effect, the eco-extremists create an Earth cult that puts humans second. Many eco-extremists now say as much openly, for example, labeling people as pollution on the planet. There's even a Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. Its creed: "Phasing out the human race by voluntarily ceasing to breed will allow Earth's biosphere to return to good health."
Most individuals who celebrate Earth Day by cleaning up trash beside the road no doubt mean well. But they and all of us must recognize that the philosophical premises on which one acts will lead inevitably to certain consequences over time whether one intends them to or not. The premises behind the eco-extremists are anti-human and, if acted on consistently, would lead to worse carnage than that wrought by communists. On Earth Day we should reflect not on the planet but on the inhabitants who can make it of value.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Monday, March 22, 2010
March 22 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. House passed the most sweeping health-care legislation in four decades, rewriting the rules governing medical industries and ensuring that tens of millions of uninsured Americans will get medical coverage.
Yesterday’s 219-212 vote marks the biggest victory for President Barack Obama, who will sign the bill into law. Only Democrats voted for the legislation, underscoring a partisan divide that promises to make health care the defining issue in November’s congressional elections.
Lawmakers hailed the action as a historic follow-on to the 1965 creation of the Medicare program for the elderly and a way to mitigate soaring health costs that make up a sixth of the U.S. economy. It came after a last-minute deal with anti- abortion Democrats and a lobbying trip by Obama to the Capitol.
“It’s a victory for the American people,” Obama told reporters at the White House just before midnight. “This legislation will not fix everything that ails our health-care system but it moves us decisively in the right direction. This is what change looks like.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described passage as “history for our country and progress for the American people.”
To finish their work on health care, House Democrats approved a Senate bill passed in December and then voted 220-211 to pass a measure that would amend the Senate legislation to fix provisions they don’t like. The Senate must also pass this second bill under a budget process called reconciliation that requires a simple majority vote.
While Senate Democrats plan to act this week on the second bill, they face a host of challenges from Republicans that may hold up their work or force a new vote in the House.
The two bills together will cost $940 billion over 10 years and cover 32 million uninsured Americans, the Congressional Budget Office estimated. That’s more than made up for with a new tax on the highest earners, fees on health-care companies and hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare savings, which will reduce the federal deficit, the CBO said.
Companies such as health insurer WellPoint Inc. of Indianapolis, medical-device maker Medtronic Inc. of Minneapolis and drugmaker Pfizer Inc. of New York will get millions of new customers with the extension of coverage. Their industries will also face billions of dollars in new fees.
As part of the overhaul, drugmakers agreed to help the elderly more easily afford medicines. Insurers, who opposed the legislation, will have to take all customers, regardless of pre- existing conditions, and face limits on how much revenue can be spent beyond covering medical expenses.
“WellPoint is disappointed that after more than a year of debate, Congress has approved health-care legislation that does little to reduce cost and improve quality,” company spokeswoman Kristin Binns said in an e-mail to reporters.
Under the bill, Americans will have to buy insurance or pay a penalty, with the possibility of tapping new purchasing exchanges and government aid for lower-income Americans.
Republicans said the costs will balloon, criticized the increases in government programs and held out the possibility that private insurance and medical care would be hurt.
“We are looking at a health-care bill that nobody in this body believes is satisfactory,” House Minority Leader John Boehner said prior to the vote. “We have failed to reflect the will of our constituents.”
Business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce also lobbied against the legislation, and Peoria, Illinois-based Caterpillar Inc. sent a letter to leaders saying the bills would raise its costs by $100 million in the first year alone.
The House’s two-step process became necessary after Democrats lost the 60th vote in the Senate generally needed to push through major legislation.
Just weeks after the Senate’s party-line 60-39 vote, Democrats were almost finished drafting a House-Senate compromise bill when Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown won a Jan. 19 special election to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Democrat Edward M. Kennedy.
The use of the budget-reconciliation tool opens the door for the Senate to pass the second bill with 51 votes, as long as it can withstand Republican challenges and the rulings of a parliamentarian, who will take out any provision he decides have only an incidental impact on the federal budget.
New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg, who will help coordinate the Republicans’ efforts, said his party can put forth “massive amounts” of amendments on unrelated issues from gun control to immigration. They can also challenge provisions such as the scaling back of a tax on high-end, or so-called Cadillac, insurance plans because it would affect money flowing into Social Security, he said.
Any changes in the Senate would force a new House vote on the reconciliation bill, further complicating the effort. House Democrats particularly wanted to change the Cadillac tax because they say it would affect too many workers.
“If those people think they’re only going to vote on this once, they’re nuts,” Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, said in a Bloomberg Television interview last week.
Illinois Senator Richard Durbin, a member of the Democratic leadership, said yesterday his party is prepared for challenges and any amendments Republicans might file.
‘Ready to Tackle’
“We’re ready to tackle that if that’s what they want to do,” Durbin said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program. “We’re ready to deal with honest amendments. There will come a time when the American people say enough, this is about politics.”
Obama, who faced criticism for largely leaving the drafting of the legislation to Congress, swung into high gear in recent weeks. He hosted a Feb. 25 bipartisan summit at the White House, proposed detailed final compromises and lobbied dozens of undecided Democrats. He postponed a trip to Asia to remain in Washington for yesterday’s vote.
Obama benefited in part from the votes of Democrats who are leaving Congress and who were willing to switch sides after voting “no” on a House version in November.
He also won support from Democrats including Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, who had threatened to oppose the final measure because it didn’t include a new government program, or public option, to compete against private insurers.
The legislation will expand the Medicaid government program for the poor to cover those making up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, and offer subsidies for millions of other Americans to buy insurance through an online exchange offering policies at more-affordable group rates.
Many employers with more than 50 workers that don’t offer coverage will be subject to a penalty. The reconciliation bill will change the penalty to $2,000 per worker, from $750 in the Senate bill, and subtract out the first 30 employees.
The overhaul is financed in large part through new taxes. The reconciliation bill would add a 3.8 percent Medicare tax on investment income imposed on individuals who earn more than $200,000 a year and joint tax filers who have more than $250,000 in earnings. That adds to a higher Medicare payroll tax already in the Senate bill.
To contact the reporters on this story: Laura Litvan in Washington at email@example.com; James Rowley in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org; Kristin Jensen in Washington at email@example.com
Last Updated: March 22, 2010 00:58 EDT
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s senior adviser and spokeswoman, Meghan Stapleton, has resigned.
Stapleton has been a Palin confidante since December 2006 and one of the governor’s most trusted aides since she was vaulted onto the national political scene by being picked as GOP presidential nominee John McCain’s running mate.
Stapleton said she resigned to spend more time with her husband and 2-year-old daughter, Isabella.
“While it has been an honor to help Gov. Palin and her family over the last few years, I am also honored to have this incredible opportunity to stay home with my precious miracle, Isabella,” . "[She is] 2 years old, [and] I have missed significant moments in her life, but I look forward with great happiness to celebrating milestones as well as mundane moments with her as I refocus my priorities. I also look forward to seeing my saint of a husband again, too!”
Since the end of the presidential campaign, Stapleton has been one of only a handful of aides and trusted contacts maintained by Palin through her transition from governor, to national political figure, to author, to Fox News contributor and one of the unofficial leaders of the tea party movement.
In that time, Stapleton was a key strategic adviser and the pipeline for anyone seeking Palin’s attention, including Republican officials and reporters.
“Meg has been deeply involved in all things Palin and instrumental in Sarah's many successes,” Fred Malek, a prominent Republican fundraiser and Palin friend. “It’s hard to replace anyone so loyal, tireless and effective, but the Palin phenomenon will continue. Meg has surely earned the privilege to devote more time to her 2-year-old daughter, but I expect she will continue to render advice to her good friend on key issues.”
Prior to working for the former governor, Stapleton was director of scheduling and advance for Republican National Committee Co-Chairwoman Jeanie Austin, an assistant for Malek at Thayer Capital Partners and a local television news reporter in New York, Pennsylvania and Alaska.
Palin and her now ex-aide have been talking about her stepping down for some time, and it became official on Wednesday — Stapleton’s birthday.
Stapleton has been employed by Palin’s PAC since helping to launch it in January 2009. In an e-mail to the staff last week, she wrote: “Earlier this week, I handed Governor Palin my resignation, effective the end of this month.”
“While I had hoped to work together on so many more projects, time with my precious 2-year-old has been further minimized with the whirlwind commitments of all things Palin,” she told the SarahPAC staff. “I have done my best to scale back, but Isabella is now resorting to hiding my BlackBerry, and she shouldn't grow up begging for a mother to start acting like a mother.”
Friday, January 29, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is traveling to London this week for meetings on Afghanistan and Yemen, two major U.S. foreign policy priorities.
Clinton recently unveiled a 30-page strategy paper that lays out the long-term goals of U.S. development experts in Afghanistan. She said civilians will remain in Afghanistan long after U.S. troops leave, and she is hoping other countries will make similar commitments.
Officials from countries surrounding Afghanistan and other major stakeholders are gathering in London to hear how Afghan President Hamid Karzai plans to tackle corruption. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who was in Washington last week, said better governance is key.
"It's important to recognize that the Afghan government doesn't just need to avoid being outgunned by the insurgency; it must not be out-governed by the insurgency either," Miliband said. "For us, that speaks first to the need to tackle corruption at all levels; secondly, to achieve much greater focus on district and provincial governance."
Miliband said he is expecting Karzai to lay out more details on how he hopes to persuade some insurgents to lay down their arms.
In an interview this week, Clinton said that ultimately any conflict has to have a political resolution, but the U.S. wants a clearer understanding of what Karzai has in mind. She said convincing militants to disarm and live peacefully is the first step.
"There are two end states that are being discussed. One is called reintegration, which is done a lot on the battlefield. Our military did this in Iraq. They will do it again in Afghanistan with the same kind of approach," Clinton said.
"Then there is reconciliation, which would really look at seeing whether any level of leadership of the Taliban leadership will be willing to enter the political system in Afghanistan, eschewing violence, turning away from al-Qaida," she said.
James Dobbins, a defense and international security specialist with the Rand Corporation, a global policy think tank, says the U.S. is skeptical that Taliban leaders will give up their fight in return for anything Karzai could offer, but rank-and-file fighters might leave if the price is right.
"Offer them an alternative from continuing to take their Taliban salary — and the Taliban salaries are actually pretty good. And that's a question of resources. I think, for instance, one of the things Japan is going to announce is a substantial donation to fund that kind of a reintegration program," Dobbins says.
Helping Yemen control al-Qaida, as well as its own internal conflicts, is the topic of the first meeting in London. Clinton says this will be a chance for countries that have an interest in Yemen to brainstorm.
"They are coming together to discuss security and development — one without the other doesn't work. We'll be making clear to the representatives of the government of Yemen what we expect and how we intend to work with them," she said.
The international community needs to speak with one voice, according to Christopher Boucek, an expert on Yemen at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The meeting in London, which will include the Saudis and other Gulf states, is a chance, as Boucek puts it, to get ahead of a rapidly deteriorating situation.
One thing the U.S. can do is push for a cease-fire in the conflict in northern Yemen, where Saudi Arabia has been actively involved in helping Yemen put down a rebellion.
"This is rapidly accelerating Yemen's economic collapse, because they are spending money at such an alarming rate, and every dollar that gets spent fighting this civil war, which the Yemeni government cannot win, is a dollar that is not spent on fighting terrorism or dealing with a post-oil economy or thinking about water or any other issues," Boucek says.