Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Kicking the Can - in Europe

Today's action of major global central banks to work together to ease the liquidity issues in Europe is sparking a major rally in global stock indexes, but fundamentally is doing little more than kicking the can a little further down the road regarding the EU's economic challenges.

Michael Hewson, a market analyst at CMC Market notes:
“It gives an indication that monetary authorities are prepared to do what is required to stop a freeze up in the funding markets. But, basically all they are doing here is QE (quantitative easing) on steroids. It does not deal with the underlying issues.”

As the New York Times reports in one of their stories on the move of the central banks...
Some analysts were quick to note that the program does not address the root causes of the European crisis, falling far short of the steps that the European Central Bank, in particular, is under pressure to take, like intervening in bond markets in support of Italy, Spain and other troubled countries.

“It doesn’t change any of the fundamental issues in Europe,” Michael Cloherty, head of interest rate strategy at RBC Capital Market, said in a note to clients. “We don’t think this is a real game changer.”
At best, analysts said, the move could buy the 17 European Union nations that use the euro a little more time to agree on a broader plan to stabilize financial markets.

The Economist also is sharing the viewpoint that the action today is doing little than providing a means to buy time...
This action has contributed to a surge in equities, but the move is less significant than it seems. The central banks are extending and expanding programmes that were already available, and the focus is purely on liquidity issues. The underlying dynamics of the euro-zone sovereign debt crisis are unchanged. As we've seen over the past few years, these actions can delay a meltdown but cannot, in the absence of other steps, prevent it altogether. Central banks have effectively provided hydration to a cancer patient; a useful thing to do, but ultimately just a means to buy time.

Addressing the liquidity issues of the major European financial institutions will assist those institutions to continue to provide credit services for the businesses of Europe. Most may be able to, with this boost, to weather a possible default of one or two of the most troubled countries in the EU without creating a cascading series of collapsing organizations even more dramatic than seen in late 2008 precipitated by the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

But as noted across these analysts and observers, none of the core challenges in the EU region are being addressed. When given the choice of taking decisive, but painful, action to address the root problem, once again the decision makers are choosing a path that is intended to provide an appearance of doing something while working to postpone the need to take decisive action as long as possible. Kicking the can down the road is far easier.

Why is it easier to kick the can down the road? Because making the claim to embrace austerity measures - to reduce entitlements and government deficit spending - is very hard. Voters are loath to vote against their government entitlements and gifts - and they are loath to help provide the government with the revenues that it needs to responsibly path for those entitlements.

As an example, Forbes Magazine notes that many 'rich' nations have gone broke in history by spending too Greece is doing now...
Greece has bloated government bureaucracies where unionized employees were accustomed to being paid for 14 months’ work every 12 months. For decades, Greek politicians pacified disgruntled citizens by adding people to the government payroll, and now about 1 out of every 4 Greeks work for the government. In an unsuccessful effort to pay for all the spending, taxes were raised so high that more and more Greeks did business tax-free on the black market. An estimated one third of the economy is “off-the-books.”

Everyone wants their cake for free.

Consider the post about the greed of the Teacher's Union of Neshaminy, Pennsylvania, or the actions of the public sector Unions in Wisconsin and Ohio to protect not only their political status and power, but to protect their financial benefits that are far wealthier than those available in to workers in the private sector - particularly if the company in the private sector wishes to remain competitive.

In Britain today, over 2 million public sector union workers are staging a 24 hour strike against the British government and their efforts to bring austerity to the government's budget and entitlement programs.
The strike closed more than three-quarters of schools in England, as well as courts, museums, libraries and job centres, disrupted transport, hospitals and government departments, led to around 15% of driving tests being cancelled and was described by unions as the biggest since the 1979 Winter of Discontent.

Civil service union Prospect said action by 26,000 of its members alone disrupted or stopped work at more than 400 locations, ranging from Ministry of Defence sites to prisons while more than 1,000 rallies were held across the UK, including one in central London attended by tens of thousands of workers, some accompanied by their children.

This is the largest such pro-union action in Britain since 1979's 'Winter of Discontent' which crippled the nation and antagonized millions of Britons. The country was facing a show down - either to embrace the socialism and economic stagnation advocated by the greedy public sector unions or to embrace austerity measures, limited government, and a return to common sense conservative economic policies. The result then? These steps paved the way for Margaret Thatcher to become Prime Minister and start the revitalization of Britain.

Margaret Thatcher famously said that when one embraces the socialism and progressive economic policies advocated by the unions and huge entitlements, there comes a tipping point where one runs out of other people's money - be it borrowed or taxed.

Europe is at that tipping point - but remains unwilling to change direction or face the tipping point. It's far easier to kick the can down the road...particularly thanks to the actions of the US and it's Federal Reserve Bank.

The thing is, here in the US, we are at the same tipping point....over $15 trillion in debt, $1.5 trillion annual budget deficits, Federal, State, and Local governments in financial dire straits because of irresponsible fiscal policies and kowtowing to greedy public sector unions. Like the members of the EU, like Britain, we've run out of other people's money. There is no one available to bail us out when we reach the edge of the cliff. That same cliff edge makes it harder to keep kicking the can down the road - because the road ends at the cliff.

We have very little time left to change our direction - and those who oppose that change in direction, the unions, the progressive / socialistic / Marxist Occupy movement are going to start resorting to more violence and threats to prevent any change in direction.

The riots that took place in Greece, the strikes that are plaguing Britain today, all of these are going to be taking place in increasing frequency here in the US until the American people make their last stand next November 2012. That is when we decide if we are to leap off the cliff or not.

A Teachers Union at War With It's Community

One of the effects from the actions taking in Wisconsin earlier this year by Governor Scott Walker and the GOP majority in the Wisconsin Legislature to require teacher's unions to pay a greater share of their health and pension costs (though still less than private sector workers pay) and limit their collective bargaining privileges, is that hundreds of school districts have moved from being in financial challenges to having balanced budgets or surpluses.

In addition to requiring higher member contributions towards the cost of healthcare and pension coverages, school districts are no longer required to source their healthcare insurance from the unions themselves at highly inflated costs as well as other collective bargaining limitations.

But these lessons are being lost on far too many.

In Neshaminy, Pennsylvania, the Teacher's Union is actively at war with it's community - tearing the community apart with their excessive demands which are driving up education costs almost 40%.

In 2002, the former school board negotiated a six-year deal with the teachers union, which included free health care for teachers and their families, free health insurance for retirees and the $27,500 bonus for retirees with at least 10 years of service.

The worst part, as current board members recently discovered, is that the retirement bonus was written into the pact as a “sidebar” deal between the former board president and union president, and was never ratified by the full board, according to Webb.

The old contract, which Webb calls a “huge mistake,” increased the district’s annual budget from about $125 million per year to about $164 million.

The generous contract didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, because the economy was healthy and tax revenue was pouring into the district. Then the recession hit, tax revenue plummeted and the state passed a property tax limitation law, severely restricting the amount school boards can levy against property owners.

Somehow union leaders have failed to notice that money stopped growing on trees in Neshaminy – or they just don’t care.
Few entities, if any, can effectively manage nearly $40 million in higher operating costs caused by increased labor, healthcare, and pension costs.  It's not as if these teachers are being underpaid either.  They are the second highest paid group of teachers in the state of Pennsylvania, with an average salary of over $81,000 per year.  In addition to a base salary far larger than the average private sector worker in the State, they also have a benefit package that is far more generous than the average private sector worker enjoys. 

Yet, this is not enough for the greedy Teacher's Union.  They rejected a 1% annual salary increase in each of the next 3 years as an 'insult'.  They counter with a demand for an average annual increase, regardless of performance, of 3% for salary and to cap the maximum contribution they are obligated to pay for their healthcare at 8% - when the average private sector worker pays around 40% of their total healthcare insurance costs.  This would increase the $164 million annual school district labor costs by about $4 million more per year for each year of the new contract.  But this isn't the limit of the demands the Teacher's union are making.  They are also demanding additional retroactive salary and pension increases which would add another $9 million to the district's costs. 

This is a school district that is looking at closing schools, eliminating programs, seeing declining student test scores and performance because of their budget challenges.  Their only recourse, if the union continues to make its irresponsible demands, is to require higher taxes on the resident's of the school district which in turn will create more problems.

In this environment, the teachers are now doing as little as possible until they get their way.  The teachers are not providing any 'after school assistance' to students seeking to do additional work.  They will not write letters of recommendation to students seeking those letters to accompany college applications.  They are not decorating their classrooms for holidays - and daily pickets of off duty teachers are taking place at schools and district offices.  Students are becoming props for the teachers - while the union attempts to strong arm parents to putting pressure on the school district.

Surprisingly to the teachers and the union officials, the community is reacting to these acts by standing in support with the school district.  Many parents are tired of the antics of the union and teachers - as well as the greed of both. 

None of this should be a surprise to the union or its membership.  Boorish behavior and greed never ingratiates anyone to others.  But all too often, those who are being boors don't seem to consider that their behavior is affecting how others treat them.  Disrespecting a community will result in that community changing its viewpoint and opinion towards those who are treating it contemptuously.  That is the lesson that the progressive left still doesn't get.

Quick Hits - November 30, 2011

European, Canadian, and US Stock Markets are surging today as the world's major central banks initiated a new strategy to create a wall of money to prop up the EU and prevent their financial challenges from undermining the stability of the banking system.
The Federal Reserve, European Central Bank and central banks in Canada, Britain, Switzerland and Japan said in a joint announcement that they will extend the timing of and lower the interest rate paid on “swaps,” arrangements that have been used intermittently since late 2007 to funnel dollars to the banking systems of countries where there is need.
Key to this new strategy is the decision by the US Federal Reserve bank to print dollars and make those dollars available very inexpensively for the European Central Bank and other major European banks to ensure funds and liquidity.  While this will help mask the challenges in the Eurozone and the Eurozone banks, the Fed rushing to Europe's rescue will result in a further weakening of the dollar (look at the price of oil increase), promoting additional inflation, and ultimately hurting the American people.  But these impacts are considered 'necessary' if the can is to be kicked even further down the road - future pain always being seen as better and easier than experiencing a lessor pain today.

Precipitating the need for this action by these central banks were signs yesterday the EU financial crisis was accelerating.  Businesses were starting to scramble as credit and liquidity tightened as banks prepared themselves for the fallout of at least one and most likely several EU member nations defaulting on their debt obligations in December 2011.  In their bond sales yesterday, the Italian 10 year bonds (reflecting the borrowing costs of the Italian government) reached an all time high - 7.56%.

Pessimism also remained strong regarding the EU community and the Euro currency.  The Economist believes that the point of no return has been passed - that... single action can save the euro. This is not just because Germany wants others to feel the pain for a long time, but also because the damage from poor leadership and procrastination is so extensive. The euro will require a full redesign through new treaties, with Eurobonds and possibly much else besides. If this is to happen, though, it must first survive. It is time for Mrs Merkel to grasp that her country risks being caught up in the euro’s catastrophic failure—and for Mr Draghi to admit that he risks finding himself without a job.
President Obama is on record saying that the US taxpayer will not be bailing out Europe - but questions regarding that do have to be raised given the actions of the Federal Reserve to print large amounts of dollars to provide liquidity for the EU and ECB.

For example, with the Obama Administration, appearances and perception becomes far more important than reality.   US Economic data that is being reported by the US Government is being skewed in order to present the best possible face...sacrificing credibility and accuracy in order to provide a positive political viewpoint.  We've seen and suspected this with the US jobless numbers and weekly reports of new filers for unemployment.  Numbers are presented before being quietly 'reset' several weeks or a quarter later downwards.  The downgrades rarely get reported by the mainstream media.

Unfortunately for the President, these shenanigans from the various outlets of his 'Ministry of Truth' are not helping his polling numbers.  President Obama's approval numbers have now fallen below those levels of Jimmy Carter at this stage of their Presidency - and Carter's numbers were the lowest of the 20th century.  Among independents, the voters who overwhelmingly put Barack Obama into the White House, the President is tanking.  He's down another 10% with pure independents and losing more ground with those just on either side of the political center - down 9% with moderate / conservative Democrats and down 8% with liberal / moderate Republicans.

Part of this is the direct result of a President who remains focused on ideology and doing what is best for his political agenda than what is best for the country.  Michael Ramirez highlights the jobs massacre the President is conducting...

The latest example - the EPA's latest CAFE standards for the US auto industry - doubling the fleet average requirement from 27 mpg today to 54 mpg by 2025.  The result of this regulatory fiat - far higher prices for cars - $2,500 to $3,200 per car for compliance, the likely loss of low priced cars (sub $15,000) because they will no longer be economically viable to produce, and tens of thousands of jobs. 

In response to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the Iranian Government assault on the British Embassy in Tehran yesterday, the UK is closing the Iranian Embassy in London, ordering all Iranian staff from the country, and downgrading diplomatic relations to the lowest possible level short of severing relations entirely.  Despite the claims from Tehran that the actions were the spontaneous actions of Iranian 'students', the assault was not an accident, not spontaneously organized, and not done by 'students'.  None of those things happen in today's Iran.  The effort was organized by the Iranian Government to send a message to Britain reminiscent of November 1979.

President Obama continued to demonstrate his contempt for our closest ally - in comments yesterday he referred to the British Embassy as the 'English' Embassy - demonstrating either an accidental or willful contempt towards Great Britain - thinking it being just England...  Of course, if a Republican made such a statement, it would be one of the ledes on the evening news across the country.

Early this morning, 1,400 LAPD members, including some in riot gear, took action to clear OccupyLA from their encampment of City Hall Park adjacent to LA's City Hall.  More than 200 OccupyLA protesters were arrested as they refused to vacate the area, more than 2 days after LA's Mayor Villiaraigosa ordered their eviction after nearly 2 months of occupation.  The protesters used social media to try to increase their ranks as communists, marxists, union members, and a few anarchists tried to claim their occupation was protected by First Amendment rights.

The OccupyLA protesters are vowing to regroup and to occupy other locations inside Los Angeles.  They are scheduling future 'General Assembly' meetings for LA's Pershing Square and remain committed to shutting down the Port of Los Angeles via demonstrations on December 12.  This is the next major 'day of action' for the OccupyWallStreet movement - as they seek to close other major west coast ports (Oakland, Portland, etc) on that day.

Early returns from the two days of elections in Egypt reflect some of the worst worries and concerns of observers - the Muslim Brotherhood, which advocates the establishment of an Islamic state based on the Q'uran and Shari'a, has about 40% of the popular vote.  This increases the likelihood that the Arab Spring will effectively replaced secular dictators with fundamentalist Islamic dictatorships.

On a slightly lighter note - UK grocery chain Sainsbury's is reporting that their leading sellers this past month were not the traditional grocery staples like milk, but non-grocery products like the Call of Duty 3 video game and Treacher's whisky.

Wrapping up today's summary of the major news are a couple of lists.....the top 10 hammy villain performances in movies....followed by 10 more hammy villain performances.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Double Standards

Big Government and Gateway Pundit are leading the reporting of an interesting case of double standards being practiced by the Democrat leadership of Richmond, Virginia.

Two weeks ago, the Richmond Tea Party sent an invoice to the Richmond city government for their $8,500 in costs the organization incurred for permits, portable toilets, park fees, and police costs during Tea Party demonstrations at Kanawha Plaza in 2010 and 2011. 

This was after the City of Richmond declined to require the OccupyRichmond protesters to have to undergo or fund the same level of permits, park fees, sanitation, and police costs for their demonstrations and encampment at the same location for over 2 weeks.
The Mayor not only allowed the Occupiers to break the law, but he visited them in the city-owned park. “Jones said that as a ‘child of civil rights’ and protests, he had allowed the group to remain in the park but understands his mayoral responsibility to uphold laws of the city,” reported the Richmond Times Dispatch.
Apparently his mayoral duties included preferential treatment for a group he sympathizes with ideologically at the expense of the taxpayers.

Not only has the leadership of the City refused to treat the Tea Party in the same manner as they treat the OccupyRichmond protesters, but the City's response to the Tea Party invoice was to initiate a retalitary tax audit of the Richmond Tea Party. 

The double standard is a clear violation of the rights of the Richmond Tea Party and demonstrates the moral and ethical bankruptcy of the government of Richmond.

If the shoe was reversed, this would be one of the leading stories for the evening news for most of a week - but when it's a Democrat Mayor / City Government abusing their power and attacking the Tea Party, all we hear from the mainstream media is the sound of crickets chirping.

Breaking - Herman Cain 'Reassessing' Campaign

Fox News is reporting that Herman Cain is conducting an 'assessment' of his political campaign for the GOP Presidential nomination in the wake of the claim that he was involved in a 13 year affair.

Cain was appearing to be weathering the accusations of sexual harassment that had been leveled against him - no new accusations had been brought forward, no new details beyond the he said / she said accusations and denials, and no further grandstanding by smear attorney Gloria Allred since she brought forth the former boyfriend of her client to 'substantiate' the accusation.

His poll numbers were not rebounding significantly, and his performance in the CNN / Heritage Foundation / AEI debate on foreign policy was uninspiring.  At RealClearPolitics, Cain remained in third place among the GOP Presidential Candidates with an average polling of 15.5%.

This latest accusation of 'inappropriate behavior' combined with the non-denial denial offered could erode the remaining support for Cain's candidacy.  If the candidate does decide to end his run for the nomination, the question is going to be on where Cain's supporters are going to move to?  Romney?  Gingrich?  Perry?

Cain was part of the 'Anybody but Romney' movement within the conservative wing of the GOP and the simple answer may be that the remaining Cain support may shift to Newt Gingrich...except that Gingrich's immigration stance has raised renewed questions as to his conservative bonafides.  Cain gained much of his support from Rick Perry's fall - could these voters move back to the Texas Governor?  I personally don't think so. 

Some think that this group, already comfortable in not supporting Newt Gingrich may move towards Mitt Romney - but that is asking them to abandon their 'Anybody but Romney' position.  I suspect that the bulk of Cain's supporters may just decide to sit on the sidelines until the Florida primary - where they will make their move / decision.  It was Cain's straw poll win in Florida that propelled his campaign into the top tier.

al-Qaeda Linked Group Fires Rockets into Israel

From Haaretz...
The Sheikh Abdullah Azzam Brigades, a militant group affiliated with Al-Qaida on Tuesday claimed responsibility for the four Katyusha rockets fired from Lebanon at Israel overnight.

The small organization, whose members live mostly in hideouts in Palestinian refugee camps across southern Lebanon, has claimed responsibility for past rocket attack on Israel, as well.
The rockets caused minor damage to two buildings and no casualties.  Israeli Defense Forces responded with a brief artillery barrage.  The United Nations UNIFIL peacekeepers deployed additional forces along the Israel-Lebanon border and stepped up their patrols in an effort to prevent an escalation.

Rockets and missiles are regularly fired by Hamas in Gaza into Israeli towns in Southern Israel.  However, incidents of rockets being fired into Israel from Lebanon have been rare since the Second Lebanese War in the summer of 2006.  For over a month, Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets and missiles into Israel after the terrorist organization attacked and captured several IDF soldiers patrolling the border.

The timing of this escalation is very interesting given the developments in Syria, Lebanon, and the pressure being placed on Iran by Western nations.  Is this really a small offshoot of al-Qaeda that is operating on it's own (where is it's source of weaponry?) or is this an effort being made by Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah to deflect attention and focus towards Israel?

Syria remains in near civil war as demonstrations against the Assad tyranny continue.  The Arab League's sanctions against Syria are quite severe as pressure builds for stronger action in response to the government's murder of nearly 4,000 civilians since the demonstrations began.

In Lebanon, as reported yesterday, Hezbollah's hand picked Prime Minister took a brave stand against both Hezbollah and Syria to threaten his resignation if the Lebanese Parliament did not continue to press for the completion of the UN investigation and prosecution of the murderers of former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri in 2005.  Information released from the UN investigation point to senior Hezbollah and Syrian officials being complicit in the assassination.

If a crisis can be provoked between Hezbollah and Israel - attention and pressure will be moved from Iran and Syria.  Emotions that are running against these governments will also be redirected towards Israel and anti-Israeli sentiments....the traditional deflection to focus on a 'common enemy'.

Quick Hits - November 29, 2011

Grim financial news from the Eurozone continues to dominate attention.  The German news magazine Der Spiegel says in 'A Continent Stares into the Abyss'...
Investors have lost confidence in the euro-zone countries and in their ability to rescue the common currency. Not even the recent changes of government in Italy, Greece and Spain have been enough to persuade them otherwise.
There is a growing sense of fear, both in the financial markets and in government offices. Even serious bankers who exude confidence in public admit privately that the monetary union could soon fall apart.
The previous bailout attempts have been worthless, they say, noting that Europe must finally reach for the only weapon whose firepower is endless, the European Central Bank. The ECB must finance the debtor nations, even if its own constitution bars it from doing so. The central bank has enough money, and it can also print money if necessary.
Most European leaders share this realization by now -- all except Merkel. She remains resistant, concerned about the central bank's independence and monetary stability. She is also staunchly opposed to all attempts to pool the debts of euro nations through jointly issued debt known as euro bonds.
Apparently the only solution left to preserve the European Union and in particular the Euro currency, is to grant powers well beyond those contained in its constitution to the European Central Bank.  How will the Greeks, Hungarians, Spanish, Irish, Beligians, and others react to seeing their elected Parliament's rendered impotent when it comes to defining their countries fiscal direction because the EU bureaucracy has to make these decisions...and the ECB spends hundreds of billions invoking another round of  quantitative easing?  This is a crisis that is surpassing that of 2008-9 for the EU nations.

As noted in today's summary of Doom by Monty on Ace of Spades...
The Eurozone problem was dogged by two interrelated pieces of European folly: one, a badly-designed monetary union; and two, a deeply undemocratic process that put the wishes of the citizens behind those of the bureaucrats. America’s monetary union works in part because America's federal system of sovereign states compromise an actual nation.
Moving beyond the establishment of simple cooperative treaties and policies was a fundamental mistake of overreach by the nations of the European Union in forming their union.  Striving for a common market, free trade, and common immigration policies are one thing - trying to reduce nations to the levels of 'states' was not something that could succeed given the differences.

UK's Telegraph comments that the Euro is for all practical purposes already a dead currency - that the return to each member nation's original currency is a foregone conclusion.  Moody's shares this level of pessimism, reporting that all nations in Europe are threatened by this crisis and that they envision multiple defaults with several nations leaving the EU / Euro.  The Financial Times opines that the Eurozone has 10 days at most left before this happens.  We'll be seeing a foreshadowing of this today as the Italian government is trying to sell $11 billion in bonds and Spain has a far larger bond sale scheduled for Thursday.  A spike in yields or a poor reception and the 10 day countdown may seem extravagant.

President Barack Obama is asserting that the US taxpayer will not be providing financial assistance or a bailout for the Eurozone.  The Obama WH is letting the Eurozone know that they have the support of the US - verbally.....but not where it is needed the most, financially.  This brings into question as to how / where the IMF will get the $800 billion they say is needed to bailout Italy and Greece - or if the IMF actually can commit to the bailout.

Strong sales numbers from Cyber Monday continued the momentum from the first major holiday weekend retail sales, but the perception is still that we need to be wary of the economy given the national fiscal crisis.  This morning, the parent company for American Airlines filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as they seek to reduce their labor costs and shed their heavy debt load.

Under reported in much of the media, Fitch announced yesterday that it is maintaining it's assessment of the US credit rating at AAA, but it is cutting its outlook towards the long term fiscal viability of the US to negative.  This is as the US government remains adrift in their efforts to address the fiscal irresponsibility being pushed by the President and his Congressional allies.

The official reason stated by Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank's decision to retire remains a combination of his age and the redistricting of Massachusetts's Congressional districts.  The redistricting fundamentally changed Frank's district from one that was a reliable and save progressive vote to one that would have gone for Republican Senator Scott Brown by 10%.  Frank, who survived a tough 2010 challenge, didn't want the fight or the possibility of an electoral loss.  He is the 17th Democrat in the House to announce their retirement.  Another reason, given the political environment, it is very unlikely that the Democrats will regain the House, so Frank, ever the bully, would have to remain a member of the minority - unable to wield the power as he liked to do.

Given Franks' role and massive contributions towards the 2008 financial crisis, one would think that his departure from the House Banking Committee as the senior minority member would be good news for the Republic.  That is until we learn who will be stepping up to the plate.  That would be none other than California socialist Maxine Waters...

That is, if Maxine Waters can survive the Congressional investigation currently underway into corruption charges - where Waters pressured the Department of Treasury to bail out a bank that her husband had a substantial financial exposure in.

Earlier today, Iranian 'students' stormed the British Embassy in Tehran and occupied the Embassy, vandalizing the buildings and offices, and burning the Union Jack.  This was said to be in response to the British decision to support the US efforts to increase economic sanctions on Iran for that country's continued efforts to develop nuclear weapons.  Other than expressing outrage, however, there is little that Britain can do.

Britain's military is a shadow of what it once was.  The Royal Navy, the enabler and enforcer of the British Empire, is slated to be reduced to just 29,000 members - too small to operate the two aircraft carriers that the RN is trying to obtain....
The UK will "certainly" not be able to operate both Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers in 2020 if the Royal Navy is reduced to 29,000 personnel in line with current planning, the head of the Royal Navy has said.
First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, speaking at a Henry Jackson Society event on 24 November, said that manpower was one of his most "significant concerns" regarding the future of the navy.
Current navy assumptions will see the second-in-class aircraft carrier fitted with catapults and arrestor wire ready to operate the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter carrier variant in 2020, but the fate of HMS Queen Elizabeth, which will launch first and be used to train crews in handling HMS Prince of Wales, is less certain.
Inside St. Paul's Cathedral, if not already because of Occupy London's use of the Cathedral as a toilet, Lord Horatio Nelson is spinning in his crypt.

About 33 hours after the expiration of his ultimatum to OccupyLA, Mayor Villiaragosa continues to dither and delay in cleaning up the OccupyLA encampment.  Meanwhile, OccupyLA is trying to do what OccupyWallStreet, OccupyOakland, and OccupyPortland were unable to do - find a judge that will accept their encampment as being an expression of First Amendment rights of free speech.  Reports on OccupyLA by the networks remains full of selective amnesia as they continue to stress the 'peaceful' nature of the protesters...forgetting these events...

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Middle East View for November 28, 2011

Today, four major Egyptian party coalitions are vying for seats in their Parliament as the first stage of elections take place since the ouster of former President Mubarak earlier this year. 
Since the fall of Hosni Mubarak in February, ending decades of enforced one-party rule, dozens of parties have sprung up, all hoping to make it big. They fall into four major groups:

•The Democratic Alliance is led by the Freedom and Justice Party, a new party created by the once outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. The alliance includes a number of liberal forces in an effort not to scare off more secular voters.

•The Egyptian Bloc is led by the Free Egyptian Party a new party created by Coptic Christian. The alliance is largely secular and includes some left-leaning outfits. This is the biggest rival to the Democratic Alliance.

•The Islamist Alliance is led by Nour Party and other Salafis, ultraconservative Muslims whose ideology resembles Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabism. It includes the Gama’a Al Islamiyya terrorist group’s Building and Development Party. This group hopes to pick up support from those disillusioned by the Brotherhood’s apparent drift towards the political center.

•The Revolution Continues Alliance is leftist and includes many of the youth groups that helped lead the anti-Mubarak uprising in January, as well as the Brotherhood’s youth wing, which has broken away from its parent organization.

The Muslim Brotherhood has become more centrist than in the past, as it is torn between the vanishing old leaders, who yearn for the days of violence, and the youth groups that want it to become fully secular. It is expected to emerge as the largest party, though not a majority, since it has the best organization. Guardian
Some are touting this as an example of the 'Arab Spring' where Arabs, mainly young adults, took to the streets to protest and ultimately overthrow the despots who ran their countries.  They will point to this election, and others, as an example that these Arab nations are embracing the tenants of Democracy.  Perhaps...but I am highly skeptical that democracy and democratic principles will find a welcome home in the Arab nations which experienced the Arab Spring.

Instead, we are far more likely to see that the Arab Spring will result in the swapping of secular despots for Islamic despots....
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Muammar Gadhafi in Libya were corrupt dictators who outlived their days. They all suppressed the Islamic movements in their respective countries, and were all thus on the side of the seculars in their own perverse way. The same holds true for Syria’s Bashar Assad, whose father, Hafez, killed some 20,000 people in the city of Hama in 1982, quelling a rebellion by the Moslem Brothers. Now, his son, Bashar, no less ruthless, seems to be about to go the way of Ben Ali, Mubarak and Gadhafi.

The demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt were initially led by secular groups – educated youngsters adept at using the Internet, Facebook and Twitter. In Egypt, they stood shoulder to shoulder with members of the Coptic Christian community, which constitutes 10% of the Egyptian population. Quite naturally, they called for the downfall of Mubarak to be followed by democratic elections. The motley crew in Libya that overthrew Gadhafi was supported by the democracies that make up NATO, and it is unimaginable that the bloodbath that rid the country of the “mad dog of the Middle East,” as former U.S. President Ronald Reagan called him, would not be followed by democratic elections – even under the chaotic conditions that followed Gadhafi’s downfall.

But who is going to win the elections when they take place – in Egypt, in Libya and eventually in Syria?

We already have a preview: In Tunisia, the country that had been the most secular and westernized of the Arab states, the election was won by Ennahda, the Islamic party, with the advocates of a secular Tunisia left far behind.  [Original here]
But with this disconcerting news that provides a grim forecast for the region, there still are signs that there may be hope for the Lebanon.

US Tax Mess & Fiscal Responsibility

Saturday's edition of The Wall Street Journal featured a detailed report for the American consumer that tried to highlight the taxation mess that our Federal Government has brought to us. 

The American taxpayer is facing some significant changes in our tax obligations over the next several years.  This is because of not only the failure of the Congressional Supercommittee, but the overall failure of both Congress and President Barack Obama to address the fiscal challenges that we face.

President Obama likes to accuse the 'Republican Congress' for the gridlock and failures to address the fiscal challenges we face.  This is as disingenuous as the accusations that the Republican members of Congress are preferring to put partisan politics ahead of the needs of the country.  The 'Republican Congress' doesn't exist.  While the Republicans hold a substantial majority in the House of Representatives, the Democrats of President Obama's party, hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate (when we count the 2 Independents who caucus with the Democrats as Democrats).  The Democrat Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, has a major role in defining and detailing the direction and attention of the Senate.

Over the next 13 months, because of the Democrats, in particular President Obama's interest to use a 'do-nothing Congress' as a political campaign strategy, we are looking at some substantial tax increases that we are going to have to absorb even as we still stagnate in a weak economic recovery of over 9% unemployment (about 17% real unemployment) and ~2% economic growth.

Scheduled to expire 12/31/11
  • 2% Social Security Payroll Tax Cut
  • A fix for the Alternative Minimum Tax to protect middle class families
  • IRA charitable contributions for those older than 70 1/2
Scheduled to expire 12/31/12
  • Bush Tax Cuts from 2001 and 2003 for all taxpayers
  • Top tax rate for individuals will reset from 35% to 39.6%
  • Top capital gains tax rate will reset from 15% to 20%
  • Special 15% rate on dividends
  • Estate tax provisions
  • 10 million taxpayers who currently pay no taxes will return to the tax rolls
Come 2013 and 2014, we're going to see even more tax increases resulting from current legislation that will limit the deductions available to high income earners, in addition to those related to healthcare reform.

Yet all of this does little to address our fundamental problem and lack of fiscal responsibility.  This Administration and Democrat Congress have added more to the national debt since January 2009 than not only the previous President did between 2001 and 2008, but more than the first 42 Presidents have done.  On top of this we are still adding $1.5 trillion of debt every year - and appear to be doing so for the foreseeable future as we spend $4 trillion per year..over $1 trillion more per year than we spent in 2007 - the last 'Republican' federal budget.

The countries in Europe that are on the verge of default all share a national debt to GDP ratio of greater than 115% - Greece, for example is at about 145%.  As the US stands today, with it's National Debt Clock, we are at about 100%.  Within the next decade, unless some fundamental changes are made, we will surpass the Greek levels in this ratio.

The President and Democrats are blaming the Republican's in Congress for the inability to address the fiscal challenges - specifically the GOP refusal to endorse and support major tax revenue changes - tax increases above and beyond those which we see detailed in the WSJ Tax Report.  They see class warfare / tax the wealthy as the solution - but the revenues, if we ignore the Laffer Curve, fall far short of what is needed to address deficits that we are now experiencing or projected to have.  At best they are just more efforts to kick the can down the road while the 'social justice' efforts continue.  As Europe is seeing now, we can't kick the can far enough down the road to avoid the ramifications of bad economic policy decisions.

Some may dismiss this as just a partisan argument being made by a conservative against the progressives.  That this is an effort to misrepresent the causes of the challenges and point the finger of blame at the progressive Democrats rather than 'compromise' to 'fix' those economic challenges by embracing a 'fair' solution.  BS!

Dow Up 300+ Points, But Not All is Well.....

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up over 300 points, about 2.8%, on a combination of economic news, reversing the declines of last week.  One of the keys was the strong holiday sales in the United States this past weekend.  Sales surged 6.6% over last year's levels on Black Friday - and US consumers spent about $52.4 billion in total for consumer goods during this weekend's kick off for the 2011 holiday season.

This, however, brings forth some unknowns that could temper the excitement around the sales activity.  One unknown is if this trend will be sustainable throughout the holiday season or if this represents a temporary demonstration of recession fatigue - where shoppers, tired of the watching their pennies, decide to binge a bit before returning to watching their pennies.  The other unknown is if the sale prices offered by retailers which attracted the attention of the consumers was a case of getting a tactical win while risking a strategic loss by surrendering too many profits for the tactical win.

The other 'good' news that is bolstering Wall Street this Monday morning comes from Europe.  As reported in yesterday's 'Quick Hits', the France and German are developing a new 'Stablility Plan' that will increase the EU's control over the national budgets of the EU member states.  This would centralize control of the budgets to ensure that the needed austerity measures are implemented regardless of the will of the national government.  Also envisioned are plans to provide the European Central Bank with more authority to purchase government bonds of nation's facing economic challenges.  This is a major reversal from the current strategy of the ECB.  The ECB currently operates under the theory that if they would aggressively purchase bonds that are not selling well on the open market, those countries, knowing the ECB will step in, are not incentivized to take more remedial actions to address their fiscal challenges.

With all of this 'good news', pessimism still remains very present in the Eurozone.  The Financial Times is reporting that the Eurozone is days from collapse - and a race is on as to if this will happen before the 'Stability Plan' can be developed.  Another consideration is going to be the blowback from EU members over the "Stability Plan' - will they be so willing to cede their national control of their budgets to the EU Parliament?

The Daily Telegraph in the UK makes the case in this commentary that a German credit downgrade is the next logical step in the economic crisis....
Received wisdom is that the German fiscal position is unassailable. It's true the annual budget deficit there is just 4.3pc of GDP but total debt will rise to 83.2pc of GDP this year, not far off Portugal at 93.3pc and already ahead of France (82.3pc) and Spain (61pc). The German economy, and its management, is seen as being too strong to allow its debt position to get out of hand. But on Tuesday the Bundesbank reminded us that such assumptions are prey to unforeseen events - notably the central bank's decision to downgrade its forecast for German growth next year to just 0.5pc.
There are then the unknown costs to Germany of its share in any future bail-outs of other stricken countries plus likely recapitalisations of its banks.
 As optimistic as Wall Street may appear to be today, there still are some major questions - and funds - needed to address and try to prevent the default of a number of EU nations as well as the collapse of the Euro as a currency.  The International Monetary Fund is drafting a $800 billion bailout plan to cover both Italy and Spain - but questions remain as to where the funds are going to come from.  Since the US is responsible for about 18% of the IMF, does this mean that the US is going to be obligated to fund at least $140 billion of this bailout plan?  Or, should the Federal Reserve of the US take a more direct and active role in bailing out the Eurozone - just as it did with the US and International Banking Industry in late 2008 and early 2009?

The US has it's own major financial challenges including a debt level that is approaching that of the most troubled EU nations - and an annual budget deficit that represents the need to borrow 40 cents of every dollar spent.  But will politics, and the desire of President Obama to advance his personal political aura, take precedence over the economic risks to throw billions into the EU and EU nations that show no interest in reversing the irresponsible policies that brought them to this stage?

Can the President afford, politically, to let these nations which have invested decades in implementing the progressive policies that he advocates, fail because of those policies?

Is China an option for the EU?  How willing are these nations, who are grumbling about some of the conditions that the EU bureaucracy are placing on their countries, to accept the conditions of the People's Republic of China?  China is facing their own signs of economic challenges.

Quick Hits - November 28, 2011

This morning's summary will focus on domestic issues....later reports during the day will cover some of the international challenges that we face...

After the OccupyLA protesters refused an offer from LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa that included an alternative protest encampment location, office space, and financial assistance from the City, the Mayor announced a 12:01am deadline this morning for the OccupyLA protesters.  Now, about 8 hours later, the OccupyLA encampment remains - and the only action ordered by the LAPD was to arrest a handful of protesters who sought to block traffic on the streets adjacent to their encampment.  Basically, the liberal LA Mayor gave an ultimatum to OccupyLA and they called his bluff - exposing the empty threat and empty suit that occupies the Mayor's office.

One of the goals of the OccupyWallStreet movement is to invoke Cloward-Piven or what many call 'fundamental change'.  This strategy calls for overloading the US public welfare system in order to precipitate a crisis that would result in the replacement of the present system with one that is based on socialism / marxism.  One of the namesakes of this strategy, Francis Fox Piven, was confronted by conservative economist Thomas Sowell, who took issue with the concepts that Piven was advocating.  Powerline has the video in addition to some additional commentary that focuses on one of the core questions and differences between conservatives and the progressives like Piven / OccupyWallStreet who are demanding 'equality'...
Equality is the great theme of American politics, but is equality rightly understood as equality of rights or results? Equality of rights is deeply rooted in the foundational documents of the United States. It is, you might say, the American way. Equality of results is the great error that continues to exert its powerful attractions.
In the Federalist Papers, Publius recognizes “the diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate,” and asserts that “[t]he protection of these faculties is the first object of government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results…” Publius ascribes the possibility that men might “be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions” to destructive and erroneous theory.
Yesterday, the GOP Presidential candidacy of former Speaker Newt Gingrich received a major boost when New Hampshire's largest newspaper, the Union Leader, endorsed his candidacy over that of Mitt Romney.  Romney had been chasing this endorsement for months - and the surging former Speaker has to be seen as a real challenge for Romney in NH after this endorsement.  While no 'official' votes have yet been cast for the GOP nomination, the race looks as if it will be a Romney vs Gingrich battle at least into the Spring.  I suspect that a lot of uncommitted GOP voters and contributors will remain on the sidelines until then -waiting to see what happens.

BREAKING NEWS - Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) has announced that he will not be seeking re-election in 2012 citing that Massachusetts redistricting as being a major factor in his decision.  Frank has been a very controversial figure on Capital Hill - and one of the leading progressives.  He played a very prominent role in creating the conditions which led to the Housing / Fannie-Freddie collapse which precipitated the 2008 financial crisis.  In addition, he was, along with former Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, the co-author of the massive banking clusterfuck known as the Dodd / Frank bill which was rammed through Congress in 2009.  This bill is doing to the financial services industry what Obamacare is trying to do to the Healthcare Industry.  Frank had a harder than expected 2010 re-election campaign and is likely seeking to retire to avoid a possible defeat in 2012.

The increasingly irrelevant former Secretary of State Colin Powell appeared yesterday on ABC's This Week with Christiane Amanpour to blame the Tea Party for the divisive tone in Washington today - and the media for giving the Tea Party any coverage...President Obama's contributions or those of OccupyWallStreet were not mentioned. 

In the same broadcast, the Washington Post's Michael Gerson raised questions about the leadership, more accurately, the lack thereof, demonstrated by President Obama during the Supercommittee negotiations.  ABC News journalists Cokie Roberts and Sam Donaldson immediately lept to the defense of the President.  Roberts said that the President had other priorities - 'some of it was out of the country, to be fair, dealing with foreign leaders and preset meetings'.  Donaldson spun even harder disingenuously saying, 'This was different.  This committee was set up by Congress, and expressly - you won't find it in the legislation - all of them said, 'We want the President to butt out'....' 

Supposedly objective journalists are defending the President against a question raised by another journalist...and doing so in a manner that defies any common sense.  If the President wanted to ensure that the Supercommittee reached a deal - he could have done so.  He had no interest in Senator Pat Toomey, a member of the Supercommittee notes here which highlights that despite the repeated accusations from the President that the GOP is putting partisan politics ahead of the best interests of the country, the truth of the matter is that the President and his fellow Democrats are the one's that are doing that.  Once again, the accusations from the President and Democrats reflect on their own motives - and are efforts to deflect attention from their failures and project them onto the GOP.

From JammieWearingFool, we have a link that President Obama's Campaign 2012 strategy is to shift direction based on the falling poll numbers the President is experiencing...

All pretence of trying to win a majority of the white working class has been effectively jettisoned in favor of cementing a center-left coalition made up, on the one hand, of voters who have gotten ahead on the basis of educational attainment — professors, artists, designers, editors, human resources managers, lawyers, librarians, social workers, teachers and therapists — and a second, substantial constituency of lower-income voters who are disproportionately African-American and Hispanic.
No, the President is not abandoning the Unions...he needs their contributions and support - but the centrist Democrats? They are being tossed under the bus.

Related to the 2012 election, PJ Media brings this report that strongly suggests this election will see unprecedented levels of voter fraud - with the organization formerly known as ACORN being at the root of the efforts.  ACORN, by the way, has been repeatedly convicted of voter fraud in the past - in 2008, over 400,000 of the new voter registrations (1.3 million) submitted by ACORN in their Project Vote were disqualified as being fraudulent.

Bloomberg Markets is reporting that the Federal Reserve, acting entirely in secrecy and without any disclosure, provided loans to banking institutions which generated $13B in income for those banks.
Secret Fed Reserve loans gave banks an undisclosed $13B - The Fed didn’t tell anyone which banks were in trouble so deep they required a combined $1.2 trillion on Dec. 5, 2008, their single neediest day. Bankers didn’t mention that they took tens of billions of dollars in emergency loans at the same time they were assuring investors their firms were healthy. And no one calculated until now that banks reaped an estimated $13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Fed’s below-market rates, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its January issue.
These levels of undisclosed assistance / bailouts to banks does little to provide confidence in the actions of the Federal Reserve or it's Chairman.
Stay tuned for more updates on this busy Cyber Monday....

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Quick Hits - November 27, 2011

International news dominates this mornings review of the Sunday newspapers and blogosphere....

Kicking off with today's World View, the major stories are focused around a furious Pakistan taking action against the US and NATO for the airstrikes which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, the Arab League vs Syria, and the European Union financial crisis which is deepening.

Earlier today, the Arab League voted to impose new sanctions on Syria and the dictatorship of Assad as turmoil continues in that nation. 

In response to the airstrike on their troops in the NW territories of Pakistan, the government of Pakistan has closed the land-based logistical lines from Pakistan into Afghanistan that are used by the US and NATO military as well as demanding that the US close and evacuate a drone base they operate within Pakistan in 15 days.  Pakistanis are demonstrating in major cities against the US and NATO as the relations drop to their lowest levels since the Bin Laden raid earlier this year. 

A full investigation is underway by the US and NATO to determine what specifically happened which led to the airstrikes on the two Pakistani checkpoints.  Anonymous officials are reporting that Afghan troops operating in Afghanistan opposite these checkpoints were taking heavy fire from the direction of the checkpoints.  These troops called in the airstrike in self-defense and to suppress the fire that they were taking.

If true, then the investigation and truth will do little to mend ties between the US / NATO and Pakistan.  Pakistan will deny, yet again, their double dealing when it comes to some of the Islamist terrorist / fighter groups.  The Government will be ill-placed to antagonize the anti-Western sentiment that is growing in the Pakistani population regardless of the results of the investigation.  I suspect that the government will have it's hand out - seeking 'reparations' - but from the US / NATO perspective, we also are tiring over the government of Pakistan either being unable to control large elements of their bureaucracy or seeing advantages in playing both sides.  Violence in this region is not going to be ending when the US abandons Afghanistan - but increasing.

Unfortunately, this is not the most dire future outcome that we are facing at the moment as the European Union financial crisis dwarfs the Pakistan / US-NATO challenges. 

Pessimism is the rule in European and US papers and news reports.  The Economist asks of the Eurozone - Is This Really the End?
A euro break-up would cause a global bust worse even than the one in 2008-09. The world’s most financially integrated region would be ripped apart by defaults, bank failures and the imposition of capital controls (see article). The euro zone could shatter into different pieces, or a large block in the north and a fragmented south. Amid the recriminations and broken treaties after the failure of the European Union’s biggest economic project, wild currency swings between those in the core and those in the periphery would almost certainly bring the single market to a shuddering halt. The survival of the EU itself would be in doubt.

Yet the threat of a disaster does not always stop it from happening. The chances of the euro zone being smashed apart have risen alarmingly, thanks to financial panic, a rapidly weakening economic outlook and pigheaded brinkmanship. The odds of a safe landing are dwindling fast.
The odds of a safe landing are dwindling fast as The Economist predicts.  The Sunday Telegraph is reporting that the British Government is warning it's embassies to prepare for the collapse of the Euro with riots and British nationals in need of assistance.  Eurozone banks are also both fearing and preparing for the breakup of the Eurozone and the collapse of the Euro as the crisis deepens...
On Friday, Standard & Poor’s downgraded Belgium’s credit standing to AA from AA+, saying it might not be able to cut its towering debt load any time soon. Ratings agencies this week cautioned that France could lose its AAA rating if the crisis grew. On Thursday, agencies lowered the ratings of Portugal and Hungary to junk.

While European leaders still say there is no need to draw up a Plan B, some of the world’s biggest banks, and their supervisors, are doing just that.

“We cannot be, and are not, complacent on this front,” Andrew Bailey, a regulator at Britain’s Financial Services Authority, said this week. “We must not ignore the prospect of a disorderly departure of some countries from the euro zone,” he said.
France and Germany are said to be developing, and will release later this week, new measures that they hope will stabilize the fiscal crisis.  This New Stability Pact will empower the EU bureaucracy to spell out and enforce strict deficit rules and controls for the national budgets of member nations.  In effect, this is calling for centralized control of the budgets of the member nations by a bureaucracy that doesn't represent the will and interests of the countries they are controlling - but the will and interests of the EU's wealthiest members.  It's as if the US Federal Government takes control of the state budgets of California, Texas, New York, and Illinois...

Former US Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton looks at the prospects of this type of solution and remarks that in addition to the EU's fiscal deficits, they are now embracing a democratic deficit as the EU bureaucracy takes more control over those nations seen to be at the root of the challenges - but forgetting that more centralized control rarely solves the core problems.  Central planning rarely can predict the marketplace and add to this the end of true representative government and we have more pressures on the EU not less.

Mark Steyn looks at these challenges in the Eurozone and sees many parallels with the challenges we are now facing in the US.  Like the spendthrift EU members who promised unsustainable and unviable entitlements while spending like there was no tomorrow, the US is also racing down this path spending roughly $4 trillion per year while only taking in $2 trillion per year.  The Democrats see the problem as the $2 trillion while the Republicans see the problem as the $4 trillion....and we continue to borrow enough money each day to purchase a Nimitz class aircraft carrier...
The advantage the United States enjoys is that, unlike Greece, it can print the currency in which its debt is denominated. But, even so, it still needs someone to buy it. The failure of Germany’s bond auction on Wednesday suggests that the world is running out of buyers for western sovereign debt at historically low interest rates. And, were interest rates to return to their 1990-2010 average (5.7 percent), debt service alone would consume about 40 percent of federal revenues by mid-decade. That’s not paying down the debt, but just staying current on the interest payments.

And yet, when it comes to spending and stimulus and entitlements and agencies and regulations and bureaucrats, “more, more, more/how do you like it?” remains the way to bet. Will a Republican president make a difference to this grim trajectory? I would doubt it. Unless the public conversation shifts significantly, neither President Romney nor President Insert-Name-Of-This-Week’s-UnRomney-Here will have a mandate for the measures necessary to save the republic.
The race for global supremacy is no longer a race based on one nation or interest group becoming superior and hence a's a race between nations and interest groups where the winner will be the one that collapses last....

Saturday, November 26, 2011

American Nomenklatura & Death of the Individual

Let's start with a definition -

[noh-muhn-klah-toor-uh] Show IPA
noun, plural -ras.  
a select list or class of people from which appointees for top-level government positions are drawn, especially from a Communist Party.

This class of people, in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc communist countries, were those who held key administrative people in all spheres of those countries' activity: government, industry, agriculture, education, whose positions were only via appointment and approval by the leadership of the communist party in each country or region.  Soviet academics who opposed the communist rule defined this as a new class or caste that were above those of the people or people's class.

However, as they say, times they are 'achanging' America's elites, and in particular the progressives of the Democrat Party and President Obama, are building, endorsing, and empowering an American Nomenklatura.

There are three real elements that are part of this American Nomenklatura -
  1. The media and the Democrats are joined at the hip and have created a 'hereditary celebrity' class.
  2. The political class views the taxpayers as cash cows to be milked for their own benefit and the benefit of their friends, children, and contributors.
  3. The SCOTUS action on the three Obamacare cases it granted certiori on might well encapsulate the principle that we citizens are, in fact, cash cows there for the federal government to milk.
There are far more examples than just these three elements as the author of that article contends.  President Obama appoints a hard left pro-Union activist to head the National Labor Relations Board and we see not only this little regulatory organization appoint itself as the arbitrator as to where a public company can establish it's manufacturing operations, but also break it's own rules of operation to ramrod new regulations into business that facilitate, simplify, and expedite the ability for Unions to expand their membership.

These are also the same Unions who represent the largest single special interest group actively involved in corrupting the American political system by flooding, to a vast majority of Democrats, hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions....contributions that represent the revenues from the dues they collect from their members.  Union members aren't consulted as to whom the leadership should donate their funds towards - the leadership gives to Democrats who then use taxpayer funds to promote generating additional members and dues going into the Union leadership coffers.

Our airways are flooded with the appeals, demands, and stories that the system is 'unfair' and the 'people' are suffering.  Between the mainstream media's intellectually bankrupt comparisons of the OccupyWallStreet movement towards the Tea Party Movement (advocating limited government, lower taxes, promoting the individual as opposed to the collective), we are being indoctrinated that it is our responsibility to promote and accept additional revenues to the Government in order to cover their ability to lock even more Americans into a cycle of dependency on the government.

Quick Hits - November 26, 2011

Celebrating Small Business Saturday....

We open with the latest on the OccupyWallStreet movement, which was largely unsuccessful yesterday in their efforts to disrupt Black Friday retailers and shoppers.  The majority of Occupy Chicago activists and protesters support the use of violence against the government as can be justified.  75% of those in this group polled also said that President Barack Obama was too far to the right of the political spectrum - fully embracing the Bill Ayers model...

So far in these 'occupations', the cost to local taxpayers as a direct result of the Occupy movement is nearly $20 million.  Police overtime, vandalism / destruction of property, clean-up costs - all stress local governments that are already fiscally challenged as a result of their own mismanagement / embracing of progressive policies.  As we transition into the full fledged 2012 election season, this cartoon is particularly appropriate...

The Washington Times is reporting that that brick and mortar retailers are rapidly lining up to support Congressional efforts to start taxing commerce on the Internet - permitting state and local governments to collect sales tax on eCommerce sales.  They are claiming the exclusion on the collection of sales tax for internet commerce, unless the internet merchant has physical operations in the tax entity, is an unfair advantage for those merchants.  Consumers can save 5% to nearly 10% depending on where they live on their online purchases from pure eCommerce retailers.  This was widely seen as 'compensation' to the consumer for the need to wait for the delivery of the merchandise, but with the fiscal challenges of state and local governments, they want every penny possible from the taxpayer.

In today's World View, we have reports that Turkey is threatening Syria over the continued abuses and military action against Syrian civilians, but also reports that it will not intervene to stop the Syrian military.  Vietnam is increasing it's military presence in the South China Sea to confront Chinese actions there and Greece is now demanding that private investors take a 75 cents on the dollar loss on their investments as part of the latest Greek bailout.  The original deal was that private investors would lose half their investment as opposed to the nation defaulting and risking 100% loss.

The biggest international news comes from the NATO helicopter and jet attack on two Pakistani military outposts near the Afghanistan - Pakistan border in the Pakistani NW territories.
NATO helicopters kill 24 Pakistani troops in an attack on checkpoints in the NW territories – Pakistan retaliates by closing logistical routes from Pakistan into Afghanistan…Much of the violence in Afghanistan is carried out by insurgents that are based just across the border in Pakistan. Coalition forces are not allowed to cross the frontier to attack the militants. The militants, however, sometimes fire artillery and rockets across the line, reportedly from locations close to Pakistani army posts.
American officials have repeatedly accused Pakistani forces of supporting — or turning a blind eye — to militants using its territory for cross-border attacks. The border issue is the major source of tension between Islamabad and Washington, which wants to stabilize Afghanistan and withdraw its combat troops there by the end of 2014.
Pakistan army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani "strongly condemned" the alleged attack on the two checkpoints, calling it a "blatant and unacceptable act," according to an army statement. It said the "unprovoked" attack was carried out by NATO helicopters and fighter jets, killing 24 soldiers and wounding 13 others.
 Today we wrap up with more information coming out from the reviews of the materials that were contained in Climategate 2.0....

Watts Up With That reports that there is an 'Easter Egg' [a special gift / treat] within the zip file that contains almost a quarter million new messages locked behind an encryption system.  As they report, there is considerable speculation around what is contained in this segregated / protected messages (something really damning?), but regardless, there is far more to Climategate than we've seen thusfar.

Climategate 1.0 and 2.0 have provided us with some clear and direct evidence that politics and political / ideological agendas are taking precedence over the science as I detailed in my commentary from earlier this week.  We are seeing mails that have climate scientists asking others to delete data and emails to avoid any required accountability via Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] requests.  

In another, we have a BBC reporter saying to Dr. Phil Jones of East Anglia University and the IPCC that "they really have no impartiality at all" when it comes to climate issues and claims - an accusation that is not disputed.  The UK's Daily Mail also is reporting that climate scientists DID collude with government officials to hid research that didn't fit or advance their global warming disaster scenarios - and also these same scientists were financially rewarded for doing so.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Quick Hits - November 25, 2011

Black Friday is well is the chaos of the day....

In nearby Porter Ranch, California, a mother with 3 kids pepper sprayed other shoppers in the WalMart store in order to gain a 'competitive advantage' to get a Xbox 360 video system.  20 people were affected by the pepper spray and treated at the store.  The mother escaped and is being sought by the police.  Chaos...
Lopez said that by the time he arrived at the video games, the display had been torn down. Employees attempted to hold back the scrum of shoppers and pick up merchandise even as customers trampled the video games and DVDs strewn on the floor.

"It was absolutely crazy," he said.

Another customer said screams erupted after about 100 people waiting in line to snag Xbox gaming consoles and Wii video games got into a shoving match.
 Unbelievable.  I gave up shopping in stores on Black Friday nearly 15 years ago - too many loons, too many people with excessive self-entitlement, greed, and a complete lack of manners and consideration towards others.

Moving from the chaos of Black Friday to the OccupyWallStreet movement, we've got quote a rundown of the latest OWS excesses .....

  OccupyOakland clashed again with police Thursday night, but the latest are reports that a gay porn movie was reportedly filmed at OccupyOakland...

   OccupySantaAna (CA) sent demonstrators to disrupt / flash mob the local Macy's department store as they opened for Black Friday...

   A Seattle OWS protester who has accused 2 Seattle PD officers for causing her to miscarry has apparently lied about the miscarriage and is facing additional challenges as it is reported that she tried to lure 2 small children to her car...

   The leader of the OccupyMiami movement has an interesting December 2008 he led a pro-Palestinian rally in the Miami area that called for not only the extermination of Israel, but for the extermination of Jews....leading the chant for the Jews to 'Go Back to the Ovens'. 

In Egypt, massive protests are expected for today against the Military government by Islamists and 'pro-Democracy' supporters who are all for enabling the Muslim Brotherhood to gain control of the Egyptian government.  When this happens, will Egypt end it's peace treaty with Israel?  Will the US continue to pay $2B annually to Egypt if it does end the peace treaty?

The descent of the National Labor Relations Board from independent referee to a wholly owned AFL-CIO subsidiary is speeding up. Now its two Democratic appointees are attempting to ram through a new rule requiring quickie organizing elections, with barely any notice and little consultation with its sole GOP member.  
Once a sleepy, ostensibly independent agency, the NLRB has become the point of the spear for Democratic labor policy since Republicans took the House last year. Earlier this year its general counsel sued to block Boeing from making its planes at a new plant in South Carolina, a case that is still proceeding and could kill thousands of jobs.

Now Chairman Mark Pearce, an Obama appointee, says he'll hold a vote next Wednesday on rules to shorten the time frame for union elections. The fire drill is intended to approve the union-favored plan before the recess appointment of the board's other Democrat expires and they lose their quorum.
The sole Republican member of the NLRB is raising the hackles of Unions and Democrats by threatening to resign from the Board if the Chairman continues down this path.  His resignation would eliminate the quorum that is needed by the Board to take action.  Interesting how this past winter the 'fleebaggers' of Wisconsin were the Democrats and heroes of the Unions, but when a Republican threatens to do the same, he is vilified.

At this site, there is an interesting article asking about what links California's AB32 Legislation and the California High Speed Rail Network?  The answer - years of lies and deceit about the costs to the public by California government officials.  AB32 is California's Cap and Trade legislation that is now law.  It was promised to address 'global warming', create jobs in California, improve our national security by decreasing dependence on fossil fuels, and have no real impact on Californians.  In reality, costs are going to increase by billions for residents and businesses, it will cost jobs as businesses become less competitive and have yet another reason to relocate out of state, do nothing regarding national security, and have a major negative impact on Californians.  Ditto for the High Speed rail farce that I've written about before.

In other news - The Russian news anchor, Tatiana Limanova, who who linked with giving President Obama the finger during a news broadcast in Russia, has been fired by her station for 'unprofessional' and 'unacceptable' behavior.  The channel said that the gesture was not meant towards the President, but instead was directed at studio personnel.  More info here....

GOP Presidential Candidate Michelle Bachmann received a personal letter of apology from the NBC Vice President of Late Night Programming for the actions of the band on the Jimmy Fallon talk-show which played the song 'Lying Ass Bitch' as Bachmann was introduced as a guest and walked to speak with Jimmy Fallon.  In the letter, the VP said the band was 'severely reprimanded'.  Bachmann accepted the apology, but it's reported that she is disappointed that the letter did not from from the network's President.

Wrapping up today, this link is why I no longer choose to post on or follow the once influential blog, LittleGreenFootballs....the narcissism (and hypocrisy) of Charles Johnson.