Saturday, January 14, 2012

Quick Hits - January 14, 2012 - UPDATED

Three are dead and there are reports that 69 passengers are missing as a luxury cruise liner ran aground off the Italian coast yesterday.  The ship, Costa Concordia was carrying more than 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew.  She suffered a major gash in the hull at least 150 feet long and started to list to starboard almost immediately.  The list greatly complicated the evacuation process - and some passengers jumped from the ship into the water.  Some are also feared trapped aboard the ship.

This is a photo from the Daily Mirror of the ship at night soon after it struck.

This photo, also from the Daily Mirror, shows the ship partially sunk early this morning.

UPDATE - CNN is reporting, citing a local prosecutor, that the Captain of the Costa Concordia has been arrested for manslaughter and abandoning ship.  Investigations are also focusing on the lack of distress calls, 'mayday' calls, from the ship after the accident.  The number unaccounted for has been reduced to 40 from the earlier reports. 

A suicide bomber, disguised as a police officer, killed 55 Shitte pilgrims and wounded more than 100 in an attack today at a Shiite mosque near the Iraqi port city of Basra.  This is the latest in a growing number of terror attacks that appear designed to instigate sectarian warfare within Iraq, particularly since the withdrawal of American forces from the country.

Civil War in Syria may now be inevitable...
Military defections in Syria have been occurring at a much higher rate than has been reported in the international press. For this and other reasons, Syria’s conventional forces are probably much weaker than previously assumed. As I blogged the other day, rebel forces composed of both civilians and military defectors are now taking the fight to the regime’s elite brigades all throughout the Damascus suburbs. Though under-armed and ill-equipped, they’re beginning to organise themselves to an impressive degree and have already launched several daring raids against regime personnel.

The US does not yet judge what’s happening on the ground to be a “sectarian war” although it believes that to be possible, especially as the regime has been trying to balkanize Syria since the start of its crackdown nearly a year ago.

Despite the bravado, Assad may be in far worse shape than expected - which also means that he will continue to be as brutal as possible against his own people. The main question left is what the Arab League, United Nations, or western nations will do regarding Syria given the continuation and escalation of the violence.

As reported in the previous post, yesterday was a 'Black Friday' for a number of Euro zone countries as Standard & Poors downgraded their credit ratings between one and two notches.  Among the biggest losers was the country of France and her President, Nicholas Sarkozy.  While only losing a single notch, from AAA to AA+, the downgrade has to be a major blow to not only French pride, but also their vision of themselves, with the Germans, as the leading economic powers of the Euro zone. 

The other major effect could be to effectively eliminate any chance of French President Nicholas Sarkozy gaining reelection in April of this year.  This means that the socialist candidate, Francois Hollande, is now the leading candidate to become France's next President.  He has already pledged to undo the austerity measures that Sarkozy has implemented in addition to returning France down the path towards greater statism / entitlements.  These steps will only hasten France's economic troubles in addition to quickening the collapse of the euro / euro zone.

In California, Governor Jerry Brown has decided to enlarge his role in the high speed rail boondoggle - moving to put his own people in place to ensure that the program moves forward despite the lack of a viable business plan, uncertain federal fund availability beyond $3B already in hand, and no private business investment partners. 

In another late Friday document dump, emails from the Obama Administration showed that the Energy Department did know of the financial challenges of the failed solar company Solyndra including their plan to undertake layoffs in October 2010.  This caused considerable consternation within the WH - with requests being made by the Administration to delay any announcement of the layoffs or financial challenges until after the 2010 midterm elections so the Administration would not get any negative political fallout.  This confirms information from the company's email records that the Administration worked to downplay when first released.

Nothing political here, right? 

The Attorney Generals from 11 states and the District of Columbia, all Democrats, have filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court backing the President's health care law and the individual mandate as being permitted under the 'Commerce Clause'.  On the other hand, the 26 Attorney Generals suing Obamacare's constitutionality are all Republicans.

In what looks like a purely political / election move, the President took to the bully pulpit to masquerade himself as a person who wants to reduce the size of government and bureaucracy with his plea for Congress to give him the executive authority to consolidate a number of small departments to eliminate up to 1,000 jobs and save about $3 billion annually.  The mainstream press is eating this up.

Given that this President, most recently within the last week, has repeatedly demonstrated his utter contempt towards not only Congress, but the Constitutional separation of powers as well as checks and balances, this request is particularly hollow.  During his three years as President - at any point he could have taken not only this step, but additional steps to reduce the size of government and government spending - this President has done the exact opposite by increasing the size and scope of the federal bureaucracy.  The hypocrisy is appalling...made even more so by the slobbering fools of the majority of the mainstream media.

Senators from both political parties are asking the Environmental Protection Agency to not impose new planned regulations to reduce the sulfur content in gasoline.  These regulations will result in billions in additional costs to the industry - costs that are going to be passed onto the consumer in higher gasoline prices.  The net effect - about 25 cents per gallon higher gas prices.  Here in SoCal, we're paying about $3.75 per gallon - which is off our high of around $4.20.  Gas prices are under pressure to return moving upwards.   The Iranian tensions as well as decreased supplies / increased costs for refining are making $5 per gallon a likely price this summer and that is before we add another quarter from this regulation and perhaps more from increased gasoline taxes.

President Obama's 'recess' appointments of three new members to the National Labor Relations Board is being challenged in court by the National Right to Work Foundation...
A right-to-work organization is taking the White House to court over the president’s controversial decision to install three new members on the National Board Relations board without Senate approval.

The legal challenge came after the three new members approved a legal response in an existing lawsuit. The plaintiffs asked the judge on Friday to rule that their participation is invalid because President Barack Obama did not have the authority to appoint them.
Reports are coming out from Gingrich campaign that he is asking his Super PAC to either correct the factual errors in the Romney / Bain hit piece or stop airing it....and at the same time asking the Romney campaign to do the same.  The Washington Post gave the hit piece '4 pinochios' to reflect the large number of inaccuracies.  The Gingrich campaign is also trying to move their attacks from being seen as an attack on private equity companies and capitalism to being only efforts to highlight problems with Romney's specific experience and claims.

The Wall Street Journal takes another look at the Romney / Bain argument that Gingrich and Perry are promoting and finds they are still rife with inaccuracies.  One of the key points that is lost within this kerfuffle is that unlike a philosophy, ideology, or theory created in an academics laboratory - which is neat and clean - capitalism is like the real world - messy. 
But the best antidote to foolish thinking about job creation is the work of economists Steven J. Davis and John Haltiwanger. Their painstaking research has revealed a side of America's dynamism that isn't always pretty. Between 1977 and 2005, years roughly overlapping Mr. Romney's business career, some 15% of all jobs were destroyed every year, even as total jobs grew by an average of 2% a year. Job creation and destruction are both relentless, the authors showed in paper after paper. The small difference between the two is what we call prosperity.
Polls are showing that on a national level, Mitt Romney is beginning to surge - especially among self-described conservatives.

If there was any doubt that the OccupyWallStreet movement has deep connections and sympathies towards Marxism / Leninism, or that it exists as a wake-up call to those who remain committed towards Marxism / Leninism, perhaps the words of Larry Holmes, OWS participant and the First Secretary of the World Worker's Party delivered in December 17, 2011 in New York City should help:
We are in the opening stages of a wholly new epoch.

This epoch in all likelihood will be protracted and long. It will be uneven, it will be explosive, it will be fraught with dangers — all of it necessary to that which we have been waiting so long for: the awakening of our global proletariat, and especially the awakening of that section of the proletariat whose development we are responsible for — the working class of the U.S.

The epoch I am referring to is the beginning of the end of capitalism. The epoch will end with the destruction of capitalism and the expropriation of the capitalist class…

With that, we also need to remember the words of President Obama given to those who embrace and are part of the Occupy movement....
“You are the reason I ran for office”…
On This Day in History

1784 - The Continental Congress ratifies the (Second) Treaty of Paris officially ending the American Revolution....Britain officially agrees to recognize the independence of its 13 former colonies as the United States of America.

1942 - President Franklin Roosevelt issues Presidential Proclamation 2537 requiring aliens from Germany, Italy, and Japan to register with the US Department of Justice.  This proclamation will facilitate the full scale internment of Japanese-Americans in February 1942.

1943 - President Franklin Roosevelt becomes the first President to travel by airplane on US official business as he flew from Washington DC to meet with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in Casablanca, Morocco.  The trip took 4 days each way - 17,000 miles total.  The President arrived in Casablanca on the 14th and commenced talks with Churchill.  One of the biggest announcements from the meeting was the declaration that the Allies would only accept unconditional surrender from the Axis powers.

1973 - The Miami Dolphins became the first, and only, undefeated NFL team when they defeated the Washington Redskins by a score of 14-7 in Super Bowl VII.  The closest to come to the second undefeated season were the 2007 New England Patriots who suffered their only loss in the season to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

Final thought for the day....

No comments:

Post a Comment