Monday, February 27, 2012

Quick Hits - February 27, 2012

A suicide car bomber killed 9 people in an attack on a military airport in eastern Afghanistan earlier today as violence continues in that country over the burning of desecrated copies of the Quran at a NATO base last week.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the suicide car bombing, saying the attack as 'revenge' for the Quran burnings.

Last week, the Afghanistan government demanded that NATO agree to put those responsible for the destruction of Qurans that were desecrated by Taliban prisoners on trial for the acts to destroy the Islamic Holy Book.  Reports from the Afghani Media and Information Center are that NATO has agreed to do this.

Meanwhile, violence continues, apologies continue to flow from the US, and the Afghani police officer who executed 2 American military advisors in the Afghani Interior Ministry remains at large.

At this point, I am finding myself in agreement with John Hinderaker at Powerline regarding Afghanistan...
What we do know for sure is that the response of many Afghans was outrageous. Dozens of people have been killed or wounded, including a number of American servicemen. The ongoing violence illustrates the primitive level of culture in Afghanistan. The country, if it can properly be called such, is hundreds of years behind modern civilization. I don’t think nation-building is always a bad idea, but a certain amount and quality of raw material is required. In Afghanistan, the prerequisites for successful nation-building are absent.

Our initial overthrow of the Taliban at the end of 2001 was absolutely necessary. The Taliban had harbored al Qaeda and collaborated, in effect, in the September 11 attacks. Since then, we have killed large numbers of Taliban. That is a good thing, but the returns are diminishing. When we leave, the Taliban or similar Islamic extremists presumably will take control of portions, at least, of the country. That is a bad thing, obviously, but the same result seems more or less equally likely no matter when our troops depart.
The violence over the last week in Afghanistan shows that the predominant belief of this culture remains trapped in the Taliban's fundamentalist embrace of a 7th century form of governance known as Shar'ia law.  There is no separation of church and state in Islam - in fundamentalist Islam they are one and the same.  Their own believers used and desecrated their Holy Book for furthering their jihad to spread Islam via the sword.  Unsurprisingly, they will probably be able to get a fatwa that gives them a pass on those acts of desecration.  But if the desecrated books are destroyed - it justifies violence and murder?

It is time to reconsider our investment of blood and treasure.  There are those in Afghanistan who do want to move from the 7th C to modern times - but they are too few, with too little power, to do so.  The majority wants to reside in the 7th C - and we should let them as long as they don't return to exporting or supporting the exporting of jihad from their country.

Russian authorities arrested suspects allegedly linked to a Chechen rebel leader over a plot to assassinate Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin immediately after next Sunday's Presidential vote which Putin is expected to win.  Questions, concerns, and demonstrations are continuing in Moscow over the election - particularly in the wake of the accusations of election fraud on behalf of Putin in the last Russian Parliament elections.

Syria's sham constitutional referendum that could keep President Bashar al-Assad in power through 2018 has been supposedly approved by 89% of the Syrian people.  The ballot took place as the Assad regime continued it's artillery bombardment of opposition groups in the Syrian city of Homs.

The European Union has passed additional economic sanctions against the Syrian regime, in an effort to increase the pressure on Assad to halt the violence against his own people and ultimately step down from government.  These include a freeze of the assets of the Syrian central bank, blacklisting of seven officials close to al-Assad, and restrictions on Syrian trade in gold and precious metals.

Rearranging the deck chairs...

Germany's Bundestag is expected to vote today to back a second Greek fiscal bailout despite growing pressure from voters and the media, while Chancellor Angela Merkel admits that there is no guarantee that the 130 Billion Euro bailout will prevent Greece's default - or a cascade of negative effects on other EU countries and major European banking institutions.

Chancellor Merkels position was weakened by the German Interior Minister saying on Saturday that Greece should drop from the Euro / Eurozone.  An opinion poll published yesterday in a German paper found that 62% of Germans oppose the Greek rescue package and only 33% support the effort.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer for the UK, George Osborn, has announced that the United Kingdom has run out of money...
In a stark warning ahead of next month’s Budget, the Chancellor said there was little the Coalition could do to stimulate the economy. 

Mr Osborne made it clear that due to the parlous state of the public finances the best hope for economic growth was to encourage businesses to flourish and hire more workers.

“The British Government has run out of money because all the money was spent in the good years,” the Chancellor said. “The money and the investment and the jobs need to come from the private sector.”

Mr Osborne’s bleak assessment echoes that of Liam Byrne, the former chief secretary to the Treasury, who bluntly joked that Labour had left Britain broke when he exited the Government in 2010.

He left David Laws, his successor, a one-line note saying: “Dear Chief Secretary, I’m afraid to tell you there’s no money left”.
Here in the US, we're practically at the same point...

However, since January 20, 2009...
“Following the contentious debt ceiling last August, President Obama promised that he would take action to address the country’s fiscal crisis. He has failed to do that," Portman said. "In fact, his new budget increases spending and projects that Washington will be hitting the debt ceiling again in mid-October – burning through a $2.1 trillion debt limit increase in just over 14 months."

Portman's office notes that according to Obama's budget, total debt subject to the statutory debt will reach limit will reach $16.334 trillion by September 30, 2012.
If we do reach the debt limit of $16.334 trillion by September 30, 2012, this means that President Barack Obama will have increased the size of the national debt by $5.71 trillion in less than four years of being in office.

Will SecTreas Geithner be leaving a note to his successor this fall or early next year that states, 'Sorry, we're out of money'?

Could this be one of the messages that will be sent to our senior citizens regarding Social Security in 2013 as well?  The President's pet tax cut - the temporary 2% Social Security Payroll tax reduction, reduces by nearly $100 billion the contributions made by working Americans towards the Social Security obligations we have to America's senior citizens...almost all of whom have spent their working lifetimes paying into the insurance system.  But, the Federal government has been taking these surpluses and applying them to the general expenditures for decades - leaving behind the promise to make good on the obligations to SS recipients.

The President has made the 2% temporary tax reduction a cornerstone of his ability to spin about giving a tax cut to "160 million Americans" - but at the expense of decreasing funds coming in to pay for SS obligations - and for creating zero jobs - just creating an empty political talking point designed to get himself re-elected...

Perhaps this is why the latest USA Today poll shows some real problems for President Obama. Problems related to Obamacare, high energy prices, and an anemic economic recovery...
In the poll, Obama lags the two leading Republican rivals in the 12 states likely to determine the outcome of a close race in November:

•Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum tops Obama 50%-45% in the swing states. Nationwide, Santorum’s lead narrows to 49%-46%.

•Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney edges Obama 48%-46% in the swing states. Nationwide, they are tied at 47% each.

With Obamacare, nationwide, 50% of the voters see Obamacare negatively, 42% see it positively. In the swing states, only 38% see it positively, and 53% see it negatively. Rasmussen is also reporting that the President's approval rating has fallen back to 45% - the lowest level in a month - and behind the approval ratings for either Mitt Romney or Ron Paul.

The 'bounce' that President Obama received from his bogus January unemployment numbers seems gone as reality has come back.

Soaring gasoline prices aren't helping the President either.  Leading Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer (NY), is asking Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to start to pressure Saudi Arabia to pump more oil...
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wants Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to press Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s dominant oil producer, to boost output as rising prices are hitting consumers at the gasoline pump.

A letter to Clinton on Sunday from Schumer, a top political strategist for Senate Democrats, comes as Democrats are trying to blunt constant GOP attacks over soaring gasoline prices.

“These skyrocketing fuel prices are directly linked to the global energy market, particularly Iran’s recent efforts to manipulate oil prices and the worry of impacts on supply from an escalation of regional hostilities,” Schumer writes.
Isn't the standard meme from the Democrats, and the President, that 'drill, drill, drill' will not solve the challenges we face regarding high energy prices?  But having the Saudi's 'drill, drill, drill' will?

I also thought that as the President was pushing pond scum as the solution to our energy needs, he was saying there were 'no silver bullets' for the soaring gasoline prices.   Well, Mr. President, there are actually a number of steps that we can take to lower gasoline prices now that go well beyond opening the Strategic Petroleum Reserve...

  1. We can commit to a strategic goal of North American energy security - build Keystone XL (800,000 barrels / day into the US), open ANWR and coastal drilling locations, enter a strategic energy partnership with Canada...
  2. Ditch the anti-industry / anti-capitalism rhetoric.  American oil companies are owned by shareholders - not a cabal of wealthy executives or a cartel..they need to make profits to reinvest in new energy development.
  3. Stop targeting the oil industry for punitive tax treatment.
  4. Uncle Sam should be a partner in the energy business.  Oil and gas royalties paid to the US government are the #2 source of revenues after income taxes.  Expand these efforts - expand the revenue the federal government brings in.
  5. Recognize that industry does not need to be led by government; industry needs to be unleashed and encouraged to innovate on the basis of profitability.  The employment growth in North Dakota related to increased energy production is happening despite the federal government, not because of it.
  6. Trust that no oil operator wants to be the 'next BP' when it comes to their operations.
  7. Return offshore permitting to pre-BP spill pace - Federal government overreaction has cost the US 500,000 barrels per day of production from the Gulf of Mexico.
  8. Declare that hydraulic fracking and well design to be the regulatory domain of states, not the EPA.
  9. Rescind the recently enacted royalty rate increase for new onshore Federal oil and gas leases - the SecInterior last fall increased the rate by 50%!
  10. Encourage the development of a nationwide distribution system of natural gas as a transportation fuel - we've got abundant natural gas and we've not started to tap the potential of natural gas a transportation fuel.
Did Jon Corzine, the former NJ Governor, former NJ Senator, and former Chairman / CEO of MF Global lie in his testimony regarding the failure of MF Global?  It's beginning to appear that Corzine did lie about the missing $1.6 billion in client funds lost when the company failed last fall.
Beyond doubt is that Mr. Corzine's reckless gambles on European government bonds destroyed the company. The question is what role Mr. Corzine or others played in the potentially illegal use of client funds to try to save the firm.

On October 28, 2011, three days before the firm's bankruptcy filing, Mr. Corzine contacted Edith O'Brien, an assistant treasurer, and asked her to solve a problem. An MF Global bank account with J.P. Morgan in London was overdrawn and MF was told to send money to London right away. "I need $175 mm sent immediately," Ms. O'Brien soon emailed colleagues. Later that day $175 million was sent from an MF Global account holding both customer and firm money in the U.S. to MF Global's business account in London.

In his testimony to Congress, Mr. Corzine said Ms. O'Brien assured him that the transfer was legitimate. But when J.P. Morgan wanted an assurance in writing that it wasn't an improper transfer of customer funds, Ms. O'Brien refused to sign such a letter, telling colleagues it was too broadly written. Another draft from J.P. Morgan also went unsigned.

MF Global has all the classic symptoms of mismanagement, insufficient internal controls, checks, and balances, and a flawed accounting system that contributed to the problems of the company. But when one knowingly uses client funds as a stop gap intending to 'repay' those funds later in the day (or the next day), that's a case of deliberate action.  Time for Corzine's arrest.

It's been awhile since OccupyWallStreet has made the QH - but actions over the past weekend in San Francisco and Denver bring OWS back to our report...

In San Francisco the Occupy group fully embraces the Alinsky rules to pick a target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it as they attempted to 'foreclose' on the home of the Wells Fargo Bank CEO and 'auction' it off...
“Larry in SF” has more details about the purported “victims” of Wells Fargo. In each case, the foreclosure seems perfectly justified: One homeowner neglected to have fire insurance on his home (who even does that?), so when it caught fire and nearly burned down, he couldn’t repay the huge loan he took out to make the expensive repairs. Another homeowner used her house like an unlimited credit card, running up a gigantic “equity line loan” which she could not repay. And another homeowner overextended on housing speculation in a downward-trending market, eventually going “underwater” on her mortgages.

Rather than upending the capitalist system, as Occupy recommends, here’s a simpler solution to this foreclosure problem: Always have home insurance; don’t treat your house’s equity like a credit card; don’t engage in real estate speculation when you have no clue what you’re doing. Deal? Deal.
OccupyDenver had targeted the local police in a 'F*ck the Police' march over the participant posted this clip on You Tube that threatens to 'put down' cops like 'dogs'...

Others in the march decided to toss 'urine bombs', balloons filled with urine, at the police standing opposite their march.

These are who President Obama ran for office for...

On This Day in History

1922 - SCOTUS upholds the 19th Amendment to the Constitution - guaranteeing women the right to vote.

1942 - USS Langley, the Navy's first aircraft carrier, is sunk by Japanese aircraft off of Java, Dutch East Indies.  Built originally as a collier, she was converted to an aircraft carrier in 1922.  In 1937, she was converted to a seaplane tender - losing 40% of her flight deck.

1951 - The 22nd Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, limiting US Presidents to 2 terms in office.

1968 - The 'Cronkite Moment' - Walter Cronkite pronounced at the end of a special report that the US military was 'mired in stalemate' in Vietnam - and said that negotiations might offer a way out.
Except the “Cronkite Moment” wasn’t so special. Cronkite’s assessment about the war wasn’t novel or particularly insightful.

It was, if anything, a rehash of what other news organizations had been saying for weeks and months.
It was also openly false - TET was a major operational and strategic default for the North Vietnamese. They were concerned over the future of the war - however, the change in public opinion in the US provided them with the hope to continue to fight until the US will to oppose them was lost.

This set the stage for issues and challenges that we continue to face today.

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