Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Quick Hits - February 28, 2012

Early this morning, City of London police removed the Occupy protesters and their encampment from the plaza outside St. Paul's Cathedral.  The City obtained a court eviction order for the action, and the order also survived several appeals by the protesters.  The protesters are furious with the leadership of St. Paul's Cathedral for permitting police to remove protesters from its steps and ending the 4 1/2 month encampment.

Police said 20 people had been arrested by 4.30am in the "largely peaceful" operation.

Police and bailiffs moved in to begin clearing the Occupy London encampment in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Activists protesting against the financial and banking elite were told by bailiffs that they had five minutes to pack their tents and leave or they would be obstructing a court order.

Dozens of activists started clearing away tents and belongings, but others began building a barricaded enclosure using wooden pallets and debris.
During the 'occupation' of the plaza, a number of occupiers were found to have used the Cathedral as a latrine...

13 Syrian activists were believed to have been killed during an operation to evacuate 2 wounded journalists (wounded in the same attack that killed 2 other journalists, including American Marie Colvin) from the besieged city of Homs.

Also at Homs, evidence was uncovered of one of the worst instances of mass killings by government forces of civilians since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began 11 months ago.
The bodies of dozens of men were found dumped on wasteland on the outskirts of the stricken city of Homs on Monday in what appeared to be one of the worst instances of mass killing since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began last March.

The Local Coordination Committees, an opposition group, said that the bodies of 64 men were taken to the National Hospital in Homs and that an unknown number of women and children who had been with them are missing. Activists said they thought that the men had been trying to flee the violence with their families when they were stopped and gunned down by security forces.
Over 8,000 (some estimates run as high as 8,500) have been killed during the opposition to the Assad regime. The international community remains unwilling to take action against the Assad regime - and Syria's allies in the UN, in particular Russia and China, are blocking any actions by the Security Council against Syrian government.

German lawmakers in the Bundestag approved the Greek bailout package by a large margin - 496-90 with 5 abstentions.  This is despite polls that show the bailout package is very unpopular in Germany.  In comments made before the vote, Chancellor Angela Merkel noted that, "The road that lies in front of Greece is long and truly not without risk.  That also goes for the success of the new program - no one can give a 100 percent guarantee of success."

Standard & Poors, earlier today, cut Greece's long-term credit rating to selective default from CC. 
Greece became the first euro-zone member officially to be rated in default, 13 years after the single European currency was adopted to strengthen the European Union.

Standard & Poor's cut Greece's long-term credit rating to selective default from double-C. The move was expected, as S&P said this month that it would consider Greece in default if it added "collective-action" clauses to its sovereign debt, effectively forcing all bondholders to accept a bond-swap offering. Greece's Parliament approved that measure last week.
The other credit rating agencies are expected to follow in the steps of S&P. As a result...
The European Central Bank, responding to the latest rating agency downgrade of Greece, said it would no longer accept the country's bonds as collateral for loans, but added the move was a temporary one that could be reversed once the new Greek bailout package goes into effect.

Until then, the ECB said it would be up to national central banks to decide whether to accept the bonds as collateral for their own emergency lending facilities. Greek banks, which would collapse without the support, would still be able to access loans directly from the Greek central bank's lending window, albeit at a higher interest rate.

As this process plays out - Ireland is going to hold a national referendum on the European Union's new fiscal treaty. This sets the stage for a vote on the German led plan, vigorously opposed by Britain, that calls for the European Union political bureaucracy to enforce stricter budget discipline across the entire Eurozone.

Britain opposed the solution calling it a surrender of sovereignty to EU bureaucrats. If the Irish voters reject the treaty, the action could have some significant financial consequences for the country - and cast real doubt on the country's commitment to the EU and the single currency (Euro). While a rejection would not damage the passage of the fiscal treaty, only 12 nations are needed to ratify the treaty for it to take effect, it would threaten Ireland's access to EU bailouts in the future.

Ireland has already received one bailout by the EU as it also faces significant fiscal responsibility issues and challenges affording the costs of its debt obligations.

The Socialist candidate for the French Presidency, Francois Hollande, has announced new tax plans while citing the need for fiscal 'justice' that will dramatically increase taxes on the French.  The current tax code has a maximum rate of 41% on income taxes, but Hollande proposes increasing the rate to 45% for those who earn more than 150,000 Euros per year, and a whopping 75% rate for those who earn more than 1,000,000 Euros per year.

Hollande is currently the favorite to win the two-tiered French Presidential election which is taking place this April and May over current French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
In Britain, the 50% tax rate set for the wealthy has missed its revenue targets as those subject to the highest tax rates have either restructured their finances to reduce their exposure to the highest rates or have left the country to other locations with a lower tax burden.

We've also seen this same effect in the United States.  In NY state, when a significantly higher tax rate was passed on the 'wealthy' for 'fairness' - many of those impacted 'voted' with their feet and left the state - while the state realized far less revenues than they had anticipated when they passed the tax increase.  In California, one of the common elements around our annual fiscal disaster aka a budget is the continued overestimation of revenues that taxes and fees will generate. 

Today, the GOP Presidential nomination candidates face off in primaries in Michigan and Arizona.  The two states offer a 'warm-up' for next Tuesday's Super Tuesday when 10 states will hold their caucuses or primaries.

Mitt Romney has the lead in Arizona, boosted by the endorsement of AZ Governor Jan Brewer over the weekend.  However, Michigan, Romney's 'home state' remains too close to call between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.  Mitt Romney may be seen to have some slight momentum going into today's primary as he's whittled down a Santorum lead, but last minute polls show the candidates within the margin of error.

Calls of this being a 'must win' primary for Mitt Romney are, I believe, overblown.  Michigan is an open primary, where Democrats and Independents are entitled to vote towards determining the GOP Presidential candidate.  Mitt Romney's stance against the government bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler has clearly angered and motivated UAW and other union workers to vote against Romney.

Rick Santorum is actively trying to recruit these Democrats and Independents to vote for him to derail the Romney campaign effort prior to Super Tuesday - with Mitt Romney calling the Santorum robocalls targeting Democrats 'outrageous, disgusting'...
"It’s a dirty trick," he said on Fox News' Fox & Friends. "It’s outrageous to see Rick Santorum team up with the Obama people and go out after union labor in Detroit and try and get them to vote against me. Look, we don’t want Democrats deciding who our nominee is going to be, we want Republicans to decide who our nominee is going to be."

"I just think it’s outrageous and disgusting," he said of Santorum's attempt to take advantage of the state's open primary.

"I think Rick Santorum has a lot of explaining to do," he added, calling the robocall "a new low for his campaign—and that's saying something."

Soaring gasoline prices continue to be a major political issue - impacting President Obama.  President Obama continues to tout his Administration as being responsible for increasing domestic oil production - but the lie is being exposed...
Today Greenwire, a New York Times specialty publication (subscription required unfortunately) reports that in 2011 oil production on federal lands fell by 100 million barrels in 2011 from 2010. The increase in domestic oil production is occurring on private and state land, such as North Dakota. As I’ve noted here before, the explosion in the production of the Bakken field in North Dakota almost stops completely at the Montana border.

KERNEN: What is the number for the SPR, senator? We had Huntsman saying we should do the SPR $108. I was like, $108? We didn’t do it at 150, did we?

SCHUMER: No, the SPR is not as good a solution as the Saudi solution for a couple of reasons. First, it’s limited. The Saudis could produce an additional 2.8 million barrels of oil, way on into the future. The SPR is somewhat limited and the SPR works better when there’s an immediate crisis caused by a natural disaster, a Katrina or something like that. It’s something that I would look at if the Saudis absolutely said no, but it’s not close to as good a solution as this.

As Ed at HotAir notes in his commentary on Schumer's 'solution' - if additional oil production is needed to drive down gas prices, then why not do it here? Build the Keystone XL pipeline - which brings access to nearly 800,000 barrels / day of Canadian oil combined with opening / releasing the shackles on domestic exploration and production. Wouldn't this be better than begging the Saudi's to come to our rescue?

President Obama may be listening to the polls that are showing the American people support the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline as he is starting to back pedal on his decision to cancel the pipeline...
The Obama administration backed off its opposition to the Keystone pipeline today, at least in part: the administration now says that it supports construction of the southernmost portion of the pipeline, from Cushing, Oklahoma to Texas. The move will allow the administration to muddy the waters on the pipeline for political purposes in an election year, but it won’t do anything to bring new oil in from Canada, as the administration is still blocking TransCanada from getting the cross-border permit it needs to build a pipeline into the U.S. Instead, TransCanada is now talking about building a pipeline to the west coast so the oil can be shipped to China.

Despite its relative insignificance, Obama’s environmentalist base considers today’s reversal to be a sellout. As a friend writes: “It didn’t take Obama long to stab his allies in the back. He’s always lying…you just have to figure out who the rube is on a given day.”

Obama lies?

How about his promise to uncover and eliminate waste and duplicate / overlapping efforts within the Executive Branch?  Wonder how well that has worked out?
A year after the government’s chief investigators identified 81 different areas where the government double-spends or has overlapping programs, President Obama and Congress have solved just four of them, the Government Accountability Office said in a follow-up report Tuesday.

“There are tens of billions of dollars that could be saved,” Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro, head of GAO, said in submitting the findings to Congress.
This isn't very surprising.  Efforts have been made to get California to eliminate government waste and duplicate / cross-purpose agencies and commissions to address our state's fiscal challenges - with the same effect of nothing being done to be responsible with the money of the taxpayer.

The kerfuffle over the President's apology to Afghanistan's President Karzai and the citizens of Afghanistan over the US military's action to destroy Qurans desecrated by Taliban prisoners continues to have an impact on the President.  SecState Clinton inserted herself in the debate by making comments criticizing GOP Presidential candidates for opposing the President's apology - telling CNN...
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended President Obama’s apology to Afghan President Hamid Karzai and warned that the GOP’s condemnation of the apology could further “inflame” the situation.

Last week, U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan accidentally burned some Qurans, which sparked deadly protests in the country. Obama apologized to Karzai for the “unintentionally mishandled” books – a move that has been criticized by some Republicans.

“I find it somewhat troubling that our politics would inflame such a dangerous situation in Afghanistan,” Clinton told CNN on Monday.
It's clear that SecState Clinton firmly believes its far better to be 'liked' than respected...which is also probably why its government policy to burn some Holy Books in Afghanistan...
Military personnel threw away, and ultimately burned, confiscated Bibles that were printed in the two most common Afghan languages amid concern they would be used to try to convert Afghans, a Defense Department spokesman said Tuesday. The unsolicited Bibles sent by a church in the United States were confiscated about a year ago at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan because military rules forbid troops of any religion from proselytizing while deployed there, Lt. Col. Mark Wright said.
Appeasing the jihadist savages isn't going to work. If their response to the destruction of their Holy Book that their compatriots desecrated is to launch riots, violence, and execute / murder foreigners - then we shouldn't be giving them a pass - but hold them accountable for their reprehensible behavior. They are the one's who owe the civilized world an apology.

This Day in History

1854 - The Republican Party was organized in Ripon, WI - 50 opponents to slavery begin the new political party.

1885 -AT&T (American Telephone & Telegraph) was incorporated - capitalized on $100,000 and providing long distance service for American Bell

1953 - Cambridge University scientists James D. Watson and Frances H.C. Crick discover the double-helix structure of human DNA

1983 - The television sitcom M*A*S*H airs its final episode after 11 seasons.  77% of the TV viewing audience watched the 2 1/2 hour final episode - a record.

1993 - Federal agents from the ATF raid the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas prompting a gun battle where 4 ATF agents and 6 cult members were killed.  The failed raid kicked off a two month long standoff.

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