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Belmont Club

Monthly Archives: December 2009

The ending year

December 23rd, 2009 - 10:32 pm

Ralph Peters advises us to enjoy our New Year’s champagne. Next year we’ll eat the glass. Peters predicts not one, but a string of possible sovereign bankruptcies. Dubai, Greece, Spain, Eastern Europe. The world’s fourth biggest country is already bankrupt, and its’ name is California. But wait: if the world really gets unlucky we may get to discover the truth about China. Is it a robust economy, or is yet another Ponzi scheme?

Then there are the great unknowns, a Russian economy that may be far more fragile than anyone wants to admit, as well as China, opaque and insatiable.

One of the reasons China’s desperate to keep expanding its trade is that its banking sector is flimsier than chopsticks — plagued by uncollectible sweetheart loans made to favored firms and institutions. Perhaps Beijing will dominate the 21st century. But it’s also possible that China’s economy will turn out to be the biggest Ponzi scheme in history.

The best scenario we could see in the global economy in 2010? Rescue-package fire brigades rushing to deal with these crises individually. What’s the worst? A chain reaction that leads to a rash of national defaults, followed by a world banking and liquidity crisis, Part II.

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The thrill of victory or the agony of defeat?

December 23rd, 2009 - 7:38 pm

Reuters reports that President Obama has virtually admitted that the Copenhagen conference was a failure.

President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that disappointment over the outcome of the Copenhagen climate change summit was justified, hardening a widespread verdict that the conference had been a failure.

“I think that people are justified in being disappointed about the outcome in Copenhagen,” he said in an interview with PBS Newshour. “What I said was essentially that rather than see a complete collapse in Copenhagen, in which nothing at all got done and would have been a huge backward step, at least we kind of held ground and there wasn’t too much backsliding from where we were.”

Sweden has labeled the accord Obama helped broker a disaster for the environment, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the summit was “at best flawed and at worst chaotic,” and climate change advocates have been even more scathing in their criticism.

That’s not the way he presented it when he flew back in supposed triumph from Copenhagen. Using terms like “unprecedented”, “breakthrough” and “beginning of a new era”, Obama speaking in Copenhagen seemed to be describing something utterly different from the result he now believes emerged.

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A Cycle of Cathay

December 23rd, 2009 - 3:02 pm

Five days ago, as the Copenhagen conference was visibly falling apart, I remarked that its organizers had come not to praise each other but to bury the hatchet in each others backs. Now an eyewitness writing in the Guardian repeats the same points, but with a twist. In the December 18 post, the Pointing Finger Points, it says:

Even ABC News strained to find a silver lining, noting that a variety of high sounding drafts have been circulated “but the language failed to include a legal framework.” Meanwhile, the ever-cheerful Gordon Brown, in a phrase that may forever catch the absurdity of the moment, said of the problems besetting the conference that “they are big issues but the differences are not fundamental.” Strangely enough, Brown may be right. Obama and Wen really aren’t disputing anything except who’ll take the rap for this fiasco. Barack Obama tried to set up Wen by depicting him as a hold-out. But the crafty Chinese pretended to take umbrage — it wasn’t hard given the habitually consdescending tone of the Western Left towards the Third World — and tried to shift the blame to him. The conference ends with the two trying to frame each other. It’s a perfect ending entirely in keeping with the character of the entire enterprise.

Mark Lynas of the Guardian says it was Wen who tried to set Barack Obama up to take the fall, but the crafty American managed to dodge the worst of the blow. The question Lynas sets out to answer is why Wen double-crossed the West.

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The ghost of Christmases past

December 22nd, 2009 - 5:02 am

The Pax Europea, according to Wikipedia, “is the period of relative peace experienced by Northern and Western Europe (including Greece and Turkey) in the period following World War II—often associated above all with the creation of the European Union (EU) and its predecessors. After the Cold War this peace was extended to most of Central and Eastern Europe, with the major exception of the former Yugoslavia (1990s). … The EU now comprises 27 countries and has most of Eastern Europe seeking membership (ten eastern European countries joined during the 2000s). Further, most countries in Western Europe which remain outside are tied to the EU by economic agreements and treaties such as the European Economic Area. Within the zone of integration, there has been no conflict since 1945, making it the longest period of peace on the western European mainland since Pax Romana.”

Only one thing has been forgotten.

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Motor city

December 21st, 2009 - 7:54 pm

Steven Crowder takes audiences on a tour of Detroit, a place which he describes as the perfect example of liberal policy consistently implemented. One commenter says, “look at the bright side – once liberalism fully destroys an area, we can get some cheap real estate! well – that is if we have any money left to buy it”.

Detroit has achieved something extraordinary. It’s become a lost city in real time, at least on the Internet. There are sites like The Fabulous Ruins of Detroit.  A pair of photographers have a glossy presentation simply called The Ruins of Detroit.

Increasing segregation and deindustrialization caused violent riots in 1967. The white middle-class exodus from the city accelerated and the suburbs grew. Firms and factories began to close or move to lower-wage states. Slowly, but inexorably downtown high-rise buildings emptied. Since the 50′s, “Motor City” lost more than half of its population. Nowadays, its splendid decaying monuments are, no less than the Pyramids of Egypt, the Coliseum of Rome, or the Acropolis in Athens, remnants of the passing of a great civilization.

Slate has an upbeat article called “Exploring Detroit’s beautiful ruins”. Stephen Crowder, though, is not world-weary enough to be a consoisseur of degradation. He still thinks a bad thing, something which threatens to come to your neighborhood some time soon.

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The Copencabana

December 21st, 2009 - 2:58 pm

Small Dead Animals has a translation of a German article which purports to describe how Barack Obama stormed into a meeting of heads of state, acting like it was a scene from a Hollywood movie. Although the Welt article has the most detail, there are collateral reports from other papers which suggest an extraordinary scene took place, although not necessarily confirming the details of Welt.  The question is what happened and what did it signify.

The Welt story follows in its entirety, as translated on Small Dead Animals. But it is a strange story, with odd parts grafted together. Like the Iliad it begins with what might be called the Wrath of Obama as he breaks up a meeting in which the Chinese President, who seemed to be avoiding him, was participating. Then it suddenly becomes a sports drama. The President goes into a huddle with some of his fellow heads of state and then mounts the podium to announce an historic deal. This is the drama that has been highlighted in much of the US coverage, the part in which the President beats the buzzer with a 70 foot jumpshot from the backcourt. Finally, it becomes an escape movie. Because nobody seems to think its a deal who didn’t hear the key lines. No sooner has the President triumphed, then he leaves, with the remaining delegates open-mouthed, not knowing whether their talks have become redundant or are even in conflict with the meteoric One.

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The mystery of Yemen

December 20th, 2009 - 5:18 pm

Two days ago, Bill Roggio described a US cruise missile strike against al-Qaeda targets in Yemen, next door to Saudi Arabia, following the receipt of intelligence that the AQ were “planning to conduct attacks against Yemeni and US installations in the region”.

Qasim al Rimi, a member of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s shura, or executive council, was reportedly the main target of the strike. He is thought to have escaped. Al Rimi is a senior lieutenant to Nasir al Wuhayshi, the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a senior US military intelligence official told the Long War Journal. which took place on Dec. 17, were carried out in conjunction with the Yemeni military, who targeted al Qaeda bases in the provinces of Sana’a and Abyan. The Yemeni government and the US launched the raids after intelligence indicated that al Qaeda was planning to conduct attacks against Yemeni and US installations in the region.”

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Year end thoughts

December 19th, 2009 - 2:38 pm

Lord Monckton describes being knocked out by a Danish cop in Copenhagen. But that really isn’t the centerpiece of his blogpost. It was when he woke up and realized it was to a world he presumed would never live in that the really interesting part of his narrative begins. All around him a carnival was in full swing amid which cops, like black beetles,  prowled. The imagery of it smote him. The “show” events sponsored by the EU and the UN; the casual brutality by the cops, the emphasis being on the ‘casual’, the whole pointless insanity of it shook him to the core. He wrote:

Europe is no longer a free society. It is, in effect, a tyranny ruled by the unelected Kommissars of the European Union. That is perhaps one reason why police forces throughout Europe, including that in the UK, have become far more brutal than was once acceptable in their treatment of the citizens they are sworn to serve.

It is exactly this species of tyranny that the UN would like to impose upon the entire planet, in the name of saving us from ourselves – or, as Ugo Chavez would put it, saving us from Western capitalist democracy.

A few weeks ago, at a major conference in New York, I spoke about this tendency towards tyranny with Dr. Vaclav Klaus, the distinguished economist and doughty fighter for freedom and democracy who is President of the Czech Republic.

While we still have one or two statesmen of his caliber, there is hope for Europe and the world. Unfortunately, he refused to come to Copenhagen, telling me that there was no point, now that the lunatics were firmly in control of the asylum.

Maybe this was Monckton feeling the effects of the lump on his head. But it may be a feeling that people are going to be increasingly familiar with. People have always believed that ‘they can’t do that; can’t foist this fraud on me; can’t take over 15% of the US economy just like that; can’t give my tax money to Hugo Chavez; can’t borrow money from China in my name and give to China.’ But if you realize one day that the answer to those questions is “Yes we can” — and there’s no point arguing, then you will have discovered the Day After Feeling.  Our grandfathers knew it. We thought to be spared. Monckton felt it briefly and had put the question to Vaclav Klaus:

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Half full? Or wholly empty?

December 19th, 2009 - 3:04 am

The “historic deal” left behind by Barack Obama, who decamped for Washington, has descended into chaos as a number of countries rejected the text, according to the Daily Telegraph.

The “historic” climate change deal at the Copenhagen climate summit has descended into chaos after some developing nations rejected the plan for fighting global warming championed by US President Barack Obama. …

Tempers flared during an all-night plenary session, held after most of 120 visiting world leaders had left.

Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping, the Sudanese negotiator, said the draft text asked “Africa to sign a suicide pact”.

One Saudi delegate said it was without doubt “the worst plenary I have ever attended.”

Ed Miliband, the Environment Secretary, warned delegates that the plan would have to be endorsed to unlock funds outlined in the deal, including $30 billion in “quick-start” aid from 2010-12, rising to $100 billion a year from 2020.

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Escape from Copenhagen

December 18th, 2009 - 6:02 pm

Observers quoted by the BBC declared the “unprecedented” achievement of Barack Obama in Copenhagen “modest” and “questioned how it fitted into the overall deal being negotiated.” You mean they’re not the same thing? Which is the sideshow and which the Big Top? Richard Black of the BBC says:

President Obama may have a deal with Brazil, China, India and South Africa – but it’s not at all clear that he has a deal with anyone else.

While the White House was announcing the agreement, many other – perhape most other – delegations had not even seen it.

A comment from a UK official suggested the text was not yet final and the Bolivian delegation has already complained about the way it was reached – “anti-democratic, anti-transparent and unacceptable”.

With no firm target for limiting the global temperature rise, no commitment to a legal treaty and no target year for peaking emissions, countries most vulnerable to climate impacts have not got the deal they wanted.

Greenpeace complains that the principals have now skipped town before any further questions can be asked. “A number of leaders have now left the Danish capital, including the US president and Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Reacting to the Copenhagen ‘deal’, John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: ‘The city of Copenhagen is a crime scene tonight, with the guilty men and women fleeing to the airport.’” Maybe they were trying to get away from the likes of Greenpeace, but perish the thought.

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