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Monthly Archives: February 2011

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February 22nd, 2011 - 2:32 pm

Who did President Obama refer to when he declared, “and it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”  He referred to the losers of the world. The guys in “these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest [where] the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them”.

The tone of loser-lives is very much unlike that of the winners of the world. The clingers believe in the ashes of their fathers and the temples of their gods. But the people who live in Malibu; who spend $80,000 in a single afternoon’s shopping, party on yachts and meet with President Obama are beyond that.  They take a broader view of things and are cosmopolitans, citizens of the world. I am of course referring to people like “Equatorial Guinea’s minister of agriculture and forestry, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue”, Teodorin to his friends.

Never heard of him? You may not know him, but he knows President Obama.

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Mad World

February 21st, 2011 - 7:54 pm

When it rains, it pours. A huge earthquake hit Christchurch New Zealand, wrecking the cathedral and causing extensive damage as shown here. The WSJ reported that:

New Zealand police say there are reports of multiple fatalities in Christchurch after a 6.3 magnitude earthquake – classed as an aftershock to last September’s devastating 7.1 magnitude quake – struck today, bringing buildings down on to two buses and trapping people in buildings.

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Downstream

February 21st, 2011 - 1:43 am

As unrest begins to spread across the Middle East, the news is starting to focus on oil. Some sample headlines are: the start of a civil war in Libya has sharply increased oil prices in Europe.  Oil prices surge in Asia as Libyan tensions escalate. “The main driver is really the unrest in the Middle East,” said Victor Shum, senior principal for Purvin and Gertz energy consultants in Singapore.”

He added that fresh violence in Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) member state Libya was igniting fears of instability spreading throughout the key oil-supplying Middle Eastern and North African region.

Although the troubles in Libya have grabbed the headlines, its effects on production are limited. Analysts are more worried that the troubles in Bahrain may spread to Saudi Arabia. “Protests in Bahrain, provoked by discontent among the majority-Shiite Muslim population, have sparked concern violence will spread to neighboring Saudi Arabia, which holds one-fifth of the world’s oil. Saudi Arabia has a Shiite minority concentrated in its eastern oil-producing hub.”

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Bubbles bursting

February 20th, 2011 - 3:01 pm

The common denominator uniting protests in Libya, Bahrain, China, Iran and even Wisconsin is the mundane matter of money. Social policy — things we wanted and thought we could afford — whether food subsidies, biofuel manias or higher education bubbles, have created shortages and gluts that cannot now be resolved without changing the underlying policies themselves. In an article entitled, How the Higher-education Bubble Is Fueling Revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, the New American Explains how supply and demand affect the price of everything, even wages for new college graduates.

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‘Egypt in America’

February 18th, 2011 - 3:26 pm

The Christian Science Monitor describes why Wisconsin’s showdown between Governor Walker and the public sector unions may have an impact on America.

  1. The area surrounding Wisconsin has turned “red.” “No region of the country was more comprehensively recast by the 2010 elections than the seven states of the upper Midwest that arc from Minnesota to Ohio. Where before Democrats had held the upper hand, Republicans now have a virtual stranglehold on politics, controlling both houses of the legislature and the governors’ chairs in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.”
  2. If Walker wins, the other public sector unions in the area will be in trouble. “Walker was the first of the Midwest’s four new Republican governors to push for weakening collective bargaining. But Ohio and Michigan already have bills targeting unions in the works, too.”
  3. The fight is over strategic terrain. “If you’re going to take away bargaining rights, you leave them with what?”

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Now what?

February 18th, 2011 - 1:02 pm

“Now Bahrain,” writes the New York Times, arguing that the US should pressure the Sunni minority rule kingdom to give the Shi’ite majority its share of power. “the grievances of its Shiite majority are longstanding. They compose 70 percent of the citizenry but hold only four of 23 cabinet slots. They are excluded from serving in the police and army. In last October’s election, the Shiites won less than half of the seats in the National Assembly, raising charges of vote-rigging. … Bahrain’s brutality is not only at odds with American values, it is a threat to the country’s long-term stability. Washington will need to push harder.”

‘American values’, as expressed in rule of the majority, may be a good idea in Bahrain but not so desirable in Wisconsin. As EJ Dionne of the Washington Post explains, an elected majority taking on the public sector unions constitutes “overreach”.

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Shame, Come Back, Shame!

February 17th, 2011 - 7:15 pm

Imagine a real case of the irresistible force versus the immovable object. That describes what is happening in Wisconsin, as the governor attempts to cut government spending, and public sector unions, supported by the Democrat allies,  are flatly refusing — and by any means necessary

A group of Democratic Wisconsin lawmakers blocked passage of a sweeping anti-union bill Thursday, refusing to show up for a vote and then abruptly leaving the state in an effort to force Republicans to the negotiating table. … “The plan is to try and slow this down because it’s an extreme piece of legislation that’s tearing this state apart,” Sen. Jon Erpenbach said in a telephone interview. He refused to say where he was. 

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Some things are written

February 17th, 2011 - 1:52 pm

Excerpts from Michael Totten’s book, The Road to Fatima Gate: The Beirut Spring, the Rise of Hezbollah, and the Iranian War Against Israel, is now on his site. It begins with the story of how he came to Beirut and one may be forgiven for wondering why Americans would voluntarily make their way to a city where car bombs incinerate armored limousines and blow over multi-storey buildings.

For some the attraction to the Beiruts of the world lies in their strangeness. For example, in the movie Lawrence of Arabia, the character playing Faisal says that he fears Lawrence because the English “have a great hunger for desolate places.” But Michael’s world, I think, has no desolate places.  On the contrary, it is a world completely inhabited by people, who, despite the differences in their language, culture and locale, are just like any of us.

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It’s Tuesday in America

February 16th, 2011 - 2:26 pm

IBD’s Capital and Markets blog says that even President Obama’s supporters can’t believe he is trying to solve the deficit problem, as he added $1.5 trillion to it in exchange for a promise to reduce spending by $1.1 trillion in ten years. Deficit reduction is spend now, pay part of it back later.

President Obama’s 2012 budget plan went over like a lead balloon, and not just with Republicans.

This week may be a teachable moment for the gentry liberals and Obamacons who swooned over Obama in 2008. They thought that someone so smart, so reasonable-sounding, so much like them would be the one to chart a course to fiscal sanity.

They accepted the years of massive deficits during the recession. But by the 2012, he would finally start to put the budget on a path to a sustainable future, right?

Instead, he ignored his own fiscal commission and punting on America’s entitlement crisis. As Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank noted, Obama kicked the can again.

Andrew Sullivan said Obama’s budget was “deeply unserious.” Slate’s John Dickerson argued that Obama must be working on a secret plan because the one he released was so lame.

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Context Change

February 16th, 2011 - 11:12 am

The Berkeley City Council, after passing a resolution  calling for the resettlement of detainees released from Guantanamo in the United States, voted against inviting such persons to live in their fair city, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Earlier, an organization called “Move America Forward, proposed in a statement that Berkeley City Council members ‘go live in GITMO where they can hang out with hundreds of terrorists.’ The group said it would pay for their air fare.”

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