Friday, October 15, 2010

Fire Bernanke

What’s the definition of stupidity? Repeating anything from the Seventies. And yet:
BOSTON — The Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, sent a clear signal on Friday that the central bank was poised to take additional steps to try to fight persistently low inflation and high unemployment.
“Given the committee’s objectives, there would appear — all else being equal — to be a case for further action,” he said in a detailed speech at a gathering of economists here.
Mr. Bernanke noted that “unconventional policies have costs and limitations that must be taken into account in judging whether and how aggressively they should be used.” But he suggested that the Fed was prepared to manage the risks associated with the most powerful tool remaining in the Fed’s arsenal of weapons to stimulate the economy: vast new purchases of government debt to lower long-term interest rates.
The problem with this economy isn’t low interest rates. (Actually, it is a problem — but not in the way the Fed thinks it’s a problem.) The problem with this economy is the fundamental uncertainty created by the endless tax and regulatory schemes foisted on top of it by this viciously anti-free market Administration, and by this Congress, which wouldn’t recognize the Law of Unintended Consequences if it stole Nancy Pelosi’s gavel and banged them all about the head and shoulders with it.

So what’s the problem with low interest rates? Well — rates are so low that it no longer really costs anything to borrow money. And when something’s free, people get stupid. Because prices, as they teach in Econ 101, are information. Prices are signals as to what something is worth. So when the Fed tells everyone that the dollar is essentially worthless — people will behave accordingly.

Borrow money for free? Great — so why risk it in a business venture, when you can stick it into commodities? Because commodities, usually valued in dollars, will go up, up, up, as the Fed continues to print those dollars it then lets you borrow for free. Heck, people could just borrow some of that free money and just convert it into euros for instant profit. Oh, wait — people have been doing just that.

Let’s add something else to the mix. Yes, our economy is frozen in place, thanks to Obamacare, Obamataxhikes, and the undead threat of Cap & Obama. And now the Fed is promising inflation! It’s coming! Here’s yet another fundamental uncertainty — about the very value of the dollars you work and take risk for! — being added on top of everything else.

And Bernanke is doing it on purpose. Because he wants to help. Bernanke needs to go. Immediately. Before interest rates, the inflation rate, and the unemployment rate are all stuck in double digits.
We’ve heard this song before. It’s called “Stagflation.” I can’t remember all the words, but the chorus goes like this:
Misery Index
Misery Index
How’d you get so high?

Misery Index
Misery Index
Carter’s quite the guy!
I’d thought that That 70’s Show got cancelled back in 2006, but they’re still watching — and enjoying — the reruns in Washington these days.

The Keynesian fallacy is that you can get rich by spending money, so if you inflate the currency you’ll entice people into spending — and getting rich! But that’s just not so. All increases in wealth comes from increased productivity. And under today’s economic regime, there is zero incentive to make the kinds of investment which lead to productivity gains. In fact, the incentive today is to park your money overseas or in commodities. Every new dollar printed either leaves the country or leaves the productive economy — and reduces the value of every existing dollar.

But Bernanke is going to print another trillion of them, maybe two trillion, before he figures this out.
It’ll take five years to dig our way out of this mess, and that’s if we get a Volcker and a Reagan come down the pike in the next two years. In fact, we should be able to see them on the horizon by now. Hello? Anyone? Hello?

I don’t pray, never have. But today I just might.

The Peace Process Lacks Palestinian Peacemakers

Jennifer Rubin -

Oh no, they tell us Mahmoud Abbas is on the ropes. A new cadre of PA figures is on the rise that is “less supportive of negotiations with Israel’s government.” Less than Abbas? Or more candid? You can’t get much less supportive than Abbas and his current crew, who continue to extol the names of terrorists and flee negotiations at the first opportune moment. But then again, Abbas has been reduced to the status of Arab League messenger boy. The new PA leadership wants to employ Gandhi-like nonviolent resistance? All they need is a tradition of nonviolent resistance, an ideology that shuns violence, and a popular consensus that killing Jews is a bad thing. I think Gandhi’s idea of a “march to the sea” isn’t exactly what the Palestinians have in mind.

But let’s understand the import of this: even within the PA, Abbas lacks a base of support. And he, we are told by the Obami, is the man and this is the unique moment that are going to give birth to a peace deal. Yes, it’s quite absurd.

It seems there is never quite the right Palestinian leader in place. This one is well-meaning, but has no backing. That one is popular, but allergic to peace talks. Another, after all, was imprisoned for terrorism. Perhaps there just isn’t someone who is willing to make a deal and who enjoys support within the Palestinian leadership and population. It might just be that the past 18 months of peace-processing, not to mention the past 60 years, have been a colossal waste of time.

Forget Visa and MasterCard: If you want a low interest credit card, you need the HugoCard

Got bad credit? Looking a low cost credit card? No problem. Just move to Venezuela and get one from Hugo Chavez.
hugo chavez low interest credit card
The HugoCard. Don't leave home without it.
The Associated Press details Hugo’s credit card offer:
Going into Sunday’s legislative elections, President Hugo Chavez pitched his candidates like a salesman, promising Venezuelans he will give them low-interest credit cards and discounted appliances from washing machines to TV sets.
Chavez turned to his long successful populist appeals seeking to woo voters more concerned with their pocketbooks than with his socialist politics. He is trying to hold off a determined challenge by the opposition, which is intent on breaking Chavez’s stranglehold on the National Assembly for the first time in his presidency.
“I want us to win the elections by knockout!” Chavez told cheering supporters during one of his final campaign rallies, standing amid allied candidates dressed in his party’s signature red.
… Apparently seeking to turn up the heat in the campaign, Chavez has launched a program to provide Venezuelans with special, low-interest credit cards that can be used to shop at state-run stores and for travel, calling it the “Good Life Card.”
The only problem with this technique of getting rid of your credit card debt is that you end up owing money to Hugo Chavez.

And we guarantee that even the pushiest American debt collector is a pussycat compared to Hugo.
Source: Associated Press

Murdoch Decries The Left's Anti-Semitism.

Rupert Murdoch, whilst accepting an award from the Anti-Defamation League for his support of Israel said that there is a "soft war" being waged against Israel, and condemned "the left" as the purveyors of a "new anti-Semitism."
“This is the soft war that seeks to isolate Israel by delegitimizing it," Murdoch told attendees at the New York dinner where he was bestowed the ADL International Leadership Award. "The battle ground is everywhere – the media, multinational organizations, NGOs. In this war, the aim is to make Israel a pariah.”
Murdoch told participants at the dinner that signs were abounding of rising anti-Semitism, particularly from elements on the Left under the guise of legitimate criticism of Israel.
“When Americans think of anti-Semitism, we tend to think of the vulgar caricatures and attacks of the first part of the 20th century,” Murdoch said. “Now it seems that the most virulent strains come from the left. Often this new anti-Semitism dresses itself up as legitimate disagreement with Israel.
So, according to Murdoch's logic, there can be no such thing as legitimate disagreement with Israeli policy, merely anti-Semitism disguising itself as such.

As far as arguments go, that's scraping the bottom of the barrel. He is seeking to make all disagreements with Israeli policy acts of anti-Semitism.

But, perhaps Rupert should look closer to home if he is seeking to confront genuine anti-Semitism.

It is not anti-Semitic to say that the Palestinians deserve their own state, or that it is in Israel's best interests for this to happen sooner rather than later.

Click here for full article.

Billions still living without access to clean water and sanitation

Every year, the social action website run a Blog Action Day. Last year, the focus was on climate change, with more than 13,500 people blogging on the issue including Gordon Brown and The Huffington Post. This year, the theme is water and sanitation.
Blog-action-day-waterA staggering 2.6 billion people live without a safe toilet and 884 million people lack access to clean water. These problems combine to undermine health, education, economic and gender equality progress.

Diarrhoea, for example, is now the biggest killer of children under five in Africa (source: World Health Organisation) and a massive burden to women and girls particularly as they spend valuable time walking for water and caring for sick relatives instead of going to school or working to support their children.

The previous Labour government were real champions of water and sanitation issues, with the department for international development being a major force behind the launch of the Sanitation and Water for All initiative (SWA) which is a global partnership between donor and developing countries and multilaterals as well as civil society bodies such as the End Water Poverty campaign. It aims to connect aid to developing country plans that will deliver sanitation and water for all.

The current coalition government has, to its credit, given water and sanitation greater profile within DfID, placing it alongside other basic services such as health and education. It is disappointing, therefore, that at the United Nations Human Rights Council just two weeks ago, our government dissociated itself from a resolution that recognised the right to access water and sanitation as a legally binding human right.

The resolution gives water and sanitation a standing equal to other social rights, as well as the legal impetus for states to incorporate the right to water & sanitation in national law – the UK now stands alone alongside only 12 other countries in not recognising this.

As Steve Cockburn, former campaign coordinator for End Water Poverty, points out over at Progress today, this matters because development is far more than signing cheques to build schools or medicines – it is about power, rights, accountability. He writes:
“South Africa’s Water Services Act, for example, enshrines their citizens right to a minimum provision of water, and has been instrumental in driving the government to expand and improve services to its people. Wells and latrines are no longer the in the realm of charity, but in the realm of justice.”
The Coalition should put this disappointing episode behind it by signing up to the resolution, and then get on with pushing up the profile of water and sanitation both inside DfID and also in wider development circles. They can do a great deal in championing the SWA to other countries and donors to make it fully fledged.
Also, as Rushanara Ali, Labour’s new shadow international development minister, stated in Wednesday’s International Development Questions, the coalition must not drop the vital commitments to help 25 million people to gain access to water and sanitation in Africa over the next five years and to help 30 million people in south Asia by 2011.

Lastly, DfID has also just announced bringing the private sector more into development processes in order to stimulate ‘wealth creation’. They should be mindful of the UN statistic that every $1 spent on sanitation and water brings a $9 return to developing country economies – powerful evidence to support government investment in ensuring water and sanitation for all.

Next year campaigners across the globe will join in a global action, The World Walks for Water, to further push the profile of water and sanitation up the agenda – in an initiative organised by End Water Poverty and partners. Let’s hope the UK government and others respond; you can take action by going to

Michelle Obama Violated Illinois Election Law

A minor one, no doubt done unintentionally, though:
First lady Michelle Obama appears to have violated Illinois law — when she engaged in political discussion at a polling place!
The drama began after Mrs. Obama stopped off at the Martin Luther King Center on the south side of Chicago to cast an early vote.
After finishing at the machine, Obama went back to the desk and handed in her voting key.
She let voters including electrician Dennis Campbell, 56, take some photos.
“She was telling me how important it was to vote to keep her husband’s agenda going,” Campbell said.
According to a pool reporter from the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES at the scene, the conversation took place INSIDE the voting center, not far from the booths.
Illinois state law — Sec. 17-29 (a) — states: “No judge of election, pollwatcher, or other person shall, at any primary or election, do any electioneering or soliciting of votes or engage in any political discussion within any polling place [or] within 100 feet of any polling place.”
I actually think election laws like this one are rather silly. Here in North Dakota the law requires that all campaign signs be taken down on election day lest some voter be swayed at the last minute seeing a yard sign for a particular candidate on the way to vote.

Though you have to wonder…if a given voter is so impressionable that seeing a few campaign ads on the way to the polls, or even at the polls, that they’ll change their vote how meaningful was their vote anyway? And why would a last minute change of heart due to last-minute ad or sign be any less legitimate than a change of heart made days, weeks or months earlier?

I don’t think our polling places need to have campaigning going on. They’re often chaotic enough without that. But I’m not sure that laws making it illegal to express a political opinion in such a place are even constitutional.