Archive for November, 2008

The Economist has an excellent piece up about the disturbing trends in the economy:

This compulsory return to thrift will be deeply painful; consumer spending and housing are almost three-quarters of GDP. Of the 1.2 million, or 0.9%, decline in jobs since December, about 700,000 are directly related to consumers: retail trade, transportation manufacturing and home-building. The rise in unemployment, from 4.4% in 2006 to 6.5% in October, is nearing that of 2001-03 and is not over. On November 19th Federal Reserve policymakers disclosed they expect the recession to last until mid-2009. Their inflation worries have evaporated; indeed, consumer prices plunged a record 1% in October from September, and by 0.1% excluding fuel and food, the first such decline since 1982. The Fed’s vice-chairman, Donald Kohn, said outright deflation “is a risk out there but it’s still small”.

I think this article, in pointing out the trends in the American economy (such as decreased savings by baby boomers as well as the sharp rise in consumer saving in the wake of the sky falling), also reveals the bigger problem in the American psyche: we risk and spend too much when things are going well, and immediately shock the system by saving as soon as things start to go bad, which makes things get worse. It can be argued that the extra saving is a good thing (and I agree that it’s what we should be doing in the first place!), but, simply put, by not spending as much money in an ailing economy, the economy is obviously going to do worse. Of course, it’s likely that what people are spending now is truly what they can afford, rather than their fake plastic money that created the piles of debt that led to this catastrophe in the first place.

What I fear the most is that this country (and the rest of the world) will weather this recession by being savvy spenders and savers, and immediately return to our old ways of boundless spending and unwise use of credit cards, again buying goods we can’t afford with our plastic friends. That would be sure to land us in another recession in the future, as the debt would, again, crash our system.

But, if we could only maintain our unprecedented level of spending with low savings coupled with unlimited amounts of credit, if we were to remain savvy spenders, taking less risks and saving more, would that mean a permanent shrinkage of the economy (proportional, of course, to the amount of workers in the system; as time goes on, the economy will “grow”, due to job creation, but the net spending per person will go down)?

Maybe this period of economic success was nothing but a hallucination, and we are now getting off the hallucinogens and waking up to reality. And that reality may be a smaller economy.


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Right now, I am calling it: the Obama presidency will be a disaster, partly because of the legacy Bush left him, and the errors that he will make on his own, namely continuing to hand out money in order to “stimulate” the economy, as well as continuing the farcical “War on Terror” that Bush started, and will never end until people realize it is just an attempt to expand America’s control in Eurasia. Admittedly, I don’t think the ailing economy will be Barack’s fault, though social spending programs are likely to make things worse in the future.

Hail to the thief?

Normally, I’d be obliged to write my own material concerning the auto industry’s bailout (well, that’s for tomorrow!), but this piece (that was on the Delicious popular page) was way too good to pass up.

Linked from here.

…The lesson here: Unlike their counterparts GM and Ford, Toyota has always taken a long-term strategic view about their employees. Toyota understands that laying off thousands of employees for slowdowns or plant retooling is counter productive. They wisely utilize the time to redistribute their workforce to understaffed plants, provide additional training for the new products, and leverage their workforce to speed the transition for newer products. Their philosophy has avoided labor disputes and staffing shortages. It has kept the company as a leader in quality and profitability over its shortsighted competitors….

Check it out!

Just in case Bush and his Israeli followers start attacking Iran in the name of preemptively preventing a nuclear war, we should turn them in the direction of this NIE study (that’s National Intelligence Estimate, for the uninitiated). It’s not the full study, but it has all of the important conclusions.

The study says that:

We assess with high confidence that until fall 2003, Iranian military entities were
working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons.

• We judge with high confidence that the halt lasted at least several years. (Because of
intelligence gaps discussed elsewhere in this Estimate, however, DOE and the NIC
assess with only moderate confidence that the halt to those activities represents a halt
to Iran’s entire nuclear weapons program.)

• We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons
program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop
nuclear weapons.

• We continue to assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Iran does not currently
have a nuclear weapon.
• Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined
to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005. Our assessment
that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure
suggests Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged
previously…

• We judge with moderate confidence that the earliest possible date Iran would be
technically capable of producing enough HEU for a weapon is late 2009, but that this
is very unlikely.

• We judge with moderate confidence Iran probably would be technically capable of
producing enough HEU for a weapon sometime during the 2010-2015 time frame.
(INR judges Iran is unlikely to achieve this capability before 2013 because of
foreseeable technical and programmatic problems.) All agencies recognize the
possibility that this capability may not be attained until after 2015.

D. Iranian entities are continuing to develop a range of technical capabilities that could
be applied to producing nuclear weapons, if a decision is made to do so. For example,
Iran’s civilian uranium enrichment program is continuing. We also assess with high
confidence that since fall 2003, Iran has been conducting research and development
projects with commercial and conventional military applications—some of which would
also be of limited use for nuclear weapons.

E. We do not have sufficient intelligence to judge confidently whether Tehran is willing
to maintain the halt of its nuclear weapons program indefinitely while it weighs its
options, or whether it will or already has set specific deadlines or criteria that will prompt
it to restart the program.

Now, while this is only an estimate, the assumptions based therein are surely enough for us, the public, to seriously question any assertion (or military action derived from said assertion) that Iran has nuclear weapons, for now. Now we have the power to cry fowl when the government tells us that Iran has the a-bomb, unlike the situation in Iraq.

Iran is certainly an interesting player on the world stage – but it doesn’t have the nuke yet.

And, after all, who are we to decide who gets and who doesn’t get the A-bomb? Isn’t it in Iran’s best interest to acquire the A-bomb for purely defensive purposes? Yes, I know their regime is crazy, but hasn’t it occurred to anyone that the a-bomb is the ultimate deterrent; no one would be crazy enough to attack them once they got a nuke under their control. As paradoxical as it may sound, they’re willing to risk invasion from Israel and the United States in order to acquire a bomb that would prevent these countries from invading them at all, assuming that they’re actually pursuing a nuke in the first place.

What do you think about Iran?


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Well, it’s official: according the MSNBC, all US forces will be out of Iraq by the time 2012 rolls around.

(from the BBC)

Under the deal, US troops will withdraw from the streets of Iraqi towns next year, leaving Iraq by the end of 2011.

The decision will need to go before Iraq’s parliament for a final vote.

America’s National Security Council welcomed the cabinet’s vote, saying it was “an important and positive step” towards stability and security.

The pact is necessary to determine the role of US military forces in Iraq after their UN mandate expires on 31 December 2008.

In October, Iraq sent a new round of suggested changes to the draft Status of Forces Agreement (Sofa), to which the US responded.

Washington had previously said the pact was “final” and could not be amended.

The UK government, which has 4,100 troops in Iraq, is waiting for the US-Iraqi pact to be approved so they can use it as a template for their own bi-lateral deal.

Well, we had to take out our troops sometime, and 2012 seems reasonable, though I’d prefer that we pulled them out earlier. Still, I think this gives the Iraqi government more than enough time to clean up its act and prepare its troops to actually defend against terrorism.

At the same time, I’m not so sure I like this, considering that we have been using Iraq as a launching pad for attacks against Syria, in addition to using our bases in Afghanistan to conduct strikes in Pakistan. Keeping troops in Iraq for any longer amount of time means that it’s possible that we can conduct cross-border strikes into Syria again, and possibly Iran.

There’s no question that we need our troops out, but it looks like Iraq is an eternal damned-if-we-do, damned-if-we-don’t situation. The truth is, we really don’t know what kind of hell we’ll unleash once all of our troops leave the country, and we won’t know for sure until January 1st, 2012.


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In the wake of the financial crisis that’s engulfing the world right now, there have been many on the Left that proclaim that capitalism will cease to exist, since it alone (in their deluded eyes) has caused this collapse.

I’m astonished at their ignorance and lack of gratitude for the monetary system that has, singlehandedly (well, along with the establishment of the United States), lifted much of the world out of poverty and into a culture of freedom, free from the monarchs and Communists.

These Leftists spout useless drivel about how it’s capitalism’s fault that people are losing their jobs, that it’s capitalism’s fault that the banks did ill-advised lending, that it’s capitalism’s fault that people are in poverty in undeveloped countries, that it’s capitalism’s fault for somehow putting a gun to the head of our legislators and “making” them institute a $700 billion bailout for these banks. It’s not capitalism’s fault, and I can guarantee that those people who lost jobs wouldn’t have had them in the first place without it, that the banks would commit more fraud without it, and there would be more government intervention without it.

And then they say that capitalism is not moral; that it doesn’t give people living wages and it makes them poor. Except, naturally, they forget that capitalism has lifted hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty and into work, that it allowed people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs to make millions with a vision for the future and the drive needed to make that dream a reality. Capitalism has let people make money with their work and their skill. It allows the individual to pursue the course that they want (economically), and they are rewarded for their competence – nothing more, nothing less.

It is these hypocrites that do not know what they’re saying when they say, “Capitalism must go!”, because they, truly, don’t have an idea of what capitalism is. They scream that the capitalist system must go, but they have no idea what economic system to put in its place; it is this fact that makes these people ignorant and nothing more than sheep. They don’t understand that, in eliminating capitalism, you must erect something with the structure of socialism (perhaps even Communism) in its place, which would surely destroy the framework of this country and all the worlds’ economies. Surely, if we’re going to remove capitalism, where capital is held and moved primarily by the private sector, we must consolidate it within the public sector – giving more control of the economy to the state.

It is this that reveals the true hypocrisy of these fools. These are probably the same people who (correctly) say that our government has grossly mishandled and misled us into two wars, the government that is putting most of its money into feeding the military-industrial complex in doing so, and is corrupt to the core. But, in destroying capitalism, these people are advocating letting the very same government run our economy, giving out handouts as they wish. How does that make any sense? Our main legislative body has a single-digit approval rating, and these imbeciles think that we should give them more control over the country?

This is why capitalism cannot and will not fall: the citizenry will wake up and realize that more (bad) government isn’t the remedy to the situation. In fact, it’s more poison.


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I’m not making this up.

The London Times reports:

With Russian tanks only 30 miles from Tbilisi on August 12, Mr Sarkozy told Mr Putin that the world would not accept the overthrow of Georgia’s Government. According to Mr Levitte, the Russian seemed unconcerned by international reaction. “I am going to hang Saakashvili by the balls,” Mr Putin declared.

Mr Sarkozy thought he had misheard. “Hang him?” — he asked. “Why not?” Mr Putin replied. “The Americans hanged Saddam Hussein.”

Mr Sarkozy, using the familiar tu, tried to reason with him: “Yes but do you want to end up like [President] Bush?” Mr Putin was briefly lost for words, then said: “Ah — you have scored a point there.”

I’m with Putin on this one: I’d want to see the Georgian president hang. Though, that’s only as long as Putin was also having a noose tied around his neck as well. They both need to go.


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Magik Quilter, in the comments from yesterday’s post, proposed that I write about the girl from Hereford who won a case in which she decided that she’d avoid getting life saving heart surgery in order to “die with dignity”, reported here by the BBC.

First of all, I think this represents a wonderful step in the right direction: a society where euthanasia will be legalized. If people have debilitating sicknesses where they’re just vegetables or fractions of what they were before their conditions (perhaps they were born that way), I think it’s important that, for the sake of the person and their friends and family, that we allow them to be put to death with their consent. It’s ultimately up to them, though the line gets blurred as we start discussing what to do when people are comatose and other conditions where they are unable to express their consent for euthanasia (I am, however hesitantly, against euthanasia in those situations). We need to get over the label of “murder” and realize that euthanizing someone is a way to put them out of their misery, again, if they have their consent. Why make them go through terrible pain and anguish if they have horrible sicknesses like ebola or the AIDS virus if we can just put them to death with their consent.

I’ll be the first person to say that I love my life and I’m scared of death, but I’d call to be euthanized if I knew death was imminent. After all, I could die on my terms then – potentially, I could die with a loved one if I so chose, rather than dying at a random time, all alone, in my sleep.

The most important part of this, if I hadn’t made it clear already, is that we need the consent of the person who we’re going to euthanize. If we don’t have that, then it is murder, and euthanasia could be a “clean” way of disposing of people in a tyrannical government (look at the cruel experiments conducted on the Jews during the Holocaust).


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A Challenge

I’ll keep this short and sweet: you, the reader, get to pick tomorrow’s editorial. Leave a comment under this post and I’ll pick one submission to write an editorial about tomorrow.

Make the subject an unexpected one!

The BBC reports that Russia is willing to move the Iskander missiles it placed on its western border as long as the US removes the plans to build a missile shield in Poland.

Was there ever any doubt?

Russia’s foreign minister has said it will abandon plans to station missiles in Kaliningrad if the US does not base part of a missile shield in Europe.

Sergei Lavrov said short-range Iskander missiles would only be deployed in the western enclave, which borders Poland, to neutralise any perceived US threat.

President Dmitri Medvedev unveiled the planned counter-measure a week ago.

The US insists the planned shield is designed solely to guard against attack by “rogue states”, such as Iran.

At present, the system will include a tracking radar in the Czech Republic and 10 missile interceptors in northern Poland. Moscow says they could threaten its own defences.

These would be in addition to radars and interceptors in Alaska and California in the US, and another radar at Fylingdales in the UK.

Another move in an ongoing game. It appears that the two sides have stalemated, with Russia trying to get the US to remove its missile shield by putting missiles of its own to disrupt said shield. Wouldn’t it be counterintuitive for the US to even keep its shield there if the Russians got jam it with their own ballistics?


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