Bill Katz: RESET BUTTON NEEDS RESETTING
Secretary Clinton today accused Russia of shipping attack helicopters to Syria. She also bluntly accused the Russians of lying about it. That's pretty strong stuff, especially coming from an administration that boasted of its "reset" of relations with Russia. It also ends any myths about the "reset." There is no reset. Russia, under Putin, is a hostile nation, despite what Barack Obama and his leftist fans claim. Clinton, who has to protect her future political interests, is clearly distancing herself from the "reset" crowd.
FP: Another example of the US operating on the illusion of power. While Assad is engaged in genocide with the help of Russia, Iran and Hizb’allah, Obama appointed an “atrocity board” that does or says nothing and the US keeps declaring Assad ilegitimate and asks him to step down and accusing Russia of lying. That’s irrelevance.
The point is not that the West should intervene, but that none of its enemies gives a ff about it. Had the West had any credibility none of this would have happened in the first place.
The Politico is apparently trying to frame this to fit into the Obama campaign's Romney/rich white guy/uncaring billionaire plutocrat theme. They're quite welcome to try, but the reality is that Wall Street has switched sides because they see first hand the mismanagement of the American economy and the president's war on private enterprise..except when it comes to wealthy, well connected Obama donors with green energy scams to sell.
What's more, Middle America increasingly sees this as well, which is exactly why President Obama is flailing around and doing so poorly as of late.
As I wrote some time ago, this election is going to be very much about competence. As a living example of the Peter Principle in action, President Obama fails that test.
Let's just say that Wall Street, like a lot of us, doesn't find the passage on the SS Obama nearly as happy as they did in 2008..and they're voting with their feet, and their wallets.
FP: Even though there seems to be increasing evidence that Obama’s support is weakening, I still think that a lot of the excitemet about it comes from conservatives who are trying hard to convince themselves that despite his serious drawbacks, Romney can win.
A Wall Street switch to Romney would more opportunistic than due to a concern with Obama’s incompetence, the sense that Obama is weak. Wall Street did not do worse during Obama than during any other president. Indeed, Wall Street does better than anybody regardless of who sits in the Wall Street, because of its blackmailer status and their ownership of the political system: no president can or will go against Wall Street.
As to the competence issue, it’s not Romney is that competent—business competence, particularly in a kind of business that Bain was in, is not the same as political competence, in fact it is anathema to it; and Romney’s political record demonstrates it. It’s not Romney is highly competent, it’s that Obama is so awful. Even supporters of Romney are more against Obama than they are for Romney.
So Obama must be deposed, but Americans should have no illusions about Romney and the kind of problems America has would be difficult to resolve even by the most competent politician. Once a capitalist society descends into a corporate welfare state and democratic senility, and entrenches itself there, there is little that can be done to stop the decline.
Readers of my last book, Griftopia, might recall a chapter about the city of Chicago leasing 75 years of its parking meter revenue to a coterie of private investors, some of them from the Middle East. The end result was and is a political obscenity: Native Chicagoans are now completely at the mercy of private interests when it comes to parking rates, collections, even holidays. When elected officials in Illinois can’t shut off the parking meters on Abe Lincoln’s birthday because a bunch of sheiks in Dubai don’t want the revenue stream turned off even for a day, you know something has gone seriously sideways in the national body politic.
Well, Chicago isn’t alone anymore. Hizzoner Michael Bloomberg in New York has decided to do his own version of the Chicago infrastructure bake sale; the city announced that it is putting up nearly 90,000 parking meters for lease. They’re expecting to get over $11 billion in upfront money from the deal, which is great news if you’re Mike Bloomberg, who gets to use that money to patch current budget holes instead of making tough cuts or raising taxes. The news is less awesome for the next half-dozen New York City mayors, or for the citizens of New York, who now will get to spend most of the 21st century grappling with its increasingly monstrous deficits with a major tributary from the city’s revenue stream shut off.
A New York parking meter deal, like the Chicago deal, would be a perfect example of the deeply cynical short-term thinking of many American politicians these days. These deals involve a sitting executive selling off a valuable piece of city property at a steep discount to private financial interests (often, to friends or campaign contributors), in order to solve a current cash flow problem that, surprise, surprise, will still be there the year after you finish spending the proceeds of your sale.
Of course what they don’t tell you in those commercials is that you’re only getting pennies on the dollar in those deals. Companies like J.G. Wentworth feast upon the financial anxiety/desperation of middle America, where most people can’t wait to collect the whole $100,000 they won in court after losing an eye at work, and will settle for $20,000 they can use to pay the rent (or, more often, the doctor or the pharmacist) this week. Money is so tight out there that people will take a bad deal, even a draconian deal, just to make it to next week, especially when the idea is getting rammed into their heads in high-production-value commercials during football games and American Idol broadcasts five hundred times a week.
Sure, it makes sense for Bloomberg personally – he gets to govern for another year without having to make tough decisions on budget cuts and taxes – but for the city in the long run, it’s a disaster. Criminal, even. This is like a man with a wife and dozen dependent children selling his family's lottery winnings to J.G. Wentworth so he can go on a skiing vacation in Gstaad with his mistress before the divorce goes through.
Meanwhile, whoever gets to own all of those meters will now be sitting on the ultimate investment. You get all the certainty of tax revenue, but you don’t have any of the accountability attached to public governance. It’s profit without risk, customers without responsibility. Cash now!
See what I mean? Why have a government at all? Why not let corporations do it? Increasingly that’s being achieved.
Remember what Jefferson said about ‘when moneyed interests take over over,it’s over? Well, here we are.
State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss: No organized staff work, no coordination, no minutes of meetings were kept • PMO: Israelis enjoy a level of security they haven't had in years • Amidror: Today's decision-making process is much, much better.
FP: There was a time when you could not imagine such a huge failure, which has serious strategic implications. I am not persuaded by the assurances.
State Comptroller points to a "growing disparity between the ability of the state to conduct international hasbara and the resources needed to effectively contend with this challenge" • Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson's Unit too powerful.
But I don’t buy the “hasbara problems” stuff. It is true that Israel could do a better PR job, but the hostility against it cannot be eliminated by it. Israel has committed several strategic blunders, the worst one being Oslo and it is facing the logical conclusions from them. Israel should focus on its core interests, chief among them defense and stop appeasing those who cannot be appeased. The only effect of concessions, apologies and self-inhibition in defense and failure to respond harshly to terrorism and attacks is signaling admission of moral inferiority and weakness.
Had Israel not fucked up the Marmara incident, it would have not had to worry about PR or the strategic loss.
Ceremony in Islamic Jihad kindergarten includes incitement against Israel and children imitating Palestinian prisoners being tortured by "Israeli soldiers" • Education minister: While we strive for peace, our neighbors teach children to hate us.
FP: To reiterate: As long as this happens there is no chance for peace for generations to come. Only when the Arabs stop this completely and after a wait of one or two generations raised by a generation raised without hatred itself will peace be possible. The rest is conversation.
Palestinian youth TV program sanctifies dying for the Palestinian struggle, gives special honor to 91 terrorists whose remains were recently transferred from Israel to the Palestinian Authority.
And Western funding for this does not let that happen.
Mention creationism, and many scientists think of the United States, where efforts to limit the teaching of evolution have made headway in a couple of states1. But the successes are modest compared with those in South Korea, where the anti-evolution sentiment seems to be winning its battle with mainstream science.
A petition to remove references to evolution from high-school textbooks claimed victory last month after the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) revealed that many of the publishers would produce revised editions that exclude examples of the evolution of the horse or of avian ancestor Archaeopteryx. The move has alarmed biologists, who say that they were not consulted. "The ministry just sent the petition out to the publishing companies and let them judge," says Dayk Jang, an evolutionary scientist at Seoul National University.
FP: More progress.
The banks seek deals in which an insurer agrees to buy a borrower's intellectual property - anything from a mobile phone patent to a logo or recipe - for a fixed price in case of default. That price could then be counted against the expected losses, in the same way the expected proceeds from a credit default swap can be used today.
The structure was given a boost by last year's Nortel bankruptcy, where sale of the group's wireless patents generated more than $4.5bn, five times the price originally offered by Google.
"There is now awareness that these types of assets are fungible and transferable," said Adam Tepper, global head of corporate development at M.Cam, a US finance company that is working on a couple of proposed structures involving intellectual property.
"We're giving the insurance companies a pathway to provide new capital to banks," he said.
FP: More financial innovations from the banks that will save the American economy. Like they did before:
The recent recession wiped out nearly two decades of Americans' wealth, according to government data released Monday, with middle-class families bearing the brunt of the decline.
The Federal Reserve said the median net worth of families plunged by 39 percent in just three years, from $126,400 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010. That puts Americans roughly on par with where they were back in 1992.
The data represent one of the most detailed looks to date of how the economic downturn altered the landscape of family finance. Over a span of three years, Americans watched progress that took almost a generation to accumulate evaporate. The promise of retirement built on the inevitable rise of the stock market proved illusory for most. Homeownership, once heralded as a pathway to wealth, became an albatross.
Those findings underscore the depth of the wounds of the financial crisis and how far many families remain from healing. If the recession set Americans back 20 years, economists say, the road forward is sure to be a long one. And so far, the country has only seen a halting recovery.
"It's hard to overstate how serious the collapse in the economy was," said Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's Analytics. "We were in free fall."
And not the bankers were the losers.
Debbie Schlussel: Photo of the Day: The Tolerance of Arab Muslim Lebanon
Check out this photo of a dead foreign worker maid on the streets of Lebanon, who clearly fell off a balcony to her death. The photo was posted on the site of Lebanon’s MTV (not to be confused with the sleazy MTV based in America–it’s an independent Lebanese news channel). Think she committed suicide or was pushed? I vote the latter. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about Lebanese Arabs or Arabs in general–Muslims are the ones who do this–torturing and/or murdering their foreign worker maids. You think this was a crime perpetrated by a Christian? Not likely. Muslims are typically the ones who employ these foreign workers as maids and treat them as slaves, torture targets, and sex dolls. And Lebanon is now majority Muslim. They are running the show there. End of story. If this photo had been taken in Israel, it would be international headline news about how bad Israel and the Jews are. But since it’s in Arab Lebanon, the only sound: crickets chirping.
FP: Is Islam a religion of peace and human respect? Of course not, but the important question is why not? And the answer is that Islam is an Arab religion, it was invented by Arabs and, therefore, soaked in Arab culture in order to be effectively absorbed by Arabs. So when we see violence, supremacism, Jihad, racism, misogynism and barbarity (like those evoked in the Arab “spring”), Islam is not the root of the problem, Arab culture is. Islam simply reinforces it and takes it to another level.
The situation is somewhat different in non-Arab Islamic cultures. If such a culture is not similar to the Arab culture, if it Islamizes Islam infects it with the Arab culture, Iran being an excellent example of that.
Hours ahead of meeting with Obama where Peres is expected to request the convicted Israeli agent's release, White House spokesman says the administration's position "will not change today."
FP: Show the real respect and honor Obama has for Israel’s Jimmy Carter and exposing the real reason behind giving him the medal.
Meretz head says Interior Minister Eli Yishai is ignoring court ruling and promoting racism
Following Likud MK Danny Danon's comment last week calling African infiltrators a "national plague" on Israel, Australian branch of Betar movement issues open letter calling on him to reconsider stance on African migrants.
Kabari Gabriosus, 22, of Tel Aviv, allegedly raised and laundered money for a Sinai-based terror group.
FP: Compassion is not a suicide pact. Allowing the migrants into Israel was another huge blunder by Israel, whichever way you look at it, as I’ve already argued.
Ultra-Orthodox enclave in South Williamsburg exempted from new citywide bike-share stations since it views biking as an immodest activity
FP: As I said, the rise of the Ultra-Ortdox is not Jewish progress.
Judy Bachrach: Dictatorships and The West's Academic Corruption
Daniel Greenfield: In the Sixteenth Year of Obama - The Isle of Industry (satire, “enjoy”)