Category Archives: open thread

Turning it around


This is one story that I will be watching closely because it fits in with my own theory about economics :). The BBC news reports that government borrowings in the UK have dropped dramatically.

As you will be aware, I actually think that we are either approaching a period of stagflation, or that we are in fact in the middle of a period of stagflation. Since I graduated from university in the middle of the worst period of stagflation in the 1970s, and could not find employment, the issue has always had an impact. More than that, it was at university that I first heard the term stagflation, and it was the first time that any economics lecturers actually came out and hinted that Keynesian economics did not work. However, no one really followed up on the 1970s to discover why we had the stagflation.

As I have watched the world head towards a severe recession, and towards stagflation again, the one phrase that I keep repeating is “it is the 1970s redux”. There is some commonality between what is happening now and what happened in the 1960s and the 1970s. From what I understand, the middle to late 1960s in the USA was the period of the LBJ experiment. It was a big spending era. Richard Nixon had to reign in the spending whilst the Vietnam War was still raging. Please note: Keynes actually wrote that in times of war taxes should be higher but at other times taxes should be lowered. Please keep that in mind, and then research whether or not each successive Congress has stuck to that formula. The mid 1970s was of course the beginning of the Carter disaster. It is also the reason why, on the global level there is that feel of 1970s redux.

Here in Australia, there was a similar pattern to the one in the USA, although the big spending occurred after 1972, and it is my belief that the big spending by the Whitlam Government and the resultant deficit blowout was the cause of the prolongation of that stagflation. Please keep in mind that my belief is just theory, it has to be tested. We have noticed over here that when the ALP is in charge of the government there is a blow-out in spending and in the budget deficit. This time around, when John Howard lost, there was a budget surplus, which was frittered away in less than 12 months by KRUDD, and a massive deficit has occurred under Juliar Dullard (Julia-the Marxist – Gillard). The Gillard government has no legitimacy (watch this space for news on the convoy moving towards Canberra for a big protest next week).

This brings me to the UK where there had been a Labor government under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. The deficit was also very high when the minority Conservative government (with the help of the LDP) took over. The task of the minority government has been to introduce austerity measures that would bring the deficit under control. This is why the news that government borrowings have been significantly slashed is all important. What we need to watch in the UK is whether or not the slashing of the government borrowings impacts the community in one of two ways: (1) more investment dollars being available for the expansion of business or (2) a worsening of the situation in the UK.  I am actually expecting that there will be a rise in private sector borrowing because more money is available for private sector investment as a result of the reduction in government borrowings. I am expecting that any rise in private sector borrowings will lead to an increase in employment opportunities which will have a flow on effect throughout the economy.

 

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The Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry edition


There is news that a number of staffers have deserted Newt Gingrich. This should come as no surprise, because Gingrich is the candidate least likely to succeed. However, what some analysts have failed to see, is that the staffers who have left also happen to be people who have worked with Rick Perry in the past. The Daily Caller has the story about the link between Perry and the Gingrich staffers.

Does this mean that Rick Perry is going to jump into the Republican race?It is by no means certain at this point in time, but like the Daily Caller, I think that it is worth the speculation that it is more likely that Perry is considering the run. If he did run he could easily knock out the likes of Pawlenty and Mittens Romney, as well as Huntsman (all of them are lightweights and have watermelon credentials).

Whilst Rick Perry would not be the ideal candidate, he has a good record in Texas, or at least that is my understanding of Governor Rick Perry. As such he should be able to lead the country away from some of the most damaging of the Østupid policies. Excluding foreign relations (which Østupid has totally f’d up) Perry seems to be one who would get the USA back on track in regard to things like oil production. I am sure that he has a down side, and yes, I would like people to chime in with regard to Perry’s strengths and weaknesses.

 

Union thug Trumka is not happy, Jan….


Just saw this piece, via Instapundit which indicates that the union AFL-CIO is not happy and that there will be less enthusiasm than in 2008.  However the report itself requires some interpretation to read between the lines, because what they want is even more radical.

“It will be more challenging this time than it was last time to motivate our members,” Trumka, 61, said in an interview today at Bloomberg’s offices in Washington.

Trumka, head of the largest U.S. labor organization, said union members are frustrated by “wasted energy” in Washington on issues that he said don’t help workers: “hysteria” about the federal deficit, a White House review of regulations and Obama’s support for free-trade agreements.

Labor leaders said in recent weeks that they would withhold financial support in next year’s election from candidates who haven’t sided with unions consistently, a move that may hurt Democrats who have relied on labor backing. The International Association of Fire Fighters has vowed to withhold campaign money from federal races, throwing its money into state-level campaigns.

Obama a ‘Friend’

Asked if Obama is a friend or an acquaintance, Trumka said, “He’s a friend. There’s a lot of things we disagree with him on. There’s far more things that we agree with him on.”

Obama’s support for free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama has disappointed his union supporters, Trumka said.

“During the campaign, he made significant promises to do an inventory of the trade agreements” to be certain they protected worker rights, Trumka said. “He’s obviously forgotten that promise.”

The results announced last week from Obama’s review of regulations throughout the government that burden business produced little of substance, Trumka said.

Faulting politicians of both parties for pursuing “the corporate agenda,” Trumka said more government spending to create jobs would revive the economy and lead to a reduction in the deficit.

Of course, as you can see from these snippets, Trumka is talking with a forked tongue. He threatens candidates, as yet unnamed that they will not get campaign finance, but since Østupid is considered “a friend” that means that the Østupid campaign coffers will once again be filled with union donations (and probably large sums of money).

Trumka is one man who does not have a clue. He seems to think that the USA or any government can run on a crippling deficit. He does not seem to comprehend that this large deficit is detrimental to his own union members – the money that is being used by the Govt is not being used by the private sector, and it is the private sector that provides most jobs. In the long term, even with public sector jobs such as the firemen, police etc. if the private sector is not getting the work, then ultimately the funding for the public sector (their jobs) will dry up. People like Trumka never manage to “get it”. On the other hand they do know how to use stupid rhetoric and how to threaten people.

Rick Perry – Presidential candidate?


I have heard of Governor Perry but know very little about some of his positions. Here is an opportunity to chime in on what you know about him as Governor. In particular it would be helpful to mention his stance on border security, since that will become even more urgent now that Østupid has given that ridiculous speech.

In the meantime, I found this article, and again, I would like to hear your opinions on the issues raised. Would Rick Perry make the kind of candidate that could defeat the worst POTUS ever?

The real new threat – and Østupid cannot stop them


There is an article at American Thinker that concerns the elephant in the room regarding Pakistan. This article deals with what I would call a lesson in political geography. The geography is important because of the nature of the regional players, and NO, I am not talking about Iran. The real threat is China.

Something that has concerned me over the past week has been the willingness of Pakistan to give to China the remains of the stealth helicopter. Have you ever asked why?

Also, China, along with Russia has been condemning the NATO action in Libya, when in fact NATO is enforcing the no-fly zone and is destroying the armanents of Daffy Duck in order to prevent him from killing those opposed to him (most of the Libyans). I would not be surprised to learn that somehow China has supplied extra arms, such as those landmines in the past few weeks.

The opposition of China and Russia to the action in Libya seems to be somehow related to their own relationship with Gadhafi. They are also opposed because they would not hesitate to crush their own people in the same way.

However, China suddenly has aspirations to be a major world power again. This seems to be something that has become obvious since the 2008 Presidential election. China obviously sees that right now it can bring down an enemy both in the financial sense as well as in the military sense. This is because Marxists are in charge of the White House at the present time.

It will be a good thing to keep a very steady eye on the activities of China. They are active with Iran (though the aspirations are different), Russia, North Korea, and they are making overtures to Afghanistan and Pakisan. Muslims seem to like Marxism but Marxism is incompatible to Shariah. However, Karazai is absolutely P’d off with Østupid and the relationship with Pakistan is fractured (which has not much to do with the killing of OBL but has to do with the drone attacks).  Pakistan has another very strong enemy in India, and India is also an economic enemy to China. Then there is the nuclear arsenal owned by Pakistan to consider.

The neophytes in the White House do not have a clue on how to go about things. They totally botched up their statements over the death of OBL. It will be this that will allow China to gain another foothold in its thirst for world domination. Never believe that China ever stopped those particular aims. It is not true.

More on the real travel risks


As outlined in another post, I believe that there are real and tangible risks involved with train travel. I based my comments on the observations that I made when travelling in upstate New York, and then from Vancouver to Los Angeles. The way that I saw the problem is that there is little in the way of security in those smaller rail stations. I should add here that it was only at Vancouver in Canada where there were any serious checks of our luggage.  However, I think it would be difficult to execute a large rail disaster as proposed by material that was gathered up in the raid on the compound at Abbottabad, and the reason that I think that this is the case is due to the fact that there are very few longer trips per day. Take for example the trip from Seattle to Los Angeles. It is a two day trip that departs at around 10.00 am. and it arrives in Los Angeles late in the evening. The delays we experienced were due to the track buckling in the heat (record temperatures in 2009) and because freight trains receive precedence.  It would be very difficult to predict exactly when the passenger train would reach a certain spot because of the unpredictable timing of freight trains.

That being said, the greater danger is on the metropolitan trains, and this is the point taken up by Doug Powers on the Michelle Malkin site. 

A senator on Sunday called for a “no-ride list” for Amtrak trains after intelligence gleaned from the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound pointed to potential attacks on the nation’s train system.

Sen. Charles Schumer said he would push as well for added funding for rail security and commuter and passenger train track inspections and more monitoring of stations nationwide.

“Circumstances demand we make adjustments by increasing funding to enhance rail safety and monitoring on commuter rail transit and screening who gets on Amtrak passenger trains, so that we can provide a greater level of security to the public,” the New York Democrat said at a news conference.

U.S. officials last week said evidence found after the raid on bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan indicated the al Qaeda leader or his associates had engaged in discussions or planning for a possible attack on a train inside the United States on September 11, 2011

Jihadi rail attacks have been a threat for more than a decade here and around the world, dating back to the 1997 NYC subway bombing plot and reaching all corners of Western civilization from Russia to Spain to London.

As I noted back in 2005, KSM’s interrogations yielded details of some of these ongoing bloody schemes. In March 2004, from Terror on the Trains and Al Qaeda’s Chechen Connection, Josh Lefkowitz and Lorenzo Vidino of the Investigative Project reported:

In the United States, the rail network has also been repeatedly targeted. On July 31, 1997, the NYPD launched a pre-dawn raid on an apartment in Brooklyn, New York, after receiving information that two men living in the apartment planned to bomb the New York City subway system. During the raid, police discovered nail-studded pipe bombs, one of which, in the words of a senior law enforcement official, was “all set and ready to go.” NYPD Commissioner Howard Safir remarked, “these individuals intended to take these bombs onto subway trains, set them off, and the probability is that they and many others would have been killed.”

The vulnerability of the New York City subway system again came into focus in September 2003, when Time magazine reported that Saudi Arabia had detained a terrorist with extensive knowledge of a plot to launch a poison gas attack on the subways. In April 2003, news broke that another captured terrorist, Al-Qaeda operations head Khalid Sheik Mohammed, had informed interrogators of an Al-Qaeda plan to target Washington D.C.’s metro.

The warnings from Mohammed and the detainee in Saudi Arabia roughly corroborated an October 2002 FBI statement that “information from debriefings of Al-Qaeda detainees as of mid-October indicates that the group has considered directly targeting U.S. passenger trains, possibly using operatives who have a Western appearance.” The statement also noted, “recently captured Al-Qaeda photographs of U.S. railroad engines, cars and crossings heighten the intelligence community’s concern of this threat.”

The information gleaned from the detainees, coupled with the foiled 1997 Brooklyn bombing plot, make clear the peril posed to the U.S. rail system. When this bleak picture is merged with the international threat assessment, it seems likely that the horrors of Madrid may be repeated in the not so distant future.

My 2009 reminder:

Terror suspect Najibullah Zazi has done us all a favor. But is it enough to rouse a nation in permanent snooze button-mode?

The arrest of Zazi, a Colorado-based Afghan airport shuttle driver whom counter-terrorism officials believe may have been plotting bomb attacks on New York City mass transit trains, raised alerts on rail lines across the country. A joint FBI-Department of Homeland Security assessment issued Monday warned law enforcement agencies about the use of improvised explosive devices against passenger trains overseas. Zazi was allegedly trained in manufacturing liquid explosives with hydrogen peroxide – the same material used in the London subway attacks in 2005. FBI/DHS analysts have recommended random sweeps and patrols at rail stations and terminals as deterrents.

Remember: The New York chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the New York Police Department a few years ago to try and stop random bag searches. The civil liberties absolutists are against random searches because they constitute “unreasonable” invasions of privacy. They’re against targeted searches because they amount to racial, religious, or ethnic “profiling.” And they’re against across-the-board searches because they lack “individualized suspicion.”

The ACLU homeland security strategy: Do Nothing.

Over at the Justice Department, Attorney General Eric Holder is committed to eliminating racial “disparities” in law enforcement. His anti-profiling allies at the ACLU and something called the “Rights Working Group” are working to end Bush administration counterterrorism initiatives “including FBI surveillance and questioning, special registration programs, border stops, immigration enforcement programs and the creation of ‘no fly lists.’” The ACLU and RWG have appealed to the United Nations to intervene through the “U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)” – which they say is empowered to require sovereign governments “to review national, state and local policies and amend or repeal laws deemed to be creating or perpetuating discrimination.”

Now, add anti-gun activism and stubborn union squabbling to the mix. As I reported two weeks ago, the Obama administration has quietly gutted the nation’s most highly-trained post-9/11 counterterrorism rail security team. According to multiple government sources who declined to be identified for fear of retribution, OSSSO’s East Coast and West Coast teams have not worked in a counterterrorism capacity since the summer. Their rifles were put under lock and key after Amtrak vice president for security strategy and special operations Bill Rooney and Amtrak Inspector General Fred Weiderhold, who played an instrumental role in creating OSSSO’s predecessor at Amtrak, the Counter-Terrorism Unit (CTU), were pushed out by Team Obama.

Amtrak confirmed to me last week that the elite members of the specialized Office of Security Strategy and Special Operations (OSSSO) no longer carry long-arm weapons, which played a vital role in the unit’s show-of-force patrols. Government sources blame anti-gun hostility inside Amtrak for the move. Amtrak also confirmed to me that West Coast members of the rail security unit – most of who come from Special Forces, counter-terrorism, and other military service — have been denied police credentials. According to OSSSO sources on both coasts, the rival Amtrak Police Department, in conjunction with the local police union in California, have stymied the process over labor issues (OSSSO members are non-union).

“Amtrak fully expects to have a resolution in the near future,” I was told by the rail agency’s press office last week. In the meantime, according to a high-ranking homeland security source, Amtrak’s unionized police chief has taken over and makes counter-terrorism deployment decisions based on pay squabbles. The rail agency is still dealing with grievances filed by Amtrak police officers over compensation during the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Says my rail security source: “The deciding factor is overtime, not security.”

Dickering while jihadis plot. Feel safer yet?

I have substantially copied a lot of the post over at MM because there is much to digest regarding rail safety, and regarding how Eric Holder has worked to water down the safeguards that had been in place.

I still think that the real threat is to metropolitan transport because this is where most people would be crammed into the trains. Also, I think that having security at the bigger stations will not help if jihadists are intent upon making mischief with Amtrak. This is because of the low security at a myriad of small rail stations on the network. As I stated, Seattle is a good example of a station where there could be a disaster (and that is excluding the checking in counter!!! Ouch my bruised leg and knees and arms). Another station is Albany, it would not allow the jihadist entry to the train but the number of people congregating in the station could become a target. However, those smaller stations in upstate New York are extremely vulnerable.

Accusations and backtracking, left, right and centre


What a confusing week!! My week started on Monday when I saw a news report that was the result of a tweet from the aide to Donald Rumsfeld. Oi Vey!!  The tweet pre-empted the announcement that was to come from the White House that Osama Bin Laden had been killed during a raid on a house in Abbottabad, Pakistan. There are some people who just cannot accept that OBL had been alive and hiding in Pakistan, however, I see no reason to contradict the information because there is a lot of information out there that corroborates everything.

First, there is the story of how the raid went down. There has been backtracking galore on the details. You can blame that on a strategy plan that came about from a meeting the pResident had prior to his announcement. No doubt in my mind that they fudged the details in that meeting. We were told that one of the wives had been used as a human shield, but that was not true. The truth is that the woman thrust herself towards one of the SEALS and she was shot in the leg. A woman did die, but she was the wife of the courier who was the first to be shot. Then we were told that there had been “resistance”, and here we have more conflicting stories because the guns that were in the bedroom of OBL had been removed by the SEALS (or at least that is the latest story). I put no value in the story of the 12 year old, so for the moment I will discount that testimony. 

Second, there are accusations and counter-accusations from all manner of sources. There is indeed a need to question the role of the ISI and of the Pakistani government. Who was shielding Osama Bin Laden? Who put out the original stories several years ago that he was dead? I have no doubt in my mind that those stories were circulated deliberately by those who were shielding OBL whilst he continued to live in the compound in Abbottabad. However, in my mind those stories never rang true, and that includes the claim that he variously had kidney disease, lung disease or liver disease. There is absolutely no proof with regards to those assertions. As for those who claim he is an old man, I say thank you very much, but at 57 I am not an old woman, and OBL was 3 years younger than myself!!!!! In other words, he was not an old man, so those who claim such are simply trying to justify their own stances on a variety of issues.  It would be interesting to know how it was that a whole group of people in the intelligence community came to believe in the lie that OBL was dead back in about 2003. 

Third, there have been accusations regarding who nearly gave the game away – the tilt was at the Australian Foreign Minister who let the cat out of the bag that a top Indonesian operative and most wanted person associated with AQ had been captured in Pakistan. This was great theatre and more mud slinging. However, I doubt that Kevin Rudd did compromise anything because someone in the intelligence community in Pakistan had tipped off the media about that particular prize catch.  Regardless, this was a prize catch that helped affirm that OBL was in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Fourth, there are questions being asked about who in Pakistan was shielding OBL. Well I have a theory, and I think it goes right to the top, not to the current President, but to General Musharraf, the former President of Pakistan. Here is why I think that he was involved  and it is a report in the UK Guardian:

In Afghanistan, a former intelligence chief told the Guardian that four years ago Pakistan ignored a tip-off that Bin Laden was hiding near Abbottabad. Amrullah Saleh, former head of the National Directorate of Security, which has a long-standing rivalry with the ISI, said that he had believed in 2007 that Bin Laden was hiding in Mansehra,very near Abbottabad, in one of two al-Qaida safe houses. When he put this to Pakistan’s then president, Gen Pervez Musharraf, he grew furious and smashed his fist on the table, said Saleh. “Am I the president of the Republic of Banana?” said Musharraf, Saleh recalled, leading an alarmed President Hamid Karzai, also at the meeting, to intervene.

Saleh, a fierce critic of Pakistan who has now entered Afghan politics, said he had no doubts that Mullah Omar, leader of the Afghan Taliban, is hiding in an ISI safe house in Karachi: “He is protected by ISI. General Pasha [Lieutenant-General Shuja Pasha, the ISI director general] knows, as I am talking to you, where Omar is, and he keeps daily briefs from his officers on the location of senior Taliban leaders.”

The direct accusation being made by Saleh is that the ISI is providing safe houses for these wanted individuals, including Mullah Omar. Since Saleh had it wrong about the location of OBL, I will suggest that the person who is located at Manshera is probably al-Zawahri. This is a hunch, because I feel certain that he, like OBL is hiding out somewhere in Pakistan and he is not living in a cave in the Tora Boras. It also begs the question: who tipped off OBL and companions that the allied forces were about to hit the Tora Boras? Somebody in the ISI, rather than the military likely tipped him off. It also begs the question about Musharref and whether he had ever been serious about catching these AQ operatives.

Fifth, there is a barrage of accusations against both the Pakistan government and the Pakistan military. The military is trying to let it slip that they did in fact know about the operation. However, this has not stopped the population in general criticizing the military over letting US forces carry out this raid. On the other hand, there is a good reason to question why the US is spending billions of dollars of aid on Pakistan.  Should aid be cut off, or at least cut back? 

Likewise, I question whether or not there had been any serious attempt to bring the Islamists under control. Pakistan is a nation where the Islamists have been on the rise. For this reason alone there is a lot of sympathy for the Taliban, as well as for AQ and for OBL in particular. The outpouring is bound to get worse, depending upon the radical imams and their Friday sermons. If the imams give a fiery sermon then you can expect a lot of the same that we have seen when Pakistanis get angry… expect the flag burning, the church burning and effigy burning in the near future.

The handling of the news about this operation has been totally botched.