Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What's the name of that website again?

Saudi Press Agency release --

In response to enquiries about the position towards the contents of the documents published by Weeklex website, an official source of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said 'These documents do not concern the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, nor does the Kingdom has any role in drafting them, nor is it aware of their correctness and authenticity. Therefore, Saudi Arabia cannot comment on them'.

'However, the Kingdom's policies and positions have always been clear and well known', the source added.

Oh yeah, Wikileaks

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I for one welcome our new Swedish overlords

Snippet from the EU finance ministers statement on the Ireland crisis loan --

supplemented by bilateral loans to be negotiated by EU Member  States. The United Kingdom and Sweden have already indicated today that they stand ready to consider a bilateral loan.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Blame the people with funny accents

Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan in interview on RTE this morning (around 9 minute mark) --

Our European Partners (all the eurozone countries) ... agree that every technical step taken by the government to date, not just in relation to guarantees incidentally but also in relation to capitalization and also in relation to what they call asset segregation, which is NAMA, they agree with all of those steps and they say that they are the correct measures and welcome the measures taken to date by Ireland.

Hopefully someone has shown the other finance ministers what they agreed to, which includes pumping money into insolvent banks, overpaying for bad property assets, overpaying for bank shares and in general writing a blank cheque to a collapsing sector of the economy.  But if so many Europeans agree with the policy, how bad can it be?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Too close for comfort

Questions in the UK House of Commons today reveal interesting tensions near the surface on the costs and benefits to the UK of participating in any lending package for the Republic of Ireland.  First, question to the Economic Secretary to the Treasury --

David Simpson (Upper Bann) (DUP): Can the Minister confirm that the international counterparts discussed the subject of the Republic of Ireland, its deficit and the possible EU bail-out for it? Will that cost the United Kingdom money?

Justine Greening: At this stage, we cannot speculate about other countries’ finances. Obviously, the Irish are taking very difficult decisions and actions to try to get the situation under control. I do not think that we should pre-empt actions that Ireland or any other country takes and the impact that such actions may ultimately have on the UK taxpayer.

And then from John "Vulcan" Redwood to the Chancellor --

Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Given that the Irish Government have said that they neither want nor need a bail-out, will the Chancellor support them at ECOFIN and put off those people in the EU who seem to want to make a crisis out of a problem?

Mr Osborne: There is an enormous amount of speculation about Ireland at the moment to which I do not propose to add. The Irish Government have said clearly that they have not sought assistance and that they are taking difficult steps to deal with their fiscal situation. They will make further announcements about their Budget situation in the next few weeks. I make the general observation that what is going on at the moment highlights the fact that concerns about sovereign debt issues have not disappeared and we should be grateful that, thanks to the actions of this Government, we have moved Britain out of the financial danger zone.

Thus there will be influential factions hostile to an EU lending package on the grounds of one or more of the following: it looks bad for a country that used to be the trailblazer for austerity, it will be yet another European project to rein in a low tax country, and -- for the Northern Irish Unionists -- it could be interpreted as assistance to their cantankerous neighbour.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Don't go against the family

Does anyone know why there's a picture of, er, a "fairy godfather", if you will, behind the photo-op for the meeting of the European Commission's economics supremo Ollie Rehn with Irish opposition leaders?

Photo: Bryan O'Brien, Irish Times.

Small world

The Wall Street Journal editorial page exults at the breadth of consensus against the US Federal Reserve's lax monetary policy --

It would be hard to find two more unlikely intellectual comrades than Robert Zoellick, the World Bank technocrat, and Sarah Palin, the populist conservative politician. But in separate interventions yesterday, the pair roiled the global monetary debate in complementary and timely fashion.

In September 2009, Sarah Palin decided to roll out her new improved foreign policy credentials with a high-profile speech to an investment conference in Hong Kong. Here's a paragraph --

Just four years ago, then-Deputy Secretary of State Bob Zoellick urged China to become a “responsible stakeholder” in the international system. He observed the many benefits to China of a “benign international environment.”

The peaceful regional environment that China has enjoyed was created through the hard work of Americans, Japanese, South Koreans and Australians. Secretary Zoellick urged China to step up and play its role too. We are working with China to de-nuclearize North Korea. But to be a responsible member of the international community China should exert greater pressure on North Korea to denuclearize and undergo the fundamental reforms it needs. Zoellick urged China to play a greater role in stabilizing the international energy market by ceasing its support of dangerous regimes.

She goes to Hong Kong to give 3 name-checks to a former Deputy US Secretary of State? And there are 2 more mentions later.

In a case like this, the simple explanation is usually the right one. In this case, the conclusion is that someone who worked for Zoellick when the original speech was written is now writing her economics material, and the common philosophy is coming through.  Incidentally, the Hong Kong speechwriter seemed to be trying to out himself with other signals in the same address.

A more amusing strand would be if the Wall Street Journal knows who the common factor is, but is choosing to hide it for the sake of an eye-catching opening sentence.

UPDATE: The dance continues.  Palin approvingly quotes Zoellick, even though he's now backing away from what people said he said.  

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Back in the saddle

Still on the Wall Street Journal editorial page, now at the interviews with new Republican Senators, here's the one with veteran political insider Roy Blount who rebranded himself as an outsider from Missouri --

With our half-hour up, Mr. Blunt stands in mid-question, claps me on the back without offering a hand in farewell, and says, "See ya."

And remember, that's with a writer from a newspaper that will support him.  Not much time for the hacks when there's a lobbyist meter running somewhere. 

Original Sin

The Wall Street Journal editorial page is upset. 

Specifically, Connecticut voters deserve a more thorough accounting of the votes in Bridgeport, and of the bizarre behavior of Susan Bysiewicz, the secretary of state. 

It's the race for Connecticut governor, which now features weird stuff about ballot papers and a Secretary of State in a rush to certify one party's candidate as the winner.

Which is a replay of Florida 2000, an outcome that the Wall Street Journal had no problem with.

The only question is which is more bizarre: that the Wall Street Journal editorial page doesn't have the self-awareness to see its Bush v Gore position in the context of current elections, or that 10 years later, states seem to have difficulty running transparent elections.  In the greatest country in the world.

Thursday, November 04, 2010