Thursday, March 29, 2012

Just in case you thought a BRICS world was going to be better

Soft-pedaling on Bashar al-Assad is just one aspect of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa concurrence. Here's a little revelation from a convoluted lawsuit concerning South Africa's MTN phone company and the lengths to which they went to get a mobile phone concession in Iran --

MTN prevailed upon the South African government to abstain from three votes on Iran’s nuclear energy program at the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna in 2005 and 2006, according to the complaint. The Iranian communications ministry allegedly told MTN it was withholding its license until it saw how South Africa voted at an upcoming IAEA meeting.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Is this all they've got?

The Wall Street Journal editorial page -- demonstrating again the gulf with the FT page -- gives conservative novelist Mark Helprin space to run through a version of Mitt Romney's critique of Barack Obama: that Obama wants to make the USA like Europe. They must think it has some mileage, but Helprin is forced into some bizarre assertions and attempts at "humour" to make it work. It's all so painful that we can only handle two excerpts:

As a museum of culture, it has few competitors. Europeans make better movies; their cuisine is better (except in Eastern Europe, Central Europe, Scandinavia, England, Ireland, the Low Countries, Germany and Switzerland); and they do a better job of suppressing modern architecture, for which they are to be commended.

Note: through this phrasing, he appears to be claiming that Scottish and Welsh cuisine is excellent, while Belgian cuisine is terrible. Also, regarding the architecture remark, has he left the historical core of any of the European cities that he's visited?

No European air force except Russia's is superior to Saudi Arabia's.

So if it comes to a mano-a-mano duel in the skies between France and Saudi Arabia, he's taking Saudi Arabia? Good luck with that.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Other priorities

Dick Cheney has gotten a heart transplant.

10 days ago it was reported that Cheney had cancelled a speaking engagement in Toronto, citing the "risk of violent protest." Ticket holders were offered a refund or Mark Steyn.

Anyway, the fact that he got a heart transplant means that he was on the waiting list to get one. Being on the waiting list means that you could get a phone call at any time, and within a small number of hours, you have to be where the organ is. And yet he was proposing to travel to Canada in April.

Even in his seriously ill state, did he or those around him (i.e. his daughter Liz) decide to spin a medical cancellation of his Canada trip into some victimology? Do the lies ever stop?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

We strongly condemn this event or product

EU statement --

Joint statement by President Barroso and the President of the European Council Herman van Rompuy following the tragedy in Toulouse

"We strongly condemn recent violent attacks against a number of religious communities in Europe and outside Europe. Any form of persecution and violent acts against religious communities have no place in Europe and, indeed, in the World!

Europe has fought a long and painful battle to achieve freedom of thought, freedom of religion and belief and the respect for the individual. These human and fundamental rights form part of the Charter on fundamental rights which is at the heart of our European values; the EU will continue to foster these rights."

You'd think that a bureaucracy so focused on elite recruitment would get better quality press-releases. Perhaps reacting to the mess that Catherine Ashton found herself in (when, in her defence, she departed from prepared remarks to explicitly condemn the Toulouse murders), this new statement from the EU heads is a condemnation of ... everything. And therefore of nothing. It only mentions Toulouse in the title (which did not appear in the original version), and the statement is self-titled as "following" Toulouse as opposed to reacting to it.

Since the end result is just a generic denunciation of bad staff, why bother issuing any statement at all?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Even the bankrupt rich have more money

The New York Times Sunday Magazine has a nice article about the Centria apartment building in midtown Manhattan as a parable for the Irish property boom. You go in thinking that it's going to be about the parade of suckers who paid too much for prestige real estate  (the "we flew the Tricolour over the Savoy!" mentality), but in fact it's about the resilience of the New York City property market. Although the Irish who bought into this building probably spent more than they should have, the apartments have held their value, are generating income, and there's a ready market in the latest wave of foreign buyers for those who need to sell. And those who need to sell are in trouble due to their balance sheets back home in Ireland, not because of their Manhattan apartments.

But of course the typical Irish boom-era overseas buyer (those apocryphal taxi drivers with 6 or 7 properties mentioned in the article) weren't buying in midtown. They were buying off-plan in Spain, Bulgaria or Dubai and now are saddled with places in busted property markets and, for the latter two, unfamiliar and even capricious legal systems. The people who could afford to buy in New York and London may have lost their shirts. They're still a lot better off than the average buyer.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Banksters owe royalties

Apologies for the light blogging recently but among other useless activities, we've been trying to find an uploadable version of the Merrill Lynch Wealth Management TV commercial that seems to air in the mornings on Bloomberg Television and which borrows shamelessly from this video (Rogue Wave: Lake Michigan) or at least must have done so at the pitch meeting for the ad. Anyway, even if you've never seen the ad, enjoy the song.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The beast has evolved

Impressive stuff. The Wall Street Journal editorial page dumps the 2012 presidential election campaign prospects and the Starve the Beast theory in one go, the latter being the idea that it's OK for Republican presidents to run up massive deficit-financed tax cuts (even at the expense of claiming that tax cuts will be self-financing) because the debt explosion will force future Democratic presidents to cut government spending. No longer, it seems. Now the debt is so large that precisely when a Republican president could implement the most miraculous growth-enhancing policies, the Fed would have to raise interest rates to stem inflation and the debt service burden would go through the roof:

If the economy gains steam—say, in a new Administration that reforms the tax code, cuts spending and reduces regulation—the Fed may have to raise rates to forestall inflation. But if it raises rates, interest payments on the debt will soar, the deficit may not fall from its Obama trillion-dollar levels, and pressure could build for a tax increase.

President Obama may not mind this outcome but Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum should, which is why they need to talk about this fiscal nitroglycerin that Mr. Obama and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke have created. The two Republicans might also take a moment to wonder how much they really want this job. The next Presidential term may be spent trying to defuse the Obama debt bomb.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Or at least make him pay for the space

The Wall Street Journal allows Karl Rove to use his weekly column to essentially argue that Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum need to leave the presidential field open for Mitt Romney.

For all practical purposes, Karl Rove works for the Romney campaign. As usual, the WSJ only mentions his past work for George W. Bush.