Sunday, October 31, 2010

Needs another look

Here's the official statement from the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority on the crash of a UPS plane near Dubai on 3 September.  The investigation was heading towards the conclusion that there is --

focus of an international effort to gain a comprehensive understanding of the risks associated with specific hazardous cargo which under certain conditions could ignite and the resulting fire could self propagate. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the USA are working currently on a draft provision highlighting the risks associated with the carriage of lithium (or lithium derivative) batteries.

It doesn't take much dot-connecting to see a link between computer components being suspected in this crash and the new scare from packages sent from Yemen.  Incidentally, a Lufthansa cargo plane was involved in an unexplained crash in Riyadh over the summer, but as it originated in Frankfurt, it is less clear how a dodgy package would have gotten on board.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The curse of Cheney

In the picture, President Saleh of Yemen meets former Vice President Dick Cheney to sort out this whole business of Yemen as a potential source of al-Qaeda terrorism -- in 2002. 

A senior American official said Mr. Cheney had used his meeting with Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh primarily to discuss assistance to prevent Yemen from becoming a haven for terrorists. Along with other issues, President Saleh registered his opposition to a potential American attack on Iraq and his concerns about Middle East violence.

The Pentagon is planning to dispatch American Special Forces to train Yemen's military in counterterrorism operations. An adviser to President Saleh said today that the advisers from the United States would consist of three teams, each of which would have 20 to 30 members and would stay about a month.

 Given the scale of the potential threat, 90 US military seems a tad small a mission.  Could it be that the US military was distracted by some other target at that point in time?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The exploitation of the banks

Stanley Kurtz, author of Radical-in-Chief, proposes raises the possibility during an interview with Hugh Hewitt that the crash of the financial system was a result of a malign plot by an intrepid band of low-income urban socialists --

[Hewitt] Now let me dive into something. You do have a very provocative theory here embedded. It’s almost a story within the story. It’s the story of ACORN. And it is a question, not a statement, that you lay, whether or not ACORN knew what they were doing when they brought about, through years of effort, the subprime crisis and the panic of 2008. Explain to people, it’s just, I had never considered it before, Stanley. It’s very well done.

[Kurtz]: Well, I appreciate that, Hugh. You know, ACORN, it has been speculated by some people that ACORN was following a kind of Cloward-Piven strategy. This is the famous strategy created by Francis Fox Piven and Richard Cloward back in the 60s when they tried to flood the welfare system with so many applicants that it would break down. And their notion was that the federal government would then come in with a guaranteed annual income. And some people have suggested that ACORN had a conscious plan like this to provoke the financial crisis. I don’t think it was that concrete. I think that’s going too far. But in a broader sense, I do think that the Cloward-Piven style strategy had been regularized, so to speak, amongst community organizers. And they came to think that any kind of excessive financial demands on the system, even without a very specific plan, would at some point inevitably provoke financial difficulties and crises which could be exploited for socialist ends. And this was, as I show in detail, this was common currency among community organizers.

The revolution may not go better with Coke, but it's helped by a mortgage application form.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It hasn't stopped the consulting firms

From announcement that Abu Dhabi solar power plant is being affected by dust --

“Dust in the atmosphere absorbed a substantial part of the direct irradiation,” Wouters said at a conference in Barcelona. “There’s a huge difference between PowerPoint and real life.”

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chicken and egg

University of Chicago economist John Cochrane in today's Wall Street Journal --

So Mr. Geithner knows that trade surpluses in the end come down to saving and investment. And he knows that in the U.S. people are trying to save right now. Our government is undoing their efforts with massive fiscal deficits.

John Cochrane, during the 2009 stage of a long-running dispute with Paul Krugman --

In economics, stimulus spending ran aground on Robert Barro’s Ricardian equivalence theorem. This theorem says that debt-financed spending can’t have any more effect than spending financed by raising taxes. People, seeing the higher future taxes that must pay off the debt, will simply save more. They will buy the new government debt and leave all spending decisions unaltered.

So in the first case above, households are trying to save but the pesky government is undoing their efforts by spending. In the second, the households are saving because the pesky government is spending.

You untie that knot, and you understand a lot about why economists disagree about how to get the global economy out of the mess it's in. Incidentally, Ireland looks an extreme case of the second scenario, where people are saving in an effort to undo the wealth destruction -- not stimulus spending -- caused by the government.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Does Saudi Arabia now recognize a Palestinian state?

Official news agency item --

President Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine, the Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, will arrive here tomorrow in a visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the talks with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

As far as The Google can determine, that particular usage has never been employed before.  He has always been something like "Palestinian President," without any direct reference to a named state.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I'm angry, gimme gimme gimme

One block from the White House in Washington DC, a large pick-up truck with standard angry tough guy bumper sticker: I'll keep my freedom, my guns, and my money, You keep the change.
That's the same truck from the front, implausibly displaying a disabled parking permit to get free parking in the nation's capital. As the bumper sticker says, he doesn't have any change.

Monday, October 18, 2010

It depends what the meaning of tradition is

Wall Street Journal news article on the Merkel speech --

Ms. Merkel's party has railed against multiculturalism for years, arguing for the primacy of German Leitkultur, a term that evokes the country's Judeo-Christian traditions, as well as the principles of the age of the enlightenment.

When the case is being made for why the term "Judeo-Christian" is bogus, this usage should be in the file. Unless the definition is intended to include Christian treatment of the Jews.

But anyway. About this "Leitkultur" business. The dude who invented the term, Bassam Tibi, is an Arab Muslim, and there's not much evidence he intended it to mean Judeo-Christian. Over time it has expanded to mean a core "European" culture and thus most likely non-Islamic, but that's still a big step to get to the way the term is deployed in this article. Incidentally, at least as of 2006, Mr Tibi thought that it was the USA that had this stuff figured out --

SPIEGEL: But what is astounding is that you see yourself also as an example of failed integration. You have been working for 30 years at a German university, you have written 26 books in German and have been awarded the Federal Cross of Merit. Why, out of anyone, are you not integrated?

Tibi: It's more to do with a feeling of belonging. In Germany it is not a contradiction to say, Mr. Tibi is Syrian and has a German passport. In France however it is. And in America it would be a reason to take someone to court, as you are excluding them from American society. Even after 40 years here, I'm still not German. I also believe that I have not progressed higher as a professor here because I am a foreigner. When I retire I will be leaving Germany and going to Cornell university.

Worth an update for a pretty ugly 2010 in America.

UPDATE 29 OCTOBER: An op-ed in today's New York Times by Jürgen Habermas,  a participant in the multiculturalism debate --

It doesn’t make things any better that today leitkultur is defined not by “German culture” but by religion. With an arrogant appropriation of Judaism — and an incredible disregard for the fate the Jews suffered in Germany — the apologists of the leitkultur now appeal to the “Judeo-Christian tradition,” which distinguishes “us” from the foreigners.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Polish plumber, meet Irish airline employee

One wouldn't have thought that now is a good time for Ireland to be further testing the patience of its continental neighbours. But here we go with news from France that what had looked like an isolated case of Ryanair having its employees in Marseille on lax Irish employment contracts on the basis that they are attached to Irish planes turns out to be broader.  In particular, Cityjet, which is based in Dublin but owned by Air France, is now alleged not only to have had the same arrangement but to have farmed the Irish contract workers out to its Air France parent, which is even harder to reconcile with their notional attachment to an Irish plane.  It's not great if the national business model has become opting into the Eurozone at the expense of opting out of everything else. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Nitpick Friday

National Review's Daniel Foster on the Wilders verdict --

Good news not just for the Dutch Republic, but for republicanism.

The Netherlands is not a republic.  It's a monarchy.  Above, Queen Beatrix at the swearing-in of the new government.  The overly flowery historyfied language is not needed.

UPDATE: Hilarity ensues as Foster scrambles to get the republic references out of the sentence --

Good news, not just for what was once the Dutch Republic, but for liberty everywhere.

AP Photo/Peter Dejong

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Chilean mine rescue proves that I'm right about everything

Wall Street Journal's Daniel Henninger --

When a catastrophe like this occurs—others that come to mind are the BP well blowout, Hurricane Katrina, various disasters in China—a government has all its chips pushed to the center of the table. Chile succeeds (it rebuilt after the February earthquake with phenomenal speed). China flounders. Two American administrations left the public agog as they stumbled through the mess. 

Apparently drilling down to a specific spot to save 33 people is the same as ameliorating the consequences of a flood or oil spill affecting thousands of square miles of ocean and land and millions of people.  Good to know.

Also, Chile has just decided to raise taxes on mining companies to pay for that earthquake rebuilding that Henninger says is already done.  This honeymoon might not last long.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Same as it ever was

As Europe gets 2 quick reminders that the problem of violent ultranationalism in Serbia hasn't gone away, one particular hooligan helpfully holds up a sign in Italian at last night's abandoned qualifier against Italy. It appears to read "Kosovo and is the heart of Serbia."*

Photo: BBC montage.

Thanks to reader PM for clarifying the translation

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Still the world's richest banana republic

One day's news selection in Ireland --

Item 1Justice Minister Dermot Ahern has confirmed to the Dáil that a garda file on an alleged criminal gang, which was being prepared for presentation to the Director of Public Prosecutions, was brought to a photocopying shop for printing.  Dermot Ahern said the file was left unattended for a period of time, during which time a member of staff at the shop communicated with a third party without the consent of An Garda Síochána.

Item 2The Department of Health and the Health Service Executive have said they cannot complete investigations into controversial spending on foreign travel associated with the SKILL training fund, because the relevant documentation is with SIPTU [trade union] ...However, the union said it had nothing to do with the account and believes it has no liability in respect of money under investigation

Item 3Tánaiste Mary Coughlan has said the Department of Enterprise has not yet decided whether or not the so-called 'leave and return' scheme introduced at Aer Lingus two years ago qualifies as redundancy. ... Under the 'leave and return' scheme, 715 staff who left the airline with generous redundancy packages were re-employed within weeks on lower terms and conditions.   Both Aer Lingus and SIPTU [ed note: same union as above] have insisted the redundancies were genuine. The unprecedented redundancy deal had huge implications for the taxpayer   If it qualified as a genuine redundancy, the airline was entitled to a State rebate for part of its redundancy costs, which was potentially worth millions.   Staff would also get favourable tax treatment of the package called 'top slicing'.

Item 4Former European Commission [and Irish finance minister] Charlie McCreevy has resigned from the board of London-based NBNK Investments.  Earlier this week, a spokesman for the European Commission confirmed that the Commission's ethical committee was examining Mr McCreevy's appointment as a director of the company.

Item 5Meanwhile, Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern has told the Dáil that the investigation into Anglo Irish Bank will be the most complex in the history of the State. Mr Ahern said the DPP has retained two senior counsel and one junior counsel to advise the investigators. 27 gardaí and 16 officers of the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement are involved.

And that's just one day.

Our original banana republic post.

Photo: Andrei Niemimäki, Turku, Finland.

Attention Liverpool fans

Only months after the Texas Rangers baseball team got free -- in a bankruptcy sale -- of former owner Tom Hicks -- they manage a surprise victory in a playoff game against Tampa. Hicks -- whose Rangers ownership group once included George W. Bush -- went for quick results fueled by debt, with the consequences only becoming apparent through lapse of time and with others left to clean up the mess. George W. Bush would implement the same strategy on the entire country.

But there is life after the debt-dependent Texans, even for Texas. You'll never walk alone.

Photo: REUTERS/Scott Audette

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Sugar Party

This is a TV ad from Americans against food taxes -- a standard astroturf name for an industry lobbying group. The issue in this case is recurring proposals at various levels of government in the USA for taxes on empty calorie and fatty foods to deter some consumption and capture some of the societal costs the foods impose, particularly on child health. Watch here as the delivery of food industry talking points morphs into Sarah Connor like anger.

For economists, there's a particularly amusing line in a radio variant of the ad (which is not online yet) ..

They're trying to use taxes to control what we eat and drink ... where will it end? The government is getting way too involved in our personal lives.

Taxation being more intrusive than regulation, licenses, or outright bans?  Then again, this is a country where the original independence trigger was not rule by a foreign monarch per se, but one who wanted to impose taxes.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Dutch

What deal does Nigel de Jong have with referees to ignore his brutal tackles? Hatem Ben Arfa of Newcastle joins the victim list.