Tuesday, February 28, 2012

In the Realm of the Galactically Stupid

There is a old phrase when confronted with jaw-dropping dumbness - "dumber than a bag of doorknobs". Breaking my rule about not commenting on US politics chiseled in granite only a few days ago, there is the story of a bill introduced in the Montana Wyoming state house which - among other things - in preparation for apocalypse or something similar, calls for the establishment of an army, navy, marines, air force, coinage system etc., etc., etc. Oh. Yes - and an aircraft carrier. Some of this costs money. It is probably better if you don't have the smallest (and dropping) populations in the country. You really need to read the whole article, here.

And - take a look at the map - where's the water for a carrier?    

UPDATE:  I stand corrected - not Montana, Wyoming.  Apologies to Montana.
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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Santorum or is it Saint Ricky? .

I know I need to resist the need to comment on the Republican presidential wannabe POTUS candidates - but it's is sort of like those old ads for a certain potato chip...

Anyway, it is becoming increasingly clear that Ricky Santorum and his little band of christotaliban followers are really, really, stupid.  Well, wait. That's an insult to stupid people. Actually, he and they are batshit crazy.  Saint Ricky is the only candidate that makes Sarah look like a Mensa. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

There was a place called Europe...

The Eurozone problems are getting uglier by the day.  While German politicians have consistently missed – to use Sarkozy’s phrase – multiple opportunities to shut up, Greece is actively engaged in reminding everyone of German bullying tendencies by bringing up events that took place some 80 years ago.  The latest comment from German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble might not have been taken quite so badly in Greece if it originated from a country with a less  unfortunate (for the rest of Europe) aggressive history.  Even Italy, which has implemented the same system Mr. Schäuble has suggested, would have been a better source. At least the Greeks could ignore an idea from Rome.
The suggestion to postpone elections and install a technocrat government is a distinction without a difference from the previous floating balloon out of Berlin that Greece give up its rights to manage its economy to someone in Brussels.  The fact that Brussels was complicit in allowing Greece to play fast and loose with  its economy so long as times were good doesn't bode well for the idea - but that's another story.  
However, the venomous recent exchanges show that there is no “Europe” in Europe.  Citizens in Germany, France, Italy and the other 24 EU members simply do not think of themselves as European first.  Which is why Greece will eventually default and leave the Eurozone – paving the way for the slow motion economic and political unraveling of the EU unless a new approach is taken very, very soon.  In addition, the concept of installing unelected technocrats to run, at a minimum, the economic policies of a nation has been tried before and didn’t go too well by the time it ended in 1991. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Russia's Fleet Returns

The Kuznetsov is the flagship of the Russian navy.  Although looks should never determine substance, I have to say that she looks pretty pathetic. Plus, she's making too much smoke - a sign the engines are not very efficient. The photo shows a Royal Navy frigate (a type about to be retired, I am told) shadowing the carrier as it passes through the English Channel on the way home from Syria.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Time to Cut the Egyptian Cord

Supreme Council of the Armed Forces accusing 6...Image via Wikipedia
I have refrained from commenting on the US-Egyptian relationship breakdown which accelerated with the crackdown by Egypt on NGOs (only two were direct US NGOs) since, frankly, I thought it would blow-over. Too much money involved, you see. Plus, I have never been comfortable with either NDI or their Republican counterpart, IRI.  Although they  both provide open-door training for any existing or nascent  political organization, many governments resent what they consider interference with internal politics.  This is particularly true for governments that are not particularly interested in teaching people how to organize – like Russia and Ukraine.  Also, I happen to know that in some countries both NDI and IRI tend to provide more support to the more liberal organizations over the ones in power.  This is a result of the nature of the situation and not necessarily a deliberate policy, but it is rarely viewed like that by the ones in power. Nevertheless, they were not the only ones to be closed down and had their staffs arrested by the Egyptian police.  Anyone seen as voicing an opinion against SCAF or receiving grants from foreign countries was targeted.

It is time to end the charade.  First, we know that the Minister of International Cooperation, Fayza Aboul Naga, has been and remains aggressively opposed to foreign aid – particularly American foreign aid.  She is against any type of NGO that does not support her opinions and party line.  The positions taken by these sorts have always been to characterize groups seen as challenging the government as promoting the overthrow of the state. To paraphrase Henry Kissinger, a country doesn’t need to stay where it is not wanted.  If a beneficiary decides that the relationship is not important enough to maintain, it is not in the interests of the US (or anyone else, for that matter) to insist otherwise. 
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces which controls Egypt has no intention of fulfilling the hopes of those in Tahrir Square.  They are genetically wired to prevent the type of freedom and democracy that thousands rallied for last year.  As I have said in previous posts, the Egyptian chapter of the Arab Spring did not produce regime change. It removed one man from power and only when the military felt it was necessary.
In payment for the peace treaty with Israel, the US gives Egypt $1.3 billion in military assistance alone.  Take it away and use it elsewhere.  The choices are pretty extensive – including Tunisia, Morocco and a good deal of sub-Sahara.  More than 70% of the Egyptian people don’t want any American aid largely because of the strings attached, like keeping Camp David peace treaty intact. But they are not going to war with Israel again – largely because 1) the military can’t afford it and 2) the military knows it would lose.  The US should not even try to change the direction of a cratered relationship which is getting worse by the day.  The US needs to get its people out and speak against the policies of the government against their indigenous NGOs; but it need not spend billions in assistance to buy friendship, especially when that friendship is not reciprocated.
Egypt no longer holds a leadership position for Arabs and Muslims in the region. That has fallen to Qatar and Turkey – both of which have strong economies, don’t need foreign aid and have shown the type of leadership that can only be dreamt of in Cairo.
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Monday, February 6, 2012

Merkel to Campaign for Sarkozy?

English: Popularity polls of Nicolas Sarkozy s...Image via Wikipedia
Does anybody else think that this is going to end badly?  I am sure that the French will be celebrating in the streets that the Germans are giving them voting advice. 

The odds are that Sarkozy is going to lose despite the additional 500,000 Armenian diaspora votes he's secured by limiting freedom of speech (not to mention, thought).  Has Germany considered the consequential reaction of the winners?
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Friday, February 3, 2012

Grabbing Gibraltar - whether the residents like it or not....

A first edition of the Treaty of Utrecht, 1713...Image via Wikipedia
This is sort of funny.  Why do nations want territory (which they handed over by treaty 300 years ago) where none of the people living there want them?

Oh, and incidentally, Spain should not stop there.  

If the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) is such an unfair agreement, then Belgium would need to be returned to Spain as well. Spain should also be reminded that it has its own colony in Morocco.
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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

EU - The Great Unravelling

Not that it has escaped notice, but the EU and the Eurozone are unraveling at an alarming pace.  With the multiple “last opportunity” summits, electoral pronouncements by soon-to-be-unemployed Nicholas Sarkozy, and utter intransigence in Berlin, the EU is headed into another recession while simultaneously showing effectively to the world how incapable it is of taking any new direction in economic policy.  Most of the frozen dialogue is designed to save Germany – which would crash and burn should it adopt any sort of fiscal austerity it so easily demands of others in order to maintain its export driven economy which accounts for about 40% of its GDP.

Adding to the economic insanity promoted by Berlin, is an ECB which is focused like a laser on inflation.  News flash to Frankfurt – inflation is not even a looming threat on the horizon.  Unemployment (now having risen to 10.3% - 20% among youth) is and represents the TGV (in the US otherwise known as the 5 o’clock express) heading straight at everyone. Frankfurt, under the ever watchful eye of Berlin, is following policies established by Herbert Hoover and is the opposite of the actions taken by every other central bank in the world.  It’s not too fine a point, I guess, to note that France, tied as it is to whatever the current economic policy whim is at the ECB and the Euro, lost its credit rating of AAA while the UK – not in the best economic condition and not in the Eurozone – did not.  And no, S&P is not part of some Anglo-American conspiracy to attack the Euro as some German and EC representatives have claimed.
And just in case the technocrats in Brussels or the great deciders in Berlin and Paris think the EU or the Eurozone is a popular place to be these days, 70% of Czechs oppose joining the Euro; 49% in Lithuania (43% are pro-euro); and in Poland only 16%  support joining the Euro. Oh, and to cap the pyramid of euro-skeptics, almost 80% of Norwegians don’t want to join the EU.  Paris can stop worrying about 8% annual growth rate Turkey.
Now last week, with the unfortunate idea to abolish nations who don’t comply with their austerity requirements, Germany and the ECB may have alarmed Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain to the point of permanent alienation.  The fact that this idea arose in Germany was not ideal PR for some rather obvious 20th century reasons.
Germany is not going to let the ECB do what it must and abandon its expansionary-austerity program – one of the more stupid ideas of the hard line technocrats in Brussels. But it has now been hoisted on its own petard.  Historically, Berlin actually did not want other nations to indulge in fiscal prudence because they have an interest in promoting consumption and demand for their exports. The currency union allowed other countries to get credit at much lower rates so they would have more to spend. Germany encouraged this spending to absorb exports and cannot now have it both ways. 
The fanciful idea that somehow Greece deceived everyone is absurd.  If any deception existed, Germany deliberately ignored reality for its own benefit.  Whether the Eurozone begins to break up is an open question.  Certainly, Greece would be better off outside the Eurozone.  Germany cannot overplay its hand and the pre-Cambrian thinking of the Brussels-Frankfurt-Berlin axis needs to be radically changed or it will be changed for them.