Archive for December, 2011

Have A Smug New Year, Everyone!

Did you ever see the South Park episode about hybrid cars? The one where they smugly move to San Francisco?

San Francisco’s got nothing on us.

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- Aggie

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Unfamiliar Concepts

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They say my people are hungry—whatever that is.

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Away in the Manger

How cheesy can a nativity scene get? You don’t want to know.

My three favorites:

The obligatory dog nativity:

I recognize some of them from the poker painting.

The Who’s Hungry? nativity (definitely not kosher):

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And the zombie nativity:

Here’s a bonus scene:

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For unto us, a rampaging reptile is born, the living son of Godzilla. (Sorry, sort of, for the sacrilege. You can firebomb my house later.)

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Move Over Marc Rich and Norman Hsu

Yes, BTL? What’s the point of this story?

Courtney Dupree was convicted of vastly overstating the billings of his Long Island City-based lighting company GDC Acquisitions in order to fraudulently obtain a loan from Amalgamated Bank.

Dupree, 42, sat stone-faced as the verdict was read in Brooklyn Federal Court. He faces up to 30 years in prison and has to pay back at least $18 million.

So? (Wait for it.)

His company counted NBC Universal and Goldman Sachs among its clients.

Okay. And? (Wait for it)

Dupree, who attended the elite Wharton School of Business, was a rainmaker in Democratic circles.

Interesting, but—here ya go:

In 2008, Dupree hosted a $1,000-a-ticket fund-raiser for Barack Obama at his Broad St. apartment that was attended by top aide Valerie Jarrett.

Oh, come on, BTL. Name me a president who doesn’t have an indicted fraudster in his camp. It’s common as muck.

How long before Eric Holder makes a call?

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The Great Kitchen Counter of China

We’re pretty hard on the Taliban and Islamist Egypt, among others, for trashing their own heritage—and rightly so.

But they’re rank amateurs at ruining their cultural legacy:

China says about 44,000 ancient ruins, temples and other cultural sites have disappeared.

That’s the conclusion of the country’s first heritage census for more than 20 years.

About a quarter of the sites that remain are in a poor state of repair.

Explaining the results, an official quoted by Chinese state media said many such sites were unprotected and had been demolished to make way for construction projects.

In the worst-affected region, Shaanxi province, which is the home of the terracotta warriors, the statistics indicate that more than 3,500 cultural sites have vanished.

Two years ago a Qin Dynasty part of the Great Wall was said to have been damaged by miners who knocked holes in it while prospecting for gold.


We’ve got to get out of this place!

What do I care? Just 44,000 priceless historical relics I was never going to see in the first place. Plundering 3rd world nations for private collections doesn’t seem like such a bad idea after all.

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Busted Flat in Baton Rouge

And everywhere else.

Consider this post a continuation of the one below. All these trillions take a lot of bandwidth:

Amid this month’s payroll tax fracas, few noticed that Congress passed a 1,200-page, $1 trillion omnibus spending bill for fiscal 2012. Maybe no one in Washington boasted because it’s a victory for spending as usual. Republicans—in the House and Senate—need a better strategy.

The news is that after accounting for last-minute unemployment insurance extensions, “emergency” spending and higher Medicare physician payments, total federal outlays are estimated to be $3.65 trillion in fiscal 2012, up slightly from $3.6 trillion in 2011. The last year has seen no major reforms in any of the big entitlement programs—Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. Spending on food stamps alone is scheduled to reach $80 billion in 2012, more than double the amount as recently as 2007.

Republicans had promised to roll back discretionary spending to 2008 levels, to save $100 billion. But the August debt deal lowered the savings to $7 billion—or a 2012 target for appropriations of $1.043 trillion. Even that target was missed because appropriators tacked on roughly $10 billion in disaster relief—hurricanes this summer—and so the new total is $1.054 trillion. That’s $4 billion more than the 2011 baseline of $1.050 trillion, although savings from troop withdrawals in Iraq may reduce that.

What about killing programs? Well, only 28 programs out of the thousands of line-items contained in the omnibus budget were terminated. The list includes mostly minor programs such as $12.5 million spent on something called “adolescent family life,” $1.2 million for civic education, and $1.4 million for economics education (not for members of Congress).

The one major domestic program of more than $100 million that got the axe was the Energy Department loan guarantee program for the likes of Solyndra. The total domestic savings from program terminations come to less than $0.5 billion.

Those are the facts. Now how about some fancy?

Another meme which won’t die and fails to pass the truth test was in an AP item by Julie Pace about President Obama’s decision to defer raising the debt ceiling by $1.2 billion today. In it, she repeated the leftist line about how the national debt has grown so large (HT to an NB emailer):

The debt limit is the amount the government can borrow to finance its operations. It has soared because the government has run record deficits over the past decade. The borrowed money has helped pay for two wars, stimulate the nation’s economy after the worst recession since the Great Depression and keep intact broad tax cuts initiated during the Bush administration.

During the past decade — in other words, from December 31, 2001 until the latest business day available (December 29) — the national debt has increased from $5.94 trillion to $15.13 trillion (results obtained at this interactive link) — an increase of $9.19 trillion. From the beginning of 2002 until January 20, 2009, the day Barack Obama was inaugurated, the national debt increased by $4.69 trillion to $10.63 trillion, or about $1.8 billion per day for 2,577 days.

In the slightly less than three years since Obama’s inauguration (1,073 days), the debt has grown by $4.50 trillion, almost as much as it did during the previous seven years

The contribution of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to the debt increase is relatively small. A picture caption at the AP item I mentioned earlier on Iraq pegged the war’s cost at “more than $800 billion.” Even that number seems a bit inflation, but if it’s right, it’s only about 9% of the previous decade’s increase.

That leaves two items: spending increases and recession-driven collection decreases. The latter, almost all of which has occurred on Obama’s watch is probably responsible for about $1.2 trillion, or 13%, of the national debt increase.

That leaves little over three-quarters of the increased still unexplained (100% minus 9% for the wars and 13% for reduced collections). It’s all due to other spending and the taking on of “off-budget” debt obligations. A large portion of the remainder is directly linked to the stimulus and its effective perpetuation, since federal spending did not decline after the stimulus program officially ended.

It really isn’t worth presenting further detail, as the point has been made. The AP’s and establishment press’s party line about why the national debt has increased by over $9 trillion during the past decade is flat-out wrong.

To the liberal mind, tax-cuts aren’t stimulus, but food stamps are. Which is why we’re two and a half years into the Obama-covery, and we’ve got record numbers on food stamps, unemployment compensation, disability payments, and the like. The Obam-economy can’t manage 2% growth, yet our spending grows unimpeded. What’s the over/under for how long we can sustain this? I say last February.

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US Debt-to-GDP Ratio 100%!

Did you know that? It just happened, and I don’t think anyone reported it. I found out only because Mark Steyn just told me:

At the end of 2011, America, like much of the rest of the Western world, has dug deeper into a cocoon of denial. Tens of millions of Americans remain unaware that this nation is broke – broker than any nation has ever been. A few days before Christmas, we sailed across the psychological Rubicon and joined the club of nations whose government debt now exceeds their total GDP. It barely raised a murmur – and those who took the trouble to address the issue noted complacently that our 100 percent debt-to-GDP ratio is a mere two-thirds of Greece’s. That’s true, but at a certain point per capita comparisons are less relevant than the sheer hard dollar sums: Greece owes a few rinky-dink billions; America owes more money than anyone has ever owed anybody ever.

I searched Yahoo and Google News, and he’s right: no one covered it. No one—that is, no one I could see until I got tired of looking.

Well, there was this blog:

With precisely one year left for the world and all of its inhabitants, at least according to the Mayans, not to mention on the day of the Winter Solstice, it is only fitting that US debt, net of all settlements for all already completed bond auctions, is now at precisely $15,182,756,264,288.80. Why is this relevant? Because the latest annualized US GDP, according to the BEA, was $15,180,900,000.00. Which means that, as of today, total US debt to GDP is 100.012%. Congratulations America: you are now in the triple digit “debt to GDP” club!

(naturally, this is using purely “on the books” data. If one adds the NPV of all US liabilities, and adjusts GDP for such things as today’s housing contraction, then the magical triple digit threshold was breached long, long ago).

And we’re still standing, right? So, why sweat it? Maybe the press feels that 100% isn’t much bigger than 98%, so what’s the big deal. It’s just a symbolic line, nothing newsworthy.

Steyn begs to differ:

Public debt has increased by 67 percent over the past three years, and too many Americans refuse even to see it as a problem. For most of us, “$16.4 trillion” has no real meaning, any more than “$17.9 trillion” or “$28.3 trillion” or “$147.8 bazillion.” It doesn’t even have much meaning for the guys spending the dough: Look into the eyes of Barack Obama or Harry Reid or Barney Frank, and you realize that, even as they’re borrowing all this money, they have no serious intention of paying any of it back. That’s to say, there is no politically plausible scenario under which the 16.4 trillion is reduced to 13.7 trillion, and then 7.9 trillion and, eventually, 173 dollars and 48 cents. At the deepest levels within our governing structures, we are committed to living beyond our means on a scale no civilization has ever done.

We lack the imagination to understand what all this means. It sounds scary, but so do a lot of things that really aren’t (at least not yet). The US of A isn’t Greece. It isn’t Brazil or Argentina in the days of hyperinflation. It isn’t Weimar Germany. That can’t happen here.

Except… people I know who work in finance say “wanna bet?” As Rick Santelli has been telling us:

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Now I’ve Heard Everything

Obama has had a successful foreign policy? Huh? In what alternate universe?

Caroline Glick explains:

His supporters argue that Obama’s foreign policy has been a massive success. If he had as much freedom of action on domestic affairs as he has on foreign affairs, they say, his achievements in all areas would be without peer.

Expressing this view, Karen Finney, a former Democratic spokeswoman who often defends the party in the US media, told The Huffington Post, “Look at the progress the president can make when he doesn’t have Republicans obstructing him.”

Yeah, he greased Osama and a few other terrorists, for which much thanks, but otherwise our foreign policy is a joke and we are a laughingstock.

[A] cursory examination of the impact so far of Obama’s foreign policies in country after country and region after region indicates that his policies have been more damaging to US national interests than those of any president since Jimmy Carter. And unlike Obama, Americans widely recognized that Carter’s foreign policies were failed and dangerous.

The failure of Obama’s foreign policies has been nowhere more evident than in the Middle East.

Take Iraq for instance. Obama and his supporters claim that the withdrawal of all US forces from Iraq is one of his great accomplishments.

By pulling out, Obama kept his promise to voters to end the war in “a responsible manner.” And as the polling data indicate, most Americans are willing to give him credit for the move.

But the situation on the ground is dangerous and getting worse every day.

The situation is so explosive that three prominent Sunni leaders, former prime minister Ayad Allawi, who heads the Iraqiya party, Parliament Speaker Osama Nujaifi and Finance Minister Rafe al-Essawi published an op-ed in The New York Times on Tuesday begging Obama to rein in Maliki in order to prevent Iraq from plunging into civil war.

THEN THERE is Egypt. Obama’s decision in February to abandon then-president Hosni Mubarak, the US’s most dependable ally in the Arab world, in favor of the protesters in Tahrir Square was hailed by Obama’s supporters as a victory for democracy and freedom against tyranny. By supporting the protesters against the US ally, Obama argued that he was advancing US interests by showing the Muslim world the US favored the people over their leaders.

Ten months later, the Egyptian people has responded to this populist policy by giving jihadist parties a two-thirds majority in parliamentary elections. For the first time in 30 years, the strategic anchor of US power in the Arab world – the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty – is in danger. Indeed, there is no reason to believe it will survive.

The administration hails its success in overthrowing Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi without sacrificing a single US soldier. And certainly, this was a success. However, Gaddafi’s opponents, who are now taking charge of the country, are arguably worse for the US than Gaddafi was. They include a significant number of al-Qaida terrorists and are dominated by jihadist forces. Attempts by the NATO-backed provisional government to convince them to disarm have failed completely.

Since Gaddafi was overthrown, large quantities of advanced weapons from his arsenal – allegedly including stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction – have gone missing. Significant quantities of Libyan shoulder-to-air missiles have made their way to Gaza since Gaddafi’s overthrow.

In Syria, while the administration insists that dictator Bashar Assad’s days in power are numbered, it is doing essentially nothing to support the opposition. Fearing the instability that would ensue if a civil war were to break out in Iran’s Arab protectorate, the US has chosen to effectively sit on its hands and so cancel any leverage it ought to wield over the shape of things to come.

AS FOR Iran, Obama’s policies have brought about a situation where the regime in Tehran does not fear a US military strike on its nuclear installations. Obama’s open opposition to the prospect of an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear installations has similarly convinced the regime that it can proceed without fear in its nuclear project.

Iran’s threat this week to close the Straits of Hormuz in the event that the US imposes an embargo on Iranian oil exports is being widely characterized by the US media as a sign of desperation on the part of the regime. But it is hard to see how this characterization aligns with reality. It is far more appropriate to view Iran’s easy threats as a sign of contempt for Obama and for US power projection under his leadership.

There’s more, all of it damning. Obama is Jimmy Carter with better PR.

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The UN Plague Goes Global!

They fund and collaborate with Arab terrorists. They harbor mass murdering Hutu militiamen in their midst.

And, of course, they introduced the one lone scourge of which Haiti was free to that earthquake ravaged nation:

If an international agency brought a deadly disease to New York City that killed more people than the 9/11 attacks, what would be the consequences? Could they simply brush it off and have nobody hold them accountable for the damages? The answer is obviously no, and the same would be true for most of the countries in this hemisphere. But so far, it looks like they can get away with it in Haiti.

For some reason the “international community” thinks that it can get away with anything in Haiti. More than 7,000 Haitians have been killed since October 2010 by the deadly cholera bacteria that UN troops brought to Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in January that year.

More than 500,000 have been infected, and the disease – which Haiti has not had in more than a century – is now endemic to the country and will be killing people there for many years to come.

It came from the Nepalese “peacekeepers” sent to Haiti—everyone knows that. I’m sure I’ve even read the UN’s own admission of guilt.

Why yes, I did:

The UN’s own study was clear: “The source of the Haiti cholera outbreak was due to contamination of the Meye Tributary of the Artibonite River with a pathogenic strain of current South Asian type Vibrio cholerae as a result of human activity.” In other words, somebody dumped human fecal matter containing a deadly cholera bacteria from South Asia into one of the country’s main sources of water for drinking and irrigation. Who might that be?

Suspect number one is the UN troop encampment from Nepal. From the Associated Press at the time of the outbreak:

When Associated Press journalists visited Wednesday, they found open and cracked pipes behind the base, with U.N. military investigators taking samples. There was an overpowering smell of human waste, and a pipe leading toward a septic tank was leaking foul-smelling black fluid toward the river.

The waste is dumped across the street in open pits that residents, who live a few yards away, said often overflow into the Artibonite tributary running below.

A UN official told the BBC that “everyone knew the sanitary situation in the Nepali base was deplorable”.

Not content merely to introduce cholera into the drinking water, the UN has more in store for Haiti:

On December 14, 2011, the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH) received in its office, a complaint alleging an incident in which three (3) Haitian citizens were brutally beaten by officers of the Mission United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

On December 13, 2011 in the afternoon, Joseph and Abel JOSEPH GILBERT, aged respectively twenty-nine (29) and twenty (20) years boarded a water delivery truck registered ZA 08937. They came to ensure delivery in Cite Soleil, an area known as Old Fort Sunday, when the truck broke down.

At dusk and after many attempts to repair the truck, they realized they had to leave the car there. They decided to stay on site in order to secure the truck and the equipment attached thereto. Armos BAZILE, whose uncle is a client of Joseph GILBERT, joined them about 10 h00 in the evening to spend the night with them. It is aged nineteen (19) years.

It was around three (3) in the morning when agents of Brazilian contingent of MINUSTAH, in a routine patrol, passed near the truck. After having passed the patrol stopped his vehicle and the soldiers walked back up to the individuals listed above. Came to them, these soldiers arrested them without any explanation. They forced them to empty their pockets, applied to the sum of four thousand five hundred (4500) gourds representing the amount of three (3) trucks of water delivered during the day and a phone number belonging to Gilbert JOSEPH 39350529.

MINUSTAH officers also seized the license of Gilbert Joseph and the national identification cards, two (2) companions of the latter before taking them to the courtyard of the Joint Educational Institution of La Saline, a school which the court is used by the inhabitants of the area to dry clay.

For kicks and punches, Gilbert Joseph, Abel and Joseph Armos BAZILE were tortured in the courtyard of the Joint Educational Institution of La Saline.

Victims deal with their bodies, visible signs of physical abuse. They were beaten to the point where they can not sit.

MINUSTAH officials forced the victims back into their vehicle and took them on Route 9, in a banana plantation, not far from Wells Brant.

Arriving on Highway 9, UN officials have stripped victims and still violently abused. This time, added to the kicks, a staff of MINUSTAH, with a machete, beat the victims. They used their clothes to make a fire before deciding to abandon them altogether.

The incident occurred on Route 9, on the night of 13 to 14 December 2011, results have always shown contempt of MINUSTAH officials who, upon their arrival in Haiti, have shown in their true light: beings barbaric, violent, acting without respect for human rights.

Indeed, officials of MINUSTAH continue to be involved in serious wrongdoing such as theft, rape, gang rape, physical abuse, sexual exploitation, murder, sodomy, beatings, etc.

If I ever find myself at the mercy of any entity of the UN, I hope there is a pistol with at least a single shot nearby. Or a bottle of Liquid Drano. Even a butter knife. Anything but live under its aegis.

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Guess What! Congress, The Bush Administration And The Obama Administration All Agree

Terrorists are not to be treated like common criminals

They kinda slipped this in during the holiday madness. Please don’t tell your liberal friends.

My, my, look what Congress gave President Obama for Christmas. The 2012 Pentagon budget authorization includes antiterrorism provisions that confirm and politically endorse the real-world practices of two Administrations.

This is the upshot of the detention language in the defense policy bill that Mr. Obama signed this month and has received too little media attention. Congress has confirmed the power claimed by both the Bush and Obama Administrations to detain and question members of al Qaeda or “associated” groups whenever or wherever and for however long the executive deems proper. Enemy combatants will get their day in court but won’t be treated as common criminals who can invoke Miranda rights.

And guess what: That sound you don’t hear is the lack of a political uproar. The U.S. seems to have arrived at a political consensus that is far closer to the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld rules than their critics want to admit.

Where are the WE’RE LOSING OUR RIGHTS! crowds? Hibernating for the winter? Too depressed about the economy to care?

- Aggie

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Shockah! Spain Has Bigger Deficit Than Anticipated, Raises Taxes

How long before we get a nice New Year’s Eve message like this?

Spain’s new government warned Friday that the country’s budget deficit will be much higher than anticipated this year, as it unveiled a first batch of austerity measures that include surprise income and property tax hikes.

Following the new conservative government’s second Cabinet meeting, the budget deficit for this year was revised up to 8 percent of national income from the previous government’s forecast of 6 percent.

Alongside the upward revision, which comes amid predictions that the Spanish economy will soon be back in recession, the government headed by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced further measures to get a handle on its debts, including euro8.9 billion ($11.5 billion) in spending cuts.

“This is the beginning of the beginning,” government spokeswoman Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said.

She said more reforms and austerity will come in 2012.

At least their government is telling them the truth. At least the citizens of Spain elected a government that is willing to tell them the truth.

On a cheerier note, a few years ago a couple of friends went on a trip to Spain. They came back raving about the fantastic new train system, the beautiful public squares, etc. They wondered why we couldn’t be more like Spain.

Why indeed. Oh, second cheery note: I think that the youth unemployment in Spain is something like 40%. Something to aspire to, my friends.

- Aggie

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To Know Him is to Hate Him

Familiarity breeds Keith Olbermann: [NY Times article if you're counting]

Despite being the biggest star on the fledging channel, Mr. Olbermann is not scheduled to anchor Current’s coverage of the Iowa caucus or the New Hampshire primary in January. Instead, Current’s other prime time anchors, Cenk Uygur and Jennifer Granholm, will be joined by the channel’s chairman, the former vice president Al Gore, according to the channel’s TV schedule.

Mr. Olbermann also was noticeably absent from two special reports that Current produced after Republican debates in mid-December. Those, too, were anchored by Mr. Uygur.

These absences suggest that there may be new tension between Mr. Olbermann and the managers at Current, who are trying to create a progressive-oriented cable news channel.

In the television industry, Mr. Olbermann is well known for fights with his bosses; stories abound about his refusal to speak to managers and executives. At Current, this behavior has continued, according to four people with knowledge of the situation, one of whom described Mr. Olbermann as “disgruntled.”

When is he ever “gruntled”? He’s a mean-spirited, self-important, “mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick” (as he once chivalrously called Michelle Malkin). About the only one who can stand him is Janeane Garofalo. Can you imagine the child those two would have? He’d be Bill Maher.

Mr. Olbermann told his viewers about on Dec. 22, his last live program of the year. “We’ll be bringing you Best of ‘Countdown’ each night from tomorrow through Monday, Jan. 2, and then back — live, live, live — on Tuesday, Jan. 3,” he said. He added, “Congratulations on getting through another year of this crap. Good night and good luck.”

But Current is actually planning to pre-empt “Countdown” on Jan. 2 for a two-hour caucus preview hosted by Mr. Uygur, according to its TV schedule.

On Jan. 3, the channel is planning to have three hours of live prime time coverage of the caucus without Mr. Olbermann.

The channel will have the same special report format on Jan. 10, the night of the New Hampshire primary, according to a news report.

Oh, it’ll be live, live, live, all right, Keith. Just without you, you, you. Sounds like you’ve been canned, canned, canned.

Ha-ha-ha!

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