Tuesday, March 31, 2009


If they won't unclench their hands, we'll just give them a fist bump

So, there was a conference today about Afghanistan – you know, the war that President Obama inherited from George Bush and now has made it his own – and among the over 80 participants was Iran. This proved fortuitous because it gave Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke an opportunity for an “unplanned meeting with a top Iranian official, Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Mehdi Akhundzadeh, on the sidelines of the conference”.

At least that’s what Secretary Clinton tells us:

“It was cordial, it was unplanned and they agreed to stay in touch."

I can picture it now – Richard Holbrooke, calmly drinking a latte during a break, suddenly notices that the lightly-bearded guy standing next to him looks familiar:

“Hey, you’re that Iranian dude, aren’t you? I recognize you from my briefing book.”

Of course Mr. Akhundzadeh is no match for Holbrooke’s homespun charm and, just like that, the results of an 8 year diplomatic ice-storm start melting away.

Side Note I: But our diplomatic mission wasn’t over yet:

“On the American citizens[being held in Iran], Clinton said she directed that an unsigned document known as an aide-memoire be delivered directly to the Iranian delegation.”

…thus saving American taxpayers (and they apparently now include Kansas Governor and HHS-nominee Kathleen Sebelius) the cost of postage.

Side Note II: Washington Post writer Glenn Kessler lets us in just how canny our State Department is now:

“Clinton notably included the full name of the country, as Obama did in his New Year's address, which is an effort by the administration to signify that it is not supporting regime change.”

Well, they may not support regime change but apparently at least one group is already fed up with Barack Obama’s war mongering ways and is sounding the call for changes here in the US: Regime Change Begins At Home

Here’s what MoveOn PAC is hoping:

"Regime Change Begins At Home Poster

"If enough of us download these posters, print 'em up, and stick them on our car or in our windows, we can begin to create a culture of engagement and patriotic dissent. We'll amplify our voices. We'll help to elect the candidates who can help us out of this mess. And we'll help to fire the ones that are on board for Bush's endless war."

...like, I guess, Barack Obama.


Professor Obama Explains Bankruptcy

In July of last year, Candidate Obama released the following statement:

“In recent weeks, I have met with the CEOs of both GM and Ford to talk with them about their economic challenges and about the need for everyone - from auto executives to the federal government - to work toward the energy and economic future the American people deserve… I have complete confidence that GM and our other auto companies will adapt and thrive in the 21st century economy if we bring real change to Washington and forge a true partnership together. That is what I intend to do as President.”

Well, if all the hype and bumper stickers are to be believed “real” change has come to Washington and GM and the Feds have never been closer. Nevertheless, I’m sensing the complete confidence has a waned: As of yesterday, that GM CEO is no longer and Obama [was] Stern With Automakers

The President even threw out the “B” word – Bankruptcy:

“Now, I know that when people even hear the word "bankruptcy" it can be a bit unsettling, so let me explain what I mean. What I am talking about is using our existing legal structure as a tool that, with the backing of the U.S. government, can make it easier for General Motors and Chrysler to quickly clear away old debts that are weighing them down so they can get back on their feet and onto a path to success; a tool that we can use, even as workers are staying on the job building cars that are being sold.

“What I am not talking about is a process where a company is broken up, sold off, and no longer exists. And what I am not talking about is having a company stuck in court for years, unable to get out.” TEXT - President Obama's remarks on U.S. car industry

Thank you for explaining the difference between Chapter 11 (reorganization) and Chapter 7 (complete liquidation). But, despite his inartful wording, the President would actually have very little legal say in such a proceeding because bankruptcy proceedings are the purview of the Federal judiciary – not the executive branch.

In this instance, the Federal government is not a shareholder but a creditor of GM. Under the terms of its loans to GM, it can call the loans if the automaker hasn’t complied with certain terms – notably an agreement by other bondholders and the retiree health plan to convert a significant portion of their debt to an equity stake in GM.

But the absolute worst position to be in during a bankruptcy is that of a shareholder. They are at the end of any line for handouts. Should these creditors give in to the government’s demands and then watch GM declare bankruptcy, they become a much smaller player (compared to the Feds) when any proceeds are dealt out to the creditors. They’re reluctance to do so – especially while watching the government unwilling to take an equity stake – is understandable. Bankruptcy has long been an acceptable tactic for these automakers – and is probably the best hope for their creditors too.

…and even though I didn’t go to Harvard Law, I do know enough about bankruptcy and our court system to have complete confidence in asserting that, in the event of a bankruptcy, GM will be “stuck in court for years” – many years.

Monday, March 30, 2009


President B.O. knows cars!

Looking at their performance over the past decades, no one will accuse US-based automakers of great management. That said, the idea that this Administration somehow has a better handle on how to improve the auto industry is simply laughable. To much fanfare, the President announced his Auto Task Force back in February. Notably lacking from the Task Force was any real experience with the auto industry. Even the 10 senior aides who were supposed to do the heavy lifting for the Task Force were mainly comprised of “economists, professors and former Obama campaign aides.”

But their hard work paid off; they were able to assess the situation and, as a result, Obama Says Automakers Not Moving 'Fast Enough'.

“President Obama announced today that his administration will withhold additional federal aid to General Motors and Chrysler unless the ailing U.S. automakers submit acceptable restructuring plans, but he vowed that the American auto industry will not be allowed to "simply vanish."

This is an Administration that is wedded to the concept that we are just a negotiation away from the answer to any problem. GM is up against a lot of constituencies that must agree to any changes in their business relationship. These include bondholders, bankers, suppliers and, most important to the President, unions. Retirees have grown used to a very generous retirement package. Absent Bankruptcy, changes in contracts cannot be made unilaterally (at least that’s what we learned at Maryland Law, who knows what (or if) they taught at Harvard).

The President:

“"We cannot, we must not, and we will not let our auto industry simply vanish. . . . It is a pillar of our economy that has held up the dreams of millions of our people.”

Of course, this is sheer demagoguery. The auto industry in America will not disappear – for example, most of Honda’s car and truck production is already in North America. However, forcing the Big Three into production of cars that are apparently unappealing to much of the car buying public is a good way to ensure that an auto turnaround is not in the offing. Firing the head of GM (and pushing Chrysler into the arms of a Foreign producer) puts off the day of reckoning when President Obama has to explain to his labor loyalists that the good times will never come back in Detroit.

Side Note: “…saying management should be replaced if the "team that's currently in place doesn't understand the urgency of the situation and is not willing to make the tough choices and adapt to these new circumstances."

Now that could read like a Republican politician carping about the mis-(or, perhaps more accurately, lack of) management of the Federal response to the financial mess.

But no, that was then-President-elect Obama talking about the auto industry last December….and, yes, his berating someone else about not being willing to make “tough choices” made me smile too.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


In other news...

We should all celebrate Good…and beating BC is ALWAYS an inherent Good: Holy Cross Defeats Boston College, 8-2

“Sophomore Nick Ciardiello (Edison, N.J.) had a three-run home run and double for five RBI to lead the Holy Cross baseball team to an 8-2 win over Boston College on Wednesday afternoon at Fitton Field.”

And because it’s fun – the BC Athletic site: Baseball Loses at Holy Cross, 8-2 - BOSTON COLLEGE OFFICIAL ATHLETIC SITE

Finally, a BC fan’s perspective…and he’s right: that gutless-wonder of a basketball coach they employ, Al Skinner, should renew BC’s oldest rivalry in the sport.

Monday, March 23, 2009


World Ends; Women Hit Hardest

Eye Roll Alert: As Cuts Loom, Will Working From Home Lead to a Layoff?

“With the recession forcing businesses to cut back on workers, employees are increasingly doing all they can to hang onto their jobs and are forgoing many of the benefits that once allowed them to balance the demands of work and family life.”

Post writer Annys Shin is relentless in her pursuit of this Front Page story. She gets feedback from a variety of sources:

“In good times, workers frequently seized the opportunity to use "flex time" and family leave, to telecommute and to take paid sick days. But, according to workplace consultants, human resources specialists and employees themselves, those days are slipping away….Some workers' advocates say they are particularly concerned about the consequences for women…There's now a "silent fright" among workers, said Joanne Brundage, executive director of Mothers & More…”

Then, perhaps because what’s left of journalistic ethics requires it, she notes, in passing:

“There is little data on the recession's impact on so-called work-life initiatives in the private sector.”

...and the only companies she names are those who are openly committed to maintaining or increasing such flexibility.

She gives the obligatory shout-out to the Obama administration: “The Obama administration has stressed the importance of policies that improve the "work and family balance."…so this is probably all Bush’s fault.

She concludes with this damning bit of evidence in support of her thesis: “Emily Muschinske, of South Orange, N.J., cites her reduced work schedule as a major factor behind being recently laid off from a major children's publisher in New York.”

Uhhh, that’s pretty much all she has. Ms Shin doesn’t name the employer nor does she get a statement from them but I guess you’d have to be a pretty hard-hearted sort to suggest any other business-related reason for her layoff.

Here’s hoping Ms. Shin and the Post do a follow-up story wherein they follow the adventures of some entrepreneurs who, after reading this story, decide to take on the unnamed and presumably male-centered businesses cutting back in this area. These plucky but socially conscious corporate mavericks will have developed a business model employing all kinds of cost-cutting, flexible, women-friendly work schedules. So armed, they will then kick the ass of those older stodgy firms, revitalize the economy (with, of course, the help of the benevolent President Obama) and teach businesses everywhere about the true meaning of life.


The Administration Is Warily Outraged

The proposed AIG Bonus Tax is a dumb tax; for Congress, it is nothing more than a CYA maneuver.

And this response from the Administration is classic Barack Obama:

“While acknowledging the legitimacy of the public outcry over at least $165 million in bonuses paid to executives at American International Group, administration officials stopped far short of endorsing legislation passed last week by the House that would levy a 90 percent tax on the payments.” Advisers To Obama Wary of Bonus Tax

The President understandably wants to play to this latest outburst of populism while also not having to do something that would surely be excoriated in hindsight. The Senate will be dealing with this matter this week. If Mr. Obama were still the junior Senator from Illinois, I suspect he would vote for the tax. Voting against it would outrage many more people on the left than voting for it.

But as President, he faces a different dynamic. Of course, his best scenario (and this is true of so much with this man) would be not having to make any decision. I suspect that is why his advisors are out signaling his discomfort, hoping the Senate takes the hint and kills this tax without the President having to leave any fingerprints. But if this tactic fails, I don’t believe he’ll personally intervene. He’ll then quietly sign whatever Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid tell him to.

'Cause that's the way he rolls.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Congrats Soccer Dad

I’m a little late to this but congratulations to our very own Soccer Dad who got a prominent linking in the widely-read Best of the Web. SD is a frequent contributor to the daily compilation by James Taranto at wsj.com.

Best of the Web Today: The 102% Tax - WSJ.com

Soccer Dad’s original posting: "Yes! There will be growth in the spring! "

Well done, SD!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


AIG: Public Enemy #1

“No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.” U.S. Constitution Art. 1, Section 9

I thought of that when I read this: Congress Looking at New Taxes on AIG Bonuses.

“Senate Democrats will seek to recoup $165 million in bonuses paid to executives of the troubled insurance giant American International Group through a narrowly focused tax…that would tax up to 98 percent of the bonus money.”

Unfortunately – but predictably - further reading informs that prominent Republicans are also supporting this idiocy.

The most notable case involving this clause goes back to Calder v. Bull, decided in 1798. That case is often cited to conclude that the Constitutional prohibition is for criminal matters, not civil. No doubt such readers rely on the following passages:

“Still, however, in the present instance, the act or resolution of the Legislature of Connecticut, cannot be regarded as an ex post facto law; for, the true construction of the prohibition extends to criminal, not to civil, cases….The policy, the reason and humanity, of the prohibition, do not, I repeat, extend to civil cases, to cases that merely affect the private property of citizens.”

But the Opinion of Justice Chase also notes the following:

“An ACT of the Legislature (for I cannot call it a law) contrary to the great first principles of the social compact, cannot be considered a rightful exercise of legislative authority. The obligation of a law in governments established on express compact, and on republican principles, must be determined by the nature of the power, on which it is founded. A few instances will suffice to explain what I mean. …a law that destroys, or impairs, the lawful private contracts of citizens…or a law that takes property from A. and gives it to B: It is against all reason and justice, for a people to entrust a Legislature with SUCH powers; and, therefore, it cannot be presumed that they have done it.”

Further, Justice Chase thought this fact worthy of note:

“In the present case, there is no fact done by Bull and wife Plaintiffs in Error, that is in any manner affected by the law or resolution of Connecticut: It does not concern, or relate to, any act done by them.”

In the instant case, the applicable parties agree these payments were made in accordance with apparently valid contractual terms. Surely, they would have done things differently had they known of these new provisions. Further, a tax of 98% could, unless carefully worded (so you understand my skepticism), effectively be a tax of more than 100% because Federal Taxes are not generally deductible at the state level but the income presumably would still be taxed at the state level. Should they not pay the tax, then additional penalties would attach….and could there be a Takings claim – appropriating the property of one for the (supposed) benefit of all.

Strangely, the one voice of some reason in this comes from Maryland’s own Steny Hoyer:

“But House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said today that there might be issues relating to the "equal protection clause" in the Constitution that forbids laws that affect certain groups differently. For now, Hoyer advocated a course of action that centered around a public pressure campaign to persuade the AIG executives to voluntarily surrender the bonuses.”

Hey, at least he remembers the purpose of the Constitution.

Monday, March 16, 2009


"...full of sound and fury, signifying nothing"

Just because I understand political posturing doesn’t mean I have to like it…or respect the source for engaging in it. The flail over AIG’s multi-million dollar bonus payout is Exhibit A.

Obama: AIG Bonuses an 'Outrage' to Taxpayers

“President Obama today blasted the plan of insurance giant AIG to pay millions of dollars in bonuses to traders who helped bring the company to the brink of ruin, calling the payments an "outrage" that violates "fundamental values" and underscores the need for financial regulatory reform.”

(BTW - Do you think the President is referring to all those financial regulatory reforms he never introduced (but probably meant to) while a member of the Senate Banking Committee)

An accompanying caption at washingtonpost.com helps explain why this is probably just populist preening:

“American International Group is giving its executives tens of millions of dollars in new bonuses even though it received a taxpayer bailout of more than $170 billion dollars. The Treasury Department determined that the government did not have the legal authority to block the current payments by the company. A white paper prepared by the company says that AIG is contractually obligated to pay a total of about $165 million of previously awarded "retention pay" to employees in this unit by Sunday, March 15.”

As part of my job, I get involved with assessing potential acquisitions (which collectively wouldn’t even amount to a rounding error compared to the US investment in AIG) and each time we get serious about a deal, we contract out for some high-priced “Due Diligence” work. The legal and financial aspects of the work necessarily involves reviewing – among other things – employment contracts. There should be a couple of worn-out carpets if such "Due Diligence" wasn't performed on AIG.

I don’t expect President Obama or Secretary Geithner to be conversant on all the details of such work; especially as it should have been done before their watch. And if someone didn’t whisper in their ear that the matter had been vetted by Mr. Geithner’s own Department, then they are being ill-served by their fellow government employees. But I suspect they knew all this and just decided to rant away.

I’m guessing the March 15 date was important because it was contractually set up to comply with tax regs requiring the payment of accrued compensation within 2 and ½ months after year-end for the expense to be deductible for the previous year. And once the funds are paid out (and I’m guessing the fortunate employees here were at the bank deposit window first thing today), good luck getting AIG to to get the money back from these same employees. In other words, unless Mr. Geithner’s Treasury Department is wrong, Mr. Obama’s sound-clip order to Treasury to “pursue every single legal avenue to block these bonuses and make the American taxpayers whole" sounds like just a wasteful diversion of US Treasury assets.

Side Note: Of course, had AIG been allowed to go into bankruptcy, accrued compensation claims would have been limited to $10,000 per employee. Instead, the US is just a shareholder in a company that has ongoing contractual requirements – no matter how stupid such contracts may look in retrospect (and you’d think a Harvard Law grad might remember that from his Contract Law days).

Saturday, March 14, 2009


US to al-Qaida: No More Mr. Nice Guy!!

If you slept a little sounder last night, our Attorney General explains why:

“[I]t is essential that we operate in a manner that strengthens our national security, is consistent with our values and is governed by law."

“"The change we've made today meets each of those standards and will make our nation stronger," he added.”

The Washington Post says that even “legal scholars” described the change as “important”. So what was this bold move that has legal circles abuzz?

“The Obama administration yesterday jettisoned the Bush-era term "enemy combatant"…”

Surely al-Qaida has to now be getting the message that, after years of pussy-footing around, the U.S. is finally serious about “[making] our nation stronger.”

Friday, March 13, 2009



Looking for what to do today? Well...

All the really, really, really cool people will be wearing Purple at the Bender Arena (on the American University campus) today at 4:45 PM to cheer on Holy Cross in their Patriot League Championship game against AU.

The really, really cool people will be wearing Purple in front of a TV watching ESPN2 today at 4:45 PM to cheer on Holy Cross in their Patriot League Championship game against American University.

The really cool people will be wearing Purple in front of a computer watching the internet today at 4:45 PM to cheer on Holy Cross in their Patriot League Championship game against American University. Online Sports Schedule, Sports Video Schedule - ESPN360.com

The cool people will be wearing Purple near a radio or a computer (listening to the internet) today at 4:45 PM to cheer on Holy Cross in their Patriot League Championship game against American University100 FM The Pike, Worcester's #1 for Classic Hits!!!... or locally (Washington, DC area) on the radio: WFED (820 AM, 1500 AM), WTOP (1050 AM)

Everyone else? LOSERS!!!

More perspective: Defending Patriot League Champion American University Faces Holy Cross, Lofty Expectations in Today's Title Game - washingtonpost.com

Posted by a Really, Really, Really Cool Person

Side Note: What’s in a nickname?

Boston College Eagles? Hate ‘em!
Philadelphia Eagles? Hate ‘em!
AU Eagles? Hate ‘em!

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Wyoming's Dumb Luck...

“Michigan, at 11.6 percent, had the highest unemployment rate. Wyoming, at 3.7 percent, had the lowest. Michigan is home to the nation's struggling automakers. Wyoming thrives on agriculture.” Washington Area Unemployment Rates Climb to Levels Not Seen in More Than a Decade - washingtonpost.com

At the risk of pointing out the relative selfishness of its residents, Wyoming also thrives with a relatively modest 4% state sales tax, NO state income tax and NO corporate income tax.

But you’d be more likely to read about a correlation between low taxes and global warming then low taxes with regional economic health.


Clean Coal - Cheap At Twice The Price

It has become a kind of running joke among many of us on the right that no matter the problems the future brings, they’ll still be Bush’s fault. And, sure enough: Bush May Have Set Back 'Clean Coal' Efforts by 10 Years, Report Says

“The Bush administration's decision to halt production of an experimental power plant that would capture and store carbon dioxide emissions underground may have set back "clean coal" technology in the United States by as much as a decade, according to a congressional report released at a hearing yesterday.”

Perhaps Post writer Kimberly Kindy was on some kind of word count but the more accurate description for the “congressional report” would be the “Report by the Majority Staff of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight of the Committee on Science and Technology to Chairman Bart Gordon and Subcommittee Chairman Brad Miller” Can you guess the party of the Majority Staff? Here are some hints from the report:

“No one – except those who may have drunk the Kool-Aid at DOE – was surprised at the anemic response to the FOA.” (pg. 39)

“Jim Connaughton, CEQ chief and loyal Bush soldier…” (pg 42)

Of course the idea that a year delay somehow translates into a 10-year setback is intuitively moronic. And, to be fair, I don’t think the report actually makes that claim; instead, it appears to quote sources that estimate a so-called setback of 10 years in clean coal technology if FutureGen (the project’s name) was completely eliminated (which it wasn’t).

Also, cost estimates used as justification for killing the commercial-scale project known as FutureGen were grossly exaggerated because Energy Department officials did not account for inflation, according to a Government Accountability Office report, also released yesterday.”

What the GAO Report highlighted was the DOE's comparison of the project’s costs in 2005 dollars ($925 million) and the inflation-adjusted figure used by the participants ($1.8 billion through 2017) to cite the overruns. Okay but then you read later that “Energy Secretary Steven Chu reasserted his desire yesterday to build the plant but cautioned that price estimates now range as high as $2.3 billion and that he would like to bring down the cost.”

Sounds like the costs were grossly UNexaggerated.

After exhausting 43 pages excoriating the previous administration for its apparently boneheaded decision not to proceed with the project, you’d expect the report to conclude we need to get right back up on that horse. Instead, on the last page of the report:

“Whether the new Administration and Congress should revive the original program, which was ready to begin work when the Department of Energy killed it, or move to some other initiative, is an open question.”

So President Bush was a partisan idiot for allowing this program to be stopped but …

Side Note: Skeptics noted that the Bush Administration only killed the project after it was announced that the plant would be built in Illinois, not Texas (the two finalists for the project.) So no doubt they’re equally skeptical that:

Deep inside the economic stimulus package is a $1 billion prize that, in five short words, shows the benefits of being in power in Washington.

“The funding, for "fossil energy research and development," is likely to go to a power plant in a small Illinois town, a project whose longtime backers include a group of powerful lawmakers from the state, among them President Obama.” New Life for 'Clean Coal' Project

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


At least it's not going for a golf tournament...

Merrill to Pay $7 Million Fine for Squawk Box Abuse

“Merrill Lynch agreed to pay a $7 million fine in a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission today.”

Great – now they’re using TARP money from the Federal Government to pay…the Federal Government.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


Sudan Gets A Stern Talking To

U.N.: Expelling Aid Groups From Darfur Could Endanger Lives

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned today that the Sudanese government's order to expel foreign aid organizations in Darfur would "cause irrevocable damage to the humanitarian operations there," according to Ban's spokeswoman, Michele Montas…Ban appealed to Sudan to "urgently reconsider" its action, noting that these agencies are "key to maintaining a lifeline to 4.7 million Sudanese people who receive aid in Darfur," she said.”

The UN Secretary-General then noted that the Sudanese should realize that their actions were distracting the UN from its primary focus of preparing to condemn Israel at the Durban II conference next month in Geneva.


John Kerry Knows His Audience

Senator John Kerry has a very moving piece today in the Wall Street Journal Europe: Eastern Europe Needs Our Help

“But as we balance the domestic and global demands of this crisis, we should be warned that, in cutting corners today we risk incurring far greater costs down the road. A retreat into our domestic problems will not only leave us diminished on the world stage -- because our world is so economically and financially interconnected, it may well also worsen our own economic crisis.”

He continues: “And that is why I could not in good conscience vote for our stimulus bill as I cannot abide its “Buy American” provisions.”

Yeah, I'm kidding; of course he never said that last part. While he did vote for the so-called stimulus bill, to be fair, he did have some reservations. Here’s John Kerry explaining his problems with some of the proposed tax cuts in the stimulus bill:

“If you put a tax cut into the hands of a business or family, there's no guarantee that they're going to invest that or invest it in America.

“They're free to go invest anywhere that they want if they choose to invest” The Weekly Standard


Dog Bites Man

Clinton Criticizes Israel's Eviction, Demolition Plans

“Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton criticized the Israeli government on Wednesday for its plans to demolish dozens of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, calling the actions "unhelpful" and a violation of international obligations.”

I have no idea exactly what she means by a violation of international obligations although I suspect that “international obligations” – like its cousin “international law” – is one of those throw away coded references that means whatever the speaker wants or needs it to mean.

“The Jerusalem municipal government in recent weeks began planning to evict 1,500 residents and raze 88 homes in an area Israel has designated as a national park, on top of other demolition plans for the Silwan neighborhood.”

That scenario sounded so familiar that I immediately went to link to Hillary Clinton’s stirring words opposing the City of New Haven’s use of eminent domain in the infamous Kelo case…and let me get back to you on that.

Soccer Dad has more on this.


Think multilaterally...then you don't have to act at all

In the wake of the ICC’s arrest warrant for Sudanese President Bashir, today’s Washington Post has Obama allies General McPeak and Kurt Bassuener weighing in with more advice:

“But prioritizing Darfur would make clear that the Obama administration can rally international cooperation to resolve thorny security problems….President Obama has vowed to act multilaterally, where possible, to build real, consensus solutions to international security problems. Decisive international action in Darfur may present the best opportunity to demonstrate this resolve.”

From my vantage point, when they call on the President to prioritize Darfur, that just means talking about it – there appears to be little danger that President Obama would ever be called on to have the US act unilaterally.

And if we’re waiting on the rest of the world:

“The African Union (AU) decided at an emergency meeting on Thursday to send a high-level delegation to press the UN Security Council to delay the indictment…China, which buys much of Sudan's oil and sells it weapons, has also urged the court to postpone the case, warning it risked destabilising Darfur…BBC NEWS Africa Bashir vows to defy Darfur charge

“But not everybody welcomed the decision. Russia's special envoy to Sudan, Mikhail Margelov, said that the ICC warrant "will create a dangerous precedent in the system of international relations and could negatively affect the situation both inside Sudan and the overall situation in the region."
ICC on Darfur: Arrest Warrant Issued for Sudan President - SPIEGEL ONLINE

As I pointed out yesterday, feel free to plan those vacations because there is nothing to see here.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


Form over Substance Justice

I yield to no one in my utter disdain for the pretense that is the International Criminal Court (ICC). Well over two years ago (November 2006), this wannabe Court was all atwitter with excitement:

“The International Criminal Court has found sufficient evidence to identify the perpetrators of some of the worst atrocities in Sudan's Darfur region, and the probe offers "reasonable grounds to believe" that crimes against humanity were committed, chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told the annual meeting of the court's member states in The Hague.” World Court Official Reports Evidence on Darfur Criminals

It took them almost a year and a half just to be able to identify who the bad guys were although, because the investigation wasn’t quite complete, no names were released. Well a pit bull has got nothing on chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo who has been on this case from the beginning (June 2005). In July 2008, he “presented evidence alleging that Sudanese President, Omar Hassan Ahmad AL BASHIR committed the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.” Perhaps the Court is overwhelmed with the 4 cases it’s working but it wasn’t until today that International Court Issues Warrant for Sudanese President .

Yep – years of unspeakable horrors by government personnel to fellow countrymen were somehow traced back to the country’s president. Not sure anyone saw that one coming.

So, just how significant is this move? (I mean beyond Sudan’s immediate “…expulsion of as many as 10 humanitarian aid agencies from Darfur, including OxFam, Mercy Corps and Solidarites, the main suppliers of such vital essentials as food, medicine, sanitation and health care in northern Darfur”.) Well, we have a bit of a roadmap we can check as the ICC previously issued warrants for 5 people for their roles in the Ugandan atrocities: Warrant of Arrest unsealed against five LRA Commanders. That was October 2005.

One of the warrants has been resolved: “On 11 July 2007, following confirmation by the Government of Uganda and receipt of a death certificate, Pre-Trial Chamber II terminated the proceedings against Mr. Raska Lukwiya, thereby rendering the warrant of arrest without effect.”

The other four? “The remaining four warrants are still outstanding and have not been executed.”

Not only can you safely plan your next summer vacation and not miss anything on this matter, you can probably go ahead and plan your next 5 summer vacations and not miss anything…especially if you’re lucky enough to work for the ICC.

Side Note: The ICC currently has a whopping 4 situations on its plate: the Congo, Central African Republic, Uganda and Darfur. A total of 12 people have been named: 8 are still at large, 1 has had a “confirmation of charges” hearing, 2 have received decisions from their “confirmation of charges” hearings and exactly 1 is at trial now (which began late January).

But perhaps I am being unfair to the Court. After all, only “285 women and 302 men work for the ICC, coming from more than 85 states.” …and that includes 18 judges. ICC - Frequently Asked Questions

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


So This is How the Obamas Got the Money to Payoff Those Student Loans

While the rest of us chumps study the market with such analysis tools as the Price-Earnings ratio (PE), President Obama clues us in on what we really should be looking at:

"On the other hand, what you're now seeing is profit and earning ratios are starting to get to the point where buying stocks is a potentially good deal if you've got a long-term perspective on it.” Obama Touts Investing With 'Long-Term Perspective'

Honestly, I have no idea what he is talking about because I thought that ratio was always around one.


We'll have to get back to you on Iran...

Per today’s washingtonpost.com:

“President Obama has sent a letter to his Russian counterpart that raises the prospect of the United States halting development of its missile defense program in Eastern Europe if Russia helps resolve the threat posed by Iran's nuclear program, senior administration officials said last night….Obama's letter, delivered to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in mid-February…”

Mid-February? Then I have to believe he mentioned this to his Secretary of State so what do we take from this?

From today’s Washington Post:

“Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday [March 2nd] expressed doubts in a private meeting with an Arab counterpart that the Obama administration's outreach to Iran would be successful.” Clinton Pessimistic on Iran Outreach

I suppose one could argue that the overture to Russia reflects administration pessimism for success with its own dealings with Iran. But to me it sounds like Secretary Clinton just ain’t buying the Obama Charm working its magic on the Iranians – even with a Russian sidekick.

Side Note: The Clinton article was written by Glenn Kessler and it led me to wonder how he might have covered pre-WW II Europe:

“European allies have become increasingly alarmed by Germany’s growing regional power during the FDR years, helped by the Kennedy family invasion of England, its one-time rival, and the growing strength of German-allies such as Japan and Italy.”

Instead, as noted previously, he covers the Mideast. This time he dutifully lays out why the Iranian problem is – wait for it – President Bush’s fault:

“Persian Gulf allies have become increasingly alarmed by Tehran's growing regional power during the Bush years, helped by the U.S. invasion of Iraq, its one-time rival, and the growing strength of Iranian-backed movements such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank.”

Yeah - if only President Bush had listened to our Persan Gulf allies and dealt aggressively with Iran while encouraging Israel to deal forcefully with both Hezbollah and Hamas.

Monday, March 02, 2009


Achieving a "comprehensive peace" - one pointless conference at a time

Imagine if Washington Post writer Glenn Kessler had been covering post-war Japan:

Japan…was devastated by a recent 3-year war between the US and Japan, launched by the US after trade talks broke down and Japan bombed the crap out of Pearl Harbor.”

But instead he covers the Mideast so today we‘re treated to insights such as this:

“Gaza…was devastated by a recent 22-day war between Israel and Hamas, launched by Israel after a cease-fire broke down and Hamas rockets rained down over Israeli towns.”

All part of his fawning coverage as Clinton Pursues 'Comprehensive Peace' in Mideast.

“Clinton, as expected, announced $300 million in humanitarian relief for Gaza, which is controlled by the militant group Hamas, and $600 million in aid for the Palestinian Authority, which is run by Fatah, a rival Palestinian faction. She cast the funding as an effort to help all Palestinians, not to divide them, although there are strict limits on the funds to prevent any from reaching Hamas. The funds must be approved by Congress.”

Even with all the audacity of hope I can muster, I still think it’ll be hard to get aid to Hamas-controlled Gaza without Hamas touching it. But nothing says the pointlessness of this exercise quite like this little factoid:

A collection of professional politicians and diplomats (oh yeah, and people from the UN, too) gather to raise funds so as to get aid through Israeli-controlled crossings into Hamas-controlled Gaza and…

“Neither Israel nor Hamas was invited to the conference..."

Side Note:At the one-day conference, Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian Authority prime minister, estimated that more than 4,000 homes were destroyed during the conflict and 11,500 were damaged. Fixing homes and infrastructure in Gaza would cost $501 million, Fayyad said.”

Of course, Mr. Fayyad’s guess is as good as yours since he has no standing in Gaza and spends no time there. Even his position as Prime Minister is suspect as to legality. (President M. Abbas appointed him which is not the way it’s supposed to happen.)


Al Gore: "It's Not Just Me"

Snow Blankets Washington Area
Region Braces for What Could Be Largest Winter Storm in Three Years

The first to correctly call for the snow storm? Greg Pollowitz over at NRO…this past December 18th: Save the Date

"Anyone want to bet on a snowstorm hitting D.C. on March 2, 2009?

"Make Climate Justice History - Mass civil disobedience March 2nd, 2009 in DC « It’s Getting Hot In Here"

Sunday, March 01, 2009


Snark as a National Treasure

This looks like a book one can safely ignore and still come off as well-read: 'Snark' Author Scowls at America's Web-Inspired Mean Streak

“This is a book claiming that abusive snideness has caused everything from the demise of journalism to Al Gore's failed 2000 election.”

Snark helped keep Al Gore out of the White House? Hell, that alone should merit it a place in our schools’ curriculum.

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