Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Poker At Its Finest

Here's an interesting article on a new bill before congress.

From the link:

It will be introduced hopefully tomorrow or in the coming days and would require China to abide by international trade agreements and stop manipulating the value of its currency," said Klein, speaking on behalf of New York Democrat Senator Charles Schumer, who is spearheading the proposed legislation.

This statement tends to support my statements in previous articles that there is nothing "fair" about the fair trade pact we have with China.

I'm not a gambling kind a guy but if I had to wager, I'd place my bet on the bill mentioned in the linked article never seeing the light of day, not because it might make sense, and not because it might even be the right thing to do but simply because the politicians of this country have demonstrated for way too long that they simply don't have the intestinal fortitude to make the tough choices.

And here are some snippets from the commentary on the article linked above:

Now we come to the third point, the big one. As is usual in situations like the one facing the US and global financial system at present, this one is political - it is geo-political in fact. To see the background, here is a link from Yahoo news dated February 2 and titled US Senate to mull deadline for China to revalue yuan.

Yep, it's political alright. Not even economists are that stupid.

According to the report, a dozen Senators, from both parties, agreed to "co-sponsor" a bill which gives China "a window of 180 days" to stop fixing its currency to the US Dollar and "revalue" it. If China does not comply, the bill states that all Chinese manufactured goods exported to the US will face a tariff barrier of 27.5%!! Breathtaking, isn't it?


There is NOTHING that we can think of - and we are fairly knowledgeable and have well functioning imaginations - which could better illustrate the true nature of the fiscal and financial dilemma now facing Washington than this bill. There is NO WAY that the US government can be ignorant of the potential effects on their own economy of slapping a 27.5% tariff on Chinese manufactured goods. In addition, there is no way that the US government can be ignorant of the fact that by setting a deadline on a LARGE Chinese currency revaluation, they are setting a deadline on China realising a HUGE loss on the mountain of $US based assets they now own - or are expected to acquire in the future to go on offsetting the effects of the US trade/budget deficits.

No matter, as this link from the "Carolina Channel" titled: Graham Wants Big Tariffs On Chinese Products illustrates. The bill imposing the 180 day deadline for the Chinese revaluation and the 27.5% tariffs if they do not revalue was introduced on February 3. The introduction of legislation does not automatically mean that it will be passed, but this bill has bi-partisan support and is expected to pass, according to its two sponsors Senator (R-SC) Lindsey Graham and Senator (D-NY) Charles Schumer.


China is present at this weekend's G-7 meeting in London on an "observer" basis. The Chinese government has already made known its "displeasure" with the introduction of this bill on the floor of the US Senate. Financially, the passage of this bill would not be a case of the US government shooting the US economy in the foot, the bullet would go straight between the eyes. To threaten the nation which stands between you and financial apocalypse with tariff retaliation if it does not revalue its currency, thereby taking HUGE losses on its purchases of your debt paper and almost guaranteeing it will not only stop buying more but start selling what it has, is an act of political lunacy.

And THIS is the situation in which the US Dollar price of Gold is going down. Truly, the Gold "reverse barometer" has never worked this well. The true state of the US financial system has never been so starkly, if unintentionally, brought to light. Only those who see financial calamity straight ahead would propose a measure which guarantees financial calamity - in six months time.

Things are starting to heat up. Stay tuned for further developments.

Bill Maher on Religion

Joe Scarborough had Bill Maher on his Scarborough Country last night on MSNBC, and the discussion turned to religion. Scarborough's guest did not shrink from sharing his feelings.

Maher's views are probably representative of a lot of people in the "Democratic wing of the Democratic party", although most of them would never be so frank as is Maher in articulating those beliefs. Listening to Maher one can't help but hear in his words the fundamental difficulty facing the Democrats as they seek to entice red staters into the Democratic fold. On the one hand, they have to try to convince those voters that they are sympathetic with their deepest convictions while, on the other, they hold those same convictions in utter contempt.

Maher states that religious people are "unenlightened". Religion is "a neurological disorder" that "stops people from thinking". The only reason religious people believe what they do is because they were "frightened into believing it when they were children". Religion is "a crutch for the weak-minded". Maher claims that he is "embarrassed that America has been taken over by evangelicals", people who "don't believe in science and rationality". He claims that he is "disgusted by religion" and that "it is arrogance parading as humility". The future, he asserts, "does not belong" to the religious.

The dominant feeling I had watching and listening to this was a kind of sadness. Maher apparently has known very few Christians personally, and the ones he has known have evidently not been what one may have hoped they would be. Nor has he seemed to have read much from the extensive intellectual literature that has been produced by Christians throughout history, but especially in the last one hundred years. Maher comports himself as informed and enlightened, but he is, on this topic at least, a pathetically ignorant man in the most precise sense of the terms.

Listening to Maher state his opinion of Christianity should remind Christians and other devout theists that they have a profound responsibility to be all that he is convinced they are not. They cannot be content to be just like everyone else, either morally or intellectually. Just as Blacks and women often believe they have to be better than their competition in order to get a fair shake, so, too, must those who claim to be followers of Christ strive to reflect Him as accurately, clearly, and compellingly as they are able to a skeptical and disdainful world.

The segment of Scarborough Country featuring Maher can be viewed here. The video takes about a minute to load and the relevant portion begins about two minutes into it.

Gazing West

Wretchard at Belmont Club directs us to this snippet in Jane's International Security News in January:

According to JID's intelligence sources, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is considering plans to expand the global war on terrorism with multi-pronged attacks against suspected militant bases in countries such as Lebanon and Somalia. In a week in which Israel launched airstrikes against Hizbullah positions, our regional correspondent reports from Beirut.

Sending US troops into lawless Somalia would not be new, nor is it likely to cause serious diplomatic waves. Covert US forces have periodically infiltrated the country over the past two years to conduct surveillance and even snatch suspects wanted for the November 2002 suicide bomb attacks in Mombasa, Kenya: an incident in which suspected Al-Qaeda terrorists bombed a hotel and mounted an unsuccessful attack on an Israeli airliner with shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles.

However, sending US special forces into Lebanon - and in particular an area like the Bekaa Valey (which is virtually Syrian territory) and where the bulk of Damascus' military forces in Lebanon are deployed - would be an entirely different matter. Deployment of US forces in the area would almost certainly involve a confrontation with Syrian troops.

That may well prove to be the objective, since the Bush administration is currently stepping up pressure on the Damascus regime in a bid to force it to cut off all support for radical Palestinian groups that have been targeting Israel during the three-year-old intifada. Washington also wants Syria to abandon its weapons of mass destruction and to withdraw all its forces from Lebanon, a virtual satellite since Syria moved in with tacit US support in 1990 as part of a strategy to end Lebanon's civil war.

The US administration has long considered Damascus as a prime candidate for 'regime-change' (along with Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and possibly even Saudi Arabia). Syria, once a powerhouse of Arab radicalism that could not be ignored, has been seriously weakened, both militarily and politically. Washington may feel that the time is coming to oust Bashir Al-Assad and the ruling generals. Targeting Syria via Lebanon, the only concrete political influence Damascus has to show following decades of radical diplomacy, could prove to be a means to that end.

Recalling our ambassador was a provocation and escalation. It sent a clear message to Damascus, in the wake of the car bomb murder of the former prime minister of Lebanon, Rafiq Hariri, in which crime the Syrians were no doubt complicit, that our patience with them is near the end. As the Iraqis reach the point where they are able to handle most of their security burden by themselves, American troops will be freed to liberate Lebanon from an unjust, oppressive occupation, and maybe also Syria itself.

Bashir Assad, the Syrian prime thug, has exploited our preoccupations in Iraq for the past year. He knew that as long as we were tied down there we would be ill-disposed toward adventures further abroad. Now circumstances are changing, and the Pentagon may have set its gaze westward of Iraq. Events of the next couple of months will tell.

Sunni Triangulators

The news from Iraq continues to be encouraging, at least for those who wish for success in that harsh land, and bitterly disappointing to terrorists, the American secular Left, and miscellaneous Bush haters everywhere. The Guardian reports that the Sunnis have recognized that their non-participation in the election was a serious mistake and are seeking now to get involved in the process of building a government in Iraq:

Iraq's Arab Sunnis will do a U-turn and join the political process despite their lack of representation in the newly elected national assembly, Sunni leaders said yesterday. Many Sunnis protested that the election was flawed and unfair, but in the wake of Sunday's results, which confirmed the marginalisation of what was Iraq's ruling class, their political parties want to lobby for a share of power. "Our view is that this election was a step towards democracy and ending the occupation," said Ayad al-Samaray, the assistant general secretary of the Iraqi Islamic party. He said unnamed Sunni leaders blundered in depicting the election as a deepening of the occupation.

The insurgency ravaging Iraq is based in Sunni areas, and there were fears that the violence would escalate if the once-dominant minority was further alienated. A call by clerics for a boycott, and threats by insurgents meant very few Sunnis voted in the January 30 poll. Having endured the brunt of US attacks in towns such as Falluja and Ramadi, many derided the ballot as an attempt to legitimise a foreign occupation. The consequent landslide for the Shias and Kurds means that they will drive the new government and the drafting of a constitution.

An alliance of cleric-backed Shias won 48% of the vote, which could give it a wafer-thin majority in the 275-seat assembly. Kurds won 26%, and a slate headed by the outgoing prime minister, Ayad Allawi, won almost 14%. All three blocs have promised to reach out to the Sunnis, who comprise a fifth of the population but won just a handful of seats because of low turnouts in their areas. This will soon be tested as parties forge alliances and tussle for government posts, including that of prime minister and president.

Secular Sunni leaders yesterday accepted the victors' invitation to participate, potentially draining support from the insurgency. "We can't say it was wise or logical to not participate; it was an emotional decision," said Mr Samaray. "Now the Sunni community faces the fact that it made a big mistake and that it would have been far better to participate." His party, the main Sunni group since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, was in talks with Kurds and Shias. He added: "The Sunni community will accept to share this country with others. They do not need to dominate."

Adnan Pachachi, a Sunni elder statesman, also predicted Sunnis would join the political process. "They missed an opportunity to participate and want to make up for it," he said. Mr Pachachi's was one of two Sunni parties that did stand in the election. It won 0.1%; the other got 2%.

That grinding sound you hear is left-wing molars being gnashed to powder.