Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

How Bad Is It? Check Out Europe

It is certainly worse abroad than here. As Dale pointed out, if this is a failure of the “free market” why is Europe, which is very tightly regulated, having a worse time than we are? Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has a blog post outlining the woes of Europe. First, the real possibility of repudiation of debt:euro

Ex-Bundesbank chief Karl Otto Pohl has just said that Ireland and Greece are in danger of defaulting on their sovereign debts and/or may be forced out of the Euro, for those who may not be aware of his Sky interview by my colleague Jeff Randall.

“I think there are countries considering the possibility. It would be very expensive,” he said. “The exchange rate would go down, 50 or 60% and then interest rates would go sky high because the markets would lose all confidence.”

Then we have the possible abandonment of the Euro in order to “re-establish economic competitiveness quickly”:

Laurence Chieze-Devivier from AXA Investment Managers — in “Leaving the Euro?” — says that the rocketing debt costs of Ireland, Greece, Spain, and Italy are taking on a life of their own. (Italy has just revised is public debt forecast from 2010 from 101pc to 111pc. That is a frightening jump. While the CDS default swaps on Irish debt is are at 376 basis pouints. Austria is at 240. This is getting serious).

It is far for clear whether all these countries will accept the sort of drastic retrenchment required to stay in EMU. “By leaving the euro, internal adjustments would become less `painful’. An independent currency would re-establish economic competitiveness quickly, not achieved by a sharp drop in employment or wage cuts”.

 

euronations

The possible death of the “European nation”:

Carsten Brzeski for ING in Brussels said the eurozone laggards were more likely to default than pay the punishing costs of leaving EMU.

“It is difficult to believe that Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain, would be better off outside the eurozone. While a government could possibly get away with a redenomination of its debt, the private sector would still have to service its foreign debt. We believe any attempts to leave monetary union would lead to the mother of all crises, and total isolation in any future European integration”

Mr Brzeski said the bigger danger is that countries will face a buyers’ strike for their debt as a flood of bond issues across the world saturates the markets.

“A further worsening of the crisis could lead to (partial) sovereign defaults in one or several countries.”

How is that likely to happen?

The country’s parliament could pass a law redenominating debt into the new Lira, Drachma, or whatever. But there would be a pre-emptive run on bank deposits long before then. “Anyone not desirous of losing money would presumably see the writing on the wall and transfer any funds beyond the reach of the state. In other words, close down that account with Monte dei Paschi di Siena and open a new one with Commerzbank in Germany”.

Such a wholesale shift would lead to a collapse in the money supply, perhaps equal to the 38pc contraction in M3 from October 1929 to April 1933 in the US — but concentrated in a much shorter period. “Banks would be forced to call in outstanding loans, bring about a collapse in the country’s business.”

Certainly a bit of a doomsday scenario, but, unfortunately, not at all outside the realm of possibility. In fact, as they are, some are arguing it will happen in the near future. Almost every bit of it the result of market distortions implemented or enabled by government.

~McQ

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Our Ironic Foreign Policy

A billion dollars of your tax dollars is on its way to Palestine, 300 million of it earmarked for the Gaza Strip where Hamas still rules:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday will pledge about $300 million in U.S. humanitarian aid for the war-torn Gaza Strip, plus about $600 million in assistance to the Palestinian Authority, a U.S. official said Sunday.

State Department spokesman Robert A. Wood told reporters traveling with Clinton Sunday that she would announce the donations at an international pledging conference at this Red Sea resort. The conference is seeking money for Gaza and the Palestinian economy.

So thanks to your generosity, Hamas doesn’t have to ante up $300 million to support its own people. Yes, your subsidy will allow them to instead purchase some new munitions and rockets with which to attack Israel.

This is the same Secretary of State who recently was peddling our debt bonds to the Chinese, ostensibly so we could borrow more money to, what, fund Hama’s war on Israel?

Isn’t life ironic?

~McQ

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Podcast for 03 Mar 09

In this podcast, Bruce, Bryan, and Dale talk about the president’s new budget, and the end of the Post-WWII global financial system.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2007, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

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BlogTalk Radio – 8pm EST Tonight

Call in number: (718) 664-9614

Yes, friends, it is a call-in show, so do call in.

Subject(s): We’ll expand on Dale’s “Dead Ed” post, talk about the domestic direction of the Obama administration and a couple of nice surprises like the refusal of Congressional Democrats to try to reinstate the assault weapons ban and the intention of the Obama administration DoJ to let the states sort out the medical marijuana issue.

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Project Hero – SSG Jason Fetty, Silver Star

valor1sm

SSG Jason Fetty was assigned to a Provincial Reconstruction Team, which, as the name denotes, isn’t a combat unit. It is a civil affairs unit with a much different role. He was a member of the Khost Provincial Reconstruction Team or PRT as they’re known, and very proud of what he’d been able to accomplish during his tour in Afghanistan.

Provisional reconstruction teams serve a vital role in Afghanistan as they do in Iraq. They complement maneuver forces in separating the enemy from the people, connecting people to the Afghan government and helping the government meet the needs of the people.

That, of course, makes the 25 PRTs’ achievements in Afghanistan — including the opening of a new emergency room for almost 1 million Khost province citizens — prime targets for terroristsd.

That’s exactly what happened when members of the Khost PRT joined officials from throughout the province to celebrate the facility’s opening Feb. 20th of last year. “We were all there to celebrate the fact that we had come together, worked together as a team to achieve a common desire, and that was to help the people,” said Navy Cmdr. John F.G. Wade, who commanded Joint Provisional Reconstruction Team Khost during the late-February incident.

But among the medical professionals who had come from all corners of Khost was a man in a doctor’s lab coat nobody else recognized.

Fetty, a PRT member who was pulling security outside the building alongside paratroopers of the newly arrived 82nd Airborne Division, watched as a sea of white lab coats came rushing out of the building and past him. After more than 10 months in Khost, Fetty had worked closely with the local medical community and recognized each doctor’s face.

He turned to ensure the 82nd Airborne Division troops didn’t fire and cleared them from the area, noting that “those guys had no way of knowing these were actual doctors. I was the only one who knew they weren’t bad guys.”

When Fetty turned back toward the building, the “bad guy” was standing directly in front of him, disguised as a doctor. Fetty had never laid eyes on him before and immediately knew something was wrong. “He was crazy in the eyes. He looked like he was on drugs, and he was acting very erratic. He definitely didn’t look right,” Fetty said.

“Every soldier who has been in combat or been downrange knows when something is not right,” he continued. “You can feel it. You can see it. It’s a general sinking feeling that things are not going to go right. You feel it in your gut.”

Fetty’s military training kicked in. He began going through his “escalation of force” commands: “Stop. Get down.” The man ignored him, and tried to grab Fetty.

Fetty wanted to fire a warning shot, but feared it would ricochet and hit the hospital or someone gathered in the crowd around it. The suspect continued to close in on him and grabbed the barrel of his rifle. At this point, Fetty started to fear the worst. “I was pretty sure he had a (suicide) vest on under his lab coat, but I still didn’t know for sure,” he said.

Rather than shirking him off, Fetty used the distance his weapon created between him and his attacker to his advantage. “I knew that if he grabbed hold of my armor or my person in any way, I was toast,” he said. “There was no getting out of it at that point. I wouldn’t be able to stop him from detonating himself.”

He slowly maneuvered toward a clearing between the hospital and the nearby administrative huts, away from the crowd. “I figured that if I stalled him long enough, everyone else would do their job and get the area cleared,” he said.

Fetty kept his eyes locked with his attackers’. “The last thing I wanted him to do was lose focus on me, because he didn’t want me,” he said. “The governor of the province was there, and he was the primary target. Suicide bombers rarely attack Americans; they want government officials. So I had to keep his focus on me.”

As the struggle continued, Fetty recognized he probably wouldn’t survive. “You resign yourself pretty quick. You just stop thinking at that point about yourself,” he said. “It was either going to be me or 20 other people back there. … Suicide bombers are next to impossible to stop. All you can do is limit the damage that they can do.”

The chain of events “becomes sketchy” when Fetty recalls what happened after he maneuvered the attacker around the corner from the crowd. “Things happened very, very quickly,” he said. Friends told Fetty he tackled the attacker, but he doesn’t remember that. He recalls hitting him with the butt of his weapon, then firing warning shots at the ground near his feet.

The attacker came at him, so Fetty fired into his lower legs, then his kneecap. “He stood back up, even though I gave him a crippling wound,” he said. “He got back up and tried to come at me again.”

Fetty said he remembers hearing the blast of weapons from other members of the security team firing at the attacker. He shot again, at the man’s stomach. He’d heard that it’s safe to fire into a suicide vest, but didn’t want to test his luck by firing into the attacker’s chest. “That’s a bad way for me to end up in a bunch of pieces,” he said.

Then the attacker looked at Fetty with “the scariest face I’ve ever seen.” The standoff had turned personal. “Earlier, he just looked crazy, but now he wanted to kill me,” Fetty said. “I knew what his intent was, and I abandoned all hopes of killing the guy before he would explode.”

Fetty took three steps before making a “Hollywood dive.” The blast came as he hit the ground, peppering him with shrapnel in the face, leg and ankle. All that remained where he had struggled with the attacker was a big hole in the ground.

For several months after the incident, Fetty second-guessed his actions. He fretted that several other soldiers and an Afghan security guard had received shrapnel wounds. Should he have shot sooner or done something differently? “Maybe I could have done it so nobody got hurt, or at least just I got hurt,” he said.
All he had wanted to do was protect his fellow soldiers, the Afghan people they were helping and the new emergency room his provincial reconstruction team had spent months working to make a reality.

In the end, he accepted that he’d made the best of a bad situation by limiting collateral damage as he applied the training that had been drilled into him. “We train hard,” and for every imaginable scenario, including dealings with a suicide bomber, he said. “You go through your rules of engagement and pray that it all works out the way it’s supposed to. This time it happened to work out.”

For his actions that day the 32-year-old pharmacist from Parkersburg, W. Va., became the first Army reservist to receive the Silver Star for valor in Afghanistan. Fetty’s commander said his actions went far beyond saving “countless, countless lives.”

“His actions, along with the actions of others on the team, really prevented a strategic catastrophe,” said Cmdr.. Wade.

Although he’s proud to receive the Silver Star, Fetty said anyone in his shoes would have acted the same way. “I don’t really believe in valor that much,” he said. “It’s more like the set of circumstances you’re put in. I think there are plenty of people over there who are just as brave as I am, who fortunately never found themselves in that situation.”

He said he’s convinced that everyone possesses traits of heroism. “It’s in every human nature to protect someone else,” he said, particularly those they’ve bonded with through hundreds of combat missions and countless hours of ping-pong. “It’s a combination of training, loyalty to your friends and basic human nature,” he said.

As of October 2007, Fetty was still assigned to a medical holding company at Fort Bragg, N.C., but said he looks forward to getting back to his troops to instill some of the lessons he’s learned. “You stick to the basics,” he said. “Always have a plan, stick to the plan, but be prepared to change the plan when you need to.”

Looking back, he said he’s glad he felt compelled to volunteer for duty in Afghanistan, even changing his military specialty so he could deploy as part of the civil affairs team.

He’s convinced the PRTs are making “a huge difference” in Afghanistan. “It’s absolutely vital,” he said. “We build roads, build bridges, improve health care. The Afghan government doesn’t really have the means to fix itself by itself.”

Working among the Afghan people was “amazing,” he said. “Every time we’d go and stop someplace, people were happy to see us. Kids knew ‘PRT’ meant that we were going to fix something. We were going to improve their life in some way.”

Wade said Fetty’s actions during a celebration of a PRT milestone “exemplified what we are trying to achieve.” By standing firmly in the face of danger, Fetty demonstrated “that we really are there to help the people of Afghanistan,” he said.

Fetty’s actions had a ripple effect in Khost province, he said. Furious that terrorists would try to undo the progress being made, local leaders and mullahs staged a peace rally following the would-be attack. They decreed acts of violence “unIslamic,” Wade said, and helped get word out to the people “that the United States and coalition are truly here to help.”

Wade said he’s glad Fetty is being recognized for his actions, “and for the tactical and strategic impact he had.”

“It was an incredible honor to have served with him,” he said.

SSG Fetty is a man who put his life on hold to participate in something bigger than himself. He volunteered for Afghanistan in order to make a positive difference in the lives of others. While some people talk about that, he did it. And when confronted with a man who would destroy all the good he had labored so hard to help build, he valorously took action which assured that didn’t happen. That’s why SSG Jason Fetty of Joint Provisional Reconstruction Team Khost, pharmacist, reservist, patriot and recipient of the Silver Star is someone you should know.

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Romney wins CPAC poll

Mitt Romney won the presidential straw poll at CPAC today:

One day after delivering a forceful campaign-style speech to the conference of conservative activists, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won his third straight CPAC Straw Poll, earning 20 percent of the vote on a ballot that included nine other Republicans who could seek the party’s presidential nomination in 2012.

Romney’s straw poll win at the 2007 Conservative Political Action Conference helped to elevate Romney from a little-known governor to a bona fide presidential frontrunner, and his narrow victory in last year’s straw poll reaffirmed his support among conservative voters. But Romney failed to win the Republican nomination, which was eventually won by Arizona Sen. John McCain.

In the 2009 poll, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal came in second with 14 percent of the vote, while Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Texas Rep. Ron Paul tied at 13 percent. Jindal and Palin did not attend the conference.

Rounding out the straw poll results were former House speaker Newt Gingrich at 10 percent, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee at seven percent, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford at four percent, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani at three percent, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty at two percent, and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist at one percent. Nine percent of poll participants were undecided.

Glad to see the folks at the conference aren’t taking Tax Hike Mike too seriously, though I’m a bit bummed about Mark Sanford’s numbers. I’m surprised to see how well Ron Paul did. I know C4L had a presence at CPAC, looks like it paid off.

Here is a better look at things from CPAC:

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Be A Pro, Or Go

Police pick up a 15 year old girl. 15 year old girl gets lippy and calls them “fat pigs”. Police put 15 year old girl in holding cell and tell her to take off her “basketball shoes”. 15 year old girl slips off left one and kicks it toward the officer and it strikes him in the shin.

Watch how “professionally” the officer handles the situation:

 

 

Yeah, I know – nobody likes lippy 15 year olds who petulantly kick basketball shoes at them, but then nobody likes policemen who act like this dolt either.

~McQ

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Speaking Of Federalism And Freedom

This is “change” (with the appropriate hat tip to the Obama administration) I can support:

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is sending strong signals that President Obama – who as a candidate said states should be allowed to make their own rules on medical marijuana – will end raids on pot dispensaries in California.

Radley Balko says:

It’ll be interesting to see if this tiny bit of federalism will hold should some states or cities decriminalize or even legalize marijuana entirely.

That’s the true test. While what Holder is saying is encouraging, the proof will be how the feds react to the types of moves Balko notes above. If the states are going to truly be left to make their own rules, that will be the test.

After the federal Drug Enforcement Agency raided a marijuana dispensary at South Lake Tahoe on Jan. 22, two days after Obama’s inauguration, and four others in the Los Angeles area on Feb. 2, White House spokesman Nick Schapiro responded to advocacy groups’ protests by noting that Obama had not yet appointed his drug policy team.

The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws” and expects his appointees to follow that policy, Schapiro said.

We’ll see if this precedent (and policy) is confined to things like MJ laws or will be extended to such things as school vouchers and the like.

~McQ

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