As Obama prints billions of greenbacks, the smarties are moving into Swiss francs
The more he prints, the less value each one has. Sad when a small Alpine country is more trusted than the mightiest power on earth. But it is really bugging out the Swiss. They are printing more Francs to cope with the demand but the excessively high value being placed on their currency is still distorting their trade with other countries
THE Swiss franc has weakened sharply against other currencies, hours after the Swiss National Bank said it would intervene to stop an irrational rise in the franc against the euro. The SNB had no comment on the move, saying they already issued a statement after a policy meeting at which the central bank kept interest rates stable at 0.25 per cent.
However, currency analysts suspect it was an intervention, as the SNB likely acted to prove their resolve when the euro actually crept lower despite an early warning statement. The Bank for International Settlements, which traders say would have been the one to sell Swiss francs on behalf of the SNB, also declined to comment.
The franc's sharp move comes as the SNB has promised to fight the risks of deflation and shrinking economic growth, made worse by a strong currency, which also puts the price of their exports at a disadvantage. Investors have been flocking to the franc because it is considered a safe haven amid the global financial crisis....
"I think what we are seeing is a real battle," said Simon Derrick, a currency analyst at the Bank of New York Mellon. "For the past three months, the SNB has been fighting a losing battle with verbal intervention. Every time they have commented on the strength of the Swiss franc, the market has taken less and less notice.” ...
The SNB last officially intervened in the currency markets in March, when it sold the Swiss franc to push the euro up from the SwFr1.48 area to over SwFr1.53. The aim of the SNB's purchases of foreign currencies was to prevent an appreciation of the Swiss franc against the euro, in its role as a save-haven currency, SNB's Mr Jordan said.
Idiocy: Congress wants to pay you to destroy your car
When we first heard the phrase "cash for clunkers," we thought the reference was to a Congressional pay raise. Alas, no, it is the bright idea out of Congress to pay Americans to turn in their old cars so they'll go out and buy a new one. As columnist George Will recently observed, this isn't as insane as the New Deal policy of slaughtering pigs to raise pork prices, but it's close enough for government work.
Under cash for clunkers, drivers would be offered vouchers of up to $4,500 to swap their current wheels for a more environmentally correct set with better mileage. The cars they turn in for destruction would have to get less than 18 miles per gallon, be drivable, and insured to the owner for at least a year.
That last provision is presumably intended to deter political arbitrageurs from raiding used-car lots for trade-in wrecks. But as economic policy, this is still dotty. It encourages Americans to needlessly destroy still useful cars and then misallocates scarce resources from other, perhaps more productive, uses in order to subsidize replacements. By the same logic, we could revive the housing market by paying everyone to burn down their houses to collect the insurance money and build new ones.
The proposal is really intended to help Detroit out of recession by subsidizing new car purchases, while also satisfying environmentalists who want gas guzzlers off the roads yesterday. But the politicians can't even agree on how green this uncreative destruction should be.
Under the House version sponsored by Ohio Democrat Betty Sutton, drivers could get $3,500 if their new SUV, pickup truck or minivan gets a mere two mpg better gas mileage than the one they're sending to the scrap heap. As Senators Dianne Feinstein and Susan Collins wrote on these pages Thursday, that means the government would subsidize the purchase of guzzlers like the Hummer or Dodge Ram. A five mpg improvement would net the full $4,500. Call it a subsidy for single guys.
The plan would also have the unintended consequence of taking inexpensive used cars and parts out of circulation, making it harder for financially pinched families to afford a car or keep an old one running. Recycling old parts and cars is a major industry, extending the life of cars while limiting the production of replacements.
Responding to the cash for clunkers proposal in May, the United Recyclers Group, which represents auto parts recyclers, blasted the bill as an auto bailout at the expense of the environment. According to Richard Filley, executive director of the GreenCARR Foundation, "The environmental costs of new parts manufacturing are far higher than the use of 'green' parts which are reused." Poor Mr. Filley doesn't understand that he is operating in the land of green gesture politics, where what matters is how a policy looks, not whether it actually helps the environment.
For most consumers, the subsidy won't make a major difference in their purchasing decision on a new car, either because they don't have a trade-in or because a new car is still out of reach even with the voucher. But the policy will cost the Treasury revenue that the politicians will eventually claw from someone else, and it will further distort car markets and investment decisions.
A far better cash for clunkers idea would be if Members of Congress gave themselves a $1 million voucher each in return for retiring. Then we could start all over with fewer economic dunces.
The coming storm: Obama and American Jewry
There's a storm coming. It will pit a well-organized community of substantial resources but also substantial insecurity - particularly when it comes to charges of dual loyalty - against a popular president of considerable eloquence but misguided policies that identify Israeli settlements as the main obstacle to Middle East peace. The inevitable clash will separate sunshine Jewish patriots who back Israel when convenient against those who stand with Israel even when it means losing their invitation to the White House Hanukka party.
The bogus issue of settlements is already being swallowed whole by many well-meaning Jews. Last week Dan Fleshler, a leader of Americans for Peace Now, wrote in the New Jersey Jewish Standard that Obama has no choice but to pressure Israel because "it is fruitless for a well-armed, occupying power to negotiate the terms of a viable settlement with an almost defenseless occupied people unless a third party mediates and presses both sides."
In reading Fleshler one wonders whether he has been himself occupied with building a settlement on the moon with no knowledge of events on Earth. Is he seriously suggesting that the thousands of Katyusha rockets and nonstop suicide bombers that have killed more than a thousand Israelis (the equivalent of 30,000 dead Americans) have come from a "defenseless" foe? Would Fleshler likewise argue that the US ought to have pressure from, say, Russia or China to make peace with the terrorists in Afghanistan, seeing that America now represents a "well-armed, occupying power" against the comparatively defenseless Taliban? Or is it only Israel that is forbidden from defending itself? Sorry Mr. Fleshler, but Jewish values do not dictate that the only moral Jew is a dead one who refuses to fight in the face of a 60-year terror onslaught.
Any return to the 1967 borders, which is what Obama's attack on the settlements represents, is simply suicide for Israel. The borders are utterly indefensible. The Arabs know it, which is why they press for it. Had Israel not dismantled its settlements in Gush Katif, Gaza would not have become a terrorist state ruled by Hamas, an organization that kills even more Palestinians than it does Israelis....
As Charles Krauthammer pointed out, our president undermines his moral authority when he pledges that henceforth America will "forge partnerships as opposed to simply dictating solutions," but then only applies that pledge to Iran, Syria, Cuba and Venezuela, but not to Israel.
Last year, right after Obama captured the democratic nomination, I received a phone call from his campaign asking if I would serve as one of the national chairs of "Rabbis for Obama." It was a tempting offer. I was moved by the candidate's remarkable personal story, his iron discipline, his soaring oratory and, most of all, the fact that his victory would be the culmination of my hero Martin Luther King's dream of a man being judged by the content of his character rather than the color of his skin. In the end I declined because I feared that Obama would draw a moral equivalence between Israel and the Palestinians and pressure the former to appease the latter. But even I never suspected that it would happen so quickly and so lopsidedly.
American big business is comfortable with Fascism
A "partnership" between big business and the State was the central idea of Mussolini's Fascism -- and we saw where that led. It removes a large obstacle to complete State power
Everywhere we look we see the great and once-great beneficiaries of free markets running to the state for protection from the cruel bullying of competition. On health care, insurance companies and others repeat the mantra that they want to be "at the table rather than on the menu," all the better to be positioned as a tax collector of the welfare state. General Motors and Chrysler have gone from being pimped-out prostitutes of the state to outright chattel more akin to the leather-bound gimp in "Pulp Fiction," eager to do the bidding of the president and the UAW.
Once-proud companies like GE have become seduced by global warming schemes, because they recognize that there's more money to be made selling white elephants to Uncle Sam than there is selling competitive products consumers want. Indeed, cap-and-trade taxes promise to deliver precisely the protectionist industrial policies the left has dreamed of for decades, only under a "progressive" label.
This week, Philip Morris, the biggest of the Big Tobacco companies, supported and won passage of an "anti-tobacco" bill that will make it easier for Philip Morris (a subsidiary of Altria) to sell cigarettes by making it harder for smaller, more innovative firms to compete. One way it will do that is by curtailing the First Amendment rights of tobacco companies, making it harder to advertise their products (including healthier alternatives to normal cigarettes). Philip Morris, maker of Marlboro and other established brands, already controls 50 percent of the market. That's why it lobbied government to keep it that way.
Also this week, the White House announced its plan to deal with "systemic risk" in the financial markets. The basic idea is that big firms -- giant banks, insurance companies, etc. -- cannot be allowed to fail if their failure threatens something called "stability." The Obama administration is confident that with its new organizational flow charts and enhanced job description for the Federal Reserve, bureaucrats will suddenly see clearly what they couldn't see before. These regulators will know exactly when bubbles get too big, when booms last too long, and when tens of thousands of managers, investors, actuaries and bankers make bad or sub-optimal decisions.
The problem, other than the shortage of Jedis and shamans to fill these posts, is that big companies will understand the surest way to attain immortality is to become too big to fail. Once they've achieved that privileged status, these companies will become de facto wards of the state, insured for life at taxpayer expense like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and in exchange they will do whatever Uncle Sam asks.
It's too soon to tell which companies will leap at the opportunity to sell their souls for immortality, but you can bet that many of those already suckling the TARP teat will be among the first to celebrate the sagacity of the new system.
While doctrinaire socialists might feel betrayed by liberalism's cozy embrace of big business, their betrayal pales in comparison to the bitterness of free-marketers who defend big business's freedom to operate, only to see these businesses use that freedom to hide behind the skirts of the nanny state. Real freedom means the freedom to fail as well as succeed. Big business wants to be protected from the former and deny competitors the latter. And their betrayal, more than anything, disheartens those who would defend both freedoms.
And you thought American inner city ghettoes were bad: "More than a quarter of South African men have admitted to raping a woman or girl, with 9.8 per cent forcing themselves on a victim for the first time before the age of 10, a study has found. The Medical Research Council study of 1,738 men found that nearly half had done so more than once, driving home South Africa's reputation as one of the world's worst rape capitals. Among the men surveyed, 27.6 per cent admitted to raping a woman or girl. One in five of confessed rapists had HIV, added the study, which canvassed men of all race groups, different socio-economic backgrounds, and urban and rural areas. Nearly 10 per cent of the men said they had forced a woman or girl into sex for the first time when aged under 10 years old. Nearly 73 per cent of the men committed their first rape while under age 20. The incidence of HIV among rapists was similar to the rate among the general population. But 27.8 per cent of the men who said they had committed same-sex assaults tested positive for HIV. More than 42 per cent of men in the study said they were physically violent to their partners, and those men were more likely to have HIV, the council said in its study released today. South Africa has one of the world's highest rates of reported rape, with 36,190 cases - 99 per day - reported to police in 2007, but experts say only a small number of attacks are reported. The country has the highest number of HIV infections in the world."
High court adds hurdle to age-bias suits: "The Supreme Court on Thursday made it harder for employees to win claims of age discrimination, a ruling with implications for aging baby boomers who hope to hold on to their jobs in the face of lost retirement savings in last year's stock market crash. With age-discrimination claims skyrocketing, the court said in a 5-4 decision that a worker must prove age was the dominant factor in his or her firing or demotion in order to be successful. Previously, workers had to prove only that age was a factor in the decision, as is the case for discrimination based on sex or race. "The burden of persuasion does not shift to the employer to show that it would have taken the action regardless of age, even when a plaintiff has produced some evidence that age was one motivating factor in that decision," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority, which included Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Anthony M. Kennedy and Antonin Scalia. It upheld a lower court ruling that said a 54-year-old vice president of an Iowa financial company didn't prove he was demoted in a reorganization because of his age."
Obama’s Honeymoon is Over: "Early in his presidency, Barack Obama had a grace period when the public saw the nation’s problems as ones he inherited, but two new polls -- by New York Times/CBS News and Wall Street Journal/NBC News - make clear that there are rising concerns about his policies. The biggest public concern is over the size of the deficit being run up by Obama’s economic recovery proposals and how much more it will rise if his plan to overhaul health care and increase coverage for uninsured Americans is enacted. But there is also discomfort about his intervention in the auto industry and taking a big government stake in ownership of General Motors. And voters also disagree with Obama on closing Guantánamo. On these issues, the new polls track with surveys done by Gallup. Gallup found strong job approval ratings for Obama in a late May poll but disapproval of his handling of the federal deficit and controlling federal spending. A Gallup poll conducted June 9-10 found a majority disapproving of the government’s investing in GM. Gallup said that voters opposed closing Guantánamo by more than a 2-to-1 margin."
Maher: Barack Obama obsessed with being on TV: "Self-described libertarian pundit Bill Maher ripped Barack Obama during a lengthy monologue on his HBO program Friday night, accusing the president of being obsessed with appearing on TV and failing to come through on pre-election promises. "This is not what I voted for," Maher said. “I don’t want my president to be a TV star.” Maher criticized Obama's constant television coverage ("I get it: you love being on TV") and said the president should focus on fixing the nation's problems instead. "You don't have to be on television every minute of every day -- you're the president, not a rerun of 'Law & Order,'" Maher said. “TV stars are too worried about being popular and too concerned about being renewed." Maher continued: "You're skinny and in a hurry and in love with a nice lady -- but so is Lindsay Lohan. And just like Lindsay, we see your name in the paper a lot but we're kind of wondering when you’re actually going to do something.” Maher added that Obama's presidential rival John McCain was right to say Obama acted like a celebrity and, amazingly for Maher, the comedian suggested Obama needs to act more like his predecessor. “I never thought I’d say this: What [Obama] needs in his personality is a little George Bush.”
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)