Monday, April 21, 2008

Is Jimmy Carter Senile, or just Nuts?

Jimmy Carter met with leaders of Hamas, the terrorist group whose charter includes the destruction of Israel as a chief goal. According to Carter, Hamas agreed to a peaceful two-state existence of Israel and a Palestinian state if Israel would return to its June 4, 1967 borders. Carter seems to think he's brought the middle east to the brink of peace. Too bad he overlooked or ignored what was actually said. The Palestinians said they would NOT recognize Israel AND they seek the "right of return", for all 4.5 million of them. Maybe Carter attended a seance where the spirit of his old pal Yasser Arafat was channeled. Who knows? But the question remains: Is Jimmy Carter Senile? Or nuts?

Hamas open to peace deal with Palestinian backing: Carter

Former US president Jimmy Carter said on Monday the Islamist Hamas movement told him it would recognise Israel's right to live in peace if a deal is reached and approved by a Palestinian vote.

Carter made the comments following two meetings in Damascus with exiled Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal that angered Israel and the United States, which consider the movement a terror group despite its victory in 2006 elections.

"They said that they would accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders if approved by Palestinians and that they would accept the right of Israel to live as a neighbour, next door, in peace," Carter told the Israeli Council on Foreign Relations think-tank.

Hamas would agree to such a peace deal, yet to be negotiated, provided it is "submitted to Palestinians for their overall approval even though Hamas might disagree with some terms of the agreement," Carter said in Jerusalem.

It was unclear whether Hamas would require the referendum to include Palestinian refugees living outside the West Bank and Gaza but Carter said the group would also accept an agreement negotiated by a unity government made up of Hamas and the Fatah movement of moderate Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

While in the Middle East Carter met with senior Hamas leaders from the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and Syria, but was unable to secure a ceasefire or a prisoner exchange for an Israeli soldier seized by Gaza militants in 2006.

Hours after Carter spoke Meshaal told a press conference in Damascus that Hamas would not recognise the Jewish state and would insist on the right of some 4.5 million Palestinian refugees to return to Israel.

"We accept a Palestinian state within the June 4 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital -- a sovereign state without settlements -- as well as the right of Palestinian refugees to return, but without recognition of Israel," he said.

Meshaal ruled out any direct talks with Israel but said Hamas was ready to hold discussions with US officials and praised Carter for his "audacious and courageous" decision to meet with the movement's leaders.

The United States has criticised Carter's decision to meet with Hamas and played down the message he conveyed.

"It seems to me that what Hamas needs to do is pretty clear. Renounce violence would be a good step towards showing you actually want peace," US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters in Manama.

Carter's willingness to meet with Hamas has also drawn sharp criticism from Israel, where Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other leaders refused to meet him.

"Carter is detached from reality... He talks to Khaled Meshaal and tries to reach an agreement, while the murderous attacks continue against the state of Israel," Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz said.

Carter said peace talks launched last November under US auspices have shown no sign of progress and that Hamas and Syria both had to be involved in any attempt to resolve the Middle East conflict.

"The problem is not that I met with Hamas in Syria, the problem is that Israel and the United States refuse to meet these people," the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and architect of the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty, said.

Carter said Hamas rejected his proposal for a unilateral, 30-day ceasefire, saying "they couldn't trust Israel to follow up by lessening attacks on Gaza and in the West Bank."

Speaking to reporters after the conference, Carter said he was "not in any role to get that reciprocal agreement because I can't talk to Israeli officials."

"So I told them (Hamas) don't wait for reciprocation, just do it unilaterally. This will bring a lot of credit to you around the world for doing a humane thing. They turned me down."

Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June after ousting forces loyal to Abbas. Since then Israel has carried out near-daily raids on the coastal strip as Palestinian militants have launched rockets at southern Israel.

Carter also said Hamas had agreed to allow Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, captured in a deadly cross-border raid from Gaza in June 2006, to write a letter to his parents.

The former US president wrapped up his nine-day trip to the Middle East, which also took him to the West Bank, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Jordan.

Slow Learners still running Cuba

It may take a while before democracy arrives in Cuba. But more cell phones help the word get around. Trips to local resorts help too. More Cubans will come to understand what they're missing -- and more importantly -- why. As always, the culprit is the tyranny, the government under which they endure. As always, tyrannies, despotic regimes and dictatorships fear open communication between citizens. Cuba locks up writers and journalists because they are terrorists in the eyes of the regime. However, as cell phones and internet connections increase, the number of these communications terrorists will multiply, and soon exceed the regime's capacity for repression.

The Meaning of Raúl's 'Reforms'

Does a Cuban with the right to own a cellphone and go to a local resort have a brighter future than two months ago, when such "privileges" were illegal? Many Cuba watchers seem to think so. They're celebrating these changes – and a few others – recently introduced by the country's newly inaugurated dictator, Raúl Castro.

The optimism is misplaced, or at best premature. Raúl's "reforms" haven't been introduced as a way to begin any kind of transition toward a Cuba libre.

Yes, it is possible that legalizing the purchase of electronic goods will help democratic dissidents. But Raúl's objective is to placate a restless population, while the regime tightens its grip on economic power. The regime warned democracy advocates last week not to interpret the reforms as a weakening of its resolve to preserve socialism.

Raúl has also not abandoned the stick. Last month marked the fifth anniversary of Cuba's "black spring," when the regime unleashed a wave of repression against the nation's fledgling free-speech movement. State-security swept into the homes of poets, journalists and human-rights advocates. Fifty-five individuals arrested on March 18, 2003 – and found guilty of using typewriters and fax machines – remain in rodent-infested dungeons. Cuba has more than 300 political prisoners.

Amnesty International recently highlighted the plight of Marcelo Cano Rodríguez, a medical doctor and human-rights defender. Amnesty says his crime was "visiting prisoners and their families as part of his work with the Cuban Human Rights Commission and maintaining ties to . . . Doctors without Borders."

Still, Raúl has to face the fact that dissent is spreading. Young Cubans are questioning and even mocking the government. Last month, Cuba's third highest ranking comandante, Ricardo Alarcón, spoke to students at Havana's University for Computer Sciences. No doubt he expected deference. Instead, members of the audience went to the microphone and challenged him.

Student Eliécer Ávila got most of the international attention with a line of inquiry he read from a notebook. He wanted to know why workers are paid in a worthless local currency, while things they want to buy, like shampoo, are priced in "convertible" pesos, which have the value of dollars. Why are hotels and resorts off limits to locals? Why can't Cubans travel to Bolivia to see where Che Guevara died?

Alarcón seemed stunned. In a rambling, 30-minute response, he defended the hotel ban by saying that as a Hispanic he had been barred from hotels in New York City. He also gave a bizarre explanation for the travel ban: "If all the world, some six billion people, could travel whenever they wanted, the jam in the skies would be enormous."

Mr. Ávila was detained after the incident. Later he showed up on TV, claiming that world media had manipulated his views. But the damage was done, and the regime understands that the student's remarks are the unspoken thoughts of so many Cubans. The Cuban Movement for Democracy has collected 5,000 signatures in favor of an autonomous university. Rock bands, such as "Porno Para Ricardo," are multiplying, pushing the limits of political correctness with shocking disrespect, even for Fidel.

Internet access is not easy, but blogger Yoani Sánchez evaded censors for nearly a year before her site, Generación Y, was blocked last month. The 32-year-old wife and mother chronicles daily island life, including political repression or economic hardship.

The regime has long counted on fear as the principal tool to keep the proletariat in line. It was too risky to share thoughts contrary to the revolution with others when neighbors are paid to report on anyone doubting Fidel. But now the bearded one is gone, and a generation of the irreverent young has no respect for the mess he wrought.

The geezers running Cuba aren't sure how to deal with so many audacious upstarts. Some outsiders have speculated that they will allow some criticism. But in a March 17 essay, José Azel, a senior research associate at the Cuba Transition Project in Miami, argued that the regime may be planning to follow the postcommunist path of Russia. In that case, the little guy won limited economic gains but the big prizes went to the ruling bosses. The model differs from China in that foreign investors wouldn't play a key role as owners. "The military managerial elite control, by some estimates, over sixty percent of the economy," Mr. Azel notes. "As a matter of survival not ideology," Raúl may introduce tentative economic reforms, but at the same time he will turn "his officers into businessmen."

Observes Mr. Azel: "In this disheartening end game scenario Cuban communism will have come to an end, leaving the generals and their heirs as the nouveau riche devoid of a democratic culture." This needn't be Cuba's destiny. But it is not an unlikely objective for Raúl, and would explain why the regime feels it can allow cellphones and resort holidays and still run the show.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Have You Got the Guts for This?

Good news for the heartless, or those in need of a heart. Many will breathe easier knowing this organization is prepared to help the living by finding generous people who no longer need their mortal coils. From those abandoned coils many fortunate people will receive the replacement parts they desperately need.

The Anatomy Gifts Registry (AGR) has developed a program to assist those interested in donating their bodies to medical science, and to assist their families with a pre-planning package entitled the “Future Donor Program”.

Anatomy Gifts Registry is a non-profit corporation that provides an alternative to traditional funerals while supporting medical science and education. AGR is the largest national whole-body donation registry.

AGR works with many different researchers and clinicians from many diverse backgrounds and fields. Click here to read some examples of the studies that benefit from human tissue donation through the AGR program.

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P: 1.800.300.LIFE
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Anti-Semite Convention -- Damascus, April 18

Only one more invititation is still in the mail. The one in the envelope sent to Ahmadinejad, the head of Iran. He'll probably show up unannounced, as will many other middle-eastern muslim leaders. Perhaps even Louis Farrakhan will fly in for this one, possibly bringing his disciple Reverend Wright. Ward Churchill will undoubtedly report on the event.

Carter To Meet Hamas Leader

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter plans to meet Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Syria next week, despite U.S. efforts to isolate the Islamist Palestinian group, Al Jazeera television said.
The meeting was expected to take place in the Syrian capital Damascus on April 18, and may also include former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and former South African President Nelson Mandela.

"Senior Hamas officials have confirmed the Carter meeting but declined to speak on camera out of both political and security considerations," Al Jazeera said on Thursday.

Washington shuns Hamas as a terrorist group and has joined Israel in supporting efforts to isolate it.

Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June. That left the West Bank under the control of the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, which dismissed a Hamas-led government.

Carter, 83, served one term as president between 1977 and 1981. After leaving office he founded the Carter Center in Atlanta to promote global peace, health, democracy and human rights. In 2002, he won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Bear Stearns was NOT Bailed Out

Some History

Bear Stearns, founded in 1923, had been an aggressive player in the financial markets for many years. It was a pioneer in mortgage-backed securities in the 1980s, and was heavily involved in the packaging of sub-prime mortgages during the housing boom. As the prices of these securities slipped last year, Bear bought not only for its own account but also for its hedge funds.

Bear's purchases were financed with short-term borrowings that were collateralized against these securities. But as the market continued to tumble, lenders demanded more cash to secure their loans. When Bear knew it would not have enough cash to cover the margin, it went to JPMorgan, one of its lenders. Both then turned to the Fed to arrange a $30 billion dollar loan guarantee against Bear's assets to prevent the firm from going bankrupt.

After the Fed guarantee was announced, Bear stock dropped to $30, which was what traders thought the company was worth at that time. That is why the $2 price announced days later was such a shocker.

A Bailout?

Was the Fed's loan a bailout of a Wall Street firm that deserved to go under for making risky bets? And how much is the taxpayer going to lose as a result of the Fed deal?

The Fed loan probably did prevent Bear from going into insolvency, but it hardly "bailed out" investors. Bear sold for $172 a share last year, once valuing the firm at over $20 billion. The Fed agreed to back a sale at $2 a share, or about $250 million, which represented a 98.4% wipeout for investors. As a result, Bear as a firm was to disappear, its assets absorbed by JPMorgan, which will probably dismiss half of Bear's 16,000 employees. Meanwhile, the higher price agreed to a week later actually reduced the Fed's exposure to Bear's troubled assets.

The Details

The Fed agreed to lend $29 billion against a portfolio of mostly sub-prime securities that Bear Stearns had "marked to market". It is important to recognize that this sum does not represent the face value of these securities, which is far higher than $29 billion. Instead, the sum represented the extremely depressed market prices brought on by the crisis. JPMorgan, which oversaw the valuation of these securities and also assumed some of the risk, claimed it was satisfied with the prices that Bear determined.

The higher $10 price that was agreed on a week later required JPMorgan to take a loan against the first $1 billion of Bear's securities, lowering the Fed's guarantee to $29 billion. Given the 120 million shares of Bear Stearns outstanding, the reduction in the Fed's contribution is approximately equal to the $8 increase in the price Bear stockholders will receive.

The $30 billion in assets will be deposited in a newly-created corporation established for the purpose of administrating and selling these securities. The Fed will earn an interest on its portfolio at its ongoing discount rate (currently 2.50%, 25 basis points above the targeted Fed funds rate), and JPMorgan will receive a higher interest rate of the discount rate plus 450 basis points, (currently 7%) on its $1 billion loan.

All proceeds from the sale of Bear's assets will first go to repay the full $29 billion principal and interest due to the New York Fed. Only when all interest and principal is fully paid to the Fed will any further proceeds go to satisfy the $1 billion in subordinated notes due to JPMorgan Chase. Once JPMorgan's note is satisfied, any further proceeds will go entirely to the Fed.

In short, unless the default levels soar above the level now anticipated, the Fed will likely recover the entire proceeds of its loan and more.

It is my opinion that not only will the Fed get its money back plus interest, but will earn a profit on the transaction. As bad as the housing market is, many of these securities are being quoted at prices below most worst-case scenarios. Two years ago, any security that was "asset backed" - and particularly "real estate backed" - was considered golden and priced with almost no risk.

Today any security with the words "real estate" attached is considered toxic and priced to reflect that view. The reality, as usual, is somewhere in between.

The Fed did not bail out Bear at taxpayer expense, but enabled the financial markets to continue to function. History will call the Fed's action the right move at the right time.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Garbage In, Energy Out

It can be done. A few companies are able to convert some garbage into energy and earn profits. No massive federal subsidies, no far-fetched schemes. It works.

Governments and companies are on a quest to turn trash into power


Facing rising energy prices and growing concerns over global warming, governments and businesses are trying to turn trash into treasure.

They're pursuing different "waste to energy" conversion technologies that generate power by burning garbage -- everything from banana peels to sewage sludge to tree trimmings. This method not only cuts down on the use of fossil fuels, but also reduces the amount of junk consigned to landfills -- and slashes emissions of methane, the potent greenhouse gas that garbage dumps generate.

"Waste is a resource," says Mark Pytosh, chief financial officer of Covanta Holding Corp. (stock symbol CVA), a Fairfield, N.J., energy company that uses waste to generate power. "A lot of people think, 'Ahhh, get rid of it!' But waste has an energy value, and our question is, how do you get the most energy value from waste?"

Saved From the Scrap Heap

Generating power from waste first came into vogue in the U.S. during the energy crisis in the late 1970s, according to Alex Klein, a senior energy analyst at Emerging Energy Research, an industry analysis and consulting firm in Cambridge, Mass. The industry continued to grow throughout the 1980s, but saw a decline in the 1990s as municipalities became more sensitive to issues around emissions from burning waste.

Since then, however, the waste-to-power industry has invested in technology to reduce its emissions, easing public concerns. In addition, at least 24 states have renewable-portfolio standards in place requiring utilities to generate a certain portion of their power from alternative sources. As a result, cities are once again turning to the technology.

Most of the projects that utilities have pursued have been solar and wind-development deals, but Mr. Klein says that an increasing number of utilities will turn to some version of waste-to-energy projects, particularly in areas without good wind or solar resources.

There are two basic types of waste-to-energy conversion technologies. The traditional method uses thermochemical processes like combustion and gasification to burn any kind of garbage available to make power. Another technique, anaerobic digestion, uses microbes to break down only organic waste. Since the 1980s there have been advances in technology on both fronts, but the traditional method often faces a public-image problem -- people see it as less clean than the organic method.

Currently, traditional projects dominate the waste-to-energy market in many parts of the country, including the Northeast. Companies such as Covanta (CVA), Veolia Environmental Inc., and Waste Management Inc.'s Wheelabrator Technologies Inc. subsidiary, are by far the largest players in the industry.

Making the technology even more compelling: Some experts say traditional waste-to-energy projects -- combined with waste management -- are the most effective way of combating the greenhouse-gas emissions associated with disposing of most types of waste.

A Plentiful Resource

But more parts of the country are focusing on converting organic waste, known as biomass, into power. States in the Southeast are particularly interested in biomass: They lack wind and solar resources but are rich in woody waste resources, including waste from the forestry industry, which has a big presence there.

Atlanta-based utility Georgia Power has signed 50-megawatt power-purchase agreements with biomass waste-to-energy project developers including Rollcast Energy Inc. of Charlotte, N.C., and Yellow Pine Energy LLC, of Fort Gaines, Ga.

The projects are minimal in size compared with the nearly 16 million kilowatts of capacity the utility produces, but they represent early steps in bringing biomass waste-to-energy projects online.

Meanwhile, Progress Energy Florida, a subsidiary of Progress Energy Inc. of Raleigh, N.C., has signed a 20-year power-purchase agreement with the privately held Biomass Gas & Electric LLC of Atlanta for 75 megawatts from a waste-wood-to-energy plant. Again, the number pales in comparison to the 21,000 megawatts the company produces in North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida, but it represents an important early step for biomass.

Other utilities have already deployed biomass resources and are counting on them to help meet renewable-portfolio standards. In Virginia, Richmond-based Dominion Resources Inc. is taking power from the largest biomass facility operating on the East Coast to date, an 80-megawatt power plant in Hurt, Va., which produces enough electricity to power up to 21,000 homes.

Despite all the activity in the Southeast, the state that has taken the lead in developing biomass projects is one that has an abundance of wind and solar resources: California.

The state has the most aggressive renewable-portfolio standard in the nation -- 20% of state utilities' power needs to come from renewable sources by 2010. And at least 20% of that renewable energy must come from biomass or traditional waste-to-energy projects.
But public concerns about burning trash have made traditional projects untenable in California, even though they have low emissions.

"We have never received a proposal for a municipal solid-waste plant in our service area," says Michael R. Niggli, chief operating officer of San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Gas Co., the regulated utilities of Sempra Energy Inc.

That means lots of opportunities for biomass power companies like Bull Moose Energy LLC in San Diego, a start-up that has raised $72 million from investors including Morgan Stanley. Bull Moose uses "waste products -- primarily construction wood, wood pallets and tree clippings -- and they will then convert that and burn it and produce a decent amount of power," says Mr. Niggli.

His company, San Diego Gas & Electric, has signed a purchase agreement to buy 20 megawatts of power from Bull Moose's first facility.

Coming to America

Some of the most innovative work in waste-to-energy is being done in Europe. High energy costs have contributed to the development of a vibrant market in waste-to-energy projects.

Regulations restricting landfills and greenhouse-gas emissions have been another big factor; for instance, the European Union has issued a directive that would cut the volume of waste disposed in landfills by 60% of 2001's volume by the year 2020.

"In countries in Central Europe, as well as places like Japan and Hawaii, for instance, landfilling isn't an option," says Mr. Klein of Emerging Energy Research. "In those areas, there's been an emphasis on developing waste-to-energy projects, to generate energy and avoid destroying land."

Some European ideas are finding their ways to the U.S. through a newly formed European-U.S. joint venture called Schmack BioEnergy LLC -- a partnership between Schmack Biogas AG and Kurtz Bros. Inc., a U.S.-based environmental-services firm.

Schmack BioEnergy has signed an agreement with an undisclosed large West Coast utility and an undisclosed prominent Internet company to develop 150 megawatts of waste-to-energy projects, which could power about 40,000 homes. In addition, Schmack BioEnergy has signed agreements with multiple utilities to develop as much as hundreds of millions of dollars of waste-to-energy projects, says Mel Kurtz, chief executive officer of the Cleveland-based company.

"This is going to be a really, really big market," Mr. Kurtz says, "and it's going to be a really good market."

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Another Name for Reparations?

Obama says he believes the US should increase Capital Gains taxes. Is this a stealth approach to funding Reparations? Is this the rose by another name? When people think of those who receive capital gains, it is likely they think only of rich whites with ties to the Corporate America that's seen as the beneficiary of slavery, the practice that ended almost 150 years ago.

Who then, forms a more likely class of people to pay the bill that many blacks see as their due? Who else but those who count capital gains and dividends as chief components of their income? It is widely believed that slavery led to the creation of wealth that built this country. Therefore, it is the people who now possess the wealth who must pay for the sins of those seven generations in the past. Or so the thinking goes. Hence, Obama is on course to start not only a new phase of the war on the rich, but he's on course to inject race into this war.

He says he's not a muslim. I suppose he's not. But his father was a muslim and according to muslim tradition, birth to a muslim father means the child is muslim. He converted to Christianity, or he was raised as a Christian, who knows? It's unclear. However, he is a Christian, though barely. Reverend Wright, his anti-Semitic, anti-American spiritual leader, is more like Louis Farrakhan than Billy Graham. Obama was guided for almost 20 years by a minister who would find a home in the Nation of Islam if he were to forsake the church that employed him for decades. Obama is not a muslim even though he has been guided by a de facto Nation of Islam muslim for two decades.

In a similar way Obama says he does not support the goal of obtaining Reparations, that he does not support a huge transfer of wealth from whites to blacks. But he favors a huge increase in Capital Gains taxes. Capital Gains are the ultimate symbol of white financial power in America. They are seen by some as the symbol of the long chain to fortunes built more than a century ago. Wealthy employees of Microsoft might not agree. But that won't matter in the minds of those who believe the Capital-Gains crowd has a debt to pay.

Obama is not a muslim and he does not favor the payment of Reparations. But he's the candidate who takes his spiritual guidance from a disciple of Louis Farrakhan and he's the candidate who wants to impose a huge tax on the profits most commonly seen as white profits.

Obama: Huge Capital Gains Tax Increase Needed

Citing advice from the sage of Omaha, Warren Buffet, Democratic presidential contender Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) has called for a massive increase in the capital gains tax.

No word from the billionaire investor Buffett in reaction to Obama’s policy proposal — aired first on MSNBC by the Democratic presidential contender in an interview with Maria Bariromo – but many other investors are already responding. Currently, the capital gains tax rate is 15 percent.

"When I talk to people like Warren Buffet, or others, and I ask them, you know, how much of a difference is it going to be if it’s 20 or 25 percent, they say, ‘Look, if it’s within that range then it’s not going to distort, I think, economic decision making,” said Obama in an interview on March 27 on CNBC’s Closing Bell program.

Sen. Obama, who also favors letting the Bush income tax cuts expire in 2010, added that he would not like the capital gains tax rate to go up to "confiscatory rates.”

"I certainly would not go above what existed under Bill Clinton, which was the 28 percent. . . my guess would be it would be significantly lower than that. I think that we can have a capital gains rate that is higher than 15 percent,” said Sen. Obama.

Some economists tell MoneyNews that it is not a wise tax policy decision to raise capital gains tax rates in the middle of an economic downturn and possibly a recession.

"I think it's a fairytale to tell people that appreciably raising taxes on voluntary investment activities would not have an effect in the market. Or course it would,” Matthew Conrad, managing director of Complete Wealth Management, Orange, Calif., tells MoneyNews.

Conrad, who is a licensed CPA, does not believe that Obama would stop at 25 percent for a cap gains tax, however. He thinks it could go much higher to"65 percent. That would sure distort my economic decision making, and that of my clients.”

Also taking on Obama is the Republican National Committee (RNC), which issued a statement quoting several financial experts, including Martin Sosnoff, chairman and founder of Atlanta/Sosnoff Capital, The Tax Foundation's Scott Hodge, and the U.S. Congressional Joint Committee On Taxation, which indicated that "higher tax rates for capital gains and dividends are bound to dampen the stock market.”

But, Obama seems confident that an increase in capital gains rates will do much to help an economy in crisis.

"What it will also do is first of all help out the federal Treasury, which is running a credit card up with the bank of China and other countries,” said Obama. "What it will also do, I think, is allow us to make investments in basic scientific research, in infrastructure, in broadband lines, in green energy and will allow us to give some relief to middle class and working class families who have been driving this economy as consumers but have been doing it through credit cards and home equity loans. They're not going to be able to do that.”

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Hitchens on Hillary

It's beginning to look as though Hillary's run for the presidency is over. With respect to the nominating process, Obama seems to have survived his long association with Reverend Wright, a black separatist who admires Louis Farrakhan and who appears to favor a violent overthrow of our society. Democrats have also shown their willingness to overlook Obama's identification with Islam. Despite his baggage, he's ahead of Hillary whose lying has undermined a campaign that started as a sure thing. The nomination was hers to lose, and she's losing it.

The Tall Tale of Tuzla

Hillary Clinton's Bosnian misadventure should disqualify her from the presidency, but the airport landing is the least of it.

By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, March 31, 2008, at 11:26 AM ET

The punishment visited on Sen. Hillary Clinton for her flagrant, hysterical, repetitive, pathological lying about her visit to Bosnia should be much heavier than it has yet been and should be exacted for much more than just the lying itself. There are two kinds of deliberate and premeditated deceit, commonly known as suggestio falsi and suppressio veri. (Neither of them is covered by the additionally lying claim of having "misspoken.") The first involves what seems to be most obvious in the present case: the putting forward of a bogus or misleading account of events. But the second, and often the more serious, means that the liar in question has also attempted to bury or to obscure something that actually is true. Let us examine how Sen. Clinton has managed to commit both of these offenses to veracity and decency and how in doing so she has rivaled, if not indeed surpassed, the disbarred and perjured hack who is her husband and tutor.

I remember disembarking at the Sarajevo airport in the summer of 1992 after an agonizing flight on a U.N. relief plane that had had to "corkscrew" its downward approach in order to avoid Serbian flak and ground fire. As I hunched over to scuttle the distance to the terminal, a mortar shell fell as close to me as I ever want any mortar shell to fall. The vicious noise it made is with me still. And so is the shock I felt at seeing a civilized and multicultural European city bombarded round the clock by an ethno-religious militia under the command of fascistic barbarians. I didn't like the Clinton candidacy even then, but I have to report that many Bosnians were enthused by Bill Clinton's pledge, during that ghastly summer, to abandon the hypocritical and sordid neutrality of the George H.W. Bush/James Baker regime and to come to the defense of the victims of ethnic cleansing.

I am recalling these two things for a reason. First, and even though I admit that I did once later misidentify a building in Sarajevo from a set of photographs, I can tell you for an absolute certainty that it would be quite impossible to imagine that one had undergone that experience at the airport if one actually had not. Yet Sen. Clinton, given repeated chances to modify her absurd claim to have operated under fire while in the company of her then-16-year-old daughter and a USO entertainment troupe, kept up a stone-faced and self-loving insistence that, yes, she had exposed herself to sniper fire in the cause of gaining moral credit and, perhaps to be banked for the future, national-security "experience." This must mean either a) that she lies without conscience or reflection; or b) that she is subject to fantasies of an illusory past; or c) both of the above. Any of the foregoing would constitute a disqualification for the presidency of the United States.

Yet this is only to underline the YouTube version of events and the farcical or stupid or Howard Wolfson (take your pick) aspects of the story. But here is the historical rather than personal aspect, which is what you should keep your eye on. Note the date of Sen. Clinton's visit to Tuzla. She went there in March 1996. By that time, the critical and tragic phase of the Bosnia war was effectively over, as was the greater part of her husband's first term. What had happened in the interim? In particular, what had happened to the 1992 promise, four years earlier, that genocide in Bosnia would be opposed by a Clinton administration?

In the event, President Bill Clinton had not found it convenient to keep this promise. Let me quote from Sally Bedell Smith's admirable book on the happy couple, For Love of Politics:

Taking the advice of Al Gore and National Security Advisor Tony Lake, Bill agreed to a proposal to bomb Serbian military positions while helping the Muslims acquire weapons to defend themselves—the fulfillment of a pledge he had made during the 1992 campaign. But instead of pushing European leaders, he directed Secretary of State Warren Christopher merely to consult with them. When they balked at the plan, Bill quickly retreated, creating a "perception of drift."

The key factor in Bill's policy reversal was Hillary, who was said to have "deep misgivings" and viewed the situation as "a Vietnam that would compromise health-care reform." The United States took no further action in Bosnia, and the "ethnic cleansing" by the Serbs was to continue for four more years, resulting in the deaths of more than 250,000 people.

I can personally witness to the truth of this, too. I can remember, first, one of the Clintons' closest personal advisers—Sidney Blumenthal—referring with acid contempt to Warren Christopher as "a blend of Pontius Pilate with Ichabod Crane." I can remember, second, a meeting with Clinton's then-Secretary of Defense Les Aspin at the British Embassy. When I challenged him on the sellout of the Bosnians, he drew me aside and told me that he had asked the White House for permission to land his own plane at Sarajevo airport, if only as a gesture of reassurance that the United States had not forgotten its commitments. The response from the happy couple was unambiguous: He was to do no such thing, lest it distract attention from the first lady's health care "initiative."

It's hardly necessary for me to point out that the United States did not receive national health care in return for its acquiescence in the murder of tens of thousands of European civilians. But perhaps that is the least of it. Were I to be asked if Sen. Clinton has ever lost any sleep over those heaps of casualties, I have the distinct feeling that I could guess the answer. She has no tears for anyone but herself. In the end, and over her strenuous objections, the United States and its allies did rescue our honor and did put an end to Slobodan Milosevic and his state-supported terrorism. Yet instead of preserving a polite reticence about this, or at least an appropriate reserve, Sen. Clinton now has the obscene urge to claim the raped and slaughtered people of Bosnia as if their misery and death were somehow to be credited to her account!

Words begin to fail one at this point. Is there no such thing as shame? Is there no decency at last? Let the memory of the truth, and the exposure of the lie, at least make us resolve that no Clinton ever sees the inside of the White House again.