Appalling

President Obama gave a statement this afternoon on the beheading of James Foley by devotees of the Islamic State yesterday. Obama referred to him throughout as “Jim Foley” and “Jim,” seeking for some reason to convey the impression that he was on intimate terms with him, although I would like to think he would have been a little more upset than he was if he had been. The White House transcript of Obama’s statement is here; the video is below.

Foley’s publicized beheading by the bloodthirsty devotees of the Islamic State is certainly an event that signifies and calls for a response by the president. Yet this is another of the many times and instances when Obama would better have remained silent and been thought a fool than opened his mouth and removed all doubt.

Obama purports to speak for “the entire world” in observing that the entire world “is appalled by the brutal murder of Jim Foley by the terrorist group, ISIL.” It would be nice if he would deign to speak on behalf of the United States, which is in fact his responsibility as president. Obama not only speaks on behalf of the world as a detached observer, he pronounces the timeless historical laws that are the fruit of his observation.

Obama provides a non sequitur for the ages: “So ISIL speaks for no religion.” Obama asserts in his accustomed sophomoric style that “one thing we can all agree on is that a group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century.” And like a bona fide ignoramus he declares “people like this ultimately fail. They fail, because the future is won by those who build and not destroy and the world is shaped by people like Jim Foley, and the overwhelming majority of humanity who are appalled by those who killed him.”

Descending to his worldly office, Obama vows: “The United States of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people. We will be vigilant and we will be relentless. When people harm Americans, anywhere, we do what’s necessary to see that justice is done. And we act against ISIL, standing alongside others.”

“Act[ion] against ISIL” is a pathetically thin promise.

Obama assures us that “we will continue to confront this hateful terrorism, and replace it with a sense of hope and civility.” Where once was “audacity” is now “civility.” We have a rendezvous with pallor.

Heading via Bill Kristol/Weekly Standard.

Risk? Did You Say Risk?

One of my favorite financial axioms is that about every ten years or so we experience the worst financial crisis in the last 50 years.  And for the last couple of years there has been no shortage of predictions from clever and successful financiers that we really haven’t solved the banking problems that contributed to the meltdown of 2008—just postponed them for another day, or, worse, building up trouble for possibly an even worse crash down the road.

I’m no forecaster, but two things are always certain to me: uncertainty, and that most forecasters can’t.  After all, who foresaw the 2008 housing bubble/crash?  None of the usual oracles of economic wisdom.  It was only a handful of cranks out on the margin, like John Paulson, who saw it coming (and made billions by going short).

That preface out of the way, today’s financial news seems to have a lot of curious stories worth following.  Such as:

1.  Germany yesterday auctioned $5.3 billion in short-term (2-year) government notes, at an interest rate of . . . 0.00%.  That actually represents a slight increase; in the summer of 2012, Germany actually paid a small negative interest rate on 2-year notes.  Deflation anyone?

2.  Headline: “Profit Rises at Bank of China, But So Do Bad Loans.”  Does anyone have confidence in China’s banking sector?

3.  “U.K. Currency Gets Pounded.”  Did they really think they could sneak that headline about the Pound past us?  Go pound sand, headline writers.  Anyway:

Sluggish inflation is complicating investors’ plans on the British pound.

Slower-than-expected growth in consumer prices on Tuesday forced fund managers to dial back their bets on an early interest-rate increase by the Bank of England, sending the currency to a four-month low against the dollar.

Unexpectedly low inflation is the latest in a series of setbacks for the pound, which hit a six-year high in July as a burgeoning economic recovery had cemented the view that the Bank of England would be the first major central bank to raise interest rates. Higher interest rates make a currency more attractive to investors.

“Sluggish” inflation?  Sheesh.  What a world we live in nowadays.  Still, I wonder if gold isn’t better than sterling (heh) these days.

4.  Argentina is in default.  Maybe you’ve seen their amazing full-age ads in major American papers that appear to have been written by a degree holder from the Chomsky School of Financial Public Relations or something.  Yesterday Argentina said they intend to pay domestic bondholders, in defiance of a U.S. court order.  If they go ahead with this it will mean that Argentina has decided it no longer wishes to have access to American capital markets.  Is this a sign of weakening American economic strength in the world, or just a sign of Argentine socialist stubbornness?  Will China step into the breach as a lender?  (Seems doubtful.)  And if the Argentine economy fall sharply because it this, will it spread to the rest of Latin America, and trigger a new regional or even global slowdown?  I have no idea, but all of this is worth watching.

From the Wall Street Journal story today:

The plan to pay the bondholders in Argentina could be taken as evidence the country has no interest in obeying Judge Griesa’s order and it could lead the judge to declare Argentina in contempt of court, said Mr. Secco. Argentina has said it cannot obey the order because doing so could spark demands from other bondholders for similar treatment, potentially putting the government on the hook for around $120 billion.

“After this, it will be very difficult for Argentina to issue debt again in the U.S.,” said Mr. Secco. “Even if another government comes in and remediates this and Argentina reaches a deal with the holdouts, a couple of years may go by before Argentina can issue debt again in another jurisdiction without it being very expensive.”

Last month’s default has at times seemed to overwhelm some officials in the Kirchner administration. Top officials, led by Mrs. Kirchner herself, have lashed out repeatedly at the U.S. court system and the vulture funds that sued it. All the while, administration officials have denied the country defaulted at all. Officials have also denied predictions from economists that the default will significantly affect the economy.

Even so, with the economy in recession, unemployment on the rise and annual inflation thought to total around 40%, the president seemed a bit rattled.

Socialism will do that to you when you run out of other people’s money.

Dan Sullivan wins Alaska Senate primary

Dan Sullivan, former Alaska attorney general and director of natural resources, won the Republican Senate primary in Alaska yesterday. He will face incumbent Mark Begich in November.

Alaska is a Republican state, but Begich is an excellent politician and won’t be easy to defeat. Indeed, Begich leads Sullivan by 2.8 points in the Real Clear Politics average. Perhaps, this small gap will disappear now that Sullivan is the nominee.

Sullivan survived a tough primary in which he was opposed by Joe Miller, the Tea Party favorite whom the Republicans nominated four years ago, and Mead Treadwell, the Lt. Governor who had considerable conservative support. In the end, Sullivan captured 40 percent of the vote compared to 32 percent for Miller and 25 percent for Treadwell.

Sullivan had the support of the Chamber of Commerce, American Crossroads, and The Club for Growth. Some viewed his outside support as evidence that he is insufficiently conservative. My impression, however, is that most of the outside support was based on perceptions of electability.

The Democrats seemed to share this perception. According to John Fund (and I’ve heard this from other sources too), their activists tried to tilt the campaign in favor of Miller and against Sullivan. Compared to Miller, who lost as the Republican Senate nominee in 2010, it seems clear that Sullivan is more electable.

A major attack on Sullivan during the primary was that he’s a newcomer to Alaska. The Begich campaign has already sounded this theme. Some of the attacks have understated Sullivan’s connection with Alaska.

Sullivan was born in Ohio and attended Harvard College and Georgetown Law School. He joined the Marines in 1993 and went to Alaska with his battalion. He became an Alaska resident in 1997 when he left active duty in the Marines.

Since then, the Marines have called up Sullivan several times, including a tour in Afghanistan. He also served in the Bush administration, first as head of the International Economics Directorate of the National Economic Council and National Security Council staffs, and second as Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy, and Business Affairs.

Sullivan’s military service and his jobs in the Bush administration have taken him outside of Alaska. Some of the attacks on Sullivan as, in effect, a carpetbagger, have refused to count this time in computing his years in Alaska.

This seems unfair to me. Sullivan has been an Alaskan for nearly 20 years and has served the state in two key posts, in addition to serving in the military and the national government.

In any event, Sullivan is vastly preferable to Begich who votes with President Obama 96 percent of the time. With Joe Miller making it clear he won’t run as a write-in candidate, the choice now is between Sullivan and Begich. Control of the Senate may hinge on that choice.

You can help Sullivan by contributing here. I just did.

Rick Perry’s Real Mugshot

If you followed the news you’ll know that Texas Gov. Rick Perry turned up yesterday to be processed for the bogus charges against him, which included taking a mugshot.  Given the old saying about grand juries, one of our readers suggests this in fact ought to be the official Perry mugshot, and it’s so good I didn’t think it could wait until Saturday’s weekly photo spread: (more…)

Bret Stephens: The meltdown

Commentary has posted the lead essay from its September issue online. It’s “The meltdown,” by the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens. It’s a tour of the horizon created by Obama’s foreign policy:

As I write, the foreign policy of the United States is in a state of unprecedented disarray. In some cases, failed policy has given way to an absence of policy. So it is in Libya, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and, at least until recently, Ukraine. In other cases the president has doubled down on failed policy—extending nuclear negotiations with Iran; announcing the full withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

Sometimes the administration has been the victim of events, such as Edward Snowden’s espionage, it made worse through bureaucratic fumbling and feckless administrative fixes. At other times the wounds have been self-inflicted: the espionage scandal in Germany (when it was learned that the United States had continued to spy on our ally despite prior revelations of the NSA’s eavesdropping on Chancellor Angela Merkel); the repeated declaration that “core al-Qaeda” was “on a path to defeat”; the prisoner swap with the Taliban that obtained Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl’s release.

Often the damage has been vivid, as in the collapse of the Israel–Palestinian talks in April followed by the war in Gaza. More frequently it can be heard in the whispered remarks of our allies. “The Polish-American alliance is worthless, even harmful, as it gives Poland a false sense of security,” Radek Sikorski, Poland’s foreign minister and once one of its most reliably pro-American politicians, was overheard saying in June. “It’s bullshit.”

This is far from an exhaustive list. But it’s one that, at last, people have begun to notice….

I want to bring Stephens’s essay to your attention as Stephens works through where we are and where we might go when we emerge from the reign of Obama.

Liberal Texas newspaper debunks Dems’ attack on Rick Perry

National Democrats should be grateful to Gov. Rick Perry. Without the massive job creation that has taken place in Texas, the national job growth figures might be even less flattering to President Obama than they are.

But Texas’ job creation has, perhaps, made Perry a viable contender for the presidency. And this doesn’t sit well with Democrats.

Accordingly, Mo Elleithee, communications director for the Democratic National Committee, sent out an email attempting to bolster the allegations against Perry. Elleithee contends that Perry’s veto of money for the Travis County Public Integrity Unit was linked to that unit’s investigation into the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (“CPRIT”).

Elleithee argues that the investigation of CPRIT “was underway when the governor called for the head of that investigative unit to resign.” By pushing Rosemary Lehmberg (the drunk and disorderly Travis County District Attorney) to resign, Perry created a “win-win” for himself, says Elleithee. “Lehmberg either resigned and he appointed her successor or he vetoed the [Public Integrity Unit's] funding. Both would have the same effect: stopping the investigation into the CPRIT its tracks.”

Why would Perry want to stop the CPRIT investigation? Because, the theory goes, his appointees were under investigation for helping Peloton Therapeutics obtain a grant without proper review. A Peloton investor had contributed to Perry’s campaigns.

But the Austin American-Statesman, a strongly left-leaning newspaper, undercuts Elleithee’s narrative:

Elleithee’s email. . .left out some key details about the CPRIT investigation — including that two months before Lehmberg’s arrest, she told reporters that none of Perry’s appointees to the CPRIT board were “under suspicion in the investigation.”

Lehmberg made this statement in January 2013. It meant that her investigation was focusing only on CPRIT staff members, none of whom was appointed or hired by Perry. And Perry knew this when he vetoed the funding months later.

Furthermore, the American-Statesman points out that Perry’s veto did not have the effect of stopping the investigation into the CPRIT. Perry vetoed state funding for the Public Integrity Unit in June 2013. The investigation continued, producing an indictment of CPRIT commercialization chief Jerry Cobbs in January of this year. Lehmberg says that no other indictments are expected.

In sum: (1) when Perry vetoed funding for the Public Integrity Unit, he knew that it wasn’t investigating his appointees, (2) the veto did not halt the investigation or prevent the PIU from issuing indictments, and (3) the sleazy and dishonest attack on Gov. Perry by the Democratic National Committee is too much for the liberal Austin American-Statesman to stomach.

Via Bryan Preston at PJ Media.

Green(peace) Weenie of the Week

We’ve noted before that Greenpeace is really bad at currency trading, and financial management in general, as well as being complete hypocrites.  (See below for a fresh example of Greenpeace hypocrisy.)  Add to this our notices lately of how environmentalists waste lots of their cash hoard on expensive ad agencies who produce messages that only Man Men could love.

Like these “music” videos about how we need to use green energy to power the Internet, by some rapper named Reggie Watts.  (It’s okay; I’d never head of him either.)  First one is 30 seconds; second one is 1:30

If this doesn’t deserve a whole extra large package of Green Weenies, I don’t know what does.  (If you’re a glutton, you can find several more of these high-Watt-age green rap videos on Greenpeace’s special website for this project.)

Meanwhile, someone has pointed out that Greenpeace, based in the Netherlands, is objecting to expanding oil exports from British Columbia in Canada, while saying no such thing about oil traffic in and out of its back yard.  The map below shows how much oil shipping activity there was on a recent day in both regions.

Amsterdam v BC copy