In the same evening (h/t Andrew Malcom’s Twitter), Marco Rubio to the rescue! Freshman senator saves a falling Nancy Reagan
Archives for August 2011
Even funnier, but NOT SUITABLE FOR WORK, Nicholas Cage Loses His Sh**.
because we just had a mild tremor, lasting for a minute or so. Apparently it was a 5.8 earthquake in Washington, DC, with epicenter in Mineral, VA.
Stacy’s already starting an earthquake victim’s relief fund, and an on-the-epicenter interview,
Spain’s Duchess of Alba, one of the world’s richest women, is remarrying at age 85. The Will of the Duchess of Alba: All for Love and Money. All, except good judgement, at least when it comes to plastic surgery:
Maybe she’ll buy herself some eyebrows for the wedding.
From my Facebook thread,
Todd wrote: “If I were going to marry a babboon, I’d pick a much younger one.”
Now, now, Todd…
National debt has increased $4 trillion under Obama: Currently the National Debt stands at roughly 97% of Gross Domestic Product. Does anyone want to pretend that the ratio will be the same when we’re talking about $25 trillion in debt?
How about an outline?
The last time I went to Ikea Bill Clinton was President; Charles Martin reminded me why: Dante’s IKEA.
I very much doubt that Muammar will be welcome in Caracas until Hugo’s moved the gold and is not worried about sanctions.
Which brings me to the next item,
It’s not much of a precedent, but it’s the only precedent we’ve got; my gut feeling is that Venezuela would be do well to get away with paying 3.3% of the total value of the gold in total expenses. Given that the gold is worth some $12.3 billion, the cost of Chávez’s gesture politics might reasonably be put at $400 million or so.
It seems to me that Chávez has four main choices here. He can go the FT’s route, and just fly the gold to Caracas while insuring each shipment for its market value. He can go the Spanish route, and try to transport the gold himself, perhaps making use of the Venezuelan navy. He could attempt the mother of all repo transactions. Or he could get clever.
In the first instance, the main cost would be paid by Venezuela to a big insurance company. I have no idea how many insurers there are in the world who would be willing to take on this job, but it can’t be very many, and it might well be zero. If Venezuela wanted just one five-ton shipment flown to Caracas in conditions of great secrecy, that would be one thing. But Chávez’s intentions have been well telegraphed at this point, making secrecy all but impossible. And even if the insurer got the first shipment through intact, there would be another, and another, and another — each one surely the target of criminally-inclined elements both inside and outside the Venezuelan government. Gold is the perfect heist: anonymous, untraceable, hugely valuable. Successfully intercepting just one of the shipments would yield a haul of more than $300 million, making it one of the greatest robberies of all time. And you’d have 39 chances to repeat the feat.
Would any insurer voluntarily hang a “come get me” sign around its neck like that? They’d have to be very well paid to do so. So maybe Chávez intends to take matters into his own hands, and just sail the booty back to Venezuela on one of his own naval ships. Again, the theft risk is obvious — seamen can be greedy too — and this time there would be no insurance. Chávez is pretty crazy, but I don’t think he’d risk $12 billion that way.
Former Tiananmen Square Student Leader Urges Joe Biden to Call for an End to China’s One-Child Policy, after Biden says he “fully understands” the one-child policy.
Investor’s Business Daily posts on the Washington Post’s editorial, and calls their Yellow Journalism,
Just days before the U.S.-Colombia free trade pact heads for a vote, the Washington Post publishes a story claiming Colombia’s miracle is a sham. This is a smear unworthy of the name “journalism.”
Topping the front page in its Sunday edition with “A case of aid gone bad in Colombia,” the Post attempted to rewrite history by claiming the U.S.’s $8 billion Plan Colombia military program that broke the back of its drug cartels was really … a waste.
Pay no attention to the safety, security and economic growth that have made Colombia such an attractive partner for a free trade treaty expected to go to a vote in September. And definitely pay no attention to the 80%-plus popularity of President Alvaro Uribe among Colombians who see him as their Lincoln.
The Post would have you believe Plan Colombia and Uribe’s extraordinary leadership are tainted by corruption, that U.S. military aid should end and that a trade pact is out of the question. The Post’s smear job is nothing but a last-ditch effort to discredit Uribe and derail free trade.
The Post claims American cash, equipment and elite training were used in spying operations against Colombia’s Supreme Court, political opponents and civil society groups.
Quoting three jailed Colombian officials, two ex-U.S. diplomats who served well before Plan Colombia, an anonymous embassy official, Wikileaks and two no-comments from CIA and Uribe spokesmen, there’s not a single fact supporting a claim that U.S. money was wasted or abused. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: The State Department explicitly denies misuse of its aid, and notes that the allegations have been stale for years.
The Post even admits that Colombian prosecutors claim no U.S. wrongdoing.
Violence in El Salvador, El Salvador’s gangs joining the drug trade:
Drug Traffickers’ Paradise
Puerto Rico edges closer to U.S. voting rights
Puerto Ricans’ chances of winning a right to vote in U.S. elections are as close now as at any time in American history. A First Circuit Court of Appeals decision last week has set up the conditions needed for the Supreme Court to review the possibility of voting rights for Puerto Rico’s four million residents.
The appeals court deadlocked 3-to-3 on whether to hear a case in which a lower court already denied Puerto Ricans a right to vote. A tied vote means any previous rulings are left to stand.
The week’s posts and podcasts,
Where’s the Colombia FTA? Sitting on the President’s desk
You, too, can wear Hugo on your feet
Gold rush: Chavez to nationalize gold industry
Say hello to the Canada-Colombia FTA
Is Cuba going capitalist?
Ecuador’s assault against free press
At Conservative Commune, Gold Rush: Chavez to Nationalize Venezuela’s Gold Industry
Last night the rumor raged,
Chinese News Agency report Gadaffi and family in Tunisia en route to Venezuela
According to a report by Xinhua a Venezuelan plane has landed on the island of Djerba (Tunisia) to evacuate members of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s family, This was announced by Tunisian radio but from a rebel source in Benghazi..
The correspondent quotes the source as saying that Gaddafi’s family members would soon leave Tunisia for the Venezuelan capital Caracas, adding that “it was the beginning of the end of Gaddafi’s rule.” There was no explanation of how the Gadaffi’s [sic] would get to Tunisia..
It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Gaddafi/Kadhafi/Gadaffi (he of the multiple spellings) would like to get out of the insurgents’ way. However, for now, at least, he’s remaining defiant, and Hugo still hasn’t brought the gold into Venezuela (just in case there are sanctions, you know).
So, until you see Muammar landing in Caracas and running into Hugo’s open arms, don’t believe it.
Speaking of gold, Hugo lifted a page of Muammar’s book:
Traders prepare for Chávez gold transfer
Countries such as Iran and Libya, which have been subject to international sanctions, have in the past repatriated gold reserves, traders said. Libya’s foreign reserves were frozen after war broke out this year. “There is a growing preference among many different communities in the gold market to have their physical gold at home,” said Edel Tully, precious metals strategist at UBS.
On Monday, the Colombia-Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA) entered into force. It is an agreement first signed on Nov. 21, 2008, nearly two years to the day after a U.S.-Colombia FTA was signed. Now most Canadian industries enjoy duty-free access to the growing Colombian market. In contrast, because our government has allowed our FTA to languish, Colombian importers must still pay tariffs on most U.S. goods. For wheat, that tariff overcomes the natural advantage U.S. exporters otherwise have in providing quality wheat on a timely basis to our valued Colombian customers.
The stakes are particularly high for U.S. farmers as roughly 50 percent of U.S. wheat and 25 percent of all U.S. agricultural production is exported. In 2010/11, the United States exported more than 35 million metric tons (MT) of wheat — roughly 60 percent of last year’s production — to about 70 countries. The United States is the largest supplier of wheat to the world and these exports provide worldwide customers with a competitive wheat source while returning an economic boost to the U.S. economy.
The U.S. wheat industry has worked hard to build a reputation as a reliable supplier. While American farms are largely family-run operations, they are businesses that understand the importance of trade to their customers. The U.S. wheat industry has a long history of promoting fair and open trade and looks forward to implementing pending and future trade agreements such as the nine-country TransPacific Partnership agreement to maintain its competitiveness in world markets. We can only hope that our customers in Colombia, as well as in South Korea and Panama*, understand this situation for what it is: a domestic political struggle that accomplishes only confusion, frustration and diminished trust.
U.S. wheat farmers will not give up on trade and once more call for the immediate ratification and implementation of the U.S.-Colombia FTA so U.S. producers and our Colombian customers can benefit from bilateral trade conducted on a level playing field.
Last week President Obama decried that the FTAs with South Korea, Panama and Colombia had not been passed by Congress. Well, where are they?
On his three-state tour in the Midwest this week, Mr. Obama repeatedly told audiences that the Korea, Colombia and Panama free-trade deals would all be law by now if not for an obstructionist Congress. Passing the deals is something Congress “could do right now,” he said.
Except that’s not true. Congress can’t pass the agreements “right now” because it doesn’t have them. They are still sitting on the President’s desk. Seriously.
If you are surprised to learn this, you are not alone. White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest only learned the news on Friday during a press conference. Asked why the FTAs haven’t been sent, he responded, “We have not sent them over?”
That was followed by what might be called an awkward moment. “I will say this—I mean, there has been an active dialogue that’s been underway between the United States trade representative, other members of the Administration, with the appropriate Congressional leaders in the committees of jurisdiction. We are in a place where we have seen Republicans advocating for passing these free trade agreements for quite some time,” Mr. Earnest explained. He also pointed out that “these three trade agreements combined would create or support about 70,000 jobs here in the U.S.”
A reporter persisted and asked, “Well, when are you going to send them over?” “But I can tell you that there’s no reason—I mean, there’s agreement here about the benefits of these trade agreements getting through the Congress, both here at the White House and Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill. Mr. Earnest referred reporters to “Congress or the USTR on the legislative mechanics of this,” adding that “there is bipartisan agreement on this and it’s something that we should move on really quick.”
I have been writing about the Colombia FTA for nearly five years and thought I had heard it all, but this one takes the cake.
We’re in the best hands.