World Stock Markets to Close?

Just headlined on Bloomberg News: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said that the idea of maybe closing the world’s stock markets temporarily while they work out the problem and “rewrite the rules of international finance” has been floated.  If that sounds bad to you, you’re not alone. But it may be the only way to prevent further spiraling losses in global markets.

Of course, that requires EVERYBODY to agree to it, which in turn requires mustering much more international support than certainly President Bush is capable of.  What would it be like to actually have a working president right now?


Central Banks Coordinate Rate Cut

There is no precedent for such a thing as this in our history.  The Federal Reserve, the Central European Bank and the central banks of Britain, China, Canada and Switzerland have all coordinated a collective rate drop of about a half percent on their prime rates.  This means that interest rates on loans from these central banks are lower by a half a percent, and since most business begins with banks borrowing from central banks, this means rate cuts across the board for most things which are not fixed-rate loans.

What effect will this have on markets?  Well, short term, it’s meant diddly shit.  The markets in Asia and the US plateaued breifly and continued their steep decline for a fifth day straight.  MSN Market Dispatches is reporting that the Dow has lost 1400 points in that time.  Yikes.

Long term, I don’t really see where this helps, either.  Sadly, this move has to be seen at least in part as a desperation move, not a decisive move in the right direction.  That’s because the problem with the credit market is not now nor has it ever been a question of interest rates.  It’s a question of liquid assets which no longer exist.  Lowering interest rates does nothing to stop that problem.  Until there is adequate liquidity in the markets, I’m afraid the problem will persist.

The Federal Reserve’s move to begin issuing commercial paper seems, to me, a far more sound decision.  That’s because commercial paper is what gets most businesses by their day-to-day operations, like paying employees.  The down side here is that they’ve requested 99 billion dollars to do this with, but that market is about 1.7 trillion dollars worth of trade.  That means someone’s going to lose out.

Still, if the Fed can maintain the workaday operations of our nation’s job engines, then what we’re seeing is really a massive investment opportunity in the making: after all, if the stock market continues to plumet, stocks bought cheaply in the next few days will be worth a barrel of monkeys come the upswing.  Let the stock markets dive.  We need to worry about monetary policy and banking liquidity at this point.

Update: Paul Krugman chimes in with far more salient points than I: basically, the rate for CP (commercial paper) is not tied to the Fed rate anyway, so it’s not going to do much good.  Why, then does he favour the move?  Lots of comments there asking the same question.


Shanghai Cooperation Organization

Did anyone even know there was such a thing as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization?  I certainly didn’t.  It seems the Organization is yet another multi-national pacts, though this one is less like the EU and more like NATO.

Well, it turns out that this group includes China (duh), Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.  Nations looking to join this group include our buddies Iran and Pakistan.  The admission or denial of these states is at least one item on the agenda for their current meeting, happening right now.  There are concerns, as one might expect, about the United States’ response to adding those members in what is at least on paper an alliance of military proportions.

It might be illuminating, when viewing world affairs, to keep this coalition in mind.  For a start, it’s worth considering the fact that neither Iran nor Pakistan feels compelled to join in any similar coaltions with Middle Eastern nations. . .  because of course, they are ethnically and historically separate regions.


“Don’t Miss” Article of the Week

For those of you who are into the gooey details of law, both Constitutional and International, you won’t want to miss this brief discussion of the Geneva Conventions and the Military Commissions Act. It by no means discusses all issues contained therein, but does a good job of pointing out the differences between the two documents where the all-important term “enemy combatant” is concerned: What is an enemy combatant?

By and large, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and the Third Geneva Convention will pick out the same people as lawful combatants. A U.S. Marine patrolling in Basra or a Russian soldier in Chechnya are both lawful combatants. A person who straps dynamite to his chest and blows up a cafe is not. Other cases, however, are less clear. A member of the Taliban militia, ordered to resist U.S. soldiers when they landed in 2001, would seem to be protected as lawful under the Third Geneva Convention. Under the Military Commissions Act of 2006, he wouldn’t be.


Bush Spins the NIE Report

. . . or at least tries to. But no one is buying this particular brand of horseshit any longer:

Bush: Iran Intelligence Report is Warning Signal –

In a White House news conference, Bush argued that Iran continues to develop the capability to enrich uranium and that this know-how ultimately could be transferred to a new clandestine weapons program.

So, now we’re simply in a crusade to eliminate knowledge of nuclear weaponry, not necessarily nuclear weapons, per se. Does this sound at all familiar?


And Epitaph to Power Politics

The below-linked article on Pakistani President Musharraf’s vow to end the military emergency state in that country contains an interesting and perhaps enlightening epitaph to his military/political career. It’s a great lesson in what the politics of power will get you, in Pakistan or in the States:

Musharraf Says He Will End Emergency Rule by Dec. 16 –

At first, many Pakistanis welcomed the new military leader, a moderate Muslim with a winning manner who pledged to bring about sweeping political, social and economic reforms.After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Musharraf quickly sided with the West against the Taliban movement in neighboring Afghanistan.

But Musharraf began to lose support in Pakistan as his policies were resisted by domestic interest groups, Islamic extremism spread and he attempted to legitimize his rule by holding elections that monitors said were badly flawed. The low point came last March, when he tried to depose the chief justice of the Supreme Court, setting off a protest movement by the legal community that gained wide support among the civilian populace.

“This has been like a Greek tragedy. In his struggle for political survival, General Musharraf dismantled brick by brick the positive legacy he had built,” said Mushahid Hussain, a former senior aide to Sharif who later joined Musharraf’s political coalition.


Chavez Getting a Little Desparate for Enemies

Hugo Chavez (or “Chaz,” as he’s known to his one or two friends) has once again found an enemy actively plotting to kill him. This time around, it turns out to be CNN:

Chavez: CNN may be instigating my murder | Top News |

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Wednesday CNN may have been instigating his murder when the U.S. TV network showed a photograph of him with a label underneath that read “Who killed him?” The caption appeared to be a production mistake — confusing a Chavez news item with one on the death of a football star. The anchor said “take the image down” when he realized.

Hmm. . . Not the most realistic of enemies, is it? I mean, even Fox News wouldn’t be a very good choice, but CNN? They’re too insipid and flaccid to even accurately report news, from whence would they muster up the cajones to pull off a stunt like that?


Oh, Well. That’s Different, Then. . . ?

Just so you don’t think that Saudi Arabian law is at all unreasonable, justices in the Hizzle of Saudizizzles inform us that the woman who was gang-raped and then sentenced to 200 lashes was in fact having an affair:

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Saudi rape victim ‘having affair’

Saudi justice officials say a woman who was sentenced to prison and flogging after she was gang-raped has now confessed to an extramarital affair.

OIC. . . .

Saudi justice is like the Dimsdale of Justice, “A hard man, but fair.” (This reference is extremely obscure. If you get it, you probably grew up with an Atari Tan, like me)

But you’ll be happy to note that the United States, a chief ally of the Saudis, has wasted no time in responding to the verdict:

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Saudi rape victim ‘having affair’

Several governments and human rights groups have condemned her sentence and urged it to be lifted. Canada described it as “barbaric”. The US, a major Saudi ally, declined to condemn to sentence, but did call it “astonishing”.

Wow. They couldn’t even muster up a “grave concern,” for this poor woman?


Putin Ain’t Leavin’

Careful not to choke on your turkey (or your chicken, for that matter), but President Vladimir Putin clearly has no intentions of going anywhere at the “end” of his term.  Anyone mildly familiar with Russian politics can see that this is not the rhetoric of a man planning on leaving.


How Many Undocumented Workers?

Here’s an interesting look at statistics. And of economics. Estimates are that there are between 10 and 15 million undocumented workers here in this country. According to this chart (you’ll need to increase the font size if you’re over thirty), that’s as many or more workers than in all of the manufacturing industry. More than work in the retail trades. There are almost as many undocumented workers as there are educators.

Still think Tom Tancredo and Lou Dobbs have the right idea in sending them home?

Bravo, Senator Leahy!

Expect another round of foot-stamping, rooster-lipped whining from the president some time soon:

Key senator won’t support Bush attorney general nominee –

Mukasey has called waterboarding personally “repugnant,” but said he did not know enough about how it has been used to define it as torture. He also said he thought it would be irresponsible to discuss it since doing so could make interrogators and other government officials vulnerable to lawsuits.

“I am eager to restore strong leadership and independence to the Department of Justice,” said Leahy. “I like Michael Mukasey. I wish that I could support his nomination. But I cannot. America needs to be certain and confident of the bedrock principle — deeply embedded in our laws and our values — that no one, not even the president, is above the law.”

I’ll be the first to say that, from this administration, almost no good candidate can be forthcoming for the Attorney General position, one which in it’s very nature is antithetical to the Bush Administration’s policy.  Having said that, I would expect that the nominee could at least have an answer to the question of waterboarding, even if it was the wrong one.  My gut is that he didn’t have the stomach to say it was legal, and couldn’t count on White House support if he said it was illegal.

If the man can’t pronounce waterboarding – a simple, straightforward concept – as either torture or not torture, we have no reason to support his nomination.  Hiding behind supposedly classified information is a dodge, as we all know well.  We cannot support it, however bad the next guy might be and however good this guy might have been in relation.  It proves that he is either morally relative on the question or incapable of showing the requisite independence for the job.

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“Family Values” Pervs Not Germane to the U.S., Only

Senator Larry Craig and Bob Allen may occasionally use public restrooms to relieve themselves. . . of loneliness.  Mark Foley may cure loneliness discussing sweat and masturbation in IM chats with teenage pages.  And it must be a lonely life as a Republican with a name like “John A Boehner.”  But they are none of them alone on the International stage when it comes to sexual and electoral duplicity.  Matter of fact, Senator Craig is a bit of a let-down in the excuse department, as you will quickly see:

Family values party dumps candidate for porn pics | Oddly Enough | Reuters

Sydney music teacher Andrew Quah, 21, admitted photographs showing his penis and circulating widely on gay websites had embarrassed his party and made his candidacy untenable.

But that’s not my penis,” Quah told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, adding one of the images may have been digitally altered.

“I might have been drunk off my face, or my political enemies might have drugged me,” Quah said. “It was a mistake that I would not have committed had I been of right mind. All I know, I have been humiliated.”

Oh, that’s his naked body in a picture, alright.  In fact, the “Family Values” politician may have just been really, really drunk, and convinced to pose naked for photographs.  I think we’ve all been there before. But there’s no way that penis is his!  Look at it!  It’s all pink and wrinkly!

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