Friday, July 16, 2010

Persian Isolation: setting up for a war against IRAN?

By Alexander Smoltczyk and Bernhard Zand FROM THE MAGAZINE DER SPIEGEL (English Edition)

Israel and the Arab states near the Persian Gulf recognize a common threat: the regime in Tehran. A regional diplomat has not even ruled out support by the Arab states for a military strike to end Iran's nuclear ambitions.

"The Jews and Arabs have been fighting for one hundred years. The Arabs and the Persians have been going at (it) for a thousand,"

Almost all Arab neighbors have a hostile relationship with the Islamic Republic. Saudi Arabia suspects Iran of stirring up the Shiite minority in its eastern provinces. The Arab emirates accuse Iran of occupying three islands in the Persian Gulf. Egypt has not had regular diplomatic relations with Iran since a street in Tehran was named after the murderer of former Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat.

Jordanian King Abdullah II warns against the establishment of a "Shiite crescent" between Iran and Lebanon. And Kuwait, fearing the Iranians, installed the Patriot air defense missile system in the spring.

Closely Aligned

Arab governments are concerned about a strong Iran, its nuclear program and the inflammatory speeches of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They share these concerns with another government in the Middle East -- Israel's.

Never have the strategic interests of the Jewish and Arab states been so closely aligned as they are today. While European and American security experts consistently characterize a military strike against Iran as "a last option," notable Arabs have long shared the views of Israel's ultra-nationalist foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman. If no one else takes it upon himself to bomb Iran, Saudi cleric Mohsen al-Awaji told SPIEGEL, Israel will have to do it. "Israel's agenda has its limits," he said, noting that it is mainly concerned with securing its national existence. "But Iran's agenda is global."

But Arab countries are pursuing a delicate seesaw policy. The UAE cannot afford to openly offend Iran, which explains why Ambassador Otaiba was promptly ordered to return home on Wednesday.

This caution only conceals the deep divide between the Arabs and the Persians. Despite their public expressions of outrage over Israeli behavior, such as the blockade of the Gaza Strip, Arab countries in the region continue to pursue their pragmatic course. On June 12, The Times in London wrote that Saudi Arabia had recently "conducted tests to stand down its air defenses to enable Israeli jets to make a bombing raid on Iran's nuclear facilities" -- in the event of an attack on the nuclear power plant in Bushehr. In March, Western intelligence agencies reported that there were signs of secret negotiations between Jerusalem and Riyadh to discuss the possibility.

"We are aligned (with the United States) on every policy issue there is in the Middle East," Ambassador Otaiba said in Aspen.

"Inflating War: Central banking and militarism are intimately linked".

The Great Depression of 1920 only lasted one year, however, thanks to President Warren Harding’s inspired policy of cutting both government spending and taxes dramatically.

A most urgent question : will the current President have the courage to do what is right for the good of the nation as Warren Harding did, or will he succumb to baser instincts and refuse to cut spending and taxes dramatically?

Thomas DiLorenzo lays out the disasterous historical connection between politics, militarism and central banking. Heed the warnings contained or this nation will again see its wealth devestated.

Government can finance war (and everything else) by only three methods: taxes, debt, and the printing of money. Taxes are the most visible and painful, followed by debt finance, which crowds out private borrowing, drives up interest rates, and imposes the double burden of principal and interest. Money creation, on the other hand, makes war seem costless to the average citizen. But of course there is no such thing as a free lunch.

As a general rule, the longer a war lasts, the more centrally planned and government-controlled the entire economy becomes. And it remains so to some degree after the war has ended. War is the health of the state, as Randolph Bourne famously declared, and the growth of the state means a decline in liberty and prosperity. (Think Socialism, Communism, Totalianarism as epitomized by North Korea, Nazi Germany...who would want to live in a regime like those?)

Special interests joined the political coalition that created the Federal Reserve Board in 1913, which became an important source of finance for America’s disastrous participation in World War I four years later. The Fed did not just print greenbacks, as was the case during the Civil War. It printed enough money to purchase more than $4 billion in government bonds that were used to finance the war. The amount of money in circulation doubled between 1914 and 1920—as did prices. This was an enormous hidden war tax on the American people: wealth was cut in half, along with real wages, and just about everything consumers purchased became more expensive.

The boom created by the Fed’s war financing inevitably caused a bust—the Depression of 1920, the first year of which was even worse than the first year of the Great Depression of the 1930s. Gross domestic product declined by 24 percent from 1920-21, while the number of unemployed Americans more than doubled, from 2.1 million to 4.9 million. The Great Depression of 1920 only lasted one year, however, thanks to President Warren Harding’s inspired policy of cutting both government spending and taxes dramatically.

Fed's volte face sends the dollar tumbling,economy in decline, QE II to start soon?

The very respected Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes in the Telegraph fom London:

"Rarely before have a few coded words in the minutes of the US Federal Reserve caused such an upheaval in the global currency system, or such a sudden flight from the dollar."

I also note that "quantative easing" is mentioned in this article.

The Fed minutes warned of "significant downside risks" and a possible slide into deflation, an admission that zero interest rates, $1.75 trillion of QE, and a fiscal deficit above 10pc of GDP have so far failed to lift the economy out of a structural slump.

"The Committee would need to consider whether further policy stimulus might become appropriate if the outlook were to worsen appreciably," it said. The economy might not regain its "longer-run path" until 2016.

"The Fed is throwing in the towel," said Gabriel Stein, of Lombard Street Research. "They are preparing to start QE again. This was predictable because the M3 broad money supply has been contracting for months."

The Fed minutes amount to a policy thunderbolt, evidence of how quickly the recovery has lost steam. Just weeks ago the Fed was mapping out withdrawal of stimulus.

This is a must read. Its a little long but compelling. Click on the heading above for the link.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thomas Jefferson said it all

I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them. - Thomas Jefferson

Is the wipeout in offshore drillers over?

Time to buy offshore drillers?
DO Diamond Offshore bounced off its early June bottom of $60 and is at $64.43 today... after a pullback of nearly $1.50 intraday.

It is 7.4% above its 3-month low and yesterday it was as near as dammit is to swearing, to being up 10%!!
Its in the buy range for me.

"Wall of debt" could hurt the fragile economic recovery

U.S. and European governments are expected to sell about $4 trillion in bonds this year, creating a "wall of debt" that could course through the global financial
system for years. One concern is whether the market and the fragile economy could absorb the debt or whether the situation would result in a Greek-style crisis for less creditworthy governments. Analysts differ on their assessment of the issue.
The Washington Post

Watch Live Feeds of the BP oil spill repair eforts

for live feeds click on the heading above

Signs of things getting better?

From Zacks Update July 2010

Sentiment on The Street has begun to turn positive as the stock market has enjoyed a sustained 7 day rally. Fears of a double dip recession are subsiding as companies report better than expected earnings this week.

The BP oil well has been capped, and durability testing is underway which proved to be a strong psychological hurdle for the market, and seems to have renewed hope that better times are ahead.

Update In Brief

Corporate cash and equivalent assets as a percentage of total assets are at their highest level in decades. This is a vast improvement from 2008 when we had a highly leveraged corporate sector.

As recovery in the market slowly continues, positive signs that the economy is also well on its way are beginning to firm up. Treasury rates have maintained their historic low levels for some time now, which of course begs the question of what the Federal Reserve’s short term move may be, if anything.

For full Zacks Market Commentary click on the heading above

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Interest rate dilemma

"At 4.6 percent, 30-yr mortgage rates are already at historic lows, yet housing demand cratered as soon as the government's homebuyer tax credit expired in April. If you think lowering long-term rates and reducing the spread between short and long rates will stimulate the economy,think again. The steep yield curve is the most powerful thing the economy has going for it right now."

Caroline Baum

Monday, July 12, 2010

Chinese credit rating agency rates the 50 biggest economies

Dagong Global Credit Rating released sovereign-debt ratings for 50 countries that account for 90% of the world's economy, in a move to break the credit rating monopoly of Moody's Investors Service, Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings. The Chinese firm gave the U.S. an AA rating, lower than the top AAA rating it assigned to Norway, Denmark, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

U.S. debt could "destroy the country from within," officials say

Erskine Bowles, a member of U.S.
President Barack Obama's deficit commission, delivered a stark warning that the runaway deficit "is like a cancer." Bowles, previously chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, was joined by former Sen. Alan Simpson in saying that debt "will destroy the country from within" if left unchecked.
The Washington Post