بعد أنور العولقي‎

Of all the coverage given to Anwar al-Awlaki’s targeted assassination this morning, I liked the almost Onion-worthy take Wired magazine (via Gawker) had regarding its consequence:

Yemen Strike Leaves Misfit Metalhead as Al-Qaida’s Last American Voice

The description of Adam Gadahn, “the last terrorist left chatting in an American accent,” is quite pathetic:

Gadahn’s background as a loner and misfit, by contrast, didn’t prepare him to be a particularly effective jihad-evangelist. He grew up isolated, home-schooled on his parents farm. Before he converted to Islam, he dabbled in the Southern California metal scene. Apparently unable to scrape enough friends together for a group, Gadahn formed a one-man metal band, Aphasia (named after a speech impediment). After his conversion, he ran into problems at his Orange County mosque, sleeping on his job as a security guard there and getting expelled after punching his Imam.

n 1998, Gadahn left the U.S. for Pakistan, eventually joining up with al-Qaida as a translator. He never quite racked up the same kind of fan club as Awlaki later did. …Gadahn’s been cranking out videos for seven years now. He’s even recently jumped on the bandwagon of encouraging lone-wolf attacks. And still he’s not the object of fanboy affection. Terrorists haven’t cited him as an ideological catalyst for an attack.

Of course, there are more serious constitutional issues concerning al-Awlaki’s death and that of his compatriot Samir Khan, an American born in Saudi Arabia, who was an editor of the Al Qaeda’s goofy English-language web magazine, Inspire. Do Americans really want their president to be the judge, jury and executioner when it comes to American citizens that have been deemed “enemy combatants” in the GWOT (or whatever they’re calling it these days)?

Update: A deep-thinking Canadian “conservative” weighs in with his elevated discourse on the subject…

The Platinum Debt Solution

While in all probability America’s so-called “debt ceiling” will be raised next week – just as it routinely has been for the last 74 times since 1962 – the utterly dysfunctional political dynamic in Washington has turned what should be a simple matter of financial housekeeping into a completely avoidable “crisis” that now threatens to damage the credit rating of the USA and quite possibly even destabilize an already fragile global economy as a consequence.

After months of ideological wrangling over this issue, most Americans (not to mention those around the world that are dependent in one way or another on the U.S. economy) are justifiably fed up with all the Kabuki bullshit surrounding the wholly disingenuous and fraudulent “plans” that have been floated by both sides – none of which, it is important to note, will do one iota of good to address the biggest challenge currently facing the economy, which is that of intractable unemployment. If anything, the multi-trillion dollar spending cuts being proposed will simply exacerbate the problem and drive the U.S. economy even deeper into recession.

Short of signing a “clean” bill to raise the borrowing limit (as has always been done in the past) there is in fact another alternative that is almost just as elegantly simple in nature. This plan involves a little known monetary device known as “coin seignorage”; that is, the difference between the cost of bullion and the value of the coin into which the bullion is converted. A good explanation of how this jumbo coin seignorage would work in the context of circumventing the debt limit is provided by Joe Firestone writing at the blog Pragmatic Capitalism:

Congress has provided the authority, in legislation passed in 1996, for the US Mint to create platinum bullion or proof platinum coins with arbitrary fiat face value having no relationship to the value of the platinum used in these coins. The US code also provides for the Treasury to periodically “sweep” the Mint’s account at the Federal Reserve Bank for profits earned from coin seigniorage. These profits are then booked as miscellaneous receipts (revenue) to the Treasury and go into the Treasury General Account, narrowing the revenue gap between spending and tax revenues. Platinum coins with huge face values e.g. $2 Trillion, could close the revenue gap entirely, and technically end deficit spending, while still retaining the gap between tax revenues and spending.

The entire article (including the extensive comments) make for some fascinating reading, as does the seminal post on this subject at Firedog Lake way back in January.

So there, fiscal “crisis” averted. Perhaps with the issue resolved, the Obama Administration and the U.S. Congress could then focus on more important things like kick-starting the economy and tackling the problem of joblessness in America.

2011 Correspondents’ Dinner

It’s always nice to see the President of the United States engaged in an event where the threat of bombing just refers to the possibility there may be some awkward moments of silence after having inadvertently hit the wrong comic note…

Anyway, it was another fairly deft performance at this year’s WHCA Dinner (aka the “nerd prom”) by Obama and his able team of writers.

While not nearly as brilliantly trenchant as it could have been – Stephen Colbert having set the bar almost impossibly high in that regard years ago when ironically fawning over Bush and mercilessly skewering the press with his withering sarcasm – Seth Myers competently delivered a pretty funny routine with some good lines.

Hats off, by the way, to the C-SPAN crew for cutting away from the stage and continually training their camera on Donald Trump – who was, understandably, the butt of a great many jokes at the event. Those repeated profile shots of him with a resolutely grim demeanour and the “fox on his head” were quite amusing counterpoints to the punchlines.

Customs Union?

Not to sound all conspiratorial or anything, but isn’t the so-called North American Security Perimeter that is apparently being negotiated behind closed doors by the Harper government and the Obama administration, essentially tantamount to formation of a Customs Union? From the precious few sketchy outlines that have been provided to the public so far, it would certainly seem to have most, if not all, the characteristics of such an economic arrangement.

I wonder how many Canadians are aware that we may be on the verge of entering into a Customs Union (abeit under the guise of another name) with our neighbour to the south? Or care… but that’s another matter.

Not to say that such a concept is necessarily a bad thing – indeed, there could be a lot of commercial benefits to streamlining the border through a comprehensive program of regulatory harmonization and the integration of our Customs administrations to the extent that would allow for a single point of entry into the region; steps that manufacturers and exporters on both sides of the border have been lobbying hard for – but surely the process of significantly restructuring the nature of our trade relationship in this way is deserving of more transparency and oversight than has been the case to date…

Well, that’s my basic gripe with these negotiations at this point in time – I would just like to know more exactly what is being proposed and how our respective governments plan on implementing their proposed solutions to what is amusingly referred to in the trade as “thickening” of the border mainly resulting from post 9/11 security concerns.

If it’s any consolation to those who may fear the prospect of a North American Security Perimeter immediately taking shape, you can relax… Based on my familiarity with the situation, I would guestimate implementation of this concept at the better part of a decade away; and that’s presuming the our respective border agencies are working at breakneck speed (relatively speaking) and are fully funded to undertake this project and bring it to completion – both quite unlikely to occur.

Ending the Afghanistan War

Following through on his promise made back in December to reassert congressional power (per Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution) to overrule the President Obama’s plans for prolonged war in Afghanistan, yesterday, Dennis Kucinich introduced two privileged resolutions invoking the War Powers Act of 1973 aimed at triggering debate and votes on a timely withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

If, as the American people have repeatedly been told by the government for the better part of a decade now — as have we here in Canada — that their military forces have made tremendous strides in achieving improvement in the lives of Afghans, sending little girls to school, eliminating the imaginary threat of “terra” and so on, then maybe it’s time to just declare “victory” and end this ridiculous, heinously expensive misadventure on the other side of the world.

Thankfully, our government has at least the good sense to have already pulled the plug on our commitment to this absurd farce as of next year. Pity it wasn’t sooner and that more young men and women will have to die needlessly in the meantime, but at least it’s better than the prospect facing the Americans of propping up their criminal drug cartel/autocratic puppet regime in Kabul for some indefinite period of time.

Barking Mad

Glenn Beck reacts in theatrical fashion to Joe Biden’s risible claim that stimulus spending hasn’t resulted in any significant fraud or abuse.

Of course, when umpteen billions of dollars are involved in any kind of spending program — whether it be sponsored by the government or the private sector — there’s inevitably bound to be a certain amount of waste, corruption, graft and abuse; hey, it’s just human nature, after all. But is it really fair to trash the putative aims of such initiatives on that basis alone, or to dismiss the ends because the means of achieving them were less than sanitary in nature?

Obama: One Year On

Media Matters samples various “conservative” tropes from the past year.

“No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.” — Edmund Burke.

Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat…

[insert pejorative of choice here]

As bizarre and reprehensible as Pat Robertson’s remarks about a spurious “pact with the Devil” being the root cause for Haiti’s latest misfortune, at least the senile old kook urged his viewers to contribute to the CBN’s Disaster Relief Fund to help the suffering victims of the earthquake (which makes no logical sense if they’re supposedly in league with the Devil, but that’s another matter…)

In contrast, Rush Limbaugh followed up his cynically racist remarks about the disaster “playing right into the hands” of the Obama administration that, according to Rush, would use Haiti to get closer to the “light-skinned and dark-skinned black [communities] in this country,” by yesterday urging people not to donate to Haiti relief effort because that country is run by “dictators and communists” and declaring that Americans have already helped Haiti more than enough in the form income taxes.

On last night’s Daily Show, Jon Stewart quipped that he’d figured out the reason for Rush’s recent heart problem — “You don’t have one!”

“Meals on Wheels” Update: You really have to wonder at what point Rush’s legion of dittoheads might possibly become a wee bit embarrassed by the despicable things this hateful clown says every day.

Obama: “We Want Our Money Back!”

Like many of President Obama’s policies it seems the best this new “bank tax” can be characterized as is a good start. It’s certainly a shrewd political move, if nothing else.

The knee-jerk reaction from the The National Review was predictably shrill:

Seriously, what are they thinking about? Can’t the administration and Frank see that these types of measures will only hurt the recovery? The only effect of this tax will be to soak equity out these institutions limiting their ability to recover and issue loans. Plus haven’t most of these banks repaid the money they were forced to take from the government? With interest, no less.

And if Mister Frank really believes that chasing well-paid employees to go elsewhere is a winning strategy and won’t have any impact on the industry, then I suggest that next time he is sick he goes to a hospital where doctors are poorly paid and see how he feels about that.

This anti-capitalist and anti-wealth mentality is scary and very anti-American.

Yeah, my heart is just bleeding for those “poorly paid” bankers. And as “scary” and “anti-American” as Ms. de Rugy thinks the proposed tax is, she fails to note that it (or something like it) is actually required by law:

The EESA statute that created the TARP requires that by 2013 the President put forward a plan “that recoups from the financial industry an amount equal to the shortfall in order to ensure that the Troubled Asset Relief Program does not add to the deficit or national debt.”

I suppose it would have been too much trouble for anyone at The Corner to read the official government factsheet on the bank tax. Pesky facts… feh!