Saudi Arabia labels Muslim Brotherhood a Terrorist Organization

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 8th, 2014

Week in Review

During the Arab Spring President Obama told Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak that he had to go.  A man who was the anchor of peace in the Middle East.  Since then the Middle East has grown less safe.  And closer to Iran.  Which hates Israel, the United States and Western Civilization.

The most organized political opposition in Egypt at the time of the Arab Spring was the Muslim Brotherhood.  An organization that Mubarak had outlawed in Egypt.  As they tended to agree more with Iran than they did with the Mubarak regime.  When they stepped in to fill the political vacuum left by Mubarak President Obama and his fellow Democrats were quick to recognize the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.  Even gave them military aid.  Despite their being a terrorist organization (see Saudi Arabia lists Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah as terror groups posted 3/7/2014 on UPI).

Saudi Arabia added the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah and two Syrian-based groups to its list of terrorist organizations Friday, officials said…

Abdel Latif al-Sheikh, head of the Saudi religious police, described the Brotherhood, Hezbollah, ISIS and al-Nusra Front as groups “ruled from outside to serve political purposes.”

“They are groups that fight moderate Muslims and are causing troubles around the world. This is what we consider against Islamic principles and has given a negative impression about Muslims in the West,” Sheikh said.

Here’s something you don’t hear often.  Or ever.  A Muslim nation speaking out against Islamist extremism.  But Saudi Arabia prefers peace.  Which is why they liked Hosni Mubarak.  And were very unhappy seeing him go.  Especially with the Muslim Brotherhood replacing the Mubarak regime.  Mubarak kept the peace.  The Saudis liked that.  Even though they don’t much care for Israel.  But they would take a peaceful world with Israel in it any day over a world without Israel if it meant having no peace.

Israel is not the source of all the unrest in the Middle East.  There is a huge divide in Islam that has killed more than any war or occupation involving Israel has killed.  Sunni versus Shia.  Saudi Arabia is Sunni.  Egypt, too.  While Iran is Shia.  Saudi Arabia prefers peace.  Iran prefers revolution.  Which is why Hosni Mubarak was good for Egypt.  Saudi Arabia. Israel.  The Middle East.  And world peace.  The Saudis understood this.  Which is why they call the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.  While the Obama administration does not.  Which is why they gave military aid to the Muslim Brotherhood.

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President Obama gets no Respect from Iran

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 8th, 2014

Week in Review

President Reagan made a joke once during a sound check before a radio address.  He said, “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever.  We begin bombing in five minutes.”  News of this joke leaked out.  And reached the Soviet Union.  And the Soviets did not find it amusing.  Instead, they put the Soviet Far East Army on alert.  You see, our enemies did not think much of Reagan’s comedic abilities.  For with him they did not know when he was joking.  Unlike President Obama (see Iranian general: Obama’s threats are ‘the joke of the year’ by Marissa Newman posted 3/4/2014 on The Times of Israel).

“The low-IQ US president and his country’s Secretary of State John Kerry speak of the effectiveness of ‘the US options on the table’ on Iran while this phrase is mocked at and has become a joke among the Iranian nation, especially the children,” General Masoud Jazayeri said, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.

Jazayeri was responding to the US president’s interview in Bloomberg on Sunday, in which Obama maintained that the Iranian leadership should take his “all options on the table” stance — including the warning of a potential military strike — seriously…

The Iranian news agency Tuesday published a political cartoon mocking the US president, calling it: “All Options on Table.” This Time for Russia.” In a jab at US non-intervention in Ukraine, the cartoon portrays Obama peering forlornly into an empty paint can with the label “Red Line” while Russian President Vladimir Putin walks away saying, “I think you used it all on Syria…”

Under an interim deal clinched in November, Iran agreed to curb parts of its nuclear program for six months in exchange for limited sanctions relief. The agreement came into effect on January 20.

“The (nuclear) negotiations are going well … I’m hoping by the first deadline (July 20) we will reach an agreement,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters on the sidelines of an event in New Delhi on February 28…

“I can tell you that Iran’s nuclear program will remain intact. We will not close any program,” he said, according to Reuters.

President Obama is raking up the honors.  A Nobel Peace Prize in 2009.  The Lie of the Year in 2013.  And now the Joke of the Year in 2014.  Pity he hasn’t won some of the awards most Americans want him to win.  The Best Economy of the Year award.  And the Most Respected World Leader of the Year award.  Two awards President Reagan did win.  His outlawing Russia joke was really funny, though, and he should have won Joke of the Year, too.  But here President Obama has him beat.

The Iranians will not close any nuclear program?  If not why then did we lift those sanctions?  It makes no sense.  Unless President Obama is going after yet another award.  The Most Naïve World Leader of the Year award.  Where he’s been a perennial favorite to win every year since 2009.

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Chrysler turns down Government Loan for Guarantee to keep Minivans in Windsor

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 8th, 2014

Week in Review

Cities and governments have long loved big industry.  Unions, too.  Because they’re big.  And are difficult to move. Such as an automobile assembly plant.  They take a lot of real estate.  Require a lot of specialized production and assembly equipment.  And a lot of infrastructure to support them.  Making them very difficult to move.  But not impossible (see Chrysler spurns government money, Windsor to build minivans posted 3/4/2014 on CBC News Windsor).

Chrysler will continue to build its popular minivan in Windsor, Ont., and has withdrawn all requests for government financial assistance in relation to the redevelopment of its assembly plants in Windsor and Brampton…

At the Detroit auto show seven weeks ago, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said that changes at the Windsor plant alone would cost at least $2 billion, and that Chrysler needed government help to finance the project.

Chrysler said in a media release Tuesday it will now “fund out of its own resources whatever capital requirements the Canadian operations require.”

Industry Minister James Moore said the government’s commitment to the auto industry is strong and he was surprised by Chrysler’s decision.

Essex Conservative MP Jeff Watson, whose riding is just south of Windsor, said he believed talks were going well.

“We were prepared to invest in exchange for guarantees for Canadian production and a Canadian supply chain,” Watson said.

Money from the government doesn’t come without strings.  And the string here was a guarantee that Chrysler wouldn’t leave.  No matter how costly the government or union contracts made it to stay in Windsor.  Costs that Chrysler has to recover in the sales price of their cars.  Which can’t be so high as to price them out of the market.  So Chrysler chose to spend their own money.  So they didn’t get stuck in an adverse economic situation when trying to compete in a global market.

“It is clear to us that our projects are now being used as a political football, a process that, in our view, apart from being unnecessary and ill-advised, will ultimately not be to the benefit of Chrysler,” the company said in a news release.

“As a result, Chrysler will deal in an unfettered fashion with its strategic alternatives regarding product development and allocation, and will fund out of its own resources whatever capital requirements the Canadian operations require.”

The government wanted what was best for them.  Economic activity they could tax.  While Chrysler wanted what was best for them.  Being able to sell cars at market prices.  And leaving their options open in the future.  Should it become too costly to continue to build cars in Canada.  Due to the cost of labor.  Or new regulatory policies.  Or higher taxes to fund a welfare state struggling under the costs of an aging population.  Governments are desperate for new tax revenue.  And will make almost any promise to get it.  Making long-term deals with governments risky.

According to the Ontario government, the auto sector employs 94,000 Ontarians, and supports as many as 500,000 families through indirect jobs…

Unifor Local 444 president Dino Chiodo, who represents hourly employees in Windsor, said he wasn’t completely surprised by Marchionne’s announcement…

Chiodo said Tuesday’s announcement is short of the $2-billion retooling and flexible manufacturing line employees were looking for in Windsor…

Chiodo said a $2.3-billion investment would secure three generations of minivans, which could secure jobs for decades…

Marchionne also wants union concessions.

Yes, they love the jobs these corporations create.  And all that economic activity those jobs create.  Economic activity they can’t create.  But they still hate corporations.  That’s why they tax them.  Regulate them.  Call them greedy.  Exploiters of labor.  And that the only way they can get them to do something decent is by making deals with them that favor them and not these evil corporations.  But sometimes these evil corporations don’t enter agreements that may harm them in the long run.  And when they do governments and unions panic.  As they fear they may have let a cash piñata slip through their fingers.  Which is a problem for them.  For they can’t create a single job those evil corporations can.

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Scotland wants to Keep the Pound in a (somewhat) Independent Scotland

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 8th, 2014

Week in Review

The Greek crisis happened because there was a currency union without a political union.  The Eurozone set some pretty strict limits on deficits and debt to join.  Why?  Because people in the Eurozone would all be using the same Euro.  So they didn’t want one country running up deficits or their debt.  Because if they did they wouldn’t just be messing with their economy.  They would be messing with the entire Eurozone economy.

Well, that’s what Greece did.  They were spending so much money that they had large deficits that added to a large debt.  A euro-denominated debt.  Which meant a default would raise borrowing costs for other euro-denominated debt.  Raising the borrowing costs for the Eurozone.  So to avoid that required other Eurozone nations to help Greece with their debt.  Requiring higher taxes in the more responsible countries of the Eurozone to pay for the irresponsible spending of Greece.  Neither option (default or rescue package) being a popular option.  Especially for the Greek people.  For the rescue package came with strings.  And the big one was austerity.  They had to stop spending so much.  Which meant a lot of people lost some of their government benefits.  Making them very unhappy.  Leading to some rioting in the streets.

Had there been a political union this would not have happened.  For there would have been only one entity borrowing and spending Euros.  One entity taxing the Eurozone nations.  And one entity printing money.  Much like the federal government in the United States.  And London in the United Kingdom (see Scotland’s referendum: Salmond says independence will benefit whole UK posted 3/4/2014 on BBC News Scotland Politics).

An independent Scotland with a strong economy would benefit the whole of the UK, First Minister Alex Salmond has told a gathering in London…

“I believe George Osborne’s speech on sterling three weeks ago – his ‘sermon on the pound’ – will come to be seen as a monumental error.

“It encapsulates the diktats from on high which are not the strength of the Westminster elite, but rather their fundamental weakness.

“In contrast, we will seek to engage with the people of England on the case for progressive reform.”

But Tory MP Mr Mundell said that Mr Salmond was saying that a choice to leave the UK and become independent “means staying exactly the same as we are now”.

He added: “By definition, that simply cannot happen.

“No one should be under any illusion that voting for independence means getting independence, which means becoming a new country outside the UK.

If the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis has taught us anything it’s that a currency union without a political union is not a good thing.  An independent Scotland would eliminate the political union there is now.  And the reason why England does not want a currency union with an independent Scotland is because of what happened in the Eurozone.  It doesn’t work.  At least, it doesn’t work well.  Which begs the question why do they want independence but not complete independence (keeping the pound)?

One can only surmise so they can have more autonomy over their taxing, borrowing and, of course, spending.  Perhaps to spend more.  Creating larger deficits.  And a greater pound-denominated debt.  Which would be of great concern to other holders of pound-denominated debt.  The rest of the United Kingdom.

It is unlikely that independence would lead to a stronger Scottish economy.  Or a stronger UK economy.  If it did then the whole point of the Eurozone would be a lie.  To create a larger economic zone to compete with the large economic zone that is the United States.  Because bigger is better.  At least in terms of GDP.  The British Empire was bigger than the United Kingdom is now.  And the United Kingdom is bigger than a United Kingdom without Scotland.  And an independent Scotland would be smaller than all of the above.  So if you want to maximize GDP you would want to maximize the size of your economy.  Not shrink it.  Which leads one to believe that the reason for independence is something other than economic.  Because the UK is too English?  Perhaps.  Whatever the reason let’s just hope everything works out for the best.  For the United Kingdom did make the world a better place.  With great people like Adam Smith from Scotland.  And John Locke from England.  To name only two of the greats to come from the United Kingdom.

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The High Cost of Employing People has some replacing People with Technology

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 8th, 2014

Week in Review

Self-serve checkouts at stores are reducing the number of cashiers in the economy.  As bar codes and credit cards make it easier to live in a world that isn’t served by people.  You can even pay with cash at these self-serve checkouts.  And people love them.  Why?  Shorter lines.  You can have 10 or more self-checkout lanes managed by one employee to fix problems and approve alcohol sales.  Whereas 10 checkout lanes with cashiers require 10 cashiers.  And these days full-time employees are expensive.  Especially in low-margin industries.  Like retail sales and grocery stores.

So stores don’t like to have a lot of checkout lanes with no lines with some cashiers getting paid for working part of the time.  They’d rather have 3 checkout lanes with long lines with 3 cashiers working all of the time.  Or one cashier overlooking 10 self-serve checkout lanes.  Because fewer people cost less.  Making it easier to survive in a world of thin margins.  And this concept may soon be coming to a restaurant near you (see Pizza Hut table lets you touch-screen your toppings by Amanda Kooser posted 3/4/2014 on cnet).

Touch-screen tables already exist. Pizza Hut restaurants already exist. Put the two together and you end up with a touch-screen table concept for ordering pizzas using your fingers…

The interactive table idea isn’t far-fetched at all. The technology to make it happen is already available. If this were to be rolled out, however, it would require a pretty hefty investment for the hardware, which would need to be rugged enough to stand up to countless greasy fingerprints, soda spills, and other abuse.

People love their gadgets.  There’re apps for everything these days.  To make our lives more efficient.  To speed things up in our lives.  In large part by removing those slow and time-consuming people.  This is the brave new world we live in.  A world where we even use that technology to communicate with each other.  Instead of meeting face-to-face.  It is clear we’re addicted to technology.  And losing our desire to interface with people.

Which is why it’s sad that costly government regulations (such as Obamacare) and higher taxes are squeezing margins so much for businesses that they prefer to invest in technology instead of hiring people.  Because with technology you don’t need to pay for unemployment insurance.  Workers’ compensation insurance.  Health insurance.  Mandated paid-leave.  Holidays.  Vacation days.  Drug testing.  Sexual harassment training.  Sexual harassment lawsuits.  A higher minimum wage.  Etc.  All of those things our liberal Democrats have burden our businesses with to make it better for employees.  But the costs are so great to comply with these regulations and taxes that businesses are now replacing employees with technology wherever they can.  Just so they can remain in business.

What’s next?  Restaurants where you sit down and select something from your touch-screen table?  And a pre-cooked dinner (appetizer, entrée and dessert) is warmed in an automated kitchen?  Only to be delivered to your table by an automated conveyance system?  Eliminating cooks, waitresses and even food-runners?  If you keep raising the cost of employing people this may be our brave new world in our not so distant future.  If you doubt this just think of the last time you went to the post office.  Did your banking face-to-face with a bank teller.  Dropped your film off to be developed into photographs.  Used a newspaper to find a movie to see.

Our love of technology, our impatience to wait for anything and the high cost of hiring people (especially low-skilled workers) has taken us far down the road to that people-less future.  You can’t stop the march of technology.  But you can stop making it so costly to hire people.  If we focused on this we wouldn’t have to worry about a people-less future.  Something we should think about the next time we enter a voting booth.

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