Friday, March 5, 2010

Obama Signs Bill to Boost US Tourism Promotion

Obama is now Travel-Agent-In-Chief.

Obama signs bill to boost US tourism promotion (3/4/2010 Breitbart)

"Looking for an edge in the global war for tourism dollars, US President Barack Obama Thursday signed into law moves to attract more overseas travelers.

"Obama signed the act "which establishes a corporation for travel promotion to encourage international travel to the United States," the White House said in a statement.

"The effort is to be funded through a matching program featuring up to 100 million dollars in private sector contributions and a 10-dollar fee on foreign travelers who do not pay for a visa, with no money from US taxpayers.

"Supporters of the law highlighted a forecast by the impartial Congressional Budget Office that it would create some 40,000 US jobs -- and cut the ballooning US deficit by some 425 million dollars." [The article continues.]

Charging 10-dollar fees for travelers from countries with the visa waiver program is supposed to encourage international travel?


What am I missing? Visa waiver program participants include most of Europe and wealthier countries in Asia/Pacific (Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand). The travelers from these countries already suffer a newly added inconvenience of having to register online with the U.S. embassies before they travel to the U.S. and obtain approval.

The bill the president signed was H.R. 1299 "United States Capitol Police Administrative Technical Corrections Act of 2009", "which establishes a Corporation for Travel Promotion to encourage international travel to the United States; and makes miscellaneous amendments to authorities of the United States Capitol Police" according to the White House statement.

What a joke. How things have NOT changed. Capitol Police administrative amendments and a creation of a government-sponsored travel promotion scheme on the same bill.

Section 9 of the bill, TRAVEL PROMOTION ACT OF 2009, details out the plan.

The Corporation for Travel Promotion is to be a non-government, non-profit corporation receiving the money from the government and supported by the Department of Commerce. (How could that be a non-government corporation?) The government will give $10 million seed money, and $100 million per fiscal year for which the Corporation will have to raise the matching fund.

Breitbart's article says "no cost to taxpayers", but it sure looks to me that it will cost taxpayers.

In addition, the Department of Commerce will create the Office of Travel Promotion to act as a liaison with the Corporation and do some research on tourism promotion. Hey more new jobs will be created in the federal government, making the government even bigger, and we should all cheer.

It looks like a win scored by the travel industry. Instead of trying to do the tourism promotion on their own, they have managed to get the government to match the fund for promotion. They'd better hope that wealthier travelers from Europe and Asia wouldn't mind being assessed a $10 fee each time they come to the U.S with a threat of penalty for not paying, and wouldn't mind the hassle of having to obtain a pre-approval for their trips.

If the industry and the Obama government believe all this will boost tourism, they are delusional.

Oh by the way, did you know that the Patriot Act's extension was recently approved, without any debate, with all the abusive spying program intact, as it was attached to the bill that deals with medicare reform? What else has snuck in in disguise these days?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

White House's Cyber Shield Is Called "Einstein"

and "Einstein" can snoop all Internet communications. Necessary to keep us safe from cyber attacks, the government says. It's all for our own good.

Details of “Einstein” Cyber Shield Disclosed by White House
(2/2/2010 Wall Street Journal)

"The Obama administration lifted the veil Tuesday on a highly-secretive set of policies to defend the U.S. from cyber attacks.

"It was an open secret that the National Security Agency was bolstering a Homeland Security program to detect and respond to cyber attacks on government systems, but a summary of that program declassified Tuesday provides more details of NSA’s role in a Homeland program known as Einstein.

"The current version of the program is widely seen as providing meager protection against attack, but a new version being built will be more robust–largely because it’s rooted in NSA technology. The program is designed to look for indicators of cyber attacks by digging into all Internet communications, including the contents of emails, according to the declassified summary.

"Homeland Security will then strip out identifying information and pass along data on new threats to NSA. It will also use threat information from NSA to better identify emerging cyber attacks.

"NSA’s role is a careful balance because of the political battles that ensued over the agency’s role in domestic surveillance in the George W. Bush administration. Declassifying details of the NSA’s role, in a program initially developed during the Bush administration and continued in the Obama administration, will likely ignite new debates over privacy.

"The White House’s new cyber-security chief, Howard Schmidt, announced the move to declassify the program in a speech at the RSA conference in San Francisco–his first major public address since assuming the post in January. He said addressing potential privacy concerns was one of the ten initial steps he planned to take. “We’re really paying attention, and we get it,” he said."


"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves." - William Pitt the Younger, British Prime Minister, in a speech in the House of Commons on November 18, 1783

It is pretty clear who the "tyrants" are. Are we going to allow ourselves to be the "slaves"?

OT: Munich's Answer to Lent: Stronger Beer

The stock indices are stalling, currencies going wild, there are too many things or nothing to do in the financial markets for a small trader. I decided to do the latter (nothing) and just sit on my positions, and that's what I've been doing for the past week. Too much uncertainty coming from all corners, domestic and foreign.

I wish I were in Munich though. Have some strong brew and forget about the world's woes...

Munich's answer to Lent: stronger beer (2/26/2010 The Local)

"Lent might be a period of abstinence, but Bavarian monks decided centuries ago that drinking highly alcoholic beer helped their fasting. Thomas Barkley explains Munich's Starkbierzeit tradition.

"The end of Fasching, what Bavarian Catholics call Carnival, heralds the beginning of Lent, the Christian season of fasting. Normally considered a period of abstinence, in beer-crazy Bavaria it's time to crack open extra strong Starkbier brews.

"Starkbierzeit has become such a fixture of Munich's annual event calendar that locals refer to it as the year's 'fifth season.' The supermarkets are stocked with the strong Doppelbock lager beer brewed only during this time.

"The festival hearkens back to the fasting Paulaner monks who brewed the extra strong beer to sustain themselves between Shrove Tuesday and Easter. Today the beer is served only during Lent - but is now quaffed for less pious reasons.

"The festivities start on the third Thursday after Ash Wednesday. The first barrel of Triumphator was tapped this year at the Löwenbräukeller on February 25, followed by the other breweries a day later. Beer halls hold special events with traditional dances and music during the following three weeks. Most of the Starkbier revellers head to the Nockerberg to sample a couple of Maß (a one litre mug) of Paulaner’s Salvator. But if you want to dodge the crowds it is worthwhile to check out some of the other beer halls in town.

"Since Munich’s Oktoberfest has become mobbed with tourists from around the world, many Munich residents have started retreating to the Starkbier festival. Just as at the Wiesn, plenty of visitors dress up in traditional Bavarian dirndl dress and lederhosen. A slightly less conventional type of leather trousers will be on display at the gay event sponsored the Munich Leather Club (MLC) at the Augustinerkeller.

"Several stouts are brewed in Bavaria, but the strong beer is only served during Lent. Since the 14th century monks coming mostly from Italy found it difficult to fast in the harsh Bavarian climate and so they took to the bock beer brewed at the Hofbräuhaus, which didn’t fall under the strict fasting regulations." [The article continues.]

Tall brew towers of Spaten beer were near the apartment I stayed once, and everyday a very filling aroma of beer being brewed wafted from the towers. In the open-air market (der Viktualienmarkt) in the middle of the city, people would start drinking beer as early as 10 AM (or that's the earliest I would go there and people were already drinking).

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

AIG Selling Its Crown Jewel to Pay the Goverment Back

Instead of doing the IPO, AIG is selling one of its most profitable and highly regarded insurance subsidiary in the high-growth region, AIA, to U.K.'s Prudential for $35.5 billion, as part of the effort to repay the U.S. government.

The U.S. government bailed out A.I.G., which was essentially a bailout of AIG's counterparties who also bet against CDOs insured by AIG's CDS. The sale of AIA is viewed in Asia as an inexplicable act, as they know that AIA is one of the top insurance companies in the region. Prudential is licking the chops, for very good reason.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York owns the $16 billion preferred shares of AIA. The NY Fed will have their money back and probably a lot more, and they will claim how successful the government bailout is. See, we got your money back! The problem is that they didn't bother to ask us when they put the money in AIG, and we are not going to see that money back in our pockets.

AIG President and CEO Bob Benmosche says, as reported by Huffington Post:

"This transaction, the most significant milestone to date in our ongoing effort to repay taxpayers, also gives us greater flexibility to move forward with AIG's restructuring and focus on enhancing the value of our key insurance businesses, which will benefit all stakeholders."

Enhansing the value of their key insurance businesses by selling off one of their most successful insurance business in the fastest-growing region. Now that makes sense. What else are they selling to enhance the value of their insurance businesses?

AIG, who started its existence in Shanghai, will now be severed from its roots. All for paying back the government who was there to "rescue" big Wall Street banks, who essentially forced the "rescue".

Monday, March 1, 2010

Financial Firms Receiving Widespread Subpoenas For Euro Shorting Collusion

from Zero Hedge...

From The Rumor Bag: Financial Firms Receiving Widespread Subpoenas For Euro Shorting Collusion (Tyler Durden, 3/1/2010 Zero Hedge)

"As of last night, a variety of financial firms have received subpoenas seeking information on collusion to short the euro. We are currently pursuing more information and will post once we get it. Certainly sovereign CDS traders can not be far behind (especially those who traded with a less than bullish bias over the past month) from the wrath of the Greek, Spanish and British secret services, and now - various US legal and criminal administrations, which are currently convinced that it is just speculators who are at fault for 15 years of fraudulent eurozone budgetary presentations and countless bond offerings based on fake financials, finally coming to the fore. Seriously, sell anything, and you will soon be facing the business end not of misdemeanor, but real-deal felony charges, and possibly with sprinkles of treason to boot."

The Nose of the Old Fox at a German Foundry Sniffed Out Gold-Plated Tungsten Bar

Well, well. So the rumor like this was true after all?

Zero Hedge reports that the large German foundry found out that all that glitters is not gold:

German ProSieben TV Channel Finds 500 Gram Tungsten Bar At W.C.Heraeus Gold Foundry With Bank Origin (3/1/2010 Zero Hedge)

"German TV station ProSieben finds what appears to be some evocative proof of gold counterfeiting, in the form of tungsten gold substitutes coming to the W.C.Heraeus foundry, which is the world's largest privately-owned precious metals refiner and fabricator, located in Hanau, Germany. The foundry has isolated at least one 500-gram tungsten bar due for melting, originating from a (so far) unnamed bank, which as the head of the foundry stated made the unpleasant discovery that "not all the glitters is gold.""

Here's the link to the ProSieben clip on Youtube.

In the video, Herr Wilfried Hoerner, the head of the gold foundry for 30 years, says one of the workers came to him saying he didn't like the bar. It didn't feel right for some reason. So they decided to cut it. Sure enough. "The nose of the old fox was right." Die Nase des alten Fuchs.

After all, fake gold bars have been actually shipped, from no other place than a nation's central bank. As this blog reported back in December, the Ethiopian central government exported a consignment of gold bars to South Africa in 2008, only to have them returned after South Africans found out they were nothing but gilded steel bars.

Obama Wants $900 Million to Stem School "Dropout Epidemic"

Well, H1N1 swine flu "epidemic" didn't happen, but several billion dollars went to the programs to prepare for the epidemic. Giving $900 million away for another "epidemic" should be no big deal, right?

The Bush era's word was "war on ...... (fill in the blank)". The Obama era's word is "...... epidemic (fill in the blank)"?

Obama seeks money, interventions to stem dropouts
(3/1/2010 AP via Yahoo News)

"WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama took aim Monday at the nation's school dropout epidemic, proposing $900 million to states and education districts that agree to drastically change or even shutter their worst performing schools.

"Obama's move comes as many schools continue to struggle to get children to graduation, a profound problem in a rich, powerful nation. Only about 70 percent of entering high school freshmen go on to graduate. The problem affects blacks and Latinos at particularly high rates.

"Obama described the crisis as one that hurts individual kids and the nation as a whole, shattering dreams and undermining an already hurting economy." [The article continues.]

Rich, powerful nation? (Rich?) I guess this AP writer simply copied verbatim what the president said.

School dropouts undermining the weak economy? I think it's the other way around: Weak economy encouraging dropping out of schools - lack of funds, lack of support.

He wants to spend $900 million of taxpayer's money to help nation's worst 5000 schools. $180,000 per school. Let's see what that would do. Looking at how much local school administrators earn (a lot), that money wouldn't be enough to hire another bureaucrat at each school to oversee his "dropout prevention program", whatever that may be.

I am all for it if he so strongly believes in his cause that he donates his own private money and all those multimillionaire Congressmen and Senators join him.

Or he can donate to Treasury Department to reduce the government deficit, if he really cares about reducing the deficit he is expanding.