Category Archives: Foreign Policy
by Tyler Durden
Oct 30, 2016 11:46 AM
Until the Friday blockbuster news that the FBI was reopening its probe into the Hillary email server, the biggest overhang facing the Clinton Campaign was the escalating scandal involving the Clinton Foundation, Doug Band’s consultancy firm Teneo, and Bill Clinton who as a result of a leaked memo emerged was generously compensated for potential political favors by prominent corporate clients using Teneo as a passthru vehicle for purchasing influence.
In a section of the memo entitled “Leveraging Teneo For The Foundation,” Band spelled out all of the donations he solicited from Teneo “clients” for the Clinton Foundation. In all, there are roughly $14mm of donations listed with the largest contributors being Coca-Cola, Barclays, The Rockefeller Foundation and Laureate International Universities. Some of these are shown below (the full details can be found in “Leaked Memo Exposes Shady Dealings Between Clinton Foundation Donors And Bill’s “For-Profit” Activities“)
Band also lays out the millions in speaking fees arranged by Teneo:
Band also offers the following commentary on the “$50 million in for-profit activity” he was able to secure for Bill Clinton (as of November 2011) as well as the “$66 million in future contracts, should he choose to continue with those engagements.”
Independent of our fundraising and decision-making activities on behalf of the Foundation, we have dedicated ourselves to helping the President secure and engage in for-profit activities – including speeches, books, and advisory service engagements. In that context, we have in effect served as agents, lawyers, managers and implementers to secure speaking, business and advisory service deals. In support of the President’s for-profit activity, we also have solicited and obtained, as appropriate, in-kind services for the President and his family – for personal travel, hospitality, vacation and the like. Neither Justin nor I are separately compensated for these activities (e.g., we do not receive a fee for, or percentage of, the more than $50 million in for-profit activity we have personally helped to secure for President Clinton to date or the $66 million in future contracts, should he choose to continue with those engagements).
With respect to business deals for his advisory services, Justin and I found, developed and brought to President Clinton multiple arrangements for him to accept or reject. Of his current 4 arrangements, we secured all of them; and, we have helped manage and maintain all of his for-profit business relationships. Since 2001, President Clinton’s business arrangements have yielded more than $30 million for him personally, with $66 million to be paid out over the next nine years should he choose to continue with the current engagements.
In effect, what Band was doing, as the NYT’s Nick Confessore summarized, “was selling his clients on idea that giving to foundation was, in essence, a way to bolster their influence. Clinton & Band built a platform for executives to bolster their companies’ images, bathe in BC’s praise, and do some good, while Teneo extracted earnings for Band and, depending on what you see in these e-mails, Clinton himself. Teneo paid Clinton until late ’11.”
As Confessore also pointed out, “I guess you can wave it all off as a nothingburger. But Chelsea Clinton and some of Clinton’s other aides were clearly freaking out.”
And he concluded by saying “Generally, the emails show Clinton’s *own closest aides* troubled or horrified by things that her surrogates have spent years waving off.”
Today, with this context, we focus on one particular email disclosed in the latest Podesta email release, in which an email from Doug Band to Cheryl Mills and John Podesta dated November 12, 2011, or just days before the abovementioned memo was sent out, admits that “I’m starting to worry that if this story gets out, we are screwed.”
Here is the full email:
Need get this asap to them although I’m sure cvc [Chelsea Clinton] won’t believe it to be true bc she doesn’t want to Even though the facts speak for themselves.
John, I would appreciate your feedback and any suggestions I’m also starting to worry that if this story gets out, we are screwed. Dk [Declan Kelly] and I built a business. 65 people work for us who have wives and husbands and kids, they all depend on us. Our business has almost nothing to do with the clintons, the foundation or cgi in any way. The chairman of ubs could care a less about cgi. Our fund clients who we do restructuring and m and a advising the same just as bhp nor tivo do. These are real companies who we provide real advice to through very serious people. Comm head for goldman, dep press secretary to bloomberg, former head of banking, and his team, from morgan stanley for asia and latin am.
I realize it is difficult to confront and reason with her but this could go to far and then we all will have a real serious set of other problems. I don’t deserve this from her and deserve a tad more respect or at least a direct dialogue for me to explain these things. She is acting like a spoiled brat kid who has nothing else to do but create issues to justify what she’s doing because she, as she has said, hasn’t found her way and has a lack of focus in her life. I realize she will be off of this soon but if it doesn’t come soon enough…
Four years later, the story is out, not thanks to Chelsea Clinton as Doug Band was concerned, but due to a hack of John Podesta’s email account.
However, in light of the latest FBI scandal involving Anthony Weiner, It remains to be seen if either Band or the Clintons are screwed – it appears that the general public has more than enough distractions to forget about this potential graft scandal involving the Clintons and their influence-peddling clients.
by Tyler Durden
Sep 6, 2016 6:30 PM
Why does it seem like almost everything is made in China these days? Yesterday I was looking at some pencils that we had laying around the house and I noticed that they had been manufactured in China. I remarked to my wife that it was such a shame that they don’t make pencils in the United States anymore. At another point during the day, I turned over my television remote and I noticed that it also had “Made In China” engraved on it. With Labor Day just hours in the past, I think that it is quite appropriate to write about our transition from an industrial economy to a paper economy today. Since the year 2000, the United States has lost five million manufacturing jobs even though our population has grown substantially since that time. Manufacturing in America is in a state of stunning decline, our economic infrastructure is being absolutely gutted, and our formerly great manufacturing cities are in an advanced state of decay. We consume far more wealth than we produce, and the only way that we are able to do this is by taking on massive amounts of debt. But is our debt-based paper economy sustainable in the long run?
Back in 1960, 24 percent of all American workers worked in manufacturing. Today, that number has shriveled all the way down to just 8 percent. CNN is calling it “the Great Shift”…
In 1960, about one in four American workers had a job in manufacturing. Today fewer than one in 10 are employed in the sector, according to government data.
Call it the Great Shift. Workers transitioned from the fields to the factories. Now they are moving from factories to service counters and health care centers. The fastest growing jobs in America now are nurses, personal care aides, cooks, waiters, retail salespersons and operations managers.
No wonder the middle class is shrinking so rapidly. There aren’t too many cooks, waiters or retail salespersons that can support a middle class family.
Since the turn of the century, we have lost more than 50,000 manufacturing facilities. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of gleaming new factories have been erected in places like China.
Does anyone else see something wrong with this picture?
At this point, the total number of government employees in the United States exceeds the total number of manufacturing employees by almost 10 million…
Government employees in the United States outnumber manufacturing employees by 9,932,000, according to data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Federal, state and local government employed 22,213,000 people in August, while the manufacturing sector employed 12,281,000.
The BLS has published seasonally-adjusted month-by-month employment data for both government and manufacturing going back to 1939. For half a century—from January 1939 through July 1989—manufacturing employment always exceeded government employment in the United States, according to these numbers.
You might be thinking that government jobs are “good jobs”, but the truth is that they don’t produce wealth.
Government employees are really good at pushing paper around and telling other people what to do, but in most instances they don’t actually make anything.
In order to have a sustainable economy, you have got to have people creating and producing things of value. A debt-based paper economy may seem to work for a while, but eventually the whole thing inevitably comes crashing down when faith in the paper is lost.
Right now, the rest of the world is willing to send us massive amounts of stuff that they produce for our paper. So we keep producing more and more paper and we keep going into more and more debt, but at some point the gig will be up.
If we want to be a wealthy nation in the long-term, we have got to produce stuff. That is why the latest news from Caterpillar is so depressing. In addition to the thousands of layoffs that had been previously announced by the industrial machinery giant, it appears that a fresh wave of layoffs has arrived…
Hundreds of mostly office employees received layoff notices at one of the largest Caterpillar Inc. facilities in the Peoria area this week, just as the company announced plans to close overseas production plants and eliminate thousands more positions.
A total of 300 support and management employees at Building AC and the Tech Center in Mossville this week received job loss notifications that included severance packages, 60 days notice and mandated Illinois Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act letters.
During this election season, you will hear many of our politicians talk about how good “free trade” is for the global economy. But that is only true if the trade is balanced. Unfortunately, we have been running a yearly trade deficit of between 400 billion dollars and 600 billion dollars for many years…
When you have got about half a trillion dollars more going out than you have coming in year after year that has severe consequences.
Let me try to break it down very simply.
Imagine that I am the United States and you are China. I take one dollar out of my wallet and I give it to you and then you send me some stuff.
After a while, I want more stuff, so I take another dollar out of my wallet and send it to you in exchange for more products.
But that stuff only lasts for so long, and so pretty soon I find myself taking another dollar out of my wallet and giving it to you for even more stuff.
Ultimately, who is going to end up with all the money?
It isn’t a big mystery as to how China ended up with so much money. And when we can’t pay our bills we have to go and beg them to let us borrow some of the money that we sent to them in the first place. Since we pay interest on that borrowed money, that makes China even richer.
This is why I am so obsessed with these trade issues. They truly are at the very heart of our long-term economic problems.
But most Americans don’t understand these things, and they seem to think that our debt-based paper economy can just keep rolling along indefinitely.
In the end, history will be the judge as to who was right and who was wrong.
In a fair election, my best estimate is that Donald Trump would win in a landslide.
But this election will not be fair. In fact, few of them are.
For Trump’s part, there is no doubt that he has been this year’s sensation. A newcomer to politics, he has thrown out all the conventional rules, played by his own, and found a captivated country hanging onto his every word. Love him, hate him, or somewhere in between… no one can look away from the spectacle.
After a war within the party and the convenient disposal of 16 conventional GOP contenders, Trump is now the official Republican candidate and he is in a strong position. Coming out of the relatively calm Republican National Convention and going into the tumultuous DNC, Trump has enjoyed soaring poll numbers while Hillary has been losing ground fast to the scandals and corruption revealed by Wikileaks and other related mouthpieces.
But the fat lady has not sung.
Hijacking the Party, Keeping Dissent Under Wraps
Hillary’s coronation last night as she formally accepted her party’s nomination could hardly have been more forced. The entire Democratic convention has been stage-managed to downplay the overwhelming noise from Bernie supporter who are outraged and feel betrayed by Hillary.
The entire convention has had a certain air to it, a quality that reveals the desperation for power, and the crisp sense of danger that brings with it.
To a casual observer, things might look typical enough, with a few sore losers and pipe dreamers wishing for an ideal country run by decent and fair people that either don’t exist or haven’t figured out how to win an election. But things are not typical – the paradigm is shifting. Politics realigns every 30 years or so, or at least that is the maxim that has held in political science. Only, the last shift has been 30 or 40 years overdue.
There is a reason for that, and the establishment has been fighting to stop the change for the past generation. They have faked out the cycle and kept the population under their thumb (when was the last time you saw a “real” presidential election that wasn’t a means to keeping the status quo?)
But delaying the inevitable won’t hold.
Why Trump Should Win…
As Michael Moore argued, Trump has been preaching the gospel of restoring America’s manufacturing, and is working to woo and turn to “red” the “blue” Rust Belt states where Americans once had strong middle class jobs, especially in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. According to Moore’s numbers (which are cited to motivate support for Hillary and opposition to Trump), if Trump captures those key states in addition to the red states that Mitt Romney, a weak candidate, won in 2012, then Trump should win the electoral college:
I believe Trump is going to focus much of his attention on the four blue states in the rustbelt of the upper Great Lakes – Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Four traditionally Democratic states – but each of them have elected a Republican governor since 2010 (only Pennsylvania has now finally elected a Democrat). In the Michigan primary in March, more Michiganders came out to vote for the Republicans (1.32 million) that the Democrats (1.19 million). Trump is ahead of Hillary in the latest polls in Pennsylvania and tied with her in Ohio. Tied? How can the race be this close after everything Trump has said and done? Well maybe it’s because he’s said (correctly) that the Clintons’ support of NAFTA helped to destroy the industrial states of the Upper Midwest.
In fact, Moore is right. Nobody wants any more Flint, Michigans (where the water is contaminated and poverty seems to be airborne and contagious), least of all Michael Moore.
Trump’s appeal is much broader than just his sensational antics and controversial statements. He is resonating with America because he is speaking to the wounds of those struggling to cling to what’s left of the middle class American Dream.
And the strength of Trump’s position there is buttressed by the cold fact that the Clinton’s strong support for NAFTA played a major role in the downward spiral of the Rust Belt, and many other parts of the United States.
Trump’s appeal to bringing jobs back to America has to sound like not only a good campaign strategy, but an actual sound idea.
Things have reached a point where nearly every American – regardless of how little they pay attention to news and world affairs – is feeling the damage that has been done. NAFTA, GATT, the WTO and an entire shift into pseudo-governing structures of globalism that have eaten away at the sovereignty of the United States and devoured the prosperity of its people have taken a serious toll on our way of life. And we have all been programmed to take it lying down.
The steady flow of funny money, artificially pumped out by the Federal Reserve has kept many from noticing it, but the real world effects are still hitting people on the street. Not only does the dollar not go as far as it used to, but everything in life is increasing in cost, and getting watered down in value and substance. Society is acting out one big charade, and pretending not to notice the outrage, dissent and anger seeping through the cracks and edges.
Inevitable and determined to win at all costs
Rather than let that burst on her watch, and during the only opportunity she has left in this lifetime, Hillary Clinton and her minions have rearranged all the deck chairs in her favor to force a win. It certainly hasn’t come from the grassroots. Where necessary, the Democratic party has fudged primaries and stolen them outright. The mainstream media has been scripted around her as an anointed figure who is untouchable and beyond reproach. They have stifled exposure of Bernie and would have done so to any other rival… if only any others had dared to enter the race.
Instead, the campaign to elect Hillary became an unrelenting junta to force her into office in spite of the will of the people, the rules of the game or the ever-expanding negative image of the former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State whose corruption and ties to bad deeds are both legendary and sufficiently documented to warrant life without parole.
There was a never a realistic chance that Hillary would be prosecuted or even reprimanded over her email scandals, because the fix was in a long time ago. Those who would theoretically hold her into account were appointed by her husband, or by President Obama, and their cooperation was assured in private.
Though many have argued that you can’t put lipstick on a pig, that is exactly what has taken place. 2016 is more of a farce than ever… and there is still another round to go.
Only One Persons Stands Between Her and the Presidency
Can anyone else see that the most rigged and stolen election of all time is shaping up? If the Democratic party doesn’t want Hillary, what makes anyone think the entire country wants anything to do with her?
Before you answer that openly, make a strong educated guess about who the next president is going to be… and how many bodies she will have to climb over to get there.
What Wikileaks exposed with Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC, and what the emails have revealed about Hillary and the Clinton Foundation are surely only the tip of the iceberg. The stories of the delegates who were silenced or kicked out of the convention, and many other deceitful acts to destroy dissent and keep up appearances suggest some of the rest of the story… and it is anything but democratic or “of the people” – though very likely the whole of it will never be known.
There is something very, very wrong going on and it is time that everyone – regardless of ideology, party affiliation or politics – needs to face up to. Preliminary evidence indicates strongly that there has been a very carefully orchestrated coup taking place… and if successful, it will have only one logical conclusion:
Total power, at any price, with a facade of support and momentum that just isn’t there from anyone other than a handful of elite billionaires, and a cadre of clients with addresses that are either foreign or based on Wall Street.
If you missed the convention coverage, then you have got to see Hillary playing with the balloons after her speech.
There really is no wondering who she is concerned about… herself, of course.
As I mentioned above, it is reminiscent – even spot on – of Charlie Chaplin’s amazing parody in The Great Dictator, where his version of a Hitler-esque autocrat toys with the world as his plaything.
We are in for a world of hurt if what I think is going to happen turns out. The entire democratic process is being pushed back under the water, and a crude, fake smile is broadcast for appearances, while holding it all down.
Great Britain Condemns Muslim Brotherhood for Terrorism Ties; Obama Isolated in Close Ties to Jihadist Organization
Posted on February 15, 2015 by Raymond Ibrahim
In a recent interview, Syrian President Bashar Assad makes some interesting observations. When asked “If you were able to deliver a message to President Obama today, what would it be?” Assad responded (via VIE):
I think the normal thing that you ask any official in the world is to work for the interests of his people. And the question I would ask any American is: what do you get from supporting terrorists in our country, in our region? What did you get from supporting the Muslim Brotherhood a few years ago in Egypt and other countries? What did you get from supporting someone like [Turkish Prime Minister] Erdogan?…. You are the greatest power in the world now, you have many things to disseminate around the world: knowledge, innovation, IT with its positive repercussions. How can you be the best in these fields yet the worst in the political field? This is a contradiction. That is what I think the American people should analyze and question. Why do you fail in every war? You can create war, you can create problems, but you cannot solve any problem.
These last observations concerning the Obama’s administration’s many foreign policy failures are hardly limited to Assad and have been voiced by a myriad of world leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Egyptian President Sisi, and Russian President Putin.
After accusing the Obama administration of “encouraging war between neighboring states,” Putin added:
American objectives have not been realized, nor have they accomplished anything, because everything has collapsed. Afghanistan faces problems, and Iraq and Libya are falling apart. Egypt also was going to collapse had President Sisi not taken matters in hand. And all this demonstrates the failures of the Obama administration.
At any rate, based on precedent, what the United States often “gets from supporting terrorists in the region” is terrorist attacks on its own soil, such as 9/11, which was the work of the “freedom fighters” the U.S. once supported in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Courtesy of RaymondIbrahim.com
Raymond Ibrahim is a Middle East and Islam specialist and author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians (2013) and The Al Qaeda Reader (2007). His writings have appeared in a variety of media, including the Los Angeles Times, Washington Times, Jane’s Islamic Affairs Analyst, Middle East Quarterly, World Almanac of Islamism, and Chronicle of Higher Education; he has appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, C-SPAN, PBS, Reuters, Al-Jazeera, NPR, Blaze TV, and CBN. Ibrahim regularly speaks publicly, briefs governmental agencies, provides expert testimony for Islam-related lawsuits, and testifies before Congress. He is a Shillman Fellow, David Horowitz Freedom Center; a CBN News contributor; a Media Fellow, Hoover Institution (2013); and a Judith Friedman Rosen Writing Fellow, Middle East Forum . Ibrahim’s dual-background — born and raised in the U.S. by Coptic Egyptian parents born and raised in the Middle East — has provided him with unique advantages, from equal fluency in English and Arabic, to an equal understanding of the Western and Middle Eastern mindsets, positioning him to explain the latter to the former.
by Tyler Durden on 11/03/2014 23:42
Two years ago, in hushed tones at first, then ever louder, the financial world began discussing that which shall never be discussed in polite company – the end of the system that according to many has framed and facilitated the US Dollar’s reserve currency status: the Petrodollar, or the world in which oil export countries would recycle the dollars they received in exchange for their oil exports, by purchasing more USD-denominated assets, boosting the financial strength of the reserve currency, leading to even higher asset prices and even more USD-denominated purchases, and so forth, in a virtuous (especially if one held US-denominated assets and printed US currency) loop.
The main thrust for this shift away from the USD, if primarily in the non-mainstream media, was that with Russia and China, as well as the rest of the BRIC nations, increasingly seeking to distance themselves from the US-led, “developed world” status quo spearheaded by the IMF, global trade would increasingly take place through bilateral arrangements which bypass the (Petro)dollar entirely. And sure enough, this has certainly been taking place, as first Russia and China, together with Iran, and ever more developing nations, have transacted among each other, bypassing the USD entirely, instead engaging in bilateral trade arrangements, leading to, among other thing, such discussions as, in today’s FT, why China’s Renminbi offshore market has gone from nothing to billions in a short space of time.
And yet, few would have believed that the Petrodollar did indeed quietly die, although ironically, without much input from either Russia or China, and paradoxically, mostly as a result of the actions of none other than the Fed itself, with its strong dollar policy, and to a lesser extent Saudi Arabia too, which by glutting the world with crude, first intended to crush Putin, and subsequently, to take out the US crude cost-curve, may have Plaxico’ed both itself, and its closest Petrodollar trading partner, the US of A.
As Reuters reports, for the first time in almost two decades, energy-exporting countries are set to pull their “petrodollars” out of world markets this year, citing a study by BNP Paribas (more details below). Basically, the Petrodollar, long serving as the US leverage to encourage and facilitate USD recycling, and a steady reinvestment in US-denominated assets by the Oil exporting nations, and thus a means to steadily increase the nominal price of all USD-priced assets, just drove itself into irrelevance.
A consequence of this year’s dramatic drop in oil prices, the shift is likely to cause global market liquidity to fall, the study showed.
This decline follows years of windfalls for oil exporters such as Russia, Angola, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria. Much of that money found its way into financial markets, helping to boost asset prices and keep the cost of borrowing down, through so-called petrodollar recycling.
But no more: “this year the oil producers will effectively import capital amounting to $7.6 billion. By comparison, they exported $60 billion in 2013 and $248 billion in 2012, according to the following graphic based on BNP Paribas calculations.”
In short, the Petrodollar may not have died per se, at least not yet since the USD is still holding on to the reserve currency title if only for just a little longer, but it has managed to price itself into irrelevance, which from a USD-recycling standpoint, is essentially the same thing.
According to BNP, Petrodollar recycling peaked at $511 billion in 2006, or just about the time crude prices were preparing to go to $200, per Goldman Sachs. It is also the time when capital markets hit all time highs, only without the artificial crutches of every single central bank propping up the S&P ponzi house of cards on a daily basis. What happened after is known to all…
“At its peak, about $500 billion a year was being recycled back into financial markets. This will be the first year in a long time that energy exporters will be sucking capital out,” said David Spegel, global head of emerging market sovereign and corporate Research at BNP.
Spegel acknowledged that the net withdrawal was small. But he added: “What is interesting is they are draining rather than providing capital that is moving global liquidity. If oil prices fall further in coming years, energy producers will need more capital even if just to repay bonds.”
In other words, oil exporters are now pulling liquidity out of financial markets rather than putting money in. That could result in higher borrowing costs for governments, companies, and ultimately, consumers as money becomes scarcer.
Which is hardly great news: because in a world in which central banks are actively soaking up high-quality collateral, at a pace that is unprecedented in history, and led to the world’s allegedly most liquid bond market to suffer a 10-sigma move on October 15, the last thing the market needs is even less liquidity, and even sharper moves on ever less volume, until finally the next big sell order crushes the entire market or at least force the [NYSE|Nasdaq|BATS|Sigma X] to shut down indefinitely until further notice.
So what happens next, now that the primary USD-recycling mechanism of the past 2 decades is no longer applicable? Well, nothing good.
Here are the highlights of David Spegel’s note Energy price shock scenarios: Impact on EM ratings, funding gaps, debt, inflation and fiscal risks.
Whatever the reason, whether a function of supply, demand or political risks, oil prices plummeted in Q3 2014 and remain volatile. Theories related to the price plunge vary widely: some argue it is an additional means for Western allies in the Middle East to punish Russia. Others state it is the result of a price war between Opec and new shale oil producers. In the end, it may just reflect the traditional inverted relationship between the international value of the dollar and the price of hard-currency-based commodities (Figure 6). In any event, the impact of the energy price drop will be wide-ranging (if sustained) and will have implications for debt service costs, inflation, fiscal accounts and GDP growth.
Have you noticed a reduction of financial markets liquidity?
Outside from the domestic economic impact within EMs due to the downward oil price shock, we believe that the implications for financial market liquidity via the reduced recycling of petrodollars should not be underestimated. Because energy exporters do not fully invest their export receipts and effectively ‘save’ a considerable portion of their income, these surplus funds find their way back into bank deposits (fuelling the loan market) as well as into financial markets and other assets. This capital has helped fund debt among importers, helping to boost overall growth as well as other financial markets liquidity conditions.
Last year, capital flows from energy exporting countries (see list in Figure 12) amounted to USD812bn (Figure 3), with USD109bn taking the form of financial portfolio capital and USD177bn in the form of direct equity investment and USD527bn of other capital over half of which we estimate made its way into bank deposits (ie and therefore mostly into loan markets).
More ( here )
And so on, but to summarize, here are the key points once more:
- The stronger US dollar is having an inverse impact on dollar-denominated commodity prices, including oil. This will affect emerging market (EM) credit quality in various ways.
- The implications of reduced recycled petrodollars has significant ramifications for financial markets, loan markets and Treasury yields. In fact, EM energy exporters will post their first net drain on global capital (USD8bn) in eighteen years.
- Oil and gas exporting EMs account for 26% of total EM GDP and 21% of external bonds. For these economies, the impact will be on lost fiscal revenue, lost GDP growth and the contribution to reserves of oil and gas-related export receipts. Together, these will have a significant effect on sustainability and liquidity ratios and as a consequence are negative for dollar debt-servicing risks and credit ratings.
By Mollie Hemingway October 14, 2014
As the Ebola situation in West Africa continues to deteriorate, some U.S. officials are claiming that they would have been able to better deal with the public health threat if only they had more money.
Dr. Francis Collins, who heads the National Institutes of Health (NIH), told The Huffington Post, “Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would’ve gone through clinical trials and would have been ready.” Hillary Clinton also claimed that funding restrictions were to blame for inability to combat Ebola.
Conservative critics have pointed out that the federal government has spent billions upon billions of dollars on unnecessary programs promoting a political agenda rather than targeting those funds to the fight against health threats.
Other limited government types point to the Progressive utopian foolishness seen in opposing political factions, both sides of which seem to agree humanity could somehow escape calamity if only we had a properly functioning government. People who don’t want an all-powerful government shouldn’t blame it for not having competence when crisis strikes.
What’s particularly interesting about this discussion, then, is that nobody has even discussed the fact that the federal government not ten years ago created and funded a brand new office in the Health and Human Services Department specifically to coordinate preparation for and response to public health threats like Ebola. The woman who heads that office, and reports directly to the HHS secretary, has been mysteriously invisible from the public handling of this threat. And she’s still on the job even though three years ago she was embroiled in a huge scandal of funneling a major stream of funding to a company with ties to a Democratic donor—and away from a company that was developing a treatment now being used on Ebola patients.
Before the media swallow implausible claims of funding problems, perhaps they could be more skeptical of the idea that government is responsible for solving all of humanity’s problems. Barring that, perhaps the media could at least look at the roles that waste, fraud, mismanagement, and general incompetence play in the repeated failures to solve the problems the feds unrealistically claim they will address. In a world where a $12.5 billion slush fund at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is used to fight the privatization of liquor stores, perhaps we should complain more about mission creep and Progressive faith in the habitually unrealized magic of increased government funding.
Lay of the Land
Collins’ NIH is part of the Health and Human Services Department. Real spending at that agency has increased nine-fold since 1970 and now tops $900 billion. Oh, if we could all endure such “funding slides,” eh?
Whether or not Dr. Collins’ effort to get more funding for NIH will be successful—if the past is prologue, we’ll throw more money at him—the fact is that Congress passed legislation with billions of dollars in funding specifically to coordinate preparation for public health threats like Ebola not 10 years ago. And yet the results of such funding have been hard to evaluate.
See, in 2004, Congress passed The Project Bioshield Act. The text of that legislation authorized up to $5,593,000,000 in new spending by NIH for the purpose of purchasing vaccines that would be used in the event of a bioterrorist attack. A major part of the plan was to allow stockpiling and distribution of vaccines.
Just two years later, Congress passed the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act, which created a new assistant secretary for preparedness and response to oversee medical efforts and called for a National Health Security Strategy. The Act established Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority as the focal point within HHS for medical efforts to protect the American civilian population against naturally occurring threats to public health. It specifically says this authority was established to give “an integrated, systematic approach to the development and purchase of the necessary vaccines, drugs, therapies, and diagnostic tools for public health medical emergencies.”
Last year, Congress passed the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2013 which keep the programs in effect for another five years.
If you look at any of the information about these pieces of legislation or the office and authorities that were created, this brand new expansion of the federal government was sold to us specifically as a means to fight public health threats like Ebola. That was the entire point of why the office and authorities were created.
In fact, when Sen. Bob Casey was asked if he agreed the U.S. needed an Ebola czar, which some legislators are demanding, he responded: “I don’t, because under the bill we have such a person in HHS already.”
The Invisible Dr. Lurie
So, we have an office for public health threat preparedness and response. And one of HHS’ eight assistant secretaries is the assistant secretary for preparedness and response, whose job it is to “lead the nation in preventing, responding to and recovering from the adverse health effects of public health emergencies and disasters, ranging from hurricanes to bioterrorism.”
In the video below, the woman who heads that office, Dr. Nicole Lurie, explains that the responsibilities of her office are “to help our country prepare for, respond to and recover from public health threats.” She says her major priority is to help the country prepare for emergencies and to “have the countermeasures—the medicines or vaccines that people might need to use in a public health emergency. So a large part of my office also is responsible for developing those countermeasures.”
Or, as National Journal rather glowingly puts it, “Lurie’s job is to plan for the unthinkable. A global flu pandemic? She has a plan. A bioterror attack? She’s on it. Massive earthquake? Yep. Her responsibilities as assistant secretary span public health, global health, and homeland security.” A profile of Lurie quoted her as saying, “I have responsibility for getting the nation prepared for public health emergencies—whether naturally occurring disasters or man-made, as well as for helping it respond and recover. It’s a pretty significant undertaking.” Still another refers to her as “the highest-ranking federal official in charge of preparing the nation to face such health crises as earthquakes, hurricanes, terrorist attacks, and pandemic influenza.”
Now, you might be wondering why the person in charge of all this is a name you’re not familiar with. Apart from a discussion of Casey’s comments on how we don’t need an Ebola czar because we already have one, a Google News search for Lurie’s name at the time of writing brings up nothing in the last hour, the last 24 hours, not even the last week! You have to get back to mid-September for a few brief mentions of her name in minor publications. Not a single one of those links is confidence building.
So why has the top official for public health threats been sidelined in the midst of the Ebola crisis? Only the not-known-for-transparency Obama administration knows for sure. But maybe taxpayers and voters should force Congress to do a better job with its oversight rather than get away with the far easier passing of legislation that grants additional funds before finding out what we got for all that money we allocated to this task over the last decade. And then maybe taxpayers should begin to puzzle out whether their really bad return on tax investment dollars is related to some sort of inherent problem with the administrative state.
The Ron Perelman Scandal
There are a few interesting things about the scandal Lurie was embroiled in years ago. You can—and should—read all about it in the Los Angeles Times‘ excellent front-page expose from November 2011, headlined: “Cost, need questioned in $433-million smallpox drug deal: A company controlled by a longtime political donor gets a no-bid contract to supply an experimental remedy for a threat that may not exist.” This Forbes piece is also interesting.
The donor is billionaire Ron Perelman, who was controlling shareholder of Siga. He’s a huge Democratic donor but he also gets Republicans to play for his team, of course. Siga was under scrutiny even back in October 2010 when The Huffington Post reported that it had named labor leader Andy Stern to its board and “compensated him with stock options that would become dramatically more valuable if the company managed to win the contract it sought with HHS—an agency where Stern has deep connections, having helped lead the year-plus fight for health care reform as then head of the Service Employees International Union.”
The award was controversial from almost every angle—including disputes about need, efficacy, and extremely high costs. There were also complaints about awarding a company of its size and structure a small business award as well as the negotiations involved in granting the award. It was so controversial that even Democrats in tight election races were calling for investigations.
Last month, Siga filed for bankruptcy after it was found liable for breaching a licensing contract. The drug it’s been trying to develop, which was projected to have limited utility, has not really panned out—yet the feds have continued to give valuable funds to the company even though the law would permit them to recoup some of their costs or to simply stop any further funding.
The Los Angeles Times revealed that, during the fight over the grant, Lurie wrote to Siga’s chief executive, Dr. Eric A. Rose, to tell him that someone new would be taking over the negotiations with the company. She wrote, “I trust this will be satisfactory to you.” Later she denied that she’d had any contact with Rose regarding the contract, saying such contact would have been inappropriate.
The company that most fought the peculiar sole-source contract award to Siga was Chimerix, which argued that its drug had far more promise than Siga’s. And, in fact, Chimerix’s Brincidofovir is an antiviral medication being developed for treatment of smallpox but also Ebola and adenovirus. In animal trials, it’s shown some success against adenoviruses, smallpox, and herpes—and preliminary tests show some promise against Ebola. On Oct. 6, the FDA authorized its use for some Ebola patients.
It was given to Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, who died, and Ashoka Mukpo, who doctors said had improved. Mukpo even tweeted that he was on the road to recovery.
Back to that Budget
Consider again how The Huffington Post parroted Collins’ claims:
Money, or rather the lack of it, is a big part of the problem. NIH’s purchasing power is down 23 percent from what it was a decade ago, and its budget has remained almost static. In fiscal year 2004, the agency’s budget was $28.03 billion. In FY 2013, it was $29.31 billion—barely a change, even before adjusting for inflation.
Of course, between the fiscal years 2000 and 2004, NIH’s budget jumped a whopping 58 percent. HHS’s 70,000 workers will spend a total of $958 billion this year, or about $7,789 for every U.S. household. A 2012 report on federal spending including the following nuggets about how NIH spends its supposedly tight funds:
- a $702,558 grant for the study of the impact of televisions and gas generators on villages in Vietnam.
- $175,587 to the University of Kentucky to study the impact of cocaine on the sex drive of Japanese quail.
- $55,382 to study hookah smoking in Jordan.
- $592,527 to study why chimpanzees throw objects.
Last year there were news reports about a $509,840 grant from NIH to pay for a study that will send text messages in “gay lingo” to meth-heads. There are many other shake-your-head examples of misguided spending that are easy to find.
Indeed. The Progressive belief that a powerful government can stop all calamity is misguided. In the last 10 years we passed multiple pieces of legislation to create funding streams, offices, and management authorities precisely for this moment. That we have nothing to show for it is not good reason to put even more faith in government without learning anything from our repeated mistakes. Responding to the missing Ebola Czar and her office’s corruption by throwing still more money, more management changes, and more bureaucratic complexity in her general direction is madness.
August 30, 2014 4:00 AM By Andrew C. McCarthy
Is it better to have no strategy or a delusional strategy?
The question arises, of course, after President Obama’s startling confession on Thursday that he has not yet developed a strategy for confronting the Islamic State, the al-Qaeda-rooted terrorist organization still often called by its former name, ISIS – an acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. Al-Sham refers to Greater Syria.
You may have noticed that President Obama calls the group ISIL, preferring the acronym that refers to the Levant to the one referring to al-Sham. After all, anything that invokes Syria might remind you of red lines that turned out not to be red lines and the administration’s facilitation of the arming of “moderate rebels” who turned out to include, well, ISIS. The fact is that the president has never had a Syria strategy, either — careening from Assad the Reformer, to Assad the Iranian puppet who must be toppled, to Assad who maybe we should consider aligning with against ISIS — ISIS being the “rebels” we used to support in Syria . . . unless they crossed into Iraq, in which case they were no longer rebels but terrorists . . . to be “rebels” again, they’d have to cross back into Syria or cruise east to Libya, where they used to be enemy jihadists spied on by our ally Qaddafi until they became “McCain’s heroes” overthrowing our enemy Qaddafi.
No? Well, congratulations, you may have caught mental health, a condition to be envied even if it would disqualify you from serving as a foreign-policy and national-security expert in Washington. In either party.
The Islamic State’s recent beheading of American journalist James Foley is not the only thing that captured Washington’s attention of late. The Beltway was also left aghast at the jihadisst’ rounding up of over 150 Syrian soldiers, forcing them to strip down to their underpants for a march through the desert, and then mass-killing them execution style.
Shocking, sure, but isn’t that what the GOP’s foreign-policy gurus were telling us they wanted up until about five minutes ago? Not the cruel method but the mass killing of Assad’s forces. Nothing oh nothing, we were told, could possibly be worse than the barbaric Assad regime. As naysayers — like your faithful correspondent — urged the government to refrain from backing “rebels” who teem with rabidly anti-American Islamic-supremacist savages, top Republicans scoffed. It was paramount that we arm the rebels in order to oust Assad, even though “we understand [that means] some people are going to get arms that should not be getting arms,” insisted Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Turns out that quite a lot of people who shouldn’t have gotten arms have gotten quite a lot of arms. And that is because Syria is not the only place as to which Republicans urged Obama to ignore federal laws against arming and otherwise supporting terrorists. They did it in Libya, too.
We have several times documented here that influential Republicans led by Senator John McCain were champions of Moammar Qaddafi before they suddenly switched sides — along with President Obama — in campaigning to oust the Libyan regime they had only recently treated (and funded) as a key American counterterrorism ally. The resulting (and utterly foreseeable) empowerment of Islamic supremacists in eastern Libya directly contributed to the Benghazi Massacre of four Americans on September 11, 2012; to the rise of the Islamic State and the expansion of al-Qaeda franchises in Africa, all of which were substantially strengthened by the jihadist capture of much of Qaddafi’s arsenal; and to what has become the collapse of Libya into a virulently anti-American no-man’s land of competing militias in which jihadists now have the upper hand.
The disastrous flip-flop was no surprise. When Mubarak fell in Egypt, Senator McCain stressed that the Brotherhood must be kept out of any replacement government because the Brothers are anti-democratic supporters of repressive sharia and terrorism. He was right on both scores . . . but he soon reversed himself, deciding that the Brotherhood was an outfit Americans could work with after all — even support with sophisticated American weaponry and billions in taxpayer dollars. The Brothers were in power because, in the interim, McCain’s good friend Secretary Clinton pressured Egypt’s transitional military government to step down so the elected “Islamic democracy” could flourish. When the Brothers took the reins, they promptly installed a sharia constitution, demanded that the U.S. release the Blind Sheikh (convicted of running a New York–based terror cell in the 1990s), rolled out the red carpet for Hamas (the terror organization that is the Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch), and gave free reign to terrorist leaders — including the brother of al-Qaeda’s leader and members of the Blind Sheikh’s Egyptian jihadist organization — who proceeded to foment the violent rioting at the U.S. embassy in Cairo the same day as the Benghazi Massacre.
I could go on, but you get the point. While ripping Obama for having no Islamic State strategy, Republicans are now reviving the inane strategy of supporting the illusory “moderate Syrian opposition.” Those would be the same forces they wanted to support against Assad. The only problem was that there aren’t enough real moderates in Syria to mount a meaningful challenge to the regime. The backbone of the opposition to Assad has always been the Muslim Brotherhood, and the most effective fighters against the regime have always been the jihadists. So we’re back to where we started from: Let’s pretend that there is a viable, moderate, democratic Syrian opposition and that we have sufficient intelligence — in a place where we have sparse intelligence — to vet them so we arm only the good guys; and then let’s arm them, knowing that they have seamlessly allied for years with the anti-American terrorists we are delegating them to fight on our behalf. Perfect.
There is no excuse for a president of the United States to have no strategy against an obvious threat to the United States. But at least with Obama, it is understandable. He is hemmed in by his own ideology and demagoguery. The main challenge in the Middle East is not the Islamic State; it is the fact that the Islamic State and its al-Qaeda forebears have been fueled by Iran, which supports both Sunni and Shiite terrorism as long as it is directed at the United States. There cannot be a coherent strategy against Islamic supremacism unless the state sponsors of terrorism are accounted for, but Obama insists on seeing Iran as a potential ally rather than an incorrigible enemy.
Moreover, the combined jihadist threat is not a regional one merely seeking to capture territory in the Middle East; it is a global one that regards the United States as its primary enemy and that can be defeated only by America and its real allies. This is not a problem we can delegate to the basket-case governments of Iraq and Afghanistan, or to the “moderate” Syrian “rebels.” Yet the Obama Left’s relentless indictment of American self-defensive action in the Middle East has sapped the domestic political support necessary for vigorous military action against our enemies — action that will eventually have to include aggressive American combat operations on the ground.
But the GOP should take note: The jihad is not a problem we can delegate to the Muslim Brotherhood, either. We will not defeat our enemies until we finally recognize who they are — all of them.