Wednesday, February 29, 2012

It's Time for the Republican Party Elders to Act

It seems clear now that Mitt Romney has the support he needs to be a viable GOP candidate. Yesterday he took moderate Michigan, but including half the social conservative and one-third of the blue collar vote. At the same time, he won in conservative Arizona by a wide margin and took the Wyoming caucuses.
The talk about a brokered convention has become the dream world of the leaders of the GOP's right wing, who would prefer to lose the presidency rather than to see a moderate Republican elected. And these ideologues are even out of step with their own constituency. In Michigan, many conservative Republicans interviewed yesterday said they voted for Romney rather than for Santorum for two reasons: Santorum is playing the religion card too hard and only Romney can beat Obama in November.
So, Grand Old Party, let's get your act together. There are still GOP party leaders, the people who can muster money, convention support, and statewide action for one candidate or another, and who could, if the want to, make order out of the mess that the Republican primary season has become.
It is time for these leaders to convince Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich to drop out of the race and let Mitt Romney carry the GOP colors into the convention and beyond into November.
Gingrich and Santourm are not stupid men. They know they will not win the nomination because Romney continues to out-collect them in delegate votes, and if the contest becomes tight, they surely know that Ron Paul will throw his delegate support to Romney, not to either of them.
So, let's get in line, support Romney, and stop tearing each other apart in a vicious game that will only weaken the GOP's chances in November.
The goal, as we all agree, is not to destroy the GOP. The goal is to defeat Barak Obama and bring back some sanity and American sense to the White House.
Let's get started before it's too late.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Europe's Eurozone Problems Deepen

If you decided to take the weekend off and watch the Daytona 500 and the Oscars, you may have missed a few things that point out just how completely unfinished are the European Union’s efforts to come to terms with its monetary union Eurozone.
Reuters is reporting several events that will have a real impact on the Eurozone and the European banking system.
First, on Tuesday the European Central Bank (ECB) temporarily suspended the eligibility of Greek bonds for use as collateral in its funding operations and told national central banks that they would have to provide banks with liquidity using an emergency measure.
The move was in response to Standard & Poor's cut of Greece's long-term ratings to 'selective default' after Athens launched a bond swap to lighten its debt burden.
The ECB said national central banks could provide liquidity using "emergency liquidity assistance" (ELA) until a 35 Billion Euro collateral enhancement scheme is activated by the ECB in mid-March, at which point Greek bonds would again be eligible in principle to use the ECB-led liquidity mechanism.
"Via ELA, the Greek central bank is allowed to accept collateral that is not eligible in normal ECB operations," Reuters quotes Commerzbank economist Michael Schubert as saying.
The ELA is underwritten by the countries whose central banks extend it, so this latest move will put more pressure on the finances of Eurozone countries whose budgets are already strained. The ELA is critical because Greek and Cypriot banks would almost certainly face immediate bankruptcy if their central bank funding was withdrawn.
Other banks in countries like France also own large chunks of Greek debt, meaning they too would face major financing issues if the Greek bonds they hold suddenly become unusable as collateral at the ECB.
Reuters said that the Eurozone's deal makers and the ECB did not foresee the potential flaw in the collateral plan brought about by the 35-billion-euro support scheme not being activated in time.
The ECB estimates that there is roughly 40 billion euros of sovereign and other types of bonds underwritten by Greece being used as collateral to get ECB funding. Greek banks account for a large portion of that but those in Cyprus and other parts of the euro zone such as France also have sizeable Greek holdings meaning their governments will also have to use the ELA emergency liquidity assistance until mid-March.
While all this was going on, in Germany, the German top court said on Tuesday a parliamentary committee set up to approve urgent action by the Eurozone bailout fund was "in large part" unconstitutional because it circumvents the Bundestag’s right to decide on budgetary matters. This ruling may hamper Berlin's ability to tackle Europe's debt crisis.
The Constitutional Court verdict means that either a full session of the 620-strong Bundestag (lower house of parliament) or its 41-member budget committee will have to be convened every time a decision has to be made on the use of the bailout fund.
The specially named panel of nine MPs will only be allowed to approve the purchase of debt on the secondary bond market by the fund - a facility that has not been used as yet anyway. It will not be able to approve loans or preventative credit lines for troubled Euro member states like Greece or the capitalisation of banks.
The ruling can be seen as an indication that the German Bundestag, as well as the German public, are becoming more and more tired of having to foot a large share of the bill for bailing out the likes of Greece, Portugal and Ireland, and object to their powers over such budget-related issues being curtailed.
Notwithstanding the growing resistance among German voters to further bailout spending, pressure is also mounting on Berlin from the world's leading economies to free up funds for more international help.
Former German chancellor Helmut Kohl, one of the architects of the euro, warned in the popular daily Bild that Germany was in danger of "losing sight of the goal of a united Europe".
Are you ready for one last tidbit?
Ireland, the first bailout country in the Eurozone, will hold a referendum on Europe's new fiscal treaty, according to Prime Minister Enda Kenny, setting the stage for the first popular vote on the German-led plan for stricter budget discipline across the region.
After joining 24 other EU states last month in agreeing to the pact for stricter budget discipline, Kenny sought advice from the country's lawyer on whether a vote was necessary and told parliament that on balance, a referendum would be required.
"The Irish people will be asked for their authorization in a referendum to ratify the European stability treaty," Kenny told parliament.
Support for the European Union has dropped considerably in Ireland over the past three years of austerity measures forced on it by the EU as the price to pay for aid to prop up its collapsing banking sector, so the Irish vote will be key.
So, dear readers, as I and many others have been saying, it ain’t over yet and the fat lady hasn’t even started to warm up her voice.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hillary Clinton's Strange Remarks

The world has been talking the past two days about the phrases US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has been using to express her views about Syria and its related issues.
She began by saying the refusal of Russia and China to join the world community in condemning Syrian President al-Assad and his regime of terrorism against his own people is “despicable.”
Later, she turned directly to al-Assad, telling him to step down because his regime is finished, saying “it may not be tomorrow or in a week…” but it is over. She followed up by addressing herself to the Syrian army, asking them to think about their duty to the Syrian people and to save their honor by stepping aside from the violence.
What is striking about Clinton’s free-wheeling remarks these past days is that they come from an American Secretary of State, whose remarks are expected to be measured, calming and non-adversarial.
Is Hillary Clinton speaking for President Obama - that is, has he chosen the words we are hearing.
Or has the President unleashed her to say what she thinks appropriate for the time and place, not worrying about what the diplomatic result might be.
Or has Hillary Clinton, who late last year announced that she wanted to leave the State Department at the end of January 2012, simply come to the time in her career, and in her relation with President Obama, that she feels free to say what she thinks on the world stage. If this is the case, she is playing a dangerous game that could backfire on America, but since her aggressive words have been aimed solely at the Syrian situation, she has little to fear because the world is firmly in agreement with her.
What I find interesting is that Mrs. Clinton is at the same time defending President Obama against his potential Republican opponent in November, saying that she thinks he will be re-elected. This is something that no sitting Secretary of State ought to say…ever. She is not a political figure, but the person who represents America to the entire world.
She admitted this when she apologized for her partisan political remark, but the entire segment of her apology is amazingly non-correct politically. The following is a quote from the CNN report of the exchange in Tunisia.
“Clinton also defended telling an audience in Tunisia Saturday that Obama would be re-elected.
‘I was asked whether the comments in the primary campaign, some of which have been quite inflammatory, represented America’ she said, adding that they did not necessarily. "I represent America.’
As America's top diplomat, Clinton would not normally make political statements to a foreign audience.
‘Probably my enthusiasm for the president got a little out of hand,’ Clinton said with a laugh.
But she said her comments were appropriate.
‘I know what happens in campaigns. I've been there, done that, and I know that things are said that are not going to be put into practice or policy,’ she said. ‘I did think I needed to point that out to the audience.’ "
That is an amazing statement and I defy anyone to find its equal anywhere in the history of American Secretaries of State.
I wonder if she is making her farewells as she travels this month. Or if she has finally decided to break out of the Obama administration straightjacket and be her own person.
If this is the case, then we might want to follow her closely, because she may be getting ready to be a candidate herself, or to line up Democrat convention support that will make it necessary for President Obama to choose her as his Vice President if he wants to be nominated himself for a second term.
I’m guessing, of course. But, no one as savvy and intelligent as Hillary Clinton would make the remarks she has made in the last two days without understanding their implications or without have a very good reason for making them…time will tell.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Churchill Would Have Understood the Problem in Afghanistan

Winston Churchill once said, “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” I was sadly reminded of this today on hearing that two US military advisors to the Afghan UN forces were killed in a shootout in the Ministry of the Interior in Kabul. The officers were found dead in their offices, bullet wounds in their heads, according to one Afghan source, who said that an armed Afghan apparently shot them. Afghan President Karzai has called for calm and restraint in the aftermath of the attack and deaths. The UN general in charge, John Allen, has withdrawn all UN counsellors from Kabul ministries. The British government has also withdrawn its counsellors from Afghan ministries. American Defense Department officials have responded, saying the deaths were “unacceptable.” Afghan Defense Minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak, offered his excuses to the American government. President Obama has agreed with President Karzai that calm and discussions are needed at this time. The Spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, Sediq Sediqqi, has stated that there are ongoing investigations to determine who is responsible for the killings. The Taliban has announced that one of their insurgents, Abdul Rahman, fired the shots that killed four people, as a reaction against the “lack of respect” shown by foreign forces in Afghanistan, and especially for the burning of the Koran. The Taliban added that it has called on its insurgents to kill American military personnel, who were characterized as “invaders.” Winston Churchill, who often seemed responsible for the entire world during the Second World War, also once said, “Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events.” This is exactly where the UN and American forces are right now in Afghanistan. The Taliban has whipped up devastatingly anti-American and anti-foreigner sentiment among ordinary Afghans. It has poisoned the relationship that was to make it possible to put Afghanistan on a footing to manage its own affairs by 2014 so that the UN forces could withdraw. The Taliban have obviously seized on the numerous errors in judgment made by American troops - burning copies of the Koran, urinating on corpses, actions that should never have happened but which do happen in war - to push the UN and Americans out of the country as soon as possible. These unforeseen events are among the very things Churchill was talking about. They can change the dynamics of a war in hours today when TV and inserted journalists make the news immediately available around the world, as it should be, I might add. I have written several blogs about the foolhardiness of being in Afghanistan in the first place. We shouldn’t be there and we should get out. The Taliban will never be eliminated by our tactical programs and we are simply giving them propaganda fodder every day that we remain in Afghanistan. On this point, as is often the case, Ron Paul is absolutely right. America has no business policing the world or nation-building where it is not welcome. His call for strategic withdrawals is a voice crying in the wilderness, but it is a voice of reason, especially vis-à-vis Afghanistan. Just one more word from Mr. Churchill concerning war : “ However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”

Friday, February 24, 2012

France Shoots Itself in the Foot but Clooney and Dujardin Are Still Oscar Favorites

We’ve had the Golden Globe Awards, the Screen Writers Guild Awards and the British BAFTA Awards. Sunday, it will be Hollywood’s turn with the granddaddy of such awards, the Oscars. Tonight it was France’s turn with the Cesar Awards. All these awards are given to actors and actresses, film makers and technical support in the film industry. The film that has received the bulk of awards so far this year is The Artiste, a French film made in black and white and silent. Its director, leading actress and actor and the film itself have swept the Golden Globes, the Screen Writers and the BAFTAs. And a lot of money is on the same thing happening on Sunday at the Oscars. But, the French, being French, decided to give The Artiste best director, best actress, best film, but not best actor, awards, thus denying Jean Dujardin the chance for a perfect sweep. He was beaten by a black French TV comic whose film is another offbeat French story and since this actor is not nominated for any of the other award programs because the film is being run only in France, one could imagine that the French decided to honor him in the only venue available. But, what a silly thing to do. It will make no difference for the Oscars, since the votes are already cast, but it will deny the French film industry the possibility of winning bragging rights for having swept all the major 2011 awards. Silly… Jean Dujardin is not well known outside France, but his personality and, more importantly, his talent have made him a household face, if not name all over the world in the past two months. His Oscar competition is formidable - George Clooney and Gary Oldman among them. George Clooney is Dujardin’s closest clone. They are both long-time stars in their respective universes. They play mostly lighter roles, with a few dramas tossed into the mix from time to time. And either one would be a great Oscar winner. It’s almost too bad they can’t share the statue. But, what makes Clooney and Dujardin soulmates is their smiling, sexy face toward the world. They are the kind of men that women find charming and irresistible. You all know what I mean. Clooney and Dujardin would rush to help a woman whose 7-inch platform heel just toppled her or would clean up a cake that tumbled out of the oven onto the kitchen floor, without a word of recrimination either for the stupidly unusable shoes or the awkward cooking technique. They are the kind of men women love, even on a TV or cinema screen. And, much like Cary Grant of a generation or two ago, these two men don’t take themselves seriously. They don’t flaunt their sex appeal or seem arrogantly above the real world. They just love women and want to make them happy by playing roles that women want to see. So, whatever happens on Sunday at the Oscars, my hopes will be pinned on George Clooney or Jean Dujardin. Let’s have some recognition for the men women love to love on the golden screens of the world.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

New Hope for Syria

CNN and French news services are reporting this evening that the meeting of world diplomats, from countries calling themselves the “Friends of Syria”, will agree in Tunisia tomorrow on a package of humanitarian aid, including food and medicines, for the Syrian opposition and will try to create closer ties with them. Seventy countries have been invited to attend the Tunisia meeting. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in London today that the Syrian regime "…can't stand the test of legitimacy or even brutality for any length of time. There will be increasingly capable opposition forces,…they will find somewhere, somehow the means to defend themselves as well as begin offensive measures and the pressure will build on Russia and China. World opinion is not going to stand idly by." Clinton added that "Arab opinion is not going to be satisfied watching two nations --one for commercial reasons, one for commercial and ideological reasons -- bolster a regime that is…defying every rule of modern international norms. We think the pressure will continue to build. It's a fluid situation, but if I was a betting person for the medium term and certainly the long term, I would be betting against" al-Assad, Clinton said. This is the strongest language yet by the American Secretary of State and it comes on the day that the UN actually spoke openly of “crimes against humanity” being committed in Homs by al-Assad forces. Friday’s meeting, to be followed by a written communique, is part of the "ongoing efforts with our friends, allies, and the Syrian opposition to crystallize next steps to halt the slaughter of the Syrian people and pursue a transition to democracy in Syria," according to U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. The Friends of Syria conference was proposed after the unsuccessful attempts by the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution condemning the violence in Syria. Russia, a Soviet-era ally and arms dealer to Syria, and China vetoed that resolution. Neither country is taking part in Friday's conference. The world has been outraged by Syria's crackdown on protesters, but it has been unable to stop the violence. Clinton said, "…we see a lot of developments that we think are pointing to pressure on al-Assad. We hope it will pressure him to make the right decision regarding humanitarian assistance, but in the event that he continues to refuse, we think that the pressure will continue to build." An opposition Syrian National Council delegation met with the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, Switzerland, on Wednesday to discuss the humanitarian situation in Homs, bombarded daily by Syrian security forces. "This meeting was held in response to the demands of the residents of Homs to assess all the relief and humanitarian aid capabilities and options that might be provided to Homs residents, who have been suffering under the bombing and brutality of the (al-Assad) regime for weeks," the council said. CNN reports that world powers also plan to meet with the Syrian National Council to discuss such plans for relief and a political transition. One senior State Department official said he was "favorably impressed" with the Syrian National Council's increased outreach, given the complex political situation. Countries will hear from the opposition group at the conference in order to know its needs and then efficiently coordinate aid. The United States called for more international action and hinted that arming the opposition isn't out of the question.White House press secretary Jay Carney said the conflict under al-Assad's regime demands reaction. "We believe that we are in a situation where we -- the international community -- need to act in order to allow for the transition…to a more democratic future for Syria to take place before the situation becomes too chaotic," Carney told reporters. Asked about calls by Sens. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, for the United States to consider arming the opposition, Carney said, "We don't want to take actions that would contribute to the further militarization of Syria, because that could take the country down a dangerous path. "But we don't rule out additional measures that, working with our international partners, that the international community might take," he added. This, dear readers, is, by any measure, the beginning of a concerted effort to help the Syrian people free themselves from the al-Assad regime’s strangle hold on their country. We can only support the Friends of Syria and hope that al-Assad will, by some miracle, come to his senses and allow the aid and the transition to flow. Because it now seems that the world has finally decided not to stop until he is ousted from power if he does not go willingly.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Messages of Ron Paul and Rick Santorum

I think we’re living in a world where the basic definitions concerning our beliefs and who we are in relation to others has shifted and is muddled. For example, what is “left” and what is “Right” politically? We toss these terms round every day, and they flood our media, but what do the mean and how do we distinguish them? It used to be that Right was conservative - fiscally and socially…no welfare, no social programs for the unemployed or illegals (there weren’t many then anyhow), nothing standing in the way of free market economics. That’s slightly exaggerated, but you understand. The Left? It was higher taxes, even if free markets suffered, welfare programs, caring for the illegals, fiscal leniency because money was needed to fund all of this. Again, exaggerated, but on point. Today, everywhere in the world, at least the western world, we see these lines so completely blurred that it is just about impossible to put traditional labels on anyone. The result is that ordinary people don’t know what they believe, or what their elected officials believe or whose side they’re on most of the time. They only know that things are a mess and nobody seems to be able to fix them. The mess in America : taxes are too high, unemployment levels are unacceptable, religion is taboo but seems to be on everyone’s list of hot topics, illegals are treated well one day and booted out the next, poor people have rights but not enough to let them live decent lives, and the vast middle classes are fed up with always having to foot the bill and bear the load alone. Is it any wonder that the world is unstable, that it seems out of control and that all politicians and religious leaders are blamed for it. What we desperately need is a dialogue - not about birth control or how many troops to keep in Afghanistan or whether the rich are paying their fair share of taxes or why everybody wants something form the government. What we need is a dialogue about who we are, what we believe as a people and why we believe it. This is not a political debate at its foundation. It is a societal debate about what made America what she became and how to get it back. I feel sure that this is why Rick Santorum is on a crest of popularity. He is not talking about politics-as-usual stuff. He is talking about concepts… most of the time. Sometimes he gets the concepts mixed up with his own personal religious and moral views, but he is not selling himself as a politician usually would. He is selling the idea that America is broken and that only a fundamental dialogue toward reformation can save her. It is also what makes Ron Paul so interesting and why his disciples are so loyal and unswerving in their support, often saying that they will not vote for anyone else. Ron Paul is selling the idea, just as Santorum is, that America is broken and reform is the only cure. Paul’s difference is that he looks to the Constitution, which is the cornerstone of what and who America is while Santorum looks to moral and religious principles that are not universally acceptable and that do not, and did not, create America’s foundation. But, their goals are honorable and we ought to pay attention to them, especially Ron Paul. That is not to say that they should be elected President. But, somehow, Americans need to focus on their questions and solutions and find the road back. There isn’t much time left and there is no one else on the horizon with the same imperatively fundamental and necessary message.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Presidents Day Is a Time for Reflection

Today is Presidents Day in the United States. It is a long weekend holiday, meant to celebrate the first American President, George Washington, and the most popular and respected President, Abraham Lincoln.
Actually, their birthdays used to be celebrated separately, on February 22, which is Washington’s birthday, and February 12, which is Lincoln’s birthday. But, as we all know, bureaucrats love holidays, especially long weekends, and so the two celebrations were combined into one long-weekend federal holiday.
But, it remains that these two men, each a powerful and seminal leader in the history of the United States, are still, after two hundred years, the most revered leaders America has ever produced.
They were powerful in times that required clear vision and determination to save the country. Washington knew that the colonies would fail if he could not keep his continental army mustered and find the means, both financial and material, to defeat the British. Without George Washington’s unique dedication and persuasive powers, there would not have been a United States. He was offered the position of king after the colonies had freed themselves from British rule. He chose to stand for election, saying that Americans had not fought and died simply to replace one king with another.
President Washington was a stickler for hard work and never allowed himself or his men to sit back and feel sorry for themselves. He said several times :  “Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.”
And, goodness knows, in that fiercely cold and soul-destroying winter at Valley Forge, he could easily have given in to pity, if nothing else, and told his army to go home and forget about independence. Instead, he stayed with them, suffering the same deprivations of warmth and food as they, and it was this, his personal willingness to walk the way of hardship with the lowliest of his recruits, that made his call to arms and courage so compelling. Washington is truly the Father of the Nation.
Abraham Lincoln was called to another battle, that of saving the Union from breaking up over the question of slavery. His personal position was clear : "Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally."
But, he tried everything possible to prevent civil war and to accommodate the slave states as best he could, within his convictions and the will of the majority of the American people, who were opposed to slavery. He was convinced that : "America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."
Finally, he mustered the US Army, made up of volunteers and recruits from all the free states, and under his leadership, these brave men suffered great hardship, too, and often wondered what was the sense of going on. But, Lincoln told them why the fight was honorable and critical for the future of America at Gettysburg : "Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."
Lincoln fought the good fight. He freed the slaves. He held the Union together against all odds…he who was the son of a poor woman from the midwest countryside. He taught himself, he got an education in law, he ran for office in Illinois and won. He was prepared to sacrifice himself for the cause of equality. And sacrifice he did, at Ford Theater on that fateful night of April 14, 1865, when he was shot and killed for his efforts on behalf of freedom and equality.
President Lincoln has left us more words of wisdom than most of the men who have served as President of the United States, but the advice below is my personal Lincoln favorite.

"You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
You cannot lift the wage earner up by pulling the wage payer down.
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away men's initiative and independence.
You cannot help men permanently by doing for them, what they could and should do for themselves."

In this eventful election year, all Americans, voters and candidates alike, would do well to reflect on the words and deeds of these two great American leaders.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Don't Be Fooled about Greece's Future

Credit Suisse has been writing about a Greek default for some weeks now. The latest piece came this week when CS announced that its view remains that Greece will probably undergo a disorderly default before March 20, when her next bond repayments are due.  
For Greece - even if the country gets the second bailout, which will be used basically to push cash back into the banking system - Europe will have a first lien on nearly 150% of its GDP.
This makes my point of earlier this week even more probable - that Greece is becoming the first European Union client state.  The European Central Bank, the EU and the International Monetary Fund, for all their talk and posturing about solutions being at hand, have simply placed Greece in a position from which she will likely never be able to extricate herself, at least not in our generation. And in so doing , they have also jeopardized their own futures.
So, where is Greece, and where are we who are watching, and who will probably feel the aftermath of the default, when and if it occurs?

1. Greece is poised to default, the end-game everyone anticipated in 2011. It is very likely not a matter of if but when.

2. That default will trigger credit-default swap contracts, derivatives known as CDS that protect the owner from events such as default.

3. This will implode the banking system, as those who sold the CDS (financial institutions) do not have enough cash or assets to pay the owners of the CDS.

4. The idea is that sovereign default is very unlikely, so you can sell protection (CDS) against that possibility for a low premium, and cover that bet by buying your own protection from another player.

5. If that player (counterparty) can't pay you off, then you can't meet your obligations on the CDS you originated and sold.

6. So the failure of one counterparty can trigger a systemic failure akin to a row of dominoes being toppled by the fall of one domino.

7. Those absorbing the losses caused by a Greek default will want to cash in their insurance, i.e. the CDS they own against a Greek default. They have every incentive to demand a default be recognized as a default. If they accept the official plan to avoid calling a default a default, then all the losses will be theirs and none will fall to the counterparties who sold them the CDS.

How is this fair? The official response of avoiding default is focused on self-preservation, not fairness, justice or the rule of law.
So, dear readers, we are still in the eye of a real financial hurricane and nobody has the wherewithal to save either the ECB, the banking system or Greece.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Will the Real Rick Santorum Please Stand Up

Foster Friess, a Santorum backer, told Andrea Mitchell, a star reporter on MSNBC, on Thursday that he favors an “inexpensive” form of birth control — abstinence.
“You know, back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraception,” he said. “The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.”
Women’s groups denounced Friess’s remarks.
“Birth control is basic health care and used almost universally by women,” replied Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards. “It is not something to belittle on national TV.”
Santorum, who was speaking at an event in Michigan on Thursday, said: “Foster is a well-known jokester. That was a stupid joke. I’m not responsible for every bad joke someone I happen to know or who supports me tells.” He added, “Obviously I don’t agree with the basic premise.”
The issue of birth control has flared into a major GOP campaign problem because of the congressional debate centered on the requirement that employers provide preventive-care services to women at no cost, including contraceptives. Initial regulations allowed churches to opt out, but required faith-based universities and hospitals to comply.
After a firestorm of protest from the Catholic Church and the social and religious conservative wings of the American right, the White House revised the rule. Under the new rules, employees at faith-based institutions that object to contraceptives will have them paid for by insurance companies.
Some religious leaders contend that the new rule does not go far enough because it does not guarantee that their premium dollars do not get spent on contraceptives.
Ten faith leaders accused the Obama administration of violating religious freedom, while testifying before a congressional committee on Thursday.
“This provision is draconian in that it invades the realm of conscience for us,” said Matthew Harrison, an official with the Lutheran Church in Missouri.
“The issue here is forcing the church to provide [contraceptives] directly or indirectly in contravention of the Church’s teachings,” said William E. Lori, head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. “That’s what we don't want to do. It’s one thing when tax dollars pay for it; it’s another when church dollars do.”
Democrats at the hearing defended the birth control provision as crucial for women’s health and noted that many women use contraceptives for purposes other than preventing pregnancy.
 Catholic universities are still sorting out whether they will comply with the new provision or no longer provide health insurance to their employees.
“The health-care law makes the decision almost impossible,” said John Garvey, president of Catholic University of America, who also testified. “There’s a fine of almost $2,000 [per employee] per year if we don’t provide insurance. We’re not an institution rich enough to afford that penalty, so I’m trying to not look that far down the road.”
This, dear readers, has hit Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum full square because of his long-time opposition to any form of birth control. While he may say that he disagrees with the bad joke told by Mr. Friess, his own books quote him as believing that any form of contraception is unacceptable.
Mr. Santorun, while pronouncing on birth control as if he were Pope, also has another problem this weekend. His team has just released his tax returns, and - Surprise! - it turns out that he has earned more than $3.6 million as a Washington consultant and claimed a German luxury sedan as a business expense in the years after he left the Senate in 2007.
This set of facts may make it very difficult for Santorum to continue to use his “humble coal-country biography” as a large part of his political message. Blue collar workers, whose support has helped Santorum shoot to the top in GOP presidential primary races recently, may want to know why he is courting them while also raking in millions as a non-registered consultant in the power corridors of Washington.
He paid federal income taxes ranging from $167,000 in 2007 to $310,000 in 2009. Santorum said during a CNN interview that he felt “very blessed” in his financial success after leaving Congress, but said he and his wife also had a “couple setbacks” that forced them to take out a series of mortgages on their house.
Ho-hum.  What goes around comes around, Rick…you can’t have it all ways.
Are you a rich consultant or a poor coal miner’s son?
Are you for women’s rights or against them? The more than 50% of American voters who are women will need to have an answer - soon.
I hope it is too late for these questions to matter because your fast and loose campaign rhetoric and attacks on the other GOP candidates make me very uneasy and I hope it will finally become clear to a lot of Republicans that you are not the paragon of virtue you purport to be.
In fact, maybe you’re just a little bit like the Wicked Witch of the West trying to get hold of the Red Slippers so you can dance down the Yellow Brick Road. My advice would be to leave that to Judy Garland and Elton John.
Go home. Now!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The UN Finally Adopts a Syria Resolution

The United Nations General Assembly adopted today a resolution condemning the ongoing massacre of Syrian civilians by the al-Assad regime. The resolution passed by a 137-12 vote with 17 abstentions. It calls for the end of the massacre and all violence, support for the Arab League initiative to allow transition to a more democratic from of government and the appointment of a special UN envoy for Syria.
At the same time, the al-Assad regime security forces raided the offices of activist-journalist Mazen Darwish, the director of the Syrian Center for Media and Free Expression, and arrested him, his wife, U.S.-born blogger Razan Ghazzawi and freelance journalist Hanada Zahlout, blogger Hussein Ghreir and 10 others. 
CNN has reported that the Committee to Protect Journalists voiced alarm at the arrests and said the group has played a "key role in getting out information about daily developments in Syria, as foreign journalists are virtually banned from the country."
"These arrests are a blatant attempt to close off a vital source of information not only for Syrians but for the international media," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. "Anyone, whether a professional journalist or citizen with a mobile phone, who dares to report on the unrest in Syria is in danger of arrest or physical violence. Damascus should immediately release all those detained and stop its brutal crackdown."
Of course, this will not happen, just as al-Assad and his thugs will ignore the UN resolution. But, at least the world has finally spoken with a firm voice against the slaughter of civilians in Syria and called for a change in its government.
Meanwhile, the killing goes on.
Shelling continues in Homs for the 13th straight day with dozens of casualties being reported, but it has been reported that the regime seems to be losing its tight control of the northern part of the country because of the massive civilian protests that are stretching the capabilities of the Syrian security forces to respond everywhere.
Idlib province in the northwest appears to be preparing for a military offensive. Much of the region is in open revolt with villages and towns in the north out of government control for months.
At least 70 people died Thursday, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, the opposition activist group, including 38 in Idlib, 12 in Hama, and others in Rif Damashq -- the Damascus suburbs, Homs, Daraa , Deir Ezzor and Raqqah. The LCC said they include 36 unidentified bodies, 13 soldiers, three women and two pre-term infants.
Col. Malek Al Kurdi, deputy head of the Free Syrian Army, reported government force shelling in Hama and Daraa province with civilian and FSA casualties.
Among the dead are 10 military defectors in Hama, activists say.
In Idlib, the bodies of 19 people who tried to escape to Turkey were found. The LCC said they were arrested and executed by security forces.
The LCC also reported that security forces raided homes in the city of Zabadani, outside Damascus, and arrested 250 people. Shops were looted, houses were burned and regime gunfire was heard in the city, in its 20th day without access to medicine, water or electricity.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that he "is now considering all the necessary options…."
He met Thursday with French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe. Ban said the top priority was to stop the violence and establish humanitarian access. He said all relevant U.N. agencies were coordinating efforts to provide humanitarian help to the people of Syria.
France is going to bring another resolution before the U.N. Security Council. "We are currently renegotiating a resolution at the U.N Security Council to see if we can persuade the Russians," Juppe told radio station France Info Wednesday.
Russia is seen as the key in winning passage of a resolution that could force change in Syria because it could expose the al-Assad regime to U.N. sanctions and the president and his inner circle to possible prosecution by the International Criminal Court.
Syria is not a signatory of the Rome Statute that established the ICC's authority, so the Security Council is on the only world body that can refer Syrian-based crimes against humanity to the international court.
Russia has given mixed messages as to whether it would accept a U.N. arms embargo or economic sanctions, even though it has said it is concerned about the prospect of a Syrian civil war.
China announced Thursday that it was sending an envoy to Syria in an attempt to help defuse the crisis, according to state-run China National Radio (CNR).
Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun is scheduled to travel to Syria beginning Friday for a two-day visit, CNR said. The report did not say who the minister would meet with, saying only "his detailed schedule is still in planning."

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Greece: Is It Becoming the First EU Client State

Monday morning, Athens looked like a city that had been the target of a guerrilla warfare attack…and one could almost say that it had been sacked.
The attackers were Greek, mostly young people who have no jobs and no prospect of finding one, and others who are rapidly slipping into a level of poverty that we would associate with undeveloped countries far from the European Union. The protestors, led by two large Greek unions as well as radical leftists, were estimated at between 80,000 and 100,000. They set fire to buildings (I’ve read that as many as 15 buildings in downtown Athens went up in flames), threw stones torn up from pavements, and tossed Molotov cocktails at security forces. Police responded with tear gas.
Massing in front of the parliament building, protestors shouted that it was the “death of Greece” but that they were not ready to give up.
Amidst this violent protest action, on Sunday night the Greek parliament, protected by 3,000 police, passed (199 to 79 votes) yet another austerity package, demanded by the EU as the price of being “saved” from national bankruptcy and staying in the Eurozone.
Six coalition ministers have resigned in protest at the passing of the new austerity package.
The new austerity package almost surely consigns Greece to years of poverty, high unemployment and a shrinking economy. Most experts say that the package imposed by the EU mandates that Greece remain a sort of slave to the whims of the EU, and that its economy has no chance of producing the money needed to really pay its way out of its financial and fiscal crises any time in the foreseeable future.
The vote was taken after the governing coalition pleaded that without the EU bailout, Greece would need to immediately declare bankruptcy (because of bonds coming due in March) and would begin to unravel itself from the Euro as its currency.
Another argument for fast action was the promise of a European financial group meeting that was to be held today to agree on the 130 Million Euro bailout, which would accompany the 100 Million Euro forgiveness of Greek bond debt by the banks holding it. The Greek coalition has also promised an additional 325 Million Euro cut in government spending, coming from public safety salary reductions of another 10% ands a deep cut in the defense budget. The coalition’s total commitment is a 3.3 Billion Euro reduction in expenditures - which is more than the total annual GDP of Greece. Under the already-existing strains, the Greek GDP fell 6.8% in 2011. The future is looking much worse.
But, wait a minute. The Greek leadership didn’t send a letter to the EU’s finance group promising that even if the Greek government changes, the package will continue in place.
The EU response?  It has postponed the February 15 meeting to February 20, next Monday, waiting for the letter to arrive.
Would you like to promise to the people who hold your purse strings in prison that even if, say, President Obama is defeated in November, the Republican winner will keep his programs intact?  Not a chance. But, that is what the EU is asking Greece to do…and the Greeks will do it, because they believe that they have no choice.
The European Union countries are as afraid of Greece as Greece is afraid of them, to be honest.  Their fear is that if Greece defaults, then other countries will, and this will cause major EU banks to become insolvent, and that from there, an EU-wide recession, spreading to the rest of the world will follow.
Despite their fears, the EU financial group continues to pressure Greece to cut its budget back to the bones. Absent from their conversation is how this could possibly help Greece in the future.
For, if Greece cannot generate the funds needed to survive even under its draconian austerity program, who will cover its debt? The EU, of course. So, we are now watching the creation of the first EU client state, much as eastern European nations became client states of the Soviet Union after the Second World War.
"There are obvious powers within Europe who are playing with fire...and they want Greece out of the Eurozone," Greek finance minister Venizelos said, noting that Greece will do what it takes to show that its place remains with Eurozone. "We have to choose between unpleasant and even more unpleasant solutions," he added.
Waiting in the wing - Spain? Portugal ? Ireland ?
Serious, respected voices are calling the Greek affair madness. The solution, they say, is to cut these countries free of the Euro so that they can use their own currencies to support their own economies.



Monday, February 13, 2012

Is the Euro Worth Saving

What is the Euro - that is, saving the Euro - worth ?

Is it worth riots that almost mount to insurrection in Greece?

Is it worth Greece becoming a country with +20% unemployment, where most people don’t have enough money to survive from month to month?

Is it worth some people in France who don’t have enough money to pay for the extra heating they sorely needed during this horribly cold February winter we are experiencing?

Is it worth unemployment rates well over 10% all over Europe?

Is it worth anger and a feeling of betrayal  in Spain and Portugal and Italy and Ireland because they feel sure they are being pushed out of the Eurozone they helped to create by being the “buyer” segment for Germany’s “seller” part of the arrangement?

Is it worth Germany becoming once again the most disliked country in the European Union and being referred to as the aggressor or the “boot” that is forcing poverty and recession and political collapse on Greece, with an eye to the others waiting in the wings expecting to be “aggressed?”
Somebody needs to ask these questions…urgently.  Because the EU and the Eurozone are close to collapse, not from fiscal policies gone awry, but from the collapse of the popular will to continue under a system that is destroying their countries, their ways of life and their children’s futures.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

58% of Americans Are not in Favor of Abortion

The New York Times has released the results of a poll which shows that a majority of Americans are opposed to almost all forms of abortion, despite the mainstream media’s insistence on a pro-choice bias.
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote an opinion piece on the subject during the controversy over the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation’s decision, which was later rescinded, to defund Planned Parenthood.
In his column, “The Media’s Abortion Blinders,” Douthat notes that in a recent poll, 58 percent of Americans stated that abortion should either be “illegal in all circumstances” or “legal in only a few circumstances.”
He also states that the first Gallup poll to show a pro-life majority was conducted back in May 2009.
Douthat goes on to say that “…if you followed the media frenzy...” surrounding the Komen foundation’s move, “ would think all these millions of anti-abortion Americans simply do not exist.”
Douthat points out that media bias charges levelled by conservatives are often exaggerated, but in the case of the abortion issue, “…the press’s prejudices are often absolute, its biases blatant and its blinders impenetrable.”
“Millions of Americans — including, yes, millions of American women — do oppose Planned Parenthood. They oppose the 300,000-plus abortions it performs every year, and they oppose its tireless opposition to even modest limits on abortion.”
Douthat observes that “…journalists betray their calling when they simply ignore self-evident truths about a story.”
So, dear readers, the next time you hear about the right-wing American conservatives who are standing in the way of women’s rights to abortion, try to remember that these conservatives represent 58% of recent American public opinion. They include both men and women, but it seems that they do not include the media, which is in the minority on the issue but is bent on bringing public opinion around to its point of view.
Perhaps American media attention would be better spent on more obvious controversies, such as Obamacare or emerging American middle class poverty.
But, we all know that it’s not easy to take away a bone once it’s firmly planted in a dog’s mouth - so just try to remember that what you hear on mainstream America TV is not what the majority of Americans feel about the abortion issue.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Why Is the World not Acting in Syria

The news from Syria hasn’t changed. There are almost 100 deaths each day. The al-Assad regime continues to deny that it is committing any of these atrocities. The international community wrings its hands and wonders what to do. The United Nations tries to deal with Russian and China. The Arab League discusses sending its monitors back into Syria.
All this hasn’t changed for many months now, except that the daily death toll continues to rises.
It is impossible not to think of Libya - or Egypt - or Yemen - or Bahrain. Why was it relatively easy to so something to advance the cause of freedom in these countries while in Syria it seems difficult in the extreme?
Finally, I think we are looking at the wrong facts. It is not the atrocities or the monitors or the UN resolution stalemate that is the question.
It is the al-Assad regime.
What we have not heard for several months now is the discussion, almost whispered, about what would replace the regime if it were defeated and ousted. I believe this is the question that prevents real action, real opposition to Bashar al-Assad.
Yemen is under the wing of the United States and it will stay there, no matter who is in government. Bahrain is protected by Saudi Arabia and it will continue to be protected. Egypt is inching toward a representative government and, in any case, it is not the kind of state where terrorists would take over quickly without instant civilian protest and disruption. And, we know what happened in Libya, where the UN and the West and Qatar decided that enough was enough of Qadhafi’s murderous regime and acted.
What do the above cases have in common? They are not strategic in the same sense that Syria is. One could argue that Egypt fits the bill, but Egypt is an old and relatively stable country where the people have from time to time found their voice in favor of getting rid of autocrats. We are watching this unfold now.
But, Syria is different. It is a country deeply divided along tribal lines in a location - with a military, weapons and Russian and Iranian protectors - where it can cause damage that would be hard to counter without starting a generalized war in the Middle East, disrupting petroleum supplies, forcing Iran to flex its muscle as a burgeoning regional power, and forcing most regional states to take sides.
It would also leave Israel exposed as it has not been since 1949. The likelihood is that Syria would lash out at Israel if attacked by a UN-led coalition. It would demand help from Iran and Russia. It would cause trouble on a massive scale that would require response…from the UN, from the US, from Europe.
I believe this is the reason for all the talk and no action. No one wants to unleash a chain of events that it would be next to impossible to control. And no one wants to see the Middle East go up in flames. And, certainly, America does not want to see Israel attacked and weakened.
Until the world figures out who can replace al-Assad without sparking these unhealthy reactions, it seems to me that the citizens of Syria will go on suffering until al-Assad is convinced that he has put down the uprising and can go back to brokering power in the Middle East without interference from dissidents.
That is not a pretty picture, but it may be absolutely true.

Friday, February 10, 2012

President Obama Takes a Page from Bill Clinton's Book

Has President Obama been talking to Bill Clinton ?  I would say, “yes,” because he is beginning to realize that his ultra-left policies will only lead to defeat in November. So, as Clinton did in 1994, Obama is shifting to the middle and right his position on issues of major importance to his Democratic Party.
In the past two days, he has asked for a review of his birth control program, which is very liberal in terms of what the majority of Americans would prefer, and he has released ten states from the No Child Left Behind program, in an indication that he may be willing to roll federal control for certain programs back to the states where most Americans think the control belongs.
Now I know that two actions from Barak Obama does not make a landslide, erasing his broken economic, fiscal and social programs, but it is a good indication that he will do whatever it takes to win in November, and that includes abandoning the left wing of his own Democratic Party in favor of courting the middle and independent voters, who will be decisive in the 2012 presidential election.
That his moves this week are also a movement toward the conservative wing of the Republican Party is another indication that President Obama knows that he is in trouble, no matter who the GOP candidate is, and that his policies are the reason he is likely to lose.
So, he is doing what any politician would do - he is changing his positions.
The one thing he will have to deal with, though, is that his attacks, especially on Mitt Romney, for choosing whatever position is expedient for the moment at hand, may backfire.
After all, anyone can change his mind.
But, making the change a reason for attack and innuendo that change makes a person unqualified to be president, which is not true,  could yet become another nail in the coffin of President Obama, come November.  

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Poor Greece, Again

The Greek government seems to have put together a deal with the banks that hold its debt, but the rest of the austerity program demanded by the European Union, if Greece is to receive the 170 Billion Euros it needs to continue to pay its current bills, is far from settled. The EU says it wants a firm plan in place before it deploys the money.
The Greek people, when asked about more austerity, especially workers and unions, say that another 22% cut in their pay checks is too much. There will be a national union strike tomorrow to make the point.
There really isn't much here that's different from what we've witnessed in the past year, except that this time, the deadline is inching closer than in the past, the unpaid bills are piling up, and the Greek people have been so devastated by the austerity programs already in place that they may be reaching a red line situation.
In addition, European and international financial analysts, and the German financial community, say that even if the banks take the 70% reduction as re-payment of the loans they made to the Greek government, it will not solve Greece's infrastructure problems. I heard analysts today saying that even a 100% reduction - that is, forgiving the Greek debt completely - would not solve Greece's problems.
And, what continues to be stupifying is that the infrastructure problem is being made worse by the very austerity programs that the EU is demanding. It is a cycle of lower wages, fewer jobs, less taxes collected because of lower wages and fewer jobs, and finally, with few jobs and no government tax money to use, the Greek economy is grinding to a halt...there is no recovery in sight and there are no austerity programs that will help.
Further, what the EU seems to want is for Greece to pull itself up by dying and coming back from the dead. Germany and other large EU countries do not want to invest their citizens' money in Greece except as loans, but without large investment, the Greek economy, never very modern or strong, will simply wither and die.
That is why experts are still saying, even if the EU is not listening, that the best road forward for Greece is to default, leave the Eurozone, go back to its Drachma (or a local less valuable Euro used only in Greece) and try to get on with its life as it did in the past, when there were no defaults, no banks being asked to forgive debt and no unusually higher than normal unemployment. That was because Greece controlled its own currency and could adjust its value to suit its needs for capital and its domestic and foreign marketplaces. It is not possible with the centrally controlled Euro.
So, we are no closer to a real solution for Greece's problem than we have ever been. But, sometimes it takes bureaucrats and politicians a lot longer than the rest of us to understand these truths.    

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What Did Romney Learn Last Night?

Well...Rick Santorum, the man without a campaign office, except for a post office box, and very little money, has won three "beauty contest" primaries, if we accept their characterization by Romney's PR guru. A beauty contest in this case is a primary in which no GOP convention delegates were officially won. So, it is as if last night's caucuses and elections in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado were never held. That's a lot of money for no result, I'd say.
But, the trick here is that Santorum didn't spend much money - so, in a sense, he got what he paid for - Nothing.
Colorado, however did award delegates last night and they were distributed pro rata to the candidates, with Santorum getting 40% and Romney 35% to match their vote counts. This was the best result for frontrunner Romney last night. In Minnesota, some delegates were awarded, and Romney placed 3rd with 17% of the votes, behind Santorum with 45% and Paul with 27%. In Missouri, Santorum got 55% of the vote to Romney's 25% and Paul's 12%.
On the other hand, neither Romney nor Paul nor Gingrich spent much money in any of these states.
Gingrich, who came in last or tied for last in all the races, barely showed up in any of the 3 states, saying he was taking the night off. He didn't even make his usual "non-acceptance" speech afterward in order to castigate the other contenders. So, at least last night we won in one way - we didn't have to sit through a Newt tirade.
As for Paul, he was second in Minnesota, so his barnstorming campaign style paid off yesterday. He says he is happy as long as he is collecting delegates, and last night's second place will yield delegates when the Minnesota GOPers caucus and award them.
Romney? His campaign spent little on mass media TV ads, because Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado don't lend themselves to this strategy. He was present, but had trouble convincing the conservative GOP voters in the 3 states that he is really the conservative they're looking for. He lost and it is at least a big bruise to his campaign staff's ego. But I doubt Romney or his staff were really surprised by the outcomes, because they had already on Monday started to put out signals that he was not going to win. 
So, what happened? 
Romney ended the night with 115 delegates, compared to 38 for Gingrich, 34 for Santorum, and 20 for Paul, according to CNN's count.
The seriously religious and socially conservative Republicans of the Middle West got their day in court. They sent the message, loud and clear, that they want a conservative GOP standard bearer this Fall. They also offered a look at the future because in 17 days, the GOPers in Super Tuesday primaries, mostly in the conservative GOP South, will give their opinion on the subject. And, before Super Tuesday, the Maine caucuses will be held - this coming Saturday. Only Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich have spent much time in Maine, but most analysts think Romney will win because of his New England base.
John McCain gave an interesting view of yesterday's results to CNN reporter John King:

"I think this really was very small numbers of people that turned out and I respect their views, but I don't believe they are representative of the broad majority of Republican voters,...I really believe that when you have 1% of the registered voters turning out that that's not a very good indicator."
There is one matter that is worrisome and it is not Romney's losses. It is his continuing effort to be more conservative in order to collect GOP primary votes. He is a natural moderate conservative Republican, and that is what makes him the greatest danger to Obama in November because it will attract independents to him. His position on the economy and the national debt and budget is far more important than where he stands on birth control or abortion and, in fact, moving too far right on these issues will cost him the female vote he garnered in Florida, as well as the independent vote and conservative Democrat vote that helped form the Reagan coalition. Romney's positioning vis-à-vis abortion and birth control are not wise. He should stick to his values here and let the chips fall, because after Super Tuesday's elections, the rest of the GOP in half the states will get its chance, and here Romney's moderately conservative views will serve him well.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Media Obsesses on Mitt Romney's Mormon Religion

I am really tired of hearing every comment about Mitt Romney, or a GOP state caucus or primary, or an evaluation of the situation in the GOP presidential candidate search begin with the words:

He is a Mormon
There are a lot of Mormons in this state
The conservative wing of the GOP will never support a Mormon.

This is the 21st century, but it seems that the televised media, with the first offender being CNN, is fixated on the fact that Mitt Romney is a Mormon.
I actually had thought that in the United States religion is a personal matter, not to be controlled by the government and not to be used to make of anyone a targeted minority or second class citizen, who can then have his character indirectly assassinated by referring always to his religion.
It seems I was mistaken. At least CNN, or its left-leaning political commentators as a subgroup, do not share the views expressed in the Constitution. For them, the fact that Mitt Romney is a Mormon makes him suspect. They may say that they are merely expressing the views of polled Republican voters, but that would be a lie, because polled GOP voters are saying that Romney's religion is irrelevant. To prove this, they are voting for him in massive numbers.
So, what is the goal of the incessant "Mormonizing" of Mitt Romney by left wing political analysts? I suppose it is to make him a less dangerous candidate in the general election, which they always seem favor being won by Barak Obama. Or, perhaps they are simply so ill-informed that they really fear Mormons, despite all evidence to the contrary. If this is the case, they should be barred from commenting on the GOP primaries, because they are creating a photograph of America that is not real - they are belittling a religion that holds a place of respect among GOP voters (we will see if Democrats share the views of the CNN analysts later this year when they are polled) - and they are deliberately trying to create a negative aura around the man whom most Republicans want to be their presidential candidate in 2012. 
I am ashamed of this performance, which smacks of something out of the 1960s when black Americans were taking their first steps into the American political mainstream. Or perhaps something from 1960, when the fact that JFK was Catholic sent shock waves through some segments of American society.
We managed those aberrations, and we will manage the Mormon assault of the CNN-led media on Mitt Romney.
Mormons are respectable, honest, often more moral than most other Americans. Mitt Romney is living proof of this...and perhaps that is what frightens the media. It is not easy to find grounds to attack Romney, unless we accept that being a Mormon is somehow disqualifying. Oh, the same analysts are trying to distort his words to make issues out of his wealth or lack of contact with "normal" Americans...but this seems to fall mostly on deaf ears.
So, "Mormonizing" it is.
Do they know, by the way, that Senate Democrat Majority Leader Harry Reid is a Mormon? I suspect they do know this, but I haven't heard them attacking his religious faith. 
Let us be clear. Attacking anyone because of his religious faith is out of bounds in America. If these political analysts want to play that game, they ought to move to China.