Sunday, January 29

Kerry 2008

There is talk that John Kerry might be preparing to run for President in 2008. Lets forget his recent stupidity calling for a filibuster against Alito from Switzerland. There is a basic fact that Kerry's handlers need to get a grip on:

Senator Kerry could not beat George Bush in a run for President, how on earth is he going to beat ANY Republican Candidate, who is sure to be much more well-liked than the Universally-hated Bush?

To bad for Kerry that the majority of those wishing for him to run, are those who plan to vote against him.

More 2008 Musings:

Gore 2008 - Not Happening - 12 October 2005
Biden 2008? - Last Exit Before Toll - 9 October 2005
Obama 2008? Mr. Electability? - 25 July 2005

Do we really want to Force Liberals to have more children? The Abortion Issue. - 13 October 05

Thanks to Rigntwing Nuthouse for inclusion in the Carnival of the clueless!

Be sure to check out this weeks edition, themed: "What would Jack Bauer Do?" Great work. Makes me wonder what I'm missing by not watching 24....

Saturday, January 28

Be Careful What You Ask For: HAMAS

Congratulations to the Palestinian People for holding free elections. So what if the results were not as many outsiders wanted. Even President Bush congratulated them. Sure, the US has HAMAS listed as a terrorist Organization, and the US will not deal with them, just as we would not deal with Arafat. But that is just part of the game. Now it is HAMAS's responsibility to make their government work, without US assistance.

This election has one other major implication. HAMAS is no longer just a terror organization. It is now the Government. So the next time a Hamas suicide bomber blows himself up on a bus in Israel, it will be the government itself that is responsible. In an extreme case, Israel could call these attacks acts of war.

The joke is, HAMAS is going to have a hard time preventing people from blowing themselves up in Israel in HAMAS's name. Denying responsibility for the attacks will not work any longer. Claiming responsibility for the attacks might probably result in Israel striking the Palestinian Parliment while it is meeting. Some of the newly elected are already wanted by Israel. Should be interesting to see what happens next. HAMAS is about to learn some hard lessons. I hope the result is good for all involved.

Mclean Housing Bubble: Reduced

A $50,000 price reduction in a house originally listed for $1.6 million is not exactly indicative of a bubble, but then again, this house has yet to sell. I suspect that before this is over, this house will be reduced much further.

For starters, the house is situated on a postage-stamp sized piece of property. While the sign out front says "custom" it is not any buyers customs home. Did you get to tell the builders what type of kitchen you wanted? Me neither. Then there are other houses in the same zip code for comparable prices that are better. On bubblemeter, there is a famous picture of a corner in Mclean full of for sale signs (Speculators Looking to Get Out!). This corner is only three blocks from this house. Not good.

The MLS number of this property is: FX5464923. Click the picture above for the listing. I suspect that the current owner of this house is the house next to it, which appears to have been built at the same time.

UPDATE: 30 January 06

The house is no longer listed in MLS and this morning there was a "Sold" sign hanging in front of the house. Great for the seller. I have to wonder what the buyer was thinking. Then again I do not have that type of money. However, if I did, there are a couple of places in the same zip selling for $1.3 million that are much nicer. Lets see if anyone moves in or if this is an attempt at flipping.

UPDATE: 06 February 06

Surpise, the house is again listed for sale and on the way to the airport, I saw that the 'Sold' sign was replaced with the 'Sale' sign once again. The MLS listed is back up. Guess the sale fell through. When I drove by on Saturday, there were a number of cars parked in the driveway. Looked like to may to be attending an open house...

Here are some of my previous bubble posts:
DC Housing Bubble: Popped - 13 November 05
Long Island Housing Bubble Popping - 20 September 05
DC Housing Bubble Popping - 02 August 05

Monday, January 23

Before you move to Canada: Update II

Seems like today is a great day to link to some of my previous work. My second post consisted of advice to all those who were 'threatening' to move to Canada. After all, moving is a drastic measure, just because you hate our current President.

There are few things more annoying, other than having your candidate lose his bid for the White House, than deciding to move to Canada and discovering that you need to wait in line for up to a year in order to get a work permit. So while you are waiting, I would like to suggest that you take advantage of the wait to check out some other options before you pack up and leave. - Fred Fry

In addition the the warnings in the original piece, you can probably also kiss the liberal government up there goodbye as there are elections in Canada today and the liberals are headed for big losses, including losing control. We all know that polls are slanted in favor of the liberals, but even so they are showing the liberals losing by a couple percentage points. So their loss will probably be greater than that today.

The shift in government up there is probably one less reason to move to Canada. Once the new government takes power, you can most likely remove a second reason; legalized marijuana.

As always, feedback welcome!

Before you move to Canada - Dec 2004
Before you move to Canada: Update - 4 August 2005

Still want to move to Canada:

Canada’s official source of immigration and citizenship information:

Welcome to Citizenship and Immigration Canada

Abortion Anniversary Reading Roundup

Today is the 33rd anniversary of the decision that gave women a Constitutional right to an abortion. So here is a collection of reading on the subject. I am not in the habit of simply linking to others, however I have already written all I care to about abortion for the moment.

I am sick and tired of hearing about Roe v. Wade. It is almost as if the Supreme Court is going to hear only one case in the next twenty years.

Sure, abortion is a very sensitive issue no matter which side you stand behind. Unfortunately, neither side is willing to put forward a sensible solution. At its most basic level, abortion is merely one solution to the problem of an accidental pregnancy.

Listening to the PRO-CHOICE backers, one would think that there was ONLY one choice available, abortion. On the other side of the issue, the PRO-LIFE backers carry on with their message that it is ‘murder to stop a beating heart.’ For the large number of people who feel strongly (one way or the other) on this issue, it is very disappointing to me that only the extreme positions are being voiced.

Abortion is one of many choices available today. Not having an abortion is also a choice.

You can read the rest here:

Do we really want to Force Liberals to have more children? The Abortion Issue. - 13 October 05

Also take a look at the following:


How abortion is costing the Democrats voters--literally. - Opinion Journal

A Killer Anniversary - Macsmind


Finally, I have a question for Senator Kennedy:

When does a fetus gain rights under the Constitution?

Saturday, January 21

Islam was not Hijacked

There is a sick excuse given when Muslims are interviewed about why Muslims would commit the September 11 attacks and other terror attacks. It goes something like “Islam was hijacked” by the terrorists who carried out the attack. This is a lie and those who offer it are either lying to themselves or are living in a world devoid of the reality that lives all around them.

Certainly the 19 hijackers thought that they were attacking the US in the name of Allah. Osama bin Laden surely does not consider himself a hijacker of Islam. Surely, many people consider him a Muslim prophet. There is no shortage of Osama supporters. Then there is the Taliban. There is no evidence that they thought that he hijacked Islam. That certainly would have been reason enough to hand him off to the US or at least execute him in the middle of one of their soccer stadiums for the crime of bringing discredit upon the Muslim faith. (Perhaps they wanted to but were too busy trimming Buddhist statues to conform to Islam)

Lets say that the 19 September 11 terrorists hijacked Islam along with Osama bin Laden, all of al-Qaeda, the Taliban and all of Afghanistan somehow hijacked Islam. Not for anything but that doesn’t look like the actions of an extreme fringe of the religion. Lets add all the Muslims who are on jihad to this list of hijackers of Islam. The September 11 Hijackers were certainly on jihad as are those who have been busy chopping the heads off foreigners in Iraq and the heads of Christian schoolgirls in Indonesia.

Not for anything, but there appears to be Muslims all over the planet hijacking Islam for their sick cause.

If Islam has been hijacked, then why haven’t the rest of the Muslims who must therefore also be victims done anything about this. This is one of five questions asked by Dennis Prager:

“Why are you so quiet? There are a billion Muslims in the world. How is it possible that essentially none have demonstrated against evils perpetrated by Muslims in the name of Islam?”

The question also is related to a bigger one, if Islam has been hijacked by these maniacs, why haven’t good Muslims turned in other Muslims who are also attempting to hijack Islam by planning future terror attacks?

Take a look at the initial reaction of the Muslim community in Britain after the subway bombings. The reaction did not even claim that these murders had hijacked Islam at all, but that they were somehow being wrongly accused, and were guilty of nothing more that being Muslim. How embarrassing it was for the Muslim community for the taped confession of one of the suicide bombers to be released confirming that they were willing participants in an act of terror against their own country.

If Islam has indeed been hijacked, then it is not only the terrorists who have hijacked it, but also those who rape in the name of Islam. Look at what the following ‘prominent’ Muslims have said concerning rape of western women by Muslims in public:

“rape victims had no one to blame but themselves. Women, he said, who wore skimpy clothing, invited men to rape them.” - Sheik Faiz Mohammed of Lebanon

“women who did not wear a headscarf were asking to be raped.” - Islamic mufti and scholar, Shahid Mehdi speaking in Copenhagen

“female rape victims should be punished if they were dressed immodestly when they were raped” - Egyptian scholar Sheik Yusaf al-Qaradawi

These statements are coming from those within the Muslim community that speak to other Muslims from a position of authority. If the comments above are what they are telling non-Muslims, what are they telling their followers?

In Australia, at least one rapist explained why he thought his actions were acceptable:

“his victims had no right to say no, because they were not wearing a headscarf.” – Pakistani Rapist, in Australian Court, Dec 2005.

Think Muslim rape is a non-issue? Think again.

In Norway and Sweden, journalist Fjordman warns of a rape epidemic. Police Inspector Gunnar Larsen stated that the steady increase of rape-cases and the link to ethnicity are clear, unmistakable trends. Two out of three persecutions for rape in Oslo are immigrants with a non-Western background and 80 percent of the victims are Norwegian women.

In Sweden, according to translator for Jihad Watch, Ali Dashti, “Gang rapes, usually involving Muslim immigrant males and native Swedish girls, have become commonplace.” A few weeks ago she said, “Five Kurds brutally raped a 13-year-old Swedish girl.” – Front page mag

In addition to all the hijackers of Islam above, we have the newest hijacker, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Of course he is not the only Iranian who has hijacked Islam in his country, but there is a whole bunch of Mullahs running the country with him. Just as the Taliban destroyed the anchient buddahs, Iran has been getting ready to destroy the World Heritage Site of Cyrus the Great. Then there is the banning of Western Music, and plans to segregate men and women on different sides of the street, amoung other things. Is this the hijacking of Islam, as he is rapidly trying to replicate a Taliaban-type state. Then of course are his comments concerning Israel? which part of Islam do those comments come from? If he has hijacked Islam, does this mean that the West should stop him? (How many governments have put a bulls-eye on this guy?)

For you Muslims who still believe that I am wrong and that I somehow fail to grasp the reality that Islam has indeed been hijacked in ALL of these cases, I have the following statement for you to consider:

Scores of people die (or are raped) every time that Islam is Hijacked. It is your duty to protect your religion. It is time you should consider launching your own jihad against the hijackers within your ranks. After all, eventually they will be after you too. If for some reason you think that you need to do nothing, then perhaps you should reconsider your believe that your religion has been hijacked. Because in that case, You sure don’t sound hijacked to me. It’s one thing when a hijack victim can’t do anything because there is a gun to their head. Who is holding the gun to yours?

This makes me wonder, if it is ok for a Muslim man to rape a woman because she is not covering her head, is it then ok for non-Muslims to treat a Muslim man as a possible terrorist / rapist simply because he is a Muslim man?

Five questions non-Muslims would like answered – LA Times, Dennis Prager 11/13/05
Western Muslims' Racist Rape Spree – Frontpagemag 12/27/05

More on Muslim Rape:
Fjordman Blog - Inactive

More Fred Fry and Islam:

Ramadan and Islamic Oddities - 2 November 05
Signs that Allah (God) is not on Your Side: - 28 July 05
Signs that Allah (God) is not on Your Side: Update - 27 October 05

The petition CAIR’s web site (, called “Not in the Name of Islam,” allows Muslims around the world to help correct misperceptions of Islam and the Islamic stance on religiously-motivated terror.

The “Not in the Name of Islam” petition states:

“We, the undersigned Muslims, wish to state clearly that those who commit acts of terror, murder and cruelty in the name of Islam are not only destroying innocent lives, but are also betraying the values of the faith they claim to represent. No injustice done to Muslims can ever justify the massacre of innocent people, and no act of terror will ever serve the cause of Islam. We repudiate and dissociate ourselves from any Muslim group or individual who commits such brutal and un-Islamic acts. We refuse to allow our faith to be held hostage by the criminal actions of a tiny minority acting outside the teachings of both the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.

Thanks to Rightwing Nuthouse for his continuing great work in putting together the weekly Carnival of the Clueless!

Friday, January 20

It’s a Renters Market – Thanks to the Housing Bubble

For all but those who are still in denial, the housing boom has come to an end. Average prices for houses are declining and the number of sales is down, yet the inventory of available homes continues to grow. People are no longer bidding up the prices of properties for sale, and new home builders are now offering discounts of up to $100,000 to the shock of those who have recently paid full price with the expectation of continued appreciation.

Obviously, this is no longer a sellers market. There is talk that housing is now a buyers market. I don’t think so. The buyers have all bought. Sure there are a couple of holdouts (like myself) who never bought because we could not justify to ourselves the huge difference in price between renting and buying, despite the continuous comments from all those around me that I was missing-out on the housing boom. I just could not see that as a reason to buy.

What is the incentive to buy now? The bubble is just starting to pop. Approximately 25% of all sales last year were for second homes/investment properties. Now that the investments are not accumulating any equity, there will be a big push to sell. Many will have to sell, starting with those who purchased using interest-only loans. This will result in ongoing selling pressure in the market and the longer a place remains unsold, the more desperate the owner is likely to become. Those who just cannot get a grip on the severity of their situation will eventually end up having their house foreclosed on.

With the housing market in DC crashing, is this going to make me a buyer? Rents are still cheap, and many who cannot sell their properties are now desperate to find renters. So what is the benefit of buying now? I really do not see any. Those buying now are still likely to overpay as most that need to sell have yet to put their properties on the market, instead waiting for spring when the market is supposed to pickup. I suspect by then the market will be in a rapid decline, once homeowners realize that they owe more on the property than it is worth. In addition to all the existing properties on the market, there is a large number of new houses and condos currently being constructed. Just in the DC area, there are 50,000 new condos being built.

I just moved from Washington, DC nine miles down the road to now rent in Mclean, VA.

Buyers market? I don’t think so. It’s a renters market.

One thing that I just don’t understand. How is it that all these people get burned in the stock market, somehow thought that they could make a fortune in Real Estate?

Great Housing Bubble Blogs:

The Housing Bubble 2

Bubble Meter – DC Area

There are many more. Check the blogrolls on these sites for the others. Here are some of my previous bubble posts:

DC Housing Bubble: Popped - 13 November 05

Long Island Housing Bubble Popping - 20 September 05

DC Housing Bubble Popping - 02 August 05

Wednesday, January 18

The Company You Keep

The ACLU is leading the charge in suing the US Government over the collection of international phone and email communication. Other parties suing include the Center for Constitutional Rights, Greenpeace and the Council on American-Islamic Relations also known as CAIR. I suspect that you have heard of some of these organizations before.

I first hear that the US was monitoring international communications while I was on Christmas Vacation in Finland. At first, I only saw the initial story and really did not think much of it. After all, I have sailed around the world on merchant ships and have worked in foreign countries. I also lived in Europe for over three years while in school for my MBA. Whenever I was out of the US and called home, I just assumed that the US Government would be listening in to my conversations. Whenever I sent an email, I assumed that the US would scan it. I also suspected that the European Governments were probably doing the same. Either as it left their country, or transited through it.

Let’s put what the Government is doing in context with the following:

Whenever you leave and enter the US, you are subject to inspection (and interrogation) by both immigration and Customs. This applies to everyone. The officers do not need to justify why they chose you. They also do not need to get a search warrant to go through your things. They also can ask whatever questions they deem relevant. Such as;

  • Where you traveled.
  • Why you were traveling.
  • Who are the people whose business cards you have in your wallet.
  • Whose phone numbers are in your mobile phone.

Be aware that under U.S. law, CBP officers are authorized to examine luggage, cargo, and travelers. Under the search authority granted by the U.S. Congress, every person who crosses a U.S. border may be searched and questioned about their travel. To stop the flow of illegal drugs and other contraband into our country, your cooperation is appreciated.

Pretty draconian isn’t it? I can tell you that it is not fun either. If you’re a lawyer, you shouldn’t expect your documents to be safe under some sort of lawyer-client privilege. After all, you are a lawyer, not a diplomat.

The Department of Agriculture will also be waiting there to check out your luggage. I have to admit that it is pretty funny to watch the Food sniffing dog officer sit and put his paws on grandma’s luggage indicating that grandma is smuggling snacks into the US.

You can bet that a warrant is just another piece of paper to the dog.

What is good for you is also good for all packages and mail coming into the US. Again, there is no need to obtain a warrant to open your mail. Even if they contain legal documents for your client.

So who gave these interest groups the illusion that communicating across the border is somehow sacred? Sure their communications within the US are protected. What about the Government on the other side of the conversation. Do they expect the Pakistani Government to respect their right to privacy? What about the Saudis? Listening to the news, you would think that those filing the lawsuits are somehow victims. Well they have to sound like victims in order to sue. But they have made a huge error portraying that the Government is spying on them.

The program concentrated on the communications of suspected terrorists and their associates. If the Government did obtain their phone or email details, then it was because they either contacted or were contacted by one of these people of interest. Sure, they might be dealing with these people in the course of their jobs. This does not let them off the hook. THEY chose to associate with these people. THEY chose to represent these people. People who were in the country ILLEGIALLY. People who were fighting in Afghanistan in violation of the Geneva Convention, and are now detailed in Gitmo. People who are suspected of killing Americans. People who are going to be charged with crimes against the United States.

Those suing are claiming that they communicate with suspected terrorists. After all, this is who the Government is ‘spying’ on.

The fake rage over the alleged Government activity is even more ridiculous when you consider that these people believe that the Government is capable and does abuse the rights of people. That is why they are working for these organizations. Not for anything, but what is the ACLU doing representing foreigners? Are there no Americans in need of their assistance? What about all those Americans who rights are ‘abused’ every time they return back to the US?

In the course of my work I receive phone calls and emails from around the world including from Greece, the Philippines, United Arab Emirates, India, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. I have never met these people and while I have to reason to believe that any of them have any connections to terrorism, I also do not know what they are up to. So I suspect that my email address and phone number is also included in the data.

Should I be made about this? Hardly. I would hope that the Government is watching any people who contact me who are suspected terrorists. The last thing I want to be is an unwitting accomplice to an act of terror.

It seems that these folks have no problem assisting those who want to do us harm, and want to make sure that the Government doesn’t get in their way. If anything, the Government should look into the activities of these people even more. Perhaps the rage is not so fake. Perhaps there is fear that the Government might know some of the secrets that they hold. If they are committing crimes, then I suspect they should be worried.

If not, then they should take a chill pill. YOUR LIFE IS NOT THAT INTERESTING…To the government at least. Federal Agents are not that stupid. They have a limited amount of resources and spending time looking into what your up to is a waste of time, unless your engaging in some illegal activity. If they are snooping into your life, they will move on once they get bored of you. Just consider the intrusion to be your contribution to the war on terror.

Update: 19 Jan 06:

Take a look at this post which does a great job of documenting what kind of activity the plaintiffs in this lawsuit are up to and the type of clients the plaintiffs represent.

She also has this invitation:

The Right to Travel
By Doug Hornig

In our November 28 issue, we explored one new limitation on Americans’ right to travel freely, what we called the “ultimate no-fly list.” But there are a couple of other surveillance items about which travelers should know.

Do you own a laptop computer? Do you routinely travel with it?

If so, you might want to consider taking a few precautions, because evidence is mounting that federal officials are legally (and, so they say, “randomly”) opening a growing number of laptops owned by passengers returning to the U.S. And perusing their contents.

The vast majority of travelers don’t realize that customs agents have the legal authority to do this. Computers may also be seized and held indefinitely, without the agents having to obtain probable cause that a crime has been committed. Victims of seizures have no right to know why they’ve been targeted.

While you may be unaware that this has been going on, the Association of Corporate Travel Executives is not. The ACTE, an international trade group representing corporate travel managers, is concerned about the potential loss of proprietary information, and Susan Gurley, its executive director, wrote the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in early November, in an attempt to clarify policy.

“Are copies made of the information?” Gurley asked. “What safeguards do you have in place? Is the information downloaded and/or mirrored and stored somewhere, and if yes, for how long? Who has access to it?”

As of now, we don’t believe the DHS has yet responded, but if laptop guidelines are similar to those for ATS, detailed below, we doubt we’ll like the answers.

New York Times writer Joe Sharkey published one instance of seizure that could have happened to most anyone, quoting a correspondent who wrote him that “as he returned from a business trip to Europe, his laptop was seized in what he said he was told was a random search.

“‘After giving me and my shoes a thorough search, they moved on to my laptop,’ he wrote. ‘On the desktop I had a folder named “Blueprints” which contained, as labeled, blueprints for several potential designs for our company’s expansion in Madrid and Houston.’

“He added, ‘My laptop was initially searched by one person, but he called for backup,’ when he saw the blueprints. ‘It seemed they were convinced I was sent to plant bombs in those nonexistent buildings.’ He said he hasn’t seen the laptop since.”

How to protect yourself? Eddie Baron, a professor at the University of Oklahoma, suggests storing your data files on a flash drive and packing it in your checked luggage.

Sharkey quotes Jack Riepe, a spokesman for the ACTE, who has another alternative: “I got a file on my desktop called ‘Terrorist Notes.’ I’m keeping notes on writing a thriller, but maybe I should change the file to ‘Grandma’s Favorite Cookie Recipes’.” That might help, unless they Google Riepe and find that he once wrote a book entitled, Politically Correct Cigar Smoking for Social Terrorists. Then he can kiss his computer good-bye. - WWKN Archive

Sunday, January 15

Smoking Can Cause a Slow and Painful Death - Marlboro

Don't take my word for it, read the label on the package!
"Smoking Can Cause a Slow and Painful Death"
"Smoking Kills"

These were for sale at the Helsinki Airport. Strangely, the warnings were only in English.

Take a look at the price difference. If your traveling out of the EU: 24 Euros compared to 41 if your traveling to another EU country. That's a difference of 17 Euros. However, the tax on cigarettes in Finland is over 70%, so the real tax-free price should be about 12 Euros, but the margin for the company is always higher than when the product is taxed.

I used Marlboro as the example, but all the brands carry the same warnings.

Wednesday, January 11

Whose Side is Germany On?

Germany is supposed to be our ally, but there seems to be nothing in their recent actions to prove that this is true. In fact, one can say that Germany is actively working against the US, on many fronts.

The main European powers (especially Old Europe) have long thought that the US is a too-powerful influence in the world and that there is no counterbalance to keep the power of the US in check since the Soviet Union fell apart.

Their actions might also be some sort of subconscious payback for Germany’s defeat by the US in WWII, and WWI for that matter. Or it can just be simple economics. Their economy sucks and ours does not.

Let’s look at some of the facts:

Afghanistan – Germany expected the US to take over the country as a response to the 9/11 attacks. As such, Germany supported the US and has even provided troops on the ground. While they are present in country, they are not doing a whole lot. Most of the foreign troops (other than the US) are all sitting around the Capital Kabul, protecting their national interests in the country. This is supposed to change this year with NATO making more of a presence outside the capital. However, there are major problems in making this a reality, DESPITE the all-important UN Security Council Mandate. The plan calls for 6,000 non-US NATO Troops. The UK has had a pretty hard time getting other NATO members to contribute troops to meet the total. Then there are the conditions that contributing nations are imposing:

Even in their peace-keeping role, each NATO country's forces have a list of what they will do and not do - national caveats - that has paralyzed NATO commanders in Kabul.

German troops in the north will allow no other NATO troops to fly in their helicopters.

Major European countries such as France, Spain and Germany have refused to take part in operations that could involve fighting the Taliban.

Thanks for nothing.

Recently it was reported that in four years time, Germany has managed to train a total of 200 police officers for the new Afghanistan Government. This is the result from the country that was to take the lead responsibility for training the country’s police force. That is a pitiful result for most any nation, let alone one of Germany’s stature.

How about the Germans? The Germans pledged to train the Afghanistan security forces, a task that started after the fall of the Taliban, well before we started handing over sovereignty to the Iraqis in June 2004. Since that time, the Americans have trained over 200,000 Iraqi security troops, with over 45,000 able to operate independently with American logistical support. They have taken charge of a number of military bases in their own country and hold their own territory against steadily-weakening insurgents. In comparison, the Germans have trained all of 200 police officers since December 2001 -- all of which disappeared in Kabul shortly after their release into the field. - Captain’s Quarters from a Scotsman story

Iraq – Germany officially united with France in 2003 to actively work to prevent the US from attacking Iraq. Did they ask Saddam to come clean to avoid being attacked? They did not. The Germans didn’t even go against the US because they were profiting from the Oil for Food money like the French and Russians were. They seem to have actually taken a ‘moral’ stand against the US.

Terrorists in Germany – Two terrorists in German custody have been convicted of being involved in the 9/11 attacks. Now the conviction of one has been overturned because the prosecution could not prove that he knew that his roommate was going to partake in the 9/11 attacks.

He did know that his roommate was a terrorist. After all they had both gone to terrorist school. He knew that Atta was in the US training for some sort of terrorist activity. Does it matter that he did not know the exact details of the plan? He probably did not. Even if he did, how much was he required to know? Did he need to know the flight number of the plane he was going to hijack? By Germany’s thinking, you are not guilty if you know that someone is planning to rob a bank and you do nothing provided that you don’t know the name of the bank they are planning to rob. This is an irresponsible government position.

The decision ended a years-long attempt by the federal prosecutors to prove his involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Mzoudi was accused of training at an Al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan and of handling money and paying bills on behalf of the terrorist cell in Hamburg that was responsible for the attacks in New York and Washington D.C. Mzoudi also once roomed in Hamburg with Mohammed Atta, the man considered the mastermind behind the attack.

Mzoudi's release set off a debate about whether the decision would influence the public prosecution's case against a fellow terror suspect and friend of his, Mounir El Motassadeq, who was the first person ever convicted in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The guilty verdict, however, was overturned in March 2004, because judges concluded he was also denied a fair trial because a key witness in U.S. jurisdiction was not allowed to testify.
So the Germans go and convict two terrorists and then acquit them. One of them was acquitted because the US would not give access to one of the top terrorists caught so that that person can testify that he was not part of the 9/11 attacks. What a load of bull. Why not bring in Osama Bin Laden to testify on your behalf. After all, the person was convicted meaning that there was evidence enough to prove he was a terrorist. Claiming that the US has killed/captured all the people who can prove that you are innocent and having a court let you go is not a way to fight terrorism. Nothing like letting terrorists walk free and claim that it’s the US’s fault. (Yet another reason to find another way to try these people outside of our criminal court system.) Just to prove how bogus this excuse is, look what happened when one was asked to testify against the other. Can you guess the result?

(AFP) - 15 June 2005 - HAMBURG, Germany - An acquitted terror suspect refused to testify on Wednesday at the retrial in Germany of a fellow Moroccan student accused of involvement in the planning of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

A lawyer for Abdelghani Mzoudi, whose not-guilty verdict was upheld in a federal court last week, said he would run the risk of being prosecuted again if he told the court what he knew about the defendant, Mounir El Motassadeq.

Both Mzoudi and Motassadeq, friends of three September 11 suicide hijackers who were based in the northern German port city of Hamburg, faced separate trials here for complicity in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon which killed some 3,000 people.

In the end, Germany is letting two persons trained in terrorist activities go free.

Zacharias Moussaoui - The German Government has been on record that they have evidence against him, but so far have refused to share it on the grounds that the US Government will use it to convict him and then sentence him to death.

The US has so far refused to eliminate the death penalty as a possible sentence, so the German Government will instead sit back and take the side of the terrorist and not assist in his prosecution. This sort of activity is an example of how Germany fails to respect the laws of the US. Sure the death penalty has been banned in Europe, but this crime did not take place in Europe. Mr. Moussaoui came to the US under his own steam and in doing so volunteered to come under US jurisdiction and our laws. Germany then decided to try and prevent the US from pursuing justice under its own laws. Thankfully, after two years of Zacharias Moussaoui ‘terrorizing’ the court acting in his own defense, he finally plead guilty.

Mohammed Ali Hammadi - Convicted terrorist who was serving a life sentence for “murder, hijacking, hostage taking, and illegal importation of explosives” in Germany. He was a member of the team that hijacked the TWA flight in 1985. During the hijacking the terrorists brutally beat and killed Navy Diver Robert Stethem before tossing his body out of the plane onto the runway tarmac. The Germans recently decided that 19 years was enough time served for a life sentence and set him free.

I remember watching the event on TV and the images are clear in my mind to this day. It is something that I think about when traveling around the world. This man was not the type of criminal that should ever have seen another day of freedom. He was a terrorist and the Germans let him walk free like a commen criminal who has completed his jailtime.

Current and former American officials said they had pushed for two decades to gain custody of Hammadi and try him in a U.S. courtroom, but they ran into political and legal resistance from Germany. U.S. prosecutors originally sought Hammadi's extradition after he was arrested at the Frankfurt airport in 1987, but Germany denied the request and put him on trial locally instead.

Victoria Toensing, a former Justice Department official in the Reagan administration who oversaw efforts to extradite Hammadi in 1987, said German authorities threw obstacles in the way of U.S. prosecutors at that time and only reluctantly cooperated.

"They were not open at all," she recalled. "We knew he would be released early, way back then." - Washington Post

To get an idea of the type of animal this and the other TWA terrorists were, read the recent letter from the Stethem Family to President Bush.

Germany has a new Chancellor, Angela Merkel. One can hope that some new German leadership will clearly put Germany on our side. So far the signs don’t look good. Mrs. Merkel will be visiting the US and President Bush this week, and she intends to push the President to close the Gitmo Detention Camp.

Not exactly the best way to improve US German relations.

Update 18 February 06:
Thanks the the Atlantic Review for the link on their Carnival of US-German Relations.
The goal of the Carnival is to Promote Dialog Between Americans and Europeans on Transatlantic Issues. My post will promote dialog, but suspect that it will not be the right kind. No matter, there is a serious rift between the US and Europe and it will not go away with the end of the Bush Presidency. While the activity above it against the US, in the end I believe that it will probably hurt Germany more.

It is easy to find Americans that side with Europe. Are their any Germans who side with the US?

In addition to looking at the Atlantic Journal, read this post in the WSJ Opinion Journal titled "The German Chair, A tale of torture at the hands of an America-hating diplomat. " detailing a dinner experience with a "Senior German diplomat" in NY. It is a real eye-opener.

Nato's Afghanistan troop dilemma - BBC
Army chiefs warn: 'We're not ready for Afghanistan' - Scotsman
Europe Botching Afghanistan Duties - Captain’s Quarters

Zacharias Moussaoui - Wikipedia
Mohammed Ali Hammadi - Wikipedia
TWA Flight 847 - Wikipedia
Hijacker Sought By U.S. Released - Washington Post
Vengeance Cometh - Macsmind

Lawyers Worry About 9/11 Convict's Future

US Rewards for Justice - $5 Million Reward for Robert Stethem’s murderers

Monday, January 9

You should not be trading on Margin

Trading on margin is supposed to be a way to multiply your buying power. Instead of paying the full cost of the stock, you borrow a portion of the funds needed from your stockbroker and then use the stock as collateral on the loan.

If the price of the stock goes up you get to keep all of the profit when you sell the stock, merely repaying the amount borrowed plus interest and fees. The problem comes when the price of the stock goes down. If you sell the stock at a loss, you keep whatever is left after repaying the loan plus interest. It is possible to lose all of your money and still owe the broker additional funds.

The price of stocks fluctuate which is not normally a problem if you are intending on holding the stock for a while. However, when you buy stock on margin, you need to maintain your margin maintenance requirement. If the price of the stock goes down too much, then you will receive a margin call. This is a demand for you to add more money into your account to protect the amount loaned from the broker. Call it the broker’s safety buffer.

If you do not have additional funds to add to your account, then you’ll have to sell the stock at a loss. If the price of the stock drops dramatically, then the broker might sell the stock without prior notification to you, as there is no requirement that they contact you before selling the stock from under you. Of course this always happens at the point of greatest loss.

Even if you get a margin call, and you are sure that the drop in the price of the stock is only temporary, chances are, you are not going to have the additional funds needed to meet your margin call. If you are lucky, this is the point that you are buying on margin. You are not likely to ever be that lucky.

But who am I for you to take advice from? I am certainly neither a professional nor even a person in ‘the know.’ However, I just came to conclusion that persons buying stock on margin is one reason for some of the illogical movements seen recently in the stock exchange. There is no need to heed my warnings. Instead take a look at the warning from the Security and Exchange Commission, the SEC:

Recognize the Risks
Margin accounts can be very risky and they are not suitable for everyone. Before opening a margin account, you should fully understand that:

  1. You can lose more money than you have invested;

  2. You may have to deposit additional cash or securities in your account on short notice to cover market losses;

  3. You may be forced to sell some or all of your securities when falling stock prices reduce the value of your securities; and

  4. Your brokerage firm may sell some or all of your securities without consulting you to pay off the loan it made to you.

You can protect yourself by knowing how a margin account works and what happens if the price of the stock purchased on margin declines. Know that your firm charges you interest for borrowing money and how that will affect the total return on your investments. Be sure to ask your broker whether it makes sense for you to trade on margin in light of your financial resources, investment objectives, and tolerance for risk.

Be sure not to overlook this warning:

Understand Margin Calls – You Can Lose Your Money Fast and With No Notice
If your account falls below the firm's maintenance requirement, your firm generally will make a margin call to ask you to deposit more cash or securities into your account. If you are unable to meet the margin call, your firm will sell your securities to increase the equity in your account up to or above the firm's maintenance requirement.

Always remember that your broker may not be required to make a margin call or otherwise tell you that your account has fallen below the firm's maintenance requirement. Your broker may be able to sell your securities at any time without consulting you first. Under most margin agreements, even if your firm offers to give you time to increase the equity in your account, it can sell your securities without waiting for you to meet the margin call.

If this is not warning enough for you, how about taking a look about what the NASD has to say about margin. Just look at the title of the Investor Alert posted about margin:

“Investing with Borrowed Funds: No "Margin" for Error.” - NASD

The Alert mentions a number of issues, including:

There are a number of risks that you need to consider in deciding to trade securities on margin. These include:

  1. Your firm can force the sale of securities in your accounts to meet a margin call. If the equity in your account falls below the maintenance margin requirements under the law—or the firm's higher "house" requirements—your firm can sell the securities in your accounts to cover the margin deficiency. You will also be responsible for any short fall in the accounts after such a sale.

  2. Your firm can sell your securities without contacting you. Some investors mistakenly believe that a firm must contact them first for a margin call to be valid. This is not the case. Most firms will attempt to notify their customers of margin calls, but they are not required to do so. Even if you're contacted and provided with a specific date to meet a margin call, your firm may decide to sell some or all of your securities before that date without any further notice to you. For example, your firm may take this action because the market value of your securities has continued to decline in value.

  3. You are not entitled to choose which securities or other assets in your accounts are sold. There is no provision in the margin rules that gives you the right to control liquidation decisions. Your firm may decide to sell any of the securities that are collateral for your margin loan to protect its interests.

  4. Your firm can increase its "house" maintenance requirements at any time and is not required to provide you with advance notice. These changes in firm policy often take effect immediately and may cause a house call. If you don't satisfy this call, your firm may liquidate or sell securities in your accounts.

  5. You are not entitled to an extension of time on a margin call. While an extension of time to meet a margin call may be available to you under certain conditions, you do not have a right to the extension.

  6. You can lose more money than you deposit in a margin account. A decline in the value of the securities you purchased on margin may require you to provide additional money to your firm to avoid the forced sale of those securities or other securities in your accounts.
No shortage of risks to be sure. However, look who’s not risking anything:

Margin Loans: Who's Profiting?
Margin loans can be highly profitable for your brokerage firm. They may also be highly profitable for your broker. Your broker may receive fees based on the amount of your margin loans. This may take the form of a percentage of the interest you pay on an ongoing basis. - NASD

The more people trading a stock on margin, the more likely the stock will suffer a greater drop in the price of a stock after an initial price drop due to many margin holders being forced to sell as they cannot meet the margin call. Brokers might even increase the selling pressure by closing margin positions with market sell orders exposing even more accounts to margin calls. At a minimum, the stock is not rising to your sell point, so you continue to hold it, all the time accruing margin fees from your broker.

To receive a margin call a stock only needs to make one trade at a price below your margin requirement. So even if the price of the stock recovers during the day, you may still have to pay into your account. This might explain the sharp drop in a stock’s price when it manages to meet expectations. Brokers might try to trigger as many margin calls as possible, in addition to triggering as many stop-loss orders as possible. A stop-loss order is when the price of the stock goes below a certain level, this then triggers your stop loss order to sell the stock at market.

Buying even good stocks on margin can be risky as sometimes the entire market moves down on disappointing news that is not related at all to the stock itself. Take poor results from a top corporation in the same sector as a stock that you own on margin. This might result in an unplanned margin call for you.

Information concerning trading on margin often caries a warning that margin is for experienced traders only. I consider myself an experienced trader and I know that I do not have the discipline to avoid a margin call and I never have additional funds that I don’t already have a purpose for. If I was trading on margin and received a margin call, I would be forced to sell. Thankfully I have a cash account and while my stomach turns inside out sometimes on red market days, I am often confident enough in what I own to hold for a better day to sell, most times for a profit.

If you buy stock on margin, your broker most likely has the right to loan out your shares to a short-seller. This has two main effects. First, they help to limit any pressure to increase the price of the stock by increasing the supply and essentially allowing your shares to be bought twice, once by you, and then again when the short seller sells them. If this happens to your shares, you might suffer the second effect, you don’t receive any dividend that the stock might payout. You will receive a payment from the short-seller for the amount of the dividend, but that will be taxed at a different rate as the payment was not a dividend. (More on short selling in a future post.)

Note: This post mentions that brokers “might” do some nasty things to manipulate the market. Of course I did not mean you, after all, that would be illegal.

Borrowing Money To Pay for Stocks – US SEC
Investing with Borrowed Funds: No "Margin" for Error - NASD

Dividend Tax Breaks at Risk –
Dividends on Stock in Margin Accounts May Not Be Eligible for Reduced Tax Rate – Morgan Keegan

Thanks to all who thought that this post was worth mentioning in their blogs:

And also Searchlight Crusade.

Thanks all!

Friday, January 6

Henrik Lax - Presidential Candidate of the Swedish People's Party (of Finland)

There have been lots of elections around the world recently. Iraq, Liberia, Afghanistan, among others. Next week Finland will hold elections for President. Currently there is pre-election voting going on. So on Saturday, I'll take the wife to the Finnish Embassy so that she can vote.

In order to get an idea of who she should be voting for, she took a test to see which candidate best matches her beliefs. The test is called the election machine, Vaalikone in Finnish. In the end, the presidential candidate that answered the test most like my wife was Sauli Ninnisto.

My wife was somewhat in shock over the result as she is more of a Social Democrat or even more left leaning politically. Sauli Ninnisto is not exactly a person of her corner of the political spectrum. She did take to heart that the other candidates also closely matched her responses. This is understandable, since some of the questions are 'Does Finland need a President?' and 'Should Finland get rid of it's second national language, Swedish?' Those questions all of the candidates provide the same answer. It seems that the candidates more answered how they thought the majority of Finns might answer, given how closely they all matched her responses.

Notice the "3" on the homepage of the candidate?

This is his number. When you vote in Finland, they give you a piece of paper with a circle in it. You then write the number of your candidate in the circle. The numbers are issued at random, and nobody gets to claim that they are #1 as the numbers start with #2.

For fun, I also took the test. Surprisingly, the election machine suggested that the most compatible candidate for me was Mr. Henrik Lax. Not only that, but there was a huge spread in the compatibility between the candidates, compared to my responses. The Social Democrat candidate, and current President, Tarja Halonen was second to last on my list, and the Green Party was least compatible at 36%.

Here are my results:

Mr. Lax is of the Swedish People's Party. The wife thinks the result makes sense as they are a more conservative party. The party is also somewhat 'infamous' in Finland as they arguaranteeded a certain number of seats in their parliamentnt in order that the native Swedish Speakers in the country (about 6%) are properly represented. As Swedish is a second official language, it is part of required education in school. However, many hate being forced to study Swedish, and many more would like to end 'Forced Swedish' language education. These issues technically will work against Mr. Lax's chances of victory. At the least, I will pay more attention to the party in the future. I do have an interest in Finnish politics, as we intend to move back there at some point.

In general, I suspect that this is a pretty boring election. Nothing like you see here in the US. If nobody gets more than 50% of the vote, then there will be a run-off between the top two. This happened in the last Presidential election 6 years ago. I remember as they had coverage of the counting of the ballots. The votes were being sorted into threee piles; One for each of the candidates and a third for blank ballots. There were many who went to vote but ended up not voting for either candidate.

In other news:

I have returned from Christmas vacation in Finland. Hopefully I can get my life back on track in a timely matter so that I can return to posting soon. Until then, enjoy the pictures below.


Henrik Lax

Swedish People's Party

Mandatory Swedish - Wikipedia