Wotka World Wide

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Wall Street Journal has a look at how the economic meltdown is affecting Eastern Europe:

The Baltics and Balkans succumbed to the same bubblenomics as house-happy Central California or Iceland. Double-digit growth in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia was fueled by debt and short-term capital inflows. Now these gains are being reclaimed, with GDP slated to fall by double digits in the Baltic states this year. The scene of the crash looks familiar. Residential mortgage debt as a share of GDP in Latvia and Estonia climbed, respectively, to 33.7% and 36.3% -- worryingly high because a lot is denominated in foreign currency, though still not as high as Iceland's 121%.

The government in Latvia, a regional banking hub, fell last week after the IMF imposed austerity measures. Standard & Poor's downgraded its debt to junk; Romania is the other noninvestment grade member of the European Union. In Russia, Vladimir Putin spooked investors with his assault on property rights, and the collapse in oil prices did the rest last year. The Moscow stock market fell further than any other in the world, straining companies that borrowed heavily overseas. For now, Russia has deep enough reserves to avoid a repeat of its 1998 default-devaluation.

Ukraine isn't as fortunate. It suffered when prices for its chief export (steel) fell while its chief energy input (natural gas) rose. Though a vibrant democracy, Ukraine isn't blessed with a mature political class able to put its economy on stable footing. The IMF has stepped in there, as it has in Hungary.

Elsewhere more virtuous behavior has partially shielded countries with stronger fundamentals. The Czech Republic and Poland avoided the worst of easy-money mania and attracted capital for direct investment, often in export industries, that can't flee at the first hint of trouble. Their economies have made the transition from communism to a market economy built on the rule of law.

It is also worth mentioning that these things are happening all over the world, and it is becoming increasingly hard to pin all the economic malaise on one person, such as George Bush or Bill Clinton. A politician can control an economy about as easily as a river, although Obama certainly seems intent on digging a whole new channel and changing the flow if he can get Congress to go along with it. He would be wise to realize the limitations of top-down control on any market.

Charles Freeman is Obama's pick to head the National Intelligence Council (NIC), a group which oversees the production of National Intelligence Estimates. He is currently on the board of the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation, the same company which tried to buy outright American oil company Unocal in 2005, a move which was quickly blocked from Washington as a threat to national security. The company also has been accused of major human rights and environmental violations in Burma. Mr. Freeman has been on the board of CNOOC since 2004.

Does this seem like the right person to be a major player in our intelligence services? Especially considering he is an employee of the Chinese government? And would it surprise you to know he is good friends with many Saudis, including the bin Laden family (he was US Ambassador to S.A. under George H.W. Bush). He also heads the Middle East Policy Council, a heavily Saudi funded organization that published the now infamous paper "The Israeli Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy", a piece that purports to delineate the Jewish-American lobbying interests which direct American foreign policy to favor Israel and perpetuate hostility towards Iran and Syria.

The Wall Street Journal has more on this appointment here. From their piece we learn Mr. Freeman's views on the Tiananmen Square Massacre:
Mr. Freeman unabashedly sides with the Chinese government, a remarkable position for an appointee of an administration that has pledged to advance the cause of human rights. Mr. Freeman has been a participant in ChinaSec, a confidential Internet discussion group of China specialists. A copy of one of his postings was provided to me by a former member. "The truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities," he wrote there in 2006, "was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud." Moreover, "the Politburo's response to the mob scene at 'Tiananmen' stands as a monument to overly cautious behavior on the part of the leadership, not as an example of rash action." Indeed, continued Mr. Freeman, "I do not believe it is acceptable for any country to allow the heart of its national capital to be occupied by dissidents intent on disrupting the normal functions of government, however appealing to foreigners their propaganda may be."
Quite the man to be filtering the President's intelligence reports for him.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

More special interest group funding in the new budget? Of course! As if they just didn't get enough in the "stimulus" bill already? Do groups like La Raza (The Race) and ACORN really need even more government funding? Read the whole thing if you want to be outraged further... Via Instapundit.
The Obama Administration will seek to reinstate the "assault weapons" ban, Attorney General Eric Holder announced today. Good for them. It looks like they really do want to guarantee a Republican takeover of Congress in 2010. Democrats never seem to learn that Americans will vote on the firearms issue, and not in favor of Democrats either.

Of course, no media outlet will tell you this, but assault weapons are really just rifles that have clips to shoot more than one round at a time. Any automatic weapon already requires an expensive federal license and a thorough background check. So pistols, which can shoot numerous rounds, are OK, but unwieldy rifles that can do the same thing (but look "scary"), are grounds for banning.

Then, there is the issue of countries which have banned firearms this decade, among them the UK and Australia. Both have experienced a dramatic and sustained increase in violent crime. Banning guns only helps the criminals, not the law-abiding citizens.
A closer look at the mortgage relief bill making its way through Congress. Apparently even some Democrats aren't crazy about the idea of allowing everyone in bankruptcy to force renegotiation of their mortgage on the lender, and mortgage bank lobbyists are trying to make it clear that this action could further drive their already hurting businesses onto the rocks.

Some Congressmen are even concerned about what it means for those who are currently paying their mortgage payment but struggling with it. Which is good, because a lot of Americans are concerned about why those paying their bills and acting responsibly get nothing, while those who over-extended and lived beyond their means get government (meaning taxpayer) assistance. If they are not careful, a bill like this one could induce those just scraping by to throw in the towel, and actually increase the rate of default.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Is the State Department under the Obama Administration endorsing Holocaust denial? They sure aren't complaining about it at the U.N.'s Durban II "anti-racism" conference. It is turning into a repudiation of Israel and Western ideals of free speech, but there has been nary a complaint from State Department officials attending the conference. Please read the original piece from Forbes for more details, although it isn't enjoyable reading for those that care about Israel's future. It is also important to note that the U.S., under President Bush, boycotted the Durban I conference, along with Israel, because of the same things that are going on again.

Does the new diplomatic approach really mean accomodating tyranny like this? It looks that way to Charles Krauthammer, who notes multiple instances of our new government under President Obama failing to respond to provocations from hostile powers. Going from despised to doormat is not an improvement in my book. These guys running the show had better wake up!

UPDATE: The Obama Administration has now announced that they will be boycotting the Durban II conference, and that State Dept. representatives were just attending the preliminary discussions to get a sense of the conference's direction.

However, they have announced that they will participate in U.N. Human Rights Council, a group which specializes in criticizing Israel while ignoring things like the genocide in Darfur. Mixed signals? Or just an attempt to re-engage internationally on some level...
More shadiness for Senator Chris Dodd, the man who has helped run our financial system into the ground as chair of the Senate Banking Committee. Any wonder that one of his best friends is a convicted insider trader? And that Dodd somehow circumvented Dept. of Justice vetting procedures and personally procured a pardon for his friend on Clinton's last day in office? Or that he owns a vacation home in Ireland that has been suspiciously financed and refinanced over the years? If this man is re-elected in 2010, everyone in the State of Connecticut deserves to be investigated for fraud.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Obama is mobilizing advocacy groups to push his "progressive" agenda. Of course, these groups are heavily funded by billionaires like George Soros, Bill Gates, the Sandlers and the like. But they know what is best for the rest of us, right? How come no one ever notices that these super-rich give their money to these groups as charitable donations (so they get the tax write-off) to push their social engineering, but then they want everyone else to pay for it. Funny how that works. Just like Warren Buffett being a major estate tax advocate, and then donating his entire fortune to Bill Gates' foundation. If he was so sold on the government fixing things for everyone, don't you think he would do his patriotic duty and donate it all to the government? Everyone calls the Republicans the party of the rich, but all the super-rich are all major Democrats and advocacy group donors. Funny how that works.
Alan Reynolds of the New York Post has an insightful look into the Foreclosure Five, meaning the five states most responsible for the housing market's broad decline. Nevada, California, Arizona, Florida and Michigan make up the list, with the only real surprise being Michigan. It would seem that Michigan's high foreclosure rate is due more to the unemployment rate there, and less to falling home values, while in the other four states the falling values are clearly the major problem.

The author also mentions a study that points out that the housing markets of Phoenix and Vegas are closely tied to Los Angeles, in effect almost creating one whole sub-market that is inter-dependent, mainly because these are often second homes for Californians . I would guess that has to be a major factor in the plummeting values in Florida as well. To so many with half a million or more to invest, why not buy a second home in a desirable market? Unfortunately, they are guilty of making the same mistake as Bernie Madoff's investors: looking at the astronomically rising prices (and ultimately rates of return) and expecting it to go on forever.

However, all is not as bleak as it seems. While California's median home price has fallen approximately 20 percent, the overall value of the homes is still up 50 percent over five years. And foreclosure rates seem to be leveling off in these areas as well, perhaps indicating that the worst is over, at least for the affluent four states.

The state of Michigan is another concern entirely, with rising unemployment there, and the prospect of many thousands more in the auto industry losing their jobs, the trend of steady foreclosures could continue there for quite some time. While it is hard to get worked up over rich suburbanites that over-extended on a $750,000 house (especially a vacation home!), those who can't make their regular payments on a $150,000 house because both parents have lost jobs truly is a national tragedy. But how does the government decide who is "worthy" of mortgage assistance, and who must be foreclosed upon? That is a question for the politicians to decide. The same politicians whose financial policies and mismanagement, from both parties, has only made the housing market contraction substantially worse than it ever would have been without their blatant market interference, primarily through the aegis of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Thanks to Instapundit for the initial story, which is definitely worth reading.
20 New Biotech Breakthroughs That Will Change Medicine. The stuff on this list is amazing, and bodes well for our future health. I particularly like the cancer spit test and the artificial lymph nodes. Check it out!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Thursday, February 19, 2009

You know the major banks in the United States are in trouble when Republicans are talking about nationalizing some of them like it is a foregone conclusion:

“If necessary you temporarily nationalize some of these institutions,” said a former senior Republican policymaker. “There has been a lot of pussyfooting around because we don’t like the word – which strikes me as utter nonsense.”

The time for biting the bullet may be fast approaching. In early April, big institutions publish their first-quarter results. If Treasury stress tests have not yet revealed the true state of their balance sheets, first-quarter results might do so.

“The first week in April – that’s when the children’s party is over,” says Chris Whalen, co-founder of Institutional Risk Analytics. “That is when the obvious will become apparent.”

UN officials today acknowledged that Iran has enough material for one nuclear weapon. Yikes!! Of course, they must still further refine it, but that is a process of months, not years. The challenges will come fast and furious for Obama in his first year. One can only hope he will be up to them.
Will the Obama Administration trade missile defense in Europe for Russia's aid with Iran deterrence? Apparently the idea is already being floated. Sounds good to me, as long as they ship some of the missile defense technology to Israel, where they really need it much more than anyone anyways. But they must be careful to actually have concrete, verifiable proof of the cessation of Iran's nuclear program before actually carrying out the missile defense disengagement, or else Russia and Iran will just be playing us for suckers.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus trashes the idea of the EU, comparing it to the Soviet Union! And this occurs when his country holds the EU Presidency! Glad someone is telling it like it is. The Irish have already rejected their ridiculous sovereignty-reducing constitution, and the only countries that have passed it won't let their people vote on it. Sounds democratic to me!
Popular Mechanics looks at 5 of the world's biggest water supply projects. Quite an interesting list just for the scale of what is now capable with advanced engineering. Of course, it is a current list, so things like the Hoover Dam aren't included, but it is well worth checking out.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Just a reminder of what we are fighting in this "terror" war, as Britain proceeds with the trial of eight planners of mass murder:
A group of British Islamists plotted to cause deaths on an "almost unprecedented scale" by blowing up transatlantic airliners using liquid explosives hidden in soft drink bottles, a London court heard Tuesday.

The eight men were almost ready to execute their plan to bring down seven aircraft simultaneously in mid-air as they flew from London to the United States and Canada when they were arrested, Woolwich Crown Court was told.

It is notable that all were British citizens, which just goes to show that the insane British policy of tolerating blatantly anti-Western mosques is disastrous and dangerous. Does that mean they will start giving these psychos the boot, or at least locking them up? Doubtful. Too bad Britain has no death penalty. They will probably be out on good behavior in ten years.

These men are also why we still cannot carry liquids onto planes. So even though their plot was foiled (they were arrested in 2006), they have caused a major inconvenience and expense for all airport security and passengers.

Now, ask yourself why again we are rushing to free all the lunatics held at Guantanamo? Just so they can go out and perpetuate these sorts of attacks. Because the ones who have been freed are already doing that (the Pentagon estimates over 60 have returned to arms against us, with multiple suicide bombers). I have yet to hear a coherent explanation as to why we should be granting these vermin constitutional rights and jury trials in the US, but common sense has never stopped America-hating members of the far-left. We can only pray that their efforts, often pro-bono, fail utterly, but our Justices at the Supreme Court seem interested in having them let loose on America, as that will be the inevitable result of these "trials". Another brutal high-casualty attack is all but a certainty at this point, at the rate things are going both here and around the world. These fanatical Islamists only understand brute force. Obama's outstretched hand is liable to be bitten off (ie by Syria and Iran).

And we would do well to always remember Orwell's old adage: "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

Monday, February 16, 2009

Federal obligations total $65.5 trillion, exceeding world GDP. Yikes. I can't wait until they raise the social security eligibility age to like 85.
So now we are rescinding some sanctions on Syria? And maybe even Iran? Does this seem like a good idea to anyone? Wouldn't it make sense if they actually did something to justify lifting sanctions, rather than demanding that we apologize for American aggression and pull our troops out of the Middle East, which was Iran's initial response to the Obama Administration's request for dialogue. And keep in mind, all Syria has done in the last few years is assassinate Lebanon's PM, support Hezbollah there, and attempt to build a clandestine nuclear facility (which was destroyed by Israel in an air-strike last year). Oh, and they probably have the remnants of Saddam's WMD programs in some storage bunkers somewhere, seeing as how Assad is Saddam's cousin and all. But don't let that get in the way of peace at any cost! Check the link for a more thorough round-up of Syrian nastiness.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

How the mighty have fallen: Dubai in free-fall? It looks that way to me, and Abu Dhabi is sitting on the sidelines watching and doing nothing. From the NYT:

No one knows how bad things have become, though it is clear that tens of thousands have left, real estate prices have crashed and scores of Dubai’s major construction projects have been suspended or canceled. But with the government unwilling to provide data, rumors are bound to flourish, damaging confidence and further undermining the economy.

Instead of moving toward greater transparency, the emirates seem to be moving in the other direction. A new draft media law would make it a crime to damage the country’s reputation or economy, punishable by fines of up to 1 million dirhams (about $272,000). Some say it is already having a chilling effect on reporting about the crisis.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Why does President Obama want to wrest control of the 2010 census from the Commerce Department (which is specifically mandated by the Constitution to conduct a census every ten years)? And why is Commerce Secretary-designate Judd Gregg refusing to question these maneuvers? John Fund thinks he should refuse to take the job unless he has a guarantee that the census will not be co-opted and politicized by the White House. More of what is at stake can be found here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Big surprise that the Interior Department under Ken Salazar has already made some unfortunate announcements regarding offshore oil and gas development:
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has rejected a Bush administration plan to open vast waters off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts to oil and gas drilling, promising "a new way forward" in offshore energy development including new wind projects.
Wonderful. While I'm all for new energy technologies, the efficacy of wind technology has hardly been investigated, particularly offshore. Meanwhile, the high oil prices that helped send our economy into a tailspin will be back in no time if we fail to develop new sources of oil and natural gas.
For this Hillary gave up a Senate seat?
Why is the so-called stimulus bill massively expanding welfare spending in this country? Is this really what we need? From Cal Thomas:
[I]n the first year following enactment of the stimulus bill, "federal welfare spending will explode upward by more than 20 percent, rising from $491 billion in fiscal year 2008 to $601 billion in FY 2009." That would be the largest expansion of welfare in the nation's history. But it is only the beginning of Obama's pledge to "Joe the Plumber" to "spread the wealth around."

"Once the hidden welfare spending in the bill is counted," writes Rector, "the total 10-year fiscal burden (added to the national debt) will not be $816 billion, as claimed, but $1.34 trillion. This amounts to $17,400 for each household paying income tax in the U.S."

Under this legislation, according to Rector, the federal government for the first time "will give significant cash to able-bodied adults without dependent children." Even though these people may have little apparent need of help, they'll get a check just because government can send one.

Rector says that the House and Senate bills "use the idea of economic stimulus as a Trojan horse to conceal massive, permanent increases in the U.S. welfare system. The goal of the bills is 'spreading the wealth,' not reviving the economy."

It will add to the growing number of people dependent on government and, thus, politicians, who will never show them the way out of poverty, but give them only enough money to sustain them in poverty and then tell them if they don't vote for Democrats, those nasty Republicans will take their checks away.

Check out this great graphic illustrating stimulus spending over time, from the Washington Post:

Monday, February 09, 2009

As the Democrats stealthily inch us towards nationalizing health care and devising a more cost-effective approach, it is worthwhile to take a look at Canada and the many problems they have with a nationalized approach, including a 57 year old being told that he is too old for hip surgery and people suffering migraines and vision problems being told they need to wait six months or more for an MRI, then going to America and paying themselves to find out they have a brain tumor, which the Canadian health system then tells them they need to wait another six months or more for surgery that couldn't be more imminent. Is this really what we want in the US?

Well, we are getting it, in the stimulus bill. Among other things, a national digital health record is set up, along with a new health care review board to determine which treatments are cost-effective and which are not. Granted, insurance companies are doing that now, but do we really need the government doing it too? And shouldn't there be more of a national discussion about it? Instead, it is buried in a "stimulus" bill. This is how things are going to be done now. If it isn't popular, it is going to be buried in another bill and passed anyways. And who knows how much else is buried in this thing? It is so urgent to pass because they don't want anyone to have a chance to read it.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

So have you heard much about the recent elections in Iraq? No? Oh right, the media didn't really report on it because there were no major incidents and the process was overwhelmingly peaceful. It doesn't fit the media's narrative of Iraq as a complete failure, so the story gets buried. But Amer Taheri has the details in the New York Post:

This was the first election entirely organized and protected by Iraqis: No foreign troops guarded the polling stations or escorted vulnerable voters. Yet the election took place without major incidents. (Three candidates were murdered, ostensibly by tribal rivals, and two suicide-bombing attempts were halted.) In 2005, going to the polls was an act of heroism in the face of terrorists determined to nip the new democracy in the bud.

Although the parties in the Maliki-led governing coalition had a built-in advantage, thanks to their access to state resources, almost all ended up as losers.

Maliki's own party, Al-Dawa (The Call), is set to emerge as the largest bloc in the assemblies of four of the 10 mainly Shiite provinces. (It now enjoys such a position in just one, Karbala - and interim results show that Dawa has been pushed into second place by a secularist list in Karbala.)

The Islamic Party of Iraq, the chief Arab Sunni outfit in the coalition, looks set for defeat in three of the four states where the community accounts for a majority of the population.

The reason why Maliki's party has done so well?

For the last year or so, Maliki has propelled his wing of Dawa away from Islamism. All the parties that had the words "Islamic" or "Arab" in their names lost. By contrast, all those that had the words "Iraq" or "Iraqi" gained.

This is incredibly significant. Not only did Islamist-labeled parties lose big, but Iranian-supported parties also suffered heavy losses, and even Moqtada al-Sadr's group only picked up 3 percent of the vote. Positive change is happening in Iraq, if only the world would notice.

When people look back in twenty years, providing things keep progressing there and we keep providing material and technical support, this creation of a functioning democracy for fifty million people out of a brutal dictatorship will be the best thing the Bush Asministration managed to do in eight years. Some may still be argung about the reasons for the war, but no one will be able to deny the success that has occurred.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Where can I sign up for 1 Tbps Ethernet service?

Friday, February 06, 2009

Jews in Venezuela fear more attacks after anti-Israel diatribes from Chavez and blatant Anti-Semitic rhetoric from government run newspapers.
So much for Obama's meeting with conservatives before taking office... Charles Krauthammer nails him in this one, and makes some damn good points in the process:

"A failure to act, and act now, will turn crisis into a catastrophe."

-- President Obama, Feb. 4.

Catastrophe, mind you. So much for the president who in his inaugural address two weeks earlier declared "we have chosen hope over fear." Until, that is, you need fear to pass a bill.

And so much for the promise to banish the money changers and influence peddlers from the temple. An ostentatious executive order banning lobbyists was immediately followed by the nomination of at least a dozen current or former lobbyists to high position. Followed by a Treasury secretary who allegedly couldn't understand the payroll tax provisions in his 1040. Followed by Tom Daschle, who had to fall on his sword according to the new Washington rule that no Cabinet can have more than one tax delinquent.


It's the essential fraud of rushing through a bill in which the normal rules (committee hearings, finding revenue to pay for the programs) are suspended on the grounds that a national emergency requires an immediate job-creating stimulus -- and then throwing into it hundreds of billions that have nothing to do with stimulus, that Congress's own budget office says won't be spent until 2011 and beyond, and that are little more than the back-scratching, special-interest, lobby-driven parochialism that Obama came to Washington to abolish. He said.

Not just to abolish but to create something new -- a new politics where the moneyed pork-barreling and corrupt logrolling of the past would give way to a bottom-up, grass-roots participatory democracy. That is what made Obama so dazzling and new. Turns out the "fierce urgency of now" includes $150 million for livestock (and honeybee and farm-raised fish) insurance.

Krauthammer makes some great points, although I'd rather see money spent on schools than honeybees any day. As some have said before, this bill is Obama's first major test, and it really is a test of whether he controls the agenda in Washington, or lets Nancy Pelosi and her ilk do it for him. If he doesn't insist that a few hundred billion of this pork is pared off (which is hopefully happening with the Senate version), then what was the point of promising all this change from the way things have always been done? Congress cannot be allowed to dictate the agenda. That is the deal Bush made to get his 9/11 legislation through, and it resulted in the Republicans turning into the big-spenders they had been running against for so many years.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Novel Cheap Stimulus Idea: Stop Hyping Bad Economic News! And while you're at it, stop spinning good and not so bad news into complete doom and gloom!
How Government Prolonged the Great Depression:

The most damaging policies were those at the heart of the recovery plan, including The National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), which tossed aside the nation's antitrust acts and permitted industries to collusively raise prices provided that they shared their newfound monopoly rents with workers by substantially raising wages well above underlying productivity growth. The NIRA covered over 500 industries, ranging from autos and steel, to ladies hosiery and poultry production. Each industry created a code of "fair competition" which spelled out what producers could and could not do, and which were designed to eliminate "excessive competition" that FDR believed to be the source of the Depression.

These codes distorted the economy by artificially raising wages and prices, restricting output, and reducing productive capacity by placing quotas on industry investment in new plants and equipment. Following government approval of each industry code, industry prices and wages increased substantially, while prices and wages in sectors that weren't covered by the NIRA, such as agriculture, did not. We have calculated that manufacturing wages were as much as 25% above the level that would have prevailed without the New Deal. And while the artificially high wages created by the NIRA benefited the few that were fortunate to have a job in those industries, they significantly depressed production and employment, as the growth in wage costs far exceeded productivity growth.

Read the whole thing.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Gotta love Tom Daschle! I thought we were done with this guy after the voters kicked him out of office in 2004, mainly because it was revealed that his wife was a lobbyist for the health care industry which Daschle was supposed to be helping regulate as a Senator. But now we just forget this issue... And move on to his tax problems, where he accepted the "gift" of a private chauffeur and yet had no idea it might be counted as income. Unbelievable! So we already have a tax cheat running the IRS and Treasury Department, and now we need a tax cheat with multiple, multiple conflicts of interest throughout the health care industry trying to competely reorganize the administration of healthcare in this country. Daschle's 'mea culpa' may be too little, too late. Does this situation sound kosher to anyone, left or right? I demand hope and change, not more of the same!
BBC: US Rescue Deal Clause 'Dangerous'. But I thought we improved relations by electing Obama? What gives? Where is that gloabal approach we have been hearing so much about? Oh yeah, maybe after we finishing feeding our supporters from the pork trough known as the stimulus bill, we can get down to making the rest of the world love us, at least once the WTO gets done with US for violating international trade agreements.
George Soros, in the Financial Times, looks at what caused the economic crisis to really intensify and blames the decision by the government to let Lehman Brothers fail on September 15:
On Monday September 15, Lehman Brothers, the US investment bank, was allowed to go into bankruptcy without proper preparation. It was a game-changing event with catastrophic consequences.

For a start, the price of credit default swaps, a form of insurance against companies defaulting on debt, went through the roof as investors took cover. AIG, the insurance giant, was carrying a large short position in CDS and faced imminent default. By the next day Hank Paulson, then US Treasury secretary, had to reverse himself and come to the rescue of AIG.

But worse was to come. Lehman was one of the main market-makers in commercial paper and a large issuer of these short-term obligations to boot. Reserve Primary, an independent money market fund, held Lehman paper and, since it had no deep pocket to turn to, it had to “break the buck” – stop redeeming its shares at par. That caused panic among depositors: by Thursday a run on money market funds was in full swing.

The panic then spread to the stock market. The financial system suffered cardiac arrest and had to be put on artificial life support.
I tend to agree with him on this issue. It was an inexcusable lapse, which set off more costly failures, most notably that of AIG, which has cost the government countless billions more than they would have ever had to spend to save Lehman. Read the whole thing.
Just what we need out of the economic stimulus package: more welfare!