Sunday, November 2, 2008




Ego and Mouth

by Thomas Sowell

After the big gamble on subprime mortgages that led to the current financial crisis, is there going to be an even bigger gamble, by putting the fate of a nation in the hands of a man whose only qualifications are ego and mouth? Barack Obama has the kind of cocksure confidence that can only be achieved by not achieving anything else.

Anyone who has actually had to take responsibility for consequences by running any kind of enterprise-- whether economic or academic, or even just managing a sports team-- is likely at some point to be chastened by either the setbacks brought on by his own mistakes or by seeing his successes followed by negative consequences that he never anticipated. The kind of self-righteous self-confidence that has become Obama's trademark is usually found in sophomores in Ivy League colleges-- very bright and articulate students, utterly untempered by experience in real world.

The signs of Barack Obama's self-centered immaturity are painfully obvious, though ignored by true believers who have poured their hopes into him, and by the media who just want the symbolism and the ideology that Obama represents. The triumphal tour of world capitals and photo-op meetings with world leaders by someone who, after all, was still merely a candidate, is just one sign of this self-centered immaturity. "This is our time!" he proclaimed. And "I will change the world." But ultimately this election is not about him, but about the fate of this nation, at a time of both domestic and international peril, with a major financial crisis still unresolved and a nuclear Iran looming on the horizon.

For someone who has actually accomplished nothing to blithely talk about taking away what has been earned by those who have accomplished something, and give it to whomever he chooses in the name of "spreading the wealth," is the kind of casual arrogance that has led to many economic catastrophes in many countries.

The equally casual ease with which Barack Obama has talked about appointing judges on the basis of their empathies with various segments of the population makes a mockery of the very concept of law.

After this man has wrecked the economy and destroyed constitutional law with his judicial appointments, what can he do for an encore? He can cripple the military and gamble America's future on his ability to sit down with enemy nations and talk them out of causing trouble.

Senator Obama's running mate, Senator Joe Biden, has for years shown the same easy-way-out mindset. Senator Biden has for decades opposed strengthening our military forces. In 1991, Biden urged relying on sanctions to get Saddam Hussein's troops out of Kuwait, instead of military force, despite the demonstrated futility of sanctions as a means of undoing an invasion.

People who think Governor Sarah Palin didn't handle some "gotcha" questions well in a couple of interviews show no interest in how she compares to the Democrats' Vice Presidential candidate, Senator Biden. Joe Biden is much more of the kind of politician the mainstream media like. Not only is he a liberal's liberal, he answers questions far more glibly than Governor Palin-- grossly inaccurately in many cases, but glibly.

Moreover, this is a long-standing pattern with Biden. When he was running for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination back in 1987, someone in the audience asked him what law school he attended and how well he did. Flashing his special phony smile, Biden said, "I think I have a much higher IQ than you do." He added, "I went to law school on a full academic scholarship" and "ended up in the top half" of the class. But Biden did not have a full academic scholarship. Newsweek reported: "He went on a half scholarship based on need. He didn't finish in the 'top half' of his class. He was 76th out of 85."

Add to Obama and Biden House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and you have all the ingredients for a historic meltdown. Let us not forget that the Roman Empire did decline and fall, blighting the lives of millions for centuries.

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A message from a disillusioned Obama campaign insider

Sounds reasonable

I'm going to let you in on a few secrets here, and this is not because I enjoy the gossip or the attention directed my way. I'm doing this because I doubt much of you know the true weaknesses of Obama. Another reason for my doing this is that I am lost faith in this campaign, and feel that this choice has been forced on many people in this country. Put simply, you are being manipulated. That was and is our job - to manipulate you (the electorate) and the media (we already had them months ago). Our goal is to create chaos with the other side, not hope. I've come to the realization (as the campaign already has) that if this comes to the issues, Barack Obama doesn't have a chance. His only chance is to foster disorganization, chaos, despair, and a sense of inevitability among the Republicans. It has worked up until now. Joe the Plumber has put the focus on the issues again, and this scares us more than anything. Being in a position to know these things, I will rate what the Obama campaign already knows are their weak links from the most important on down.

1 - Hillary voters. Internal polling suggests that at best, we are taking 70-75% of these voters. Other estimates are as low as 60% in some areas - particularly Ohio and western PA. My biggest problem with this campaign's strategy was the decision NOT to offer Hillary the VP slot. She was ready and able to take this on, and would have campaigned enthusiastically for it. This selection would have also brought virtually all of her supporters into the fold, and the Obama campaign knew it. Though I have no way of knowing this for certain, and I do admit that I am relying on internal gossip, Senator Obama actually went against the advice of his top advisors. They wanted him to choose her, but the only significant opposition to this within the campaign came from Barack and Michelle Obama. In short, he let personal feelings take precedence over what was the most logical thing to do. Biden, by the way, has been a disaster inside the campaign. Everyone cringes whenever he gives an interview, and he creates so many headaches as the campaign has to stay on their toes in order to disseminate information and spin whatever it was he was trying to say.

2 - Sarah Palin. Don't believe what the media is telling you about how horrible a choice she was. Again, our internal polling suggest that though she has had a minimal impact on pulling disaffected Hillary Democrats to McCain, she has done wonders in mobilizing the base for McCain. Another thing - we were completely taken by surprise with her pick. In my capacity in the research department, I looked into the backgrounds of Leiberman, Romney, Pawlenty and Ridge, and prepared briefs. I don't mind bragging that we had pretty good stuff on all of them. With Leiberman, the plan was to paint him as an erratic old-timer who didn't have a clue as to what he was doing (pretty much a clone of McCain). In Romney, we had him pegged as an evil capitalist who cut jobs. Pawlenty was going to get the "Quayle treatment", or more precisely: a pretty face, with no valid experience. Tom Ridge was going to be used to provide a direct link from McCain to Bush. As you can see, we were quite enamored of all of them. Then the unexpected happened - Sarah Palin. We had no clue as to how to handle her, and bungled it from the start. Though through our misinformation networks, we have successfully taken some of the shine off. But let there be no doubt. She remains a major obstacle. She has singlehanded solidified "soft" Republican support, mobilized the McCain ground game, and has even had some appeal to independents and Hillary voters. This is what our internal polling confirms.

3 - Obama's radical connections. Standards operating procedure has been to cry "racism" whenever one of these has been brought up. We even have a detailed strategy ready to go should McCain ever bring Rev. Wright up. Though by themselves they are of minimal worth, taken together, Rev. Wright, Bill Ayers, Father Pfelger, and now, Rashid Khalili, are exactly what the campaign does not need. The more focus on them, the more this election becomes a referendum on Obama. The campaign strategy from the very beginning was to make this election a referendum on Bush. Strategists have been banging their head on how successfully McCain has distanced himself from Bush. This has worked, and right now the tide is in his favor. People are taking a new look at Barack Obama, and our experience when this happens tells us this is not good news at all. When they take a look at him, one or more of these names are bound to be brought up. McCain has wisely not harped on this in recent weeks and let voters decide for themselves. This was a trap we set for him, and he never fully took the bait. Senator Obama openly dared him to bring up Ayers. This was not due to machismo on the part of Obama, but actually due to campaign strategy. Though McCain's reference to Ayers fell flat in the last debate, people in the Obama campaign were actually disappointed that he didn't follow through on it more and getting into it. Our focus groups found this out: When McCain brings these connections up, voters are turned off to him. They'd rather take this into consideration themselves, and when this happens, our numbers begin to tank.

4 - The Bradley Effect. Don't believe these polls for a second. I just went over our numbers and found that we have next to no chance in the following states: Missouri, Indiana, North Carolina, Florida, New Hampshire and Nevada. Ohio leans heavily to McCain, but is too close to call it for him. Virginia, Pennsylvania, Colorado, New Mexico and Iowa are the true "toss up states". The only two of these the campaign feels "confident" in are Iowa and New Mexico. The reason for such polling discrepancy is the Bradley Effect, and this is a subject of much discussion in the campaign. In general, we tend to take a -10 point percentage in allowing for this, and are not comfortable until the polls give us a spread well over this mark. This is why we are still campaigning in Virginia and Pennsylvania! This is why Ohio is such a desperate hope for us! What truly bothers this campaign is the fact that some pollsters get up to an 80% "refuse to respond" result. You can't possibly include these into the polls. The truth is, people are afraid to let people know who they are voting for. The vast majority of these respondents are McCain supporters. Obama is the "hip" choice, and we all know it.

As part of my research duties, I scour right wing blogs and websites to get somewhat of a "feel" as to what is being talked about on the other side. Much of it is nonsense, but there are some exceptions which give the campaign jitters. A spirited campaign has been made to infiltrate many pro-Hillary sites and discredit them. A more disorganized, but genuine effort has also been made to sow doubts among the unapologetically right wing sites such as redstate.com. Don't you guys get it? This has been the Obama campaign's sole strategy from the very beginning! The only way he wins is over a dispirited, disorganized, and demobilized opposition. This is how it has been for all of his campaigns. What surprises me is that everyone has fallen for it. You may point to the polls as proof of the inevitability of all of this. If so, you have fallen for the oldest trick in the book. How did we skew these polls, you might ask? It all starts with the media "buzz" which has been generated over the campaign. Many stories are generated on the powerful Obama ground game, and how many new voters were registered. None of this happens by coincidence. It is all part of the poll-skewing process. This makes pollsters change their mixes to reflect these new voters and tilt the mix more towards Democratic voters. What is not mentioned or reported on is not the "under-reported cell phone users or young voters" we hear so much about. What is underreported is you.

I changed my somewhat positive opinion of this campaign during the unfair and sexist campaign against Sarah Palin. I will never agree with her on the issues and will probably never vote for her, but I am embarrassed of what has happened. I can't ignore our own hand in all of this. What I do know is that I will not be voting for Obama this time around. Treat that as you will.

Source






Barack Obama 'could worsen crisis', says owner of Fox TV

News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch has warned that Barack Obama could worsen the world financial crisis if he is elected US president next week and implements protectionist policies. In an interview with The Weekend Australian before delivering the first of six Boyer lectures on ABC radio tomorrow afternoon, Mr Murdoch said the Democrats' policies would result in "a real setback for globalisation" if implemented.

Mr Murdoch said he did not know whether Senator Obama would implement all of the protectionist measures espoused by the party. "Presidents don't often behave exactly as the campaign might have suggested because they become prisoners of all sort of things - mainly circumstances and events," Mr Murdoch said.

He warned that any rise in protectionism in the US, including introducing trade measures against China as espoused by some Democratic members in Congress, would risk retaliation and could threaten the world trading and financial systems. "For the past three or four years, some Democrats have been threatening to do things like put on extra tariffs (against Chinese imports) if they don't change their currency,' Mr Murdoch said. "If it happened, it could set off retaliatory action which would certainly damage the world economy seriously."

Mr Murdoch said Kevin Rudd had been "very sure-footed" in his handling of the financial crisis and defended the Prime Minister against criticism that he acted too quickly in his blanket guarantee of the deposits of the Australian banking system.

But the chairman of News Corporation, which owns The Weekend Australian, warned that politicians should be careful not to make the situation worse by "alarming people more than they should be alarmed, regardless of party". "You've got to recognise when he (Rudd) did it, he did it the day after the biggest ever fall in the stock market and the US Congress's first refusal of the $700million bailout," Mr Murdoch said. "I think, relatively, over this whole financial period, he has acted very sure-footedly."

He said politicians should be careful that their comments did not further exacerbate the delicate financial situation. Asked if the comments were meant to refer to Malcolm Turnbull, he said: "I don't think Mr Turnbull has done that."

With the US election five days away, Mr Murdoch criticised Senator Obama's tax policies as "crazy", particularly his plan to hand out tax rebates to most Americans and to increase taxes for people earning more than $250,000. He said Senator Obama's promises to give tax rebates to 95per cent of Americans was "rubbish". "Forty per cent (of the US population) don't pay taxes, so how can he give them a tax cut?" he said. "But you can give them a welfare cheque which he has promised - a grant of $500 - which will disappear very fast. It's not going to turn the economy around at all."

Mr Murdoch said no one knew what would happen under an Obama administration "but his declared policy would see a real setback of globalisation". Mr Murdoch said politicians should take heed of the lessons of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act in the US in 1930, which raised tariffs on American goods to record levels and provoked protectionist retaliation by US trading partners, slashing world trade levels and sending the world economy into depression.

Mr Murdoch said Senator Obama would make the situation worse if he implemented the policies he had promised the American union movement, which represented only 12 per cent of the US workforce, most of them government workers. "We have the historical precedent of Smoot-Hawley," he said. "I can't imagine he would do anything as crazy as that. But anything in that direction could add to all sorts of tensions in the world financial system and the world trading system and eventually all the way down to employment. I am not saying all these things are going to happen, but we are living in a dangerous period." He said the whole world should "fight like hell" for freer trade and the success of the Doha Round of trade talks.

Mr Murdoch rejected suggestions that Tuesday's US election could act as a circuit breaker for the current crisis of confidence in world financial markets. "To some extent it is beyond the power of politicians," he said. "You are going to find that the politicians are very limited in what they can do: they can make it worse but they can't stop it."

Mr Murdoch said there was a slight easing of the liquidity crisis, as market interest rates had edged down in recent weeks. But he said the financial crisis would inevitably affect economies for some time. Mr Murdoch said a push for freer trade around the world, including the success of the Doha Round, could help the world economies come out of the recession faster. "But if it (world trade) goes the way that a lot of politicians are talking in a lot of countries, you are really going to slow down trade and business in every way," he added.

Mr Murdoch, who arrived in Australia this week, will record the first Boyer lecture tomorrow in front of a live audience at the Sydney Opera House. The series of lectures is entitled A Golden Age of Freedom and includes Mr Murdoch's views on the rise of the new global middle class, his concerns about the raising of education levels in Australia and the importance of being ahead of the curve in using new technologies. The third lecture is a detailed exposition of Mr Murdoch's views on the future of newspapers. Mr Murdoch has been scathing of journalists in the US, whom he argues have been all too eager to predict the demise of their own industry.

He told The Weekend Australian that newspapers would survive, although they might have to live with lower profit margins because of competition from the internet. He predicted that newspapers should see the internet as an opportunity to reach more readers in a world where people were increasingly hungry for more information.

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Obama's ever changing definition of who is "rich"

If we heard it once from Obama we heard it a thousand times; no tax increase for those who make less than $250,000, right? Um ... not so fast. John Podheretz of Contentions:
Last week, John McCain made a big deal out of the fact that Joe Biden suddenly lowered the annual salary number below which no one would be taxed under the Obama plan from $250,000 to $150,000. That gave added heft to his argument that Obama is pursuing redistributionist policies that will have a negative effect on efforts to help the economy grow. But that was Biden mouthing off, after all, something it's easy to take not all that seriously. What is more serious, and more telling, is that without making any admissions of a change, the Obama campaign as a whole is now explicitly acknowledging the $250,000 floor for tax increases is no longer operative. Instead, both in a commercial released last week and in last night's infomercial, the number that is now being used is $200,000.

Granted, the absolute number of people in this country who make between $200,000 and $250,000 is relatively small, but that is not the issue. What this suggests is that these plans are subject to downward revision in a way that will take in far more taxpayers than Obama spent more than a year promising they would. It's not clear why he didn't just continue to prevaricate about this until Election Day, but facts are facts, a changed policy is a changed policy, and taxpayers under that $200,000 threshold will have to judge whether the promise to increase taxes on others but not on them is to be believed.

What will your definition of "rich" be next week Obama? Next month? This is the clearest sign yet that a President Obama would raise taxes on more than just "rich" Americans. And he will have a ready made excuse; the budget deficit.

Mark my words; he will appear on national TV early in his presidency and tell us that "the situation has changed," the budget deficit is too high and that taxes must be raised on all those in the two top tax brackets. The increase in taxes will be necessary because he will need to fund his wealth redistribution schemes as well as get control of a ballooning federal deficit. I will let you guess which priority of the two will get the funding.

This is why you cannot trust this man. But of course, we know that. I wonder what the press and American people will say when they find out Obama is a liar?

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Obama's '$4 Billion for Exxon' Myth

Why haven't the 'fact-checkers' done a better job?

In the final days of the campaign, Barack Obama continues to land the same sucker punch on taxes he used in the debates -- and John McCain continues to take it on the chin. In the last debate, Sen. Obama said, "We both want to cut taxes, the difference is who we want to cut taxes for. . . . The centerpiece of [McCain's] economic proposal is to provide $200 billion in additional tax breaks to some of the wealthiest corporations in America. Exxon Mobil, and other oil companies, for example, would get an additional $4 billion in tax breaks."

That $200 billion figure is false. Yet FactCheck.org and most reporters never bothered to ask Mr. Obama where he came up with it. FactCheck.org did discover that Mr. Obama's claim about "$4 billion in tax breaks for energy companies" came from a two-page memo from the Center for American Progress Action Fund -- a political lobby headed by John Podesta, former chief of staff to Bill Clinton, with tax issues handled by two lawyers, Robert Gordon and James Kvaal, former policy directors for the John Kerry and John Edwards campaigns. Those lawyers confused average tax rates (after credits and deductions) with the 35% statutory rate on the next dollar of earnings, so that cutting the latter rate from 35% to 25% would supposedly cut big oil's $13.4 billion tax bill by 28.5%, or $3.8 billion. That is not economics; it is not even competent bookkeeping.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, by contrast, correctly notes that, "Senator McCain has called for the repeal and reform of a number of tax preferences for oil companies," which would raise the oil companies' taxes by $5 billion in 2013.

When fact checkers do look into campaign claims on taxes, they invariably cite estimates from the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution's Tax Policy Center (TPC). The TPC estimates that the McCain corporate tax cuts would lose $734.7 billion of revenue over 10 years (2009-2018). Mr. McCain would also allow immediate expensing through 2013 for equipment normally written-off over three to five years, but no deduction for interest expense if the investment was made with borrowed money. Once equipment has been written-off in 2009 or 2010 it can't be written-off in later years, so the estimated revenue loss over 10 years is only $45 billion, or $4.5 billion per year. Altogether, that adds up to $78 billion a year in corporate tax cuts, not $200 billion.

Yet the $78 billion TPC estimate is also nonsense because it's entirely static. The estimate assumes raising or lowering corporate tax rates has no effect on corporate decisions about where to locate production, income or costs, and no effect on the economy's performance. If that made sense, the corporate tax rate could be doubled to 70% and the only effect (according to TPC estimates) would be to double corporate tax receipts. Such a static analysis is obviously worthless, yet it is nonetheless crucial to the TPC's estimates of the revenue supposedly lost from the McCain plan and its alleged distributional effects.

Mr. McCain proposes to cut the corporate tax rate to 30% in 2010-11, 28% in 2012-13, 26% in 2014, and 25% thereafter. The timing could be better. Why not cut the corporate tax rate to 28%-30% right away? Could anyone doubt that would help struggling businesses to minimize cutbacks and layoffs? Could anyone doubt it would invigorate the stock market?

Phasing in tax-rate reductions -- as in 1981 and 2001 -- has become a bad habit among Republicans. The trouble is that knowing tax rates will be lower in the future provides incentives to delay earning and reporting income until after they fall. In the American Economic Review, December 2006, University of Michigan economists Christopher House and Matthew Shapiro found "the phased-in tax cuts called for in the 2001 tax bill worked to depress employment as firms and workers waited for the lower tax rates to materialize."

In the U.S today, the combined federal and state tax on corporate profits averages 40%, which is increasingly out of line with the rest of the world. The average corporate tax rate dropped to 25.9% in 2008 from 37.7% in 1996 among 97 countries surveyed by KPMG, and to 23.2% from 38% in the European Union. Corporate tax revenues typically increased as a share of GDP after tax rates were reduced. Countries with corporate tax rates from 12.5% to 25%, such as Ireland, Switzerland, Austria and Denmark, routinely collect more corporate tax revenue as a share of GDP than the anemic 2.1% figure the Congressional Budget Office projects for the U.S.

In a new Tax & Budget Bulletin at Cato.org, Jack Mintz of the University of Calgary estimates that a federal-state corporate tax rate higher than 28% loses money for the government. Kimberly Clausing of Reed College estimated revenues would be maximized with a 33% federal and state tax. Kevin Hassett and Alex Brill of the American Enterprise Institute found "the revenue maximizing point has dropped over time, and is about 26%." In all of these studies, cutting the federal tax to 28%-30% sooner rather than later is very likely to raise revenue.

Regardless who wins the election, an accelerated version of Mr. McCain's original plan -- to cut the corporate tax rate to 28%-30% and expense investments in business equipment -- is by far the most potent "stimulus plan" anyone has yet proposed. And far from costing $200 billion a year, as Mr. Obama claims, it wouldn't cost a dime.

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OBAMA & THE ARABS

“Obama! Inshallah!”—Obama! Allah willing! That slogan, scribbled on walls in Gaza, indicates the hopes that Barack Obama has inspired among Arabs. While Obama has tried to push his origins into the background, his “Islamic roots” have won him a place in many Arabs’ hearts.

One columnist, Mohamed Al-Menshawi, hails Obama as “the candidate with Muslim roots” and as the “harbinger of solidarity between Americans and the Muslim world.” Another, Al-Jazeera’s Aala al-Bayoumi, notes: “Had it not been for Obama, Arabs would not even bother to follow the US presidential race.” What makes the difference is Obama’s “Islamic and African roots.” Marwan Bishara hails Obama’s “radical politics”: “For the US to vote in an African-American progressive liberal would certainly mark a departure from the hyper and violent conservatism of the Bush-McCain camp,” he writes. An Obama presidency “would be better for both the US and the Arab world.”

Obama especially appeals to pan-Arab nationalists angry at the United States for having ousted Saddam Hussein. Obama’s promise to leave Iraq gives pan-Arabs their only chance (albeit slim) to destroy the new Iraqi democracy. While radical Arabs, including the Hamas leadership, favor Obama, most Arab officials are wary of him. They fear his inexperience and leftist connections might destroy all that has been gained in Iraq, provoke a bigger mess in Afghanistan, trigger a war with Pakistan and open the way for Khomeinist hegemony in the region.…

Obama… has retained his Arabic-Islamic names. (Barack means “blessed” and Hussein means “beautiful.”) His family name is Swahili, an East African lingua franca based on Arabic. Arab commentators note that his siblings also all have Arabic Muslim names. His sister is called Oumah, Arabic for “the community of the faithful”, his older daughter, Malia, bears the name of a daughter of the Caliph Othman, who commissioned the compilation of the first edition of the Koran. That Obama’s stepfather was also a Muslim (from Indonesia) strengthens the empathy that many Arabs feel for him.

The Syrian regime has also indicated its preference for Obama, not least because President Bush forced it to end its 29-year military occupation of Lebanon. Buthaina Shaaban, an adviser to President Bashar al-Assad, has welcomed Obama’s call for radical change in US policy. She writes, “The change suggested by Obama is essential not only for the US but for the entire human family.” Also enthusiastic for Obama is the Lebanese Hezbollah. The party’s No. 2, Sheik Naim al-Kassim, went as far as inviting Americans to vote Obama as a step toward peace with Islam. (The party disowned his comments as “personal opinion.”) Pro- Hezbollah columnist Amal Saad-Ghorayeb has no doubt that Arabs should welcome an Obama presidency because “African-Americans are more sympathetic to Arabs because they, too, are oppressed.”…

Some columnists have also noted Obama’s close ties to a number of Palestinian radicals, including Rashid Khalidi and the late Edward Said, as signs that the senator would change US Middle East policy in the Arabs’ favor. Strengthening that impression was an interview the Rev. Jessie Jackson granted to several Arab media outlets, including Al-Jazeera and the popular Internet newspaper Elaph, in which he promised an end to the United States’ allegedly pro-Israel policy.

Not all Arab commentators are struck by Obamania, however. His flip-flops on issues—including the future of Jerusalem, withdrawal from Iraq and dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat—have prompted some to counsel caution. Tareq Al-Houmayed, editor of the daily Asharq Alawsat, warns Arabs not to expect too much: “Every American president would be governed by American interests. Obama’s understanding of politics is not important here.” Abdulrahman al-Rashed, a Saudi commentator, also notes that no president can radically alter US global policies. He advises Arabs to neither have exaggerated hopes nor be dispirited when Obama tells the Israelis “more than they hoped to hear” to win Jewish support

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