Google, Haiti, and Taxachusetts

Saturday, January 23, 2010

There have been so many juicy topics to cover, it’s been difficult to keep away. Every time I’m moved to write, though, I really have something else to do or simply don’t want to devote the time to it. That said, here is, in summary, how to think about the following issues:

Google/China: Yes, if Google was #1 in China this wouldn’t have happened, but they’re not and it did. As a result, this is one of the great humanitarian corporate moves of all time. Perhaps the greatest (there’s not a lot of competition, I’m guessing). Google should follow through and close their business there. As arguably the most important corporation in the world, the move will properly shame China and the many companies that remain in that authoritarian country. Here’s a question that any one doing business there should ask: Would I want to live here?

Haiti: Nothing to do in the aftermath but help. In the long term, I’m with David Brooks and Bret Stephenson. Let’s stop giving money to countries “in need.” It does nothing, and may actively do harm. It’s difficult, because it is human nature to try to help fellow humans in need, but it’s also the right thing to do. Certainly, what the first world has been doing for decades has not worked.

Taxachusetts: I would have voted for Scott Brown too. Seriously. I would have voted for a cardboard cutout against Coakley. Although she was inept, I would have done it to send the message. I have said, many times, that if Obama and this Congress can’t get it done, then there is no hope for us. Year one has been an epic, unmitigated failure. Iraq, Afghanistan, secrecy, deficit spending, bank coddling, and worst of all, the healthcare nightmare. I blame Obama for not using his robust post-election strength to strong arm Pelosi (failure) and Reid (failure) immediately. Weak, poorly managed, pathetic. Obama, where are your balls? It’s time to lead.

And, btw, why do you need the 60 votes? Make an exceptional bill and let the GOP filibuster. Call their bluff. If they do it, and the bill dies, you hang it around their neck. Now, the bill dies, and it’s a Dem failure. Disgraceful.

(But then there would be no healthcare bill, someone wails. So fucking what? Paul Krugman can cry to his cats. This is not the most pressing issue in America. Budget restraint, financial reform, and confiscatory, punitive taxes on very wealth bankers, should be the priority. Followed by a 10% spending cut across the entire government, no exceptions.

We are going to have to suffer, period. Let us start suffering already so we have a shot at not fucking our children.)

The bottom line for me, in all this, is that I have really given up hope. I don’t believe our Congress (and the state legislatures) are capable of introducing the change (ethics, responsible spending) that is necessary.

Something very, very bad is going to happen in the next ten or twenty years. War with China, epic depression/inflation/default, or, in the best case scenario, a benevolent military coup (and a draft) that reforms the government in a way that makes it possible for America to function properly.

David Petraeus, are you out there? Rome needs you. Cross the Rubicon. Cast the die!

P.S. I can’t believe I just wrote that. Nevertheless, letting it stand.


Sunday Notes and Marginalia

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Housing near bottom? Fannie thinks so. Calculated Risk? Not so much. I agree. (Fred Barnes?) [Calculated Risk]

Should Madoffs victims be means tested before getting IRS refunds? Well, let’s put it this way, should Steven Spielberg get a real payout on fictitious profits? I didn’t think so. By all means, give back whatever tax was paid on the fake gains – but please – the compensation / victimization culture is sickening. Why 9/11 and Madoff and not, say, Oklahoma City and Lehman shareholders? It’s insanity. You put your money in the market and you put it at risk. You trust someone without due diligence, you put your money at risk. [Clusterstock]

Larry Summers on Meet the Press:

But cautions that we’ve got a long way to go, that there are still substantial risks, that there are downside contingencies that we’ve got to prepare for, that there are issues in the global economy, that there are issues in commercial real estate, that’s right.

On my mind today:

  • Will the market come back to reality this week? Will the next steep drop begin tmw? It is certainly coming soon.
  • Is this crisis the end of the American dominance? Trite question now, of course, but feeling very real to me today. That would make the Clinton 90s the apotheosis of American Empire. And Bush (9/11) the catalysis that broke our upward trajectory.

  • Bush’s Legacy

    Monday, March 30, 2009

    Historians will produce reams about this abject failure of a man and his hastening the decline of the United States. Some thousand years from now scholars will look back in awe at the damage one presidency could inflict on a nation. Within the scope of the limitations of his office, he couldn’t have done more damage if he was trying.

    For this, I will take off my shoe and beat the walls of his presidential library at SMU, if ever I get there.

    In the meantime, I give you the quote that prompted this post:

    “The United States is desperately trying to assert leadership, as if it were 10 years ago, when the U.S. set the agenda,” said Kenneth S. Rogoff, an economist at Harvard and another former chief economist of the fund.

    It’s from an article in today’s New York Times about China and India challenging U.S. leadership of the IMF.


    U.S. Military Spending vs. the World

    Wednesday, March 18, 2009

    And oft told story, true…but no matter what, we’ve always got the military…

    Courtesy of The Economist.


    Japan’s Exports Halved

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009

    From Reuters:

    Exports plunged a record 45.7 percent in January from a year earlier, Ministry of Finance data showed on Wednesday, roughly matching a median market forecast.

    Exports to Asia sank 46.7 percent, the fourth straight month of decline, with shipments to China falling 45.1 percent.

    Many Japanese companies ship automobile and consumer electronics parts to assembly lines in Asia, from which final products are shipped to countries across the globe.

    A collapse in global demand since late last year, which caught most manufacturers off guard, has led to a sharp increase in inventories and forced many leading Japanese companies to slash production at an unprecedented pace.

    With Eastern Europe on the brink and Japan already in depression, America’s “sneeze” has turned into the world’s sepsis.


    Japan’s Depression

    Monday, February 2, 2009

    Factories cut production by 10%(!!!) in December after a horrible November.

    Yves Smith on Naked Capitalism quotes Frank Veneroso on Japan:

    I have been writing about an Asian black hole for almost two months now. I have been crying from the rooftops about an emerging depression in Japan. It has been as though a neutron bomb had gone off in the world. There was no one who seemed to notice, no one who seemed to listen.

    Every week it gets worse and worse and worse. Today it was Japan….

    THERE HAS NEVER BEEN DATA THIS BAD FOR ANY MAJOR ECONOMY – EVEN IN THE GREAT DEPRESSION. December industrial production came in down 9.6%, worse than the METI forecast. It is now down almost 21% year over year. METI forecasts a further 4.7% decline in February. The inventory to production ratio soared again. Maybe METI will be correct.

    If it is, Japan industrial production will have fallen 28% (non annualized) in four months. It will have fallen by a third in about a year. Nothing in the history of major nations compares. A 28% decline in four months would be more than half of the entire decline in U.S. industrial production over the 3 years and nine months of the U.S. Great Depression.

    It would be a greater decline in four months than in any 12 month period in the Great Depression in the U.S. We are literally looking at the unimaginable. (I am attaching the U.S. industrial production index from the Great Depression for comparison).

    IT’S A DEPRESSION IN JAPAN – ALREADY – PURE AND SIMPLE.

    Yikes!

    In other cheerful news, Clusterstock has a little post linking to stories about China’s army preparing for civil unrest.

    It is truly a world nearing the edge.

    In the darkest corners of my mind, I fear that only war will ultimately settle what is quickly and steadily becoming a global economic catastrophe.


    Hillary to be Secretary of State

    Friday, November 21, 2008

    It’s coming in fast now.

    Hillary will (or has) accepted Obama’s offer according to the New York Times. This should make for some good fun.

    Despite her shortcomings (which are few) and, of course, Bill, you know Hillary is going to do a good job.

    This is a good move for America. And in case you hadn’t noticed, Obama is a very, very smart man.