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.


Dodd’s Downfall

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Jonathan Karl of ABC News reports:

Last month, the Senate unanimously approved an amendment to the stimulus bill aimed at restricting bonuses over $100,000 at any company receiving federal bailout funds. The measure, which was drafted by Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., applied these restrictions retroactively to bonuses received or promised in 2008 and onward.

But then…

The provision was stripped out during the closed-door conference negotiations involving House and Senate leaders and the White House. A measure by Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., to limit executive compensation replaced it. But Dodd’s measure explicitly exempted bonuses agreed to prior to the passage of the stimulus bill.

Here’s the exact language from Dodd’s measure in the stimulus: “The prohibition required under clause (i) shall not be construed to prohibit any bonus payment required to be paid pursuant to a written employment contract executed on or before February 11, 2009…”

How can he possibly explain this?

I have not been impressed with Dodd’s false populist outrage, nor with his disclosure of his role in the unfolding of this crisis. If New York (and London) is the epicenter of this financial earthquake, Connecticut with its hedge funds and insurance industry, represents a second locus of major instability. Dodd, like Schumer, along with the entire GOP, bears serious responsibility for the lack of oversight and regulation preceding these events.

I can’t wait to hear why this language was inserted into the bill.


Obama Gets It

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I was getting worried.

Very impressed with the speech tonight.

Looking forward to his budget and to seeing how he plans to pay for all of his initiatives and still reduce the deficit.

I am skeptical that we will do the right thing, but I believe Obama will do the best that can be done.

Having read this profile of Rahm Emanuel, I am also coming around on the stimulus bill. It was, it seems, the best measure possible under the circumstances, and I do believe it will provide a boost.

This was the speech he needed to make. Positive, inspiring, hopeful. For a night, at least, he took away the fear.


Borrow from Children!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A brilliant idea! The solution to all our financial problems!

I have to say, I am rapidly becoming disillusioned with Obama and the Dems. I think the stimulus is a huge waste of money and will ultimately prove to do more harm than good (not that the GOP tax cut solution was better; it wasn’t). If Obama isn’t going to do the right thing, no one ever will.

I am completely in favor of a cheaper, immediate, short-term burst of stimulus in the form of unemployment aid, state aid, and the like. But this bill is crap and we’re borrowing or printing money to pay for every cent of it. Eventually, we are going to have to cut costs, live within our means, stop borrowing to consume.

Right now, it looks like America is heading for default or hyper-inflation, and in either case, it’s going to look a lot worse than it does today.

It’s a good thing America is too big to fail.

Or is it?


The Auto Bailout is On

Friday, December 12, 2008

Now that that GOP has killed the auto bailout in Congress, what will happen?

The automakers will get their money.

Bush will order Paulson to use TARP (or an emergency measure will pass in the Senate.) It is a certainty.

The GOP is stupid, but they’re not suicidal. They’re going to realize that letting General Motors go bankrupt in this economy, just before Christmas, will damn them through 2012, at least. It would be, as Cheney warned, “Herbert Hoover” time for the Republicans.

Thinking about it, it could just be a bit of gamesmanship here. Bush will cover (pun intended) Congress with the TARP money, and the Republicans can still look like principled fiscal conservatives. Bush was never a true believer, they’ll say (despite the fact that they went along with everything).

At any rate, don’t bet against the bailout. It’s a done deal.


Why Obama Didn’t Visit Georgia

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

So now that Saxby Chambliss has won and kept the Dems from their chimerical 60 seat super majority, the question is asked, why didn’t Obama campaign for Jim Martin?

The answer?

He’s smart.

1) Putting aside the talk of bipartisanship, Obama must have recognized that Chambliss was going to win. This was a run-off, not the general election, and black turnout (and turnout generally) was going to be down. Martin needed every ounce of Obama’s election day strength among blacks. He didn’t get it.

2) Whites were motivated. After all, this is Georgia. Obama is black. And it was clear that Chambliss potentially stood between Obama and a 60 seat Senate. Plus, Sarah Palin campaigned for him. Nothing gets the Christian right/populist segment of the GOP fired up like that ignorant jackass.

3) Being associated with a loss, especially before he even takes office, doesn’t help him or the Dems. Right now, Obama can legitimately claim a broad mandate. With a loss in Georgia that he personally campaigned for, his aura would have been diminished somewhat.

Altogether this was the right move for Obama and the Dems. It was a good fight but an uphill battle, and Martin lost. The Dems will be wise to move on and forget whatever second-guesses they will be tempted to make.

Obama, truth be told, wouldn’t have made a difference.


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.