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.


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 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.


Eric Holder: Waterboarding is Torture

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Leahy’s first question about waterboarding.

Holder was very clear. Yes, waterboarding is torture.

It’s going to be interesting to hear his take on prosecutions against the Bush administration.

CNN and CSpan have it.


Gaza: The View From Here

Friday, January 9, 2009

More than a couple of people have asked me why I haven’t written about Gaza.

My answer?

Why? What is the point? Even my exasperation and boredom with the topic of Israel/Palestine is cliche. Truly, what is there to say that hasn’t already been said?

Questions about right and wrong, absolutism vs. relativism, are wholly dependent upon which side of the war you fall on, upon your emotional connection to the issue. Any legitimately reasonable approach to the conflict recognizes that the problems of Israel are intractable.

To me, this leads to one conclusion. Scrap Israel/Palestine as presently constituted and start over again. It will take two contiguous sovereign states (north/south?) with equal rights and the wholesale movement of people, communities, industry, etc. Get all the Palestinians in one country and all the Jews in the other.

Does this sound impossible?

Maybe. In which case, there is no solution and these people will be killing each other forever. That’s it. It’s that simple. There is no other solution.

And if that’s the case, my feeling is…go for it, just keep it out of America. I do NOT want U.S. citizens involved in this endless, unsolvable war. Please go ahead and have at it, but I will never send my children to die for this nonsense.

For that matter, why must I read about it every day? People complain that universities that target Israel for divestiture are singling out that state, but they do so because we read about Israel every day on the cover of the New York Times. We don’t read about the Tamil Tigers and Sri Lanka every day. We read about Israel.

I won’t get into why that is the case, but simply note that it might be a good idea for Americans to ignore this conflict.

Naive? If we ignore it, it will certainly come back to haunt us?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Nothing compels our attention or participation but politics. And politics can change. It just takes a grassroots movement, because it won’t happen through the establishment. But imagine if America simply didn’t take sides. Abstained in the U.N. Treated Israelis and Palestinians equally.

All that said, I think the Palestinians are morons. If they were smart they would adopt a non-violent approach to their problem. Clearly, they are outgunned. Immediately give up all arms and disavow violence in any form. No terrorism, no army, nothing. Then they would truly be able to marshal global political power in a way that could rival the Jews. If they are then at the table, meeting as equals, possibilities open up.

Right now, I am convinced that Israel has the right to defend itself from rocket attacks, disproportionate response or not. Take away the possibility of war – and I believe the Israelis would be happy to never kill another Palestinian – and you’re getting some where. Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims generally, just have to accept that Israel is a fact of life. It’s a done deal. Get over it.

But this is just a pipe dream. It’s fantasy. These people will be killing each other forever.

And frankly, at this point, I don’t really care.


Behind the Mumbai Attacks

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that a man named Yusuf Muzammil of the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba was the mastermind behind the attacks in Mumbai last week. From the story:

India has accused a senior leader of the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba of orchestrating last week’s terror attacks that killed at least 172 people here, and demanded the Pakistani government turn him over and take action against the group.

Just two days before hitting the city, the group of 10 terrorists who ravaged India’s financial capital communicated with Yusuf Muzammil and four other Lashkar leaders via a satellite phone that they left behind on a fishing trawler they hijacked to get to Mumbai, a senior Mumbai police official told The Wall Street Journal. The entire group also underwent rigorous training in a Lashkar-e-Taiba camp in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, the official said.

Needless to say, Pakistan should act swiftly to arrest this asshole and crush this group. The problem is, of course, in the murk of the Pakistani military and intelligence apparatus, this group probably has supporters, as they undoubtedly have some popular support.

The article notes that moving against Laskar-e-Taiba could have negative politic consequences for the fragile Zardari government:

Any move by the shaky civilian government of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari against Lashkar-e-Taiba could create a huge backlash, however, particularly from Islamic groups, said a senior official in Pakistan.

For reasons that I haven’t given a lot of thought to, perhaps purposefully, this kind of geopolitical mess fascinates me; particularly the unending tensions between India and Pakistan. Maybe because the nuclear weapons they both possess makes the stakes seem very high.

In any case, it seems clear what should be done.

But here’s a thought experiment. If you’re Asif Ali Zardari, what would you do?