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.


Cash for Clunkers: WTF?

Friday, June 19, 2009

I have completely soured on the American political system. Really, I have given up.

Democrats are in charge of Congress and the Executive and they still pass shit legislation like the weak credit card reform bill, Obama’s financial regulatory half-measures (still to be watered down even further), and now this cash for clunkers deal.

What the fuck? Just what the fuck?

Why should someone driving a piece of shit get my money to help them buy a new car? And, you know what? We’re borrowing it. So it’s my child’s money. $104 billion Treasury auction next week. And the bottom line here is that all of the important reforms are not happening. It’s all window dressing. And kicking the can down the road. Again. Just like the GOP. We have a completely dysfunctional, utterly broken political system and it won’t change until (seriously) a revolution happens.

WE ARE FUCKED.


Hooray! Unemployment Hits Only 8.9%

Friday, May 8, 2009

Hooray! The official number is only 539,000 jobs lost! …But it is, like seemingly everything coming out of the Obama administration these days, seriously fudged.

BLS adds in a season adjustment of tens of thousands for net birth/death rate, and there were another 60K government census (temporary) jobs added to the rolls. Altogether, the private sector lost over 650K jobs. And it will go up once it is revised next month.

But don’t worry, nothing to see here. The stress tests boosted the banks, borrowing and printing money is not insanely dangerous, and massive unemployment won’t depress a consumer based economy. There are no state and local governments in desperate financial trouble, no pension funds that are seriously underfunded, home prices and foreclosures are leveling off, and America didn’t just have to raise the coupon (mid-auction) on a 30-year bond offering in order to get people to buy them.

Nope, nothing to see here. Green shoots everywhere.

“We cannot go back to an economy that is built on a pile of sand — on inflated home prices and maxed-out credit cards, on overleveraged banks and outdated regulations that allowed the recklessness of a few to threaten the prosperity of us all.”

This was Barack Obama on April 29 in a press conference marking his first 100 days in office.

What is so scary about this is that we really can’t trust anyone, especially the government. The Obama administration understands propaganda and media manipulation (at least as well, if not better, than the Bushies). Do they understand in a deeply interconnected world, with an increasingly irrelevant mainstream media, that lies are uncovered quickly and undermine trust and confidence?

Do they ultimately understand that the crisis is an issue of confidence?

Right now, they’re just buying time and praying. We’d all be well advised to do the same.


Big Surprise: Citi and BoA Fail Stress Test

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

From the Wall Street Journal.

Ken Lewis on life support. Pandit, too (though it really wasn’t his fault).

The real problem here is one, to repeat an oft used explanation, of confidence. No one believes the banks or the government. Any reasonably informed person sees what Geithner and Bernanke are doing and breaks out in a cold sweat. Borrowing and printing money to reinflate a bubble (our economy) is either genius or suicide. To me, it is most assuredly the latter.

We are in for years of topsy-turvy hard times with the outcome far from assured. Forget ripping the band-aid off quickly, they’re wrapping it up in bandages made of dollars. It’s going to hurt a lot more when it finally comes off.


The Israel Lobby?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rahm Emanuel is Jewish??? [Jerusalem Post]

Katz went on to compare Emanuel to the biblical Esther, who ended up at using her influence with Persian King Ahashverosh to intervene on behalf of the Jews of the Persian Empire.

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” Katz wrote, quoting from the Book of Esther (4:14).

Plus, Jane Harman in trouble for a little quid pro quo with AIPAC? [Congressional Quarterly]


Unemployment Hits 8.5%

Friday, April 3, 2009

With real unemployment at 15.6%! From the WSJ:

But the Labor Department’s most comprehensive gauge of unemployment surpassed even its early 1980s levels. The government’s broader measure, known as the “U-6″ for its data classification, hit 15.6% in March — a big leap from 14.8% in February.

The comprehensive measure of labor underutilization accounts for people who have stopped looking for work or who can’t find full-time jobs. The March figure is the highest since the Labor Department started this particular data series in 1994. It’s also above a discontinued and even broader measure that hit 15% in late 1982, when the official unemployment rate was 10.8%. (That data series goes back to the 1970s.)

Almost 1 in 5 people. If 20% of the labor force is not working in an economy built on consumption (and with credit contracting), what do you think is going to happen to that economy?

Geithner and Bernanke are bailing hard (and dangerously, and sometimes (see previous post) disgracefully), but the end is not here just yet. And when they end comes, we’re still going to have big, big problems.


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.