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.


Apocalypse Accelerated?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Is Europe on the brink? Read this piece from the Telegraph (UK):

If mishandled by the world policy establishment, this debacle is big enough to shatter the fragile banking systems of Western Europe and set off round two of our financial Götterdämmerung.

Austria’s finance minister Josef Pröll made frantic efforts last week to put together a €150bn rescue for the ex-Soviet bloc. Well he might. His banks have lent €230bn to the region, equal to 70pc of Austria’s GDP.

“A failure rate of 10pc would lead to the collapse of the Austrian financial sector,” reported Der Standard in Vienna. Unfortunately, that is about to happen.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) says bad debts will top 10pc and may reach 20pc. The Vienna press said Bank Austria and its Italian owner Unicredit face a “monetary Stalingrad” in the East.

Um, I wrote in the previous post that I was going to start buying stocks. This article has definitely given me pause. Go ahead and read it…I dare you.


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.


Obama’s National Security Team

Monday, December 1, 2008

At the press conference, one journalist asked him if India had the right to take action against terrorists on Pakistani territory (as Obama has suggested he would do). Obama dodged the question, but it does point out the geopolitical complications of such a policy.

Right.

Anyway, I am please with Obama’s team. I know Hillary will work very hard and I’ll bet (any takers?) she will be more loyal and less complicated than most people expect. I understand that GEN. Jones is a good choice, and I respect Gates (despite whatever murk is in his past) as a manager and as a forward thinker. As for the rest, we’ll see. I do expect big things from Eric Holder. There are many important legal issues surrounding Bush and the “War on Terror” that needed to be sorted out and/or rectified. I am cautiously optimistic that Obama/Holder will act accordingly.


Iraqi Cabinet Approves U.S. Withdrawal Plan

Sunday, November 16, 2008

It goes to their parliament now, but the agreement was approved almost unanimously by the cabinet and that, apparently, bodes well for parliamentary approval. If passed, all American troops will be out by the end of 2011. From the New York Times:

The draft approved Sunday requires coalition forces to withdraw from Iraqi cities and towns by the summer of 2009 and from the country by the end of 2011. An earlier version had language giving some flexibility to that deadline, with both sides discussing timetables and timelines for withdrawal, but the Iraqis managed to have the deadline set in stone, a significant negotiating victory.

So is this surrender? Cause it smells like victory to me. I hope the neocons will accept it as such and stop trying to dishonor the work of our Armed Services by claiming otherwise. It’s disgraceful to belittle the progress they’ve made – enough that our presence is no longer thought necessary – by insisting that we haven’t won.* We should plan a big victory parade for our troops in 2011.

As for the future of Iraq, well, call me cynical, but I think there’s a lot more blood to be shed. I can’t pretend to know how it will turn out, especially Iran-wise, with all of their trouble, and the world in economic turmoil, but to me, it seems the likeliest conclusion that after a civil war a Shia strongman will rise and take Saddam-like control of the country (excluding the Kurds). In that event, we will actually be worse off than we were before the war.

I just hope that Bush and company will face punishment for their crimes. For the tens of thousands of lives lost and for the tens of thousands of wounded and for the millions who have lost their homes. As we unwind all of the foul corruption and dishonor of the Bush administration, we must make sure that those who are most responsible pay the heaviest price.

*Btw, I definitely want Joe Lieberman booted from his committee chair. Don’t care if he caucuses with the Dems or not, I want his downfall. The day he loses his Senate seat, I will drink a toast to his failure.