Cherry on top

April 29, 2009

100 days.  Supermajority.  A job well done.

A nation of savers?

April 28, 2009

Something Charlie Rose said while interviewing David Brooks got me thinking:

“Time” magazine said that Obama is betting his
presidency on our ability to change — our ability to change our behavior.
That he has some confidence in our ability to change. The big idea is, can
we change from consumption to savings?

It sounds plausible, and achievable, considering we’ve already adjusted our habits drastically during the downturn.

So why would this be a good thing?  Because it would…

  1. Support demand for Treasuries which lowers offered interest rates.
  2. Reduce the crowding-out effect of the expanded national debt on domestic private investment.
  3. Lessen the fiscal impact of prolonged deficits, as larger portions of interest are paid to domestic debt holders and reinvested in the U.S. economy.
  4. Dampen demand for Chinese products, which would cool their growth and reduce our trade imbalance, and delay the coming about of their middle-class as the principal economic force in the world.


April 28, 2009

Could anyone have imagined 50% of us would think things are getting better just four short months after staring the next Great Depression on the face?

Sure much of it may be based on questionable ‘green shoots’, phantom bank profits and Obama’s cool, but it is great news nonetheless as confidence is an absolute requirement for recovery and confidence is coming back.  Fast.

What to do about torture?  I’m torn.

Yes, we must get to the bottom of it and penalize the culprits to make sure it doesn’t happen again.  We have a moral obligation, and as a practical matter it is needed to regain our standing in the world, and the moral high ground if we are ever to criticize China on Darfur, etc.

But at what cost?

David Brooks thinks Obama is trying to build a 60% majority, and all the recriminating would kill that by turning off many independents.

Lincoln Mitchell is afraid that “Opponents of the president will see these prosecutions as license to prosecute members of President Obama’s administration when they leave office”.

They may be right, but I’m more afraid about losing our focus and giving up healthcare, energy and education reform, just for starters.  Did we forget how the stimulus package was starting to look troubled before Obama’s P.R. blitz?  Part of his success has been in driving the message and cutting through the media chatter to speak directly to people in plain terms.  But what if everyone stops listening?

Case in point:  How many people know a climate bill was being deliberated over the last week?  There was nary a word about it amid the waterboarding and impeach Bybee stories.  Today Waxman delayed further action until next week.

If we do go ahead, it should definitely be a bipartisan independent commission, and I like Andrew’s terms: “Give it two years to report, to allow emotions and tempers to cool. Then and only then make a decision on prosecution, so that there is no scintilla of haste or heat.”

Dishonoring Reagan

April 27, 2009

The most damning argument yet against Bush torture apologists:

The UN Convention on Torture, which Ronald Reagan signed and championed, is very clear and its definition of what torture is obviously broad and inclusive. There’s actually a good discussion of it at Hot Air, which reproduces the legal definition thus:

Article 1.
1. For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
2. This article is without prejudice to any international instrument or national legislation which does or may contain provisions of wider application.

Article 2.
1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.
2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

Busy busy

April 27, 2009

A HuffPo blogger rounds up 100 accomplishments in the first 100 days, just on foreign policy alone.  Just a little perspective.

Brooks on Obama

April 27, 2009

David Brooks’ appearance on Charlie Rose is the best assessment yet of Obama the man, his presidency, and where he’s taking us.

As much as I consider myself a Progressive, I find myself agreeing with Brooks and Andrew Sullivan often.  I don’t know what that means exactly, except that perhaps the old right-left molds don’t apply as they used to.

After having joined the chorus lambasting GM for making cars ‘no one wants to buy’, Friedman this week quotes Bob Lutz to make his point that we can’t have green products without a price on carbon.  Oh, the irony:

Bob Lutz, a vice chairman at General Motors, offers a useful example of why price matters. When Congress demands that Detroit make smaller, lighter, better mileage vehicles, but then refuses to put a higher price on carbon — like with a gasoline tax — so more consumers will want to buy these smaller cars, said Lutz, it is the equivalent of ordering all American shirtmakers to make only size smalls while never asking the American people to go on a diet. You’re not going to sell a lot of size smalls.

It is the ultimate injustice that we deride our auto industry for not making fuel-eficient cars, when it is our government’s failure to have a consistent, long-term energy policy that creates havoc.

Detroit is stuck redesigning and retooling for the fickle U.S. consumer, while Toyota and BMW can count on consistently high gas prices at home, which creates consistent demand for their hybrids, diesels and turbos, whether oil is at $40 or $140 a gallon.

And keep in mind that it takes 3-4 years and hundreds of millions to bring a new model to market.

Today’s Obama message to Latin American leaders was much like the one in the European town-hall:  U.S. is changing, but you have to change too, and stop blaming us for everything.

As has already been noted, and I think my presence here indicates, the United States has changed over time.  (Applause.)  It has not always been easy, but it has changed.  And so I think it’s important to remind my fellow leaders that it’s not just the United States that has to change.  All of us have responsibilities to look towards the future.  (Applause.) I think it’s important to recognize, given historic suspicions, that the United States’ policy should not be interference in other countries, but that also means that we can’t blame the United States for every problem that arises in the hemisphere.  That’s part of the bargain.  (Applause.)  That’s part of the change that has to take place.  That’s the old way, and we need a new way.

via Political Base

Lunch with the fishes

April 17, 2009

16 feet under the sea in the Maldives.

via La Times