Friday, March 27, 2009

 

Open Thread

Special New Camelot/New Vietnam thread!!!

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Change We Can Bereave In

It looks like we can wake Green Day up: "September" has ended.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced Thursday that the 1,776-foot edifice that was to replace the World Trade Center will no longer be called the "Freedom Tower." Instead, it will have the less ornate appellation, "1 World Trade Center."

Nice.

The timing couldn't have been better. It follows on the heels of the Pentagon's ending the War on Terror. You didn't hear? You must have missed the memo. No, seriously. In a memo, following a request from the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Defense declared that foreign military and strategic ventures associated with various Muslim-world nations will no longer be called the "War on Terror." It is now Overseas Contingency Operation."

Cool.

This, in turn follows Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano's statement to a "Der Spiegel" journalist earlier this month that she prefers to call terrorism, "man-caused disasters."

Wonderful.

And, lets not forget that the Obama administration no longer refers to opponents in the Conflict-Formerly-Known-As-The-War-On-Terror as "enemy combatants." Haven't quite figured out a proper replacement on that one.

Neat.

Now, this is real change -- a seismic cultural shift that not too many people might have expected.  

The cumulative effect is clear:The symbolic, rhetorical and strategic signifiers of America's post 9/11 world are being airbrushed away. 

"Freedom Tower?" Gone.

"War on Terror?" Gone.

"Enemy combatants?" Gone

"Terrorism?" Gone.

Three-thousand Americans? Gone?

Oh, right.

Well, at least they got the memo early.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

 

Still Hatin' on US

No stop signs. Speed limits. We're on a highway to hell.  Yep, that would be us -- the high-spending United States of America under Barack Obama. 

And that's what our friends are saying about us.  On Wednesday, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, currently serving a six-month term as the president of the European Union, lit into U.S. deficit spending -- and Washington's urging Europe to follow a similar path -- in the middle of a Brussels speech Wednesday: 

"All of these steps, these combinations and permanency is the road to hell," Topolanek said. "We need to read the history books and the lessons of history and the biggest success of the (EU) is the refusal to go this way."

"Americans will need liquidity to finance all their measures and they will balance this with the sale of their bonds but this will undermine the liquidity of the global financial market," Topolanek said. 

 Several EU member states hastily backed away from Topolanek (indeed, he has troubles of his own back home where his government lost a "no confidence" vote earlier this week). But it's fair to say that there isn't quite consensus on thow to deal with what has become the first worldwide recession since the 1940s:  

Europe's resistance to the U.S. call for new stimulus measures is starting to weaken despite Germany's fierce opposition to any new spending program this year.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Tuesday he is prepared to support the economy with a new spending package. EU officials say they can't rule anything out — even an EU-wide stimulus that could help nations like Ireland and Spain, which can't afford any extra stimulus.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has also supported U.S. calls to ramp up fiscal stimulus — government spending and tax cuts — although the Bank of England has warned that Britain's swelling public deficit may make it unable to afford new spending.

Still, Topolanek's comments will resonate with domestic critics of the Obama economic plans.  After all, Republicans are already using words like "bankruptcy" to describe the implications of Obama's budget

This EU flare-up follows harsh criticism from China over the US' rising red ink.  And the tiff with Mexico over trucks and trade.  And the alleged multiple dissing of UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown during his visit earlier this month.   

Hmmm...looks like the vaunted foreign policy "reset button" -- when the rest of the world magically falls back in love with the United States now that the big, bad Bush administration has been put out to pasture -- needs a bit more work. 

Maybe the STAPLES "Easy button" is an option? 

Next week's G-20 economic summit should be loads of fun!

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

 

Banks -- Can't Live With 'Em...

Wednesday's Washington Post discusses Senate legislation aimed at loosening credit card debt rules for those in bankruptcy. Not surprisingly, banks oppose the legislation :

But in a letter to the subcommittee, the American Bankers Association opposed the measure. If the bill passes, "the market response would simply be to restrict credit, raise interest rates and fees or both," wrote Kenneth J. Clayton, senior vice president and general counsel of the organization's Card Policy Council. "This would significantly hurt tens of millions of Americans at the very time they can least afford it."

David C. John, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, agreed.

Good lenders "will raise credit standards so fewer and fewer people will qualify for those credit products," he told the panel, adding that such people will be forced to do business with disreputable lenders that charge even higher interest rates.

Now, philosophically, I tend to agree with the point that the banks (and Mr. John from Heritage) make. However, the basic foundation of the banks's argument is the same as the argument the banks made back in September when they were demanding help from the federal government. It's the "give-me-the-money-or-I-shoot-the-dog" method of persuasion.

To wit: In September, it's "Give us billions or we won't lend any money to anyone; small business won't make payroll; consumer credit will dry up -- and the entire economy will shrivel. Better help us out -- or else!!!"

The current argument, "Don't give these whiny consumers a break or we won't lend any money to these deadbeats -- or anyone with possibly tight creditl; they'll be forced to go to less-reputable places, leading to bankruptcy -- the entire economy will shrivel. Better help us out -- or else!!!"

Hope the banks understand why everyone hates 'em.

What's in your wallet?

Between what the feds are taking to pay to the banks -- and what I'm paying to the banks, personally -- not a damn thing.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

 

Movin' On Up(Town)

Occasional THOTS contributor David Bernstein has launched his own blog, The Uptown Digital Salon. It will focus on various aspects of media and publishing -- but on the smaller, self-publishing, alternative, indie side of things. David's worked for a number of big publishers, has managed to emerge with his integrity intact and has lots of insights with which to share with budding authors and publishers.

He'll have one cool post coming up this week about the most important person that a self-publisher needs to hire.

Oh, for reasons that escape me, he also feels the need to blog about the "lost" season of Project Runway. Aside from that, this looks to be a cool blog (and not just because David is letting me return the favor and do some occasional cross-posting over there).

Check it out.

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Party Flip-Flop

Are the rumors of Michael Steele's imminent demise somewhat exaggerated?

Perhaps.  Despite his several mis-steps during his first month as RNC chairman, his early fundraising, it turns out, isn't that bad.  Indeed, it's actually pretty much in line with what a party out of power brings in during the first couple months of a new term.  Indeed, the RNC's cumulative finances are the best of all political committees.

Conversely, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine, well, he has some serious 'splaining to do. How does the chairman of the party controlling the White House raise an anemic $3.3 million in the first full month that his party controls the White House?  Admittedly, he is only currently a part-time chairman, as he finishes up his final year as governor of Virginia (an arrangement that is already causing Democrats some heartburn). 

But, it's almost impossible to raise that small an amount given the incredible advantages the Democrats have:  

  • Holding the White House for the first time in eight years;
  • Having won the presidency with more than 50 percent of the vote for the first time in 32 years.
  • The other party forcefully repudiated in consecutive elections.  

But this fundraising non-haul is even more perplexing when one fully understands the dynamics of party fundraising.  

Traditionally, the party structure is taken over by many veterans of the presidential campaign. This is is especially true of the fundraisers.  Considering the record amounts of money that the Obama campaign brought in, why wouldn't the party have similar success drawing from the Obama donor list?

That question forces other, more troubling ones, to be asked:  For example, is the Obama political team sharing its donor list with the DNC?  If it is, why are the results so poor? If it's not, why not?  

Of  these questions, a long-time GOP observer of fundraising practices idly speculates: 
One also has to ask "What the hell did the DNC do during the biggest, boldest, most expensive Inauguration of all time!!?????   Did Obama's people take all the Inaugural money for themselves????  For just the Inaugural Committee???   Did the DNC not have a semi-[inaugural-related] Gala????  How could that be??  [Based on Republican post-inaugural experience,] follow-up calls and chasing checks goes on for weeks after events. There should have been some spillover from the Inaugural deposited  into February [accounts].  Another thought is that now that Hillary Clinton is at State Dept. where are the Clinton Rolodex of donors going??  Clearly, they are not being contacted by the DNC yet.  A third thought:  The DNC has safeguards on taking illegal online donations that the Obama campaign did not.  It will be interesting to see if that changes after this disgraceful first month of fundraising.
 Of those notions, the last is the most intriguing. Beyond possible problems with Tim Kaine, would future months with measly results create renewed media speculation on the clarity (i.e. legality) of the Obama campaign's donation track record. 

Meanwhile, after a few rocky weeks, Michael Steele suddenly woke up leading an almost-charmed life.  

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