This blog aims to accomplish two things. Given how quickly events are reported, misreported, and dropped by the MSM, we want to go back and see if we can't find some answers to questions that were and were not asked. Second, because the lazy MSM's chief tool for what passes as journalism is to quote pundits without having done any homework,the right questions don't get asked. We want to provide our readers the contact information for these pundits so we can ask them directly.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Climate Change Debate: China and India say, "We wanna smoke too!"

Today's NY Times reports on the UN's daylong climate change summit and though more sophisticated than my crude title implies, China, India and other developing nations are essentially arguing that despite knowledge gained since the West "smoked"(grew by burning fossil fuels) they want the right to "smoke" too because the West did.

I did a little research and, though still in their nascent stages, both China's and India's governments have embarked on anti-smoking(cigarettes) campaigns. I assume they are doing this because they accept the science that smoking is bad for human health.

Yet, even though they seem to equally accept the science on climate change they want the right to "smoke" for growth.

This by no means is meant to absolve the West from their responsibility to aggressively pursue real cuts in CO2 emission regardless of what China and India's stance is.. I'm merely pointing out the dichotomy.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

'The Biggest Political Blunder in Modern History'

Today's NY Times op-ed page features a warning against the advent of an all out US-China trade war. How did we get to this point where China holds so many cards? The same way that Max Baucus came up with his outrageous health 'reform' bill, by putting the interests of huge corporate contributors over the well being of the people. Some history:

The West, as defined by G-7 or the OECD, back in 1989 struck a Faustian deal that they would 'engage' China like they never would have the Soviet Union.
COCOM, which had very successfully kept western technologies out of Soviet hands, denying them a source of economic growth, was allowed to die in the early '90s.
G-7, at that time, controlled over 75% of the world's economy and could have used that primacy to engender real change in the remaining non-democratic countries. That was supposed to have been the real 'peace dividend'.
Instead, western leaders kowtowed to their respective corporate constituents and set of a race to the bottom in pursuit of China's cheap, compliant labor force.
The rationale given to the gullible public was the 'engagement' theory in which we would 'change China from within' because 'economic reforms would lead to political reforms.'
Now, in 2009, China blocks almost all UN Security Council initiatives aimed at stemming corruption, oppression of minorities and women, sanctions on despotic regimes, etc. The Central Commitee is stronger(and richer) than ever.
China is a champion of 'no strings' investment in myriad bad regimes in Africa and we can't complain because the West did the very same thing with China!
The decision of our leaders to trade with China in hopes of changing it instead of the other way around will eventually be recognized as their biggest political blunder in modern history. Even bigger than abandonning Afghanistan after we expelled the Soviets. Talk about 'blowback'!

Friday, September 18, 2009

NY Times Laments US Style Democracy?

On September 9th Tom "we've turned the corner in Iraq" Friedman openly lamented our inability, unlike China, to "...impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century.... from the top down."
It's true his lament comes in the broader context of exposing the GOP in 2009 as "...standing, arms folded and saying “no.” " and it is, after all an op-ed.
Yet today, in the News Section(page a4) we get this from China correspondent Keith Bradsher.
He breathlessly reports "The image of laid-off workers here returning to jobs stands in sharp contrast to the United States, where even as the economy shows signs of improvement, the unemployment rate continues to march toward double digits."
Though it's clear in reading the article that China's central govt is purposely replacing one bubble (global demand) with another (domestic demand) through fiat, Bradsher wants to emphasize how well it's working now while giving short shrift to the inevitability of the coming bubble burst; "The state-controlled banking system here...unleashed $1.2 trillion in extra lending to Chinese consumers and businesses in the first seven months of this year. That money is financing everything from a boom in car sales, up 82 percent in August from a year earlier, to frenzied factory construction." Never mind that "As much as a third of the extra bank lending in China appears to have gone into real estate and stock market speculation.", stay focussed on "...the bulk has gone into investments by companies and local governments, with tangible results."
He breezes through eye-poppers like "Government agencies have been told not to buy imported goods with money from economic stimulus programs unless no domestic alternative is available." and "Beijing also has given huge tax breaks and other assistance to exporters. They include placing broad restrictions on imports and intervening heavily in currency markets to hold down the value of the renminbi, to keep Chinese exports competitive even in a weakened global economy." That looks like fodder for a whole article to me!
Only in the final paragraphs does he touch on the the dangers with "Cheap cash has a way of inflating bubbles — just ask Wall Street — that could damage China’s economy and its banks when they pop." But ends with the oddly editorial-sounding "But such concerns are so 2008."

For more than 20 years we have pursued an illusory 'engagement' policy vis a vis China in hopes of 'changing China from the inside.' Looks like WE'RE becoming more like China instead.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Insurers and the Financial Crisis - The Link

One major reason healthcare insurers and malpractice insurers are so adamant about 'tort reform' and 'junk lawsuits' and 'defensive medicine'(see previous post) is that focussing on these as the blame for their poor earnings performance of late gives them cover for their dismal investment performance.

Most insurers invest premium income either internally or on a contract basis with a money manager, ostensibly to 'maximize returns to shareholders.' The combination of financial dereg under Clinton/Bush II and persistently low yields on Treasury Bonds led insurers to the siren song of 'AAA' mortgage-backed securities (CDOs) and derivatives thereon (CDSs).

I imagine many of these losses have yet to be 'realized' in the open market or 'written down' on financial statements but sure as hell are keeping CEOs awake at night.

This is a huge motivator to keep the emphasis on small potato issues like 'junk lawsuits.'

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Friday, September 04, 2009

WashPost claims Corker(R-TN) wants to 'meet halfway'

In a poorly written article that makes it sound as if both sides have been acting crazy and that Democratic reform proposals are just crazy, Shalaigh Murray makes the GOPs behavior look reasoned and logical. The public option is a 'non-starter' but govt subsidies to private insurers to cover the poor is a good idea. Oh yeah, an open 'policy exchange' (as if there would be such a difference between companies that would never, ever collude) is also floated.
So, even some GOPers believe "the status quo is not a popular alternative" yet it's the public option that's gotta go.
I remember the mocking tone these same people had about anyone who doubted the logic of invading Iraq; "What would you do, give him(Saddam) a stern warning?"
Well, unlike Saddam, private insurers ARE killing Americans and Republicans just want to issue them a 'stern warning.' I say they're 'soft on terror', the terror of seeing your family fall apart because of untreated illness and/or unpaid bills.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Is the White House setting us up for more vapid 'compromise'?

Today's NY Times, acting as trial balloon conduit, gently probes readers for a compromised on the already compromised upcoming healthcare legislation. Here's the money (non)quote:

“It’s so important to get a deal,” a White House official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity in order to be candid about strategy. “He will do almost anything it takes to get one.”

How is that being 'candid'?

We are at a real crossroads here. 2/3 of Americans want some sort of single payer system so 'public option' is already a compromise!

Even so, it looks like corporate interest is set to overcome even that compromise. The carrot(campaign cotributions) and the sticks(contributions for your next opponent and smear ads in your district) seem to far outweigh quaint ideas like 'will of the people' or 'the right thing to do'.

On every major policy there will be a lobbyist-enacted campaign vs. the will of the people. If we lose on this one we'll lose on the rest.

The system is broken. We face a future of slavery.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

My take on David Brooks' Column Today

So let me get this straight. President Obama has abandoned the center by not shaping his policies to appease an opposition party that has abandoned the center? As GOP strategy crystallizes around 'whatever it takes, prevent any Obama success', it's Obama's fault? As it becomes clear that a lack of government, more than anything else, brought us to the current crises (fiscal, economic, moral) we should fault our president's attempts to restore government's rightful place as regulator and overseer of institutions that have the size and power to ruin us? Who's out of touch here?