January 04, 2010
On the night of December 1, shortly after Barack Obama announced plans to send 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, retired Lt. Colonel John Nagl appeared on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.” Maddow was dismayed by Obama’s new plan, which she called “massive escalation,” but, when she introduced Nagl, a counterinsurgency expert who has long called for a greater U.S. commitment to Afghanistan--even if it means raising taxes and expanding the military--she was surprisingly friendly.
The End of Hunger?
January 02, 2010
Famine: A Short History By Cormac Ó Gráda (Princeton University Press, 327 pp., $27.95) The earliest recorded famines, according to Cormac Ó Gráda in his brief but masterful book, are mentioned on Egyptian stelae from the third millennium B.C.E. In that time--and to an extent, even today, above the Aswan dam in Sudan--farmers along the Nile were dependent on the river flooding to irrigate their fields. But one flood out of five, Ó Gráda tells us, was either too high or too low. The result was often starvation.
Geithner on the Populist Backlash
December 24, 2009
There's an interesting back-and-forth between Dan Gross and Tim Geithner in Newsweek's year-end interview issue: GROSS: There have been, and continue to be, calls for you to go. How do you deal with those? GEITHNER: I spent most of my professional life in this building. Watching the politics of the things we did in the past financial crises in Mexico and Asia had a powerful effect on me. The surveys were 9-to-1 against almost everything that helped contain the damage.
Why Should We Cry for Our Shrinking Manufacturing Sector?
December 22, 2009
Several commenters have responded to my recent story (and blog posts) about the decline of U.S. manufacturing by insisting it's no big deal if the manufacturing sector shrinks. The United States will gradually replace current manufacturing-sector work with higher-value-added manufacturing and service-sector work, the argument goes, just as we replaced agriculture with manufacturing during the last century.
Squaring Idealism and Realism
December 14, 2009
PARIS -- Europeans are coming to terms with the fact that President Obama is not a miracle worker, and with the reality that everything he does is not magic. Oh, yes, most Europeans are still happy Obama is president.
A Courthouse, Two Colleges, a Mosque, and a Bank: The Battlefield of Islam Yesterday. 121 Dead, More Than 400 Injured.
December 09, 2009
This was in Baghdad. I am sure that it does not please Allah. Yet it goes on without hesitation. Of course, it pleases his servants. Also yesterday, but in one of the busiest markets in Lahore, Pakistan, two bombs, 54 murdered, at least 150 maimed. And don't think these are just occasional skirmishes. News from another front, this time east Asia: An article by Duncan McCargo, alas, also yesterday, in the Beirut Daily Star: "Thailand's Muslim separatists wage a much ignored war." Keep your eye on the ball, which, of course, is Palestine.
Does Dubai Matter? Ask Ireland.
November 30, 2009
Presumably the rulers of Dubai and Abu Dhabi are currently locked in negotiations regarding the exact terms that will be attached to a “bailout” for Dubai World. We’ll never know the details but if, as seems likely, the final deal involves creditors taking some sort of hit (perhaps getting 75 cents in the dollar, at the end of the day), does that matter? Dubai probably has around $100bn in total liabilities, if we include off-balance sheet transactions, so total credit losses of $30-50bn need to be assigned. The direct effects so far seem small. HSBC leads the pack, in terms of exposure, but
Palin Meets with the Grahams!
November 23, 2009
In news that is sure to warm the hearts of every American, the Charlotte Observer has a report today about Sarah Palin's meeting with Billy Graham and his son, Franklin. "He's followed her career and likes her strong stand on faith," said son Franklin Graham, who was present for the 2 1/2-hour get-together.
Shake up the Foreign Policy Team?
November 23, 2009
Les Gelb thinks Obama's trip to Asia was a flop, and that the time would have been better spent on a Hawaii vacation. He also wonders whether, after a couple of foreign trips with little to show for them, Obama's foreign policy team is serving him well: First, the trip’s limited value per day of presidential effort suggests a disturbing amateurishness in managing America’s power. On top of the inexcusably clumsy review of Afghan policy and the fumbling of Mideast negotiations, the message for Mr.
November 20, 2009
CO2 emissions in East Asia are growing faster than GDP. Why have gold prices soared despite low demand? Krugman and Delong on whether Obama should worry about the carry trade. Our continuing housing problems. 40% of gov't debt will be refinanced in the next year.