October 09, 2008
The Death Of A Cartoonist
Cathy Young is contributing editor of Reason magazine and author of Growing Up in Moscow: Memories of a Soviet Girlhood. The death of Soviet political cartoonist Boris Yefimov on October 1, largely unnoticed in the West, was not quite the end of an era--Yefimov's era ended long ago--but the end of a life that, Zelig-like, was involved in every transition of the last century of Russian history. More than a century, in fact: Yefimov (born Boris Yefimovich Friedland, in Kiev in 1899) was 109 years old when he died. As a boy, he watched Russia's last Czar Nicholas II go by in a coach.
Let's start with a basic assumption: The only thing worse in a market than disappointment is confusion. Investors can live with, and if they're smart profit from, bad news, as long as they understand it. But if things are confusing--say, a great, healthy company turns in horrible quarterly earnings, with no clear reason why--then investors get confused, and they panic. Over the last day, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson offered up a helping of disappointment, topped by a dollop of confusion. First, the disappointment.
October 08, 2008
WASHINGTON--As was the case with the 1929 crash that ushered in the Great Depression, the current financial meltdown is giving rise to myths that will influence public policy for decades to come. It is imperative that those myths be debunked before the next U.S. administration starts to make important decisions, followed by many other countries. By far the most dangerous myth is that deregulation is the root cause of the problem. Yes, Wall Street firms were greedy, irresponsible and, in many cases, downright stupid.
About a week after John McCain's campaign unveiled a vice-presidential nominee who incessantly boasted about her decision to turn down federal funding for a notoriously pointless bridge ("I told Congress 'thanks, but no thanks' on that Bridge to Nowhere"), the press corps began to notice that Sarah Palin had, in fact, vigorously championed the project until it was no longer tenable. Political fibs, even brazen ones such as this, are hardly unprecedented. What happened next, though, was somewhat unusual.
The Not-So-Great Debater
Tuesday night's debate, a town-hall discussion dominated by economic questions, made it clear that John McCain's effort to change the campaign's focus to the culture wars of the 1960s is not going to work.
In an effort to start making sense of what is an indisputably confusing situation, we asked some of the most thoughtful people we know the question: How will America change as a result of the economic downturn? Here's Michael Lind, Whitehead Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation and director of its American Infrastructure Initiative. The effects of the greatest financial crisis since the Depression are only now beginning to be felt. By the time the crisis has run its course, a decade or more from now, the U.S.
The E=mc^2 Of Water And Energy
This month's Scientific American has a great article explaining how water and energy are to resource economics what energy and mass are to nuclear physics—interchangeable currencies. Energy can be used to make water through desalination, the water source of last resort for dry coastal regions like Southern California.
Just about everybody in the other camp now concedes that Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States. But most of us don't have to concede anything: we'd felt it in our bones from the beginning. Many political people are so certain, in fact, that they are already appointing themselves and each other to coveted posts in the Obama administration. There's no one in my circle, however, who wants to be secretary of agriculture.
October 07, 2008
Virtue or Vice
The luxury of Canadian elections is that they don’t matter too much. We are embroiled in only one unpopular foreign war, our financial institutions are not yet shattering under the weight of mass greed, our health care system isn’t on the brink of collapse, and none of our hockey moms will be given the launch codes for a nuclear armory.
A Pol is Born
On a recent reporting trip to Alaska, TNR senior editor Noam Scheiber met with Laura Chase, the former Palin city council colleague who managed her 1996 campaign for mayor. Among the campaign paraphernalia Chase gave TNR was this letter, written by Palin, in which she lays out the rationale for her campaign: Dear Friends, I’m running for mayor to bring positive change to Wasilla. I’m tired of “business as usual” in this town, and of the “Good ol’ Boys” network that runs the show here. I know we can make government leaner and more efficient! I have a great love for Wasilla. My roots are here.