Friday, January 28, 2005

So, Dubya's crew is trying to suppress a PBS show which shows kids a committed, stable lesbian family. And they're also trying to confirm as Attorney General a guy whose former support for the U.S. government's right to torture has now moderated, for the duration of his confirmation hearings, to laughable non-denials. Which all makes you wonder exactly what kind of morality the "morality voters" were voting for.

Well, here's another perspective on the problem. A Times editorial dings Dubya today for repeatedly flacking his Millenium Challenge Account as an exemplar of his largesse, even though it has yet to pay out one dime. It's hard to imagine a clearer demonstration of Bush morality: It is better to look good than to be good...

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Two pieces of news from two different Chinas.

The first China is the one where a restive underclass is rioting in resentment of the depredations of a corrupt upper class which is recapitulating the dreams of Marx in reverse, separating itself from the dictatorship of the proletariat and moving into gated communities, or -- for people who missed the subtext -- the overtly echt-feudal confines of the Chateau Zhang Laffitte. The leadership of this China, struggling to keep the lid on, is desperate to avoid anything that would give the downtrodden a rallying cry.

Some of them once had a different idea. At least one -- Zhao Zhiyang, the former head of the Chinese Communist Party, until he disgraced himself by suggesting accomodation with the students who had occupied Tienanmen square. He spent the rest of his life buried under house arrest, but he recently died. After two weeks of wrangling with the family, apparently intent on avoiding either a large funeral that could be a rallying point, or a final insult that could make a martyr, the authorities have decided, at length, to allow a funeral. A small one.

The other piece of news is from a different China, the one of the new, dynamic, growing economy, of rising trade, poised to assume a place of leadership in global commerce. One of their leading economists told the assembled worthies at Davos that this China wasn't quite ready to abandon the peg on its currency. But they may well be looking to peg it to something other than the dollar -- a basket of Euros and Yen, perhaps. What's the point of a currency peg, if what your currency is pegged to can't hold value itself?

Update: Last question answered in comments, at least in part; a stronger Yuan would reduce Chinese exports. Though note that one source of friction right now between China and Europe is the shrinking value of the Yuan against the Euro -- which is happening right now precisely because it is pegged to the depreciating dollar. Now if I could only interest someone in those other questions to the left...

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Apparently, some skeptics in Europe think Dubya's crew is mismanaging the economy:

... across Asia and Europe, a wide range of officials and analysts worry that Mr. Bush's economic team may not be up to the challenge of grappling with the issue. They contend that Washington has retreated from efforts to marshal the biggest economies of the world into a mutual effort at more robust and balanced growth.

But this is nonsense, proclaims Treasury Secretary John Snow:

Mr. Snow, for his part, paints a vastly different picture of the international economic landscape. He described the current situation as one of America's remaining the economic envy of the world, where yawning deficits are being addressed and where there is little risk that foreigners will rethink the wisdom of lending the United States hundreds of billions of dollars a year to finance the trade gap and to cover the vast borrowing needs of the federal government.

Other skeptics about the American economy worry about a housing bubble. Again, nonsense. If a 4300 square foot palace in the French countryside, with more space in outbuildings on 27 landscaped acres, is being listed for about the same price as a nice 700-square-foot one bedroom apartment in Boston's Back Bay, that clearly reflects that the two properties have the same intrinsic value. To suggest otherwise is to question the intrinsic wisdom of the marketplace. What are you going to believe -- the market or your own lying eyes?

French real estate listing via, of all things, the Dresden Dolls' fan message board...

Monday, January 24, 2005

Last week, Daniel Davies said of the Iraqi resistance:

Iraq is not Vietnam (or more specifically, Iran is not China) and they have no hope of victory. All they can really do is prolong the occupation and therefore the misery.

Funny he should mention Iran. And China.

Iran first. They seem disinclined, so far, to offer overt support to the Iraqi resistance. (Perhaps because its leadership is largely Sunni, with hints of foreign support from Salafids, and the Shiite leadership in Iraq seems so far inclined to try to keep a lid on things and go for elections. If that changed, so might Iran).

But, as we've all become a bit more aware over the past week or so, Dubya's crew seems itself inclined to make a target of Iran next. Which, strangely enough, brings up China. Chinese leaders are must be thrilled to see their main rival for superpower status wasting money and blood like water in Iraq. (Or rather like water in, say, Michigan -- water in Iraq is getting rather scarce). But if we create a similar mess in Iran, well, that's going to interfere with an awful lot of oil and gas contracts.

Mind you, this is just one element of a wide-ranging Chinese push to secure access to oil from everywhere Sudan to Canada. But it's still a significant element. So if Dubya's crew follows up on their well-nigh declared intention of destabilizing the Iranian government, then maybe we'll get to see if China is still, well, China.