December 5, 2016
First came Friday and word that PEOTUS Trump had phoned the leader of Taiwan, in contravention of four decades of U.S. policy. My initial reaction was something short of shock and dismay. I braced for the inevitable adverse reaction from old foreign policy hands both here and overseas. It was the kind of thing I had feared might happen.
The more I thought about it, though, the more comfortable I became with it–up to a point. I was not unhappy that the Chinese had been tweaked, for they’ve been tweaking the West with increasing frequency and seriousness over the last few years. Building islands as naval bases in the South China Sea, among other things, is not the act of a docile partner. As I have very little comfort with his decision-making process, finding it impulsive and prone to the advice of the last person he speaks with, I feared that the call had come without real understanding of the prior policy he’d just breached and the implications of his action. Did he even know he’d tw
eaked Beijing? If such behavior were to be continually repeated, the potential chaos in its wake would create a level of instability that may make it hard for the world to function (the business world and the governing world).
That was Friday and into Saturday. As Sunday dawned and newspaper consumption started, I actually felt much better. The NYT reported that the returned call was no accident, and that the PEOTUS was aware of the novelty of his actions. The desire to disrupt isn’t limited to domestic issues, and that’s not by definition bad. It’s just different. So long as it’s been thought through (which is where my concerns about the incoming Administration really start), I’m fine with different. While there will likely be plenty of things I disagree with this Administration about, this is not one of them, based on what we know about the episode.
November 20, 2011
Duplicative, Disorganized and some other negative word beginning with D.
Oh how I hate their app. Stories appear in multiple places. Stories that are days old don’t go away. There’s no “stop”; no resting place. It’s whatever is on Safari when you open the app. And that stinks. I want to read the day’s newspaper in an electronic form. The Wall Street Journal’s app is perfect. It gives you both that day’s printed paper in an electronic form and it uploads the website in a separate and distinct place, so that you can check what’s happening now (or the last time you accessed the app).
The reason that this is so important to me is best described by David Carr, the media writer for the Times (and star of the excellent documentary on the Times “Page One“) in his recent interview with Terri Gross on Fresh Air. Speaking of his media diet (which resembles mine so close a way as to be somewhat uncomfortable for me because he’s in the media criticism business and I am not), he said:
When I wake up in the morning and the gun goes off, I’m checking Twitter. I’m checking RSS feeds, and I get four newspapers at my house every day. I get the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, the Star Ledger – because I live in New Jersey – and, of course, the New York Times.
And the reason I do is because the day before this, all this stuff has gone whizzing past me, and I seem to know a lot. But I don’t really know which part of it is important. And I used to think it was so silly that newspapers would – like, I’d go to our page one meeting, and they’d be organizing the hierarchy of the six or seven most important stories in Western civilization. Meanwhile, the Web is above them, pivoting and alighting, and all these stories are morphing and changing. And I thought: Well, how silly is this?
But you know what? I came to want that resting place, where someone yelled stop and decided, look, this is stuff you need to know about going forward. So there’s both real-time news and then newspapers have become a kind of magazine experience for me, where they’re – where it’s a way to look back at what has happened.
The Times app just gives me the “whizzing by” and not the stop, before you even get to my complaints about its (lack of) organization and repetition.
July 25, 2011
Republicans get defensive when comparisons are made between President Obama and President Bush. That is understandable. The chart below appeared in yesterday’s New York Times, accompanied by an article entitled “How the Deficit Got This Big” by Teresa Trich. Ezra Klein today points out today that much of what appears on President Obama’s side of the ledger represent temporary expenditures (g., e.the $711 billion of “stimulus spending” and the $425 billion of “stimulus tax cuts”) where as the largest items on President Bush’s side of the ledger (and what at least 2o sitting GOP senators and 100 GOP House members voted for) represent recurring expenditures (e.g., the wars, the Bush tax cuts, the Medicare Part D drug benefit which will go on in perpetuity).
Klein notes, “To relate this specifically to the debt-ceiling debate, we’re not raising the debt ceiling because of the new policies passed in the past two years. We’re raising the debt ceiling because of the accumulated effect of policies passed in recent decades, many of them under Republicans. It’s convenient for whichever side isn’t in power, or wasn’t recently in power, to blame the debt ceiling on the other party. But it isn’t true.”
Sad, especially given the behavior of the GOP during the debt ceiling crisis, but true.
July 2, 2011
Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been released on his own recognizance and is, according to the The New York Times much closer to have the most serious charges against him dropped. But this turn of events is not because prosecutors no longer believe the woman wasn’t attacked. Oh no, the Times reports,
“Prosecutors said they still believed Mr. Strauss-Kahn had forced the woman into sex… “
According to the sources, the victim is alleged to have not told the truth about her life leading up to the attack and what happened in the immediate aftermath of it:
“Prosecutors disclosed that the woman had admitted lying in her application for asylum from Guinea; according to the letter, she ‘fabricated the statement with the assistance of a male who provided her with a cassette recording’ that she memorized. She also said that her claim that she had been the victim of a gang rape in Guinea was also a lie.
The woman also acknowledged that she had misrepresented her income to qualify for her housing, and had declared a friend’s child — in addition to her own daughter — as a dependent on tax returns to increase her tax refund.
Her asylum application is inconsistent with the story she told police; she had hundreds of thousands of dollars deposited into her bank account, making her appear to be a go between for laundering drug money, etc.)”
Lying to the police about this sort of thing is without question a bad strategy. I understand that these inconsistencies and her association with an incarcerated drug dealer leave her credibility in tatters, making it easy for the defense to turn the case into “Whom do you believe? The former head of the IMF or a lying chambermaid who associates with convicted drug dealers?” The defense will have a field day with this information at trial in raising reasonable doubt. The prosecutors don’t want to lose–it would look bad for them at election time–so they’ll blame the victim and walk away from this as quickly as possible, hoping that none of it sticks to them for very long. Good luck with that.
The physical evidence is said to support the crux of what the housekeeper has alleged: She was set upon by a naked DSK against her will and sexually assaulted. So we’re left with a victim of an attack and a predator (alleged predator?) out walking the streets.
One is left to think that Monsieur Strauss-Kahn was extremely fortunate in his choice of victims. The failure to bring DSK to justice on those charges will leave those looking to perpetrate similar crimes advised to find equally untrustworthy victims for themselves.
Sadly, ’twas was ever thus.
January 22, 2011
Thursday’s New York Times led with an article about the riots in Tunisia and the sudden overthrow of their government. It opened with the following:
TUNIS — Passions unleashed by the revolution in Tunisia resonated throughout the region on Monday as an Egyptian and a Mauritanian became the latest of six North Africans to set themselves on fire in an imitation of the self-immolation that set off the uprising here a month ago.
In Egypt, Abdo Abdel Moneim, a 50-year-old restaurant owner, poured a gallon of gasoline over his head and set himself ablaze outside the Parliament building on Monday morning in downtown Cairo. Around the same time in Mauritania, Yacoub Ould Dahoud was setting fire to himself in his parked car near Parliament in Nouakchott.
Self-immolation; the act of trying to kill yourself by setting yourself on fire. While this practice has gone on for centuries, most of the 533 recorded (successful) cases of it since 1960 have been political protests like the ones mentioned above.
This isn’t my first time thinking about self-immolation. I think about it almost every day. Back in 1998 in the midst of the troubles in Bosnia and the twin Russian and Asian financial crises, the front page of the New York Times ran the picture posted here of a Parisian protesting the treatment of the Bosnians at the hands of the Serbs. Now (obviously) yellowed with time, the photo sits framed on my desk for daily contemplation. (Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find the actual photo in the Times’ online archive. If anyone can find it, I’d appreciate seeing it.)
I'll never have a day so bad that this seems like a good idea.
I was facing some particularly tough days back in 1998. The international financial crisis had hit one of my clients and their deal particularly hard and it posed questions that none of us had ever faced before. There were long nights, tense conversations and a lack of clarity on what was likely to happen next and what we should do about it. But that particular morning, I looked at the picture and wondered, “How bad of a day must you be having when lighting yourself on fire is the preferred course of action?” The guy figured that all the other forms of protest were somehow inadequate to buying the gasoline and matches (and not wearing his fire-resistant jammies). I have never been that pissed off and pray that I never will.
It made me realize something that has since become something of a mantra for me.
No matter how bad of a day I have, it will never be so bad that lighting myself on fire will seem like a good alternative.
May 24, 2010
Nick Kristof reports from the Congo Republic in the NYTimes on the choices that parents make.
“if the poorest families spent as much money educating their children as they do on wine, cigarettes and prostitutes, their children’s prospects would be transformed. Much suffering is caused not only by low incomes, but also by shortsighted private spending decisions by heads of households.”
The incendiary nature of the conclusion above is supported by an enlightening discussion with a local Congolese man whose kids have repeated first grade five time for lack of a few dollars of school fees. Kristof’s conclusion is the only one possible, harsh or not.