I’m trying to figure out what to think about the Fannie/Freddie rescue deal. Brad DeLong summarizes the provisions. Unfortunately, it’s a bit hard for a lay observer to even figure out what’s happening here, much less whether or not it’s a good deal. Under the circumstances, one is inclined to suspect that obscure-but-consequential provisions of a complicated-and-important arrangement will be slanted toward the interests of the powerful and well-connected (i.e., those in a position to really monitor what’s happening) rather than you or I.
Another week, another record in Arctic ice loss announced by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC):
Following a record rate of ice loss through the month of August, Arctic sea ice extent already stands as the second-lowest on record, further reinforcing conclusions that the Arctic sea ice cover is in a long-term state of decline. With approximately two weeks left in the melt season, the possibility of setting a new record annual minimum in September remains open.
Why all the melting? It is hot, hot, hot near the home state of our new global-warming-denying GOP VP:
FIGURE: Sea surface temperature anomalies for August 2008, expressed with respect to 1982 to 2006 mean, correspond closely with ice retreat. Blue line indicates ice edge; warm colors indicate positive sea surface temperature anomalies.
Here is the latest ice extent figure along with more details on the record-breaking ice loss in August:
Friedman on ‘drill, drill, drill’: It’s like someone chanting ‘IBM Selectric typewriters’ during the IT revolution.
On NBC’s Meet The Press this morning, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman criticized the chanting of “drill, drill, drill” and “drill, baby, drill” at the Republican National Convention last week, saying that’s just what Saudi Arabia, Russia, Venezuela and Nigeria want to hear Americans focusing on. “They’d be up there leading the chant. They would be saying, ‘this is great, America isn’t sitting there saying, invent, invent, invent new renewable energy,’” said Friedman. Friedman added that he isn’t opposed to offshore drilling, but we shouldn’t be “making that the center focus”:
FRIEDMAN: I’m actually not against drilling. What I’m against is making that the center of our focus because we are on the eve of a new revolution, the energy technology revolution. It would be, Tom, as if on the eve of the IT revolution, the revolution of PCs and the internet, someone was up there standing and demanding, “IBM Selectric typewriters, IBM Selectric typewriters.” That’s what “drill, drill, drill” is the equivalent of today.
Big news in the only political system that matters as Canadian PM Steven Harper dissolves parliament and calls for early elections. Harper’s conservatives have been running the government since the last election, but they lack a majority. At the moment, though, the Canadian economy is growing quite nicely (rising natural resource prices are good for Canada) and Harper’s government is popular so they think they can pull it off. The Conservatives’ unpopularity in Québec, where they’re in effect the third party behind the separatists and the Liberals, makes it quite difficult, structurally speaking, for them to ever win a majority so if they manage do to so it’ll be a pretty impressive achievement.
UPDATE: Apologies! It looks like Canada’s changed more than I realized while I wasn’t paying attention and Québec conservatism is back, with the Liberals expected to finish third in the province. The Canadian right, like the American right, contains nationalist impulses and also decentralizing impulses — the former plays poorly in Québec but the latter can be made to work very well.
Joshua Kurlantzick writes that despite rapid growth in Asian economies, the continent remains too divided by rival nationalisms to cooperate and compete with a western-centric world order:
Whenever I visit Asia, I meet young people who detest neighbors they barely know. “The Thais, all they care about is money. Nothing else,” one Burmese acquaintance told me in Rangoon, despite the fact that he’d never actually been to Thailand. In one study taken last year by a leading Japanese nongovernmental organization, two-thirds of the Chinese polled said they had either a “very bad” or “relatively bad” impression of Japan.
As any politician can tell you, public opinion counts. In an open society such as the Philippines, rising anti-Chinese sentiment helped force the government in September 2007 to suspend China-funded projects valued at $4 billion. Even countries that have little history of animosity toward each other can be swept into a rage by the new nationalists. In 2006, after Singaporean state investment fund Temasek Holdings purchased Thai telecommunications giant Shin Corporation, Thai bloggers and online columnists condemned the deal, arguing that a Singaporean company would have control over sensitive Thai communications infrastructure. Thousands of Thais marched to Singapore’s embassy in Bangkok — a move that left urbane Singaporean diplomats, more accustomed to managing business deals than bullhorns, a bit flat-footed.
I would add that regime-type probably matters here. Two countries that both have firmly established open, liberal democratic political systems featuring the rule of law can cooperate with one another in deeper and more complex ways than two countries that don’t. When the commitment of one or both countries to the rule of law is in question, then cooperation requires a lot of trust, and trust isn’t necessarily in strong supply. In particular, unless the Chinese political system dramatically alters at some point, most countries — including countries that are not themselves democracies — will probably find it more desirable to partner with the United States or the EU when possible.
Under intense criticism for refusing to talk to the media, Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) “is offering her first televised interview to ABC News in the coming week in Alaska.” The campaign said that an interview “was offered to ABC’s Charlie Gibson several days ago and that they expect it to happen in the latter part of the week in Alaska.”
This morning on Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace challenged Obama campaign manager David Axelrod’s assertion that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) did not expect the surge to reduce violence in Iraq so significantly. Wallace asked, ‘Where did John McCain ever say the troop surge — “I’m going to support it but I don’t know that it’s going to really work?’”
WALLACE: How can you say that it reduced violence beyond what anybody expected? It reduced violence beyond what John McCain expected?
AXELROD: I believe it did. I think if you ask any of the military people involved and they answered honestly they would say, “We did not know.”
WALLACE: Where did John McCain ever say the troop surge — “I’m going to support it but I don’t know that it’s going to really work?”
In fact, on several occasions, McCain expressed his support for the surge while suggesting that he didn’t know if it was “going to really work.” McCain doubted the surge was large enough to significantly alter the status quo in Iraq. As the surge got underway, he argued:
– The surge is not large enough to make a difference. In January 2007, McCain said on NBC’s Meet the Press, “I am concerned about it, whether it is sufficient numbers or not. I would have liked to have seen more. … But do I believe that if it had been up to me would there have been more? Yes.”
– Maliki is not strong enough to bring about political reconciliation. In February 2007, McCain said on the floor of the U.S. Senate, “I am very nervous about this new strategy. I am very doubtful that we have enough troops. I don’t know if the Maliki government will be strong enough.”
Transcript: Read more
Michael Kimmelman reports on the banal aspects of governance in Gaza where, among other things, the ruling Islamist movement would like to clamp down on people’s access to pop culture resources but where political pragmatists say it’s necessary to bow to reality and let this stuff slide.
This reflects a larger pattern that we’ve seen around the world for quite a long time now. Sunni Islamist movements have a lot of success in opposition to incumbent regimes that are seen as corrupt and undemocratic. But Islamist ideology, when put in practice, has an overwhelming tendency to fail as a governing agenda. The popularity these movements are able to garner as an alternative to the status quo doesn’t really extend to all that much of their detailed agenda.
Since accepting Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) offer to be his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) has lied about her supposed opposition to the Bridge to Nowhere in nearly every single campaign appearance:
Palin claimed she “championed reform of earmark spending by Congress, and I told the Congress thanks but no thanks on that ‘Bridge to Nowhere,’” she said, ommiting [sic] mention that she’d campaigned for governor supporting the bridge. [Albuquerque, NM, 9/6/08]
PALIN: And I’ve championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. In fact, I told Congress thanks, but no thanks, on that “Bridge to Nowhere.” [Dayton, OH, 8/29/08]
PALIN: I told the Congress “thanks, but no thanks,” for that Bridge to Nowhere. [St. Paul, MN, 9/3/08]
This is demonstrably false. Campaigning for governor, Palin visited the town of Ketchikan to promise action on the bridge. She “said the bridge was essential for the town’s prosperity,” and that “she could feel the town’s pain at being derided as a ‘nowhere’ by prominent politicians.” She said the time to secure the funding was now, “while our congressional delegation is in a strong position to assist.”
Today on Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace tried to pin down a straight answer on Palin’s bridge position from McCain campaign manager Rick Davis. When Davis refused to acknowledge Palin’s misleading statements, Wallace detailed her support for millions of dollars in earmarks, including the bridge:
WALLACE: During her 1.5, 2 years as Governor, Alaska continued to get more federal money for pork-barrel projects per capita than any state in the country and…she supported the Bridge to Nowhere. And it was only after the federal government dropped it out, killed it, the Congress killed it that she then opposed it. And in fact she still got the money for the approach, the ramp to the Bridge to Nowhere.
Adam Thierer writes about “internet optimists” versus “internet pessimists”:
The problem with the Internet pessimists, however, is that their skepticism often borders on Chicken Little-ism or outright Ludditism. I thought Andrew Keen’s Cult of the Amateur was about as over-the-top as things could get in this regard. (See my 2-part book review here and here), but then I worked my way through Lee Siegal’s tedious screed, Against the Machine. It made Keen seem downright reasonable and cheery by comparison! Keen and Siegal seem to be in heated competition for the title “High Prophet of Internet Doom,” but Siegal is currently a nose ahead in that race.
And it’s true — Keen’s book is quite annoying, but Siegel’s absolutely blows it away. Both, though, seem a bit like cleverly postmodern efforts to undercut their own theses and prove that the quality control mechanisms of traditional media don’t actually work. Lots of blogs suck, in other words, but so do lots of books.