Archive for October, 2009

The Blog Goes Down Under

Monday, October 19th, 2009

Gorilla’s heading for two weeks in Australia, so posting will be a bit unpredictable.

This week will be mostly spent in transit, but some service should resume after the weekend.


TGIF And Predictions

Friday, October 16th, 2009

This was what mattered most in Gorilla’s world this week:

*The march for LGBT equality continues. Equal justice under the law may take another decade, but it’s clear this will not go away. Gorilla thinks we’ll start with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, get rid of DOMA, and get a civil rights bill through Congress by 2020.

*Bilateral negotiations with Iran seem inevitable. After Hillary Clinton’s trip to Russia, it’s clear that the ball’s now in our court; there’s no support for further sanctions short of an Iranian refusal to negotiate. Gorilla thinks Hillary will be landing in Tehran by the end of 2010.

*Health care reform made it out of the Finance Committee and should be passed by the Senate soon. The Senate bills are all woefully inadequate, and there’s no guarantee that the public option will survive. Gorilla believes you could see this as a down payment on further reform, but he’s more convinced there’s no real momentum to avoid the bigger balloon payment before 2015-2020.

*America’s educational system continues to fail its students. The mathematics test scores were appalling and inexcusable. Gorilla has little confidence things will improve soon, for the same reason he has little faith in health care reform: goring vested interest oxen is not a pleasant occupation for any politician.

*The world grows hungrier. Gorilla doesn’t see much solution to this until we, the Japanese, and the EU are willing to give up our amoral and unnecessary farm subsidies. More Doha and less dough will make America more of a beacon to the poor and hungry.

*Afghanistan looks ever more like a quagmire. The fraudulent election produced the result we wanted, but not in the way we wanted. It appears the President will throw in more troops, with no clear strategy. Pakistan, where the threat of extremism is far greater than in Kabul, is descending into chaos at nearly as fast a rate, but we can’t do anything much about it. Gorilla still believes we’ll be on our way out by the end of 2010.


The Dim Sum Bowl

Friday, October 16th, 2009

China: currency manipulator!

Shock, horror!!!

And here we go again.

The Chinese are buying up dollars to keep the value of the renminbi low. This has the effect of worsening the US trade deficit and causing “imbalances”, as the experts would have it. Another round of tariffs and angry rhetoric is threatened.

So, short of the Chinese allowing the renminbi to trade freely (an inevitability in the coming decade), the obvious answer for America would be to allow the dollar to fall further, decreasing the deficit, expanding the export industry, and adding jobs, jobs, jobs.

But that’s not what we’re saying, even though that’s precisely what we want to happen.

Gorilla says: “Weak dollars are us! Reduce the deficit in US Column A, increase the value in Renmin Column B!”


All About Imagery

Friday, October 16th, 2009

The Pentagon is again trying to restrict photographic coverage of the war in Afghanistan.

“Media will not be prohibited from viewing or filming casualties; however, casualty photographs showing recognizable face, nametag or other identifying feature or item will not be published.”

Censorship is censorship, however you phrase it. Reporting the news may require the publication of photos that will alarm, offend, and illuminate. That’s why we have an independent press, and the press itself should be wary about becoming embedded manipulators of the Pentagon’s version of events.

There’s nothing wrong with informing the next of kin if a soldier is killed, but it is ludicrous to give the family control over whether photographs are published.

This hasn’t happened in previous wars, but this time there seems to be a desire to pretend that wars do not kill and maim, or that killing and maiming is the natural consequence of this particular type of foreign policy.

Gorilla says: “Killing is not thrilling, censorship is chilling!”


Czechs And Balances

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

French President Sarkozy has had a busy day:

1) He’s told the Czech President to get a move on and ratify the EU Treaty. The Czech Republic’s the only remaining EU state not to ratify.

2) He’s told the American President there will be no more French forces for Afghanistan.

3) He’s told the EU at large that, while he likes Tony Blair, it’s unlikely he’ll be the new EU President so long as Britain stays out of the Euro.

Gorilla concludes: “One bad Czech, one bad strategy, and one bad Blair: Sarko’s going for the Triple Crown of good choices today!”


More Burps With ZIRP

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

An excellent article in the Financial Times analyzes what’s really coming with the Zero Interest Rate Policy adopted by the Fed and other central banks.

In essence, the world avoided a total meltdown but has not really come to grips with the scale of the losses to come. Many banks have not yet come fully clean, the Fed’s carrying a couple of trillion in bad loans on the balance sheet, and there’s a need for a responsible exit strategy that allows the US economy to adjust to de-leveraging and a lower standard of living.

On the other hand, far more fiscal stimulus is desperately needed in the short to medium term, because of high unemployment levels, a lack of corporate investment, and the banks’ hoarding of capital/tightening of credit.

The big test will be the extent to which fiscal and monetary policymakers can regain control in the long run.

There’s way too much hawkish chest beating about deficits, which aren’t really a problem in the next 2-3 years, and the dollar’s decline, which is actually very good for the US economy.

Will the Fed raise rates too soon? Or will we see another bubble based on the dollar carry trade?

Gorilla answers: “Yes and yes. Go long Pepto Bismol!”


Older And Richer

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

President Obama wants to give senior citizens another $250 next year, in part to make up for what looks like no increase in the Social Security COLA.

Of course, a decrease in prices will benefit seniors far more than this bonus payment, and seniors remain, by far, the wealthiest age group in American society. But seniors also vote far more than any other group, and so far they’ve not been enamored by the President’s hope and change platform.

Gorilla asks: “When are we going to stop subsidizing bankers, farmers, and wealthy seniors and start bribing genuinely poor people? They need the reward a lot more!!!”


Rejected Again

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Yet another Palestinian unity plan appears to be dead, as Hamas has rejected the latest Egyptian proposal.

Short of a referendum and/or elections to decide once and for all what the Palestinians want, it’s difficult to see any prospects for peace. The current Israeli government is also not serious about negotiations, and we have not brought ourselves to dealing with Hamas.

Gorilla thinks: “It’s another big dive to nowhere off the Aswan Dam!”


Still Not Adding Up

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

National math test scores for fourth and eighth graders remain flat, which is to say terrible.

The average fourth grader in this country got less than 50% of the test questions right. More than 60% of American fourth graders are at or below the recommended proficiency level.

So who’s doing well and who’s doing badly? No one’s doing well, and everyone’s doing badly.

The top state? Massachusetts, with 57% at or above proficiency level.

The bottom state? Mississippi, with 16% at or above proficiency level.

The average eighth grader managed to answer 56.6% of the test questions correctly. Nearly 2/3 of American eighth graders are at or below the recommended proficiency level.

No Child Left Behind? Performance on the test improved at a faster rate in the years before this pointless law was passed.

The American educational system is failing America.

But no one’s going to do much about it, because that involves pissing off important groups: teachers, parents, and school administrators.

Kids don’t vote, so nobody worries about screwing around with them.

Gorilla says: “I believe they call it the low expectations of soft idiocy!”


This Week’s George T. Platter And Bait

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

The tidetime folklorist wonders whether happiness will run in a cramdown motion, or falter like a little boat upon the sea of denial.

The Platter: Pretend by Nat King Cole (Extend, Extend, Extend)

The Bait: The Classic Family Lure (NINJAs a specialty)