Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

What we need vs. what we’ll get

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

– The current G-20 meeting has stirred a lot of commentary and hope.   The world has a lot of problems and there’s always the possibility and the hope, when a significant number of world leaders come together to talk about those problems, that they’ll make decisions that will improve things.The Browns and the Obamas

– Below, is an analysis by George Friedman of STRATFOR of the G-20 meeting and what’s likly to come out of it along with a look at a follow-on NATO meeting and an Obama-EU summit.  There’s even discussion of President Obama’s upcoming visit to Turkey, which will be his last stop on his current international trip.

– Other commentators might go through these same subjects; G-20, NATO, EU and Turkey and come to somewhat different conclusions about their meanings and prospects but I seriously doubt that anyone could seriously avoid my final conclusion – that what the world needs is not what the world is going to get out of all these meetings and pontifications.

– In the near-term, we need unified global strategies to pull the world out of the current economic melt-down.

– And, following immediately on the heels of such economic repairs, we need a deep recognition that mankind’s current dominate economic system, Capitalism, even when working well,  cannot continue as it is currently configured.   Its fundamental requirements of continuing growth and consumption to fuel itself, are axiomatically inconsistent with the fact that we live on a planet with finite resources.

– And, once we’ve rethought our basic economic systems and globally began to reorient them into something that focuses on sustainability rather than growth, then we need to move onto how we, globally, are going to defuse all the ecological and climatic destruction we’ve set in motion which is threatening to reset our climate and to initiate another major ecological die-off like the one that took out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

– That’s all.  It’s not much to ask, right?   Surely,the best and the brightest of our national leaders can see that these are the paths forward?

– Well, I wish I thought so, but I don’t.  Friedman’s analysis makes clear that in spite of the fact that we need radical new thinking, these meetings will end up driven by narrow national interests as nation jockeys against nation to see who’s going to do the work and pay the bills.

There’s your future, folks.– It’s as if we’re all sitting in a lifeboat at sea and we’re having meeting after meeting about how to best arrange the seating in the boat to determine who has to row and who gets to just sit and benefit. And all the time, the boat is slowing but inexorably sinking but no one can be bothered to talk about that because… because?     Damned if I know.

– Here’s George Freidman’s analysis.   See what you think:

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Three major meetings will take place in Europe over the next nine days: a meeting of the G-20, a NATO summit and a meeting of the European Union with U.S. President Barack Obama. The week will define the relationship between the United States and Europe and reveal some intra-European relationships. If not a defining moment, the week will certainly be a critical moment in dealing with economic, political and military questions. To be more precise, the meeting will be about U.S.-German relations. Not only is Germany the engine of continental Europe, its policies diverge the most sharply from those of the United States. In some ways, U.S.-German relations have been the core of the U.S.-European relationship, so this marathon of summits will focus on the United States and Germany.

Although the meetings deal with a range of issues — the economy and Afghanistan chief among them — the core question on the table will be the relationship between Europe and the United States following the departure of George W. Bush and the arrival of Barack Obama. This is not a trivial question. The European Union and the United States together account for more than half of global gross domestic product. How the two interact and cooperate is thus a matter of global significance. Of particular importance will be the U.S. relationship with Germany, since the German economy drives the Continental dynamic. This will be the first significant opportunity to measure the state of that relationship along the entire range of issues requiring cooperation.

Relations under Bush between the United States and the two major European countries, Germany and France, were unpleasant to say the least. There was tremendous enthusiasm throughout most of Europe surrounding Obama’s election. Obama ran a campaign partly based on the assertion that one of Bush’s greatest mistakes was his failure to align the United States more closely with its European allies, and he said he would change the dynamic of that relationship.

There is no question that Obama and the major European powers want to have a closer relationship. But there is a serious question about expectations. From the European point of view, the problem with Bush was that he did not consult them enough and demanded too much from them. They are looking forward to a relationship with Obama that contains more consultation and fewer demands. But while Obama wants more consultation with the Europeans, this does not mean he will demand less. In fact, one of his campaign themes was that with greater consultation with Europe, the Europeans would be prepared to provide more assistance to the United States. Europe and Obama loved each other, but for very different reasons. The Europeans thought that the United States under Obama would ask less, while Obama thought the Europeans would give more.


– research thanks to Michael M.

Coffee Shop Wisdom

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Pontification CentralI have coffee most mornings at the local Starbucks.

What the folks that I sit with have in common, mostly, is motorcycles.   But there’s a lot of political discussion goes on as well.

Most of these guys are a good deal more conservative than I am (I’m a liberal, if you didn’t know).   Many of them are, in fact, distressed that Obama is about to assume the presidency of the U.S.

Sometimes, our conversations can get pretty heavy and heated.  But, for the most part, people are respectful and receptive of each other’s points of view.   The operative principle seems to be, “If you give me a good listen, then I’ll listen to your lame theory too.

One of the things I most like about such free-ranging discussions is that they can often cut to the heart of the matter rather than getting deeply tangled up in peripheral intellectual issues.

For instance, the other day, I got a long E-mail from a fellow who was attempting to dissect what had happened with the current economic melt-down and the banks and who fault it was.   It went on at great length but then there was one sentence that cut through all the rest like a laser and, for me, it was the only thing of real value in the entire analysis.   He said, But ultimately, the villain is whoever was responsible for regulating the industry.”

We got to this point over coffee today.   We’re not brain surgeons and rocket scientists.  We’re a nurseryman, a retired executive, an electric meter man, a real estate agent, a policeman and who ever else happens to drift by and decides to sit in.

The fear was expressed that with an Obama administration, we’d soon find ourselves with too much regulation and control in our lives.

On the other hand, I pointed out, it was the lack of regulation that been growing since the Reagan / Thatcher years that finally got us into this mess we’re in now where greed ran away with common sense (and our money).

One of my conservative friends replied, “Yes, but as soon as you have regulation, it begins to grow likes weeds and soon everything is overrun and stifled.

I agreed – that did always seem to happen.  But, the problem, thus far in history has been, that when it comes to regulation, we’ve always been in feast or famine mode;  Either far too little or far too much.  “How about some moderation?“, I suggested.

We know that wealth, new products, creativity and innovation spring from the promise of making profits.   This is what drives corporations, businesses and all forms of private enterprise.   It is, indeed, the goose that lays the Golden Eggs – so it is not in our best interest to regulate it into submission and tax it to death.

But, it does need some level of regulation.   Without regulation, the urge to seek profit will eventually always run us into difficulties just like it is now.   The trick is to apply just the minimum of regulation to prevent businesses from taking actions that are not in the long-term public good.  But, beyond that, stay the hell out of their way.   “Yes, for example, we need wood products“, I said, “but woods products from renewable resources is one thing – cutting down our last forests is quite another.“  Without regulation, the profit seekers cannot make these discriminations.Lack of regulation

A look around the table showed that this seemed like a reasonable idea.   “If it could be done.“, one said, “If you could keep those that like to add ‘just one more rule or regulationat bay and if you could work out how to deflect every large multinational corporation who would love to ‘fiddle’ the rules and infiltrate the process for their own advantage.   Because the truth would be that even if you could get such a thing setup and running well, over time there would be endless forces around that would try to subvert it to their own aims; be they power or profit.

The conversation turned then to what Obama might do once he’s in office.  Even the most conservative of my coffee buddies now basically concedes that, with out some major October Surprise, Obama’s going to be our next president.Oh Yeah, Right!

Someone said, “He’ll have a lot of power if the House and Senate also return Democratic majorities.”   Someone else said, “No, he won’t.   There are a lot of constraints on a president’s power that even the president himself doesn’t learn about until he gets into office and all the ‘secretsare revealed to him and he finds out how things really work inside.

This led to discussions of ‘Shadow Governments‘ and J. Edgar Hoover‘s vast powers over four or five presidencies and to why the Kennedys were assassinated.  They were, perhaps, assassinated because they were too independent, had too much money and had snagged the highest offices in the land without being beholden to the real powers behind the throne in this country?   The Kennedys had tried to do an end-around on the real power brokers and were shown the door to eternity for their efforts.

The conversation continued to wander.  It was suggested that both candidates are saying they will work to “Rebuild America“.

I scoffed.   “It’s too late.   Someone (with regulation) should have protected our manufacturing base and our hi-tech industries from the multinational corporations and the Globalization folks a long time ago.   They’ve already had their way with us.   In the search for bigger profits, they’ve shipped our manufacturing and hi-tech jobs overseas.   All of that was good for them and their shareholders and a lot of folks in the orient have also gotten wealthier as our American wealth has gushed over to them – but it hasn’t left us better off as a nation, an economy or as a people.

I continued on the attack, “Everyone is worried that Obama is going to ‘distribute the wealth‘.   Get a grip folks – it’s already been distributed and it wasn’t by the socialistic programs of the Democrats.  It was distributed by Globalization and multinationals drinking from the rivers of money flowing from the U.S. to the new hi-tech centers in India and the new manufacturing plants in China.  The very rivers they helped setup for their own profits.   So, when folks talk, on either side, about rebuilding America, just what do they imagine they will rebuild it from?   Out manufacturing’s gone overseas, our hi-tech has gone overseas.   We’re just a cardboard store-front nation kiting checks that we call our National Debt and drowning here in cheap Wal-Mart plastic goods from China and hoping that they won’t send us any food with melamine in it.

Well, comes the rejoinder, “It’ll only be worse under an Obama administration.   They’ll tax whatever incomes we still have and give it to the poor folks who didn’t have enough grit to get off their asses and go to work.  I still say there will be too much regulation under Obama.   I drove my Suburban in for Coffee today – too much rain for the motorcycle.  Soon I won’t be able to drive it without the police will stop me and say I’m illegal because I don’t have six people in it and I’m wasting precious gasoline.

It was time to go to work, so we all got up to go off to our various destinations agreeing that it is all a major mess and that the politicians on all sides are lying about themselves and each other and they they aren’t going to be able to do even a tenth of all the stuff they are claiming they can do to fix it all.

And that’s today’s report from Starbucks – where the coffee is NOT Fair Trade Coffee – but, we won’t go there, eh?