The Rocky Fork clubhouse and terrace is located atop a hill, with a winding path through the trees leading down to grassy fields and a small pond below. The terrace in particular was a delightful, shady spot last night, with a cool breeze rustling the leaves and ruffling the surface of the distant pond.
Archive for June 9th, 2012
The news from Syria is all bad. The various UN ceasefire proposals and peace plans have been abject failures — predictably. And while diplomats talk, and talk, and talk, the Syrian people are getting slaughtered by their own government in a series of bloody massacres. The latest incident came last night, when Syrians in the town of Deraa were shelled, apparently by government forces, even as UN observers try to investigate an earlier atrocity.
The Syrian situation is one of those instances that reveal the remarkably cold-blooded nature of foreign policy in the modern world. Unfortunately for the Syrians, their dusty country is one of the few places in the Middle East that lacks oil reserves. Nor is it a place that has served as the launching ground for successful terrorist attacks. As a result, for all the hand-wringing, neither Europe, nor the United States, nor any other country has sufficient skin in the game to do anything to depose the evil Assad regime and stop the awful civilian carnage in Syria. And any effort to take military action under the umbrella of the UN inevitably will be blocked by the Russians and the Chinese, who aren’t fans of international interventions, anyway.
Compare events in Syria to what happened in Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Life in Syria is as violent and repressive as it was in any of those countries before regime change was imposed at the point of a sword. The difference is that the United States and other governments viewed those other countries as involving crucial geopolitical interests and had the ability, through their own resources and the NATO construct, to take affirmative steps to address those interests. The Syrian situation doesn’t invoke such crucial interests, and therefore the Syrian people will continue to suffer and die.
I’m not advocating that America act unilaterally for humanitarian reasons; our human, financial, and military resources are finite, and I don’t think we can or should serve as the world’s policeman whenever tyrants begin campaigns of indiscriminate killing in distant lands. I’m just noting that the sad futility of the Syrian “peace plans” and escalating rhetoric of the diplomats exposes the ultimate hollowness of most multi-national organizations, like the UN and the Arab League. Why aren’t Syria’s oil-rich Middle Eastern neighbors taking steps to stop the bloodshed in their own backyard? The Arab League should be ashamed.
Posted in America, Politics, The Economy, tagged Air Quotes, America, Coin Collecting, Home Foreclosures, Mitt Romney, Numismatics, Politics, President Obama, Public Employees, The Economy, Unemployment on June 9, 2012 | 1 Comment »
President Obama stepped into a controversy yesterday, when at a morning press conference he said about the economy: “The private sector’s doing fine.”
Mitt Romney and other Republicans, ecstatic to be handed such a plum, jumped all over the statement, citing statistics like the unemployment rate and the number of home foreclosures to demonstrate that the economy is not doing fine and to portray the President as out of touch. By the end of the day, the President was in wholesale retreat, saying: ”it is absolutely clear that the economy is not doing fine.” We’ll have to see whether this incident is just one of those silly Washington, D.C. tempests in a teapot, or whether the President’s remark strikes a deeper chord with the American people. (In that regard, the President’s constant fund-raising activities with high-money donors and Hollywood stars probably isn’t helping him dodge the “out of touch” label. But who’d have thought that Mitt Romney, of all people, would take a crack at depicting President Obama as “out of touch” with ordinary folks?)
For now, though, I’d like to just pause for a moment to think about word choice. “Fine” is a pretty elastic word. At our firm, some partners use it to describe associate performance that is minimally adequate — a kind of air quotes “fine” — whereas others use it as synonymous for “good.” Coin collectors will tell you that “fine” is in the top half of the scale — better than poor, fair, good, and even very good, but not at the extremely fine or mint level. What meaning did the President intend to convey? “Fine” as in people are not walking around wearing barrels and selling apples on the streets, or something else? Given his later retraction of sorts, we’ll probably never know.
I’ll give the President the benefit of the doubt that he was using “fine” in a way that is consistent with our current economic reality; I don’t think it’s fair to seize on one word out of the thousands he speaks every day. I also think what he said immediately after saying that the private sector is doing “fine” is more significant, anyway. He went on to add: “Where we’re seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government, oftentimes cuts initiated by, you know, governors or mayors who are not getting the kind of help that they have in the past from the federal government and who don’t have the same flexibility as the federal government in dealing with fewer revenues coming in.”
There’s no mistaking the meaning of that statement; he thinks we need to spend more on public employee jobs in order to help our economy. I could not disagree with him more on that point — and I think that, given recent election results in Wisconsin and California and elsewhere, that is where the President’s views might truly be “out of touch” with those of the majority of Americans.