Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Also, Why is the Byline "Sydney"?

From a NYTimes piece:

Australia’s prime minister, John Howard, one of President Bush’s staunchest allies in Asia, suffered a comprehensive defeat at the hands of the electorate on Saturday, as his Liberal Party-led coalition lost its majority in Parliament.

My question is, in what sense was John Howard "one of President Bush's staunchest allies in Asia"? He was the prime minister of Australia, which is not in Asia. Is it that, when he was traveling in Asia, he was one of Bush's staunchest allies there? By that standard, of course, one could say the same thing about Tony Blair, Jose Maria Aznar, or Hugo Chavez.

[UPDATE: I swear I had not read far enough in the article to see that it specifically mentions Blair and Aznar. And yes, this means I had read about two paragraphs. And yes, I'm mildly bitter that the New York Times stepped on my joke.]

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Goldman's Secret Sauce

I was reading a piece on Goldman's recent performance, and this paragraph grabbed me:

Goldman’s secret sauce, say executives, analysts and historians, is high-octane business acumen, tempered with paranoia and institutionally encouraged — though not always observed — humility.

Well, now that the secret is out, expect other banks to get their shit together. All they'll need is high-octane business acumen, tempered with paranoia and institutionally encouraged humility. Then they can leverage their strategic synergies over a broad spectrum of dynamic market paradigms.

I mean seriously, who writes this shit?

Friday, November 09, 2007

Amtrak Should Link to Yglesias

"It's been brought to my attention that Barack Obama's position on a training mission in Iraq is clearly than I'd thought."
-Matt Yglesias

Thursday, November 08, 2007

This Is No Country for Shitty Movie Reviews

Two quick items.

First, rarely have I seen someone be wrong about so many things in so little space as when I read this review, and I haven't even seen the movie yet. I will say this, though: the fact that the movie isn't about Ireland is bullshit.

Second, I wonder if a Republican presidential candidate has used this line yet:

"Governor Huckabee is a nice guy, but the last time we elected a governor from Arkansas, it didn't exactly work out so well!"

The great thing is, given the GOP base, this line would probably work.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I Called It!

I think I see what's going on here:

Military attachés from the United States and several other Western nations are discreetly contacting senior Pakistani generals and asking them to press General Musharraf to back down from the emergency decree he issued Saturday, according to Western diplomats.

And I called it!

Incidentally, this mirrors closely what we did in Bangladesh - there, we told the generals that their UN peacekeeping jobs were at risk if the elections went through as planned, and by coincidence the generals took over the government that day. I wonder what we're telling the Pakistani generals?

[UPDATE: see also Yglesias. Please note that Pakistan has gotten ~$10 billion in the last several years, most of it military aid (see my previous post, in which I called it).]

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Yglesias - Worse than Amtrak?

Personally, I barely know how to ride a bike and find the aesthetics of the whole bike-riding enterprise kind of abhorrent. Still, the fact remains that building a bike-friendly city like Portland is very good public policy in terms of public health and the environment, so it's nice to see that some people are also making money thanks to the way the city's early adoption of bike-friendly policies.

-Matt Yglesias

This actually isn't much of a trainwreck, it's just remarkable when you remember that Yglesias is getting paid for this. Amtrak, on the other hand, gets paid to run passenger trains and usually gets passengers to their destinations within 24 hours of the expected arrival. As far as I know its safety record is decent though.

One Train Leaves Philadelphia at 3:15...

I have to say that I would find Anne Applebaum's criticism of American celebrities who say nice things about Hugo Chavez to Communist supporters of the Soviet Union were contemporary Venezuela to, um, resemble the USSR in some salient way.

-Matt Yglesias

Here's my attempted reconstruction (try it yourself!):

"I have to say that I would find Anne Applebaum's comparison of American celebrities who say nice things about Hugo Chavez to Communist supporters of the Soviet Union more convincing were contemporary Venezuela to, um, resemble the USSR in some salient way."

My version still isn't pretty, but at least the train stays on the tracks.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Smith was a Complex Man

It brings me no joy to disagree with another Krugman column. In this case it's really just a quibble:

One of the saddest stories I tell in my book is that of Al Smith, the great reformist governor of New York, who gradually turned into a narrow-minded economic conservative and bitter critic of F.D.R. H. L. Mencken explained it thusly: “His association with the rich has apparently wobbled him and changed him. He has become a golf player.”

The thing about Al Smith is that while he pushed through a lot of reformist legislation in New York, I don't think he was really a reformer in the conventional sense. Smith was a Tammany man. True, he outgrew his corrupt beginnings, much like Truman, but at least I'd say his story is a good deal more subtle than "reforming crusader is corrupted by wealth." Rather I'd say that Smith started out as a venal politician, rose to greatness on the strength of his character and his political skills at a time of sweeping changes in New York, and then lapsed into bitterness after his defeats in 1928 and 1932. I think that even at his peak his reformist instincts were largely subservient to his fairly straightforward populism.

In other words, to quote Robert Caro in The Power Broker, "Not even Al Smith's best friends ever said that he went into politics to help the lower classes. He went because, perhaps, he was gregarious and politics for a young man in the Fourth Ward without connections was, in Tom Foley's saloon with other young men, drinking beer, singing around a piano and telling stories while waiting for a contract [a task to be carried out for the political machine] from Foley. He went because, perhaps, it was a natural course for a young man with little education who wanted to get ahead in the ward's politics-drenched atmosphere - and because, perhaps, he saw no other way out of a life that for most of the years he could remember had been rolling heavy barrels and lifting heavy pipes."

Now don't get me wrong - in fact, let me just quote again from Caro:

Before his fourth term was over, "against the tide of the Twenties" that blinded most of a prosperous nation to the needs of its urban masses, Al Smith had not only forced through a recalcitrant Legislature measures that improved working conditions and reduced working hours for men, women and children, but had also lashed state departments into enforcing the measures.... Franklin D. Roosevelt, as President, was to say that "practically all the things we've done in the federal government are like things Al Smith did as Governor of New York." [it was a rare moment of magnanimity - generally Roosevelt snubbed Smith]

Sigh. All right. I guess my point is that Krugman's version is grossly incomplete, but then, he only has 740 words or something. I guess I wish he had left the Smith stuff out of the column. Also I think one of the big corrupting influences in Smith's later life was Robert Moses. More later.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

I Shot Musharraf

This situation in Pakistan is obviously scary. I see that we have given Pakistan over $10 billion in aid, mostly military, in the last six years. This reminds me of the situation in Bangladesh, which I've written about before. In that case, we used UN peacekeeping jobs, which are highly lucrative, to bribe the military into taking over the government. Unsurprisingly, the military has not given up power yet.

Now I wonder if some similar dynamic is at work in Pakistan. $10 billion is a lot of money - are we essentially bribing the military to do what we want? You can see why the average Pakistani might not be happy if that's the case. Anyway, I don't have much more to add, just noting a source of leverage that we have.

Friday, November 02, 2007

That Collective Point, Of Which I Spoke To You Of Which

I don't know why train-wreck paragraphs amuse me so much, but they do:

Since taking over in October 2003, Mr. Prince has touted an ambitious strategy that called for expansion overseas and internal growth. This spring, he announced a restructuring effort to rein-in its expenses, months after the bank’s biggest shareholder, Saudi Prince Alaweed bin Talal declared “draconian measures” were necessary.” But despite a few signs small signs progress earlier this year, investors grew frustrated with the results.

The article also featured this great quotation: “At some point, the company is worse off or better off without the guy,” this person said. “That collective point has come and passed.”

Vacation Idea

How about a special day each year when bands reunite and perform? Awesome.