Sunday, August 23, 2009

The GOP: Party of Nihilists

The GOP Has Become a Party of Nihilists
By Joe Klein Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009
...There have been times when Democrats have run demagogic scare campaigns on issues like Social Security and Medicare. There are more than a few Democrats who believe, in practice, that government should be run for the benefit of government employees' unions. There are Democrats who are so solicitous of civil liberties that they would undermine legitimate covert intelligence collection. There are others who mistrust the use of military power under almost any circumstances. But these are policy differences, matters of substance. The most liberal members of the Democratic caucus — Senator Russ Feingold in the Senate, Representative Dennis Kucinich in the House, to name two — are honorable public servants who make their arguments based on facts. Hyperbole and distortion certainly exist on the left, but they are a minor chord in the Democratic Party. They don't retail outright lies.
It is a very different story among Republicans. ..There are conservatives — Senator Lamar Alexander, Representative Mike Pence, among many others — who make their arguments based on facts. But they have been overwhelmed by nihilists and hypocrites more interested in destroying the opposition and gaining power than in the public weal. The philosophically supple party that existed as recently as George H.W. Bush's presidency has been obliterated. The party's putative intellectuals — people like the Weekly Standard's William Kristol — are prosaic tacticians who make precious few substantive arguments but oppose health-care reform mostly because passage would help Barack Obama's political prospects...A striking example of the prevailing cravenness was Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia, who has authored end-of-life counseling provisions and told the Washington Post that comparing such counseling to euthanasia was nuts — but then quickly retreated when he realized that he had sided with the reality-based community against his Rush Limbaugh-led party...And when Palin floated the "death panel" canard, the number of prominent Republicans who rose up to call her out could be counted on one hand...
Until recently, the Republican Party contained a strong moderate wing. It was a Republican, the lawyer Joseph Welch, who delivered the coup de grĂ¢ce to Senator McCarthy when he said, "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?" Where is the Republican who would dare say that to Rush Limbaugh, who has compared the President of the United States to Adolf Hitler? ...This may tell us something about the actual state of play on health care: the nutters are a tiny minority; the Republicans are curling themselves into a tight, white, extremist bubble — but there may be enough of them raising dust to render creative public policy impossible.,8599,1917525-2,00.html


"The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place, we are entering a period of consequences." - Winston Churchill, The Gathering Storm

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Crazy for the Loonie—and Canada --Jubak

Thursday, August 06, 2009
Crazy for the Loonie—and Canada

The world’s greatest currency?

Not the yen, or the euro, or the renminbi. Sure as shootin' not the US dollar or the British pound.

Yep, it's the loonie, Canada's dollar with the ghostly-voiced diving bird on it. And not just at the moment, either. This is the currency I most want to own for the next decade.

Right now, all the currencies of global commodity producers are rallying. The Australian and New Zealand dollars, the Norwegian krone, and the Canadian loonie all hit 11-month highs against the greenback this week.

The belief that China has gone on a sustainable commodity-buying spree to support its economic recovery has caused commodity prices to soar—and so too have the stock markets and currencies of countries that have commodity-based economies.

At Wednesday’s close, the iShares MSCI Canada Index (NYSEArca: EWC) ETF was up 80% from its March 9th low (the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 48% during that period), while the Canadian dollar has gained 21% against the US dollar. (EWC traded above $24 late Thursday—Editor.)

I'd put the loonie and Canadian stocks ahead of currencies and stocks of other commodity-based countries because Canada's commodity basket is the most diversified in the world. (Well, Brazil will give Canada a run for the money if the South Atlantic oil discoveries pan out.) Canada has Norway's oil, Australia's mines and farms, and New Zealand's timber and farms all in one package.

And Canada is better positioned in the interest rate cycle. High domestic interest rates—as long as they're not so high that they signal some major economic dysfunction—make a currency stronger. Canada's loonie is strong even though the Bank of Canada has set its target interest rates at just 0.25%, exactly where they are in the US.

That means there will be plenty of support for the loonie when the Bank of Canada—no sooner than the middle of 2010, it has said—starts raising rates again.

lso, the bank has repeatedly pledged to keep its hands off the currency unless its outlook on growth and inflation materially changes.

But finally, I prefer the loonie to the rest of the world's currencies—and certainly to the US dollar—because Canada’s accumulated national debt has been falling, not climbing, for most of the last decade.

After hitting a high near 80% of the country's GDP in 1995-2000, Canada's accumulated national government deficit has dropped pretty much every year until it stood at just 30% of GDP in 2008. In comparison, the US ended 2008 with an accumulated federal debt of about 70% of GDP, and it’s projected to head higher.

...all aboard!