Thursday, September 9, 2010
It's the kind of thing I might not notice for several days, unless I went to the rear of my car to put something in the hatchback. So I don't have much clue as to when or in what parking lot someone vented his/her feelings about our president. But it had to have happened in my neighborhood or in parking lots in middle or upscale parts of town.
Now my dilemma is this: do I leave it on, and perhaps give the false impression that I have crossed out my former allegiance, or do I take it off and thus give in to the vandal?
What I would like is to find an Obama 2012 bumper sticker to put alongside it. Or maybe one that says something like "hate is not a family value."
Anyway, I'm off to the beach for a few days to quiet, relatively uncommercialized St. George Island on the Gulf panhandle -- a boost to the return of tourist spending in the area -- with a stop over to visit my grandson in graduate school in nearby Tallahassee.
Back next week.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
His 1956 novel Giovanni's Room is an early homoerotic novel that has become a classic; it was one of my first encounters with something in print that hinted that maybe my own homoerotic longings were actually, possibly something real about me, rather than just a distortion of normality. Other novels dealt with race equally evocatively.
Through the 50s, 60s and 70s, Baldwin became an important voice, not only as a novelist but as an essayist and searingly focused social critic of conditions in his native land. Today's AJC reviews a new collection of his non-fiction, and it reminded my why I found him so compelling in those early years.
In a speech he made in 1963, "We Can Change the Country," he penetrates to the heart of several of our controversies here in 2010. At that time, he was addressing racial prejudice and whose problem is it:
"There has never been in this country a Negro problem. I have never been upset by the fact that I have a broad nose, big lips and kinky hair. You got upset. And now you must ask yourself why.And then, this:
"I, for example, do not bring down property values when I move in. You bring them down when you move out."What a fresh, concise statement of the problem.
Now let's apply that to gay marriage and muslim mosques in our neighborhoods.
Writing in these pages in early in early 2008, we put the total cost to the United States of the Iraq war at $3 trillion. This price tag dwarfed previous estimates, including the Bush administration's 2003 projections of a $50 billion to $60 billion war.
But today, as the United States ends combat in Iraq, it appears that our $3 trillion estimate (which accounted for both government expenses and the war's broader impact on the U.S. economy) was, if anything, too low. For example, the cost of diagnosing, treating and compensating disabled veterans has proved higher than we expected.
Moreover, two years on, it has become clear to us that our estimate did not capture what may have been the conflict's most sobering expenses: those in the category of "might have beens," or what economists call opportunity costs. For instance, many have wondered aloud whether, absent the Iraq invasion, we would still be stuck in Afghanistan. And this is not the only "what if" worth contemplating. We might also ask: If not for the war in Iraq, would oil prices have risen so rapidly? Would the federal debt be so high? Would the economic crisis have been so severe?
The answer to all four of these questions is probably no. The central lesson of economics is that resources -- including both money and attention -- are scarce. What was devoted to one theater, Iraq, was not available elsewhere.
They go on to analyze each of these four "what ifs" and conclude with this:
Saying what might have been is always difficult, especially with something as complex as the global financial crisis, which had many contributing factors. Perhaps the crisis would have happened in any case. But almost surely, with more spending at home, and without the need for such low interest rates and such soft regulation to keep the economy going in its absence, the bubble would have been smaller, and the consequences of its breaking therefore less severe. To put it more bluntly: The war contributed indirectly to disastrous monetary policy and regulations.
The Iraq war didn't just contribute to the severity of the financial crisis, though; it also kept us from responding to it effectively. Increased indebtedness meant that the government had far less room to maneuver than it otherwise would have had. More specifically, worries about the (war-inflated) debt and deficit constrained the size of the stimulus, and they continue to hamper our ability to respond to the recession. With the unemployment rate remaining stubbornly high, the country needs a second stimulus. But mounting government debt means support for this is low. The result is that the recession will be longer, output lower, unemployment higher and deficits larger than they would have been absent the war.
For this price, we could have really good, fully funded health care for everyone, money for infrastructure updating, education, and so much more. And the man who presided over all of this just goes scott-free and enjoys his retirement, playing golf, writing his memoirs, while the Republicans busy themselves re-writing history and shifting the blame to Obama.
The impotent rage engendered by all this is just too much. I can't even think about it for more than 15 seconds without sinking into despair.