"It is easy to confuse what is with what ought to be, especially when what is has worked out in your favor."
- Tyrion Lannister

"Lannister. Baratheon. Stark. Tyrell. They're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that's ones on top and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground. I'm not going to stop the wheel. I'm going to break the wheel."

- Daenerys Targaryen

"The Lord of Light wants his enemies burned. The Drowned God wants them drowned. Why are all the gods such vicious cunts? Where's the God of Tits and Wine?"

- Tyrion Lannister

"The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are."

- Jorah Mormont

"These bad people are what I'm good at. Out talking them. Out thinking them."

- Tyrion Lannister

"What happened? I think fundamentals were trumped by mechanics and, to a lesser extent, by demographics."

- Michael Barone

"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."
- Dorothy Parker

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Department of Frozen Conflicts

Last week:
King Abdullah II of Jordan flew to Baghdad on Monday, becoming the first Arab leader to visit Iraq since Saddam Hussein fell five years ago.
Jordan relies on Iraq for most of its fuels.
Ibrahim al-Sumadayi, an Iraqi political analyst, said on Baghdad television that the visit would encourage other Arab nations to take similar steps. He also said that Jordan, with its Sunni majority, wished to prevent Iran, a nation of Shiites, from exerting undue influence in Baghdad.
Abdullah had been the one warning of a rising "Shia crescent" extending from the Shia in Lebanon, who are gaining in power, to the newly empowered Shia in Iraq, to the Shia nation of Iran.

The UN should create a department of Frozen Conflicts which alerts the media as one of them thaws or heats up. Kashmir is seeing increasing conflict today, for instance. Cyprus seems to be getting better, as does Shia-Sunni flashpoint of Iraq. (However from what I understand the Shia of Iraq are unlikely to reconcile with their fellow Iraqi Sunnis, which is why Abdullah's diplomacy with Iraq is key.)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Musharraf set to quit and receive immunity
Obama's lead economics advisors Jason Furman and Austan Goolsbee employ Delong in their Wall Street Journal Op-Ed today:

Sen. McCain has put forward the most fiscally reckless presidential platform in modern memory. The likely results of his Bush-plus policies are clear. As Berkeley economist Brad Delong has estimated, the McCain plan, as compared to the Obama plan, would lower annual incomes by $300 billion or more in real terms by 2017, costing the typical worker $1,800 or more due to the effect of large deficits on national savings and thus capital formation. Sen. McCain's neglect of critical public investments would further impede economic growth for decades to come.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ronald D. Asmus writes about the Russian-Georgian conflict.
To be sure, the Georgian government and President Saakashvili himself is responsible for launching its military move on August 7--albeit in response to provocations and heavy shelling by South Ossetian separatists. That move gave Moscow the pretext to invade. Today, Western observers understandably ask why Tbilisi allowed itself to be goaded into what was clearly a Russian trap. President Saakashvili will have to answer that question himself. But I suspect I have a pretty good idea of what he will say. In our recent conversations, it was clear to me that he was concluding that the West was not serious about resolving these conflicts, that he did not believe he would ever have the diplomatic support required, and that the status quo could not go on forever. He watched Russia's creeping annexation of Abkhazia start last spring with almost no Western response. That does not justify what clearly was a terrible strategic mistake by Georgia to act militarily. But it points to the mistakes--both of omission and commission--the West made that contributed to this crisis.
Cathy Young writes about it in Reason.
Russia has pointedly compared South Ossetia's claims to independence to those of Kosovo, whose recognition it strongly opposed. (Russia's own war against secessionist Chechnya, which killed tens if not hundreds of thousands of civilians, goes unmentioned.)
The Russians going on about human rights and genocide is a little bizarre. Young again:
Some liberal Russian commentators, such as EJ.ru's Dmitry Sidorov, argue that Saakashvili walked into Moscow's trap, giving Russia an excuse for an invasion that will fatally destabilize Georgia's political system. Meanwhile, opposition leader Mikhail Kasyanov believes it was the Kremlin that let itself be provoked into a military confrontation that will badly hurt Russia's international standing.
Obviously it remains to be seen how this shakes out. It was interesting to see the Presidents of Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia in Tbilisi in solidarity. To me a lot depends on the future state of the global financial system and hence the global economy. Will it continue to slide?

Krugman says:
A nasty inflation number today. But remember what the guide says: DON’T PANIC.

Basically, what we’re seeing is pure commodity price inflation, with not a hint of a wage-price spiral. And the commodity boom seems to be over. So inflation will be headed down soon.

I’m sure that Gentle Uncle Ben is under immense pressure to raise rates. But he shouldn’t.
Richard Just's exhaustive, comprehensive piece on Darfur. I guess since it's in the New Republic, Just feels he has to be nasty and so he takes multiple gratuitous shots at Don Cheadle for whatever reason.

Just titles it "The Truth Will Not Set You Free: Everything we know about Darfur, and everything we're not doing about it." He gets almost Zizekian in his paradoxical inversions. Not near enough has happened to stop the genocide because we know too much?

Russia and China won't allow Sudan's sovereignty to be violated and there's no stomach to go outside the UN again like with Kosovo and Iraq. Those are the obstacles, not any shortcomings of those who've tried to do something however small.