Remember the bailout? (3 cents)

Remember how crucial it was to give $700 billion to financial companies?  Well, now we aren’t going to do it, apparently.  Instead, we are going to be concentrating on mortgage defaults.

Well, that may (or may not) be well and good, but both were simply stop gap measures.  As this crisis continues to deepen, I think that it will be clear that nothing can successfully can happen to the supply side (i.e., helping credit markets, or helping industry) unless there is a corresponding increase of demand (which can come only from jobs).  So, I think we will wind up with a major jobs program:  we will see physical infrastructure repair, new public construction projects, energy retrofitting and renewable energy programs, etc.).  But this will take some time, and in the mean time we are going to suffer and to struggle.

Of course, I am not experienced enough to know how this will work.  But if governments issue bonds to, say, repair roads, and the bonds have the full faith and commitment of the government, then (assuming interests rates are reduced, and other steps taken, to permit the flow of credit) investors will acquire the bonds and the proceeds will be used to pay construction and other workers, who will in turn use their salaries to support the rest of the economy.  Whether the projects are undertaken directly by the government, or through government guarantees, might not matter.  The goal should be to prime the employment pump, and to make sure that companies take their profits and reinvest a large portion of them, rather than shipping them off as CEO salaries or as shareholder distributions.

Not only will this help get us out of our economic doldrums, but we will wind up with a more modern and user-friendly country, and a strong infrastructure base to go into the 21st century.

But we do need consistency, and from the speed with which the bailout was created, sold and now changed, consistency does not seem to be in anyone’s mind.  Perhaps, after 1/20, this will change.

The Obama administration will have to hit the ground running; I am sure that they know this, and I am confident that they will do so.  It is fine to say that politics should not be “as usual”, but this needs to apply to intraparty as well as interparty differences, and that will be a challenge.

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Attack on Jerusalem Yeshiva

The fact that a gunman attacked a yeshiva in Jerusalem, while tragic, is not particularly shocking. You would expect this would happen now and then (and in this country, you see similar shootings, even without the political tension of Israel). That doesn’t make such an event any less terrible than it would be if it were less likely to have occurred, of course.

But equally tragic is the claim by Hamas that the killings were heroic, the claim by a Palestinian leader that the blame for the killings lie with the Israelis, or the demonstrations of jubilant Palestinians in the streets of Gaza (and probably by now elsewhere).

Shame on Hamas, shame on the demonstrating Palestinians. Read my earlier posting on how all this can stop. It is still the same. It is not up to the Israelis to stop the bloodshed; it is up to Hamas and its supporters.

Maybe you Can Fool Mother Nature (2 cents)

I have two ideas.  They are not new.   I have them every March when I think that the weather should be more consistently warmer than it ever is.

Idea #1.  Let’s change the designation of seasons.

Now:  Winter = 12/21 to 3/21

Spring = 3/21 to 6/21

Summer is 6/21 to 9/21

Autumn is 9/21 to 12/21

I suggest starting each season at the first of a month.  Spring would start on March 1.  We would avoid 21 days of winter in the “Spring”. [It is irrelevant if winter started on December 1, because December 1 is winter!]

Idea #2.  I understand that every four years you need to add a day (otherwise, we’d have Christmas in July–or do we already have that?) to keep the world in balance.  But why does it have to be February?  That only adds an extra winter day.

I suggest leaving February with 28 days every year.  And, on leap year, having a June 31st.

Can anyone find any fault with either of these ideas?

Letter to My Friends in Gaza

Dear Friends in Gaza:

Some things are very simple.

First, if your government, or your fellow Gazans, would stop sending rockets into Israel, Israel would stop sending its more powerful rockets into Gaza, and you and your children would be safe.

Second, if your government would stop talking about eradicating the State of Israel, you would find that you would get economic support not only from Israel but from many other places, and that your electric utilities and water supply would no longer be at risk and, believe it or not, you could even get jobs.

Sure, there are some very bitter and brutal people in Israel who don’t like you very much. But you have to admit that you have not been trying to be very likable.

Now, I don’t expect you will follow my advice, so I assume there will be airstrikes, and incursions, and worse. And that you and your children and family members will bear the brunt of it.

But it is so simple, because it is up to you. Now, standing up against Hamas is difficult, we know that. But as you are finding out, living under Hamas is difficult, too, and you put yourself in that position.

I wish you the best, my Gazan friends. But only you can do it.

In Jail

So, 1 out of every 100 Americans are in jail. I thought that traffic seemed lighter than usual.

But seriously, folks, how can this be? We apparently have more people in jail by sheer numbers and by percentage than any other country in the world. Isn’t freedom wonderful?

And, regarding African-American males between 25 and 34, 1 out of every 9 is in prison. And I assume that means as of one point in time. What do you think the average sentence is? And what percentage of African American males will be in prison at some time between the ages of 25 and 34?

It is mind boggling.

And there are some more mind boggling things.

For one, do I know any of these people?

And two, what do they do when they get out, since no one wants to hire them, and no one wants to rent them an apartment? Etc., etc., etc.

Oh well, let the good times roll.

The Candidates and the Jews

What a terrible subject.

Why does it have to come up so often, even when there is no there there?

This time, I have to blame it on Tim Russert, whom, I must say, I like less and less every time I see him (and I never really liked him that much to begin with).

Russert asks Obama about Farrakhan’s endorsement. Obama handles the question just fine: I denounce Farrakhan and everything he stands for and always have, I believe the US-Israel relationship is sacrosanct, and I have always had a good relationship with the Jewish people.

Hillary leaps and claims that, while Obama denounced Farrakhan, she did not hear him reject Farrakahn.

Russert must now be jumping for joy. He believes that he has caught Obama in a Catch – 22 position, and isn’t that what journalism is all about?

Obama, on the other hand, says: “Denounce” “Reject” What is the difference. If it makes Senator Clinton happier if I say I reject Farrakahn, fine, I reject him.

Another perfect answer. Russert (sotto voce): Curses, foiled again.

Yet today I hear this entire episode being replayed on NPR, with a new twist. It appears that there are emails, and blogs, and phone messages, and flyers, and who knows what, appearing before each primary saying something like (and I exaggerate for effect): Obama hates Jews and Israel; he is really a Moslem.

The question is: is this being orchestrated by the Clinton campaign?

Hillary is asked that question, and she says (and I paraphrase): Not as far as I know, and I denounce such tactics.

I listened hard: I did not hear her reject them.

And, in her mind, we now know, those two words are significantly different.

But……

I jest.

Don’t I?

Adding to the earlier posting…..

The Examiner points out this morning that DC ranks at the absolute bottom of jurisdictions as to how much is spent on pre-school intervention for disabled children, and how this lack (in spite of federal mandates to the contrary) feeds into the problem in elementary schools (where 20% of DC students require special services), which feeds into, etc., etc., etc. You get the picture.

There are some impressive statistics cited as to how early intervention helps elementary and subsequent school performance and social integration. And a couple of local horror stories.

Something is Wrong with this Picture (10 cents)

The Plaza Hotel in New York has been reconfigured to include 181 condominium units. 100 have been sold. But no one is there. This is because the condominium purchasers are using these units as second homes, or third homes, or more. They only come now and then. Every night the building is basically deserted. This was discussed is an unpleasant article in yesterday’s New York Times Sunday Styles Section, which focussed on one family, who had purchased two units, a two-bedroom for themselves, and a one-bedroom for their children to use. The one-bedroom cost $5.8 million dollars.

We have friends who live in Bethesda. Five years ago they bought a one bedroom apartment in a downtown Washington building. It is their weekend home. Other of the owners of units in the building (including one family we know–we think it is the same building) use the units only on weekdays and retreat to rural or suburban weekend homes. The building is always partially, or largely, empty.

Contrast this with the people who are homeless. Or those who are losing their homes because of the current mortgage crisis.

Then go back to yesterday’s extraordinary “No Child”. Sun says that the Congressional district in the Bronx where her school is has the distinction of being the poorest district in the country, while an 18 minute IRT ride to mid-town Manhattan will lead you to the richest. I don’t know if this is factually true or not. But the story does tie into the Plaza Hotel.

Many people are extraordinarily rich. Many, many, many, many are equally poor. And of course, these distinctions are self-perpetuating. When you get rich enough, you will stay rich, if only because your wealth earns more than you could possibly ever spend. When you are poor, you normally have no chance to change your situation. Especially in a country where there are drugs, gangs, broken families (or where there were never any families), poor schools, too many in prison, guns, etc.

Go back to “No Child”. The American system of letting small, wealthy suburban enclaves have their own public school systems, which create stwo tracks of education, feeds on itself by ensuring that those who can afford it will move into those wealthy school districts and forsake the others. And those who can afford it, might move into districts with poorer schools, but be relatively unconcerned because they can send their children to elite private schools.

This is clearly the wrong track. Of course a mega-merger would just at this point dumb down the better schools. We are stuck in an enigma. The Iraq of America.