Thursday, June 21, 2007

First blog ever?

Was here: Okay, so maybe not this EXACT one... But think about it -- what other format allowed, nay PERMITTED, free flowing prose, poetry, art, and other forms of both intellectual and unintelligible exchanges than your friendly bathroom wall? DeTocque's favorite "early blog" would have to be at The Raven in DC's Mt. Pleasant neighborhood.

Romney swings and misses again

Someone please tell Mitt to Quit. He's embarrassing himself again, with this video. (And believe me, DeTocque hates giving the man's website the extra clicks, but the entertainment value is probably worth it...) Here's the corresponding article on Slate.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Politics immitates life... how delicious

One cannot but pause and consider the flabbergasting parallels between French ex-Socialist presidential Segolene Royal's separation from here longtime partner (and current Socialist Party chief) Francois Hollande. For those who do not follow French politics, their relationship was much more than schoolkids playing kissy-face behind the playground: they were, in the best and worst of French time-honored traditions, married. With four children. (And for the announcement, see Le Monde's article. Or in English from the likely-jubilant Times of London.)

While denying that the split had nothing to do with politics, it safely had very much to do with politics, and probably a bit to do with Hollande's bit (see Times article). But the point holds: A domestic dispute has now come to symbolize the near-term evolution of the French Socialist Party, as the two ex-loves wrestle for control.

The problem is that neither one seems to have a viable plan for the shake-up the Socialists desperately need to become "electable" again: If Sego's presidential campaign is a good barometer, she's set to increase social spending without a coherent plan to pay for it, and Hollande, party chief since 1997 is an old voice who hasn't really done anything more than stifle the right-leaning Presidents since he took power. Hollande is due to step down in 2008, but we'll see if he goes earlier.

In the meantime, the PS should really be searching high and low for that dynamic Blairite modernizer: the one who will reign in the unions (assuming Sarko doesn't do it for them!), and openly adopt capitalism and globalization as the undeniable trends of the future. It's unbelievable to have to write that in 2007, but such statements reflect current PS thinking.

Oh, yeah: And Sarko did okay yesterday in round two, as well. While not kicking down any doors (and apparently losing Alan Juppe along the way), the UMP has enough deputies to do as it pleases. It's probably a good thing that the Socialist's capitalized on the UMP's gaffe of announcing a 24%ish VAT target and the "please don't let Sarko do as he pleases" vote. Strong opposition is always a positive thing.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Short term currency worries

The recent Sino-American dispute over the undervalued renminbi has caught DeTocque's wandering eye for the moment... Its domestic implications in US politics have not gone unnoticed. (See FT article here.)

The issue boils down to the fact the Senators, Congressmen, and Hank Paulson all want the Chinese currency to be worth a bit more (say about 10% more according to recently published reports) on the open market. Politicians may claim bipartisan support for a new Senate bill, but really anyone would support a bill that increases your constituents' exports...

By (admittingly) keeping the renminbi undervalued, the Chinese government has fueled a record trade surplus with the US in recent years (meaning the Chinese have exported about $233bn more to the US than they have imported from the US). So, the US is seeking to rectify that imbalance by legalizing US interference in the currency market -- the Americans would buy renminbi with dollars, thereby increasing the value of the renminbi and allowing newly, more wealthy Chinese consumers to more cheaply purchase US goods. Net result: Chinese buy more Fords, US bonds, Big Macs and iPods because their currency is worth more. Good for Joe Schmoe in Iowa, and good for his Congressman.

However, the Chinese government actually has a very good reason to keep the renminbi undervalued -- though their economy is going like gangbusters, per capita GDP is still tiny compared to the US. Now pretend for a second that all these Fords and iPods started flooding into China because Chinese purchasers opt for a relatively cheaper US car (of higher quality) over an absolutely cheaper Chinese-produced version (of still lower quality)... In other words, you average Chinese citizen could have never dreamed of a top-of-the-line US product and had always opted for the cheap-o domestic version. Suddenly, with the stronger renminbi, the US product is more within reach, so they go for it.

Two things result: 1. the Chinese inflation rate increases at a hurried pace for domestic AND imported goods, and many people are suddenly priced out of the market (read: disaster). Prices have gone up so fast and wages haven't kept pace... 2. No one but a local would ever want a Chinese company's computer. If their sales go down as consumers opt for American versions, Chinese computer company's profits shrink, and the economy slows.

With that, the Chinese just can't raise the value for practically humanitarian reasons -- the local level of the Chinese economy would be severely and catastrophically effected. The renminbi will gain value through nature market forces as the Chinese economy continues to get up to speed. American politicians should let it do so.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Bush and Putin repeating history?

If you were filling out an SAT exam, and one of those ever-so-occasionally difficult "A is to B... as C is to _" questions came up, how would you answer the following:

BUSH > PUTIN as TRUMAN > __________

Well, perhaps this isn't so difficult because, well, STALIN was in power round about when Harry was, so you do have limited choices. Why the comparison?

DeTocque was struck by this article in today's FT. Basically, we have Putin reading Bush the riot act over this missile defense nonsense, while Bush's response is, in typical black-and-white Bushish, "Russia is not hostile. Russia is our friend." (DeTocque will avoid the probably necessary dissertation on W's simplistic language, but beg someone out there to write it, just for comedy's sake.)

Digressions aside, the Angry, Stubborn Ruskie and Pliant President sound eerily similar to character traits as explained in an excellent book DeTocque is finally finishing: "From Roosevelt to Truman" by Fr. Wilson Miscamble. The point here is that Stalin, despite having a weaker hand post-WWII (no A-bomb, little involvement in the Japanese theater, among other things) basically bullies Truman, SecState Byrnes, et al into accepting proportionally greater Soviet influence in the post-war make up of Europe (the greatest example of this would be the US abandoning Poland), just by being cantankerous.

Why would the comparatively stronger Truman accept such great Soviet influence? Because, Miscamble argues convincingly, he made the strategic decision to continue FDR's approach of emphasizing cooperation, even when it was against US-strategic interest, with the Soviets above all else.

The parallels are, of course, by no means exact, but they do merit mention.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Second Wave Coming Soon

So guess where DeTocque is? Shrimps on the barbie anyone?
We're now hitting a much-welcomed lull in the "I'm-running-for-President-and-I-will-raise-more-cash-than-you" sweepstakes. Now is the time for a collective sigh of relief.

But what lies ahead? Yup, it's the second wave of announcements!

If you're in your party's contest already, chances are you're a newbie (Obama), have never done this before (Rudy), an insufferable media-hog (Hilary), or dumb (McCain). Look for the Al Gores, the Newts, the Fred Thomsons to start jumping in.

Frankly, the second wavers look brilliant at this point. Here's why:

1. They've allowed the country to listen to the initial field from each party, and can assess where the early birds fall short. It's no secret that the Republicans do not have a super-star candidate that the hard-core faithful can get behind, so Newt and Fred may start looking to fill that void. Ditto for Al Gore: he's said a million times that's he's not running, until he realizes that Hillary is unelectable, and people are still gun-shy on Barrack.

2. The first rounders have raised tons of cash, true enough. But they're going to spend it all, and soon, to beat each other up. Look for the second wave to get in once everyone's coffers start to dwindle and the field thins a bit. This is particular precarious for the Republicans -- if anyone actually starts listening to a Mike Huckabee type (ie, a candidate with a mainstream message who just hasn't caught-on yet), the spending will go into overdrive to thwart him. And then, Enter His Newtness into a taxed out field.

3. The media cycle will give the second rounders much, much more coverage than the firsters. The reality-TV-channel that is FOXNews is probably so sick of giving Tom Tancredo and Ron Paul (whose name is perfect for the adult-film industry, by-the-by) legit air-time that they're dying to burn thousands of feet of film on the Newt.

4. And finally, let's face it -- you don't get burned out so much if you only spend 14 months running for Prez instead of 24...