Editorials and Stuff
From today's NY times, unsurprisingly, Paul Krugman
continues his vendetta against the President, as well as his more general attacks on American capitalism in general.
He talks about how "content-free" he thought the President's Tuesday speech was (which, honestly, isn't totally wrong). But when he says:
The current crisis in American capitalism isn't just about the specific details — about tricky accounting, stock options, loans to executives, and so on. It's about the way the game has been rigged on behalf of insiders.
I have to ask, when hasn't this been true? I'm not saying this is a good thing, but name me a society where insiders don't naturally have the advantage, where those in power don't look out for themselves and their cronies. That isn't a fault of capitalism, but a feature of human nature.
Also: while Bush's SEC chairman was "cozy" with many big firms in his private career, anybody who is qualified to be SEC chairman is going to have lots of contacts and dealings with big business. We're not going to hire a complete outsider, because a complete outsider wn't have the knowledge or background to do the job.
He talks about how the President's proposed reforms won't do any good, because:
In reality, top executives rarely get charged with crimes; not a single indictment has yet been brought in the Enron affair, and even "Chainsaw Al" Dunlap, a serial book-cooker, faces only a civil suit. And they almost never get convicted. Accounting issues are technical enough to confuse many juries; expensive lawyers make the most of that confusion; and if all else fails, big-name executives have friends in high places who protect them.
Well, even with lots of new laws, how will any of that change? The existing laws are more than adequate to catch and punish corporate wrongdoers, if they're enforced
. If they're not, why would new laws and rules be?
Leaving Krugman, we come to the thoughts of the editorial board, which are all about the evils of unilateralism:
These days America finds itself at once uniquely strong and vulnerable, the only superpower and a target of envy, hostility and suspicion around much of the globe. The Bush administration has clearly been tempted to go it alone in this new environment, dodging any international undertakings that the United States does not completely control.
When in the last half century has the U.S. not
been a target of envy, hostility and suspicion? For a large part of that half century, we were faced with a Soviety Union and its satellite states, armed with thousands of nuclear weapons and millions of troops on hair trigger alert. That's not hostile?
President Bush has shown skill in working with Russia and other nations to put together a coalition to fight terrorism. But there are other critical problems in the world, some equally important to our own future and others of pressing concern to the people whose good will we need to fight terror abroad. They include global warming, proliferation of nuclear and biological weapons, fighting infectious diseases like AIDS and malaria and assuring the prosecution of war criminals. The United States does not rule the world, and the administration needs to think more creatively and strategically about how this country works with the rest of the planet. A dash of humility might be a help, too.
A vocal segment of Mr. Bush's core right-wing constituency constantly urges the administration to steer clear of international agreements that it sees as a threat to our sovereignty. Its targets range from a still-unratified 1980 agreement protecting women against political and economic discrimination and physical abuse to the brand-new International Criminal Court. Mr. Bush's willingness to listen to this group is likely to grow more pronounced as he positions himself and the Republican Party for the Congressional elections this fall and the presidential campaign in 2004.
Um...it's not about "going it alone"; it is about protecting our sivreignity and our citizens. The ICC's flaws have been discussed here and elsewhere in detail; the 1980 treaty, the CEDAW, has some pretty big flaws as well, which the Times neglects to mention.
The president's concerns about international accords are understandable, if not necessarily justified. Some countries take delight in embarrassing America, and when the United States joins in a compact to combat a social malady like racism or sexism, other members may prefer looking for flaws in the superpower's own performance to recognizing egregious violations of human rights by others. The conference on racism last year in South Africa, which degenerated into a food fight over whether to equate Zionism with racism, was a good example of how counterproductive international efforts can be if they fall prey to regional political agendas.
That's a very mild description of what happened in South Africa. The racism conference wasn't fighting over "whether" to equate Zionism with racism; that was already assumed. The only fighting was over the exact language with which to condemn Israel and the U.S.
And lots of countries - or at least their media and their ruling elites - take constant pleasure in trying to embarrass the U.S. They have done so for the past 50 years.
But in all the years during which the United States has taken part in international accords, examples of anti-Americanism run amok are few and far between. The United States does need to protect itself and its citizens from the possibility that smaller nations will gang up on Americans just because they suddenly find they can. But there is a vast space between that kind of reasonable caution and the administration's current attitude.
Do they have no knowledge of recent history whatsoever? The Cold War? Dozens of Soviet client states voting to condemn us day after day in the UN?
Encouragingly, the White House now appears willing to draw back from its threat to veto further United Nations peacekeeping operations as part of its continuing campaign against the new International Criminal Court. But the administration showed a reckless willingness to jeopardize these valuable missions. Meanwhile, its misguided opposition to the international court continues.
Who needs sovreignity? Who needs Constitutional protections for U.S, citizens? Obviously not the Times editorial board.
The White House's response to global warming has been thoroughly discouraging. It fears that an international effort to limit greenhouse gases would have an impact on the American economy, which is probably correct. The United States, with just 5 percent of the world's population, emits 25 percent of those gases. Reducing those levels cannot be done without some sacrifice. But the rest of the world is right in demanding that we accept the responsibility and make the effort nonetheless. If the United States wants to be the political and moral leader of the world, it has to comply. The administration has had plenty of time to offer serious alternative proposals for reducing those emissions. Instead, it has simply walked away from the global effort.
The U.S. also produces around 30% or so of the world's economic output. That's a little fact the Times doesn't see fit to mention. Looked at that way, we're producting 30% of the goods and services with only 25% of the greenhouse gases - other natons should be as efficient as we are; rather than trying to hobble our economy to please foreign diplomats and activists.
The administration takes the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons dangers extremely seriously, to the point of threatening pre-emptive military attacks. Yet military action can provide, at best, only a partial answer. Keeping these weapons out of the hands of Iran, Libya or Al Qaeda depends heavily on upholding the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and strengthening the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the Biological Weapons Convention, efforts the Bush administration has opposed. The White House is right when it argues that some countries sign treaties and then break their word. The answer is better enforcement, not abstention.
Removing the governments of nations that seek such eapons, or provide support and shelter to terrorists who seek them is
the solution to the problem. Treaties that rogue states have no intention of honoring are not.
Washington has been inexplicably miserly in the global effort to combat H.I.V./AIDS and other infectious diseases. The U.N. is seeking an extra $7 billion to $10 billion annually, of which Washington's fair share would be about $2.5 billion. America's actual contribution is one-tenth that amount.
Global leadership requires more than visionary statements and forceful American actions. Washington needs to be a leader, not a spoiler, in efforts to build international cooperation.
Why is our fair share $2.5 billion? Because the activists say so?
The problem with HIV/AIDS (at least in Africa) is not the disease, it's the behavior, and the prevailing culture that fosters it. More drugs will not change that one iota.
But of course facts don't matter; the only thing that matters is that it's all, always, our fault.