“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Friday, April 03, 2009

An interesting report of a speech from Obama

Big transatlantic moment as Barack Obama bemoans "arrogance" of US and "insidious" anti-Americanism of Europe
Posted By: Toby Harnden at Apr 3, 2009 at 16:24:00
Posted in: Foreign Correspondents Telegraph

Here in the Rhenus Sports Arena in Strasbourg, I've just witnessed what is surely a very important - I hesitate to say historic - moment in transatlantic relations. Barack Obama went further than any previous president in apologising for American behaviour.

"In America, there is a failure to appreciate Europe's leading role in the world," he said in a prepared speech delivered before a campaign-style town hall meeting in which he took questions from mainly French and German students.

"Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive."

But he balanced this startling mea culpa - or, perhaps more accurately, a George W. Bush culpa - with a clear message to Europeans that blaming America for everything was unacceptable.

"In Europe, there is an anti-Americanism that is at once casual, but can also be insidious. Instead of recognising the good that America so often does in the world, there have been times where Europeans choose to blame America for much of what is bad."

Then, in classic Obama fashion, he sought to find a synthesis between the two poles. "On both sides of the Atlantic, these attitudes have become all too common. They are not wise. They do not represent the truth.

"They threaten to widen the divide across the Atlantic and leave us both more isolated. They fail to acknowledge the fundamental truth that America cannot confront the challenges of this century alone, but that Europe cannot confront them without America."

I was standing beside a White House official who told me afterwards that the speech was a concerted attempt to draw a line under the Bush years and offer an olive branch to Europe.

The time is fast approaching when Obama will have to be more than the unBush - that will not get him a pass in Europe indefinitely. He recognises this, saying: "I think it is important for Europe to understand that even though I am president and George Bush is not president, al-Qaeda is still a threat."

In concrete, immediate terms Obama wants to use his vow to rebuild America's global relations by securing more troops for Afghanistan.

The rather woolly US language on this subject last week now seems to be hardening up considerably with Obama saying that although "we will be partnering with Europe on the development side and on the diplomatic side" that isn't in itself enough.

"There will be a military component to it," he said. "And Europe should not simply expect the United States to shoulder that burden alone. We should not, because this is a joint problem, and it requires joint effort."

Word is that Gordon Brown has just pledged to send 1,000 more troops to Afghanistan. We should soon know whether the continental Europeans will also be - as Obama put it while standing alongside Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany - "stepping up to the plate".


  1. Barack Obama, the World's Greatest Orator (™all news organisations), didn't exactly cover himself in glory when the BBC's political editor Nick Robinson asked him a question about who was to blame for the financial crisis. Normally word perfect, Obama ummed, ahed and waffled for the best part of two and a half minutes. Here, John Crace decodes what he was really thinking ...

    Nick Robinson: "A question for you both, if I may. The prime minister has repeatedly blamed the United States of America for causing this crisis. France and Germany both blame Britain and America for causing this crisis. Who is right? And isn't the debate about that at the heart of the debate about what to do now?"

    Brown immediately swivels to leave Obama in pole position.

    There is a four-second delay before Obama starts speaking.

    [THANKS FOR NOTHING, GORDY BABY. REMIND ME TO HANG YOU OUT TO DRY ONE DAY.] Barack Obama: "I, I, would say that, er ... pause [I HAVEN'T A CLUE] ... if you look at ... pause [WHO IS THIS NICK ROBINSON JERK?] ... the, the sources of this crisis ... pause [JUST KEEP GOING, BUDDY] ... the United States certainly has some accounting to do with respect to . . . pause [I'M IN WAY TOO DEEP HERE] ... a regulatory system that was inadequate to the massive changes that have taken place in the global financial system ... pause, close eyes [THIS IS GOING TO GO DOWN LIKE A CROCK OF SHIT BACK HOME. HELP]. I think what is also true is that ... pause [I WANT NICK ROBINSON TO DISAPPEAR] ... here in Great Britain ... pause [SHIT, GORDY'S THE HOST, DON'T LAND HIM IN IT] ... here in continental Europe ... pause [DAMN IT, BLAME EVERYONE.] ... around the world. We were seeing the same mismatch between the regulatory regimes that were in place and er ... pause [I'VE LOST MY TRAIN OF THOUGHT AGAIN] ... the highly integrated, er, global capital markets that have emerged ... pause [I'M REALLY WINGING IT NOW]. So at this point, I'm less interested in ... pause [YOU] ... identifying blame than fixing the problem. I think we've taken some very aggressive steps in the United States to do so, not just responding to the immediate crisis, ensuring banks are adequately capitalised, er, dealing with the enormous, er ... pause [WHY DIDN'T I QUIT WHILE I WAS AHEAD?] ... drop-off in demand and contraction that has taken place. More importantly, for the long term, making sure that we've got a set of, er, er, regulations that are up to the task, er, and that includes, er, a number that will be discussed at this summit. I think there's a lot of convergence between all the parties involved about the need, for example, to focus not on the legal form that a particular financial product takes or the institution it emerges from, but rather what's the risk involved, what's the function of this product and how do we regulate that adequately, much more effective coordination, er, between countries so we can, er, anticipate the risks that are involved there. Dealing with the, er, problem of derivatives markets, making sure we have set up systems, er, that can reduce some of the risks there. So, I actually think ... pause [FANTASTIC. I'VE LOST EVERYONE, INCLUDING MYSELF] ... there's enormous consensus that has emerged in terms of what we need to do now and, er ... pause [I'M OUTTA HERE. TIME FOR THE USUAL CLOSING BOLLOCKS] ... I'm a great believer in looking forwards than looking backwards.

    One can only concur.

    (I shouldn't laugh, couldn't do as well)

  2. Now, he starts earning his salary.

    Good'un Bob.

  3. Obumble earns his salary :) at a super tough "news conference" in France---(the teleprompter does most of the talking)

    In France, Obama takes no questions from French


    (or hallybooed)

    President Obama held a much ballyhooed town hall in Strasbourg, France, on Friday, touted by the White House as an outreach to Europeans on the second leg of the president's "listening" tour.

    But the first person he called on was an American -- and the third, too. By the end of the hour long session, not a single French citizen got to ask the U.S. president a question.

    In all, Obama took just five questions from the thousands of people packed into a sports arena after delivering a lengthy speech read from a teleprompter. And the query topics were on the light side; one asked about the expected acquisition of a family dog, another about whether "you regret to have run for presidency."

  4. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson said Clinton was the first black President, so Obama is an also-ran.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. The real unemployment rate: 15.6% - MSN Money - New Investor Center

    By Catherine Holahan

    An 8.5% unemployment rate is unmistakably bad. It's the highest rate since 1983 -- a year that saw double-digit unemployment, nearly 30 commercial bank failures and more than 15% of Americans living below the poverty line.

    But the real national unemployment rate is far worse than the U.S. Department of Labor's March figure, announced today, shows. That's because the official rate doesn't include the 3.7 million-plus people who are reluctantly working only part time because of the poor labor market. And it doesn't include the workers who have given up scouring want ads for seemingly nonexistent jobs.

    When those folks are added to the numbers, the unemployment rate rises to 15.6%. In March 2008, that number was 9.3%. The Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking this alternative measure (.pdf file) in 1995.

    "The situation out there is very grim," says Heather Boushey, a senior economist at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank. "We have seen the mounting of job losses faster than any point since World War II. I have never seen anything escalate this bad."

    Even the Department of Labor's expanded unemployment measure doesn't fully capture how difficult the job market is for American workers. It doesn't include self-employed workers whose incomes have shriveled. It doesn't look at former full-time staff employees who have accepted short-term contracts, without benefits, and at a fraction of their former salaries. And it doesn't count the many would-be workers who are going back to school, taking on more debt, in hopes that an advanced degree will improve their chances of landing a job.

    Here's another way to look at the unemployment figures: More than 5 million people have lost their jobs since the start of the recession in December 2007. And more than 13 million people are unemployed. That's the highest number the U.S. has seen since it began tracking unemployment after World War II. For every job out there, more than four people are competing for it, says Boushey.

    Mitch Feldman has seen the results of such intense competition firsthand. As president of New York executive placement firm A.E. Feldman Associates, he has watched lawyers accept paralegal jobs after failing to find any companies that are hiring. He has seen Ivy League-educated financial professionals accept lower-paid contract work after searching in vain for banking jobs.

    "When some of the big investment banking firms had layoffs a year ago, those people were looking for permanent jobs," but now they're taking six-month and yearlong contracts, says Feldman. "And they're competing with other contractors who were on contract before. More supply, less demand, and the prices go down."

    Continued: Unemployment to worsen?

    Some unemployed workers have become so frustrated by the difficulty of landing a job that they're exiting the labor market altogether. Prior recessions saw a spike in the number of women choosing to be stay-at-home moms rather than continue to compete for work. This recession has seen a large spike in the number of laid-off men opting to become stay-at-home dads -- or at least stay at home.

    Once people stop looking for work, they're no longer entitled to unemployment benefits.

    The employment situation on the horizon looks even worse. Typically, unemployment peaks six months to a year after the economy starts to recover, says Rebecca Blank, an economist with the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C., public policy think tank. Boushey believes the unemployment rate could reach double digits by the end of the year.
    So, even if the recent stock market rally is a harbinger of economic recovery, that doesn't mean that unemployment rates will fall soon. Nor is an economic recovery a guarantee that unemployment will drop below 4%, as it did during the boom in 2000.

    The way some economists see it, the U.S. has entered a downward spiral that could result in higher unemployment for the foreseeable future.

    Right now, unemployment has helped fuel consumer cutbacks that have, in turn, pinched businesses' revenues. That has forced them to cut jobs in an effort to stem profit losses, continuing the cycle. Eventually, the hope is that government spending will employ more people and give businesses more revenue, leading to more spending and more hiring -- reversing the cycle.

    But it might not happen that way. Spooked consumers, still reeling from an attack on all their assets, may simply not spend like they once did -- regardless of how much money the government pushes into the economy. Instead, they might save money in preparation for the tax increases they assume are inevitable or put it in safe assets like long-term Treasury bonds.

    Businesses might also curb their spending. Instead of responding to sales increases with hiring, they could invest in relatively cheaper technology to replace eliminated positions.

    Economists don't have to go back very far to find an example of a recovery that didn't push unemployment back to its prior lows. The lowest unemployment fell after the 2001 recession was 4.4% in December 2006 (it hit that number again in March 2007). That was significantly lower than the 6.5% high in 2003. But it wasn't close to the sub-4% rates seen in 2000.

    That sort of recovery was what economists call a jobless recovery. "We weren't really growing wages and income for people in the bottom half of the economic distribution," says Alan Berube, an economist with the Brookings Institution.

  7. The Housing Bubble Blog argues the real rate is higher, also.
    Calif, higher yet.

  8. Woman glues eyeball shut
    Miss Griffin, who also runs her own fancy dress business, said:

    "I would hate people to think I'm just some dumb blonde, because I'm not."

  9. Gov. 'Dead Meat' and Sen. 'Tombstone' [David Freddoso]
    John Kass offers a different perspective today on Blagojevich's rise to power in 2002:

    [Paul] Vallas lost the 2002 primary to Blagojevich by about 25,000 votes out of 1.3 million votes cast. He lost in a squeeze play featuring Blagojevich and his loyal wingman, longtime political hack and current U.S. Sen. Roland "Tombstone" Burris.

    Burris had no hope of winning, but he did an excellent job blocking for Blagojevich. Burris played the race card, saying he was more qualified than those "white boy" opponents of his, ham-handedly reminding constituents that he was indeed black...
    There are no coincidences in politics.

    Burris came in third and later began receiving state contracts from Gov. Blagojevich, who, in a last desperate act before being forced out of office, appointed Burris to the U.S. Senate.
    See how Chicago politics works?

  10. The Question Geithner Refuses To Answer

  11. The US economy :)

  12. Costa Rica makes OECD's tax haven blacklist
    By Alex Leff
    Tico Times

    The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) cited Costa Rica on Thursday among nations not cooperating with international tax norms, in a report requested by the Group of 20 developed and developing countries meeting this week in London.

    The 30-member OECD named Costa Rica, Malaysia, the Philippines and Uruguay on its blacklist of countries “that have not committed to internationally agreed tax standards,” the report said.

    Leaders at the G20 summit threatened to sanction noncooperative jurisdictions, including tax havens, newswire Reuters reported.

    Guatemala and Panama appeared on a “gray list” list of countries that have committed “but have not yet substantially implemented” the tax standards.