Friday, April 29, 2011

Argana Cafe

Whirling dervishes, pastilla (with whole pigeons baked in), and a swirl of languages made up our New Year's Eve celebration at the riad that I was staying Dec 2004/Jan 2005.  Friends Chris and Hannah had journeyed on to Essouria on the Moroccan coast for a few days by themselves.  I wandered through the Marrekesh medina and Jemaa el F'na.  Occasionally, I'd find myself in a slightly anxious position, with the men of Morocco trying to identify me.  Was I English?  French?  American?  I wouldn't answer to the shouts on the square, a little fearful that in those heated days of the American invasion and occupation of Iraq I might become a target.

Still, I walked around comfortably enough.  One afternoon, I took a long, early dinner at a well-known cafe.  The Argana.  It's in the guidebooks.  It overlooks the Jemaa el F'na.  It's Western-oriented enough that the waitstaff included pleasant young women.  They brought me wine, which is a little hard to find in many Marrakech establishments, and it wasn't clear to me that it was even on the menu.  Also, in a week in Morocco, I had grown tired of only interacting with men and boys.  I read my book, looked at the square, drank my glass, picked at the tagine dish.  A pleasant and relaxing afternoon for this tourist.

No one detonated a bomb in the Argana that afternoon.  But someone did this week, killing fourteen in the blast.  I hope the pleasant young serving women are still OK, Inshallah.

Monday, April 18, 2011

raiding agencies

The S&P rating agency has issued a warning that the US government debt may result someday in a downgrading of its credit rating.  Such a downgrade would be costly to the government and to taxpayers.  The warning is being taking seriously, and indeed, government debt is a serious issue.  Lots of pols and commentators have quickly taken up the warning in their talking points, most especially the deficit hawks and Tea Party types. 


Does no one see the irony that one of the credit rating agencies central to the financial crisis is being listened to uncritically?  Only a few years ago, the rating agencies were neck-deep in the fraudulence that made the financial bubble so frothy.  A quote from one S&P agency employee to another during the bubble offered in the context of what were obviously dishonest ratings by the agency: "Let's hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of cards falters.

Our memories are short.  I hope we all ask a few more questions before uncritically accepting what S&P and other financial bad actors have to say about government debt. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

We must cut off our noses in order to save our faces

Let's see if I understand this correctly: Budget hawks, austerity buffs and the right in America are threatening to block the approval of the legal raising of the US debt limit.  The threat itself is widely understood as a large potential hazard to our borrowing, our creditors, and how the international bond market views investing in the US Treasury.  That is, the threat of not extending the debt limit means the US may default on its present debt obligations with known negative consequences.

Why is this threat being brandished?  Ostensibly to avoid future default of US debt obligations.  And theoretical future negative consequences.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

If I Were King of the For-r-r-r-rest!

The decisions to keep Guantanamo open and to try the 9-11 plotters in military commissions rather than in our court system make it difficult to come to any other conclusion than we are cowardly.  I supported Attorney General Holder's original decision to try KSM in federal court in New York City.  I wish we had the courage to uphold our professed values in our legal system, our constitution, and ourselves.

What do you think?  Can you offer a compelling argument that we are not cowards?