Rahm Emanuel on New New Deal

Very Democratic Leadership Council (centrist/center-left) Democratic appeal for a New Deal for the New Economy.  Op-ed in WaPo from today here.

First he provides a quick review of the last 7 seven years of this failed Republican administration:

George W. Bush inherited a country with a $236 billion surplus. He engaged in seven years of deficit spending that will leave America with more than $3.5 trillion in new debt.

Bush inherited a middle class whose incomes increased more than $6,000 between 1993 and 2001. Median household incomes have dropped over $1,000 since he took office. During his presidency, health-care premiums have doubled, from about $6,000 to $12,000 per family.

Bush inherited a military that had all active-duty Army divisions rated at the highest readiness levels and that was capable of fighting a two-front war. He will leave behind a military facing the worst readiness crisis in a generation, with not a single active-duty or reserve brigade “fully combat ready.”

Bush inherited a nation that was respected on the international stage; he will leave behind one reviled by many around the world. A Pew poll of 10 nations found that in 2001, 58 percent of respondents viewed America favorably; today, that number is 39 percent.

Before reading his solutions and agree/disagree, those numbers, the reality of those failures, should really set in.  All of which is essentially attributable to cutting taxes while starting an unnecessary (and strategically questionable) war.  Never in US history have taxes been cut during wartime.  There’s a reason why that was the case prior to George W.

Emanuel then outlines some prescriptions.   For example:

Support for the development of new energy-efficient technologies could help make energy less expensive for consumers and businesses, help protect the environment, create millions of jobs, and make our nation energy independent. These new energy technologies have the potential to do what the information technology boom has done for our economy during the past 20 years.

Universal savings accounts would give workers more control over their economic future and their retirement. Like 401(k) plans, these accounts would supplement, not supplant, Social Security. Employers and employees would contribute 1 percent of paychecks on a tax-deductible basis, and workers could make additional contributions if they chose.

I would be more in favor of the option to have private Social Security accounts and more open to school choice, but if we are going to have the system we have (say in education, fed. government, and social security) than I think something along these lines (which btw would be anathema to the farther left movement liberals crowd) is necessary and vital.

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Published in: on January 28, 2008 at 2:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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RIP: Greek Orthodox Patriarch

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From NyTimes:

Greek Orthodox Church who helped heal centuries-old grievances with the Roman Catholic Church but stirred controversy with his politically tinged statements and tireless interventions in state affairs, died on Monday. He was 69.

He leaves a very interesting (though mixed) legacy. On the positive side:

Enthroned in 1998, Christodoulos trained as a lawyer but switched to the priesthood in 1961, preaching reform in Greece’s stuffily old-fashioned church and becoming one of the country most popular, albeit divisive, figures in its recent history. A polyglot who surfed the Internet, Archbishop instituted sign-language liturgies for the deaf and made plans for a religious television station, and buoyed the faith’s dwindling numbers with the aura of a rock star. He enlivened sermons with one-liners and animated antics. He cheerfully allowed teenagers to wear miniskirts and body-piercing jewelry to religious services. He embraced rather than disgraced AIDS patients.

He was schooled by Catholic monks and did more to heal the rift between the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic Church than any of his predecessors.

On the other hand:

His blasts of nationalist rhetoric, most strikingly against the European Union and the Turks — he called them “eastern barbarians” — irritated Greece’s European Union partners and the Greek government’s efforts to improve relations with Turkey. A vocal critic of NATO’s 1999 bombing campaign in Kosovo, Christodoulos directed the church to provide funds and aid to Orthodox Serbia.

In that sense he strikes me very much like John Paul II and Benedict–liberalizing within their denomination/church on a number of issues, deeply humane and concerned ethically, authoritarian-leaning in terms of actual real power within the institution (i.e. possibly patronizing liberalism) with a deep streak of traditionalism and seeing their church as the only means of salvation for their populace. A certain romanticism of the Middle Ages–whether Papal from Rome or Byzantine from Greece.

His name incidentally means “slave of the anointed one”. Prayers for the Greek church in their time of mourning.

Update I:  Gordon Hinckley The Prophet (and head) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka Mormons) died yesterday.  Must be the week for church leaders to go to their reward.

Published in: on January 28, 2008 at 12:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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John Steele Gordon on Protectionism/Free Trade

Great article on how the Republicans long the party of protectionism and tariffs became the party of free trade and the Democrats long the party of free trade have been flirting this election cycle (all 3 of their major candidates) with more populist even protectionist/neo-mercantilist rhetoric.

The discussion of unions (esp. in the manufacturing sector) is very revealing.

Here at home, the resultant pinch has been felt most keenly by organized labor—the one major part of the American economy that did not benefit in the long run from the restructuring of the 70’s and 80’s, and that has suffered a severe diminution in membership. If, in 1953, 35 percent of American workers belonged to unions, today only 12 percent do, and that figure would be much lower were it not for the public sector, the one area of the economy that has seen a dramatic growth in union jobs. Nor is there any reason to think that the downward trend will change, especially given the pressures of globalization.

It is no surprise, then, that organized labor, once a bastion of free-trade advocacy, has become no less adamantly anti–free trade in recent decades. And although labor is a much less potent force in the American economy than it was in the immediate postwar years, it remains a major player in Democratic-party politics—able to provide massive numbers of “volunteers” to operate phone banks and supply other boots-on-the-ground aid to political candidates. In the meantime, the Democrats themselves, no longer the clear majority party in the country, have become increasingly more dependent on the political power of organized labor.

Published in: on January 27, 2008 at 10:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Obama in SC

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Win by bigger than expected margin. Not sure whether it changes the field for the Super Duper Tuesday upcoming.

One thing I like about their campaign that isn’t getting as much play is how much of an insurgent outside the bounds of the traditional Democratic machine they are running operation. It was the source of his victory in Iowa. In Nevada and NH–which he still lost overall–it allowed them to play very strongly in rural areas as he did in his Illinois Senate run. He has brought in younger voters, and now in South Carolina has gone against or around perhaps the traditional black leadership (e.g. John Lewis supports Hillary). By all accounts his people have run the most innovative campaign ever waged in Dem. South Carolina.

Not sure if that will be enough–whether too many of the S-D Tuesday are traditional Democratic machine (Hillary their candidate) places. What may happen is Obama may run to places like Oklahoma (how weird is that thought) and central states and then try to win a proportion of delegates and not lose too badly in say Cali and NY, making up for the difference with other states wins. Again performing an end run around the Democratic Machine.

Whatever happens from here on, Obama has brought a number of people into the party by employing his community organizing/grass roots style of politics.

Published in: on January 26, 2008 at 6:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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From the Dept. of WTF?

I’m all for Mrs. Blair working to help children with worm disease but….
clipped from time-blog.com

I realize that this photo is a blurry mess, but it may be the only visual record of one of the most surreal Davos moments ever. Somewhere behind those backs of people’s heads are Cherie Booth Blair (you know, Tony’s wife), pretending to be an intestinal worm, chasing (while wearing boots with three-inch heels) after a bunch of Davos attendees pretending to be schoolchildren. Meanwhile, Gene Sperling (a top economic adviser in the Clinton administration), is pretending to be a teacher, rushing to get antiworm medicine to the kids before Cherie gets them.

This was all the doing of Deworm the World, an initiative that’s grown out of research by MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab showing that kids who have taken antiworm medicine are more likely to attend school and do well than their worm-ridden peers. (It’s been put together by several of my fellow Young Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum, but I didn’t have anything to do with it.)

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Published in: on January 26, 2008 at 4:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Comets

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A composite image provided by NASA and taken by the navigation camera during the close approach phase of the spacecraft Stardust’s Jan 2, 2004, flyby of comet Wild 2 is shown in this handout image.
(NASA/JPL-Caltech/Reuters)

From the article:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Samples of rock dust retrieved from a comet called Wild 2 are forcing scientists to alter they way they think about these intriguing objects that streak through our solar system.

Published in: on January 26, 2008 at 4:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Darwinian Literary Criticism

Steven Pinker on the new field of Darwinian Literary Criticism. Site for his articles here–the article is third from top. (“Towards a Consilient Study of Literature”). Article is in pdf form.

The article is a review of this book The Literary Animal.

Darw. Lit. Crit. seeks to explain literary theory through evolutionary psychology, game theory, and so forth. It’s part of Pinker’s criticism of Blank State liberalism (i.e. John Locke) and postmodern cultural constructionism (LL in AQAL terms). It is part of his argument that humans are inborn (selected) with linguistic capacities (neuro-linguistics, universal linguistic grammar of Chomsky)

It’s an interesting theory–interesting to see characters in a novel through say women choosing between male** (edit: see note bottom) suitors. And so far as the readings are on that level, that can be interesting I find in a certain way (not totally enlightening but slightly intriguing on occasion, in small doses). (more…)

Published in: on January 26, 2008 at 4:29 pm  Comments (2)  
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Parag Khanna on 21st century

I think the article is a little too simplistic (China vs EU vs US), but he makes some excellent points nonetheless–particularly in relation to the “2nd” World. The beginning of a multi-polar world.
clipped from newamerica.net

To really understand how quickly American power is in decline around the world, I’ve spent the past two years traveling in some 40 countries in the five most strategic regions of the planet — the countries of the second world. They are not in the first-world core of the global economy, nor in its third-world periphery. Lying alongside and between the Big Three, second-world countries are the swing states that will determine which of the superpowers has the upper hand for the next generation of geopolitics. From Venezuela to Vietnam and Morocco to Malaysia, the new reality of global affairs is that there is not one way to win allies and influence countries but three: America’s coalition (as in “coalition of the willing”), Europe’s consensus and China’s consultative styles. The geopolitical marketplace will decide which will lead the 21st century.

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Published in: on January 26, 2008 at 12:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mind of the Market

Title of the new book by Michael Shermer.  Here he is at the Cato Institute speaking on the book. 

Nice talk.  It is an overview of the new fields of behavioral economics, neuro-economics, and evolutionary economics.  (I’m reading a very good book on evolutionary morality right now). 

Shermer says that one of the deficits (sorry bad pun intended) of the classical theory of economics was its assumption that the individual is a rational self-motivated, quasi-omniscient (at least in terms of what is self-beneficial) figure.  These new theories have looked into ways of how people actually respond to markets rather than how they should in a rational thought-experiment driven situation. 

What follows then is grounding market principles less in notions of “competition” or “greed” per se (i.e. a misreading of the selfish gene, Gordon Gecko style), but rather highlighting the intrinsic elements of reciprocity, empathy, emotional attunement, and co-operation built from the bottom up.  Not the markets treated like a god descended “naturally” from the skies.  But more in the style of communication, exchange, and historical development.   

It would be very interesting to compare this book with say Howard Bloom’s group selection meets economics tract:  Reinventing Capitalism

Published in: on January 25, 2008 at 10:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Gaza Update

With all the horse-race politics, if you have not been keeping up on the major events taking place in the Gaza Strip and Egypt, you should be.  Huge developments. A nice piece here by Scott MacLeod echoing the Fall of the Berlin Wall. 

The Time’s Middle East Blog is massively underrated.  Cheers to the trio over there.

Published in: on January 25, 2008 at 10:01 pm  Leave a Comment