Obama’s Speech

Read the full text here.

My immediate thoughts on the twitter feed (check the right hand column).

As much as I dig the guy, and I do, the “mush-headed” (as Will Wilkinson calls them) Obamaphiles are both creepy and annoying.  More than ever.  He gave a very good speech I thought.  Not that surprising he’s got a talent for it.  I thought he struck a decent balance, mostly focusing on the seriousness of the challenges and the difficulties ahead.  Not going all-soaring.  No matter, too many will just be entranced by the image and the giddiness and the collective vibes, etc.  The words are what matter.  What matters more actually are the actions the words he says point to.

But the key to me is the emphasis on hard work, responsibility, old fashioned values like honesty, thrift, parsimony, etc.  Not the Obama will come to save us, now I love America kinda junk.  He’s a man and will be undoubtedly a very imperfect President.

Obama will the president of another major turning point in American history.  He is while not literally/chronologically, in actual mindset, the first president of the 21st century.  Bush was on a 20th century bender in the 21st.  The country now awakes to the morning after (a new kind of morning in America, this one mostly hung over and dazed).  Obama is a liberal and a new 21st century liberalism (for better and undoubtedly for worse) is now upon us.  [Well assuming he can rangle the Democratic fools in Congress to grow up—paging House and Senate Majority Leader.  Not to mention the resident idiot hacks like Boehner and McConnell].  I wish it didn’t involve (as it will) growth of the state, but since the Republicans had control for 8 years and couldn’t meet the growing challenges via a non-state, organic, civil society process, than they have no one to blame but themselves when it is inevitable that the state fills the void.  I won’t shed a crocodile tear for them truth be told, no matter how much I’m not some reflexively pro-left sorta dude (which I’m not).  The problems of infrastructure–financial, energetic, material–have to be met.  Something has to be done with health care, energy policy, a new rule set for global capitalism, a foreign policy reboot (which I’m not sure he’s going to go as far as I wish he would).  I wish those had been in the last eight years when they could have been done without as much mass state intervention, and I would have prefered less liberal forms of solutions than the ones Obama will pass, but Bush’s AWOL presidency on that front really hurt.  And again, the conservatives had their chance to meet the days challenges and they failed them.  It is then inevitable that the state will grow as a result. They have no one to blame but themselves.

And The New New Majority as it were, when the Republicans eventually do come back to (some/partial) power, as they undoubtedly will, they will only be able to modulate what this liberal wave has set.  As has been the case in American history.   The other form of conservatism, the conservatism of skeptical mindset (but not “believed skepticism”), the conservatism that is best understood as a personal philosophy, will remain and be of enduring value.

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Skypecast: Foreign Policy into 2009 (Audio Content)

Scott and I discuss economics, the global political frame, and the future into 2009.  We begin by discussing a recent fairly grim post of mine (Happy New Year!!!) and then discuss potential creative ways out of the morass.

[Click the links below, pts1 & 2 for the audio.]

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Links:

Thomas Barnett post
My apocalyptic post
James Poulos’ Uncrackables
John Robbforeign-policy1

Scott’s post/embedding of the audio (if you have trouble on mine)

Some Apocalyptic Thoughts for Monday Afternoon

Warning:  This is some very disturbing analysis.  I hope I’m 100% wrong on this one.  I’ve also thought the scenario I outline below was possible for 2009 but through the end of October/early November, I thought it still somewhat remote.  I’m less confident and increasingly pesimisstic about the potential for this scenario to be very real, very much in play (more and more likely by the day it seems as of now with no wise leadership or counter-movements to help block the momentum).  So be warned.  I’m not in the business of fear-peddling or fear-hyping, but these are dark thoughts.  There are not the only ones within my brain, but I have been appalled (even fairly cynical me) by the responses across the board to this crisis and the sense that there is no Wizard behind the curtain.

I’m increasingly growing very disturbed by the way global events are proceeding.  A chain of potential explosions across the grid of the globe looks frighteningly more plausible by the day.  Meanwhile the US media is caught in wonderful tales of some pathetic Illinois Governor and a dude launching his foot wear. Here in Canada it’s about the potential of a coalition government.

All of which still assume a top-down model of power, a kind of view of the stability of large scale social organization that may all be swept away.  Reading the newspapers and frankly much of the blogosphere is becoming an increasingly useless exercise for me.  Particularly when it comes to political discussion:  left, right, libertarian, progressive, blah blah.  All of those discussions are assuming the continued existence in some form or other or our social-technological cultural foundations.

To me its increasingly as if reading the news in the ancient ziggurat/city-state culture a few months before Alexander the Great came conquering across Eurasian and installed the Hellenistic world and swept away the decaying, crumbling previous world era.  Like I said some apocalyptic thoughts.

The economic story would go like this:  the American consumer is dead and has been flogged to the breaking point of exhaustion.  Who then is going to buy all those Asian products?  Who can they sell their wares to?  The Asian economies contract leading them to stop buying the commodities across the Global South (esp. Latin America and Africa) that have led to that bubble (see the mass decrease in the price of oil recently).  Huge deflationary movements across the global simultaneously.  Much more rapidly and the fragility (i.e. non-redundancy) of the global platform system bleeds out.

As Niall Ferguson in his epic The War of the World, the great catacylsm and spasm of violence across the globe emanating from Europe during the 20th century (First War, Second War, Cold War) consisted of the inter-locking reality of the three “E”s:  empire, economics, and ethnicity.  Empire being the death of imperial systems.  See the decline of the US.  Also with all the talk of the coming Asian Century (rise of India/China), this could all be swept away by the economic meltdown.  The Asian Century that wasn’t in other words.  Still-born Asian Century.  The vacuum created by the implosion of economic and imperial systems, is filled by ethnic hatreds that flare up to the consternation and shock of many who assume a cosmopolitan order of peace and security (all fine when the economy and governance is roughly holding up).

The most likely early hot spots of ethnic hatred is the band of the Middle East (Lebanon, Iraq, Kurdistan, Iran, Syria???, through obviously Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India).  Other increased zones of violence would be Gap-status countires in the Western Hempishere (on smaller scale but still bloody).  Revived narco-fueled wars across Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, El Salvador, southern Mexico.  Other ranges of violence: The Horn of Africa (another Somalia implosion on the horizon) as well as violence across the middle band (Chad, Sudan, Nigeria, and potential flare ups again in Congo).

The massive de-leveraging must continue and the question is only whether the end of the fall (which has at least 9 months, probably 12 to 24 to maybe even 36-40 to go. who the hell knows at this point) will end us worse than the build up.  Exposed, exhausted, and de-legitimized.  The space of de-legitimization to be filled by ethno-nationalistic movements across the board.

With the breakdown of nation-state systems (orange and blue in Spiral colors), comes a mass re-reddifying both in memetic coloring and potentially in real blood, merged with increased technological capacity (global platform) plus increased cognitive flexibility and complexity however merged to earlier moral/social systems. Roving bands of pirates (e.g. Somalia), terrorists (e.g. Mumbai), criminal networks (coming here already to Vancouver in preparation for the 2010 Olympics, particularly the global sex slavery/human chattel trade) counteracted by potentially increased technocratic elites holding onto whatever power they can, as civil libertiese erode due to the inability to come up with a worldwide republican security theory, class lines harden in the post-industrial societies, the social contract of the 20th century continues to break down (ask Ford, GM, Chrysler) as the Nation-State gives way to the (increainsgly predatory?) Market State.

Ferguson forget a fourth E:  Environment.  As in environmental degradation/destruction as a potential accelerant to the fire of the other three.  Something along the lines of Diamond’s Collapse scenario.

The idea that an infrastructure stimulus will jump start the US economy out of this bog seems increasingly detached from reality for me.  At the pace things are moving, if the wave swells become large enough, it isn’t going to matter, as it could all be swept away by the mega-forces aligning at the moment.

Like I said, God how I hope I’m  completely wrong on this one.

Skypecast: Integral Politics (Audio Content)


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Click the link above for a discussion of integral politics between Scott and I–the first in what we are hoping will be a series.  We had a technical glitch or two (per our usual) but is I believe worth the listen [I’m of course biased on this subject :)]

A whole mess ‘o links for those interested:


Ken Wilber:  (Basic Summary of his Model).  Video Introduction to Politics through his Philosophical Lens.
Ha Joon Chang (The Economic Developmental Piece):  Here and here.
Thomas Barnett (The Brief):  Here, here, here, and here.  Barnett’s map here:

Spiral Dynamics:  Here and Pt. 1 of an 8 part series of shorts that show each level of development (all 8 are on youtube).

The Goracle’s New Sermon

Via TNR:

In a New York Times op-ed published on the first Sunday after Barack Obama’s presidential election, Nobel prize winner Al Gore shifted from his longstanding focus on regulating carbon pollution to advocating direct government investments in clean energy as the best way to deal with climate change. Gore is the country’s most prominent spokesperson on climate change and a shift in his thinking in reaction to new economic and political circumstances is highly significant.

Of Gore’s five recommendations to President-elect Obama, the first four are for investment–in solar thermal plants, energy efficiency, a new electrical grid, and in electric cars–and only the final is for regulation, establishing a price for carbon. But even on this last point, Gore was far from aggressive, suggesting merely that the United Nations meeting to replace to Kyoto treaty in Copenhagen next year should result in countries agreeing to “invest together in efficient ways.”

Kyoto is dead and good riddance.  The developing countries of the world will be doing just that–developing–and will not put said issues on hold for environmentalism. 

The reasons for why this are are pretty complicated, but in simple terms countries only take on environmental policy after they have achieved a sufficient degree of wealth that they can simultaneously afford to deal with the environmental consequences that result from mass industrialization/wealth creation AND not threaten overall wealth.  The latter half of that equation is not yet the case in places like China and India, hence they will not go in for a carbon cap scheme that would reduce wealth creation. 

So, the issue is to get them technologies for the industrialization that are non-polluting (as much as possible). 

Shellenberger and Nordhaus, the authors of the article and the important book Breakthrough, are right I think that cap systems without first infrastructure build up are cart before horses.  But the investment schemes alone (whether you are more right-wing and want them privatized or center-left like the authors and want big gov’t infrastructure deficit spending) are still only horses and need I think to be carting something and rather soon. 

Something like Capitalism 3.0 could then be sequenced/merged with Breakthrough-like policies for a more effective double punch. 

Robert Zoellick on a New Multilateralism

Writing in the Boston Globe today (my emphasis):

Our New Multilateralism must build a sense of shared responsibility for the health of the global political economy and must involve those with a major stake in that economy. We must redefine economic multilateralism more broadly, beyond the traditional focus on finance and trade. Today, energy, climate change, and stabilizing fragile and post-conflict states are economic issues. They are already part of the international security and environmental dialogue. They must be the concern of economic multilateralism as well.

The New Multilateralism will rely on national leadership and cooperation. But the G-7 is not sufficient. We need a better group for a different time; a core group of finance ministers who will assume responsibility for anticipating issues, sharing information, mobilizing efforts to solve problems, and at least managing differences.

We should consider a new steering group including Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and the current G-7, that holds regular formal and informal dialogues. The group should not just replace the G-7 with a fixed-number G-14, and should evolve to fit changing circumstances. We need this new network so that global problems are not just mopped up after the fact, but anticipated. The steering group will still need to work through established international institutions, but the core group will increase the likelihood that countries draw together to address problems.

The emphasis on anticipating issues is part and parcel of what Jack Balkin calls The Information State. The notion of stabilization of weak/failed states of course is straight out of Thomas Barnett’s work.  Zoellick is one of the few bright lights in the Bush cosmos.

Skypecast: Canadian Post-Election Analysis (Audio Content)

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Scott and I got back together after a bit of a hiatus–it was good to get back–and discuss the results of the Canadian elections. Click the two links above for our conversation.

The analysis grows out of our respective articles at Culture11 which compared how Canadian conservatives may or may not provide a blueprint for the GOP to regain power.  Scott’s article hereMine here.  I nabbed the Canadian Flag pic’d above that accompanied our articles (and that I really dug with the blue on the Maple Leaf).**

We had a slight technical glitch, which was fun, you’ll hear.

Also towards the end as we are discussing conservative commentators, (I think) I referred to Kathleen Lopez, when I meant Kathryn Jean Lopez (K-Lo) from The Corner, author of the following brilliant kernel of wisdom:

Palin didn’t need Greek columns. People react to her because they believe she represents what the Greeks established.

So while I slipped on her name, I stand by my categorization of her work.

**For the Americans, in Canada (like Britain), the left is red and the right is blue, the reverse of the US.

Sullivan on Bipartisan Policy on Iran

Andrew Sullivan links to the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Recent Report on Iran-US relations.

Sullivan is against bombing and for engagement but his interpretation at the end I find wanting:

My core belief is that the Iranian people are on our side. The key is to somehow leverage them against their repulsive regime. It’s going to be very hard and very treacherous. But it’s the biggest national security challenge facing the next president.

It’s certainly true that the Iranian population (even post-Iraq) is the most pro-American population in the Middle East.  They are not Arabs, have a separate history and culture, have strong ties to the US via ex-pat families in the US (US pop culture is strong in Iran).

But Sulllivan goes astray when he states that the key is to “leverage” the population against the regime.  Granted the regime is repulsive and abhorrent.  But people do not exist for them to be used as leverage for our goals.  Especially in this case.  Nothing would more quickly hurt the chances of indigenous Iranian reformers than being seen as a fifth column for the US.

The issue is to deal with the regime, to see if the 30 years of bad blood (the hostages, the CIA murdering their president/overthrowing their government/backing the brutal Shah) can be buried.  The regime is given a clear choice between change of behavior and good to come from it (i.e. regime change off table, entrance into world banking system, recognition of their role as regional power, esp. in Iraq) OR war.

If you want sanctions, then target them at the big wigs, the elites with the military-industrial-clerical complex that is Iran.  Don’t target the population.  Putting the squeeze on them is not likely to start a revolution against the regime.  The regime is embedded very deeply.  They have to be dealt with and then a policy of containment, connectivity, and watch the system collapse.

And #2 contra Sullivan, the biggest national security threat facing the next president is Pakistan (not Iran) in terms of foreign policy and domestically possible catastrophic cascading failure in the economic sector leading to massive violence in the streets and/or the possibility of security breakdowns around non-linear climate events.

debate live thread

[All times Pacific Standard]

8:05 McCain’s preening-hood was on display at the beginning, but he did manage to modulate it (slightly).  McCain had some moments where he looked relaxed and in command of his facts/talking points.  But the repeated shots at Obama was not pretty.  What is clear to me over the psychodrama that is his campaign especially in the last 48 hours or so, is that for all this “Obama is the Messiah” talk (he’s an image, a dream, gives a good speech), it’s all driven clearly by the fact that Obama gets under McCain’s skin.  McCain can’t handle not being the media darling.  Jilted lover with the media.  (Que sera, sera I say).  Obama just thinks McCain is a honorable old fool.  He has the decency and good sense not to get personal as McCain wants to do.  Not flattering.

McCain’s viewpoint is very limited to the 20th century.  His crieria of who is ready to lead is totally predicated on his insider-carpetbagger-aristocrat background.  Obama certainly isn’t that, so he doesn’t pass the test (whereas Hillary would by McCain’s standards).

I don’t know ultimately how Obama will turn out as president (if and when).  But I do know that I supported him from the get go (way back like 20 months ago now) because I’ve always sensed he had a different insight than all the others.  Even the ones I like (like Biden).  That intuition I find borne out again tonight.  I’m willing to take that chance, not because I know for sure Obama is the greatest being ever or something but because the way of operating that the Boomers have done has served its time and is now over.  They can help in the new order. Lend a hand if Bob Dylan were singing about it (or get outta the way).  But whatever, the same can not do.  While I still have some serious policy disagreements with Obama (check the thread), I didn’t see anything to dissuade me tonight.  I saw Obama give what I think was his strongest debate performance by far to date.

8:00 One correction. I said that McCain was only interested domestically in tax & spending cuts. Forgot Nuclear Power. (Yippee!!!–isn’t that what the Iranians say they are building their reactors for? Oh nevermind).

7:38 The ending was pretty flat from both of them as I said earlier. But overall I have to give it to Obama. Especially during that middle portion. McCain showed that the only domestic agenda he cares about is spending and the only foreign policy is Iraq and Russia/Georgia.

Obama looked sharp and in control. McCain settled in towards the end I think but at the beginning was really jittery.

7:37 McCain gets the last line and it’s actually a pretty decent one: He knows how to heal wounds of war, deal with enemies, work with friends.

7:36 McCain came back to Reform, Peace, Prosperity. Haven’t heard that slogan (only one of 15 or so he’s had so far this campaign) for awhile. I think that was given the McCain Campaign, four iterations ago.

7:35 McCain says that the veterans know he will take care of them. Except that he voted against the last bill (and the Webb GI Bill).

7:34 But little mini-comeback by referring to global vision versus the tunnel vision-“all chips in” on Iraq that is Bush-McCain.

7:33 I don’t like Fear the Chinese Dragon lines here from BO. Almost as dumb as McCain’s League of Democracies/Fear the Autocracies. The balloon is going on both of them.

7:31 BS on McCain Alert. If we lose in Iraq, al-Qaeda will have a base there. Not uh when the Sunni Tribesmen, Shia gov’t/Army, and/or Kurds kill them dude.

7:29 Neither of them are very strong on the “Are We Safer Question?”. Did Obama just support Star Wars (er Missile Defense)? Haven’t heard that before. Ugh.

7:27 McCain taking credit for Homeland Security? You can have it. If Biden were here, he would blow his top on McCain’s suggestion that they have done most of the recommendations.

7:22 Thumbs down to Obama for Georgia/Ukraine NATO entrance. Apparently it was all Russian aggression now in the CW (Larison is probably head in hands now). No Georgian aggression.

7:21 McCain’s story about Abkhazia where he saw a poster Putin for President just undermined his whole argument about how it was Georgian territory. Apparently they thought it wasn’t Georgian territory.

7:13 McCain’s attempt at a joke/dig at Obama for a seal just bombed out. McCain doesn’t get the difference between preparation and precondition. A precondition is say “Unless you stop all nuclear activity you will not get to talk with us.” Preparation is we put the issues we will discuss on the table. I was five seconds ahead of him as on a few others.

7:11 He is going back to Axis of Evil. Iraq had no WMDs. North Korea gets the message that if you don’t have a nuke you get overthrown (minus a security agreement) and BOOM–Builds one. And Iran…..same thing?

7:08 oh shit. he just flipped Kissinger wanting to talk with Iran on McCain after McCain just cited Kissinger & Nixon go to China. BAM!

7:06 zing. Obama hits McCain on how you need China and Russia (which my esteemed colleague would admit are not democracies).

7:05 League of Democracies. If I had liquor nearby, that would be a triple shot. On to Iran….

6:54. McCain just mispronounced the name of the new President of Pakistan. And now we are going to have THE SAME SURGE in Afghanistan as in Iraq. W-T-F? Who are the Awakening in this version? The Shia?

6:53. Obama’s strong on Afghanistan in his answer (though I still harbor question his policy). McCain is answering about the 80s. He just said we couldn’t leave Afghanistan like we did after the Soviet War. Except that is exactly what happened when we went into Iraq. McCain has got nothing on Afghanistan.

6:46: Obama’s got a very good answer on the troop funding. Obama is the only one to see strategy as a beyond one country tunnel vision. Strategy as Overall Strategy.

6:41. What is up with McCain bringing up the no-hearings on Afghanistan. Really he is so petulant. Obama just needs to keep it cool. McCain just said Obama doesn’t know the difference between a tactic and a strategy. Hello pot, kettle here.

6:39: Allright. Onto foreign policy. McCain’s answer on Iraq just made no sense. The lesson from Iraq was we can’t have a failed strategy that we will cause us almost to lose. Except that the STRATEGY is elections, the push for national reconciliation, creation of strong central government, NOT THE SURGE. Sorry Johnny. The Surge did not change the STRATEGY. The Surge is a tactic pinned to the Strategy which exists only to serve the goal (unified democratic Iraq).

6:35: Obama is getting to the issue of values. This is smart imo. McCain only has his value as less government/less spending. I don’t know it plays in this economy. Republican economic deregulation orthodoxy–like none of this fallout just happened.

6:30 [PST]: I wasn’t expecting it go about budget hawk wonkery. Kinda weird and has essentially nothing with the Bailout.

6:27 [PST]: Good question from Lehrer. What can they not do post-bailout? Obama is dodging a bit. He says he is still going forward with health care, energy, education, infrastructure. I think he actually is right–i.e. those things have to be done–but where is the cash? Do we just bust the budget because you know the Republicans get the levers of power again, they will f it up again. And the Democrats always have to come in (a la Clinton) and have their agenda screwed via Republican monetary malfeasance.

6:21 [PST]: McCain is giving the US has the 2nd highest corporate tax rate we need to be more like Ireland. Except that it’s on the books as the 2nd highest, there are so many loopholes, that the payout is much lower. Obama just makes the same point.

6:20 [PST]: WTF is with McCain’s monomania against earmarks? Seriously. Seriously dude. Now you wanna pick this fight?

6:19 [PST]: Obama is quick to make sure he doesn’t get the tax raiser/big spender librual.

6:17 [PST]: oooh. interesting. Obama has got his numbers and is calling McCain out on tax cuts for the rich. He’s doesn’t want McCain to grab populist ground. Pretty shrewd.

6:14 [PST]: McCain has got his talking points ready. Spending, responsibility, increased gov’t (nice Great Society shot there). I don’t know how this plays. God he just said earmarks are a gateway drug (like pot?)–DRUG WAR on EARMARKS? The Bears in Montana? WTF? How does this have anything to do with the financial crisis?

The Gov.

That’s Brian Schweitzer from Montana. He’s speaking now at the Democratic Convention. There is nothing I love more than characters in politics and this dude is an instant one. You gotta respect the bolo. He’s actually talking some (some not total) sense. It’s a weird combo of salt of the earth rancher plus renewable energy wonk, but I kinda dig.

Live Update: He just said and I quote, “GET OFF YOUR HIND END!!!” and has got the crowd going bananas.

For non Mid-Westerners unfamiliar with the term: here is a hind end

Published in: on August 26, 2008 at 7:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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