Weekly Link Digest, Part II
Nancy Pelosi, showing just how marginal the differences are within the bipartisan foreign policy establishment, referred to Chavez as a "simple thug." Chavez has certainly earned that epithet at times. But when has the U.S. foreign policy establishment ever objected to thuggishness per se? Foreign leaders only get targeted as "thugs" in the official propaganda mill when they stop taking orders from Washington. I suspect the real objection to Chavez is that he isn't taking orders from the native landed oligarchy and the American oil companies, like the thugs Otto Reich and Roger Noriega tried to replace him with.
2. Progressive Review's Sam Smith brilliantly captures the sense of entitlement of our global masters, aka the purveyors of "market democracy":
If you deconstruct the language of those who Bush would have us believe form the axis of evil, one finds not so much megalomania as insecurity, hurt feelings, and bitterness over their global inferiority....
At the core, the language and behavior of a Bush or Blair is based on notions of purportedly deserved power and how the less powerful are supposed to behave towards their betters.
Anyone who doubts this should consider Thomas Barnett's discussion of "connectivity," and the white man's burden of imposing it on the world. Interestingly, his map of the "unconnected" world coincides almost exactly with Emmanuel Goldstein's description of the equatorial quadrangle that Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia fought over.
3. Via Progressive Review. Ahmadinejab at the CFR.
Mr. Ahmadinejad's habit of answering every question about Iranian policy with a question about American policy was clearly wearing on some of the members....
And as he left, it was with a jab to his hosts. "At the beginning of the session, you said you were an independent group," he said. "But almost everything that I was asked came from a government position."
4. Atrios, of all people, bashes technocratic centrist liberalism. He starts with this godawful quote from Brad DeLong, who apparently has ikons of J.K. Galbraith and Bob McNamara in his home prayer chapel:
I am, as I said above, a reality-based center-left technocrat. I am pragmatically interested in government policies that work: that are good for America and for the world. My natural home is in the bipartisan center, arguing with center-right reality-based technocrats about whether it is center-left or center-right policies that have the best odds of moving us toward goals that we all share--world peace, world prosperity, equality of opportunity, safety nets, long and happy lifespans, rapid scientific and technological progress, and personal safety. The aim of governance, I think, is to achieve a rough consensus among the reality-based technocrats and then to frame the issues in a way that attracts the ideologues on one (or, ideally, both) wings in order to create an effective governing coalition.
Here's Atrios's take on the issue:
This, in a nutshell, is the worldview of the Sensible Liberal. It's the belief that there are Sensible Policies concocted by Wise Men (and women), preferably ones with advanced degrees, which are Right and True and Good. Wise Men may disagree a bit about the means, and we should throw a few conferences to hash these differences out. Politics and ideologues who do not share the ideology of the Wise Men, who of course are not really tainted by ideology, get in the way of enacting policies which are Sensible.
It's a dangerously wrong view of the world.
My own reaction, when seeing the "centrist reality-based technocrats" on the talking head shows, is to wonder why there's never a crazed gunman around when you really need him. There's some good in the libertarians and decentralists of the right- and left-wing fringes. I sympathize with both the home-schoolers and gun-rights people, and the people involved in LETS systems and organic farming. But the corporate suits dominating the center establishments of both parties are nothing but the spawn of Satan.
5. Matt Taibbi is similarly unkind to the Democratic establishment:
The unspoken subtext of this increasingly bitter debate between the Democratic Party establishment and the supporters of people like Ned Lamont and Hillary Clinton's antiwar challenger, Jonathan Tasini, is a referendum ordinary people have unexpectedly decided to hold on the kingmaker's role of the holy trinity of the American political establishment -- big business, the major political parties and the commercial media....
It's been an essentially oligarchic system of government, where all the important decision-makers have been institutions, with any attempts by ordinary people to circumvent the system coldly repressed.
6. But it's not like the Republicans are any better. Via Progressive Review, a Zogby poll finds that Republicans, in far greater numbers than Democrats, would support random roadblocks, searches of homes, purses, and vehicles (all warrantless), and warrantless domestic wiretaps and random opening of mail. Republican tolerance of such measures ranges from 50% to 66%, compared to 20-45% for Democrats. I understand that if Janet Reno were in power, and the terrorism in the news were carried out by right-wing "militias," the numbers would probably be considerably different. But still... It seems most of the Freepers who used to sport "I love my country, but fear my government" bumper stickers have not just ceased to fear the government, but have gone into full-blown fuhrer-worship. Anyone who still thinks the Republicans are the party of limited government and strict constitutionalism is an idiot.
7. Via Presto's Ramblings and Wendy McElroy, Crispin Sartwell has a great new archive of Josiah Warren material.
8. Via Economist's View. The New York Times gives us the Big Picture on factor payments:
The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003, after factoring in inflation. The drop has been especially notable, economists say, because productivity - the amount that an average worker produces in an hour and the basic wellspring of a nation's living standards - has risen steadily over the same period. As a result, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation's gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960's. UBS, the investment bank, recently described the current period as "the golden era of profitability."
I'd guess that housing payments are also at their highest share in a long time.
9. Fred Foldvary at least partially explains what's happened, in terms of that last "factor":
Economics too has its invisible dark matter. There are phenomena in the economy which cannot be explained by the visible spectrum of transactions. For example, from 1975 to 2005, the gross domestic product (GDP) of the USA grew by more than three percent per year, after adjusting for inflation. Yet the median family income (where half are higher and half lower) only grew at a .8 percent rate. Where to did the rest of the growth go?...
....It turns out that the dark matter that soaks up the surplus and much of the gain from economic growth is the economic rent of land.
10. Via Dave Taylor on Distributism list. Kennety J. Arrow. "Why People Go Hungry."
....most people are convinced that the basic cause of a famine is not poverty but a failure of food supply relative to the population. A localized famine is commonly thought of as resulting from a local failure of crops that is not mitigated by importing food.... Countries where hunger is widespread are frequently blamed, moreover, for allowing excessive population growth....
...[Amartya Sen] argues that famine results from the working of the economic system in allocating the ability of people to acquire goods. Famine cannot be explained by a simple relation between food supply and population....
People will starve, then, when their entitlement is not sufficient to buy the food necessary to keep them alive. The food available to them, in short, is a question of income distribution and, more fundamentally, of their ability to provide services that others in the economy are willing to pay for.
11. Via Meir Israelowitz, a Newsweek review of a new by Joseph Stiglitz.
In his new book, "Making Globalization Work," out this week, Stiglitz offers a searing critique of the conventional wisdom. While he is a proponent of free markets, he attacks the assumption that globalization is in fact operating according to Adam Smith's principles....
Stiglitz takes particular aim at the hypocrisy of rich countries professing to want to help emerging nations. He says, for example, that the Doha "Development" Round, which is now at a standstill, always had less to do with development than with rich countries' gaining access to Third World markets and protection for their companies' patents.
12. Dmytri Kleiner writes an article critical of the "creative commons" concept from a P2P standpoint, because it enables producer control of content at the expense of consumers: "WOS4: The Creative Anti-Commons and the Poverty of Networks."
13. Via Progressive Review. The FAA, on the heels of a Lexington crash caused by understaffing, wants to slash air traffic controller staffing by another ten percent:
...one [change] in particular may have safety implications, controllers and some outside experts said. That is the ending of contractual protection against being kept working on a radar screen controlling traffic for more than two hours without a break.
14. Via Progressive Review. This is not your father's E. coli. It's another Frankenstein's monster unleashed by factory farming.
E. coli is abundant in the digestive systems of healthy cattle and humans, and if your potato salad happened to be carrying the average E. coli, the acid in your gut is usually enough to kill it.
But the villain in this outbreak, E. coli O157:H7, is far scarier....
Where does this particularly virulent strain come from? It's not found in the intestinal tracts of cattle raised on their natural diet of grass, hay and other fibrous forage. No, O157 thrives in a new... biological niche: the unnaturally acidic stomachs of beef and dairy cattle fed on grain, the typical ration on most industrial farms. It's the infected manure from these grain-fed cattle that contaminates the groundwater and spreads the bacteria to produce, like spinach, growing on neighboring farms....
....When cows were switched from a grain diet to hay for only
five days, O157 declined 1,000-fold.