Notes Feb 19-20

February 22, 2009 § Leave a comment


From Hufington Post Brad Delong

 Recently a group of economists affiliated with the Cato Institute ran an ad in the New York Times opposing the Obama’s stimulus plan.  As chair of my department I tried to arrange a public debate between one of the signatories and a proponent of fiscal stimulus — thinking that would be a timely and lively session.  But the signatory, a fully accredited university macroeconomist, declined the opportunity for public defense of his position on the grounds that “all I know on this issue I got from Greg Mankiw’s blog — I really am not equipped to debate this with anyone”…

And yet the Washington Post continues to make op-ed space available for flat-earth climatology


From Asia Times

Criticism of the White House’s proposals to get the US out of its deepening economic hole overlooks the obvious: there is no simple solution, there’s no palatable comprehensive plan. It’s a mess – and it will be for quite some time as the world adjusts to the post-bubble era. Doug Noland looks at the previous week’s events each Monday

SPENGLER : Obama, an economic unilateralist

Claims that the financial crisis will dethrone the United States as the dominant world superpower are merely silly. The crisis strengthens the relative position of the US and exposes the far graver weaknesses of all prospective competitors, China included. It also positions President Barack Obama as a unilateralist president far beyond Ronald Reagan’s dream. (Feb 17,’09)


Will we see more of this?

Resisting Home Evictions Becomes a Group Effort


A civil disobedience campaign is starting in New York and other cities to support families who refuse to vacate their home


For GardenWorld

The Pew Research Center just finished a study about where Americans would like to live and what sort of lifestyle they would like to have. The first thing they found is that even in dark times, Americans are still looking over the next horizon. Nearly half of those surveyed said they would rather live in a different type of community from the one they are living in at present.

Second, Americans still want to move outward. City dwellers are least happy with where they live, and cities are one of the least popular places to live. Only 52 percent of urbanites rate their communities “excellent” or “very good,” compared with 68 percent of suburbanites and 71 percent of the people who live in rural America.

Cities remain attractive to the young. Forty-five percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 would like to live in New York City. But cities are profoundly unattractive to people with families and to the elderly. Only 14 percent of Americans 35 and older are interested in living in New York City. Only 8 percent of people over 65 are drawn to Los Angeles. We’ve all heard stories about retirees who move back into cities once their children are grown, but that is more anecdote than trend.



This is important because of the portrait it gives of how bureucracies function, not as wit or whim, but by momentum. See it all

Ambushed on the Potomac

by Richard Perle

FOR EIGHT years George W. Bush pulled the levers of government—sometimes frantically—never realizing that they were disconnected from the machinery and the exertion was largely futile. As a result, the foreign and security policies declared by the president in speeches, in public and private meetings, in backgrounders and memoranda often had little or no effect on the activities of the sprawling bureaucracies charged with carrying out the president’s policies. They didn’t need his directives: they had their own.


I’ve made this point, it is extremely important. In the 90’s the biggest inflationary item was stocks, but they weren’t counted in the inflationary data.

What we have is not so much the crisis of some underlying commodity that gets reflected in the financial system, as a crisis caused within the financial system itself. The most important bubble of the last decade or so was not of the housing sector, but of the financial sector, a bubble reflected by the 20 percent of S & P 500 profits that were made in the financial sector.


From Krugman. His article is half right, but the repalcement of cars is not likely to rise to the level of previous consumption. That is true for most consumer products. The glow is off. People are reverting to, and will partially stay at, new levels of pragmatic consumption.

 at current rates of sale it would take 23.9 years to replace the existing vehicle stock. Obviously, that won’t happen. Even if the desired number of vehicles doesn’t rise, people will start replacing vehicles that wear out (use), rust away (decay), or just are so much worse than newer models that they’re worth replacing to get the spiffy new features (obsolescence).

As autos go, so goes the capital stock. In the long run, we will have a spontaneous economic recovery, even if all current policy initiatives fail. On the other hand, in the long run …


1200 pages!

A spokesman said Sanford, the new head of the Republican Governors Association, is looking at the stimulus bill to figure out how much of it he can control.

“We’re going through a 1,200-page bill to determine what our options are,” Spokesman Joel Sawyer said. “From there, we’ll make decisions


Important to keep in mind the real unemployment. If it measures 9 it is more likely 14. Or more. Undocumented, etc.

in California, where unemployment has hit 9.3 percent and millions are struggling to pay for houses purchased at the peak of the market.


 analyst Sean O’Toole of said the 5 percent rule makes the Obama plan toothless in a state where the average foreclosed home is underwater by $180,000.



Newly Poor Swell Lines at Food Banks Nationwide


As the recession continues, more people who are unused to asking for help are picking up free groceries.


Greenspan’s tenure coincided with a period during which total wealth increased dramatically, although much of the growth was concentrated among the richest of the rich, not just the top one percent of the income distribution, but the top 0.1 percent.

The gross national product, in inflation-adjusted 2000 dollars, rose from $6.47 trillion in 1987 to$11.32 trillion in 2006, while unemployment fell by a substantial 1.6 percentage points, from 6.2 percent in 1987 to 4.6 percent in 2006. Corporate profits rose from $368.8 billion to $1.59 trillion, without adjusting for inflation

The Dow Jones, which was just above 2700 when Greenspan took office in 1987, rose to over 11,000 in January, 2006, when he retired.


Interesting site


A crisis in sociology?

Alvin      and Wallerstein are pretty good at theorizing about the social world. So what can we learn from their worries? Does the twenty-first century demand some new thinking in the ways that we construct the social sciences?

I think it does. If we want to have a more adequate basis for understanding the rapid processes of social change that surround us globally and locally, we need to rethink the concepts and methods we bring to social theory. And if we want to have a basis for attempting to influence some of these processes through policy, so as to avoid some of the more awful outcomes that they seem to lead to, then we need to be more eclectic in our thinking about social causes and their interactions. To see the rest click .


           Volume 1      Number 2     November 2008

      International Political Anthropology

Aristotle’s friendship teaching has been called the “peak” of his moral teaching.  His understanding of sunaisthesis (joint perception/awareness) as the activity of virtue friendship has been called the “peak of the peak”. Furthering this line of inquiry, this paper considers how friendship is embedded in the nature of the intellect in sunaisthesis.  By considering the manner that Aristotle thought the very activity of thought is to know and to love one’s friend, we see how friendship constitutes the foundation of politics, while also pointing beyond politics to the contemplation of the good.

Aristotle described political science (politike epist!m!) as the most architectonic (magista

architektonikos) of the human sciences because he thought human beings find the full

activation of their moral faculties by living in the polis (Aristotle, 2002: 1094a30).

Yet, politics, as scholars of different schools of political anthropology notice, depends on prepolitical human relationships not only to sustain it, but also to restrain the claims politics places on individuals, and ultimately perhaps to define, indirectly, the very purpose of politics. Curiously, Aristotle seems simultaneously to claim that politics forms the moral


The countries that make up two thirds of the world’s agricultural output are experiencing drought conditions. Whether you watch a video of the drought in China, Australia, Africa, South America, or the US, the scene will be the same: misery, ruined crop, and dying cattle.


Nancy Scheper-Hughes

Department of Anthropology

University of California, Berkeley, 94720

May 14, 1998


For Sidney Mintz

The Global Economy and Brute Life

In a recent issue of Atlantic Monthly (January 1998 ) George Soros , best known as a world-class billionaire financier, analyzed some of the deficiencies of the global capitalist economy. It is a fairly elementary exercise, but coming from a person in his position, one tends to sit up and take notice. The benefits of world capitalism, Mr. Soros notes , are unevenly distributed. Capital is in a better position than labor. And, surely it is better to be situated at the center of the global economy than at the peripheries. Given the inherent instability of the global financial system, busts will inevitably follow booms, like night the day, and capital tends to return to its centers leaving the minor players in faraway places high and dry. Meanwhile, the rapid growth of global monopolies have compromised the authority of states and weakened their regulatory functions.

But what bothers Mr. Soros most is the erosion of social values and social cohesion in the face of the increasing dominance of anti-social market values. Not that markets are to be blamed, of course. By their very nature markets are indiscriminate, promiscuous and inclined to reduce everything, including human beings, their labor and even their reproductive capacity to the status of commodities, to things that can be bought, sold, traded, and stolen. So, while, according to Mr. Soros, a Market Economy is generally a good thing, we cannot live by markets alone. “Open” and democratic societies require strong social institutions to serve such vital goals as social justice, political freedom, bodily integrity and other human rights. The real dilemma, as Mr. Soros sees it, is one of uneven development. The evolution of the global market has outstripped the development of a mediating global society.

Indeed, amidst the neo-liberal readjustments of virtually all contemporary societies, North and South, we are experiencing today a rapid depletion, an ’emptying out’ even, of the traditional modernist, humanist, and pastoral ideologies and practices. But meanwhile, new mediations between capital and work, between bodies and the state, belonging and extra-territoriality, and even between , social exclusion and medical- technological inclusion are taking shape. So, rather than a conventional story of the sad decline of humanistic social values and social relations , our discussion is tethered to a frank recognition that the conventional grounds on which those modernist values and practices were based have shifted beyond recognition.


Chalmers Johnson

As Spinney recalls, “In July 1989, when some members of Congress began to build a coalition aimed at canceling the B-2, Northrop Corporation, the B-2’s prime contractor, retaliated by releasing data which had previously been classified showing that tens of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions in profits were at risk in 46 states and 383 congressional districts.” The B-2 was not cancelled.

And, more from

A crisis in sociology?

I think it does. If we want to have a more adequate basis for understanding the rapid processes of social change that surround us globally and locally, we need to rethink the concepts and methods we bring to social theory.

It is a sociology that attempts to understand society as a system, that expects social phenomena to be lawlike, and that abstracts almost entirely from history as context or process.

Social organizations bring about maximum social utility. But Gouldner points out that this theoretical mindset makes it inherently difficult to deal with change.

So functionalist sociology was ill-equipped to understand and explain the most basic features of American life in the post-Vietnam War era — mass protest, racial inequality, extension of the welfare state, urban poverty, and maladaptive political structures.

Julia Adams, Elisabeth Stephanie Clemens, and Ann Shola Orloff pick up the story inRemaking Modernity: Politics, History, and Sociology. And their focus group of beacon social scientists is a promising one — scholars such as Barrington Moore, Theda Skocpol, Sidney Tarrow, Charles Tilly, or Jack Goldstone, for example

Now what about Wallerstein’s worries about contemporary sociology? Several points are particularly salient. First, there is a critique of the “nomothetic” quest — the idea that the social sciences should discover social laws. In fact, the commission report observes that this goal is even a bit challenged in the natural sciences when we consider the dynamics of non-linear dynamic systems:

Wallerstein notes that many of the large concepts of social science research in the 1960s are deeply questionable — for example, the concept of modernization as a construct around which to understand the development processes of the post-colonial world.

So what kind of sociology should we be looking for if we want to understand the big, complex changes that surround us — big cities, globalization, social networks, terrorism, failing schools, economic transitions, or the transmission of pandemic illness?

– not because the past determines the future, but because it constrains it.


Good list of stimulus package details


The Budget Crisis May Yield Sea Change in Election Politics


LOS ANGELES — One outgrowth of California‘s budget agreement may have set the table for something the state does often and well: force a national re-examination of a public policy issue, in this case ridding state capitals of partisan gridlock.

In approving the budget early Thursday, California lawmakers also agreed to place on the ballot a proposed constitutional amendment that would do away with partisan primaries in favor of an open-primary system in which the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, would face off in a general election.

The force behind the proposal was State Senator Abel Maldonado, a moderate Republican who incurred the wrath of both political parties for insisting that it be included in the budget package. Mr. Maldonado says that by loosening the grip of voters on the far right and the far left, who dominate in traditional one-party primaries, it would lead to the election of more moderates and fewer ideologues.

If approved by the voters, such a system will be used in all races for the Legislature, statewide office and the House of Representatives. While numerous states have open primaries in presidential elections, only Louisiana and Washington have versions of the open primary being considered here.

Another moderate Republican, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who signed the newly passed budget bill into law on Friday, is a robust supporter of the open-primary idea, which is to appear on the ballot in June of next year.

Mr. Schwarzenegger has vowed to campaign across the state for its passage, and his patronage is hardly surprising: had he been required to run in a Republican primary instead of the nonpartisan recall election of 2003, he almost certainly would not be governor. Republican primaries in the state generally favor candidates who are more conservative, especially on social issues.

Some of this is not new. Californians have tried in the past to remake the primary system, as recently as 2004, and failed. But state and federal dynamics have shifted in just the last year in ways that could favor the initiative.

The dysfunctional budget process here, largely a byproduct of extreme partisan gridlock, brought California widespread shame when lawmakers delivered the latest budget in the state’s history last fall and then, unable to agree on how to close the deficits they had created, went on to nearly bankrupt the state. Further, President Obama‘s brand of post-partisan, across-the-aisle politics has proved appealing to voters and been emulated, at least in rhetoric, among other politicians.

Political analysts say California, long established as the Petri dish for policy shifts that, for better or worse, often spread across the land, could play that role on this issue, too.

“I don’t think there is any question that California is more influential than the average state, being both the largest and with the most ballot initiatives,” said Dan Tokaji, an election law specialist at Ohio State University. “Its direct democracy can often affect other states.”

Here is how the new primaries would work: Voters would continue to register with parties or, in what is known in California as “decline to state,” choose to be unaffiliated. At primary time, candidates would run with or without party “preferences” listed with their names.

The top two vote-getters for each office, no matter the margin of victory or party preference, would move on to a general election. It is quite possible that the final contenders would be from the same party, especially in districts that are heavily Republican or Democratic and in statewide elections, where Democrats have a distinct registration advantage.

Proponents of open primaries argue that they make races in gerrymandered districts more accessible to less partisan candidates, force candidates to campaign more broadly among constituents and bring more voters out in general elections, once they realize they have choices that are more moderate.

“Most people in the political sphere tend to have viewpoints that are more strident than the views of the public as a whole,” said Steve Peace, a former Democratic state senator from San Diego who came up with the proposal’s language. “That is why our politics are so polarized.”

Opponents argue that the system crushes dissent, since members of smaller parties may never get a chance to run in the general election, and they warn of partisans’ trying to make mischief by backing weak candidates from other parties. Some also worry that the primaries would erode the power of political parties, which have long stood as a pillar of the American electoral system.

The effect of the open primaries could reverberate beyond the state capital. California’s delegation in the House makes up more than 10 percent of that entire body, and changes in the delegation’s composition could change policy — even alter the balance of power — in Washington.

Not surprisingly, officials of both the Democratic and Republican Parties in California have denounced the proposal, as have many elected officials.

“The concern is that you will institutionalize a process in which you will have circumstances in which neither a Democrat or Republican is on the ballot,” said Kurt Bardella, a spokesman for Representative Darrell Issa, a Republican from Southern California.

Jim Brulte, a Republican consultant and former party leader in the State Senate, said the system would need to be in place several election cycles before solid conclusions could be drawn.

“Theoretically, you would get more centrists,” Mr. Brulte said. “But my guess is the change will not be as dramatic as the proponents hope or the opponents fear.”


Collins suggests something benighn. But toxic assets now are just deeply depreciatged assets, and selling them to buyers means ther are buyers with money, and as the economy rebuilds, those assets are going tobe worth a great deal. Hence the total movemtn from a few years ago to a few years in the future means a radical shifting of assets towards those with money


Finance for Our Times

The government is just going to be a kind of helper, bringing the toxic asset buyers and sellers together, maybe creating some incentives to make the deals happen.






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You are currently reading Notes Feb 19-20 at Reflections on GardenWorld Politics Douglass Carmichael.


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