Feb 04 2009
I’ve got hypocrisy on my mind, thanks to recent developments in the process of appointing officials to the Obama administration. First, Timothy Geithner, appointed to the position of national tax collector in chief, turns out to have failed to pay certain taxes. Then former Sen. Tom Daschle, the nominee to head Health and Human Services, turns out to have failed to pay much more. He wriggles and squirms a while under the spotlight but makes no move to step aside until a third nominee, Nancy Killefer, withdraws on principle over a much smaller sum of unpaid taxes, after which Daschle can’t stick around without looking like an utter tool.
And all this, to hear some speak, reflects badly on the incoming Obama administration, which was supposed to have been better than all this.
Well, yes, it does reflect badly.
But at the same time, it reminds me of a passage from Neal Stephenson’s novel The Diamond Age:
Nov 24 2008
(Cross-posted from Daily Kos)
Our economic situation has been all over the news. Banks are failing, credit is contracting, the auto industry is crying for a bailout. Clearly, the U.S. economy has gotten derailed, and we’re now faced with the unenviable task of getting it back on track. The trouble is, we don’t know which track is the right track.
Or do we?
Suppose there exists a valid interpretation of economic forces and outcomes, one that explains our current situation, yet one that no one will acknowledge, even to knock down.
About 12 years ago I picked up Cities and the Wealth of Nations: Principles of Economic Life by Jane Jacobs (better known as the author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities) at a used bookstore in upstate New York. Jacobs wrote this book in 1983, in response the emergence of stagflation. As an informed and educated layperson, she examined economic history with a critical eye and an urbanist’s heart, looking for the laws that explained what was going on — which the economic theories of the time did not.
Nov 09 2008
“Now is not the time to experiment with socialism,” said Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin at a rally in Loveland, Colo., on Oct. 20. She was wrong. This is exactly the time to experiment with socialism.
When everything is going as it should, that’s the time to play it safe. When things are bad and getting worse, doing the same thing you’ve always done is a death sentence. It’s plain to see that things are bad and getting worse; capitalism is not working as it should. It’s not creating prosperity — not even for the tiny few who were enjoying it while the rest of us worked more productively than ever yet saw our wages stagnate or fall. It’s not creating jobs. It’s not helping people start businesses and stay in their homes. It’s failing on every score except one: allowing us to cling to the idea that we’re a capitalist nation, and because we’re the best, capitalism is the best too. Our confidence in our economic system now rests solely on a faulty syllogism.
But before we can talk about experimenting with socialism, we have to get clear in our minds what “socialism” means.
Nov 06 2008
We’ve heard a lot of speculation about what this year’s presidential election supposedly means. Were Americans simply voting for Barack Obama, a charismatic peacemaker with a worker-friendly tax plan? Or were they also voting against something, and if so, what? Republican incompetence? Neocon arrogance? The Iraq War? The economic meltdown? Negative campaigning?
After reading georgia10’s front-page story “22%” on Daily Kos — specifically, after looking at the New York Times maps she embedded — I think we can figure out what most Americans were voting against in a single glance, by seeing who embraced Obama and, more important, who rejected him.
Does this map look familiar? If you’ve read my Daily Kos diaries on David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed, it should.