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Thursday, September 18, 2003  

HANKERING FOR A HEALTHY AMERICA

Kevin Drum mentions that in the last ten years, the number of workers receiving healthcare coverage from their employers has plummeted from 63% to 45%. Hey, that's great!

He also notes that:

"When you hear about income inequality statistics, keep in mind that they usually include only cash compensation. The fact that the poor have no medical coverage actually makes income inequality in America even worse than it seems at first glance.

And here's one more statistic from the BLS report: only 22% of people in service occupations get healthcare coverage from their employers, and only 35% of those who make less than $30,000 a year get it. Those are scary numbers if you happen to be in one of those groups."


posted by JD | 5:00 PM


Friday, September 12, 2003  

WORK IT DADDY
A Fistful of Euros complains about national wellbeing indices that don't take work-life balance into account. Then AFOE looks at which nations get the most
sweet sweet holiday
via the hot new Work Freedom Day Index.

Turns out that October 25 is a big day for the UK, while the Dutch start chilling on August 22.

Here's a Times article looking at work-life balance in which the author, an academic specialising in the subject points out that among the Dutch, who work less than anybody, only 18% say they wish they had more time with their families. Among Americans, a nation of James Browns (after the capes but only slightly into the angel dust), 46% say we wish we had more time with our families. A possible connection?

posted by JD | 4:30 AM
 

THE COST OF WAR
Tapped be telling you what it is. Most interesting is this:

"To put it in perspective, Bush hopes to spend more in Iraq and Afghanistan than all 50 states say they need -- $78 billion -- to finance the budget shortfalls they anticipate for 2004.
The request is higher than the $74 billion the Defense Department plans to spend on all new weapons purchases next year, and higher than the $29.5 billion the Education Department hopes to spend on elementary and secondary education plus the $41.3 billion the administration plans to spend to defend the homeland.

With $166 billion spent or requested, Bush's war spending in 2003 and 2004 already exceeds the inflation-adjusted costs of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish American War and the Persian Gulf War combined, according to a study by Yale University economist William D. Nordhaus. The Iraq war approaches the $191 billion inflation-adjusted cost of World War I."

posted by JD | 4:09 AM
 

GLOBALISATION DEBATES
Here's a whole big fat online globalisation symposium pitting Cato people against TAP
.

As part of that symposium, here's an email debate between Jonah Norberg and Robert Kutner.

And here's a link-rich Drezner piece on how the little guys are teaming up to fight for fairness.

posted by JD | 3:53 AM
 

A WORLD CONNECTED
Is the slightly insipid name of this apparently far from insipid site.

The site includes a point - counterpoint section that seems well worth a gander.

posted by JD | 3:43 AM


Monday, September 08, 2003  

WHY THE RIGHT CONTROLS THE RHETORIC
TomPaine.com interviews the author of Moral Politics, which was originally subtitled What Conservatives Know that Liberals Don't.

Conservatives, he says, are winning the rhetoric wars by being stern fathers while liberals try to be nurturing parents.

Does America want a spanking?

And via TAP, here's an article on how liberal became a four-letter word.

posted by JD | 4:48 PM
 

EVANGELICAL PROGRESSIVE PUBLIC POLICY IN ALADAMNBAMA
This is a fascinating story. As for liberals, how do we stand? I think this is a great opportunity to support the work and not worry about the worker; that is, to focus on policy rather than politics.

Crooked Timber has its say.

TN Hayden has hers.

As does TAP.

posted by JD | 4:36 PM
 

CROOKED TIMBER DROPS ON TECH CENTRAL STATION
Earlier this morning I linked to a Drezner article he wrote for Tech Central Station. Now,
Crooked Timber rags TCS out for sloppy journalism
of the sort that uses statistics like a drunk uses a lamp post - for support rather than illumination.

In the above example, he skewers a "journalist" for reporting that a particular scientist said that "only a fraction" of global warming was caused by humans. What was that fraction? 1/2.

That's a fairly big fraction, boyo.

posted by JD | 4:26 PM
 

BARBARA BUSH TELLS THE STATES "DON'T BE SO MEAN, BABY"
She wants them to stop cutting spending on teachers' salaries. Uh, Barb, the states are experiencing their worst fiscal crisis since WWII, and those crises are largely caused by your hubbie's federal tax cuts and opposition to health care reform. Does she genuinely not see the connection? More importantly, why doesn't the voting populace? Are Americans really so simple that we can't see past "tax cuts good"?

Tapped has several good article links here.

posted by JD | 4:14 PM
 

GROUP BLOGS
Electrolite comments on their design and content. I'm posting this so I'll remember to have a look at them all.

posted by JD | 3:57 PM
 

CHEESE MAKING? SURRENDER, MONKEY!
Dan Drezner says that despite his status as an anti-globalisation icon,
what really got Jose Bove railing against McDonald's was an-antiglobalisation move by the US
:

"Activists have hailed Bové as a leader of the fight against globalization. I've always found this absurd. Bové's decision to attack the MacDonald's in the first place was due to a U.S. decision, during a typical trade spat with the EU, to raise tariffs against French luxury goods. This had a devastating impact on Bové's livelihood, as "someone who supplies sheep's milk to makers of Roquefort cheese," according to the New York Times. In other words, the initial incident that triggered Bové's "protest" was a lack of globalization, not its acceleration.

The fact that Bové and other protestors concluded that the cure for Bové's ills was to halt the free flow of goods and services across borders even further is a testimony to the blinkered logic of the anti-globalization movement."

But his moustache totally rocks.

posted by JD | 3:41 PM
 

LET THEM EAT SUBSIDIES
Drezner writes that there is a general consensus that trade is twice as valuable as aid handouts to the poorest of the poor countries.

The CAP, he says, is to world trade what Showgirls was to cinematic good taste.

This graph shows what countries are the most dependent on subsidies as a percentage of the value of their gross farm output.

posted by JD | 3:04 PM
 

CENTER FOR GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT
Drezner on his critique of the CGD's Ranking the Rich analysis of DC policies that help and harm LDCs. To his pleasant surprise, they read his criticisms and asked him to be on their board.


Now I'm gonna go read what they have to say.

posted by JD | 2:38 PM
 

MORE FREE EQUALS MORE AMERICAN, DUNNIT?
From the same Drezner post linked to just below, a quick look at the politics behind protectionism. Plus, the multiplier effect (how one new job in farming, manufacturing or some other rural business creates other new jobs in the services). Drezner's implied conclusion is that to win rural votes, Bush is likely to continue making America more protectionist.

"What worries me is that the politics of this phenomenon suggests that Bush will be unable to ignore demands for greater barriers to foreign trade and investment. To understand why, go read this Chicago Tribune story on the effect of globalization on rural labor. The key grafs:

For decades, growth-minded rural towns have vied to attract manufacturers by offering tax breaks and other incentives. The expansion strategy is based on what economists call the "multiplier effect": When a new employer comes to town, the influx of new payroll money creates jobs throughout the local economy, as workers begin buying new homes, cars, and other goods and services.

Now, with manufacturers closing U.S. plants and switching production to cheap-labor sites in Mexico and China, the multiplier is working in reverse. The attribute that has long made manufacturing so attractive to communities--its ability to spark an outsize number of new jobs--is magnifying the economic disruption caused by manufacturer pullouts.

Rural communities' strategy of seeking growth through manufacturing "is colliding full force with a globalizing economy," said Mark Drabenstott, an economist with the Center for the Study of Rural America at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.


Bush, in order to win, desperately needs rural voters. He cannot and will not ignore this constituency. Which means more protectionist rhetoric and more protectionist policies to come.

[But don't these articles also highlight real economic pain?--ed. Yes, but these article are also emblematic of the "lump of labor" fallacies that I discussed last fall. Blocking either investment or trade flows will do nothing but act as a massively inefficient subsidy for manufacturers. It's a disastrous policy. So what policies would you propose?--ed. You mean besides letting the market sort itself out? Based on this article, introduce subsidies for plastic surgery (link via Virginia Postrel)]."

posted by JD | 2:26 PM
 

FREE TRADE IS THE AMERICAN WAY, INNIT?
Via Dan Drezner, I read this ABC News article on Bush's protectionism:

'Bush said the nation has lost "thousands of jobs in manufacturing." In fact, the losses have soared into the millions: Of the 2.7 million jobs the U.S. economy has lost since the recession began in early 2001, 2.4 million were in manufacturing. The downturn has eliminated more than one in 10 of the nation's factory jobs.

The president attributed the erosion to productivity gains and to jobs flowing to cheaper labor markets overseas. He suggested that jobs moving to foreign shores was his primary reason for creating the new manufacturing czar.

"One way to make sure that the manufacturing sector does well is to send a message overseas, (to) say, look, we expect there to be a fair playing field when it comes to trade," Bush said.

"See, we in America believe we can compete with anybody, just so long as the rules are fair, and we intend to keep the rules fair," Bush said, his audience of workers and supporters cheering.'


Two thoughts on this:
One, if the jobs we are losing are in manufacturing, and are thus the jobs we should be losing, can Bush be faulted that hard on the economy?

Two, what the fuck is he talking about? He wants to "send a message overseas, (to) say, look, we expect there to be a fair playing field when it comes to trade."? And this message is sent how? Oh yeh, by subisdising our industries and using the WTO to stop poorer nations from subisdising theirs. Domestic politics all the way. Unfortunately, I think that just as the vast majority of Americans take it as writ that America is the greatest country in the world, they also take it for granted that we offer the free-est trade in the world. I'd have believed that myself three years ago.

posted by JD | 2:19 PM


Sunday, September 07, 2003  

SOME LIES GET JUMPED ON BY THE AMERICAN PRESS, OTHERS GO UNCHALLENGED
Tapped (4 Sep 03) has a great explanation of why this happens:

LIES THE PRESS LIKES. The estimable David Greenberg, doctor of history, contributor to Slate and The Washington Monthly, and all-around smart guy, helpfully explains why some of George W. Bush's lies get scrutinized and others do not. He writes:

Every day, journalists struggle to reconcile two clashing professional mandates. On the one hand, their stature rests on a reputation for fairness and objectivity; if they appear to be taking ideological shots at a president, their credibility suffers. Yet they also hearken to the muckraker's trumpet, the injunction to scrutinize and challenge the powerful. One principle calls for restraint and evenhandedness, the other for skepticism and zeal.

Almost uniquely, official deceptions allow reporters to align these goals. When a public figure lies, journalists can simultaneously flaunt their adversarial stance and style themselves defenders of truth.

To the axiom that journalists love lies, however, there's one important corollary -- and it helps explain Bush's Teflon coating. Reporters like only certain lies. Perversely, those tend to be the relatively trivial ones, involving personal matters: Clinton's deceptions about his sex life; Al Gore's talk of having inspired Love Story; John Kerry's failure to correct misimpressions that he's Irish. Here, the press can strut its skepticism without positioning itself ideologically.

The lies reporters dislike, in contrast, center on what are usually more important matters: claims about public policy -- taxes, abortion, the environment -- where raising questions of truthfulness can seem awfully close to taking sides in a partisan debate. Most of Bush's lies have fallen in this demilitarized zone, where journalists fear to tread.

As part of its reverence for objectivity, journalism esteems balance. A reporter can demonstrate objectivity by quoting two opposing sides of an issue equally. In America's two-party system, the Republican and Democratic positions conveniently serve to demarcate those sides. Democratic claims receive every bit as much credence as Republican claims, and vice versa, and for a reporter to suggest otherwise is seen as joining the partisan fray.

In discussing which party's policies are preferable, this evenhandedness makes sense. But in reporting which party's claims are true, sometimes there's one right answer. Often, however, that truth isn't apparent to the lay person or the average reporter but only to experts -- scientists, doctors, economists, or scholars. Reporters must themselves work through the numbers or diligently mine the experts' research to ferret out the truth -- or, more likely, they fall back on presenting both sides' claims equally. Bound by professional strictures, news reporters can wind up giving a lie the same weight as the truth, while it falls to opinion writers to note when a president has lied about his tax cuts or stem-cell research policy.

Getting away with such policy prevarications has grown easier because of one last factor: the rise of the party message machines. In the 1970s and '80s, Republican leaders set out to coordinate their public arguments; under Clinton, the Democrats learned to do the same. Loyalty has come to mean not just voting with your party leader but mouthing the line on TV, to reporters, or in press releases. Faithful pundits, too, will parrot the official message. Thus, when a president lies about policy, so does a chorus of members of Congress, columnists, and commentators -- and try calling every Republican or Democrat in Washington a liar. In contrast, on a lie about a personal matter like sex, the offender stands alone or with just a few loyalists, and so it's plainly his honesty alone that's at issue.

This is about as succinct an explanation as you are likely to get. But Tapped would take it a bit farther by saying that this state of affairs clearly benefits the Republicans more than Democrats. Today's GOP is a very conservative party with a diminishing moderate wing and a radical agenda for changing American politics and government. But that agenda does not enjoy wide or deep public support, as Newt Gingrich discovered when he tried to abolish whole departments in the 1990s. It is thus necessary for the GOP to be deceptive about its agenda -- to, essentially, lie about it. Josh Marshall puts this well in his latest Washington Monthly article about President Bush's own lies, writing:
The president and his aides don't speak untruths because they are necessarily people of bad character. They do so because their politics and policies demand it. As astute observers such as National Journal's Jonathan Rauch have recently noted, George W. Bush campaigned as a moderate, but has governed with the most radical agenda of any president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Indeed, the aim of most of Bush's policies has been to overturn what FDR created three generations ago. On the domestic front, that has meant major tax cuts forcing sharp reductions in resources for future government activism, combined with privatization of as many government functions as possible. Abroad, Bush has pursued an expansive and militarized unilateralism aimed at cutting the U.S. free from entangling alliances and international treaty obligations so as to maximize freedom of maneuver for American power in a Hobbesian world.

Yet this is not an agenda that the bulk of the American electorate ever endorsed. Indeed, poll after poll suggest that Bush's policy agenda is not particularly popular. What the public wants is its problems solved: terrorists thwarted, jobs created, prescription drugs made affordable, the environment protected. Almost all of Bush's deceptions have been deployed when he has tried to pass off his preexisting agenda items as solutions to particular problems with which, for the most part, they have no real connection

For the reasons Greenberg lays out, journalists simply don't feel empowered to challenge the disconnect -- to point out that the policies the Bush administration pushes bear little relation to the problems they are ostensibly intended to address.

posted by JD | 5:51 AM


Friday, September 05, 2003  

ATLANTA
So I'm driving around in Nick's car yesterday looking for a nice way to pass rush hour and I think, "I know; I'll go to Little 5 Points." It's a nice enough place, after all.

But is it? When I drove up into it all I saw was two scrawny strands of lined shops buried slightly behind rows of sidewalk trees. Nice enough, I suppose, but it left me very underwhelmed. This is the best or second best Atlanta has to offer?

I had a Pabst Blue Ribbon, anyway. Guess I'll try East Atanta next.

EARLIER, THOUGH, I did slide into the High Museum's Hopper and Ansel Adams exhibitions. Hopper only had two rooms; all the pieces were, I think, on loan from MOMA and the Whitney. Most of it was dross, but they did have two of his best: the row of shopfronts at sunrise and looking down the stairs out the open door. A nice one focusing on the eves, gables and otherwise peaked roofs of some houses, too.

Ansel Adams also had a few architecturally-focused shots, but of course that isn't what made him. The exhibition of his work was stronger and more complete. Monumental stuff, but I find shots of pure, unadulterated nature somehow unmoving. Perhaps it seems to alien to me.

I preferred two human-scale photos taken by Robert Adams. These both offered a hint of the scope and greandeur of the western panorama, but showed it confined by man's needs. The first is of a Frontier brand gas station infront of power lines, with a mountain range far behind. The second shows a crescent moon suspended over a lovely young tree. The tree, however, stands in isolation smack dab in the middle of a parking lot.

I'm sure a jillion postmodernist art school twats have said this before, but I got two confliciting yet complemetary impressions from those Ansel Adams photos. On one hand, by showing the pure and unadulterated grand beauty of nature, he represents hope - hope that humans can find and experience that which is truly beautiful. But on the other, maybe he's complicit in the destruction of the west. By finding and showing these ideal images of a west that was rapidly being disfigured, did he make it easier for the powers that be - and the nation as a whole - to convince us that the west was still untainted?

I know he was a big environmentalist, and don't know what he had to say about this issue. Also, I may be exaggerating the scarring of the west. Don't really know.

posted by JD | 1:02 PM


Thursday, September 04, 2003  

HOME AGAIN
The first time I flew back into Atlanta was two years ago; at the time I didn't feel any of the expected nostalgia for it. I certainly didn't feel like it was home.

As the plane banked around the city this time, I felt a bit more emotional. It wasn't a sense of homecoming, but one of coming back to say goodbye. London is definitely my home now, and I don't see myself coming back to the US in the near future. If I had to choose one country to remain in, I'd choose the UK.

I do, however, like the idea of coming back to the US for a year here or a year there. It'd be a lot of fun to get a one- year contract and spend a year in New York with the boys, or maybe end up in San Fancisco or LA or Hawaii for a short spell. It's all open to me. That's a damn nice feeling.

posted by JD | 3:52 PM
 

HOME
Flew over and then into Atlanta yesterday. To the north I could see newly-bulldozed pine forest being converted into cul de sac-based subdivisions; every house large and white, every yard tree-less.

It's the tree-less bit that gets me. Couldn't they build these new subdivisions in a slightly less industrial manner, leaving a couple of trees where the front yards will be? I suppose you could argue that in many cases the area surrounding the subdivision is, as with the ones I saw yesterday, forest - so what's the big deal about not having trees in the front yard? You could also argue that doing the job in this industrial destroy then build style keeps houses cheaper, making it easier for poorer people to afford these houses.

Hmm. I kinda suspect that the money saved isn't going into the home owners' college funds. These are national or at least regional building firms who that have turned subdivision construction into a formula that must be followed at the risk of the builder's job. Every aspect of building has been costed and rationalised. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, but I do wish they would be thoughtful enough to want to take pride not just in their business model but in the neighbourhoods they are creating. Cost in a couple of trees, fellas. You'll make a little less, but build a nicer world.

And saying that does not make me a schmuck.

posted by JD | 3:45 PM
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