April 25th & 26th
287 Kent Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Abstract Submission Deadline: January 19th
What does it mean that digital technologies are increasingly a part of...
Roger Cohen, The Quest to Belong
Next year’s Thanksgiving grace.
Stephen Colbert: CRIS-ISH in SYRI-EH (via kateoplis)
Rosa Brooks, Wounded Giant
Obama is stuck, and so is Rosa Brooks. What she says is ‘right’, in that the facts are correctly stated. But she’s laboring under the same delusion that Obama and the American population is because she’s using postmodern lenses to evaluate postnormal power.
— Our ability to determine how things will come out if we take a specific action has diminished, not the destructive force of our cruise missiles, because everything is now connected to everything else to an unprecedented degree, a snarl of complexity beyond the algorithms of the hedge funds’ supercomputers. —
Brooks make the case that America is less powerful than it was, and that Obama should bit the bullet and just say so, and then we’d allow him more slack. After which he would do… what exactly? If we, the people, agreed with this mindset we’d stop living in Lake Woebegone, and be living in… where?
Here’s the hitch: we’re living in an era that is not a simple continuation of the previous thirty years but where other actors have grown more powerful. No, we’ve moved into an area of dramatically increased uncertainty, ambiguity, volatility, and complexity. The world is more interconnected economically than even before, and neoliberal globalism — not national actors — are imposing enormous non-state force in countries across the world. This is increasing tensions at all levels — global, regional, and within all nations, and corrupting officials everywhere. But this is an enemy — like Islamist terrorists — that can never be confronted on a battlefied. And if and when we jail a few ‘whales’ for the most egregious financial crimes, it makes no difference because there are a thousand new wannabee Masters Of The Universe graduating from Dartmouth, Yale, and Harvard, dying to take his place. Behind the scenes, financial regulation is stalled because government regulatory agencies have been colonized just like our political parties. And the fat cats pulling the levers move behind the scenes, opening research groups in China, attending Davos, buying up a phosphate monopoly in Morocco, and financing new roads in Afghanistan so Chinese companies have access to its vast mineral riches.
— The human psyche can tolerate a great deal of prospective misery, but it cannot bear the thought that the future is beyond all power of anticipation. - Robert Heilbroner —
In a world awash with money, party-based political systems are massively corrupt and the blockage of change we are witnessing is a byproduct of the rich being unsure of the risk landscape of this new era. They don’t know which way we should jump, so there is no change allowed. This is the same crackdown we are seeing in China, manifested through a different postnormal power apparatus: one that is no more corrupt or anti-democratic than ours, except in our case, in America, most people believe this is democracy, where in China and Russia, everyone knows the system is corrupt, but they are afraid that things could be much worse if the system fell to pieces.
A characteristic of the postnormal is that we are confronted with dilemmas that are inherently unsolvable, not problems to be solved. Obama isn’t telling us that, because people don’t want to believe it. Robert Heilbroner wrote,
The human psyche can tolerate a great deal of prospective misery, but it cannot bear the thought that the future is beyond all power of anticipation.
Our ability to determine how things will come out if we take a specific action has diminished, not the destructive force of our cruise missiles, because everything is now connected to everything else to an unprecedented degree, a snarl of complexity beyond the algorithms of the hedge funds’ supercomputers.
Just consider Syria: Iran and Saudi Arabia are involved in a proxy battle, using Sunni, Shia, Alawites, Kurds, Iraq, Lebanon, Hezbollah, and Christians as pawns. Each of those pawns is also advancing its own aims, and in each of those groups their is discord, and among, them shifting loyalties and a thousand years of grievances. Then there are the Russian links to the country, the US partnership with colonial Israel, and the European interests and ties in the regions. And of course, behind the scenes, the multinational companies making billions by through loans, selling weapons, building bridges, mining, and pumping oil.
It’s impossible to imagine a smooth scenario here, even if there is a high value placed on saving lives. But at least we aren’t saying we can occupy for a few months or years and change everything: build a nation and lasting ‘peace’ (whatever that is supposed to mean). At least Obama won’t tell that lie.
Conor Friedersdorf fisks Obama’s surveillance speech, and highlights the untruths and slippery logic that animated it.
excerpted from the article
On Friday, President Obama spoke to us about surveillance as though we were precocious children. He proceeded as if widespread objections to his policies can be dispatched like a parent answers an eight-year-old who has formally protested her bedtime. He is so proud that we’ve matured enough to take an interest in our civil liberties! Why, he used to think just like us when he was younger, and promises to consider our arguments. But some decisions just have to be made by the grownups. Do we know how much he loves us? Can we even imagine how awful he would feel if anything bad ever happened while it was still his job to ensure our safety? *
By observing Obama’s condescension, I don’t mean to suggest tone was the most objectionable part of the speech. The disinformation should bother the American people most. The weasel words. The impossible-to-believe protestations. The factually inaccurate assertions.
They’re all there.
The surveillance debate is arguably the most important of our era.
Yet throughout the surveillance debate, the executive branch, including Obama, has lied, obfuscated, and misled the American people in a variety of ways. Before Edward Snowden’s leaks, they could at least tell themselves that the disinformation was serving the purpose of keeping al-Qaeda operates from learning the general contours of our surveillance capabilities. But today, when that excuse has long since expired, Obama is still lying, obfuscating, and misleading the American people. In doing so, he is preventing representative democracy from functioning as well as it might. With the stakes so high, and his performance so dubious in so many places, Friday’s speech has got to be one of the low points of his presidency.
Go read the list. It’s awful in a truly enormous way.
Obama has hit a low point, and I don’t know that he can ever get back the trust that we had in the ‘man from hope’. I have long said that Obama is a moderate Republican disguised as a centrist Democrat, but now I wonder if he is a delusional autocrat, one who judges himself above the law.
The powers that be want to see Larry Summers get the Fed chairman job instead of Janet Yellen [top]:
Choosing the Next Fed Leader, NY Times
A Yale educated economist and professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, she was first nominated and confirmed to the Fed board in the 1990s; from 2004 to 2010, she served as the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. She has been vice chairwoman since 2010, a trying time in which the Fed’s largely successful efforts to steer the economy have been made all the more difficult by poor fiscal policy decisions, including the White House’s premature pivot from stimulus to deficit reduction, which happened while Mr. Summers was a top adviser to Mr. Obama.
What has changed in the past week is that the power dynamics around economic policy-making have become more public than normal. Mr. Rubin and his circle — including Mr. Summers; Timothy Geithner, Mr. Obama’s first Treasury secretary; and Gene Sperling, currently a top economic adviser to the president — have dominated economic decisions in both the Clinton and Obama administrations. Most of them were also prominent in Wall Street circles in the George W. Bush years. In the wake of the financial crisis and the Dodd-Frank reform law, the Fed chairmanship has only become more central to the fate of the banks and economy; as a result, they want someone who shares their background and can be counted on to further their views.
Ms. Yellen is not that person, not only, or even mainly, because of policy differences but because she is not part of the fraternity. Indeed, she is reminiscent of other accomplished women with whom Mr. Summers, or his supporters, or both have tangled in the past.
In 1998, Mr. Rubin and Mr. Summers opposed Brooksley Born [2nd from top], then the chairwoman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, for correctly calling for the regulation of derivatives; in 2009, Mr. Summers squelched the sound recommendation of Christina Romer [3rd from top], then an economic adviser to Mr. Obama, for a larger stimulus. In the first Obama term, Mr. Geithner clashed unhelpfully with Sheila Bair [4th from top], then the chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and with Elizabeth Warren [bottom], then the chairwoman of the Congressional panel overseeing the bailouts.
Please, please, not another white male member of the Rubin cabal.
MSNBC: 41 seconds
Oh, great. As if we needed proof of the energy cartel’s stranglehold on American media.
Well, get moving then. You’re in your fifth year, not the first 100 days.
Ross Douthat, Obama’s Artful Anguish
I hate when economic issues are hashed over without hard numbers. There is a strong incentive for the US to upgrade its aging infrastructure, which was estimated in 2010 as needing $1.6 trillion by the American Society of Civil Engineers: this is dams, bridges, the interstates, the railroads, and our ports. It’s likely to be much higher now, since the Great Recession led to cuts in spending so maintenance has fallen off. And of course, the longer you wait to fix these these, the more they age and fall apart, causing even more expense.
Eduardo Porter, In a Shovel, a Cure for Our Stunted Economic Growth
“We’re almost there in terms of fiscal adjustment,” said Simon Johnson, a former chief economist of the I.M.F. who is now at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “If we don’t do it now,” he asked, “when will we?” […]
But there is another way to look at our policy options. It just requires analyzing more closely the potential return on public investment over the long term.
Mr. Summers points out that there are many profitable investment opportunities for the government to improve the nation’s physical infrastructure, opportunities that would yield much more than a dollar in economic output for each dollar spent. There is also plenty of idle capacity in the construction industry — unemployed workers, unused machinery. And the government can borrow for 15 years at negative real interest rates.
While he argues that we also need commitments now to reduce future budget deficits, not borrowing the money now to make the investments would be unconscionable. Some of them may even pay for themselves.
Putting fallow resources to work — which also means employing men and women who are becoming obsolete — will, he suggests, bolster growth more than people expect. “It’s not like we’re never going to fix our infrastructure,” Mr. Summers said. “Not doing it now burdens future generations just as surely as more debt does.”
The US has the lowest lending rate available now: it’s actually negative. So President Obama should move as aggressively as possible to attack this grave and growing problem.
And of course, he should use the opportunity to create a much faster nationwide Internet, in partnership with corporations like AT&T and Google, or better yet, to nationalize it, like we did with the highway system. This should also include high speed train between major US cities, to decrease the costs and CO2 of airplanes to the greatest extent possible.
It is your time to lead us in the future, Mr. President.
Wrath of the Math: Obama Wins Nerdiest Election Ever - Spencer Ackerman via Wired.com
I guess the ends justified the memes, this time?