Thursday, August 27

"The NEA was created by the Congress of the United States and President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 as “a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education.”  The issue of health care is curiously absent from this description on their website.
  So I’d like to start a little debate and ask you, the reader, the same question. Do you think it is the place of the NEA to encourage the art community to address issues currently under legislative consideration?
  And before answering, let me give you my take."    

Monday, August 24

"Today, generally, Adam Smith is claimed by the Right, Darwin by the Left. In the American South and Midwest, where Smith’s individualist, libertarian, small-government philosophy is all the rage, Darwin is reviled for his contradiction of creation. Yet if the market needs no central planner, why should life need an intelligent designer?
Conversely, in the average European biology laboratory you will find fervent believers in the individualist, emergent, decentralised properties of genomes who prefer dirigiste determinism to bring order to the economy.
So long is the shadow cast by the determinism of Karl Marx that it is often forgotten how radical the economic liberalism of the political economists seemed in the 1830s, the decade when Darwin’s thinking crystallised."    

Thursday, August 20

Is a global recession good for the environment? I know I'm generating a lot less trash than I did in 2007. From TreeHugger: Point and counterpoint (and another from Scientific American). This writer makes the point any negative environmental effects of a global recession are more than outweighed by benefits stemming from a massive reduction in economic growth. And Newsweek's article from earlier this year highlights examples of recession-induced pollution reduction around the world:
The impact of China's slowing economic growth (6.8 percent in the fourth quarter last year but 13 percent in 2007) has hit hardest in cities in the export-heavy south such as Dongguan. There, roughly 10 percent of the 22,000 factories have closed since last year. In Zhejiang province, just south of Shanghai, at least 60,000 small factories are shuttered. Survivors have slashed production and grounded fleets of diesel-fume-belching trucks. As a result, streams where factories dumped their waste are getting cleaner and the air is less smoggy. In 2008, the number of days with dangerous levels of air pollution in Dongguan fell by 65 from the year before, mostly in the final months of the year. "When there's less work, there's less release of sewage and trash, so environmental pressures have eased," says environmental scientist Liu Zhiming of Dongguan University of Technology.

Thursday, August 13

John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market Inc., offers his elegant solution for health care reform. The cynic in me sees nothing like this coming to pass because its clarity allows for no or too little deal making, rent seeking and back scratching up on Capitol Hill.      

Wednesday, August 12

A moment later, after some reflection, he added, “But it also sounds an awful lot like what happens in a banana republic or in Putin’s Russia, when the captains of industry did favors for the government in exchange for economic subsidies. How do you stop from going down the slippery slope and becoming like Putin’s Russia?”  

The most important questions arising from the Bank of America–Merrill Lynch merger do not involve Ken Lewis. They involve Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke, and the U.S. government.

  In an interview with Andrew Cuomo, Paulson “largely corroborated” Lewis’s rendition of the events of December 2008, Cuomo wrote in an April 23 letter to federal officials. “Secretary Paulson indicated that he told Lewis that if Bank of America were to back out of the Merrill Lynch deal, the government either could or would remove the Board and management.”  

Tuesday, August 11

“Most scientists who study the human mind are convinced that minds are the products of brains, and brains are the products of evolution. Dr. Collins takes a different approach: he insists that at some moment in the development of our species God inserted crucial components — including an immortal soul, free will, the moral law, spiritual hunger, genuine altruism, etc.”
I thought we were done with the religious running the science when we got that new guy in the White House but I guess not.  
IF there’s a silver lining to our current economic downturn, it’s this: With it comes what the economist Joseph Schumpeter called “creative destruction,” the failure of outmoded economic structures and their replacement by new, more suitable structures. ... this downturn offers an excellent opportunity to get rid of one that has long outlived its usefulness: gross domestic product.
See also: Genuine Progress Indicator.
I am thankful to be living in a time when we have the privilege to debate over health care. I love the future; so much better than the past.

Friday, August 7

Senator Dodd, who I like to call Senator Big Bank, and Senator Schumer, who I like to call Senator Wall Street, are doing their best to ensure that regulatory reform in the financial services sector results in nothing but good news for their biggest donors. Senator Big Bank this week chaired a Senate Banking Committee hearing on regulatory reform where he asked this ridiculous question: "Is the administration's proposal really enough, or should we be listening to previous administrations...that greater consolidation should be the next step?" (quoted in American Banker, 8/5/09) Apparently he feels that the Bush, and to some extent Clinton, administrations' march toward regulatory consolidation, the same administrations who laid the groundwork for the banking crisis, had the right idea. Huh?

And Senator Wall Street pulls the Rovian tactic of calling it a "turf war" effectively shutting down meaningful conversation before it even starts. It seems as if his turf (his millions of dollars of campaign contributions from Wall Street) is the only one that needs protecting. And forget about consumers/taxpayers in all of this. Banking consolidation will mean just a handful of bigger banks calling the shots for consumers and on Capitol Hill. The same way the ones that were too big to fail and needed bailing out have done it for the past decade.

One of the important things that kept the credit moving moving and prevented a total melt-down of the system, was the existence of over 6,000 state-chartered banks, many of them smaller community banks. State regulators in general have been doing their part to try and protect consumers and do their part to ensure the safety and soundness of the banking system. They are by no means perfect, and have for a long time been blocked by the feds from doing their job, but they provide checks and balances that would disappear if Senator Big Bank and Senator Wall Street get their way.

(Crossposted at MyPorch)

Wednesday, August 5

Although she puts her usual snarky spin on the situation, Maureen Dowd says something in her column today that sums up how I feel about Bill Clinton's trip to North Korea. "Hillary and President Obama look bigger when they share the stage with other talented players." That is exactly what I was thinking as the media and blogosphere pondered the notions that Hillary is once again in Bill's shadow, or that even in Obama's America the Clintons loom large.

This is the way I see it: We have a very competent President working hard to clean up messes he inherited and make some change in general. We have a very competent Secretary of State working hard to clean up messes she inherited and make change in Africa (at the moment). And we have a very competent former President helping to clean up a mess and just maybe set the stage for the possibility for some kind of change in North Korea. It just makes me want to shout "Hooray, adults are in charge again!"

And didn't you love how normally smiley Bill looked like he was at someone's funeral the whole time he was there?

(Crossposted at MyPorch)

Tuesday, August 4

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is attempting to deal with the challenges of predicting chaotic behavior (climate), as well as how to deliver its findings.