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Category Archive for ‘trends’ at Three Roads Blog
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Archive for the 'trends' Category

Viva el socialismo!

The Republican argument of the moment seems to be that the difference between capitalism and socialism corresponds to the difference between a top marginal income-tax rate of 35 per cent and a top marginal income-tax rate of 39.6 per cent. The latter is what it would be under Obama’s proposal, what it was under President Clinton, and, for that matter, what it will be after 2010 if President Bush’s tax cuts expire on schedule. –Hendrik Hertzberg

The title of this post is meant to be facetious, but the funny thing about the renewed focus (courtesy of the McCain campaign) on the issue of socialism is that the US is much more socialistic than people realize. Every macroeconomics textbook in the country will tell you that the US has what is called a “mixed economy,” an amalgam of private, market-based enterprise (aka capitalism) and public, government-based enterprise (aka socialism).

Here are just a few places where you’ll find socialism at work in the United States:

  • The VA (with its shining example of socialized health care)
  • Public works projects (highways, drinking water, etc.)
  • Your local post office
  • Alaska (taxpayer-paid pork projects, annual rebate checks taken from oil company revenues)
  • Wall Street (bailouts)

Bonus: Here’s Joe (the) Biden vs. a red-baiting TV news anchor from Florida. (Watch) The best part is at 0:54. Notice how Biden moves from surprise to shocked disbelief to disgust.

Added bonus: Here’s an excerpt of a 1908 letter to the editor that decries the socialist policies of … Teddy Roosevelt:

Moreover, most of the [Teddy] Rooseveltian policies - the arid land reclamation schemes, the National forests, the leasing of coal and mineral rights, the renting of grazing lands, the construction of the Panama Canal by direct employment, the development of water powers under public ownership and control - are in strict harmony with Socialist principles…(link)

Teddy Roosevelt is, incidentally, McCain’s favorite ex-President.

Bonus to the added bonus: Ezra Klein explains why red-baiting doesn’t work as well as it did in the past:

There was a time when socialism — and more to the point, communism — was a legitimate thing to fear. It was a living, breathing ideology. It had appeal. What we’re seeing now is that argument divorced from its substantive content. The best McCain can manage is to darkly warn that Obama will “spread the wealth.” To which a struggling electorate says: “Dude! Spread some wealth over here!” McCain has identified a thing to fear, but the failure of his message is that he can’t explain why you should be afraid.

Nouriel Roubini

It’s time to start listening to Nouriel Roubini, economist at NYU.

For months, Roubini’s concerns about impending economic catastrophe went unheeded, and he was caricatured as ‘Dr. Doom.’ Now he’s known as Dr. I Told You So.

This is what he thinks we should do now.


The end of globalization?

Paul Krugman takes a big-picture look at the war Russo-Georgian war:

[The] war in Georgia isn’t that big a deal economically. But it does mark the end of the Pax Americana — the era in which the United States more or less maintained a monopoly on the use of military force. And that raises some real questions about the future of globalization.

Krugman sees a parallel between our current situation and that of the run-up to the first world war . The globalization that characterized the early 20th century was trampled by the march of nationalism, militarism and imperialism. By the end of WW2, the world was as fragmented as it had ever been. The post-WW2 era was essentially a rebuilding of that earlier globalized world.

“So, can things fall apart again?” Krugman asks. “Yes, they can.”

[Update: Robert Kagan agrees.]

T. Boone Pickens

Here’s what we know about T. Boone Pickens:

He’s from Texas. He’s a longtime oil man. He has been very involved in Republican politics. He was the money behind the Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry in 2004. He also owns what looks like a Pomeranian.

The very same T. Boone Pickens is now putting $10 billion of his own money toward building the world’s largest wind farm in Texas. What’s more, he’s put forth an audacious plan to wean us from our addiction to foreign oil—almost all oil, actually.

According to Pickens, “the United States is the Saudi Arabia of wind power,” and the sooner we realize it, the sooner we’ll see economic revival in the heartland, where most of our country’s wind potential resides.

Unlike Al, Pickens is motivated less by the fear of climate change than by a distaste for high fuel prices and an addiction to foreign oil—an addiction that harms our economy and holds us hostage to petro-dictatorships in the Middle East. He also knows that drilling our way to oil independence is pure folly:

World oil production peaked in 2005. Despite growing demand and an unprecedented increase in prices, oil production has fallen over the last three years. Oil is getting more expensive to produce, harder to find and there just isn’t enough of it to keep up with demand.

The simple truth is that cheap and easy oil is gone.

In addition to erecting windmills, Pickens’ proposal, which he calls “Pickens Plan,” would have us fuel our cars entirely with natural gas and biofuels. Wind would supply the rest of our energy needs.

Learn more.

WALL-E

Idiocracy. Children of Men. Now WALL-E.

Is it me or are there more dystopian movies being made? Heck, even Disney is making them now.

Here’s Wikipedia’s plot summary of WALL-E. Note the none-too-subtle social commentary:

In the 2100s, the megacorporation Buy ‘n Large has assumed every economic service on Earth, including the government. Overrun by un-recycled waste, the planet eventually became so heavily polluted that it could no longer support life. In an attempt to keep humanity alive, Buy ‘n Large sponsored an exodus to space aboard hundreds of massive “Executive Starliners,” the largest of which is the Axiom. Thousands of adaptable robots known as WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter-Earth-Class) were left behind to clean up the planet. However, seven hundred years later, only one WALL-E (Ben Burtt) remains operational. The planet is still covered in trash, arranged by WALL-E into neat towers. After centuries of living in micro-gravity, the humans aboard the Axiom have lost considerable bone and muscle mass, rendering them too obese and weak to stand or move without robotic assistance. Every task is now automated, including piloting the ship, which is handled by the autopilot AUTO (voiced by the program MacInTalk).

[Looking for Mike Judge in the credits ... ]

Apparently WALL-E is doing incredibly well at the box office—a mystery if there ever was one, since summer movies (well, movies in general) are usually more about temporary escape from social ills than satirical commentary on them. I suspect kids are dragging their unwitting parents to see the movie.

Tour de Whatever

From Bike Hugger:

When Le Tour turned into a political battle like the former Indy Racing League, I don’t exactly know, but this year I’m out. If it’s on great, but I’m not planning a big time investment to make sure I’m catching the big stage, or the green points jersey, or whatever. It’s not that I don’t care, more I find it exhausting. Least of which, all my heroes — except one — are dopers. The system seems so corrupt, it has to die, redefine itself and then maybe it’ll call me again. And we’ll talk. Get caught up.

My sentiments exactly.

Watch out for cars with bumper stickers

Any stickers—small, large, political, apolitical. Even ones that say “Dennis Kucinich for President.”

That’s the upshot of a new study from Colorado State University.

CSU social psychologist William Szlemko observed that drivers who have “territorial markers” on their cars—decals, bumper stickers, vanity plates—are more likely to get road rage. The Journal of Applied Social Psychology recently published the results of Szlemko’s study, which found that drivers without markers were much less likely to honk, tailgate or exhibit other aggressive behavior.

And here’s the really surprising thing: it doesn’t matter what the markers say. Whether the bumper sticker reads “I’m reloading” or “My child made the honor roll at Fairview Middle School,” the propensity of the driver is the same: aggression.