Issue 48 (2011)

Communitarian Observations

 

 

From My Diary

 

The Weekly Standard carried an editorial, About Inequality, which is a must-read. It reports that the ground in American politics has shifted to the left and that the conservatives have found no effective way to respond. It proceeds to examine various responses and ends up by holding that while it is true there is “natural” inequality is out there–it is not the job of the government to do anything about it. To paraphrase what former Bridgeport Mayor Jasper McLevy said about the snow that clogged the streets of his city: “God put it there, and he will take it away.”

 

The editorial writer seems not to note the contradiction between this position and a Paul Ryan quote he cites that calls for ending corporate welfare. That is, even if one assumes the government has no role in correcting social evils—one can hardly ignore the inequality the government creates.

 

A few pages later, an article by Peter J Hansen calls not only for ending corporate welfare but also for protecting American workers by imposing a tariff on Chinese imports. The grounds may be indeed shifting.

 

* * *

 

 

Einstein: “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

 

* * *

 

Question for economists, political scientists and all others: Why do members of Congress act more like street walkers than call girls? I understand why they solicit rather than wait for those with deep pockets to approach them; the Congress members are desperate for the funds they need to be re-elected. What I do not dig is why they sell themselves for so little. Corporations often give them millions in exchange for changes in the law worth billions. K Street advertises that for every dollar you give the lobbyists, they will get you 100 federal dollars, one of the rare ads that turns out to be truthful. Economists assume that the level of legalized graft (“rent”) will rise to the point where only reasonable profit will be left for those who do the bribing, say 10, may be 15 percent. But 99%? What gives?

Comments—on this or any other item—may be posted on our next edition; please send them to [email protected].

 

* * *

 

Newt Gingrich’s statement that the Palestinians are “an invented people” caused an uproar. A better response would have been that all people are invented.

* * *

 

Congress’ Christmas gift: it cut $600 million in housing funds for the poor. The HOME Investment Partnership Program, which was slashed by 38%, provides funding to local communities for housing construction and renovation, repairs, and down payment assistance for those with low incomes.

 

* * *

 

Calling on all app makers: We need one called Limbo. Those who use it would have their emails remain in the cloud for whatever time the senders prefer, a period during which they could call the message back.

 

What Happens When Wall Street Breaks the Law? Not Much.

A few days before he graduated, one of my students asked me how does one keep up with public affairs (as I was advocating) when you have a demanding full-time job, a cute but fussy baby, an elderly parent who needs attending and something of a social life? I suggested that he listen to NPR, watch CNN — and once in a while choose a particular story to follow. For example, the report of what happens when major American corporations break the law…

Read the rest at CNN.com.

Select comments:

Nothing happens because SEC employees either have worked for Wall Street firms or want to work for them.

– Rad666

 

On July 4th, 2010, the Charlotte Observer posted a story in its Banking section reporting the major US banks – including Bank of America, Citi, Wachovia, Wells Fargo, and others – had been laundering money for Mexican drug cartels for the last 5 to 10 years. The VP of Wachovia’s anti-money laundering division quit in disgust after he reported the activity and was told to be quiet about it. No charges were filed after the banks promised to stop, but they’re all still doing it. Nothing has changed.

– ElectricLion

 

In the 60s America was heading toward a 4 day work week, overtime after 32 hours and income levels where a single worker could support a family of 4.  To fight this, corporations embraced right-wing extremism, through people like Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.  They embarked on a 50 year campaign of crushing Unions, Social Security and Medicare, all while shifting the tax burden of America from Wall Street corporations to the muddle class.  They now are in clear control of all three branches of government.

– globaldecay

 

Private Sector Neglects Cyber Security

One major reason the United States is subject to damaging cyber raids is that significant segments of the business community refuse to erect much-needed cyber defenses. Such defenses cannot be limited to the public sector because much of our security draws on work carried out in the private sector. Yet business representatives argue that they should not have to absorb the costs and object in principle to the government imposing yet another regulation, this one on how to protect their plants, computers and communication systems from Chinese and Russian cyber marauders…

Read the rest at The National Interest.

 

China: The Wrong Number?

A steady stream of publications depicts China as a fierce adversary—if not as an outright enemy. A recent article by Robert J. Samuelson leaves little room for doubt, as he entitles it “At war with China.” It follows shortly on the heels of Andrew Krepinevich’s “Panetta’s Challenge: Can he counter China’s and Iran’s game-changing new weapons?” Robert D. Kaplan’s Monsoon urges the United States to recognize the geopolitical importance of the Indian Ocean—and China’s increasingly expanding power in these waters. Even the levelheaded Economist warns that “by 2030 China’s economy could loom as large as Britain’s in the 1870s or America’s in the 1970s.”

Read the rest at The National Interest.

 

Curing What Ails Europe

The strongest medicine European leaders have come up with to cure what ails the euro zone is going to make the patient much worse off, if not kill him outright. European leaders are calling for adding a fiscal union to the monetary one. Germany’s foreign minister Guido Westerwelle called for “automatic sanctions when (budget) stability rules are broken.” France and Germany are backing measures that would send violators of European Central Bank policies to the European Court of Justice. And Germany is promoting a policy that would give the European Commission the power to veto budgets of member states…

Rest the rest at The National Interest.

 

Recent Publications

 

“No Marshall Plan for the Middle East.” Prism. 3.1 (December 2011) p. 75-86.

A number of politicians, U.S. military leaders, and academics have called for a Middle East Marshall Plan—a massive, transformative aid program analogous to the one implemented in Europe after World War II. Although the idea is appealing, there is no way to bring anything remotely resembling the Marshall Plan to the Middle East, and attempts to launch one are likely to cause some undesirable side effects. The sociological, cultural, and structural conditions in postwar Europe were favorable for implementing a large-scale aid program; the opposite is true in today’s Middle East. Germany had competent government personnel and relatively low levels of corruption, while in many Middle Eastern nations, corruption is endemic and pervasive. Many Middle Eastern states lack the industrial bases, infrastructure, educated populations, and strong support for science and technology, corporations, business, and commerce institutions that were reconstructed in Germany after World War II. Instead of attempting to create a large-scale transformative program, the United States should scale back to less demanding ambitions, focus on security instead of regime change, work to create favorable trade conditions, and allow for humanitarian aid.

 

I Read

In a New Yorker article, George Packer writes about Chris Berman, a former Blackwater defense contractor who was inspired to redesign military vehicles to make them much safer after his friends were killed in an ambush in Iraq. After selling the vehicles to security companies in Kuwait, Berman decided to move his business to the U.S. to bid for Defense Department contracts. He opened a factory in an impoverished North Carolina town and hired veterans to staff it. Though, Packer reports, Berman’s designs were among the best, he was unable to get the opportunity to even bid for a contract. A larger Humvee manufacturer was able to get the process delayed by Congress.

 

front page story in the Washington Post looks at Iraq’s future from the perspective of its youth, who have come of age during the war and U.S. occupation. It notes, “Some young Iraqis say they are glad to be rid of Saddam Hussein but feel less safe — and therefore less free — than before 2003, a sentiment reflected in dozens of interviews in eight provinces.”

 

From Our Mailbox

Comments from the last newsletter

 

I have a different interpretation of the following:

“According to Steve Jobs’s sister, his last words were “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.” He must have seen the design of the afterlife and–atypically–found it quite satisfactory.”

If Steve Job’s could see the design of his afterlife, his “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow” exclamation certainly would not be satisfaction, but the opportunity to change the design. After all, if he didn’t design it, it needed to be simplified and made more useful.

Paul Wallace

Prof. Emeritus of Political Science

University of Missouri-Columbia

 

At least 2/3 of my life is gone. (I’m 62) I have made a conscious decision to spend my remaining years in pursuit of the quality of life inner tranquility brings. This is not a material thing I can consume and replenish, but time spent reflecting each day, morning and night what exactly my actions and thoughts are creating in the world and how they are affecting others around me. When I began to consider the wealth beyond accumulation of materials, I discovered a wealth beyond measure. Each sunrise, each interaction with others, each event, each phone call, became amplified and resonant with enjoyment, when I stopped thinking what was in it for me, how it would affect me in the long run, the old cost/benefit analysis we grew up with. I firmly believe life is better as we age because we can benefit from the mistakes we have made. I will never say at the end “I could have…, I should have,…. I would have…..”. Instead each day I begin with “today I will….” This is not something I could have ever achieved when I was younger nor ever something that would have occurred to me.

Irene Brunstein

Queens, NY

 

A comment on the police and GPS´s:

There are already Insurance co´s that charge much more unless you install a GPS in the car to be localized in case it is stolen. Any differences?

Cerdeira Hilda

 

Season’s Greetings from the Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies.

We have a holiday gift, courtesy of the publishers of My Brother’s Keeper: a Memoir and a Message(click here to read an excerpt). We have a number of free copies to be shipped, first come first served. To receive your complimentary copy, please send an email to [email protected]with the subject line “My Brother’s Keeper.” Be sure to include your shipping information in the body of the email.

 

Endorsements

The Responsive Communitarian Platform can be found here. We invite all those who agree to endorse it by sending an email to[email protected] with the subject “endorse RCP.” For a list of those who have already endorsed it, click here.

 

The Diversity Within Unity Platform is here. We invite all those who agree to endorse it to send an email to [email protected] with the subject “endorse DWU.” For a list of those who have already endorsed the Platform, click here.

 

We apologize if you have received this letter in error. To be removed from this listserv, please reply to this email with the subject “remove.”

 

Please email your comments on any of the above to[email protected]. We assume we may publish your comments in our future newsletters unless otherwise advised.

 

For more about the communitarian project, please visithttp://icps.gwu.edu. For more notes, please visithttp://blog.amitaietzioni.org.

 

Edited by Julia Milton.