THUS SPAKE ZACH

Yale President, self-styled pragmatic Democrat, and Thomas Friedman-inspired global citizen Richard Levin is reportedly on the short list to replace Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank.

It’s times like these you wish Zach would arise from his self-imposed blog hibernation. History suggests it’s only a matter of time…

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THE WEEK IN COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATISM

Well, the Republican Majority has finally left DC for another one of those extended vacations that most of them like to impugn when French workers take them. They didn’t go home nearly soon enough though.

Wednesday night – by two votes – the House passed CAFTA, voting to accelerate the corporate-driven race to the bottom in working standards. As Mark Weisbrot reminds us:

CAFTA will increase some barriers to trade while lowering others. One of the barriers it increases is on patented pharmaceutical drugs. This is the most costly form of protectionism in the world today. The benefits from free trade in these goods are much appreciated by the millions of Americans who cross the Canadian or Mexican border to get their prescription drugs. But CAFTA will make it more difficult for countries like Guatemala to get access to affordable medicines…Over the last 30 years the typical (median) wage in the United States has hardly grown — only about 9 percent. Productivity — output per employee — has grown by 82 percent over the same period…Over the next decade, the dollar will fall further and our trade deficit will shrink. Measured in non-dollar currencies, the value of U.S. imports is expected to decline over the next decade. This means that CAFTA countries are making costly concessions for a prize that most likely won’t be there.

House Democrats did a much better job of bucking the “Washington Consensus” than their counterparts in the Senate, a quarter of whom backed the bill. That only fifteen House Democrats voted with Thomas Friedman on a “free trade” bill is a hopeful sign of how much that consensus has fractured in the past decade. Those fifteen votes, sadly, seem to have made all the difference Wednesday. David Sirota provides a helpful list of the eleven Democrats in Congress who voted not just for CAFTA but for the Bankruptcy and “Class Action Fairness” bills as well, and some much-needed skepticism about claims that they acted out of electoral necessity.

As if CAFTA wasn’t bad enough, yesterday the Senate passed up a bill protecting detainees’ human rights and passed a bill curtailing victims’ rights to a day in court against the gun industry. And an Energy Bill which, as John Podesta observes,

gives away our tax dollars to energy companies already making record profits. The challenges we face in moving to more secure and sustainable energy use are large. We need a bold energy policy for the United States. Sadly, even the modest commitment to increase the use of renewable sources for electricity or language acknowledging the danger of climate change did not survive in the final bill. We must continue to challenge the Bush administration and Congress to get serious about decreasing the oil consumption of the United States and combating global warming. The energy bill the Senate will vote on today ignores those challenges.

And the Senate voted to extend the PATRIOT Act, though in a slightly more constitution-friendly version than that passed by the House. As Lisa Graves of the ACLU said yesterday:

Although the ACLU was unable to endorse the final bill, it contains some provisions mindful of the Bill of Rights, and does not include such broad and unnecessary powers like administrative subpoenas.

Small victories.

For any of you hoping after the verbosity of this post that I’d make myself scarce(r) for a little while, you may be in luck. Like I mentioned earlier, in a few hours I’m headed off to catch a plane for Puebla, Mexico (via Detroit), where I’ll be trying desperately to become a fluent Spanish-speaker by July 1st. I’ll still be on the blog intermittently (expect Friedman-esque gems like “I only really understood how prescient my last book was when today I met a disabled five-year old child in rural Mexico who told me how much more he wanted neoliberalism than dinner”). But seeing as having the kind of experience in Mexico that would give me the slighest chance of not being unemployed a year from now probably rules out the kind of obsessive posting that marked, say, the time I should have spent writing seminar papers, I’ve invited a few friends to help out over the next six weeks. I’ll let Matt, Alyssa, and Ruth each introduce themselves (Ruth has already foreshadowed a potential future post by choosing “Josh Smells” as her username) however they want. I’ll just say that they’re each exceptionally clever and incisive writers who’ve been recently blog-less, and I’m excited to see what they have to say here (and if any of them is willing to take the contrarian position that I do not, in fact, smell). You should be hearing from them soon. And if history is any guide, I won’t be able to keep myself away for very long either…

The past few weeks have seen a good deal of sarcasm and indignation from various pundits, print and virtual, in response to criticism of the very real lack of women among the ranks of high-profile opinion journalists. As usual, we’ve seen conservatives and a fair number of self-identified liberals advocating blindness to inequality amongst groups as a sign of respect for individuals. And claims that if different women can have different opinions, then there can’t be any particular problem with having most of the opinions voiced prominently be those of men. And that really valuing individual women writers means not seeing them as women at all. Thing is, while different women and different men will of course each have different perspectives, when a medium overwhelmingly represents the voices of men it represents only the voices of a spectrum of people much more narrow than its audience. And if one really believes in the equality of two groups, then inequality of results cannot but suggest the absence of full equality of opportunity. As Katha Pollitt writes:

It may be true that more men than women like to bloviate and “bat things out”–socialization does count for something. So do social rewards: I have seen men advance professionally on levels of aggression, self-promotion and hostility that would have a woman carted off to a loony bin–unless, of course, she happens to be Ann Coulter. But feminine psychology doesn’t explain why all five of USA Today’s political columnists are male, or why Time’s eleven columnists are male–down to the four in Arts and Entertainment–or why at Newsweek it’s one out of six in print and two out of thirteen on the Web…The tiny universe of political-opinion writers includes plenty of women who hold their own with men, who do not wilt at the prospect of an angry e-mail, who have written cover stories and bestsellers and won prizes–and whose phone numbers are likely already in the Rolodexes of the editors who wonder where the women are. How hard could it be to “find” Barbara Ehrenreich, who filled in for Thomas Friedman for one month last summer and wrote nine of the best columns the Times has seen in a decade?

…That opinion writing is a kind of testosterone-powered food fight is a popular idea in the blogosphere. Male bloggers are always wondering where the women are and why women can’t/don’t/won’t throw bananas…There are actually lots of women political bloggers out there–spend half an hour reading them and you will never again say women aren’t as argumentative as men! But what makes a blog visible is links, and male bloggers tend not to link to women…Perhaps they sense it might interfere with the circle jerk in cyberspace–the endless mutual self-infatuation that is one of the less attractive aspects of the blogging phenom. Or maybe, like so many op-ed editors, they just don’t see women, even when the women are right in front of them.

When it starts like this

I think I can explain what happened, but first I have to tell you about this wild typing race I recently had with an 8-year-old Indian girl at a village school.

…you know it’s Thomas Friedman. In this particular case, he’s spinning his wheels trying to reframe Indians’ overwhelming rejection of the neoliberal economics of the BJP as a request for more globalization. As a neoliberal evangelical, Friedman has no choice but to believe that the persistence and expansion of an underclass under globalization is a result of too much government interference in the economy (read: corruption), rather than too little (read: social welfare). Color me unconvinced. But maybe that’s just because I’ve never been to “India’s Silicon Valley” and had a typing contest.