Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Further croaks on Sotomayor

NYT account of her. And Scotusblog. Nothing about her religion. It think it would be best to stop referring to her as "Latina." She calls herself "Nyorican"--Puerto Rican parents, grew up in NYC--and Puerto Rican culture is very different from Mexican. About the most striking characteristic from her accounts of herself, as well as Scotusblog's review of her cases, is her genuine sympathy for the working poor. Unlike Clarence Thomas, who comes from a working poor background but aligns his judicial philosophy with wealth, she has chosen to align herself herself with poverty.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sotomayor: preliminary croaks

It is Sotomayer, an apparent centrist, though one with experience of both sexism and anti-Latino bigotry. My impression of her is that she is rather a Latina version of Sandra Day O'Connor--a tough woman from a hard background, who places a great deal of emphasis on personal effort. Her youthful education was in the New York Catholic school system, her undergraduate degree was from Princeton, and her law degree is from Yale. She apparently (like many Latinos) has been raised by a very conservative Catholic family. She does not appear to be a pious hypocrite in the mold of Scalia, but I am concerned about the influence of her upbringing and early education on her stands on abortion and gay rights, as well as her view of state authority.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

¡Viva La Revolucíon!

[In reply to Xeni Jardin at Boing Boing. I have been slammed for not understanding the situation, but from my viewpoint, Ms. Jardin and most of the activists she supports are terribly naïve about Latin American politics and history. Latin America is a graveyard of popular democratic movements.]

The movement, Xeni, the movement. This is a political movement. That's what I'm asking if you trust. Will it lead to justice, or will it instead provide an excuse for the military and the police to step in and "restore order?" Or even, is it being nurtured to provide an excuse for that?

It is easy to cry, "¡Viva La Revolucíon!" And in all of Latin America, not only Guatemala, there is 500 years of injustice to revolt against, so there is always a reason for La Revolucíon. But to win... In Mexico, the liberator Juarez was followed by the corrupt dictatorial Diaz. Zapata and Villa won their battles, and were assassinated. It is not different in Guatemala--aren't you making that point?

There are some hopeful signs here. One of the most hopeful is the non-violent activism. My heart goes out to the people of Guatemala. But for a movement to succeed in Latin America, it needs courage, strategy, political theory, broad-based support, and ethical leaders. So far (admittedly there is little reporting) I just hear "¡Viva La Revolucíon!" It isn't enough to get out into the streets--you've got to go somewhere better once you're there.

[2009.08.04 Edited for clarity and force]

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Recent economic history

The big fish eat up the little fish, then the big fish get sick and die (except for the oil companies and agribusiness, bah!). Then we corvids get what's left. Krawk!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Self-esteem and economics

I wonder... Psychologists these days, they say that optimistic overconfidence is healthy. Or at least they used to. There's another view that says that sometimes over-caution can be a way of resolving anxiety. I say--is either necessary? I'll bet there's a lot of people who've been wiped out in the markets right now who wish they'd been a bit more cautious--who would have been protected by caution even if they didn't wish they had been. When a great social disaster like the new depression strikes I look for reasons. And part of our reasons was the promotion of optimistic over-confidence. When sensible caution might have protected us, part of the counter-argument was that caution was unhealthy. And, now--? I bet we'll have the glories of over-caution for a generation. Perhaps longer. Learned helplessness can persist in human societies. One of the ways to understand endogenous economic cycles is as oscillation between over-caution and over-confidence. I croak the moderate way!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Not 1932 yet

Paul Krugman:
Does anyone remember the case of H. Rodgin Cohen, a prominent New York lawyer whom The Times has described as a “Wall Street éminence grise”? He briefly made the news in March when he reportedly withdrew his name after being considered a top pick for deputy Treasury secretary.

Well, earlier this week, Mr. Cohen told an audience that the future of Wall Street won’t be very different from its recent past, declaring, “I am far from convinced there was something inherently wrong with the system.” Hey, that little thing about causing the worst global slump since the Great Depression? Never mind.

Those are frightening words. They suggest that while the Federal Reserve and the Obama administration continue to insist that they’re committed to tighter financial regulation and greater oversight, Wall Street insiders are taking the mildness of bank policy so far as a sign that they’ll soon be able to go back to playing the same games as before.

So as I said, while bankers may find the results of the stress test “reassuring,” the rest of us should be very, very afraid.

Bottom line: we're still not desperate enough to get the policy-makers to act. Has there ever been a time in US history when the Senate was not corrupt and obstructionist?