Tag Archives: United States

Investing in the next generation

A bottom-up approach to creating better outcomes for children and youth
By Bruce Katz and Ross Tilchin – The American dream is built on the promise of upward social mobility. Over the course of the past 30 years, the vast majority of our population has seen mobility rates stagnate.1 For too many, the American dream has stalled.

Making greater and more effective investments in children and youth will be the best way to improve social mobility throughout the nation. Research has demonstrated the positive long-term effects of providing a specific set of coordinated interventions from “cradle to career.” Despite the conclusive evidence, our nation has been unable to provide those in need with access to the right kinds of services.

The time to act is now. The question is, who will lead the effort to expand these proven strategies? Over the past decade, it has become apparent that we cannot rely upon the federal government or the states. Washington and many state governments have been hijacked by partisanship, leading to paralysis on or hostility toward many of the policies and interventions necessary for improving outcomes for children and youth.

Locally driven approaches to investing in children and youth are a part of a larger national trend. Over the past decade or so, cities and metropolitan areas have risen to the forefront of national problem solving across a wide range of policy areas. more> https://goo.gl/pj8f25

Did Google and GoDaddy Set a Dangerous Precedent by Dropping a Neo-Nazi Website?

By Jack Denton – GoDaddy’s decision comes at a particularly fraught moment in the debate over whether freedom of speech can be reconciled with attempts to quell hateful discourse and actions. Additionally, with the Internet becoming the preferred mode of public discourse, abusive trolling and rampant falsehoods have led some to call for increased accountability from Internet service providers and social media companies for the content they host and support.

The central question of this debate continues to be: Is freedom worth its consequences?

Preventing people from reaching the Daily Stormer’s website does nothing to actually combat the ideas. There’s the old, famous saying that the remedy for bad speech is more speech—it’s not silencing the bad speech. Hate speech is legal in the United States. And people are going to continue to express themselves in awful ways, and cutting off the domain name isn’t helpful for the dialogue.

Any attempt to try to hold service providers responsible is absolutely bound to backfire. In the marketplace of ideas, we need to have exposure to all sorts of ideas. Good ones, bad ones, fake ones—all of them are valuable in their own way. The reader is the only one whose judgment matters.

The problems in Charlottesville were not problems of speech, they were problems of violence. more> https://goo.gl/YBkDkM

In 1939, I didn’t hear war coming. Now its thundering approach can’t be ignored

BOOK REVIEW

Don’t Let My Past Be Your Future, Author: Harry Leslie Smith.

By Harry Leslie Smith – Because I am old, now 94, I recognize these omens of doom.

Chilling signs are everywhere, perhaps the biggest being that the US allows itself to be led by Donald Trump, a man deficient in honour, wisdom and just simple human kindness. It is as foolish for Americans to believe that their generals will save them from Trump as it was for liberal Germans to believe the military would protect the nation from Hitler’s excesses.

Britain also has nothing to be proud of. Since the Iraq war our country has been on a downward decline, as successive governments have eroded democracy and social justice, and savaged the welfare state with austerity, leading us into the cul de sac of Brexit. Like Trump, Brexit cannot be undone by liberal sanctimony – it can only be altered if the neoliberal economic model is smashed, as if it were a statue of a dictator, by a liberated people. more> https://goo.gl/HaqHQ7

Are Index Funds Evil?

A growing chorus of experts argue that they’re strangling the economy—and must be stopped.
By Frank Partnoy – Index funds have grown exponentially since John Bogle founded Vanguard in the mid-1970s.

The top three families of index funds each manage trillions of dollars, collectively holding 15 to 20 percent of all the stock of major U.S. corporations. Best of all for their investors, index funds have consistently beaten the performance of stock-pickers and actively managed funds, whose higher fees may support the Manhattan lifestyle of many bankers, but turn out not to deliver much to customers.

Concerns about the potential dangers of shareholder diversification first surfaced back in 1984, not long after index funds themselves did. Julio Rotemberg, then a newly minted economist from Princeton, posited that “firms, acting in the interest of their shareholders,” might “tend to act collusively when their shareholders have diversified portfolios.” The idea, which Rotemberg explored in a working paper, was that if investors own a slice of every firm, they will make more money if firms compete less and collectively raise prices, at the expense of consumers. Knowing this, the firms’ managers will de-emphasize competition and behave more cooperatively with one another. more> https://goo.gl/AWXivG

Is America Headed for a New Kind of Civil War?

By Robin Wright – The more relevant question after Charlottesville—and other deadly episodes in Ferguson, Charleston, Dallas, St. Paul, Baltimore, Baton Rouge, and Alexandria—is where the United States is headed. How fragile is the Union, our republic, and a country that has long been considered the world’s most stable democracy?

The dangers are now bigger than the collective episodes of violence. America’s stability is increasingly an undercurrent in political discourse.

Based on his experience in civil wars on three continents, Keith Mines cited five conditions that support his prediction: entrenched national polarization, with no obvious meeting place for resolution; increasingly divisive press coverage and information flows; weakened institutions, notably Congress and the judiciary; a sellout or abandonment of responsibility by political leadership; and the legitimization of violence as the “in” way to either conduct discourse or solve disputes. more> https://goo.gl/W6awUm

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Remaking the Presidency

By Joseph P. Williams – The willingness to buck convention, smash important precedents and use Twitter like a shotgun has historians and analysts considering whether the impulsive CEO president, unbound by political customs and arguably unaware of limits to his authority, has redefined the office for his successor while tailoring it for himself.

“Trump was elected to blow up the office,” says Jeremi Suri, a historian and scholar at The University of Texas-Austin. Mission accomplished, Suri says – but at a price, for the Republican Party, the president’s own legacy and perhaps American democracy.

“You’re going to see something about presidential reforms coming out of this horrible period we’re in right now,” Suri says. Trump, he says, has destroyed “the myth of a true government outsider” running the country, and likely has paved the way for an experienced outsider, like a governor or low-profile congress member, to take his place.

In the next election cycle, “we’re likely to see a full sweep – a new Congress intent on curbing presidential power and recalibrating the checks and balances.”

“The Trump style of the presidency has only resonated with about 30 to 35 percent of the public,” says Jonathan Turley, who notes that a president’s public-approval rating is directly proportional to his or her leverage with Congress. That means Trump is operating at a power deficit, he adds, and therefore “I’m not sure that future presidents would view this administration as a model to replicate.” more> https://goo.gl/Dv7Dwn

Why Is Donald Trump Still So Horribly Witless About the World?

By Robin Wright – “The President has little understanding of the context”—of what’s happening in the world—“and even less interest in hearing the people who want to deliver it,” Michael Hayden, a retired four-star general and former director of both the C.I.A. and the National Security Agency, told me.

“He’s impatient, decision-oriented, and prone to action. It’s all about the present tense. When he asks, ‘What the hell’s going on in Iraq?’ people around him have learned not to say, ‘Well, in 632 . . . ’ ” (That was the year when the Prophet Muhammad died, prompting the beginning of the Sunni-Shiite split.)

Trump’s policy mistakes, large and small, are taking a toll. “American leadership in the world—how do I phrase this, it’s so obvious, but apparently not to him—is critical to our success, and it depends eighty per cent on the credibility of the President’s word,” John McLaughlin, who worked at the C.I.A. under seven Presidents, from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush, and ended up as the intelligence agency’s acting director, told me.

“Trump thinks having a piece of chocolate cake at Mar-a-Lago bought him a relationship with Xi Jinping. He came in as the least prepared President we’ve had on foreign policy,” McLaughlin added. “Our leadership in the world is slipping away. It’s slipping through our hands.” more> https://goo.gl/Nza7eC

Who should lead internet policy?

By Tom Wheeler – The tremor in Silicon Valley emerged from Brussels, not the San Andreas Fault. The European Union’s decision on Google’s search practices makes clear the absence of domestic regulation has opened the door for policies to be decided by foreign governments.

It should be a worry – and a wake-up – for all the companies whose platforms drive internet services.

Thanks to the interconnectedness of the internet, imposing rules in one major market necessarily impacts operations in other markets. While the internet platform companies may celebrate how they have avoided regulation at home, it does not mean they have avoided government oversight – just that such policies come from other governments. And because the effects of a keystroke can circle the world in seconds, policy imposed by the EU, for instance, can be felt far beyond the European continent.

While protecting consumers and competition is their goal, it would be an unnatural act for foreign regulators not to take into consideration the effect the internet giants have on companies in the countries of those regulators.

Thus, the question occurs whether the success of the U.S. internet giants in keeping their own government at arms’ length is not actually counter-productive.

Rather than the U.S. setting the international standard for appropriate oversight of the platforms of the internet – and in doing so advancing and protecting American economic influence, consumer interests and innovation – the U.S. internet companies’ actions have defaulted the leadership to other countries with perhaps other goals. more> https://goo.gl/XFu73j

Who’s Afraid of Donald Trump?

BOOK REVIEW

On Deaf Ears: The Limits of the Bully Pulpit, Author: George C. Edwards III.

By Susan Milligan – He talks tough, and tweets tougher. He makes demands on Congress and state governments, needles foreign nations and launches broad attacks on the press.

The president wooed crowds and wowed political observers during his campaign, when the insults and veiled threats he lobbed against primary foes, journalists and protesters at his rallies turned out to be successful. Far from disqualifying him for the presidency, as Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton asserted, Trump’s bombastic approach mirrored the anger of much of the American electorate, who sent him to the White House.

But as a governing tool, Trump’s tough-guy strategy is meeting with resistance, and not just the kind Democrats and their allies are organizing this summer. That, experts say, weakens the president.

“Trump’s orientation is to bully – ‘I’m going to run somebody against you. I’m going to hurt you.’ That’s not where you lead from,” says Texas A&M University political science professor George C. Edwards III.

But bullying does not translate into an effective bully pulpit once someone is in the Oval Office.

“Presidents rarely move public opinion in their direction. That’s fundamental,” Edwards says. “You cannot govern based on the premise of expanding your coalition, but not everything presidents do lack public support. Turns out many things this president does lack public support.” more> https://goo.gl/xSQQVa

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New tech only benefits the elite until the people demand more

BOOK REVIEW

Routes of Power: Energy and Modern America, Author: Christopher Jones.

By Christopher Jones – The United States faces an infrastructure crisis.

Report after report warns that the nation’s networks are old, brittle and vulnerable. Systems that were once the envy of the world now suffer from chronic underfunding and neglect.

If you’ve traveled in western Europe or parts of China recently, you probably noticed the unfavorable comparison between roads and subways in the US and those abroad. A culture enthralled with disruptive innovation has ignored the fundamental importance of maintaining its technological backbones.

Can we make US infrastructure great again? Yes, and clearly financial investment is essential. But that is not all.

Infrastructure is not, and never has been, simply a collection of material objects. The secret of the country’s infrastructure success lies in a forgotten political history: the demands by millions of Americans over time for fairer and more equitable access to rails, pipes, wires, roads and more.

The wondrous US infrastructure achievements happened when citizens participated in infrastructure decisions. One can even propose a rule: the better the democracy, the better the infrastructure.

Citizen engagement, not technical ingenuity, deserves credit for the widespread historical benefits of US infrastructure.

When new systems first appeared, they were frequently celebrated as technical marvels accompanied by parades, ribbon-cuttings and grand speeches. But they never appeared equitably. Indoor plumbing, gas and electricity made the lives of the elite more comfortable, while leaving the vast majority of Americans behind. Whether it was railroads in the 19th century, transmission wires at the turn of the 20th century, or roads in the 20th century, the pattern was the same.

All initially served the already powerful, and often allowed them to increase their control over markets and labor. The first deployments of infrastructure have therefore usually benefited small groups and exacerbated social inequality.

Crucially, people did not simply accept the iniquity. more> https://goo.gl/2cAxL7