Friday, March 05, 2004 US WILL HUNT BIN LADEN 24/7
(Story here).

Umm, if the Bush admin has just decided to start a full-time search for OBL, what the hell have they been doing for the past three years?!?

Economist extraordinaire Jared Bernstein has the dirt on what's happening to jobs in America this month.

The unemployment rate in February remained unchanged, but only because 392,000 people got so frustrated with Bush's jobless recovery they decided to stop even looking for work. (Oh, and the household survey--fabled to reveal a phantom recovery--also shows civilian employment declines of 265,000 in the last month).

The economy added 21,000 jobs--but only in the government sector and in temprorary employment. Private employment saw no growth. The manufacutring sector posted its 43rd straight month of declines, shedding 3,000 jobs--hamburger flipping or otherwise. Oh, and the "big" job growth we saw last month was revised downward by 15,000 to 97,000.
Thursday, March 04, 2004

By Susan George.

The Boy Scouts are invading Iraq...and little boys everywhere are worried. Very worried.

That's all Iraqi youth need is a little more indocrtination.
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Every once in a while when I get bored, I like to peruse conservative websites in an effort to keep abrest of whatever scourge the right wing is planning to unleash.

So here is what I found tonight: next week is the 60th anniversary of Fredrich Hayek's Road to Serfdom.

Hayek is the Karl Marx of neoliberalism--even more so than Adam Smith, because Hayek was able to make a moral argument for the tyranny of the market. In doing so, Hayek unleashed a movement bent on deconstructing the social contract painstakingly constracted in the years since the Great Depression. To this end, Hayek and those in business who supported his views convened the Mont Pelerin Society to wage an ideological/cultural war on behalf of market fundamentalism. Milton Friedman was one of the movements primary intellectual enablers.

RTS argued that any incursion of the state into the economy would unleash the unstoppable momentum--a slippery slope--toward tyranny and an end to freedom. To Hayek, it would only be a matter of time before the SEC would devolve into Stalinism (or worse, the New Deal). There is no doubt Grover Norquist oft found comfort in RTS during his awkward, hormone-crazed adolescent years.

Of course, Hayek concedes in RTS that some degree of statism is a necessary evil, at the minimum an institution to enforce contracts and dare to speak of other public goods. Therein arises a fallacy that seems to leave market fundamentalism--as far as concerns its internal validity as a social philosophy--with no legs on which to stand. Once state intervention comes into play, it is only a matter of to what degree--a question that is determined through a political process by which institutions are made.

After 25 some years of the neoliberal propagation throughout the vast majority of the world's national and international economic institutions, it seems we are actually more on the road to serfdom now than in the pre-neoliberal era that embraced the mixed economy (see these two articles for good discussions: Free Markets and Poverty and the Scorecard on Globalization).

While of little worth as a social philosophy, Hayek's work is incredibly valuable as a political instrument in establishing and maintaining cultural hegemony that sets the boundaries of economic discourse according to the preaching of market fundamentalism. As an idea, market fundamentalism is incredibly powerful in the way it creates a moral system based on hording private property. So it's no wonder why some groups in this world would want these ideas to stick around: they could be used as a political weapon.

But ideas, it turns out, need a material infrastructure in order to be promulgated and disseminated so that cultural hegemony may take root. And that's where our good friends over at Cato, American Enterprise, Heritage, and scores and scores of others come in (tomorrow, the National Center for Responsible Philanthropy releases its annual report on the role of conservative foundations in public policymaking...stay tuned). They are needed to continually celebrate, advocate and replicate these ideas.

What is most disturbing, at least to me personally, is that Daniel Yergin is part of this crowd. I certainly suspected as much after witnessing PBS's 6-hour long globalization propaganda film based on Yergin's book, The Commanding Heights, though I still held out hope. But I just can't fathom how someone who knows what Yergin knows about the military-petro-industrial complex after writing such a masterful book, The Prize, could still be in bed with these guys?!? C'est la guerre.

If the human race as a whole, rather than 50 states plus the District of Colombia, could cast a ballot this coming November, John Kerry would surely win the presidency by a landslide.


The UN wants to know:

The United Nations Global Compact, a voluntary grouping of companies and pressure groups that promotes corporate social responsibility, is preparing its first in-depth study of whether the initiative is having any measurable impact on businesses.

The exercise comes as analysts increasingly question whether the current fad for public-private partnerships is anything more than a public relations exercise. Christian Aid, for example, recently claimed the "image of companies working hard to make the world a better place is too often just that - a carefully manufactured image".

In a report released for this year's Davos summit, it warned: "Some of those shouting the loudest about their corporate virtues are also among those inflicting continuing damage on communities where they work - particularly poor communities."

Here's the most important quote:

"Unless governments play their role, there are limits to what you can do with voluntary initiatives."

The notion that globalization undercuts the power of nation-states is a myth, and a convenient one for politicians with a proclivity towards the Dollar-Wall Street globalization agenda. The power is there, our leaders are just lacking the will to use it (or to apply toward a different end).
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Last month I wrote about the rise of private military corporations and the conundrums of legitimacy, authority and autonomy posed by the use of PMCs.

As it turns out, ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's security detail was contracted to a US-based multinational PMC, the Steele Foundation (comprised largely of former members of US special forces--read Pentagon and CIA--and the State Department's protection services), when Aristide disbanded the army in 1998.

The potential conflicts of interest in this situation raises some thorny questions and provides a case study in the pitfalls of outsourcing military capabilities.

International NGOs and the US State Department have long condemned Haiti for its human rights abuses. What role might Steele have played in training police, arming thugs, or even in perpetrating such abuses? What evidence of human rights abuses might they have suppressed in the interest of maintaining their service contract with Aristide?

To whom was Steele accountable? When Aristide sought to hire more private forces last month in the face of growing resistance, the US State Department stepped in to block their deployment. Did Steele troops work with the US government to orchestrate Aristide's ouster?

It's a Yiddish morning here at Globalize This! as Krugman deconstructs Alan Greenspan's not-so-subtle attack on Social Security. Here's the bottom line:

There are three lessons in this tale.

First, "starving the beast" is no longer a hypothetical scenario — it's happening as we speak. For decades, conservatives have sought tax cuts, not because they're affordable, but because they aren't. Tax cuts lead to budget deficits, and deficits offer an excuse to squeeze government spending.

Second, squeezing spending doesn't mean cutting back on wasteful programs nobody wants. Social Security and Medicare are the targets because that's where the money is. We might add that ideologues on the right have never given up on their hope of doing away with Social Security altogether. If Mr. Bush wins in November, we can be sure that they will move forward on privatization — the creation of personal retirement accounts. These will be sold as a way to "save" Social Security (from a nonexistent crisis), but will, in fact, undermine its finances. And that, of course, is the point.

Finally, the right-wing corruption of our government system — the partisan takeover of institutions that are supposed to be nonpolitical — continues, and even extends to the Federal Reserve.


Spring has hit the capital of the free world. March 1 and a high of 74 today.

It's already so humid I was shvitsing on the bike ride down to work this morning.
Monday, March 01, 2004

From inside the DC political process it's easy to lose sight of what regular people think about the issues that shape our lives and our world. Here is what regular Americans think about globalization and its politics.

Of note:

Labor and Evironmental Standards, Human Rights

93% say international trade agreements should be required to maintain minimum standards for protection of the environment.

93% say international trade agreements should be required to maintain minimum standards for working conditions.

87% say, "American companies that operate in other countries should be expected to abide by US environmental standards;" 89% say they should abide by US health and safety standards for workers.

64% were not convinced that "Some countries with poor human rights records are major trading partners for the US. If we get involved in trying to promote human rights in these countries we may irritate them and we may lose their trade."

81% say "While we cannot expect workers in foreign countries to make the same wages as in the US, we should expect other countries to permit wages to rise by allowing workers to organize into unions and by putting a stop to child labor."

Given a choice of a garment not made in a sweat shop, or a slightly cheaper garment of unkown origins, 61% would buy the non-sweatshop garment.

In Whose Interest?

49% say US Government officials give too much consideration to the concerns of multinational corporations in making decisions about trade policy.

77% say US Government officials give too little consideration to the concerns of American workers in making decisions about trade policy.

70% believe: "Family farming is an American way of life that should be maintained. Subsidies are the only way that small family farms can compete with large agribusiness and imports from low wage countries...People should have food available to them that was locally grown. Locally grown foods taste better and lead people to have a larger share of fresh foods in their diet. Without subsidies most of our food would be grown far away, even in foreign countries."

44% say NAFTA has been less positive than promised by US government officials. (30% say the effects of NAFTA have been as promised).

69% say the WTO tends to think about what's best for business, not what's best for the world as a whole.

Punk rockers organize at the grassroots to oust Bush.

And who doesn't love a little punk rock polemic?

Included with my issue of Foreign Policy magazine this month is a highly glossy report on the highlights of the 2004 World Economic Forum in Davos, Swizerland. (Unfortunately, I have yet to find a link to the report online--will try to post one later).

Davos is about as close as one can imagine to the mythical capatilist cabal where the rich and powerful meet to plot the course of the world. As even Samuel Huntington says, "Davos people control virtually all international institutions, many of the world’s governments, and the bulk of the world’s economic and military capabilities." It was at Davos, by some accounts, where Mexican president Carlos Salinas first approached Bush I Administration's Trade Representative, Carla Hills, about negotiating NAFTA. (More on Davos here).

This report is, of course, Davos' attempt to put a positive spin on this clandestine assembly of the world's 2,000-some leading ruling elites. In Davospeak, for example, off-shore outsourcing of jobs translates into "worldsourcing" (yes, it is "here to stay" and moreover "you haven't seen anything yet"). Unremarkable in most respects, the report belies the backroom deals and hotel lobby hob-nobbing and rather endeavors to convey Davos' soft face with glossy photos of celebrities like Quincy Jones and Peter Gabriel, and tries to establish the legitimacy of the Davos regime neatly crafted message of compassion, vision, and--dare I say--resolve on the key issues in the world today: terrorism and security, AIDS, environmentalism, and so on.

What is telling in the report, however, is how Davos responds to what it views as the criticism of its detractors:

"To hear some tell it, participants in Davos share similar educational, intellectual, and professional backgrounds, interests and values, and weild enormous influence and power...other critics see...the forum as a corporate cabal where business fat cats and government bigwigs cut dark deals at the expense of the poor."

Charges to which Davos wholly unrepentantly responds:

"All of these critiques contain at least a grain of truth. So, too, does the charge that an organization that talks about promoting transparency and redressing inequality is in fact opaque and aimed at the very rich. But while Davos has its faults and flaws, it cannot be dismissed."

In other words, yes, Davos is the annual convention for the political party of the world's ruling class, and they're not about change any of that. Pardon me for not feeling assuaged.
Unconventional wisdom on global political economy.

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