Monday, February 8, 2010

Me Run? You Betcha!

 H/T: Andrew Sullivan used this video when live blogging Palin - and I find it fitting as well. As an aside, this actress is too old to be Evita, as was Madonna. 25-26 max. I'd love to see Lea Michel or Jessica Lee Golden as Evita. But I'm way off topic....

Palin. Sarah. Barracuda. 


"I think that it would be absurd to not consider what it is that I can potentially do to help our country," Palin said, later adding: "I won't close the door that perhaps could be open for me in the future."

I don't like it and I don't want it to happen. She's scary. She does not understand the gravity of the presidency.

Like her interview with Charlie Gibson, her views on foreign policy are just plain scary. "We win, they lose" or something.

I went to high school with Sarah Palin. Not Palin, per se, but a bunch of people who were just as dumb and just certain they were right. Fortunately for the world, most people that dumb and certain are swallowed whole by the mid-west or some small town in Alaska before they can do any real damage. Unfortunately, the McCain team was irresponsible enough to elevate this dangerous and unserious woman to a position where she could potentially do real damage.

From Sullivan: 

Do not under-estimate the appeal of a beautiful, big breasted, divinely chosen warrior-mother as a military leader in a global religious war. Bush at least had some inkling that we need a strategy to depolarize the Muslim world and bring moderates along with us to defeat the Islamists; in my view, he genuinely believed that what happened at Abu Ghraib was wrong but couldn't break down his denial that he had authorized almost all of it (she wants more of it); his Washington Cathedral speech reflected statesmanship (Palin wants brazen projection of hard power everywhere and her election as president would represent a true crisis in any alliances that Obama has been able to rebuild).

If Palin can navigate the primary process - and if unemployment remains high - the White House is hers. The press will empower the Junta from Alaska - just as they acted as accessories after-the-fact to John Edwards pathetic charade for nearly half a decade - before they turn on her midway through her first term. By then she'll have launch codes. And if the description of Palin from Game Change is to be believed - and no credible source has yet to disputed Heilemann and Halperin's scenes - then Palin is more then just a dilettante - she is quit possibly mentally unstable.

Palin did not understand WWI, WWII, the existence of two Koreas or even the name of her opponent in the vice presidential debate. Uninformed dose not begin to describe Palin.

She was prone to bouts of depression that left her near catatonic. She worried incessantly about her approval ratings in Alaska even as she was in the race of the lifetime that would have put her a heart beat away from the presidency. 

And then there's the weird story of her pregnancy - or - lack thereof? - with her youngest son. From today's Daily Dish:

Since I long ago committed to publishing any evidence I could find related to Palin's remarkable pregnancy stories (she steadfastly refuses to provide any), I post it below:
What dose this mean? Was Palin not pregnant? Not really in labor? This is just odd.

What I will say conclusively is this: Palin is a dangerous person. I fully support any T.V. network paying her as much money as possible so as to dissuade her from quiting her day job and running for president, but I fear this woman will have to be dragged from the national stage leaving claw marks all the way.

Hopefully, unemployment falls precipitously throughout the next two years and Obama will be virtually guaranteed a 2nd term. For whatever misgivings I have about the president - especially his penchant for not holding underlings accountable for failure - President Obama remains head and shoulders above Sarah Palin in terms of judgment and temperament. I wish the president a successful 2nd year. 


The Next Ten Years, Pt. 2

Recently, I predicted that within a decade there would be some sort of device which would instantly translate from language to another.  I pegged its arrival on the market as the year 2020. Maybe Google plans to beat me by a few years: 

Google's vision for a better world involves removing those pesky language barriers that keep people apart, and so the Internet search giant has begun development on a voice recognition and automatic translation system for cell phones. Such technology could either herald a new era of fruitful international collaboration or usher in new grievances and conflicts, depending on your viewpoint. The Times makes the obligatory reference to the Babel Fish of Hitchhiker's Guide that spawned bloody interstellar conflicts.
Experts remain divided over whether Google can accomplish its goal within several years, but the company may stand the best chance of doing so. So far, smart phone voice translators for English speakers have only come out for specific languages such as Japanese and Arabic.
Google already has a separate system for translating text on computers that covers 52 languages, and uses the company's special algorithms to continually scan millions of websites and documents as a form of improvement. It would presumably try to integrate the translation system with its more basic voice recognition system for smart phone commands.

Interestingly enough, Google appears poised to begin the creation of my predicted "Google Doctor" in the not-to-distant future as well. 

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Book Review: The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050, by Joel Kotkin

  In his new book The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050, Joel Kotkin attempts to extrapolate current trends for forward 40 years to create a vision of exactly where and how the next hundred million Americans will live. I heard about this book in Tom Barnett's WPR column last week and immediately ordered it, looking forward to a nice bit of Utopian futurism. What I found was a somewhat meandering history of urban politics in America that is at once informative about the future of medium sized cities and uninformed about international politics and economics. The book is also long on description but short of prescription, preferring to say "this will happen" as opposed to "this is how things will happen".

   Kotkin begins his book by taking down a couple pieces of conventional wisdom about the United States - mainly that the U.S. is currently in a state of decline. Kotkin is especially rough on the notion that either China or India is poised to overtake the U.S. economically, pointing out that both countries still have a large percentage of their populations living in poverty and that China in particular is set to age rapidly, having over a third of their population over the age of 60 by the mid 2030s. Kotkin is certain that this rapid aging (which also impacts Japan and the E.U.) will bedevil most other major powers while the America's ability to integrate new immigrants will allow us to remain dynamic. Ultimately, Kotkin offers a vision for a healthier, wealthier, post-racial, post-ethnic America that will remain the global leader in innovation even in the mid 21st century.

What's Useful About this Book:

As a resident of Columbus, Ohio, I know that Kotkin's analysis of the folly of a medium sized mid-western city trying to become a "luxury city" is 100% accurate. Kotkin calls out Cleveland and Dayton specifically, but as I watch the local debate about whether or not to bail out the local NHL franchise (money looser - big time) I think his point is dead on. Kotkin's advice is that medium sized cities need to focus on what he call "vanilla" services, such as police, fire and local schools, as opposed to marque projects "downtown" which are designed to attract the "creative class" but typically wind up money pits in all but the largest and wealthiest cities. Kotkin compares the results of Potemkin luxury cities, like Cleveland, Philadelphia and Dayton, with vanilla cities like Austin and Phoenix, and suggests that the path of the latter is a better strategy for 21st century sustainability.

On the topic of sustainability, Kotkin is bullish on not only on America but the global environment as well, taking a very Lumborgesque "wealthier is healthier" outlook. And Kotkin is skeptical that the current environmental obsession with urban living, believing that Americans are unlikely to ever give up their preference for owning their own home and living in the suburbs. Kotkin believes that current Great Plains small towns in states such as Iowa and Nebraska will become the suburban boom towns of the next several decades.

Less Useful Sections of the Book: Unaddressed Issues:

1. Kotkin spends exactly zero time addressing the coming Medicare implosion. I think it's beyond remiss to write a book in 2010 about America in the year 2050 without seriously addressing the financial issues the U.S. government faces. 

2. Kotkin's read on international politics is, at best, short sighted. He seems to embrace the notion of America as an ever-evolving institution but quickly reverts to The Clash of Civilizations when discussing other world powers such as China and Russia. He takes the so-called Beijing Consensus way too seriously, seemingly ignoring the myriad of problems which plague China's political system - and which justify his belief that China will not surpass the U.S. - and suggests that China will develop a sort of Sino-Globalization opposed to the United States. Can't have it both ways guy - either China has a long way to go or they've discovered a longer lasting light bulb - can't be both. For what its worth, I'm a big supporter of his first proposition - China has a long way to go before they are truly strong and what we've seen in the last 3 decade basically amounts to China picking a lot of low hanging fruit.

Kotkin's read on Russia is even worse, bordering on silly even. He suggests that Russia will successfully embrace something called neo-Czarism. This supposition completely ignores the failure of the Russian economy in the wake of the financial crisis and also ignores Kotkin's earlier read on Russia's weakness.

3. Perhaps the biggest weakness of Kotkin's book has to do with point #1. Kotkin makes a series of vague suggestions for policies but offers no way to pay for them. He writes vaguely about energy policy and industrial policy but doesn't explain how America can square the circle, so-to-speak, with regard to the increasing share of overall government spending going to entitlement spending and the need, if we are to pay for Kotkin's policies, to increase discretionary programs.

In conclusion, The Next Hundred Million offers a welcome dose of optimism but is long on assertions and short of policy national policy suggestions. On the other hand, Kotkin's observations about housing patterns could be very useful to students or practitioners of state and local politics. In fact, I recommend Columbus mayor Micheal Colman read this book ASAP.  Beyond local politics, however, Kotkin's theories could use a bit of fleshing out, and I might recommend he look into writing a follow up which examines what type of economic policies would best empower state and local governments to follow his policies.

I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.