NDN Blog

Piolín among most powerful people in Southern California

In the Los Angeles Times' West Magazine, Eddie "Piolín" (or Tweety Bird) Sotelo ranks as one of the 100 (the 3rd youngest by my count) most powerful people in Southern California. His radio show, "Piolín por la Mañana", has an audience that "beats Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh and Tom Joyner every weekday morning, according to Arbitron ratings" (Washington Post, April 30th, 2006). Once more, the power and potential of Spanish-language media is recognized. NDN, of course, has understood this since 2004 and continues to speak to Hispanics via our "Mas Que un Partido" media campaign.

Simon and Joe met with him in California. (Shameless plug: Piolín is holding his "Democratas Unidos" jersey, which you can order from us here)

West magazine writes:

Eddie "Piolín" Sotelo
Spanish-language deejay; 35, Los Angeles

When Congress threatened to crack down on undocumented immigrants, Sotelo—L.A.'s top-ranked morning deejay—gave organizers of a proposed pro-immigrant rally four hours on his program on KSCA-FM (101.9). Sotelo then worked with KBUE-FM (105.5) host Ricardo "El Mandril" Sánchez and others to pump up the volume. Urging protesters to carry American flags and to be peaceful, the deejays summoned half a million or more to L.A.'s streets.

Iraq: How much worse is enough?

Its a grim day in Iraq. But isn't every day? Perhaps the damning headline of the war is on the front page of this morning's Post - Bush's New Argument on Iraq: It Could Be Worse. I'm not sure how. The article is pretty devastating for anyone retaining a positive view of the war's future. I'm going to go along to this intriguing looking event at the New America Foundation at lunchtime - Moral Clarity and the Middle East: Long War, Wider War, or the Return to a Peace Process? - to see how much longer the long war can be expected to drag on. I can't think its going to be uplifting. I'll report back later. 



Free Trade Falls, Protection Creep Rises

These are worrying times for free trade. Back in the dog-days of the 1990s, Republican commentators would wax alarmist about the danger's of "mission creep" during international peace keeping operations. Get into Somalia, they would say, and you'll suddenly be there for years. The rise of protectionism works in much the same way. Without any grand vision on the future of liberalization since "time out" was called on the Doha round, "protection creep" is going to be all around us in the months up to the election. In the FT this morning, we have the latest development over attempts to politicize the CFIUS process of green-lighting foreign investment. Reform proposals were introduced following the Dhubai Ports debacle earlier in the year. Current congressional overhaul plans are the worst of both worlds. They stand a good chance of lessening foreign investment and doing little to increase American security. Much better, as the National Foundation for American Policy suggested recently, to avoid alarmist legislation in the first place. Elsewhere in the FT the reliably sane Guy De Jonquires details exactly what happens when Protection Creep sets in. The problem? His depressing conclusions about the way forward.

When gardens are neglected, weeds sprout. The withering of the Doha trade round has led, predictably, to a flourishing crop of alternatives. Washington has claimed more recently that its use of muscular bilateral trade diplomacy will re-energise the multilateral system by unleashing a wave of "competitive liberalisation". The Doha debacle has exposed that theory for what it is. In practice, bilateralism has fed off itself, intensifying the rush into preferential deals while draining energy from the Doha talks, polarising the US Congress and further diminishing its appetite for trade initiatives of all descriptions..... In the absence of strong leadership, regional trade talks simply rake over the same problems that have proved insoluble in other forums..... So, has trade liberalisation hit the buffers? Not necessarily. One "plan B" has proved its worth: it is for governments to stop leaning on each other to open markets and do it by themselves.

What a mess. The remaining hope for liberaliztion under President Bush is the pie-in-the-sky wish that countries will decide to open markets uniltaerally. Meanwhile protectionism is everywhere on the rise. Creeping up on us we have CFIUS, the upcoming row over China's currency, further potential WTO rows with China over IP, the review of the GSP, and the likely decision by the President to give up on Doha without asking congress to renew his trade negotiation authority. Add to this to strong likelyhood of electioneering politicians wheeling out open markets as election year cartoon villain. Unless supporters can come back with a grand vision for the future of trade liberalization, battling back Protection Creep one inch at a time seems to be where the battle will lie. NDN will be making our contribution to trying to promote such a vision in the coming weeks.

Rate the miracle: 60 Books vs 10 divisions

In a new, very occasional feature on the NDN blog, we present the Lunchtime competition. Today's question: which of the following stories do we believe less ? The miracle of the President's reading habit, or the miraculous progress being made in the middle east? First up: President Bush Renaissance Man from US News and World Report.

President Bush now wants it known that he is a man of letters. In fact, Bush has entered a book-reading competition with Karl Rove, his political adviser. White House aides say the president has read 60 books so far this year (while the brainy Rove, to Bush's competitive delight, has racked up only 50).

Second up, Republican Senator James Inhofe from Oklahoma on the situation in Iraq (via CAP).

Contrary to most reports, Inhofe said, many Iraqis are pleased about the U.S. intervention. "Iraqi security forces now number 275,000 trained and equipped," he said. "The commanders in the field and the Iraqis say when this reaches 325,000, that would equal 10 divisions..... What's happened there is nothing short of a miracle."

Answers on a post card.

Bell Tolls on Housing Boom?

Are McMansion owners the last group deserving of sympathy in a slowing economy? What about the people who build them? Toll Brothers are the company most responsible for the rise of "the estate home". The eponymous Mr Toll - a man whose very name invites headlines of doom, see above - claims in this morning's WSJ that the housing market slowdown is as bad as he has seen:

In his 40 years as a home builder, Mr. Toll says, he has never seen a slump unfold like the current one. "I've never seen a downturn in housing without a downturn in employment or... some macroeconomic nasty condition that took housing down along with other elements of the economy," he says. "This time, you've got low unemployment, you've got job creation, you've got a stable stock market and relatively low interest rates."

This on top of a lengthy report in last week's FT describing the housing market as "feeble". Given that investment in home equity is to the current expansion what investment in stock was to the last, a slowdown will carry consequences. I don't pretend to fully understand the economics of the American housing market. But declining house prices carry devastating political consequences, as voters struggle with mortgage payments or find themselves trapped in negative equity. And i guess McMansion owners might be joining McMansion builders among the hardest hit.

Spanish Dominant

No one seems to have put this up on here yet, so i'll do it. No wonder Arnold is communicating in Spanish. A recent addendum to Census data shows that 42% of Californians don't speak English at home, with the vast majority speaking Spanish. Another take on the data, this time in Ad Age, looks at the English language skills of hispanics. Bottom line: younger hispanics are good to go, but ' fewer than half (47%) of those ages 18-64 speak English "very well," and 19% speak English "well." Among those 65 and older, just 36% speak English "very well" and 19% "well." ' 

Going "Where the Audience Is"

Keeping the theme of "bottom up video" as a rising trend, old friends of mine announced a deal today for Sony Pictures Entertaiment to purchase the social video service Grouper for 65 million dollars. I suspect we will continue to see the line between traditional media companies and online user created media continue to blur. Here is bit from the press release:

"Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) has acquired Grouper, the fast-growing user-generated video site on the Internet, it was announced today by Michael Lynton, SPE Chairman and Chief Executive Officer...Consumers are spending more and more time on sites like Grouper, and as one of the world's largest creators of entertainment, we want to be where the audiences are," said Lynton." In another story he compared social video sites this way: "I think user-generated content and the sites around (them) are businesses or platforms unto themselves in the same way that television networks (are)," Lynton said.

Arnold launches his Spanish-language campaign

Adding to Tim's post about Arnold's innovative use of SMS, today the Gov showed the use of another new tool - Spanish language media.  While it is not a particularly noteworthy piece of media, he is showing up in Spanish.  From our vantage point this seems like a pretty smart thing to do, as as much as 1/4 of the California electorate is Hispanic, and perhaps as much as half of that - as much as 12 % of the electorate - prefers Spanish. 

Protectionism has Risen

A terrific, racey piece from Clay Risen at TNR about the dangerous rise of protectionist sentiment. Its title - The End of Free Trade - is, of course, absurdly dramatic. But Risen is particularily good on how the Bush administration's warm words hide a melange of base politics (steel tarrifs), a conspicous lack of leadership (doha) and political cowardice (the rest) to leave the case for open markets much more vulnerable at the end of his Presidency than at the beginning:

Bush is seen by many as having given up because the political consequences at home are too great. Consider: the bruising battle over the Central American Free Trade Agreement, the successful opposition to the bid by the China National Offshore Oil Corporation to buy Unocal last year, the Dubai Ports World fight this year, the near-failure of a trade deal with Oman, and the possible failure of a similar deal with Peru. All a consequence of protectionist sentiment in Congress, all instances where Bush's supposed trade leadership was hampered by domestic political concerns. With the midterm elections coming, it's a good bet that Bush doesn't want to hurt his party any more than he already has--and pushing GOP congressmen to back more free-trade efforts would hardly help. This may be no-brainer politics at home, but, to the rest of the world, it is a dismaying retreat.

WAPO Scaremongering over Immigration Costs

Economist Brad De Long runs on ongoing series of blog posts with the despairing title "Why Oh Why Can't We Have A Better Press Corps?" The same thought crossed my mind when reading this morning's Washington Post report on immigration. The story features a scarily large number without any context: $126bn, say the CBO, would be needed to fund the Senate Immigration Bill. $126bn? Sounds like a lot. They got that figure by adding up various smaller numbers in the report itself (pdf). But within the context of an annual budget of $2.6trn it sounds more palatable. That context was nowhere to be found in the Post piece. What is more, as Dean Baker notes over at TAP, the CBO have produced other, much lower estimate of the Sentate Bill's costs. Again, not worth a mention. But look again even at the Post's figures. The article gives the impression that the $126bn figure is annual. But it is actually change over the course of nearly a decade (2007-2016). This makes for an average annual increase of a touch over $14bn. I'd say roughly $14bn a year for a comprehensive fair reform of a broken immigration system sounds like a fair deal. And if you consider the $180bn a year in average annual lost revenue between 2010 and 2020 to make the tax cuts permanent, it sounds like a steal.

 UPDATE - Amusingly, Mr De Long himself has now blogged this story. Guess what the headline is? 

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