NDN Blog

Doh

Various interesting things around the newspapers this morning. The President's startlingly sucessful approach to trade policy continued yesterday with the final collapse of the Doha round. We all knew it was coming, but its still disappointing. We can't be too partisan on this issue. Its deathly complicated, and not exactly anyone's fault in particular that it failed.  As the Economist pointed out last month, the President pretty much signalled he'd given up on it when he moved Portman to OMB. (Given the failure, though, it is certainly legitimate to ask if the President's political decision to impose Steel tarrifs - which we know cost consumers millions of dollars - were worth the cost.) What we can say for sure is that the failure is a victory for fear over leadership; politicians in Europe, America and elsewhere have largely caved to their producer interests, rather than acting in the long-term interest of growth in the global economy. And, as the WAPO points out, it does tend to be exporters of commodity goods in the poorest countries that lose out most. Given the state the negotiations seem to be in, this means there is precious little chance of making progress until after the next election. With luck, though, that means a different party will be in charge. 

Elsewhere, NDN's Globalization Initiative is planning to do more work on Intellectual Property in the future, an under covered political issue. To that extent, its good to see a piece in the FT this morning highlighting how Europeans are understanding that "Patents are key to taking on China."Given the current administrations poor record of prosecuting international IP issues through the WTO and elsewhere, we can only hope they might also begin to make protection of IP more of a priority. 

The Quality of so-called Bottom-Up Video

If you have not done it yet, you should just go to youtube.com and check out various videos in order to get a sense of what this bottom-up video phenomenon is all about. A random visit runs the risk of you only coming across silly things that are poorly done – and that lead you to believe that the whole development is useless. Don’t fall into that trap. There are all kinds of gems sprinkled in there, and they point towards more amazing productions to come.

I came across this random video from two young guys who probably are worth keeping an eye on. It shows how the simple tools of digital cameras and inexpensive editing software can come up with very funny and well-done pieces. These guys might be on their way to making a living doing this, or maybe it will remain simply a creative outlet. Either way, it proves the point. This new video distribution system is going to open up the playing field for many new talents, either professional or amateur. And those new players are bound to impact politics.

Peter Leyden

Political "Web Widget" from Sunlight Labs

I really like the idea behind the "Sunlight Labs" effort:

"Sunlight Labs is a Sunlight Foundation pilot project to prototype tech ideas to improve government transparency and political influence disclosure. We also provide technical support to Sunlight Foundation sponsored projects.

Lab projects are experiments. Play with them, even add them to your website if you feel brave. We like to collaborate with others to pool resources and facilitate sharing of data and technologies. A current major focus is working with the such partners developing APIs — Application Program Interfaces — which allows one program to talk to another and share data."

I specifically like their first project a web app, politician popup web service...

"Imagine pressing one button and finding everything you need and want to know about a member of Congress, or a corporation, labor union or individual trying to influence her. Web 2.0 technologies - Web services, API's, XML, AJAX, RSS - now make that possible."

It allows any blogger or website to include a little more than one line of code to their sites and then they get an "AJAX-based widget that adds mini-profiles with links of Members of Congress to your page that appear when you mouseover [a hyperlink of their name]."

In some ways you have to see it in action to really get it. But it is a cool distriubted web service -- and the first overtly political webservice I've come accross -- and is available for anyone to use.

The Sunlight labs project page goes on in more depth on the future of this project:

"Sunlight Labs is readying various flavors of the widget for increased scalability. The basic widget can be added to a web site or blog by simply adding the Javascript and style sheet to the page's headers and then manually adding a properly formed linked to each members of congress name where a popup is desired....Other flavors include local server-side PHP code to automatically search and replace members of congress's names with the necessary links. Sunlight has built a Drupal plugin that does this for our own site, www. sunlightfoundation.com, and also built a WordPress 2.0 plugin as well. Plugins for the major blogging and CMS platforms are planned and SunlightLabs is eager to find open source developers to help accomplish this and extend the the plugin."

Unpublished
n/a

DLC publication

Our friends at the Democratic Leadership Council today published their American Dream Initiative. This has been a year-long research project lead by Senator Hillary Clinton, and in which NDN is proud to have been a partner organisation. The main proposal from the initiative is a plan to help many more Americans attend college over the next ten years. There are also a number of articles on the same subject in the latest edition of the DLC's Blueprint magazine, including an overview by Clinton and others. These documents are an important part of the ongoing thinking happening in all parts of the Democratic family in advance of November, and on the road to '08. Just as excitingly, the Brooking's Hamilton Project will have a big launch tomorrow profiling some of the latest thinking on Economics. NDN - or rather, I - will be attending the launch, and i'll report back on it tomorrow in more details.

Monday morning roundup

Most important piece I saw today was an op-ed from Arlen Specter defending his new bill to grant FISA the authority to declare an eavesdropping practice legal and constitutional. I don't always agree with Specter, but he is a smart man. On this one he doesn't really persuade me. Many newspapers had a related story about growing concerns that the President is remaking laws passed by Congress as he sees fit.

The Post has an indepth look at the fall elections today. And the Times has an interesting look at María Celeste Arrarás, a Spanish-accented Telemundo anchor who has been filling in for Katie Couric.

In the gee, this governing thing is hard category, we have three morning entrees: Pakistan ramps up its nuclear program; surprise, it is hard to recruit folks into the Iraqi police; and our tactics in fighting the Iraqi insurgency probably made it worse.

And if you haven't read it, check out the memo summarizing our new poll of Hispanics that has gotten so much attention.

Broder writes about our poll in his nationally syndicated column today

Even Republican Senator Mel Martinez agrees with our findings - the Republicans have been very seriously damaged in the Hispanic community this year. 

You can read his important column here.  For more on our poll visit www.ndn.org/hispanic

Not so much blogging this weekend

Am off on a trip with my family this weekend, so not too much blogging. 

More Monday. 

Chinarunindia

Its been a busy week here at NDN, and i haven't quite been able to waste as much time blogging as i would have liked. Here is one thing i forgot to post yesterday- a superb, superb article in the FT yesterday on that strange new country everyone is talking about - Chinarunindia. It is now almost a political trope that Chinarunindia threatens American jobs. And so it does. But not in the way people often think. Case in point are the statistics people use. You see this often, of the following type.

"Chinarunindia graduate [big number] students every year, while America only graduates [small number]." - Or - "Chinarunindia graduates more engineering students than [America / Europe / Americananeuropetogetha]."

Such statistics are part of statistics-as-metaphor. Whether or not they are true is not the point. You should treat them in the same way people say "Eskimo's have 27 words for snow" or "half the world has never made a phone call." Are these true? They might be. They probably are not. [Read for instance this superb essay by technology thinker Clay Shirky on exactly this point, examining the truth behind the second quote.] But that isn't the point. The point is that they are meant to tell you something bigger: namely that language responds to circumstance, and the technological revolution is confined to rich countries. My favourite is: "1 in 7 people is a chinese farmer." This one is actually true, with 6 billion people and 900m employed in chinese agriculture. But what it really means is nothing to do with farming. It means: holy hell! there are a lot of people in China!

The same habit crops up with the statistics politicians use to describe Chinarunindia. They are trying to make the point - quite correctly - that the world is changing fast. They want you to understand that this brief period of history when the US is the (as Rob Shaprio, our Globalization Initiative directorl likes to say) only global power with no peer since Rome, will be just that. Brief. But in the course of making this point, some real whoppers emerge. As the FT explains:

Although both countries produce millions of graduates annually, the raw numbers are a misleading metric for employable skills. China produces 600,000 university-trained engineers every year, for example, a figure often cited to illustrate the country's inexorable rise as a technology power. But a McKinsey survey of nine occupations including engineers, accountants and doctors found that fewer than one in 10 were employable by multinationals.

The rest of the piece is similarily on the money, and you should read it. It highlights something almost no one seems to understand, namely that (unbelievably) Chinarunindia are running out of workers. They aren't running out of people exactly. But because they invest so little in education, they are running out of employable workers. These labour shortages will ripple out accross the world economy in the coming years. But because politicans use these misleading stats, they miss the bigger point. It is this. Imagine how much Chinarunindia will change our economy when 9 out of 10 of their professionals are employable by multinationals? Makes you think. Have a great weekend............

 

 

 

Friday Morning - the national landscape is changing

As inevitably happens, the national landscape of an election year in the spring gives way to a new and changed landscape by summer and fall.  The success of a political party or national campaign often comes from the ability to sense the change and get ahead of the other side.  It feels like we are in such a moment now. 

In the old landscape the Democrats had the wind at their back.  Iraq, Katrina, an economy not working for most, corruption, etc had produced an environment very favorable for Democrats.  My sense is that backdrop, that environment, and all the message plans, the polling, the strategies for media is about to change.  There is mounting evidence of an economic slow down, possibly making the governing party's economic positioning - always critical - even worse.  But how is the security environment going to change?  Not entirely clear.  But what is clear is it is very possible that the events of the world will make this conversation much more than about our failures in Iraq - the question for both parties is are they ready to adapt, to change, to anticipate, to improvise their way into the final fall messaging wave?

To me it is clear that the centrality of Iraq to the whole progressive enterprise is about to give way to a very different - and more complex - conversation about the Middle East, the use of force and the goals of American foreign policy.  Are we ready for this? Intellectually? Politically?

In the summer of 2002 Bush and Rove nationalized the election around Iraq and taxes.  It was around this time that they clarified their approach, went on the political offensive and defined the election.  The response from Daschle and Gephardt, I believe, cost Democrats the election.  They failed to adapt to the redefinition of the race, arguing that all the campaigns would be won on local issues, and did not offer any kind of national engagement on the two issues that defined every race in the country.  They held on to their spring plan.  The game changed. And Democrats got beat. 

4 years ago Bush and Rove ran a national campaign on the two most important issues of every election - peace and prosperity - war and taxes - that came together late in the summer.  Are Democrats ready to leave their spring gameplan behind and build a new one as the game is changed, knowing what happened the last time around?

Whether and how Democrats adapt - and how this changes their public stances and paid media strategies - will determine what happens this fall. 

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