Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Next Paradigm Shift?: Toward a New Political Economic Model

The last paradigm shift in our political economy was one away from government and toward market driven.

According to author Daniel Yergin, and other analysts and solons at the Davos-fest, who mapped the shift to market driven, we may be heading to a more European model. Since "welfare" has developed such a negative connotation, perhaps we need to coin a new term to replace "welfare state": one pundit mentions "the social state"; how about "The Humane State" ? Or better yet, "The Sane State"?

Is Europe's welfare system a model for the 21st century?
By Katrin Bennhold

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

DAVOS, Switzerland: Along with skiing and partying into the night, Europe-bashing has long been a favorite sport, whenever the world's business and political elite gather here for their once-a-year winter schmoozefest.

But this year many of the critics have fallen conspicuously silent. As top executives, government leaders and a wide range of experts gathered Tuesday for the weeklong World Economic Forum to talk about the challenges facing the battered global economy, the question many were asking was this: Could Europe's much-reviled social welfare system actually end up being the model for the 21st century world?

In the United States, the global stock market rout has wiped out trillions of dollars in retirement savings and rising unemployment is leaving more people without health insurance. In response, officials of the new administration of President Barack Obama have been busy studying the Swedish bank bailout of the 1990s and the Swiss and Dutch health care systems and have been quietly contemplating whether Europe's high fuel taxes and carbon trading system are the right way to limit the burning of fossil fuels that contributes to global warming.

In China, where the demise of the American consumer has exposed the perils of excessive savings at home, the government has not only recently proffered a big Keynesian-style stimulus program but has also just announced a three-year plan to provide universal health care. Though modest by comparison, China's health care plan goes in the direction of what has long been considered a fundamental right in Europe.

"When the world's biggest economy and the world's biggest emerging economy look for lessons in the same place at the same time, you know something is up," said Kenneth Rogoff, a professor at Harvard University and former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, who is one of the 2,500 participants in Davos this year. "We are seeing a paradigm shift towards a more European, a more social state."

Such shifts are rare.

The Depression of the 1930s eventually ushered in Keynesian demand-side policies and, after a devastating world war, firmly established the need for some sort of welfare state in every major industrial democracy.

The oil price shocks of the 1970s and a wave of inflation helped turn the governing approach in the other direction, empowering Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and other advocates of lower taxes, smaller government and deregulation.

A year ago, at the opening of the 2008 World Economic Forum, a front-page article in the International Herald Tribune suggested that global capitalism was again ripe for such a generational transformation. Amid the worst financial crisis since the Depression, that transformation is now in full swing.

With whole swaths of the banking sector being propped up by trillions of dollars in taxpayer funds and hundreds of billions more being dedicated to deficit-financed public spending programs across the world, the most striking feature so far is the comeback of big government.

The the full article from today's International Herald Tribune appears here:


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Building the Great Society 2

It has seemed clear, to me at least, from early on in the Bush administration, as the country began its general social gravitation toward the New Pharaoh - The Corporation, and away from Government as a necessary social -political institution and function of a democratic society, that things, no matter how badly, how relentlessly market-driven, and capital-motivated they become, will eventually go so far to the right that some kind of correction would be inevitable. Well, that day has come. Even under the Clinton Administration, government was viewed as Too Damn Big. The 44th President of the US seems less concerned about whether government is Big or small, just that it is effective.

As we take a deep breath and we, and the administration, sees where this amazing moment in our nation's history takes us, let's step back a minute and reflect on the Thoughts of that Pre-eminent Philosopher of the 1960s, whose overall success was tainted by the debacle of the Viet Nam War, but whose efforts in pressing Civil Rights legislation and using government as a tool to build a Great Society cannot now be underestimated. Although he is less heralded and less admired than JFK, or Lincoln, his efforts in supporting civil rights legislation, education and social programs in the 60s, have to be viewed as having a direct impact upon January 20, 2009:

Did you ever think that making a speech on economics is a lot like pissing down your leg? It seems hot to you, but it never does to anyone else.
Lyndon B. Johnson

No member of our generation who wasn't a Communist or a dropout in the thirties is worth a damn.
Lyndon B. Johnson

The CIA is made up of boys whose families sent them to Princeton but wouldn't let them into the family brokerage business.
Lyndon B. Johnson

The guns and the bombs, the rockets and the warships, are all symbols of human failure.
Lyndon B. Johnson

We have entered an age in which education is not just a luxury permitting some men an advantage over others. It has become a necessity without which a person is defenseless in this complex, industrialized society. We have truly entered the century of the educated man.
Lyndon B. Johnson

This administration here and now declares unconditional war on poverty.
Lyndon B. Johnson

Only two things are necessary to keep one's wife happy. One is to let her think she is having her own way, and the other is to let her have it.
Lyndon B. Johnson

We have talked long enough in this country about equal rights. It is time now to write the next chapter - and to write it in the books of law.
Lyndon B. Johnson

We have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society.
Lyndon B. Johnson

We live in a world that has narrowed into a neighborhood before it has broadened into a brotherhood.
Lyndon B. Johnson

We must open the doors of opportunity. But we must also equip our people to walk through those doors.
Lyndon B. Johnson

There are no problems we cannot solve together, and very few that we can solve by ourselves.
Lyndon B. Johnson

Until justice is blind to color, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men's skins, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact.
Lyndon B. Johnson

If one morning I walked on top of the water across the Potomac River, the headline that afternoon would read: "President Can't Swim."
Lyndon B. Johnson

Finally, I have a copy of "Quotations from Chairman Lyndon," a takeoff of course on the "Quotations of Chairman Mao." The little red book, which features LBJ in a Mao jacket on the cover, was published as a satire since, at the time, LBJ had a bit of what we know today as "W" in him---that Texas folk wisdom and mistrust for intellectuals. But in some ways, his work was prescient, so let's remember one last quote:

If the American people don't love me, their descendants will.
Lyndon B. Johnson

--Brooklyn Beat

Monday, January 12, 2009

'To Repel Ghosts' ('Fantasmi da scacciare'): Jean-Michel Basquiat in Rome

Jean-Michel Basquiat; Firenze 1985; Photo © Michael Halsband

Self portrait (Plaid), 1983
Acrylic and paper on panel
Thaddaeus Ropac Collection
Salzburg - Paris

'To Repel Ghosts' ('Fantasmi da scacciare'): Jean-Michel Basquiat in Rome
The MemmoFoundation in Palazzo Ruspoli, Via Del Corso. Through February 1, 2009.
If there is any city that can make you believe in ghosts, that is, in the continuity of spiritual existence after death, it would have to be Rome. Besides the remarkable antiquity everywhere, of a city with roots back to 753 BCE (although historians believe it may have been closer to 625 BCE), ancient structures and fragments of structures, there are physical relics of Saints and Popes and Clergy everywhere, literally mounted on the walls or under the altars of churches (chiese), dating back to the Renaissance and earlier. There is even a "Museum of the Souls in Purgatory" on the lungo Tevere, containing objects or photos of objects that show "tangible traces" of apparitions made by various souls in Purgatory to those left behind on earth, including hand or fingerprints on book pages, wooden boards or articles of clothing from Belgium, France, Germany and Italy.

Therefore, maybe that is what makes the exhibit, "Fantasmi da scacciare," To Repel Ghosts, of work by Jean Michel Basquiat at the Palazzo Ruspoli, so fascinating and provocative here. This isn't the enormous Brooklyn Museum retrospective of 2005, which presented every aspect of the Brooklyn-born artist's career in deep focus. Here, Basquiat's work is limited to about 40+ wonderfully chosen pieces, including some created in collaboration with Andy Warhol and Francesco Clemente, more than ten works being exhibited for the first time and 5 previously unpublished photographs by Michael Halsband.

Selection of works from the exhibition: http://www.fondazionememmo.it/nuovo_sito/eng/incorso/gallery_incorso/gallery_04.asp
The work, curated by Olivier Berggruen, Associate Curator, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, is beautifully presented here. The soft grey, not white, gallery walls, cause the stark blackness of the "SAMO" images, as well as the Mediterranean blues and blood reds of other works here, to stand out in beautiful relief.

As the catalog by Olivier Berggruen and Francesco Pellizzi notes: "The artist affirms his presence through the evocation of fragments, as a way of “repelling ghosts”, a favorite phrase of his that appears in at least three paintings. The eerie presence of zombie-like creatures that appear to be coming back from the dead, the remnants of writing, sometimes erased, sometimes ‘etched’ into the canvas with unequalled force: these affirm Basquiat’s peculiar situation in which he tried to bridge the abyss between the evanescence of life and its affirmation through the painter’s gesture."

The exhibit includes "Eroica II" and other richly text-imbued works that seem to channel the artist's affinity for Gnostic wisdom and secret language, transcending graffito, and linking the streets of Brooklyn and the Lower East Side, circa 1980s, until his untimely death in 1988, with those of Rome in the 21st century, at once backward looking and forward gazing. Transgressing boundaries of "high" and "low" art, "life", "death", and most of all, notions of "beauty" and "aesthetics."

The Memmo Foundation at the Palazzo Ruspoli: http://www.fondazionememmo.com/
--Brooklyn Beat

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Brooklyn Ever-green

Settling back into the New York groove can be a trying undertaking. Despite the rain and wind, I decided to get out of the office for a few minutes and take a brisk, long walk down toward the water and back. After a couple of weeks in bella Roma it sure wasn't a walk along the Lungo Tevere to Trastevere or across via Tomacelli to Vatican City, but for now it would have to do.

Still, NYC always throws one a surprise. Whether it was the late trash pickup because of the inclement weather or if there is a scheduled date for tree pickup, Joralemon Street was imbued with the heavy scent of pine. From Clinton almost down to Furman, a long train of evergreens, stripped of decorations and tinsel, lined Joralemon, outside of nearly every home. On one, the remnants of a popcorn and cranberry garland. The big evergreen in our back yard in Flatbush is vibrant and pretty but more olfactorily neutral. Here, the discarded trees made the winter air surprisingly fragrant, dotted by the cold rain, for this brisk afternoon walk, more restorative than purposeful. Walking and thinking of how it was in Rome and how it is in NYC. But aided in the effort to Be Here Now by the aromatic remnants of a Christmas (so recently) past.

--Brooklyn Beat

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Roman Daze: "Oh, to Be Back in the Land of Coca-Cola"

The Piazza Di Spagna, the Spanish Steps. December 2008 - January 2009. Featuring the "Light of Freedom" (memorializing the victims of kidnapping everywhere). Photo - Brooklyn Beat

Back from the Eternal City. Savoring the memories and experiences of traveling with My Better Half and our four kids (13x2, 17 and 20). Meeting our daughter who is studying in Urbino for the year. We stayed in an apartment near the Spanish Steps, walking all over the city. Seeing the antiquities and the art, old and new. Shopping in the supermercati with the Romans, making and enjoying family meals together, talking the train to Napoli and Pompei down the coast. Jean Michel Basquiat exhibit. Visiting the Jewish Ghetto (geto), seeing the Great Synagogue and the Portico d'Ottavio, and talking with the Italian - Jews there. Attending midnight Mass on Christmas at the Chiese di San Ambrogio e Charles for the experience. New Years eve, crazy fireworks. Watching The Godfather 2 in dubbed Italian. Shopping. Seeing a new world and returning to a familiar one with a different perspective.

On our last day, on the via del Corso, this tune popped into my head and now I see I will never shake it...

When I Paint My Masterpiece

Oh, the streets of Rome are filled with rubble,
Ancient footprints are everywhere.
You can almost think that you're seein' double
On a cold, dark night on the Spanish Stairs.
Got to hurry on back to my hotel room,
Where I've got me a date with Botticelli's niece.
She promised that she'd be right there with me
When I paint my masterpiece.
Oh, the hours I've spent inside the Coliseum,
Dodging lions and wastin' time.
Oh, those mighty kings of the jungle, I could hardly stand to see 'em,
Yes, it sure has been a long, hard climb.
Train wheels runnin' through the back of my memory,
When I ran on the hilltop following a pack of wild geese.
Someday, everything is gonna be smooth like a rhapsody
When I paint my masterpiece.

Sailin' 'round the world in a dirty gondola.
Oh, to be back in the land of Coca-Cola!

I left Rome and landed in Brussels,
On a plane ride so bumpy that I almost cried.
Clergymen in uniform and young girls pullin' muscles,
Everyone was there to greet me when I stepped inside.
Newspapermen eating candy
Had to be held down by big police.
Someday, everything is gonna be diff'rent
When I paint my masterpiece.

-Bob Dylan

Copyright ©1971 Big Sky Music

Current Reading

  • Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War- Tony Horwitz
  • A Sultan in Palermo - Tariq Ali
  • Hitch-22: A Memoir - Christopher Hitchens
  • Negropedia- Patrice Evans
  • Dead Funny: Humor in Nazi Germany - Rudolph Herzog
  • Exile on Main Street - Robert Greenfield
  • Among the Truthers - A Journey Among America's Growing Conspiracist Underworld - Jonathan Kay
  • Paradise Lost - John Milton
  • What Is Your Dangerous Idea? Thinking the Unthinkable - John Brockman
  • Notes from the Edge Times - Daniel Pinchbeck
  • Fringe-ology: How I Can't Explain Away the Unexplainable- Steve Volk
  • Un Juif pour l'exemple (translated as A Jew Must Die )- Jacques Cheesex
  • The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
  • Pale King - David Foster Wallce
  • David Bowie: Starman bio - Paul Trynka
  • Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat - Andrez Bergen
  • The Future of Nostalgia -Svetlana Boym
  • Living in the End Times - Slavoj ZIzek
  • FIrst as Tragedy Next as Farce - Slavoj Zizek
  • How to Survive a Robot Uprising - Daniel Wilson
  • Where is My Jet Pack? -Daniel Wilson
  • Day of the Oprichniks - Vladimir Sorokin
  • Ice Trilogy - Vladimir Sorokin
  • First Civilizations
  • Oscar Wilde -Andre Maurois
  • The Beats - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • SDS - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • The Unfinished Animal - Theodore Roszak
  • Friends of Eddy Coyle
  • Brooklands -Emily Barton
  • Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahme-Smith - Entertaining and historical
  • Dictionary of the Khazars - Pavic
  • Sloth-Gilbert Hernandez
  • War and Peace- Leo Tolstoy
  • Charles Addams: An Evilution
  • Life in Ancient Greece
  • Time - Eva Hoffmann
  • Violence - S. Zizek
  • Luba - a graphic novel by Gilbert Hernandez
  • Life in Ancient Egypt
  • Great Apes - Will Self - riveting and disturbing
  • Lost Honor of Katherina Blum - Heinrich Boll - could not put it down
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed (author deserving of new wide readership)
  • Living in Ancient Mesopotomia
  • Landscape in Concrete - Jakov Lind - surreal
  • 'There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor's Baby'-Ludmilla Petrushevskaya - creepy stories - translation feels literarily "thin"
  • Mythologies - William Butler Yeats (re-read again & again)
  • How German Is It ? - Walter Abish
  • The Book of Genesis - illustrated by R. Crumb - visionary
  • "Flags" - an illustrated encyclopedia - wish I could remember all of these. Flag culture
  • Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Ubik - Philip K. Dick
  • Nobody's Fool - Richard Russo
  • Hitler's Empire - Mark Mazower
  • Nazi Culture - various authors
  • Master Plan: Himmler 's Scholars and the Holocaust - Heather Pringle
  • Eichmann in Jerusalem - Hannah Arendt
  • Living in Ancient Rome
  • Traveling with Herodotus -R. Kapuszynsky
  • Oblivion - David Foster Wallace - Some of his greatest work
  • Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace - still wrestling with this great book
  • Netherland - Joseph O'Neill - staggeringly great read
  • Renegade - The Obama Campaign - Richard Wolffe
  • Mount Analogue - Rene Daumal
  • John Brown
  • Anathem - Neal Stephenson - love Stephenson but tough slogging first few chapters
  • 7 Deadly Sins
  • ALEX COX - Alex Cox
  • FIASCO by Thomas Ricks
  • I, Fellini - Charlotte Chandler & Federico Fellini
  • Best of 20th century alternative history fiction
  • Judah P. Benjamin - Eli Evans - Confederacy's Secretary of State & source of the W.C. Field's exclamation
  • Moscow 2042 - Vladimir Voinovich - Pre-1989 curiosity & entertaining sci fi read; love his portrayal of Solzhenitsyn-like character
  • Gomorrah - Roberto Saviano - Mafia without the It-Am sugar coating. Brutal & disturbing
  • The Sack of Rome - Celebrity+Media+Money=Silvio Berlusconi - Alexander Stille
  • Reporting - David Remnick - terrific journalism
  • Fassbinder
  • Indignation - Philip Roth
  • Rome
  • Let's Go Italy! 2008
  • Italian Phrases for Dummies
  • How to Pack
  • Violence - Slavoj Zizek
  • Dali: Painting & Film
  • The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight - Jimmy Breslin
  • The Good Rat - Jimmy Breslin
  • Spook Country - William Gibson
  • A Blue Hand - The Beats in India - Deborah Baker
  • The Metaphysical Club - Louis Menard
  • Coast of Utopia - Tom Stoppard
  • Physics of the Impossible - Dr. Michio Kaku
  • Managing the Unexpected - Weick & Sutcliffe
  • Wait Til The Midnight Hour - Writings on Black Power
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed
  • Burning Down the Masters' House - Jayson Blair
  • Howl - Allen Ginsberg
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Palace Thief - Ethan Canin
  • John Adams - David McCullough
  • The Wooden Sea - Jonathan Carroll
  • American Gangster - Mark Jacobson
  • Return of the King - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Gawker Guide to Becoming King of All Media
  • Jews and Power - Ruth Wisse
  • Youth Without Youth - Mircea Eliade
  • A Team of Rivals - Doris Goodwin
  • Ghost Hunters -William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death - Deborah Blum
  • Dream -Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy - Stephen Duncombe
  • Love & Theft - Eric Lott
  • Exit Ghost - Philip Roth
  • Studio A - The Bob Dylan Reader

Current Listening

  • Alexi Murdoch Wait
  • Wilco Summer Teeth
  • Wilco The Album
  • Carmina Burana - Ray Manzarek (& Michael Riesmann)
  • Polyrock - Polyrock
  • 96 Tears - Garland Jeffries
  • Ghost of a Chance Garland Jeffries
  • Yellow Magic Orchestra
  • Mustang Sally Buddy Guy
  • John Lee Hooker
  • Black and White Years
  • Together Through Life - B. Dylan
  • 100 Days 100 Nites - Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
  • DYLAN: 3 disc Greatest...
  • Glassworks - Philip Glass
  • Wild Palms - Soundtrack -Ryuichi Sakamoto
  • Dinah Washington - Best of..
  • Commander Cody& His Lost Planet Airmen Live at Armadillo