Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thursday Evening Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Michael Lewis writes a fascinating piece on Barack Obama's life as president. And I'd think it's particularly noteworthy to consider Obama's self-discipline both as a model for self-improvement in theory, and as a risk factor in opening up a perception gap between a leader and his citizens:
“I want to play that game again,” I said. “Assume that in 30 minutes you will stop being president. I will take your place. Prepare me. Teach me how to be president.”

This was the third time I’d put the question to him, in one form or another. The first time, a month earlier in this same cabin, he’d had a lot of trouble getting his mind around the idea that I, not he, was president. He’d started by saying something he knew to be dull and expected but that—he insisted—was nevertheless perfectly true. “Here is what I would tell you,” he’d said. “I would say that your first and principal task is to think about the hopes and dreams the American people invested in you. Everything you are doing has to be viewed through this prism. And I tell you what every president … I actually think every president understands this responsibility. I don’t know George Bush well. I know Bill Clinton better. But I think they both approached the job in that spirit.” Then he added that the world thinks he spends a lot more time worrying about political angles than he actually does.

This time he covered a lot more ground and was willing to talk about the mundane details of presidential existence. “You have to exercise,” he said, for instance. “Or at some point you’ll just break down.” You also need to remove from your life the day-to-day problems that absorb most people for meaningful parts of their day. “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” he said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions. It’s why shopping is so exhausting. “You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”
- I very much hope I'm right in suspecting that Ezra Levant's attempts to foment hatred against Roma Canadians will fall flat based on their sheer absurdity. But Karl Nerenberg and Dr. Dawg are right to make sure Levant's attacks don't go unanswered.

- Meanwhile, Bob Hepburn notes the sad irony in a Prime Minister winning an award for "democracy, freedom and human rights" while fighting each of those principles tooth and nail at home and abroad.

- And Laurel Sutherlin points out how the Trans-Pacific Partnership being pushed by Harper among others looks to leave a gaping hole in the democratic department:
The TPP is called a ‘trade agreement,’ but in actuality it is a long-dreamed-of template for implementing a binding system of global corporate governance as bold as anything the world’s wealthiest elite has attempted before. Of the 26 chapters under negotiation, only a few have to do directly with trade. The other chapters enshrine new rights and privileges for major corporations while weakening the power of nation states to oppose them. The TPP essentially proposes to establish a parallel system of justice where companies can sue countries in a tribunal of judges composed of unaccountable international trade lawyers with little to no process for appeal.

This wild bastardization of the concept of justice endangers everything from affordable medicines, internet freedoms and intellectual property rights to democratically enacted labor laws and environmental protections. And that’s not to mention the massive outsourcing of middle class jobs from the US to countries like Vietnam and Brunei.

This isn’t just a bad trade agreement, it’s a wish list of the 1%—a worldwide corporate power grab of enormous proportions. 
 - Finally, Andrew Jackson rightly challenges the theory that handouts to the corporate sector pay for themselves - at least for anybody who doesn't see increases in untaxed corporate income with no associated social benefits as an unbridled good.

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