Friday, September 07, 2012
Thursday, September 06, 2012
Investors can begin construction in six months on three privately run cities in Honduras that will have their own police, laws, government and tax systems now that the government has signed a memorandum of agreement approving the project.
An international group of investors and government representatives signed the memorandum Tuesday for the project that some say will bring badly needed economic growth to this small Central American country and that at least one detractor describes as "a catastrophe."
The project's aim is to strengthen Honduras' weak government and failing infrastructure, overwhelmed by corruption, drug-related crime and lingering political instability after a 2009 coup.
The project "has the potential to turn Honduras into an engine of wealth," said Carlos Pineda, president of the Commission for the Promotion of Public-Private Partnerships. It can be "a development instrument typical of first world countries."
"Desperate." That certainly describes it. Rather than bringing prosperity to a nation bereft by poverty and corruption, it will likely create an "us vs. 'you people' " dynamic that we've seen played out in medieval Europe.
Serfdom. Peasantry. Landed gentry and nobility versus the "just up from the muck" indigenous people.
We can assume that this city-nation will keep its taxes as low as possible while plundering the surrounding villages and countryside for the resources it needs, just like the castled nobles of mid-second milennium England. And the advertisement to rich folk in the States will be simple: "Your money doesn't live there. Why should you?"
And it's true: in a day and age when money can fly around the world faster than a spaceship, nationality is meaningless. Transnational wealthy can live where they choose, and that they choose America is a dint more of opportunity to socialize than anything else. Now, they can avoid even that.
Which is fine, because my suspicion is Hondurans will be even less tolerant of them than we are.
We Democrats think the country works better with a strong middle class, real opportunities for poor people to work their way into it and a relentless focus on the future, with business and government working together to promote growth and broadly shared prosperity. We think "we're all in this together" is a better philosophy than "you're on your own."
Who's right? Well, since 1961, the Republicans have held the White House 28 years, the Democrats 24. In those 52 years, our economy produced 66 million private sector jobs. What's the jobs score? Republicans 24 million, Democrats 42 million.
It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics, because discrimination, poverty and ignorance restrict growth, while investments in education, infrastructure and scientific and technological research increase it, creating more good jobs and new wealth for all of us.
Though I often disagree with Republicans, I never learned to hate them the way the far right that now controls their party seems to hate President Obama and the Democrats.
No president— not me or any of my predecessors could have repaired all the damage in just four years. But conditions are improving and if you'll renew the President's contract you will feel it.
Wednesday, September 05, 2012
(CNN) -- If Barack Obama is re-elected on November 6, he will owe more to his first lady than any president ever to win a second term.
On Tuesday night in Charlotte, North Carolina, Michelle Obama gave one of the finest speeches ever delivered at a national political convention. More important, it could have more impact on the immediate future of the country than her husband's celebrated 2004 keynote address to the Democratic National Convention in Boston. Why?
Her speech tied the Obamas' personal stories directly to the lives of millions of voters struggling not to be the first generation of Americans unable to offer hope of greater opportunities to their children than they had, thus drawing a contrast with Mitt Romney as an unnamed but unmistakable caricature of privilege without shading her talk with negativity or animosity.
Rumour has it she wrote most of the speech herself and given how viscerally she responded to the words she was saying, it seems to be true. On the brink of tears herself, Michelle Obama pulled off the rhetorically difficult task of bringing her audience to both tear and their feet.
We fell in love with Barack Obama all over again, thanks to Michelle. This is what a First Lady looks like!
The knock on Obama from the left is that he forgot where he came from, and who elected him. We liberals are fickle in that way, and while we grudgingly would have gone to the polls to re-elect him, now we can feel good about it.
And we have good reason to be frustrated with him. We've seen over the past four years a concerted effort to dismantle and destroy Hope and Change by the party out of power, and now out of favor, and a President determined, pig-headedly, to compromise and work with them.
This was the audacity we wanted? The change we wanted to be? Barack Obama tried to be Bill Clinton, when in point of fact, he needed to be Harry Truman. Clinton was a master at co-opting his opposition, and yes, Obama nearly pulled off that debt ceiling deal with Weaker Boener until it turned out Weaker Boener couldn't deliver a pizza, much less his party's votes.
Sure, Obama ran on the platform of trying to change the toxicity of government, but when it was revealed that the opponent was going to be openly hostile and a party of no to anything he proposed, he should have counterpunched: start closing military bases, start withholding highway funds, find executive orders that punished those who got out of line, and rewarded those who were willing to put in an effort.
For instance, take Michele Bachmann. The instant she won re-election in 2010, Obama could have yanked all Federal funds out of her district, discretely asking for all agencies to "review" the projects and programs. This is how you bring people to the table who want to be petulant children.
Perhaps Sasha and Malia are that well-behaved that Obama doesn't have to resort to tactics like this, but I'm betting Joe Biden could tell him all about it.
Last night, Michelle Obama reminded us that the President and First Family are like you and me: they struggled, they had hard times, and they couldn't ask Daddy for a loan to open a business (great line, by the way, from Julian Castro: "Gee! Why didn't I think of that? Some people are lucky enough to borrow money from their parents, but that shouldn't determine whether you can pursue your dreams.")
Ann Romney was tasked with humanizing a figure who has been rightly characterized as automatonic, robotic, and pre-programmed...with last decade's software.
Michelle Obama merely had to add grace notes to the figure of a man who was sculpted in an image long forgotten by the nation. And she did a bang up job.