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Archive for November 11th, 2008

Psychologist Jonathan Haidt studies the five moral values that form the basis of our political choices, whether we’re left, right or center. In this eye-opening talk, he pinpoints the moral values that liberals and conservatives tend to honor most.

Liberals and conservatives value certain things similarly and other things differently. His captivating talk on moral psychology sheds insights on the nature of morality of religion and the nature of belief systems.

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In this talk from TED, Emily Oster a University of Chicago economist, looks at the stats on AIDS in Africa — and comes up with a stunning conclusion: Everything we know about AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa is wrong. We look for root causes such as poverty and poor health care — but we also need to factor in, say, the price of coffee, and the routes of long-haul truckers. In short, there is a lot we don’t know; and our assumptions about what we do know may keep us from finding the best way to stop the disease.

Emily’s talk is a good example of using inference from existing information and adopting a culture of critical thinking to challenge relevant issues and shape policies to deal with them.

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Tired of the debate? Environmental scientist David Keith discusses a cheap, effective, shocking solution to climate change: What if we injected a huge cloud of ash into the atmosphere, to deflect sunlight and heat? As an emergency measure to slow a melting ice cap, it could work. Keith discusses why it’s a good idea, why it’s a terrible one — and who, despite the cost, might be tempted to use it.

He calls this and similar strategies: geoengineering, and why these kinds of strategies also pose a moral hazard for the environmental lobby. However, he insists that this line of thinking is not only necessary but inevitable against the near-zero progress we have had in the last 50-year-long debate on climate change.

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(Excerpt from a client folio published by Morgan Stanley)

Energy

This past year, energy issues dominated much of the policy agenda as oil touched $150 per barrel and gas prices soared past $4.00 per gallon across the country. With both oil and gas prices in retreat as the economy hits the brakes, energy policy has lost its urgency. The new Obama administration will have many ideas and proposals in the energy arena, and the issue is sure to generate attention, but not much sweeping action.

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(Excerpt from a client folio published by Morgan Stanley)

Miscellaneous Business, Labor and Manufacturing

A handful of other commercial issues currently dominate the attention of lawmakers and federal officials – payday lending reform, credit card abuse, union elections, infrastructure improvements – and Obama has identified each as a priority in 2009.

In general, Obama supports a more consumer protection-oriented approach than McCain would have. A good example was the Obama campaign’s focus on payday lending abuses. To protect lower-income individuals, Obama has announced his intention to cap interest rates on payday loans at 36 percent, while seeking to provide borrowers with clearer, simplified disclosures on loan fees, payments and penalties. He would encourage banks and credit unions to increase small-denomination, short-term consumer loans.

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(Excerpt from a client folio published by Morgan Stanley)

Financial Crisis/Economic Rescue

Obama envisions fiscal policy as a central tool for spurring the economy and blunting the coming recession. To build upon the first economic stimulus package passed in February 2008, Obama supports passage of a second stimulus bill to inject infrastructure and benefits-related spending into the economic engine (Obama did not vote on the final version of the first stimulus package). Obama has proposed a twoyear, $175 billion total package, with:

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(Excerpt from a client folio published by Morgan Stanley)

Senator Barack Obama’s electoral victory, complete with expanded majorities in the House and Senate, gives the Democrats control over the legislative and administrative processes for the first time since 1994. This has significant ramifications for the new Administration’s policies to deal with the economic crisis, as well as domestic priorities on taxes, health care, energy, the environment, labor relations, and trade.

Today, President-Elect Barack Obama will shift to presidential transition following many months of campaigning. He will have just 77 days to assemble a cabinet, set critical priorities, and prepare a federal budget (which must be submitted to congress by February). Though he has not discussed it publicly, these plans are well underway. The Obama team is actively discussing potential Cabinet selections and will soon begin vetting resumes for the estimated 7,800 presidential appointee jobs which must be filled – 1,177 require Senate confirmation – and finalizing a comprehensive blueprint which will guide the incoming president through the transition.

While it is certain that the Obama presidency will mark a stark contrast from the Bush years, what remains to be seen is how much external factors like the economic crisis will impact his first 100 days and beyond. The following examines what we are likely to see under an Obama administration on an array of pressing issues.
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