Commentary

The Centre for International Governance Innovation, a global think tank based in Canada, says that China will have more engineers and scientists with doctorates than the United States by 2010. They also estimate that within four years, 90% of all scientists and engineers with doctorates in the world will be Asians living in Asia.

In a town with numerous restaurants and bars, not a single one was showing the speech. Some had no televisions; others did have TVs, but they were tuned to one or another sports channel and the owners and bar-tenders were damned if they were going to change channel for the convention. One waitress embarrassedly told me the owners had forbidden the staff to put on anything "political" on the television. I even phoned several restaurants to find out if they'd tune their TVs to the convention.

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These men and women are tough folk. They are used to living on an inhospitable land, eking an existence out of the earth, and yet they increasingly struggle to make ends meet. In one tiny town I visited, Boise City, close to half of the families survive only by taking food donations from the little food pantry that operates out of an abandoned gas station on Main Street. One old lady told me of having to drive 120 miles each way to take her diabetic husband to his medical check-ups.

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Obama is said to be in a rhetorical pickle. If he talks a language of hope and inspiration, it's too general and ethereal. On the other hand, if he get too specific, he sounds like a policy wonk. And if he goes for McCain's throat, the pundits have been warning that he will evoke the dreaded specter of the Angry Black Man.

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Lyndon Baines Johnson was born 100 years ago today. After Franklin Roosevelt, his record as a progressive Democrat was unsurpassed. Thanks to his leadership and passion, Congress enacted Medicare, Medicaid, federal aid to education, Headstart, the Job Corps, legal services for the poor, and countless other pocketbook measures that helped millions out of poverty and reinforced a secure middle class. And Johnson took immense risks to pass the three landmark civil rights laws.

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Hillary Clinton's speech has been duly dissected. Bill's will be, too. But the DNC question still lingering for the PUMAs is: Whydidn't Obama choose Clinton as his running mate? Dems would be naïve to suggest such people just 'get over it,' Hillary's verbal push not withstanding.

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All over America, unemployment is rising, with 5.7% of the nation's workers currently looking for employment and industrial towns such as Detroit seeing double-digit unemployment. At least as worrying, so too is the deeper measure of joblessness rising (this is a more comprehensive figure that includes those who have given up looking for work and are no longer considered to be "unemployed").

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Before he could cure the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt had to overturn prevailing views, including his own, about government's role in the economy. When Roosevelt began, he was in favor of a balanced budget, against federal deposit insurance, even against serious public works spending. But events quickly pushed him to become more radical, and to bring the country and the Congress with him — or to fail. The people liked what they got. FDR was re-elected in 1936 by the greatest majority ever.

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The New York Times regularly runs trade editorials with all the sophistication of the first day of an Economics 101 course, circa 1970. The shriller Washington Post, in an editorial titled "Drop Dead, Colombia," describes the proposed Colombia pact as "a no-brainer — especially at a time of rising U.S. joblessness." But who believes that a bit more trade with tiny Colombia will seriously spur U.S. jobs?

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Well, Obama's Challenge, my book — excerpted this week at the Huffington Post — is stimulating a lot of press, but not exactly the sort I had in mind. It set off a huge controversy about what's fair play in the publishing industry.

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