Category - Global Politics and Culture

Is the future of America a crummy service job stamping on a human face, forever?

Vox, By Dylan Matthews, April 10

Rand Paul and Hillary Clinton don’t agree on much, but they both strongly believe more Americans should be working in low-wage, unpleasant jobs.

Paul devoted a large chunk of his announcement speech Tuesday to celebrating the “dignity of work,” endorsing the notion that work is a force that gives us meaning, rather than a means by which to stay alive. “Self-esteem can’t be given; it must be earned,” he declared. “Work is not punishment; work is the reward.”

Clinton is less blunt, but her campaign is expected to place a heavy emphasis on policies to get women into the workforce and encourage two-earner families, such as child care subsidies or paid parental leave.

The implication is clear: there are people, particularly women, who aren’t working but should be, and the government should be doing all it can to push them to take jobs.

These ideas address real problems: the labor market is rife with gender inequities, and efforts to make the choice to work as viable for women as it is for men are admirable and necessary. So are programs to help people living in concentrated poverty with little or no connection to the formal labor market find employment. And the US still needs to create 4 million jobs to fully recover from the recession.

But while there are problems to be solved, there’s also a reality to be acknowledged. America is a very, very rich society. The richest the world has ever known. For many Americans — particularly Americans with children — working a low-wage, physical job with little job security and unpredictable hours is a deeply unpleasant way to spend your life. Maybe more work isn’t always the answer.


Econospeak: UBI Caritas (the best things in life are free)

The miraculous Max Sawicky resumes wrestling with Universal Basic Income at MaxSpeak. This time the incitement comes from Dylan Matthews at Vox, who argues that a secondary benefit of basic income would be that “it enables a transition to a world of less work and greater leisure.”

That would indeed be a good thing. But as the Sandwichman pointed out two weeks ago, advocates for basic income seemingly make exactly the opposite argument. Guy Standing, co-president of the Basic Income Earth Network, cited a recent experiment in India — and earlier experiments in North America and Europe — as evidence for the claim that a basic income guarantee “would not reduce labor supply… The simple fact is that people with basic security work harder and more productively, not less.”

[…]

In my view, that only addresses one side of “the need”. The other side is the need to reduce superfluous production and consumption. We have long since passed the point where capital “diminishes labour time in the necessary form so as to increase it in the superfluous form; hence posits the superfluous in growing measure as a condition – question of life or death – for the necessary.”

Currently, world-wide carbon emissions per year are roughly double what can be re-absorbed by oceans and plants. This is not to say that the re-absorption by oceans is harmless –it leads to acidification. But clearly more than half of the emissions are superfluous to sustainability. Lo and behold, carbon emission increase in virtual lockstep with hours of work. In the U.S., the correlation between the two has been about 95% over the last quarter century.

… but who decides what’s superfluous?


Max Speak, You Listen!: Work makes Fritos

Weekend Jukebox: Songs of Liberation and Redemption

Any kind, personal or social, any where, one, the other or both….

Let’s start with two spirituals, as the two different religious stories commemorated this coming week became sung metaphors in the Black American civil rights struggle. Saturday is, as it happens, the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s murder in 1968.

Paul Robeson:” Let My People Go”

The Edwin Hawkins Singers: “Oh Happy Day”

Johns Hopkins sued over STD study in Guatemala

More than 770 plaintiffs are seeking $1 billion in damages in connection with US program in Guatemala

Al Jazeera, April 1

More than 770 plaintiffs are suing the Johns Hopkins Hospital System Corp. over its role in a series of medical experiments in Guatemala in the 1940s and 1950s during which people were deliberately infected with venereal diseases without their consent.

The lawsuit filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court seeks $1 billion in damages for individuals, spouses and children of people infected with syphilis, gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases through a U.S. government program between 1945 and 1956.

The suit claims officials at Johns Hopkins had “substantial influence” over the studies by controlling some panels that advised the federal government on how to spend research dollars. The suit also alleges that Hopkins and the Rockefeller Foundation, which is also named as a defendant, “did not limit their involvement to design, planning, funding and authorization of the Experiments; instead, they exercised control over, supervised, supported, encouraged, participated in and directed the course of the Experiments.”

The suit, which includes 774 plaintiffs, says the experiments were conducted abroad in order to give “researchers the opportunity to test additional methods of infecting humans with venereal disease easily hidden from public scrutiny.”

A poem for Tuesday

Faces in the Street

Henry Lawson

They lie, the men who tell us in a loud decisive tone
That want is here a stranger, and that misery’s unknown;
For where the nearest suburb and the city proper meet
My window-sill is level with the faces in the street —
Drifting past, drifting past,
To the beat of weary feet —
While I sorrow for the owners of those faces in the street.
And cause I have to sorrow, in a land so young and fair,
To see upon those faces stamped the marks of Want and Care;
I look in vain for traces of the fresh and fair and sweet
In sallow, sunken faces that are drifting through the street —
Drifting on, drifting on,
To the scrape of restless feet;
I can sorrow for the owners of the faces in the street.

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The Deadly Global War for Sand

Wired, By Vince Beiser, March 26

The killers rolled slowly down the narrow alley, three men jammed onto a single motorcycle. It was a little after 11 am on July 31, 2013, the sun beating down on the low, modest residential buildings lining a back street in the Indian farming village of Raipur. Faint smells of cooking spices, dust, and sewage seasoned the air. The men stopped the bike in front of the orange door of a two-story brick-and-plaster house. Two of them dismounted, eased open the unlocked door, and slipped into the darkened bedroom on the other side. White kerchiefs covered their lower faces. One of them carried a pistol.

Inside the bedroom Paleram Chauhan, a 52-year-old farmer, was napping after an early lunch. In the next room, his wife and daughter-in-law were cleaning up while Paleram’s son played with his own 3-year-old boy.

Gunshots thundered through the house. Preeti Chauhan, Paleram’s daughter-in-law, rushed into Paleram’s room, her husband, Ravindra, right behind her. Through the open door, they saw the killers jump back on their bike and roar away.
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Thousands march in evening protest in downtown Montreal

Police quickly declared the demonstration illegal, arrests made

CBC, March 24

Thousands of protesters hit the streets of downtown Montreal Tuesday night as part of student protests against the province’s austerity measures.

Crowds gathered at Parc Émilie-Gamelin at 9 p.m. before marching along the downtown streets.

Police quickly declared the protest illegal, saying an itinerary of the route was not provided, and began making arrests.

CTV News: Montreal students protest for second night, police disperse crowds

U.S. optimistic global trade deal will come into force this year

Reuters, By Krista Hughes, March 4

Washington – The United States expects a global deal to cut customs red tape and streamline import procedures to come into force this year, a senior trade official said on Wednesday.

Mark Linscott, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for World Trade Organization and Multilateral Affairs, said Washington was “pretty confident” the deal agreed in Bali in 2013 would be up and running by year-end.

“It’s quite realistic to expect that the trade facilitation agreement [wikipedia: The “Bali Package”, WTO: Trade Facilitation] can come into force by the end of the year,” he told a Washington International Trade Association event.

[…]

Virginia Brown, director of trade and regulatory reforms at USAID, said the aid agency was ready to work with countries on implementation steps, which in many cases require lawmakers’ approval. “Our bread and butter is drafting that legislation and getting it through the legislative process,” she said.

New York City to add Muslim holidays to school calendar

France24, March 4

New York City public schools will start observing two of Islam’s most important holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, The New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing an announcement to be delivered by the city’s Mayor Bill de Blasio.

According to the newspaper, the changes to the school calendar are in line with de Blasio’s election pledge to better integrate and represent the city’s increasing Muslim population, which is estimated at between 600,000 and 1 million. New York City public schools already recognise several Jewish and Christian holidays.

In a post on Twitter prior to the announcement, de Blasio said the new policy will represent “a change that respects the diversity of our city.”

A 2008 study carried out by Columbia University showed that around 10 percent of New York City public-school children were Muslim, and that about 95 percent of Muslim children in the city attend public schools.

Many heads will, no doubt, explode.

Obama Vetoes Keystone XL Bill

The Canadian Press, By Alexander Panetta, February 24

Washington – U.S. President Barack Obama made good Tuesday on a threat to veto a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, bringing the two sides in the long-running controversy to a rare point of agreement: their battle is far from over.

”The president’s veto of the Keystone jobs bill is a national embarrassment,” said the top Republican in the House of Representatives, John Boehner.

”We are not going to give up in our efforts to get this pipeline built — not even close.”

[…]

Even the White House concurred that the issue is far from settled. It pointed out that Tuesday’s announcement was a step in a long, winding process — not a final destination.

The president cast the veto as a matter of procedural principle. In his letter to Congress, Obama said the bill he was scrapping had improperly tried to usurp presidential authority.
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UN climate head Rajendra Pachauri resigns

BBC, February 24

The head of the United Nations climate change panel (IPCC), Rajendra Pachauri, has stepped down amid sexual harassment allegations.

A spokesman for Mr Pachauri told the IPCC that he had resigned from his position with immediate effect.

Indian police are investigating a complaint from a 29-year-old woman working in Mr Pachauri’s office in Delhi.

Mr Pachauri has denied the allegations.

Ukraine: UK and EU’s ‘catastrophic misreading’ of Russia

BBC – The UK and the EU have been accused of a “catastrophic misreading” of the mood in the Kremlin in the run-up to the crisis in Ukraine.

The House of Lords EU committee claimed Europe “sleepwalked” into the crisis. The EU had not realised the depth of Russian hostility to its plans for closer relations with Ukraine, it said… The committee’s report said Britain had not been “active or visible enough” in dealing with the situation in Ukraine. It blamed Foreign Office cuts, which it said led to fewer Russian experts working there, and less emphasis on analysis. A similar decline in EU foreign ministries had left them ill-equipped to formulate an “authoritative response” to the crisis, it said.

The report claimed that for too long the EU’s relationship with Moscow had been based on the “optimistic premise” that Russia was on a trajectory to becoming a democratic country. The result, it said, was a failure to appreciate the depth of Russian hostility when the EU opened talks aimed at establishing an “association agreement” with Ukraine in 2013.

Mr Cameron rejected claims Britain “sleepwalked” into the crisis in Ukraine.

UN: Growing number of attacks against schoolgirls worldwide

UN report finds girls face difficulty getting an education in more than 70 countries.

AP, February 9

Girls in at least 70 countries have faced threats, violent attacks and other abuse for trying to go to school over the past five years, the U.N. human rights office said Monday.

A report by the Geneva-based body noted that, despite some progress, girls still face difficulty getting an education in many countries around the world.

“Attacks against girls accessing education persist and, alarmingly, appear in some countries to be occurring with increasing regularity,” the authors found.
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A Blackwater World Order

The privatization of America’s wars swells the ranks of armies for hire across the globe.

The American Conservative, By Kelley Vlahos, February 6

After more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, America’s most profound legacy could be that it set the world order back to the Middle Ages.

While this is a slight exaggeration, a recent examination by Sean McFate, a former Army paratrooper who later served in Africa working for Dyncorp International and is now an associate professor at the National Defense University, suggests that the Pentagon’s dependence on contractors to help wage its wars has unleashed a new era of warfare in which a multitude of freshly founded private military companies are meeting the demand of an exploding global market for conflict.

“Now that the United States has opened the Pandora’s Box of mercenarianism,” McFate writes in The Modern Mercenary: Private Armies and What they Mean for World Order, “private warriors of all stripes are coming out of the shadows to engage in for-profit warfare.”
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A kick in the teeth from the ECB

Ekathimerini, By Mark Weisbrot, February 6

On Wednesday the European Central Bank (ECB) announced that it would no longer accept Greek government bonds and government-guaranteed debt as collateral. Although Greece would still be eligible for other, emergency lending from the Central Bank, the immediate effect of the announcement was to raise Greek borrowing costs and squeeze its banks, and to increase financial market instability within Greece.

We should be clear about what this means. The ECB’s move was completely unnecessary, and it was done some weeks before any decision had to be made. It looks very much like a deliberate attempt to undermine the new government. They are trying to force the government to abandon its promises to the Greek electorate, and to follow the IMF program that its predecessors signed on to.
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Global debts rise $57tn since crash

BBC, By Robert Peston, February 4

After the explosion of borrowing in the boom years that led to the great crash and recession of 2007-08, most governments – especially those of rich developed countries – said they would embark on policies that would lead to greater saving, debt reduction and what’s known as deleveraging.

They implied they would encourage prudence, so that the sum of household, business and government debt would fall.

So what has actually happened to global debt?

According to a new study by the influential consultancy McKinsey Global Institute, global debt has grown by $57tn or 17 percentage points of GDP or worldwide income since 2007, to stand at $199tn, equivalent to 286% of GDP.

And the single biggest contributor to the rise and rise of global indebtedness is that government debts have increased by $25tn over these seven years.

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