Monday Reads: Race to the bottom for all but the 1 %Posted: November 10, 2014
I decided to write about a few interesting things today that are more issue-related than anything. I’m trying to avoid the continuing onslaught of bad journalism on what the next two years will hold.
Just to start it off, here’s a negative ad running from Mary Landrieu that will give you an idea of why I don’t want Doctor Strange Eyes for a Senator. Then, we will move on to other things!!
A virus that infects human brains and makes us more stupid has been discovered, according to scientists in the US.
The algae virus, never before observed in healthy people, was found to affect cognitive functions including visual processing and spatial awareness.
Scientists at Johns Hopkins Medical School and the University of Nebraska stumbled upon the discovery when they were undertaking an unrelated study into throat microbes.
Surprisingly, the researchers found DNA in the throats of healthy individuals that matched the DNA of a virus known to infect green algae.
Dr Robert Yolken, a virologist who led the original study, said: “This is a striking example showing that the ‘innocuous’ microorganisms we carry can affect behaviour and cognition.
There’s an interesting study and book being published on an up-close account of poverty. The authors are a married couple with ivy league credentials that moved into a poverty stricken neighborhood of Camden, then documented their neighbors and experiences.
ONCE A THRIVING INDUSTRIAL CENTER, home of RCA Victor and the Campbell Soup Company, Camden saw decades of white flight as the manufacturing sector disappeared. By 2000, five years after Edin arrived, 53 percent of Camden’s residents were black, 39 percent were Hispanic, and 36 percent lived below the poverty line. The year she moved in was the city’s bloodiest on record, with 58 murders among 86,000 residents.
About a block away from the blue clapboard Victorian where Edin lived is the former Presbyterian church where she taught Sunday school—one of the ways she got to know people in the community, along with volunteering at an after-school program. On the warm fall day I visited, the voice of a holy roller bellowing at his flock rang clear across the street.
Teaching Sunday school wasn’t just a research ploy. Edin hails from rural Minnesota, where she “grew up in the back of the van” that her mother drove for a Swedish Lutheran church. She worked there with needy families whose kids often cycled in and out of jail and foster care. “The religious tradition I came up in was very focused on social justice,” Edin says, citing Micah 6:8 (“To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”).
She attended North Park University, a small Christian college in Chicago with a social-justice focus. There, she took extra-credit assignments working in the notorious Cabrini-Green public housing project. In her free time she did things like watch Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Franco Zeffirelli’s film about St. Francis of Assisi, and walk around campus barefoot in the winter to emulate the saint.
Sunday school in Camden was different. One day, Edin recalls, she drew on a common evangelical trope, asking the kids what one thing they would save if their house were on fire. The answer is supposed to be “the Bible,” but for these kids the question was not a hypothetical. Most of the kids had actually been in that situation and could tell her exactly what they took. (Sometimes it was the Bible.)
Tragedy was endemic to her small class. In the space of a month, the fathers of two of the five students were killed in gun violence. Trauma made the kids “very vigilant,” she says. “They notice everything about you.” Some of their comments yielded unexpected insights for her research on low-income women’s attitudes toward marriage, which they tended to view as hard work more than a source of pleasure. “One girl said to me, ‘You white women are really into your husbands,'” she says with a laugh. “Watching people respond to you reveals a lot.”
Not long after she and Nelson moved in, a teenager avoiding pursuers jumped through an open bathroom window, then raced out their front door. She recalls the time she put her baby’s empty car seat down in the front yard while unloading groceries. When she turned around, it was gone. She ran down the street to a garage that served as the neighborhood’s unofficial flea market, and found it already for sale.
Edin says her willingness to put up with the same routine annoyances as her neighbors helped persuade them to open up. “Lots of people said, ‘We know you’re the real thing. You’re not here just to study us, because you live here, too.'”
New Orlean’s Lower Ninth Ward has been facing many challenges after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. It’s latest challenge comes from voter defeat of an amendment that made selling empty lots easier to neighbors.
It’s a common adjective in the Lower 9th Ward to describe Tuesday’s statewide voter rejection of a constitutional amendment that would have allowed the city to sell vacant lots in that struggling neighborhood to aspiring homeowners for as little as $100.
But disappointment has come often and in many sizes to the Lower 9, one of the neighborhoods most thoroughly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, and the residents and activists who have taken up the cause of repopulating the area are perhaps more capable than anyone of putting a setback at the ballot box behind them.
“For nine years, there have been many, many challenges — challenges far greater than (the failure of) this amendment,” said activist Vanessa Gueringer, who along with state Rep. Wesley Bishop came up with the idea they thought might jump-start residential development in the neighborhood. “We had to struggle to even come home. It’s not bigger than that.”
Thom Pepper, of the nonprofit group Common Ground Relief, put it a little more colorfully.
“No one is crying in their bourbon over it,” he said. The idea of $100 lots was “like one of the things to throw it on the wall and see if it sticks. It didn’t, but we’ll go on.”
The amendment, which was needed to override the constitutional prohibition against the government donating or selling public property at less than fair market value, needed a majority both in New Orleans and statewide. It was overwhelmingly supported by Lower 9 voters, but it lost 51 to 49 percent in Orleans Parish and failed badly statewide, 59 to 41 percent.
Had it been approved, a state law passed earlier this year would have taken effect. That law would have directed the city to sell vacant lots in the neighborhood for $100 each to, in order of priority: adjacent property owners; people who have leased property in the Lower 9th Ward for at least 18 months; former residents; veterans, teachers, retired teachers and emergency responders; and anyone who agreed to build on the property and live there for at least five years.
Developers, corporate entities and anyone with an active code enforcement violation or outstanding tax lien would have been barred from buying the lots, which the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority acquired through the Road Home program.
If you do your grocery shopping at Whole Foods, you probably live in area more likely to vote Democratic. On the other hand, if you buy your food at Kroger’s, people in your area probably voted Republican in Tuesday’s election. That’s what Time magazine found when it looked at how Congressional districts voted on Tuesday and crossed referenced it with the prevalence of brick-and-mortar retail chains in those areas.
To create their interactive chart, Time matched some 2 million store locations to how a district voted in this week’s midterm elections. The publication found that certain brands, like Ben & Jerry, American Apparel, Tesla and Trader Joe’s were more likely found in Democratic-voting districts, while brands like Cracker Barrel, Dillard’s, and Waffle House had more of a presence in Republican-voting districts.
While at first glance, this might seem more like a red state/blue state map (brands like Waffle House, Cracker Barrel, and Hobby Lobby have more presence in Southern states, for example), there may be a bit of consumer psychology behind it.
Ben & Jerry’s, American Apparel, and Tesla, for example, have been perceived as companies with a more progressive agenda. Ben & Jerry’s co-founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield are famous for their support of progressive candidates and causes, Tesla founder Elon Musk is an advocate of green-energy technologies, and American Apparel — despite serious sexual-harassment allegations against its founder Dov Charney — supports immigration reform, gay rights, and sustainability.
Conversely, corporations such as Hobby Lobby, Cracker Barrel, and Chick-fil-A, which are found in more conservatives areas, have generated controversy for their respective conservative stances on birth control, racial and sexual-orientation discrimination, and same-sex marriage.
Several corporations are so ubiquitous throughout the U.S. landscape that their presence is somewhat politically neutral, at least in this recent election cycle. These retail chains include In-and-Out Burger, Chipotle, Starbucks, and Planet Fitness.
The Unemployment rate keeps dropping but wages and the general condition of the labor market still remains very weak. What are the underlying factors that worry labor economists?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate fell to 5.8 percent after employers added 214,000 jobs in October. The average monthly gain throughout the past year was 222,000. The BLS said the industries that added the most jobs were “food services and drinking places, retail trade, and health care.”
Guardian U.S. finance and economics editor Heidi Moore pointed to analysts who disputed the cheery view of the report. The National Women’s Law Center, she wrote on Friday, “objected that most of the gains… were in low-paying minimum-wage jobs.”
Moore parsed the report as follows:
While the so-called topline numbers – the number of jobs added and the unemployment rate–- are often cited in discussions, they have their flaws. The jobless rate, for instance, has been dropping in part because it only measures people who have been actively looking for jobs; when people stop looking, they are no longer counted as “unemployed” according to the government figures. In addition, the number of jobs added is frequently revised, often by large margin; the BLS reserves a margin of error of 100,000 jobs.
One alternative measure Moore pointed out is “discouraged workers.” These are people who have given up looking for jobs because they think there are none available. A whopping 770,000 Americans fit that description. The number is essentially unchanged from the same time last year.
One of these telling statistics is the “U-6 unemployment rate,” a more expansive measure that counts the “total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force.” That means all people who are unemployed as well as those who have taken jobs they don’t want out of financial desperation.
That U-6 number remains elevated, suggesting that 11.5% of the country is unemployed – in contrast to the milder 5.8% top-line unemployment rate. The U-6 rate has dropped in October, however, from 11.8% in September.
Additionally, at 10.9 percent, black unemployment remains more than twice the rate of white Americans.
Where have all the White Southern Democrats gone to? Also,what does this mean for black people living in the South?
Not long after the polls closed on Tuesday night, Georgia Congressman John Barrow earned his place in history when he lost his reelection campaign to Republican Rick Allen by almost 10 points—a peculiar place he undoubtedly didn’t want. Barrow, a five-term Democratic incumbent with a conservative voting record that earned him endorsements from both the National Rifle Association and the Chamber of Commerce, was the last white Democrat in Congress from the Deep South.
This fact has occasioned some eloquent obituaries for that most endangered of political species, which is on the verge of extinction. Not only will there be no white Southern Democrats left in the House come January, but it’s a good bet there won’t be any white Southern Democrats in the Senate either (Mary Landrieu is likely to lose in the Louisiana run-off next month). Throw in theelection of South Carolina’s Tim Scott to the U.S. Senate and, as The New Yorker’s Nicholas Thompson pointed out on Twitter, “there are now more black Republicans than white Democrats from the Deep South.”
Much as this is a problem for white southern Democrats, it’s a crisis for black ones. That’s because blacks in the South—who, notwithstanding the very compelling counter-example of Tim Scott, are almost invariably Democrats—have for decades relied on coalitions with white Democrats to increase their political power. Lacking white politicians with whom they can build coalitions, black politicians are increasingly rendered powerless. (See myarticle in August about what this has meant for black people in Alabama.) The situation for southern black Democrats has only grown more dire after Tuesday’s midterms. To truly grasp the severity of the crisis, it’s instructive to look not at Congress and Barrow, but at state legislatures and a Democratic state senator from Alabama named Roger Bedford.
Clinton can’t present herself as a novelty. She’ll be sixty-nine on Election Day in 2016 and has been a national figure for a quarter century. The last politician to become President after a similarly long and distinguished career was George H. W. Bush. Since then, the office has been won by relative newcomers: Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama. “The one time in my political life that we’ve gone back a generation was Carter to Reagan,” Dean said. “Once you change the page on generations, you don’t go back.” He added that Clinton could be the exception.
For some reason, there’s a movement afoot for Maryland’s outgoing Governor O’ Malley. Here we go again.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?